Why Go Barefoot?
Why go Barefoot? That is a good question but a better one is;
Why nail metal shoes to the feet of a horse?
I've yet to see a foal born on my property with those U shaped metal loops on their feet.
Furthermore, there is no logic whatsoever in the idea that routinely nailing a rigid metal object onto the flexible foot of a living creature
is a good idea.
Yet in the traditional ways of horse keeping, we raise them and nurture them and pony them out in the fields barefoot, and then one day, when it's time to
saddle break them, somehow they magically change and now they must have metal things nailed upon them for protection and preservation of soundness.
Well.....you know....it's the weight of the rider that is the problem here! Before they have been shod they are perfectly sound
but now we are going to ride them and the extra weight will cause their hooves to wear out to bloody stumps! Right! Hmmm.......the wild horse
may vary it's weight by two hundred pounds between summer and winter and what about that mare carrying a foal? I don't buy the weight argument in
I think most reasonable people would agree
that the wild horse does pretty good for itself without shoes. Certainly we can say the 50-60 million year developmental
path of the horse is a success or the plug would have been pulled on them a long time ago.
OK then....it must be the breeding of the domestic horse that has caused them to be different and somehow in need of the horseshoe! You know....
"we've bred the feet right off of them!" Yes, I suppose it
would be reasonable to argue that man has messed up their genetics with bad breeding choices and I think breeders need to do a better job in this
regard (one thing I hate most is trying to trim a domesticated BLM Mustang in the dead of summer in Arizona) however, I sincerely believe the
single biggest factor influencing the hoof quality and durability in the domestic horse is not genetics but rather its the way in which we traditionally keep
and care for them.
It is generally accepted that man has domesticated the horse for six to seven thousand years now and the horseshoe is only one to two thousand
years old. This of course presents a time frame of four to five thousand years where the horseshoe was unknown to the domestic horse.
The Romans of course conquered their vast empire on barefooted horses yet for some reason the widespread use of the horseshoe came into play.
Some believe it was the proliferation of the stone
castle and horses of nobility that really got the metal shoe going. Since the king had the need to protect his horses from his enemies
they were generally kept within the confines of the castle but because castles
were expensive to build, confinement usually meant they were kept in tiny stalls, standing in their waste, unable to move freely about to exercise
their legs and most importantly their hooves which soon began to deteriorate.
The highly revered blacksmith whom was called upon to solve so many problems of the day, applied his mystical black magic upon
the Kings horses and lo and behold their soundness returned and the tremendous plight of the domestic horse began. What? You heard me right. The iron
shoe and the apparent soundness they wrought upon the horse has come at a heavy price. I say apparent because if it were not for the reduced circulation
resulting from nailing a rigid metal plate upon the flexible hoof capsule and it's anesthetizing effects thereto, the metal shoe would not have seen
the success it has.
See "The Detrimental Effects of Shoeing" page.
While the exact history of the domestic horse and it's relationship to the iron shoe can be debated for centuries to come, the real point to
consider is that we have lost the ways of the past. That is to say, man has forgotten the time before the iron shoe when the horse was kept in wide
open spaces and grazed upon native grasses grown upon virgin soils free from the effects of rich hay and large quantities of sweet feed and chemical
My reasons for going barefoot are many but predominately it is because I put the health and welfare of my horses ahead of my own humanistic
In other words, we want to go barefoot “For the life of the horse”.