Chapter Six

Fitting Hoof Boots

Chapter Seven

Booting Different Sized Horses

Chapter Eight

Using Hoof Boots for Rehabilitation

Trimming the barefoot horse for performance

We recommend that your barefoot horse is correctly and regularly trimmed by a farrier or trimmer who understands the type of trim required for a working barefoot equine

This ‘natural’ trim is not the same as a basic ‘pasture’ trim given to a non-working horses at grass.

Many newcomers to barefoot rightly wonder who can trim their horse - farrier, barefoot trimmer, or equine podiatrist? There’s certainly no right or wrong answer, and while it is true that many farriers do perform a different, less desirable ‘pasture trim’ to the ideal, working trim for a barefoot horse, they must not be discounted completely, as there are farriers in the UK, where we are based, who are very ‘pro-barefoot’, and have advanced their knowledge base in this area. Seek recommendation from local owners of barefoot horses and always do your research when selecting a potential hoofcare professional.

Many horse owners ask if horses can be trimmed and maintained in a barefoot regime for elite or performance riding - however in our minds, it is less about the horse’s ‘job’, and more about the person carrying out the regular trim - e.g. their experience and knowledge-base - and the animal’s diet and management regime. Once the horse has rehabbed from any previous incarnations with horse shoes, and is sound and happy barefoot, the hoofcare professional you have chosen will help you maintain a robust, healthy hoof that will meet the horse or pony’s needs through its management regime. It is often said that the workload and surfaces worked on shape the horse’s ability to perform on that surface - so for example, a barefoot horse ridden regularly on grass will further develop its balance and proprioception, while the equine turned out and ridden on a variety of surfaces (e.g. rough, smooth, hard soft, gravelly, wet or dry) will have feet that respond well to work on all surfaces.

So, horses can certainly perform at performance levels without horse shoes. We certainly know of several horse owners and trainers whose work would be considered of elite or ‘performance’ level, as follows -

  • American dressage star Shannon Peters, who competes barefoot at the highest levels, says: “With barefoot, the natural blood pumping mechanism of the foot starts to work properly again, legs tighten up, and the horses are generally more sound.”
  • Newmarket-based racehorse trainer Simon Earle trains national hunt and flat horses, and 90% of the equines he trains are barefoot. He says the team’s main aim is to maintain horses that are fit, healthy, happy, well educated and sound. “Be it barefoot or with correct shoeing, soundness is of the utmost importance,” he says
  • Italian showjumper Luca Maria Moneta famously won the Olympia 2013 Alltech Puissance in London with his barefoot mare, Quova du Vains; many of his horses are unshod. “My horses are allowed to be horses; they are often unshod,” he states.

Remember that a basic pasture trim designed for a non-working horse at grass will not suffice for a performance equine, and generally just removes excess length, and tidies hoof chips. A natural (or performance) trim aims to produce hard-working hooves for ridden horses, and includes the beveling of the hoof’s edge with a mustang roll, which strengthens the hoof capsule and helps prevent cracks. While each practitioner may apply a different process or have a slightly different ethos, the natural or performance trim also boasts a foot that is properly balanced, while flare is addressed and hoof wall trimmed to hard sole level.

If your horse utilises hoof boots, bear in mind that you may use hoof boots for horse trials and the jumping phases of eventing, being aware of course of your speed and safety - you may also use them in TREC and endurance events. You may NOT use hoof boots within the dressage phase of affiliated eventing, or within pure dressage competitions, however. Some hoof boots may be worn with studs for extra grip; check with the manufacturer.