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THE BENEFITS OF GOING BAREFOOT

We are a horse rescue centre that supports going barefoot for all horses. 


We came to this outlook slowly over many years, after being pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming success of transitioning hundreds of rescue horses to having rock crunching natural barefoot hooves. Plus we have found it much healthier for the horses too.


Therefore, we wholeheartedly encourage all horse owners into going barefoot, with the support and protection of using quality hoof boots if required, and this section of our website is all about doing that in the right way to achieve success for your barefoot horse.

Showing one of our domesticated draft horses barefoot hooves

As a prey animal, evolution has designed the horse to run away from all dangers as a flight response, so their feet have evolved into one of the most efficient forms of locomotion that we have on the planet, and are already excellent at doing this job.


When humans initially developed metal horse shoes back in 400bc, we we didn't understand the hoof in as much detail as we do now, so it all seemed to make sense for humans to use devices such as metal shoes to protect our horses hooves during those times. Over those 2000+ years we have used horses for many purposes including for military campaigns, war, farming and transport etc..., where we didn't have the luxury or needs to give us a more advanced understanding of how a horses hooves work.


However we now know through the many medical advances that have been made into veterinary research from using medical imaging including thermal imaging, slow motion cameras, pressure testing, shock testing, ultra sound and x rays etcthat any device which prevents the natural flexing of the hooves, or artificially raises the sole of the hoof off the floor, such as happens when we use a metal shoe to prevents it from making contact with the ground, that we can inadvertently spoil all that natural excellence for our domesticated equines.

Thankfully, due to the information gleaned from these modern researchers, as well as advocates in the field such as Jenny Lomas, Jaime Jackson, Pete Ramey, Rockley Farm, Thomas Teskey, Jen Clingly and Jeremey Ford, Kaya Femerling, Cindy Hawk Sullivan, Geri White, and too many others to list here, that there are now many thousands of successful barefoot horses, from all disciplines, in all areas of the world, with those numbers growing exponentially every year. 


A lot of which have come about as more technology is developed to support alternative methods of hoof protection, including horses using flexible sneaker type hoof boots, instead of relying on metal horse shoes, which can cause shock and jarring to the hoof and joints, as well as reduce feel for the horse by artificially suspending the sole unnaturally off the ground. Which doesn't happen with flexible hoof boots as the contact is made within the boots themselves. 

As can be seen by the photos of real wild horse hooves-the natural hoof doesn't work well with a metal shoe nailed permanently on to it and when we add metal to the hoof it causes it to behave quite differently to how nature intended, which is to have the whole sole to be in direct contact with the ground at all times, which allows the horse to "feel" the terrain and compensate their movement to adapt to the going. This also allows the ground to trim the hoof naturally into this wonderfully efficient natural hoof capsule as shown. Note the short toe, and definite heel, along with the almost seamless hoof capsule. These hooves have never had a trim in this horses whole life, yet as you can see, they are perfect in every way. Shaping to exactly what the horse needs for the individual terrain that they live in.  


The good news is this hoof can be replicated in our domestic horses if the transition to barefoot is implemented in the right way and the human gives the hoof a help in hand in a more natural approach, such as with empathic trimming just like the hoof was being naturally filed like by the ground.


 After all, we should not forget for a moment on how well the natural barefoot hoof has served the equine species throughout their 55 MILLIONS years of successful evolution, and therefore with this in mind please try to understand that your horses feet are already brilliant at their job and do not need metal shoes to function well, even when your horse is laden with a human passenger. 

Showing a successful barefoot horse using flexible hoof boots

One of the reasons we like the barefoot approach so much is we have seen the benefits to improved leg and hoof circulations that comes about when the horses hooves have natural contact with the ground, as when the frog is allowed to touch the floor, it is stimulated like a small pump, that in turn helps to improve blood flow making for a healthier hoof.


Unfortunately metal shoes are fixed into place with nails or sometimes glue, which will not allow for any flexing and artfully suspends the sole from the touching the floor, which is necessary for a healthy hoof or for the aforementioned all-important ground contact. 


This thermal image ABOVE clearly shows what happens to blood supply and circulation when a shoe is nailed on to the living hoof -which is the blue leg that is obviously suffering from a lack of blood floor and compromised circulation.

Can you imagine what it's like to be pushed to your physical limits, such as what happens with horse racing, when the horse has numb legs and hooves and pins and needles in your legs and feet like this? Just think on how much faster would a race horse run if he was allowed to race without metal shoes?


See Saucy the winning barefoot racehorse show you how it's done :)

It was due to all this clear evidence regarding the harmful effects that horse shoes have on our horses feet and legs which encouraged us to make the decision to go Barefoot with our horses.


Now we successfully transition ALL of our rescue horses, over 250 horses so far, to being Barefoot.


