Transitioning Horses to Barefoot: Why and How with FormaHoof
Let’s talk about natural horse hoof management and sound, barefoot horses. Afterall, barefoot is the horse’s natural state and the benefits of going barefoot can include improved circulation to the feet, enhanced traction, a better way of going, and stronger, healthier hoof growth.
We are often contacted by owners who consider FormaHoof as the last option for their horses; horses that are often deemed beyond hope by veterinarians and conventional farriers, horses suffering from laminitis/founder, navicular disease, severe white line disease, or other conditions, but also those that simply want to give their horses hassle-free and non-invasive hoof protection.
FormaHoof doesn’t need to be a forever solution, but can support horses with and without hoof problems or lameness on their way to a barefoot life.
Can a shod horse go barefoot?
To answer this question, several others must be asked, including:
- What do you do with your horse?
- How often is he/she ridden and on what kind of ground?
Other factors to consider are hoof health and the horse’s movement and limb position. In short, horses that are primarily ridden on soft ground or that spend their time in the field may be more suited to a barefoot life than horses that are often ridden on rough, aggressive surfaces, such as gravel and tarmac.
Why go barefoot? Is it better for horses to be barefoot than shod?
Whilst most horse owners have their horses shod to protect their feet, or even just out of habit, there is a growing global community that want to avoid nailing a traditional horseshoe onto the hoof.
When considering transitioning a horse to barefoot, you need to do your research and be sure that you are doing the right thing for your horse. Barefoot trimming plays a big part in good equine podiatry and although the benefits of going barefoot can vary for each horse, increased blood circulation, better movement, and better traction are experienced by most barefoot horses.
What happens to the hoof under pressure?
Veron Dryden, DVM, CJF, APF, owner of Bur Oak Veterinary and Podiatry Services in Lexington, Kentucky, in an article published in The Horse Magazine, explains that an additional physiological benefit of being barefoot is that the hoof capsule can expand naturally.
“With a shoe, there is some restriction of the normal expansion of the hoof capsule, depending on the type of shoe and the method of application,” he says.
When shod with a standard steel shoe, “the hoof capsule is restricted in those areas where the nails are placed—the further back toward the heel, the less expansion of the heel will occur.”
He goes on to note that clips and glue-on aluminium shoes further restrict the hoof, whereas polyurethane shoes allow for more give and hoof expansion. (source)
Consider the weight of your horse and the pressure the hoof endures at a full gallop.
We took the time to investigate and compare the behaviour of a horse’s hoof under 2,000kg load when the horse was barefoot, shod, and in FormaHoof, with impressive results.
Transition period between shod and barefoot
Just as a human barefoot runner develops protective calluses only by walking on different surfaces, the horse’s hoof strengthens in the same way.
The more a hoof is protected by a shoe, the less abrasion and beneficial hardening it will experience.
Whilst some horses have fantastic feet by nature, others are not gifted with strong hooves and a sustainable sole to allow for an easy and hassle-free transition.
How long does transitioning a horse to barefoot take?
And how long does it take for a horse to adjust to being barefoot?
How long it takes for a horse to adjust to the new normal of being barefoot will depend on each individual horse, but most horses can adjust over 1-4 shoeing cycles.
The crunch point is often the sole thickness, as horses with thin soles or sensitive feet can be prone to developing abscesses during the transition period.
If you are considering transitioning your horse to barefoot, you should always speak to your farrier, vet, barefoot trimmer or equine podiatry specialist before you decide.
How can FormaHoof help your horse enjoy a smooth transition period?
Barefoot is the most natural way to move for a horse, but not every hoof is strong enough for the transition.
By recreating the form of a perfectly healthy, balanced hoof, FormaHoof’s polyurethane shoeing offers vital support during the transition period, allowing horses to recover from often “imperfect” feet or hoof related disease and grow healthy, strong hooves with thick soles.
FormaHoof allows the horse to spread weight over the entire foot, which can increase blood flow whilst supporting the enhanced growth of natural hoof.
With hundreds of horses across the world enjoying significantly improved hoof health over a short period of time, FormaHoof is the ideal solution when transitioning a horse to barefoot.
Whilst boots may protect the horse’s foot during a transition, they will not necessarily support the natural hoof growth, nor strengthen the foot and sole during this period.
Allowing your horses to progressively work towards strong hooves and avoiding the development of any soreness in the transition period, is the key to success.
Can barefoot horses compete?
For a long time, barefoot horses were frankly seen as ‘hippie horses’! However, the latest trends support the ‘natural hoof movement’ in the equestrian world and even top athletes are taking the step to compete their horses barefoot, as seen at the Tokyo Olympic where 2/3 of the Swedish gold medal winning show jumping team competed their horses barefoot.
Barefoot trimming and natural hoof care has made its way up the grades and is acknowledged and endorsed by more and more leading athletes, veterinarians, and equine podiatry specialists around the world.
Some disciplines such as turf racing require traditional shoes in their regulations.
FormaHoof can combine with a traditional shoe (if required), without damaging the hoof wall, as nails will go through the polyurethane and not the hoof itself.
FormaHoof is an approved shoeing process by the USEF, USDF, British Horse Racing Authority and many other national and international Federations.
Are you sick of lost or twisted shoes, hoof wall damage & abscesses?
We’ve seen every challenge that transitioning to barefoot may bring, but there is no need to worry, transitioning a horse to barefoot can be a smooth process.
Here at FormaHoof, we advocate a holistic approach, including hoof care, nutrition, exercise, and other equine rehab therapies, which we can see in the wide range of services provided by the FormaHoof Certified Applicator network, to help your horse experience the best possible transition period, for long-term soundness and strong, healthy hooves.
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