Benefits of Barefoot and Natural Hoof Care

Despite the continued widespread acceptance of shoeing, recent studies and imaging techniques confirm that shoeing and incorrectly shaped feet are damaging to the hoof, joints, tendons, and the overall health of the horse. Naturally shaped barefoot hooves are not a new fad or passing trend, but rather the result millions of years of change and adaptation necessary to the survival of the species. Today, we are rediscovering that the naturally shaped barefoot hoof has vital benefits for the long term health and soundness of the horse.

1. Natural Hoof Care optimizes hoof mechanism, the expansion and contraction of the barefoot hoof with each step which, acting as a pump, increases circulation in the hoof and leg. Horseshoes prevent the natural flexing of the hoof inhibiting the ebb and flow of circulation.   

2. Barefoot hooves grow in a natural conical form, expanding evenly as they grow.  Shoeing restricts the line of growth so that the hoof can only grow in a cylindrical shape resulting in long toes and contracted, under-run heels. 

3. The barefoot hoof can to some degree wear off excess growth naturally, whereas shoeing prevents any form of natural wear.

4. Studies indicate that a shod horse loses 70-80% of natural shock absorption and that a shod horse walking on pavement has three times more damaging percussion to the hoof, joints, and tendons throughout the entire body than the impact a barefoot horse experiences trotting on pavement. 

5. Barefoot allows the interior structures of the young hoof to develop properly and naturally without becoming constricted by shoeing. The young horse’s hoof keeps growing until he reaches his full adult weight around age four or later.

6. Horseshoes reduce feeling and sensation in the hoof and can mask problems that shouldn't be concealed and allowed to progressively worsen.

7. Barefoot horses can feel the ground better, slip less, do less damage to trails and environment, and are less likely to cause harm or injure other horses and human beings if they kick.

8. Traditionally farriers recommended that horses be allowed to go barefoot several months out of the year to heal--barefoot natural hoof care extends that healing period year roun


“The greatest advantage is to hoof health.  By leaving a horse barefoot, one allows the hoof’s natural functions of shock absorption, traction, and biomechanics to perform at their optimum.  Shoes inhibit natural function and the horse’s natural way of going and limb interference with shoes can cause injury." -Deborah Ash, AFA certification examiner