 We ride them out on the roads, gravel tracks, treks etc....now 100% of the time without the need for any shoes without any soreness, lameness or issues and they have excellent traction and the bonus is now because the horses can feel the ground, that they are extremely sure footed too.


Here is a before and after photo of my own horse-Gandalf, who was the first rescue horse that I went barefoot with back in 2005 after I personally adopted him :)

Gandalf -Upon Arrival

Gandalf-6 Months After Going Barefoot

GANDALF'S FEET DEVELOPED INTO STRONG AND SUREFOOTED ROCK CRUNCHING HOOVES-THAT COULD TRANSVERSE ANY AND ALL TERRAINS WITHOUT ISSUE :)


I remember people saying things to me like "well you are lucky your horse already has good feet" which always makes me smile as you can most definitely see it wasn't always this way as Gandalf's feet used to be terrible due to the severe neglect and starvation that he suffered :)


The good news is if we can transition a horse with crumbly weak and flat hooves like Gandalf to successfully go Barefoot . . . you definitely can do this with your horse too.


We've noted below what we have found as the Pro's and Con's To Going Barefoot to give owners an realistic idea of what to expect when taking a shod horse from wearing metal shoes to being barefoot. We hope this helps you to make a well informed decision.


THE PROS OF BAREFOOT ARE:

1-Saving money as a trim is a lot less than paying for shoes and hoof boots will normally last for at least a couple years, so are therefore very economical -All of which saves the owner money.


2-Better balance for the horse and less chance of falling and stumbling due to more improved feel of the ground through the hoof and frog touching the floor. 


3-Improved circulation in the legs and hoof due to allowing the hoof to naturally flex to help with better blood flow.


4-Less chance of over reach as the horse can feel his feet better


5-No more losing costly shoes


6-More natural for the horse and the hoof boots can be removed so the horse can be barefoot in their paddock 


7-Improved traction due to improved feel to allow the horse to adapt to different terrains-plus studs can be used in the hoof boots for extreme terrains if required


8-Less shock and jarring to the joints and less concussion injuries


9-Healthier hoof growth without restrictions of a nailed-on metal shoe


10-Less Hoof issues due to overall improved hoof health


THE CONS OF BAREFOOT ARE:

1-Your horse must eat the correct food for optimum hoof health


2-You have to be patient for the hoof to gradually transition to being hard enough


3-You may need to buy hoof boots


4-You may be judged by others who don't believe in being barefoot


5-There are no industry standards to being a barefoot trimmer so you must be careful who you let trim your horses feet.


We have saved a fortune since going barefoot as we now trim all our horses hooves ourselves but even if you have to ay for it at $60-$80 per trim. It is a lot more affordable than $125-$150 every 4-6 weeks for shoes, but more importantly our horses are happier and healthier for it, as well as carry themselves correctly now through mimicking the Natural Hoof of their ancestors even with us on their backs :)


Poor quality horn, with crumbling and weak hooves are created by an incorrect diet, often too rich in sugars due to too much grass and grain. We now know that shoes restrict circulation to both legs and feet which can never be good and due to not allowing any contact of the hoof to be made with the floor it is never allowed the hoof to toughen up naturally, so it stays weak hence why we think we need to shoe.


Your horses ancestry and DNA is still the same from when the first larger EQUUS animals evolved with the singular hoof more than 35 million years ago and therefore your horses feet will transition  well if you just give it a chance with the right diet and trim. As simply removing the shoe is not enough and rarely works as it doesn't copy the ancestry of the wild hoof and it's this model that we need to follow to achieve real success with this process!


Therefore we cannot stress enough that in order for barefoot success to be achieved quickly, painlessly and easily all your trimming needs to be done by a to replicate the wild horse trim, and we only recommend that the hoof is gradually shaped and balanced in a non invasive way (which basically means to gradually be shaped this way rather than all at once ) so the horse gets the chance to adjust to this new but correct shape over time and harden his hooves gradually onto a wide variety of surfaces just like hardening your fingers over time when learning to play the guitar.


This correct process can sometimes take a while for the horses feet to adjust and adapt to being barefoot and we can highly recommend flexible hoof boots to help during the transition if you would like to ride immediately. These are far more economical to use than metal shoes -not that we used them for Gandalf as they don't make them that big-lol.


So to summarise, Barefoot is REALLY WORTH IT in the end as you will never need to shoe again and will have a much happy and healthier horse for it too  . . . . .


But a word of caution, please shop around CAREFULLY for your trimmer as not everyone is properly qualified or skilled to do this complex work and you should be very guarded about who you permit to touch your horses, especially their precious feet.


REMEMBER-NO HOOF=NO HORSE!


We advise to PLEASE get recommendations from friends and ask for QUALIFICATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS of professional barefoot organisations before using a barefoot trimmer!

Happy Horsing :)

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