Barefoot vs. Shoeing (Part 1)

Barefoot or shod? Which is best for my horse?

It’s a fairly common dilemma that most horse owners face: To shoe, or not to shoe?

When deciding which the right method is to support your equine partner, every horse owner should start with a series of questions:

  • What type of work does your horse do currently, and what is the eventual goal.
  • How hard and how often does your horse work?
  • Consider the terrain. Is your horse mostly worked in a textured arena, the field or the trails?
  • How healthy is your horse? What is their conformation like? And what are their biggest health problems?

The answers to these questions will help you make an educated decision on which hoof care is best for your horse. Here are some pros and cons of going barefoot or shod.



Plenty of horses can soundly go barefoot with the correct care from your trusted farrier. Other horses won’t be sound barefoot at all. There are genetic, conformation and breed factors that come into play. Some horses naturally have softer slopes, which require more support. Others may be more prone to chipping and brittleness. Some minor hoof flaws could be supported, or corrected, through medication, supplements or conditioning. Horses with serious conditions, like navicular disease, need shoes to serve a permanent therapeutic role.



The need for traction based on the performance level of the horse and the discipline of riding will often dictate the need for shoes. Three-day eventing horses require more traction than a low-level dressage horse, or pleasure horses, because they are expected to gallop across fields and through water and jump obstacles. The need for traction on uneven terrain makes shoeing them an often-necessary choice for safety and fitness reasons. Plenty of show jumpers and event riders also add studs to the shoes for additional traction during competition.

But, on the other hand, there are several hardy type breeds that compete at remarkable levels without shoes, such as the top SA Show Jumping Team, Team Slade, owned by Mark and Di Slade, who have both ridden since teenagers and have ridden many different disciplines. Both Di and Mark have co-owned the horses that Jonathon Clarke has competed on for 11 years now. Here Di answered some questions for us,


  1. What is your opinion on barefoot vs shoeing?
  2. Barefoot maintained correctly gives the hoof maximum chance to grow, age and perform at it’s best.
  3. Why do you prefer your team barefoot?
  4. For the same reasons, barefoot also ensures less reverberation up the joints. The walls have a chance to stay strong and the 4 hearts ie the frogs can perform properly


  1. Were your horses shod when you bought them?
  2. Get Lucky and Southern Comfort had not been shod and Hummer had had shoes on for only a few months.


  1. How was the condition of their feet?
  2. They were fine. When we bring horses in from Europe, Sancho always has their shoes taken off before they come to him in quarantine. They are just rounded off and when they arrive in South Africa, we work with the quarantine farrier for the month they are there.


  1. What added measures do you take to keep your horse’s feet strong?
  2. They all walk on the road 4 or 5 times a week, to maintain toe callous. Depending on how wet the ground is, they may need “sole-hardner.” In winter, depending on the horse, they may need soaking. All our horses are also on Vetsbrands Hoof Powder plus Multimune powder.


  1. How often do you trim?
  2. Patrick Weston does a full trim every 3 weeks, but I am normally rounding off after 2, as they all have such good growth.


  1. Do you shoe for grass going?
  2. We will jump barefoot on grass if the actual going/base is good.


Barefoot or shod?  We hope that we helped you make the correct decision for your equine friend.

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