What To Expect When Transitioning

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I was asked in our brand new Forum what one could expect during transitioning from shod to barefoot. I gave a short answer but thought I might elaborate a bit here this week. 

These hooves ...

belong to a Thoroughbred (uh-oh, you say!) who was 23 years old and had worn shoes since he was a YEARLING!!!  

The owner had heard about natural, bare hooves and how they were said to be healthier than shod hooves, so called me to remove the shoes and start maintaining this horse. 

The first visit the shoes were pulled and the photo shows what the hooves looked like immediately afterwards (no trimming as of yet).  Now this horse, after being in shoes for 22 years, was expected to be pretty sore ... and if you look you can see he had the 'high-low' thing going on. Very low heels on the right front and much steeper angle and higher heels on the left front. 

So, I pulled the shoes and smoothed off the rough edges of the wall. Then I balanced the heels on each hoove and set him loose. I advised the owner to walk him for a minimum of 10  mins daily on a tarred road. Well, in order to GET to the tarred road, the horse had to walk on a heavily graveled driveway almost 1/4 mile to get to the road. Since the owner was on vacation she did just what I instructed only she walked him 3 times a day!!!  Down the gravel drive to the tarred road. He was ouchy on the gravel but day by day was more and more sound and he was 'fine', according to the owner, on the tarred road. 

I was, frankly, surprised. 

Now the 2nd trim, in 4 weeks from the initial trim, I took down high heels on the left front and balanced all hooves carefully. I took back toe and skimmed down the bars as needed. 

This is the 2nd trim: 

OH!  I failed to mention, 3 weeks after I pulled the shoes, this horse went on a 15 miles trail ride on rocky New England trails and didn't miss a step!  A totally, newly barefoot Thoroughbred!  His owner was estatic!  

So above, in the 2nd trim, you can see that the toes are quite shorter and both hooves almost matched to one another. Compare the heel on the left front from the initial trim. It's really right where it needs to be!  Still a bit more upright than the right front but the right front, remember, was pretty low to start. 

Now the third trim ... well, here ya go ... 

and the solar view: 

And there you have it.  You can see how I *skimmed* the bars down a bit (no digging, EVER, please!!!), I balanced the heels, the toes are back, the wall is of uniform thickeness and the frog in pretty good shape. The heel bulbs are of equal size and the hoof shape is round as a front hoof on a horse should be. 

The hooves were even growing some concavity!  Hard to see in a 2 dimensional photo. 

But ... hey, for a Thoroughbred who had been in shoes for 22 years?  Not bad. Not bad at all! 

So that's pretty much the hoot of it all ... first initial trim there's merely rounding/smoothing off the rough edges and then letting the horse do his own trimming and conditioning for the first month. Any chipping and all is simply the hoof trimming itself and giving its trimmer a good starting point for the 2nd trim. 

The 2nd trim entails more detailed work -- getting the heels balanced as much as possible, pulling the toes back some more and skimming bars. 

The 3rd trim is even more picky-une -- I am very precise in the 3rd trim. 

The important thing to remember is that with every trim the horse should walk of BETTER than he did before the trim!  

Now this is pretty much the way for "healthy" hooves. The trimming involved, of course, for a "navicular" horse or a foundered horse is going to be different than the 'standard' initial trim for healthy hooves. 

At last contact, several years ago, the horse was still going strong -- the owner was maintaining her horse's hooves herself and they were spending many, many hours in retirement on the trails ... barefooted hooves and all. 

Happy trails to y'all!  (yep, that's the SW FL in me talkin'!) ... 

See you next week BUT -- in the meantime, please check out our brand new forum!

The link is:

Join up, join in and let's TALK!  


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:   Gwenyth also offers an online home-study of Natural Hoofcare 101 ... please go here: to view information and to register. 





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