Many people are keeping their horses barefoot these days,
and for good reason—it has benefits for both your horse and your pocketbook! But if you’re planning to make this transition, it’s important to provide the proper framework in order to keep your horse sound and happy.
If they were previously shod, many horses will need an adjustment period to get used to their new barefoot status. During this time period, you should not ride your horse on extremely hard or rocky ground (or use hoof boots if you do).
To keep your barefoot horse sound for the long haul, here are a few tips:
1.) Depending on the terrain where your horse is kept, you may need to increase the frequency of trims. For example, horses kept on soft, grassy pastures may need to be trimmed as often as every four weeks. However, horses living on hard, rocky ground may self trim some and need less frequent trimming.
2.) Don’t overdo grass or high-carb feeds. Lush, green grass and sugary feeds have one thing in common: they’re both high in non-structural carbohydrates (NSC’s), which can have a negative impact on your horse’s feet. Instead, feed a hay-based diet (some grass is fine for most horses) with minimal grains and high-carb feeds.
3.) Don’t forget the minerals! Several minerals play key roles in hoof health, zinc and copper being two of them. For best results, feed a high-quality trace mineral mix.
4.) Once your horse is comfortable barefoot, slowly expose him to varied types of terrain. You can even add sand or gravel into a pen or around your water tank. This will help toughen and strengthen the hooves.
5.) Use hoof boots when needed. Your horse may be sound on most terrains, but still ouchy on a rocky trail ride. In situations like this, hoof boots are great for temporary protection. From glue-ons, to slip-ons, you’ll find dozens of styles available these days.
If you’re interested in taking your horse barefoot, research and learn as much as you can before making the transition. Most importantly, find a competent barefoot trimmer who can guide you through the process. This will increase the chances of barefoot success for your horse!
**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 www.casiebazay.com.