Q. How soon after shoes are removed can I ride my horse?
A. It depends on the health of structures that your horse may show. This can only be determined once the shoes have been removed, and it is useful to get a full evaluation of your horse's feet whilst your farrier is replacing the shoes. The benefits are that the transition to barefoot can be made at a time that suits both horse and owner based on the health of the feet and a full spectrum of usability can be done giving the owner and DAEP an idea of the health of all the structures of the feet. Some horses can be ridden throughout the transition but owners will be expected to work their horse lightly on specific surfaces to begin with.
Conditioning of your horses feet via correct environmental stimuli is paramount to the success of going shoeless. This conditioning process requires financial and practical commitment, responsibility, time and above all an understanding that the horse has an innate ability to heal itself provided the environment is conducive to healing. Overall breed, age, weight, rider weight, environment, previous hoof care methods, and the workload expected of the horse are all factors.
It is true that a minimal number of horses may never succeed shoeless under saddle; on the other hand many and most horses breeze through the transition with no issues whatsoever. Owners must be aware that time and financial commitment must be a given for a horse to transition successfully to barefoot and that DAEPs are not permitted to remove shoes from horses whose owners cannot offer complete financial and practical commitment.
Q. Can Applied Equine Podiatry help horses with pathologies?
A. AEP has had immense success in helping horses with pathologies, from minor pathologies such as DHS (Deformed Hoof Syndrome), White Line disease and Seedy Toe, to Navicular Syndrome and Laminitis. Horses that are severely lame due to untreatable ailments can be made more comfortable without the negative side effects caused by correctional shoeing. Please note: Any horse suffering from a pathology or lameness must be treated following professional veterinary advice.
Q. My farrier says my horse's feet are fine and that he can't go barefoot, is this true?
A. Take a look at your horse's feet. Can you recognize healthy/unhealthy structures of the foot? Next time the shoes are replaced look at the wall and white lines. Do they smell? Are they grey/black and chalky? Are your frogs bulbous and free from disease or do you have a deep central sulcus, thrush and atrophy of the frog? Are your horse's feet migrating forward and/or is your farrier dumping/dubbing the toe? Is flare present? Are your horses heels under-run? Owners often say 'My horse's feet are fine, well, there is a bit of thrush, the frog is shrivelled, oh and there is a crack at the toe!' Is this fine? Not by our standards. Take a look at the photos page to view some good and bad feet. All horses are capable of being shoeless, but there are an exceptional few who cannot be ridden under saddle without shoes.
Q. My horse's feet are so bad I don't think he could go shoeless, could he?
A. Yes, KC has developed some brilliant products to help with the transition to shoeless. Take a look at his website www.appliedequinepodiatry.org. Your horses feet are likely a product of a extended period in shoes, incorrect hoof care methods or possibly neglect. Personally I want the best foot possible under my horse and it is a mystery to me why people would rather have a rideable horse with bad feet than take the time it takes to have a horse that has long term health of the foot.
Q. I've tried going shoeless - my horse goes lame. Should I try again?
A. What steps were taken to ensure the structures of the foot were capable of dealing with the work being asked of them? Compassion without discipline is responsible for many horses returning to conventional methods. The HPT method makes use of a spectrum of usability to mark each of the foot's structures from 1-10, and then establishes a conditioning exercise program that will help the horse regain health of structure in order to return to the chosen discipline once the feet are capable of it.
I must stress that Applied Equine Podiatry places the horses well-being above the owner's need to perform at a chosen discipline. The transition to shoeless is a future investment. The riding life span of your horse will most definitely be prolonged as a shoeless horse. A question I would ask is "Was this truly lameness or was your horse footsore"? They are often confused and some horses do experience soreness through the transition. There are a variety of methods available to DAEP's to sustain the horse's comfort levels throughout the transition. The trimming technique used may also have played a role in your horse's lameness. If your horse goes lame when shoeless it is vital to seek professional veterinary advice, employ an experienced hoof care professional and look at the medical history of the horse.
Q. I spend a lot of time riding on the roads, if I went shoeless would my horse's hooves not wear?
A. What kind of distances are we talking about here? Most people do not ride more than 5-10 miles per day. It is true that if we were expecting our horses to ride 20+ miles per day on the roads then shoes would be a necessity, but then would we really expect our horses to cope with such a workload? It is perfectly achievable to ride on roads regularly and for some distance without shoes.
In actual fact tarmac is an excellent stimulus for growth and it is only if the feet are in very poor shape that they will wear. A healthy foot will actually grow faster from regular exposure to tarmac. I have ridden 86 miles in a week on a variety of terrains including tarmac. With the correct knowledge and understanding of the structures and functions of the foot, the performance levels you aspire to are more than achievable.
Q. When I tried going barefoot my horse dragged his toes on the hinds and wore them down too much Could AEP solve this problem?
A. Horses that dub their own toe are usually exhibiting signs of pain in the hock. Some horses do naturally wear their hind toes and this could be due to a number of factors - excessive length of toe, hock pain, incorrect proprioception or a neurological disorder. It is essential to establish the cause of this dragging by seeking veterinary advice, then the cause and its effects may be treated.
Q. My horse wears one heel more than the other when he goes barefoot, what can be done about this?
A. Your horse may actually not be wearing one heel more than the other, it is more likely that one heel is actually growing more rapidly giving the illusion that the other is wearing down. If your horse is landing on one heel more often than the other then this would stimulate that heel to grow faster than the other (pressure being the stimulus for growth).
It sounds like your horse has a distal/proximal imbalance on the medial/lateral plane. Such imbalances are usually due to either conformational and/or gait abnormalities, sheered heels or even the presence of pain in the foot or elsewhere in the body. A vet should be consulted to rule out the latter. Regular application of the HPT method and a conditioning program would certainly help if not solve this issue.
Q. My horse has flat feet, can I still go shoeless?
A. That would depend on the quality of the structures of the hooves and what type of workload you expect from your horse. A horse with truly flat feet may not respond well when exposed to pin point pressure (sharp stones) but could perform well in a school, on grass or on a light hack. However, a true flat footed horse is rare and this flat appearance of the sole is often actually false sole (a sole laid down due to lack of structure in the foot), temporarily stabilizing the foot to prevent excessive flex or trauma. Once the hoof regains healthy structures the false sole is simply cast off. It is easy to determine the difference. Contact your local DAEP to find out more.
Q. My horse grows no heel. He would go lame if the heels were any shorter, wouldn't he?
A. Your horse is capable of growing more heel, providing the correct stimulus is provided. Some breeds are renowned for having under-run heels, usually coupled with excess length of toe. However if your horse is shod the situation is likely to get worse.
Shoes cause migration of the entire foot, and stimulate increased and incorrect pressure at the toe and decreased and incorrect pressure at the heel just by the nature of their design. Correct conditioning and regular application of the HPT method will increase the health of the angle of the bars (solar surface of the heel) and increase growth. See diagram below to see how shoes affect our horses' feet over time.
If your horse is barefoot and suffering from under-run heels, it is worth looking at your hoof care methods. The Strasser method actually trims the heels lower than the height of the frog in order to create greater movement within the caudal aspect of the hoof capsule (a technique that I strongly disagree with).