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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.

For more info on learning how to trim please see this link: 


https://www.facebook.com/NaturalHorseNZ/posts/4325329927520297


As a prey animal, evolution has designed the horse to run away from all dangers as a flight response, so the horse's 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 around 400bc, 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 horse's 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 need to give a more advanced understanding of how a horse's hooves work.


However, we now know through the many medical advances that have been made in veterinary research from using medical imaging including thermal imaging, slow motion cameras, pressure testing, shock testing, ultrasound 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. Hence why we see so many hoof issues in our domestic horses. 

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, Nic Baker and Thomas Teskey and too many others to list here, 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 both 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 these real wild horse hooves-the natural hoof doesn't require a metal shoe to be nailed permanently onto it to be excellent at working for the horse. And when we add metal to the hoof it causes it to behave quite differently from how nature intended, which is to have the whole sole be in direct contact with the ground at all times, which stimulates circulation, and also allows the horse to "feel" the terrain and compensate their movement to adapt to every aspect of the ground they are travelling over. 


This also allows the ground to trim the hoof naturally into this wonderfully efficient natural hoof capsule as shown. Note the short toe, and balanced heel, along with the almost seamless hoof capsule. These hooves have never had a trim in this horse's 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 that this hoof can be replicated in our domestic horses if the transition to barefoot is implemented in the right way, which is more complicated than just whipping the shoes off and involves feeding a species-appropriate diet, whilst we give the hoof a help in hand through a more natural approach to horse boarding, with mindful trimming to shape and balance the hoof correctly to mimic natural movement, as if the horse was roaming varied terrains when out in the wild but with all the modern bonuses of having flexible hoof boots to offer protection and cushioning whilst that happens. 


 After all, we should not forget for a moment how well the natural barefoot hoof has served the equine species throughout their 55 million years of successful evolution, and therefore with this in mind please try to understand that your horse's 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 or when travelling over harsh ground such as roads and rocky outcrops. 

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 of improved overall health through the better leg and hoof circulation 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 as well as suspends the sole from touching the floor, which is critical for a healthy hoof for the all-important ground contact. 


This thermal image clearly shows what happens to blood supply and circulation when a shoe is nailed onto the living hoof -which is the blue leg that is obviously suffering from a lack of blood flow 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, with pins and needles in your legs and feet like this? Just think on how much faster would a racehorse run if he was allowed to race without metal shoes?


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

It was all this clear evidence regarding the harmful effects that horse shoes have on our horse's 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, as well as help owners with their barefoot journeys too, which add up to many thousands of horses so far, to being successful Barefoot horses.


 We ride these very horses out on the roads, and over gravel tracks, and out on 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'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 a 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 of 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-More robust hoof development is established through the hoof having constant contact with the ground, especially at the heel, which encourages the horse to develop stronger internal structures within the whole hoof through more natural function.


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


5-Less chance of overreach as the horse can feel his feet better


6-No more losing costly shoes


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


8-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/disciplines if required


9-Less shock and jarring to the joints and fewer concussion injuries to the hoof and legs


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


11-Less Hoof issues due to overall improved hoof health


12-Healthier and happier horses due to a more species-appropriate lifestyle  


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 horse's feet.


We have saved a fortune since going barefoot as we now trim all our horse's hooves ourselves but even if you have to pay 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 horse's ancestry and DNA are still the same from when the first larger EQUUS animals evolved with the singular hoof more than 35 million years ago and therefore your horse's 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 replicating 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.


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

Happy Horsing :)