Of course we all know that without horseshoes, our horse will wear its hooves down too fast on hard ground, will have little grip on soft ground, find it painful to walk over stones, gravel and chippings and is as likely as not going to get damaged tendons. Any farrier will tell you this along with many veterinary surgeons and professionals within the horse fraternity.

And yet, there is a growing movement towards going barefoot. Why?

Many of our convictions are based upon habit. At the risk of wandering off the subject, think for a moment about two other “rules” that we have with regard to handling horses:

  1. always mount your horse from the left side and never from the right.
  2. always lead your horse from the left side and never from the right.

These are very sensible and irrefutable rules – provided you are a knight with an enormous sword at your left hip! The only reason we might avoid mounting from the right side these days is because our horse is not used to it – which ultimately means it’s about time he was. After all, if we are in a situation where mounting from the left is impossible, then we have a problem.

And what about leading the horse? Again, that sword. Without it, you are free to walk on either side – as with mounting, this can be very desirable depending upon the terrein where you are walking.
I teach handicapped riding in, amongst other places, a riding ring. Naturally the horses do not just make left-hand-circuits, they make right-hand ones too. When we are leading the horses – which is very often the case, since our riders frequently are unable to take full control of their horse – we always lead on the side away from the wall; being trapped between a wall and 650Kg of Frisian horse is something one tends to try to avoid. Health and Safety are not keen either. Our horses are quite happy to be lead from the right-hand side.

What do these points tell us? Quite simply, we are bowing to tradition and not to common sense.
If we look at feral horses, they are unshod, can walk (/trot/canter) great distances and have negligible hoof problems. So why not the domestic horse?

True, our domestic horse is not living in the wild and does not have the truly natural wear and tear of its hooves that the feral horse has, but this does not preclude our domestic horse from going barefoot. On the contrary, since our domestic horse is not covering vast distances, then even more reason for going barefoot – his hooves certainly won’t get worn down too fast!

So let’s look at the arguments again:

These points are all dealt with individually elsewhere on this site and on many others, including those in the list of links.