Are you interested in transitioning your horse out of shoes, but hesitant to try because you’re not really sure if he can go barefoot?

While some people just remove the shoes and hope for the best, it’s better to dive into the world of barefoot prepared.

Barefoot horses must be supported with the right diet, the right trim, movement, and even varied footing, such as hard ground, sand, or gravel. Conversely, horses who are mainly stalled, fed sweet feeds or other feed high in non-structural carbohydrates (NSC’s), or who get little movement are more likely to encounter problems transitioning to barefoot. 

But even if the above applies to your horse, barefoot can still work so long as you’re willing to make some changes.

Once you remove the shoes, your horse may need some transition time. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop riding, but you will want to ride with care. While some horses have no problems whatsoever, others may be a bit sore on hard or rocky ground. If this is the case, you may want to invest in a pair of hoof boots which can continue to be used any time you’re riding on extremely rough or rocky ground. 

Feeding a low NSC, forage-based diet with added trace minerals (especially copper and zinc) seems to work well for most barefoot horses. As stated above, sweet feeds (as well as rich pasture) aren’t often conducive to hoof health. 

Barefoot horses need plenty of movement, so keeping them with other horses in a pasture, on a track system (aka paddock paradise), or riding often is great. Not only does movement promote blood flow to the feet, it also toughens the soles and strengthens internal hoof structures. 

Finding the right trimmer is crucial as barefoot horses are typically trimmed differently than shod horses. You’ll also want to keep the hooves trimmed on a regular, frequent basis so as not to allow the hoof to overgrow too much. 

So back to the question: Can barefoot work for your horse? The answer is usually yes, but also dependent on your commitment to the process and willingness to make a few changes!


Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at

August 1, 2019