As you all may or may not know, I took my horse, Sid, Barefoot in February of this year. Today I’d like to chat a little bit about what I’ve learned along the way.
First, you become obsessed with your horse’s diet. I mean, I already was to a point, but it became super important to me that I was feeding him what he needed to avoid hoof issues. This means low NSC, high fat, high protein (hence why he’s on Triple Crown Senior). Your horse’s living conditions are SO important. The rapid failure I saw in his hooves when our rainy season hit and his shed wasn’t draining was shocking. Moving him to a drier pen has made a dramatic difference in the strength and quality of his hooves. He is also regularly able to move on a surface very much like a natural environment - hard packed dirt with scrubby foliage on top. This keeps his feet wearing at the proper rate.
Trims tend to be more for evening up, at least for Sid. I went 14 weeks between trims last cycle (I do buff chips out and round the toe a bit on my own), and my trimmer said he likely could have kept right on going. The combination of natural footing and lots of work to keep his movement even meant he was wearing his feet very symmetrically, and almost at the exact same pace as he was growing them.
Your trimmer is your lifeblood. I absolutely could not have done this without guidance at first. He didn’t have a day lame after pulling shoes, but that is exclusively thanks to my trimmer.
Watch closely. This photo is fun because it shows the change in Sid’s foot after his shoes were pulled. Watch your horse’s feet like a hawk, even if it’s just to learn something new.
Don’t be afraid of hoof boots. Hoof boots are an excellent alternative to shoes, and can help your horse transition smoothly. Sid still needs his on gravel from time-to-time, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Finally, listen to your horse. Almost every horse CAN go barefoot if their human commits to the proper diet and living conditions, but not every human can make that happen. Your horse will tell you if they’re hurting, or if something’s going wrong, so long as you’re paying attention.