Barefoot Hoof Management
The horse was clearly not ‘designed' to wear horseshoes. In fact, many of the evils befalling horses' feet (and often limb conformation and health) can be traced back to bad shoeing. The shoe removes the feel of the ground. It restricts hoof flexibility (and therefore circulation). It affects the way the hoof develops and grows, resulting in significant shape changes. It affects the way the limb is used, which, for a performance animal, can be very significant. A great deal of the work of the AVMC has arisen from shoeing problems. Nonetheless, putting horses to work can necessitate the use of shoes, to protect the hooves. It is true that horses can live to a good old age, regularly shod, provided good shoeing technique is properly and sensitively applied. It is also true that horses can even do endurance riding, without shoes, if a fully holistic program is followed.
In reaction to some of the problems, where it is possible to keep a horse without shoes, many horse ‘owners' are turning to barefoot management. There are several different ‘systems' of barefoot management, which recommend and guide a certain pattern of hoof trimming. There are also many horses kept without shoes, whose ‘owners' do not follow any specific system but keep their hooves well trimmed, with good results.
Arguments for and against barefoot management or for and against any particular ‘system' seem to rage in this field, as in so many others. However, the AVMC has seen very good results from intelligent and sensitive adherence to different barefoot systems and to ‘no system' methods. What is required is an open mind, a willingness to respond to the horse's reactions and a readiness to operate according to a ‘horses for courses' philosophy.
The AVMC supports ‘owners' who wish to manage their horses without shoes. If shoeing is considered necessary, we advocate giving periods each year, without shoes. We do not advocate automatically adopting a barefoot approach simply because a horse is receiving natural medicine (e.g. herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture) and an ‘owner' is moving towards natural holistic horse management. It must be a properly considered and planned approach, tailored to the individual horse or pony.
N.B.: The AVMC cannot support the prescribing of medicines (homeopathic, herbal etc.) by foot trimmers (equine podiatrists – farriers), however well-qualified they may be for the foot trimming task. This infringes the Veterinary Surgeons Act.