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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Saturday, December 20, 2008


My dearest readers, it is high time I blogged about something that irritates me on a constant basis - propaganda, in both the barefoot and the shoeing world.

As you are all well aware, these two schools of thought are constantly at war with one another, instead of attempting to accept each as an option that a horseowner might choose, and therefore attempting to make the effort to reach out to each other as viable, working options for hooves. (I personally don't believe in shoeing but I know people who do, so there you are.) There probably won't be peace between these two worlds anytime soon. And here's the part that bothers me the most - pro-shoeing people are always, ALWAYS attacking the barefoot community for spreading 'BS and propaganda' about barefooting. They say it's nothing more than a marketing scheme, they say it's geared towards guilting a clueless owner into taking the shoes off of their horse, they say it's based off of junk science and nothing more. But the part that gets ignored by the pro-shoeing crowd so often is that farriers often do the EXACT same thing to clients and potential clients. How often does a shoer guilt THEIR customers into this more expensive set of shoes, or these pads 'because your horse just needs the support', or guilts an owner into putting shoes on their barefoot horse (the other way around now, see?) based off of their OWN junk science? How many dressage riders are told their horse needs bar shoes and full pads "for support"? How many eventers competing at Beginner Novice are guilted into tapping all four shoes and buying twelve sets of studs? Futher studies are needed in both fields, of course, although I think we can all agree on one thing: the bare hoof is the healthy ideal.

Now, there are lots of reasons why people put shoes on their horses. For instance: They jump. They do dressage. They show. They event. They rein, they work cows, they race. They work on rocks. Hell, they stand in stalls and are old and just "need support." They have weak walls, thin soles. They live in poor environments. They are lame. They have navicular, they've foundered. They need better traction. Their horse has "crappy QH feet" or "crappy TB feet." Their trainer told them too. It's just what horses need. It's just what horse owners do.
And there are lots of reasons why people take the shoes off their horses and go barefoot. For instance: They jump. They do dressage. They show. They event. They rein, they work cows, they race. They work on rocks. They have weak walls, thin soles, and they want to change that. They are lame. They have navicular, they've foundered. They need better traction. They believe that a crappy foot can become a healthy foot.

Do shoes have a place on an unhealthy foot? No, in my mind they certainly do not, and few people agree with me on this one. Farriers see a poor foot and do their best to fix it by applying shoes to protect the foot. Barefoot trimmers see a poor foot and do their best to restore the foot to proper function through correct trimming, diet, environment and movement. And the latter happens to be the way I agree with. The way to make an unhealthy foot healthy is to remove the shoe and restore the hoof to its natural function. Do shoes belong on healthy hooves? If the hoof is healthy and fully functional do you need shoes at all? Questions that are far too complicated for one simple answer, I'm afraid.

So the point of this post is this: Pro-shoeing people, don't be so quick to point the finger at trimmers and accuse them of spreading propaganda. A lot of farriers I know use the same marketing gimmicks as barefoot people sometimes do in order to get clients, and it's not right for either school to employ such techniques. Where is the science behind proper shoeing? I want studies. I want to see.

Some people like shoes, some people don't. Some people believe this, some people believe that. I believe what I believe, you believe what you believe, and I respect that.
Really, can't we all just get along?


Funder said...

Well said!

Daun said...

I agree with you in many ways. Brego is barefoot and will likely remain so.

However, I have a 19 year old TB mare who was navicular at 4, in egg bar shoes until, say 11. Then barefoot until and turned out, no work until 13. Then barefoot therapy trims until 18. She did ok with twice weekly rides. But when my SO got her and she went into eventing training, her digital cushion was too weak from her past history and we struggled for a year to keep her sound and just could not.

So she goes in flat shoes over the summer and barefoot (in Old Macs) over the winter. 6 months on, 6 months off. Before we got this mare back, I would have sworn upside and down that all horses can be barefoot. We have an excellent diet, lots (if not full time) turnout. Perfect pasture, all that. But the mare just could not do it as she aged and increased workload.

We did clinics with barefoot gurus, we tried everything. She was lame in boots even, because she needs the lateral support across her digital cushion and even boots are too flexible over rocks. It is heartbreaking, but a good lesson in that despite our "barefoot hubris", the best thing for the mare when she is in work is to have flat shoes. Of course, not those even padded, wedged, egg bars of her navicular youth. Now, since her shoes have been pulled, she has 6 months to decontract and get a healthy frog again.

Every horse is different. Brego has great feet but we had a slip and fall at speed which has raised some concerns. We will just need to see.

Hey, feel free to email me at if you would like to continue this discussion offline.

JJ said...

While I don't believe that nobody should use shoes, I do think that most horses would be able to work just as well without them.

An upper level dressage rider I know has an andalusian who hasn't worn shoes since she got him at age four. He is fourteen now and schooling at Prix Saint George.

His diet is carefully monitored, his feet cared for daily, and is extremely healthy.

My horse is barefoot and will stay that way. He has great hard feet naturally.

Another rider at my barn has a thirteen year old appendix gelding. He wears very thick pads and shoes that are complete circles (not sure what they are called?) because his owner is too lazy to clean out his feet after he has been standing in a muddy, mucky pasture all day. He is fat and unhealthy. His job is to plod around bareback a few days a month and then jump 2'3 during show season. He is always getting abscesses and becoming mysteriously lame.

He was barefoot for almost an entire year last year and was not lame at all during that time. Then they put his shoes back on and, less than two weeks later, he became mysteriously lame.

Kris said...

