Keeping horses barefoot offers loads of benefits. Equine podiatrist Emma Burston explains how to make the transition from shod to shoeless.

There are many benefits to keeping your horse barefoot – the main one being that your horse’s hoof is able to function as nature intended.

A barefoot hoof is able to absorb concussion, correctly utilise the frog and soft tissues of the hoof, and spread weight-bearing load over the wall, edge of the sole, heel and frog.

A horse’s hoof is also a great reflection of his overall health, and often issues such as inflammatory responses and chronic metabolic disease can be picked up in the feet before any other signs are present.

All horses are capable of being barefoot because, after all, they were born that way. Sometimes though, their lifestyle is the deciding factor – not all owners are able to keep a barefoot horse and shoes are sometimes necessary to help that horse perform the tasks he’s asked to do.

When deciding whether your horse should go barefoot, you need to consider whether you have the time and interest to invest in the first few weeks (or months) of transitioning to barefoot.

The transition

To prepare your horse for the transition from shod to barefoot, undertake some research and find someone you really trust to see you and your horse through the process.

Your equine podiatrist will provide you with an individual plan for your horse at your first appointment which will make the transition as easy and smooth as it can be.

It’s important that you follow their advice to give your horse the best chance of making a successful transition.

Your podiatrist will take into account what you want to do with your horse, how much time you spend riding on abrasive surfaces, and how to manage his hooves on a daily basis – including cleaning out each day and regular checks – to ensure that his hooves stay in good condition.

When your horse first goes barefoot your equine podiatrist will advise you on a suitable exercise plan for those initial few weeks, introducing different surfaces gradually.

This is in order to condition your horse’s feet to new surfaces gently and to avoid any foot soreness or bruising, which doesn’t have to happen when transitioning to barefoot.

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