In-Hand Harmony

Two Shod And Two Barefoot

P1020945What I’ve come up with after this nine-week trial is that some horses’ hooves are just not able to comfortably go barefoot. Now I recognize there are many who believe differently. But if you could ask my horse, I believe he’d tell you that he’s much more comfortable wearing shoes on his front feet.

That said, his hind feet at fourteen-weeks continue to do just fine barefoot. Apparently, Tobias has more concavity in the sole, the soles are not only hard but evidently thicker than the front hooves, and the hoof walls appear healthier.

Once again, Tobias has his front feet shod and hind feet barefoot. For now, that seems to work.

You might remember from an earlier post that we figured out early on that Tobias’ flat, thin-soled front feet were just too tender to be comfortable barefooted. To get him comfortable, I was rotating two different pairs of EasyCare boots and slowly increasing the number of hours of wear each day, but his heel bulbs were still getting chafed. The weather wasn’t great for applying a sole guard, so our farrier, Jason Critton, came up with the idea of casting the front feet to get the soles off the ground enough for Tobias to be comfortable without boots. (See Six Weeks: Hoof Casts)

We had expected to get about a month out of the hoof casting but perhaps due to our dry, sandy climate they wore off on the front third of the sole in just three weeks. Tobias could barely walk on flat concrete. It was heartbreaking to see his head drooping as he slowly walked with me, limping down the middle of the barn. Fortunately, I was just able to pull his Old Mac G2’s over the remaining casting and left them on 24/7 regardless of chafing until our farrier could come back the end of the week.


The hoof wall is spreading at the toe creating even further discomfort for Tobias in his front feet.


Jason fashioned a curve to the shoe to move the break-over point further back in order to take some of that pressure off the toe.

P1020942Unfortunately, not only are the front feet flat and thin soled, but now the hoof wall has spread forward at the toe creating even further discomfort for Tobias. The spread toes are probably why Tobias had been stumbling on our walks.

To help make him more comfortable, Jason fashioned a curve to the shoe to move the break-over point further back in order to take some of that pressure and torque off the toe (similar to the way my Keene hiking boot soles are made).

In addition to chafing, one of the things Jason doesn’t like about using hoof boots is that [the ones I have] add about a quarter of an inch of “sole” all the way around the hoof in order for the foot to fit inside. He believes that this added circumference creates added torque on the laminae and soft tissue.

On the other hand, Jason believes that a well-made and fitted metal shoe can actually reduce leverage. I’m thinking this is similar to the barefoot trimmer’s “Mustang roll”, yet in a shoe.

At 14-weeks, Tobias' hind feet continue to be comfortable and healthy barefoot.

At 14-weeks, Tobias’ hind feet continue to be comfortable and healthy barefoot.

It’s not Shoes vs. Barefoot …  for now it’s Two Shod And Two Barefoot. It’s whatever works best for my horse.

Happily, this experiment is allowing Tobias to at least have his hind feet barefoot for the past fourteen weeks. We plan to leave the hind barefoot — at least for the remainder of winter and then we’ll see what he needs. Meanwhile, as usual, my husband’s Tennessee Walker mare is doing great spending the winter barefoot and, since she doesn’t get out much anymore, we’ll likely leave her barefoot.

I find myself appreciating that our farrier has lots of tools in his toolbox in order to provide our horses with whatever works best for them.

Happy Trails!

2 thoughts on “Two Shod And Two Barefoot

  1. Diane

    Awesome-looking curved shoe that Jason made for Tobias’ front feet! Looks like they will elevate his front soles off the ground and also give him some help with roll over, like the “mustang roll” you mentioned: a win-win situation for him. I have another friend who also only shoes her horse on the front. Seems to be a very workable solution.

  2. Cath Post author

    As of the spring of 2015, I am keeping Tobias in shoes all the way around. There was evidence of abscesses in nearly every foot as new growth came in and we were lucky he wasn’t more lame than he was. I have simply decided that he is more comfortable this way, and this is how I plan to keep him.

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