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Will going shoe-less damage my horses feet?


Each horse is assessed on an individual basis. When you are visited by a DAEP a spectrum of usability will be performed on your horse’s feet. This is a guidance sheet where each structure is graded from 1-10. This will provide an invaluable tool to allow us to determine what activities your horse can perform shoeless at this point in time without causing harm. A program will be devised for you and your horse to follow which will gradually improve any damaged structures to allow you to perform within your horses’ capability. Almost all horses can go shoeless, but this depends on what discipline you would like to pursue.




I do a lot of road work, will this cause hoof wear?


This is a very common question or phrase that I hear. In actual fact road work is very good for your horse’s feet as long as the structures are healthy. There are very few horses that wear away their feet quicker than they grow. A hoof that is correctly balanced will receive even stimulus. Even those who ride for a few hours each day on the road do not wear their feet down too quickly.




I do a lot of jumping and require studs. How will I get that extra grip required without shoes?


Metal on grass or concrete is very slippery when under force or when wet hence the need for studs. Ever wondered what that crease is for around the edge of your horses shoe? This ridge is supposed to fill with dirt as dirt on dirt creates good traction. This same crease is found on a healthy shoeless horse foot and is called the junction of sole to golden line. The shape of the frog and bars are also designed to trap dirt for traction. The shoeless horse’s foot provides excellent traction, more so than shoes with studs do. Watch horses playing in the field. Ones with shoes tend to skid around when they slam the anchors on. Shoeless horses have a greater stopping ability!




My horse has been shod all his life with no problems, so what wrong with shoeing?


Ultimately shoeing impedes the proper function of the foot which can lead to a steady decline in overall foot health. This decline can be seen more rapidly in some horses than others. DAEP’s are not anti shoes. If the owner is not committed to a shoeless regime then it is in the best interest of the horse to remain shod.




How long will it take to rehabilitate my horse after removing the shoes?


This all depends on the condition of the horse’s feet and your commitment as an owner. If you are prepared to apply the hard work and effort that this requires you will see results more quickly. The condition of the horse’s hoof will also determine how quick rehabilitation will be. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and set goals with your DAEP.




Can my horse perform any discipline shoeless?


There are many horses competing at high level disciplines i.e. racing, 3 day eventing, endurance etc without shoes. Your DAEP will be able to advise you on what you will be able to achieve with your horse. Remember that each horse is an individual. Your horse may never have a foot underneath it that is capable of 30 mile shoeless endurance ride over rough terrain – this is down to his own genetics.
Most horses can achieve their current discipline shoeless but this will take hard work and owner commitment.
Before considering removing your horse’s shoes you must ask your self what is more important, the discipline or the welfare of the horse? If you do not think that you will be able to take an active role in conditioning your horses feet then ultimately shoes will be in the best interest of your horse




Shoeing my horse is expensive. Is Shoeless cheaper?


In the beginning of the rehabilitation process you may well require more frequent visits at first i.e. every 2-3 weeks. Often you will have to Clean Trax and buy materials to stimulate your horse’s foot to grow correctly. All this will add up very quickly and may prove to be far more costly than a set of shoes would have set you back.
Once your horse has been rehabilitated the visits may be less frequent and therefore the cost will reduce.
Please always bear in mind that the horse’s foot still requires to be balanced frequently and many people make the mistake of thinking that because no shoes are being worn, visits can be less frequent. Maintenance visits are usually required every 5-6 weeks.




Are white hooves weaker than black hooves?


No! Colour has no bearing on how strong or healthy a horse’s feet are. Genetics and proper hoof care will determine how good your horse’s feet can be.




My horse has a poor hoof wall which splits and cracks all the time, can I still remove his shoes?


The lack of poor horn growth could be due to a number of reasons i.e. poor diet, bad environment or infection, but the more likely cause is lack of inner wall which is caused by shoeing and a lack of correct stimulus. The inner wall which is responsible for healthy outer wall growth is not being stimulated correctly and therefore healthy structure is lost, resulting in a crumbling outer wall.




Will my horse have to go through a period of lameness before he is sound shoeless?


Absolutely not!
When the shoes are removed your horse may be more sensitive to the ground and may walk differently than before. This is because he is feeling his way and has a new sense of Proprioception. If your horse has weak structures he may be sensitive over varied terrains until health is restored to the foot. The majority of horses will be happy to walk around their paddock as before and be led to and from the stable.
Care will need to be taken when introducing exercise to ensure that the horse remains sound. This is where the spectrum of usability is vital.
In exceptional circumstances the horse may be sore due to very poor hoof structure and pads may be necessary to alleviate any temporary discomfort in order to allow your horse to move around his paddock happily. Your DAEP will advise you on how to maintain a sound and healthy horse from shod to shoeless.




What is required of me during a visit?


Please ensure that there is a large, well lit, dry area for the horse to be evaluated, preferably concrete standing under cover.
A suitable area where the horse can be walked/trotted up is required. Please ensure that your horse is clean, dry, and completely free of mud especially around the hooves and leg area.
Please do not exercise your horse prior to a visit as this will increase circulation to the foot which can make some structures appear larger than normal.




What happens during a typical visit?


I will meet you and your horse and take a full history.
Gait analysis will be performed.
Photo’s will be taken of each foot for reference.
A spectrum of usability will be completed after evaluating each individual structure of the hoof to establish the overall health of the feet and to identify any problems that need to be addressed. Hoof testers will be applied.
The HPT method will be applied only if necessary.
Environment, diet, and exercise will be evaluated.
A rehabilitation program will be designed specifically for you and your horse to follow.
A full evaluation can only be performed if the horse is shoeless. Shoes can be removed if necessary during the consultation.