To Shoe or Not to Shoe?


One of the biggest debates in the equine industry is whether to shoe your horse or not. This blog post looks at the pros & cons of both and what you as a horse owner should consider.

To shoe or not to shoe, that is the question…

In the horse world we tend to see three types of horse owners. There are those that believe barefoot horses thrive better, those that are smack dab in the middle and those who believe that all domesticated horses should be shod at some point in time. No matter the viewpoint of the owner, proper care of the hoof whether shod or not can drastically improve and maintain the horse’s overall health.

Going Barefoot

According to equimed.com, research and experience has proven that a horse may live a completely healthy life without shoes as long as they have good hoof and leg confirmation, endures limited workloads and has properly trimmed hooves to avoid excess wear and injury to the foot. For example, shoes are not necessary for horses used for pleasure riding, but caution should always be taken.

The owners that prefer their equine to be unshod should recognize and understand that most horses have difficulty walking on rough and rocky pathways. It is very important to keep your barefoot horse comfortable alongside maintaining a healthy balance of diet and exercise. Additionally, owners may invest in hoof boots, which provide extra protection and should only be worn when riding.

Tip: barefoot horses should have their hooves checked and trimmed every six weeks to prevent breakage and ensure evenness.

Tying the Shoelaces

On the other hand, many people believe that you should shoe your horses. Whether your horse is being ridden or driven recreationally or competitively, there are always several reasons to shoe your equine. According to livestocktrail.illinois.edu the reasons include protection, correction, action, traction and therapeutic shoeing, which reduces underlying pathology of the hoof.

Factors of why horses should be shod include the environment as well. The different types of terrains like irrigated land, arenas, asphalt and concrete can affect the overall health of the hoof. Furthermore, workload and breed type play into the soundness of the feet, whether that be races and competition or the size, speed and other genetic traits of the breed.

The feet of domesticated horses grow overly long and caused the foot to soften. Proper shoeing and trimming can help prevent diseases, lameness, tendinitis and more.

The Verdict

Now that you’ve made it this far, I’m sure you’re questioning which you should do for your horse. Personal preference is the most accurate answer to your question.

Before deciding whether to shoe your horse or not, you should take these into consideration…

  1. The physical nature of your horse's feet (are they tough, soft or deformed).

  2. Are there any leg and hoof conformation or muscle issues?

  3. The workload and daily physical activity of the horse.

  4. Are there any diseases present that may make shoeing necessary?

Ultimately, you should always consult a vet or farrier to gain professional knowledge concerning shoeing or not shoeing your horse. Competent farriers can help determine if a horse should go barefoot or they can determine which shoe is best for your horse's foot.

Overall, both options have pros and cons, but it simply comes down to what you as an owner want for your horse.

Happy riding!

Citations:

Pros and Cons: Are Horse Shoes Necessary for Hoof Health? (2015, December 26). Retrieved May 26, 2018, from http://equimed.com/health-centers/hoof-care/articles/pros-and-cons-are-horse-shoes-necessary-for-hoof-health

Kline, K. H. (2011, May 12). Shoeing and Hoof Care of Horses - Horses. Retrieved May 26,

2018, from http://livestocktrail.illinois.edu/horsenet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=1030

Blocksdorf, K. (2017, September 18). Should Your Horse Wear Shoes or Go Barefoot? Retrieved May 26, 2018, from https://www.thesprucepets.com/shoeing-faq-is-barefoot-better-1885965

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