At Scootboots, we always recommend that you hire an experienced, qualified barefoot worker or farrier with experience in barefoot work to take care of your barefoot horse’s hooves. In this text, we will explain why and explore what a proper barefoot effect can do for your barefoot horse compared to a traditional pasture called “pasture trim”.
Original text by By Helle Maigaard Erhardsen translated by Jennie Hultman Moliner Scootboots Scandinavia.
We all know how important regular hoof care is for our horses. But what is equally important is to choose a caretaker who is qualified to take care of, above all, barefoot horses. The reason is that a barefoot horse needs to look different than a horse that has shoes and not all hoof caretakers are qualified to do so.
A barefoot effect is the best effect for a barefoot horse due to its specific purpose of imitating the effect that would naturally occur in wild horses. The wild horse’s incredible ability to maintain strong, resilient, healthy hooves depends on two main factors; their natural diet and extensive daily exercise. Ideally, we would not have to work our horses at all, but the domestication of horses has changed their circumstances dramatically.
Horse owners often face a number of court-related problems which are largely the consequences of domestication. These consequences are usually a lack of movement and training due to staging and pasture in too small pastures, inappropriate diet such as grass and low-grain cereals and a lack of consistent hoof exercise on a variety of surfaces including rocks and gravel.
Horseshoes were originally invented to make the horse better equipped for our purposes. Today, horseshoes are still used as a remedy for hoof problems, even though they only remedy the symptoms of the problem and do not cure the cause of the problem. In contrast, the barefoot method of hoof care should support the horse in building strong, resilient hooves to optimize their ability to heal themselves from the inside out.
That is why it is important to choose a hoof caregiver who understands what is the basis for healthy barefoot hooves and how to support them. In the following text, we will look at how a qualified barefoot effect can support healthy, high-functioning barefoot hooves and the health of the horse as a whole, unlike a traditional pasture.
Regardless of whether your hoof caretaker is a farrier or a barefoot worker, they should be able to identify why the hoof grows as it does, what it supports and what it may compensate for.
THE TRADITIONAL PASTURE TRIM
We are well aware that some farriers will be better educated in the structure, function, balance and method of action of the hoof than others. Likewise, not everyone who calls himself a barefoot worker and hoof shape specialist is qualified or has acquired sufficient knowledge and experience to do a good job. However, the difference between these different orientations’ initial approach to hoof care can be quite significant.
Traditionally, a farrier is primarily trained to have a great knowledge of iron shoes and how these can be used for different purposes. Thus, it is only natural for a farrier to reach for a shoe to correct various hoof problems rather than looking at how the hoof can be helped to heal itself.
When you contact a traditional farrier and ask the person to work your barefoot horse, he will probably perform a so-called pasture trim. The term “grazing effect” or “grazing effect” refers to the fact that it is recommended to release unshod horses for a period of time once a year to allow the hooves to recover from the iron shoes and nails. During this time, the horse will have a rest period in the paddock and usually not be ridden because it is without iron shoes.
The technique for a pasture operation is practically no different from the effect that the farrier would do before the farrier puts on a new shoe. The farrier will usually cut or grate the hoof flat to fit the shape of an iron shoe. This means that all parts of the hoof as an example: hoof wall, sole and beam will be taken back to a specified height and leveled. Finally, the farrier will scrape the edges of the hoof wall to prevent it from chipping.
It can be risky to cut the sensitive sole and beam of an unshod horse and it is not uncommon for this method of action to lead to horses becoming sore.
IMITATE NATURAL HOWS WITH BARFOOT EFFECT
In contrast to grazing, a barefoot effect tries to take as little of the hoof as possible. The goal of a barefoot effect is to help the horse develop as tough, durable and healthy only hooves as it would have had if it had lived in the wild. In principle, a barefoot worker will only remove the excessive growth of the toes that the horse’s environment has not been able to help it wear down naturally. Since the beam and sole will fall off by themselves, these parts are usually left untouched.
A healthy horse should primarily land with the heel first, which means that the health and function of the beam is crucial. As such, it can lead to extensive consequences if the beam is cut down to the point that it becomes tender. Furthermore, thin and sensitive soles are a common hoof problem in our domestic horses and it would only aggravate the problem if the sole were to work backwards beyond what they would naturally shed.
