Many people now realise that shoes – while good for people – are not so good for horses. Traditionally we’ve thought that they ‘protect’ the hooves. But science has documented the cost to the horse in wearing metal shoes. They limit hoof expansion. They convey damaging vibration. They limit the circulation inside the foot. They prevent the neurosensors in the frog from coming into contact with the ground and so the horse is unable to ‘feel’ the footing. And they force the horse to take all its weight on its hoof walls…..instead of spreading the load more equitably across the whole foot. They also prevent the horse wearing down its own hooves.
If a horse is to be ridden on a hard or rocky or abrasive surface, there is a wide range of hoof boots which can provide protection to the hoof, while still allowing the complex systems inside the foot, to function properly. For situations where boots are not appropriate, there are non-metal shoes on the market which are less concussive and restrictive than traditional metal shoes.
Barefoot hoof care is being embraced by a growing number of owners concerned to optimise their horse’s health and wellbeing.