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Why Barefoot?

   That is a very good question which can only be answered with another question, why shoe the horse?  Man has been domesticating the horse for about seven thousand years and has been shoeing them for about one thousand years.  Prior to the beginning of the practice of shoeing, the barefoot horse was ridden much more vigorously than the average horse today and did so in a high performance manner devoid of the many lamness afflictions that affect our domestic horse population today.

  The practice of shoeing the horse came about because of a change in the way that we kept and cared for our horses.  Castles started appearing in Europe and due to their labor intensive nature, horses were stalled in tiny compartments, now unable to exercise themselves and keep out of their urine and manure.  It is circumstances similar to these that reduces the quality and health of the barefoot horse which leads to a reduction in performance and soundness or can induce outright lamness.

  To the rescue comes the iron shoe, wrought by the blacksmith whom built the swords and armor and solved so many problems of the day.  The power of the iron shoe restored soundness to the unfortunate royal steeds, or so it seemed.

  The application of the rigid metal shoe greatly reduces the expansion characteristics of the hoof capsule (commonly known as hoof mechanism) which in turn reduces circulation in the hoof.  This reduction in circulation is what is responsible for a partial numbing of the hoof capsule which in turn masks the debilitating effects of poor horse keeping practices.

  In reality then, the rigid metal shoe is merely a band aid that allows us to ignore the natural horse keeping requirements of a sound barefoot horse.  Unfortunately, this remedy comes at a tremendous price. Some of the short and long term deliterious effects of the rigid metal shoe are, poor quality horn and sole, thrush and white line disease, wall cracks, heel contraction and underrun heels which can lead to navicular syndrome, a reduction in shock obsorbtion which can lead to increased hoof, leg and shoulder injuries, poor traction on slipery surfaces or extreme shock if the shoes have boron studs, poor quality lamina which can reduce a horses resistance to laminitis events which in turn can lead to founder.

  In addition, the numbing effect of the shoe also reduces the detection of pain caused by the constricting effects of the shoe itself.  In other words, the shoe is "self serving" in that it masks the effects of poor horse keeping in addition to it's own debilitating effects at least for some length of time until the damage becomes so great that the pain cannot be denied.

  Why barefoot?  Because we want our horses to live a longer, happier, healthier more usfull life.   In other words, we want to go barefoot "For the Life of the Horse".

  Want to learn more about what it takes to be successful barefoot?  Go to The Barefoot Black or look to the left under 'Barefoot Resources' for more information.

Copyright 2012,  Kirt Lander