Another typical difference between a barefoot effect and a pasture effect is the length of the toe and the so-called rollover. Because a grazing operation usually shortens the entire hoof, the toe is often left longer than after a barefoot operation. On the contrary, in barefoot action, a technique is used to round the toe at the hoof’s natural breaking point, to imitate what would have occurred naturally if the horse had carried its hooves as wild horses do. Usually at an angle of 45 degrees.
A barefoot effect will also rarely try to even out the hoof or change its conformation before carefully assessing whether these deficiencies have a functional purpose for that particular horse. For example, enlargement on the inside of a front hoof may indicate that the shoulder of the horse is stronger and larger on that side. Then there is a physical problem that needs to be addressed by a chiropractor or similar and in such a case it can cause imbalances in the whole horse’s body or even lameness, if the shape of the hooves is corrected without addressing the underlying cause.
This thoroughbred is basically self-acting due to good hoof condition in his home environment. Six weeks after his last effect, his barefoot worker only needed a light scrape on the tip of his toe and the funnel part.
BAR FOOT EFFECT SHOULD BE A COMPREHENSIVE VIEW
According to Nic Barker and Sarah Braithwaite in Feet First – Barefoot Performance and Hoof Rehabilitation, there are three main factors that contribute to healthy hooves. Roughly speaking, the horse’s diet accounts for 65% and its environment / exercise accounts for 25%, while the effect actually only accounts for 10% of the contribution to healthy hooves.
Since barefoot effect is based on the studies of wild horses’ tough and naturally healthy hooves, it is part of the barefoot method to include knowledge of all factors that contribute to good hoof health. As such, your barefoot worker should also be able to advise you on the importance of a fiber / feed-based diet and a suitable environment for hoof stimulation.
This holistic approach to hoof care also includes recognizing the need for collaboration with other professionals in the equine force to treat the horse as a whole. For example, if your horse has physical problems that have affected the hooves, it is invaluable that your horse’s chiropractor and hoof caregiver can work together to develop a plan to make a joint effort to best help your horse recover. It can also be a collaboration with your horse’s veterinarian, masseur, feed advisor or your riding instructor.
But perhaps most importantly, your barefoot worker should be able to involve you, the horse’s owner, in their work. Your caregiver may visit you every four to six weeks, but between these visits it is crucial that you understand the treatment plan and know how to carry it out. A hoof caretaker can not do much if the work is not continued on a daily basis by the horse’s owner. Ultimately, your commitment will likely be the key to the success of your horse’s treatment.
A good hoof caretaker will want to see how your horse moves before the person assesses how it needs to work.
TRANSITION TO BARFOTA, HOV BOOTS AND EFFECT
Very often, horse owners decide to go barefoot with their horses simply because the shoes have not worked for them. Either the horse constantly loses shoes and tears the hoof walls during the process, or shoes have been used to treat a hoof-related problem or lameness and they have not been effective. It is important to realize here that you need the help of a janitor during and after the transition.
In these cases, it can be counterproductive to hold on to your hoof caretaker during the transition, if he or she does not fully support your decision to get rid of the shoes and if your hoof caregiver does not have the motivation and knowledge to help your horse through the transition to barefoot. Especially if your horse goes barefoot for rehabilitation purposes, you may not want it to have a traditional pasture. Here you need to find a farrier with a holistic approach that an experienced farrier with barefoot experience and rehab experience or another farrier with barefoot experience and rehab experience possesses.
When you have a horse that is above having ground contact due to the habit of wearing iron shoes, you must expect some degree of tenderness after removing the shoes. Sore feet can cause your horse to change his gait and movement patterns in an attempt to avoid the pain, which can result in a whole different set of problems. Therefore, you want to facilitate the transition. The best way to get your horse used to feeling the ground and rebuilding its hoof strength in a natural way is to let it wear shock-absorbing hoof boots of the correct fit.
Most experienced barefoot workers and some farriers will help you fit suitable hoof boots on your horse. Find a Scootboots dealer near you by looking at our dealer map. The dealer map can also help you find a qualified barefoot worker. Do not hesitate to contact us at Scootboots Scandinavia, we are here for you and your horse during your barefoot journey.