I think it's great that you and Gogo can do what you do without shoes, but I personally believe in shoeing. I really don't see what all the argument between the two groups is all about, let each other be! Don't try and convert other people. You can educate them and let them make their own decisions, but things like you need shoes for your horse to be sound or you need to take your shoes off in order for your horse to be sound is advice I only want to hear from my farrier or vet. And even then, we talk about other options before a final decision is made. All this fighting is pointless.

I have two horses, each with four shoes, one with pads in the front.

The first horse is only five and has all four shoes. He came to me with no shoes on and appeared to be competing and preforming fine. However, once we had x rays taken by the vet we found out that because he had been free jumping and schooling larger fences (3'9" plus) the coffin bone had degraded slightly because of the impact against the inside of the hoof. She and the farrier (who deals with both shod and barefoot horses) both agreed that the easiest way to prevent further degradation of the bone and allow it to regrow as much as it is capable of, we should put shoes on to help absorb some of the impact after jumps. I tried this past week to have his back shoes pulled for icy winter weather, unfortunately he has already ripped a huge chunk out of his back hoof, so the shoes are going back on. I can't afford to have him injure himself from his own stupidity right before show season starts. (He is a big clumsy goof, who would probably be safer in a hamster ball then outside like he is). As well, he does not jump as high with me as with his previous owners (lets give him some time to grow up people!) and we plan to show at 3'6" in the middle this summer assuming all goes according to the plan/schedule. Basically, if I could show him at the level I plan to without shoes I would, but I don't see a way that this is feasible. I would be very hesitant to show at 3'6" on grass without studs in as I have seen barefoot horses slip and stumble around tight turns, and of course never want to be in that situation myself.

My second horse is nineteen and has been showing with shoes since she was four. She is now retired and I explored options of pulling all of her shoes but again, I'm not sure this would be possible. She has very bad arthritis in one knee and therefore has gel pads in front in order to absorb concussion. She also has a contracted heal from a previous injury that we are working to correct or at least lessen. However, because this hoof is slightly smaller than the other the shoe is slightly larger and allows for the difference in height of each leg.

For my situation, shoes have been working so far and I think will continue to work. I don't think that either shoeing or barefoot is best overall, and that each has their merit for different situations. I also think that shoeing is a to each his own kind of situation. I think that the best way is to evaluate each situation separately and with the advice of a farrier and vet.

Kris said...

(Oops. That was longer than intended!)

Kris said...

(OH. And that being said, I'd welcome discussion.)

Beckz said...

I must say I have never given a hard time for people wanting to go barefoot, but I have gotten plenty of abuse for being someone who does shoe their horses and who uses studs. (not here obviously!). Each to their own on this issue I guess, but until there are more people competeing FULL seasons of shows on grass in big classes I think I will reserve final judgement whether or not to pull my shoes.

jacksonsgrrl said...

I have had two farriers since buying Jacks and the first one (I moved J. to my friends and it's too far for him to travel) told me that while he does do shoeing he is a barefoot proponent. He cracked me up when he told me, "Shoes are for folks who don't have anything else to do with their money!" My current farrier follow the Natural Balance way of thought and has told me that my horse will probably never need shoes--even on the pure rock that we sometimes ride on. My friend Linda's horse is shoed by him and this is an old ranch horse that would have been put down if it weren't for the shoeing he has done. Perhaps with the right trimming he would be able to have a good life--but my friend is doing what works for her and her horse--and he couldn't walk before! While I agree with you on the fact that most horses don't need shoes--I think sometimes their owners do. My two friends who I ride with shoe their horses front feet and it works for them. I don't think it needs to be a big war--mostly people just aren't educated...and not willing to try anything that they've never done before...My friends even tell me, "Well, keep him barefoot till it doesn't work on the rock anymore." I just chuckle. It's working. And I don't SLIDE down steep rocks like they do either....Ugh. Scary. So, yeah, people who think we are crazy for having barefoot horses will always be out there,if someone is genuinely interested I give them the info. that I have, if not, I don't worry about it or engage in an arguement; they fit into the snobs who think they know every darn thing there is to know about horses and you won't change those types of folks minds anyway....The day you think you know it all you should hang up your hat and put away your boots.

jacksonsgrrl said...

PS: I did not mean to sound like I think shoeing is a bad thing folks! It works great for some and some horses really may need it! I was referring to the folks who won't even consider an alternative because they know it all (or think they do)! So, no offense anyone! If my horse ever needs shoes and my farrier tells me so---I will put them on! I only want what it best for my horse and I hope that continues to be barefoot! :)

jacksonsgrrl said...

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Gina said...

I know this is an older post but this is something that has been bothering me too lately. I have a thoroughbred with all the TB 'problems' compounded by te fact that he basically had little to no hoof care for the 5 years before I bought him. I have had several knowledgable farriers look at his feet, and none, even the barefoot trimmer think it will ever be possible for him to go bare on all four under any conditions. We tried it while he was out ofwork and he was unable to walk on soft sand or grass. We tried to let him adjust for several monts wich resulted in 2 months of stall rest for horrible bruises on both front feet.

He has collapsed heels, his feet are not laterally ballenced, he doesn't grow very much foot, he has thin walls and soles.

He ges in four flat shoes, no pads, no wedges. I have never seen them help. But he is sound over everything, pavement to gravel. Do I wish He could be barefoot, YES!! Is it possible right now, no.
I think barefoot is best, however due to poor breeding practices, often times the best is not possible. I get looked down on by others for trying barefeet, and hurting him, and I get told I just didn't wait long enough for his feet to adjust.

My feelings are this, try it. Many horses will be able to go barefoot in any disipline at any level, I have ridden a barefoot GrandPrix jumper who staid sound and competive untill his 20's without injects. At the same time, I own a horse who can bruise his feet on hard pasture dirt... some horses need shoes.