Easy Barefoot Transition?

With the right horse, hoof, and set up, it really doesn’t have to be a big deal.

Most of the tips on barefoot transitioning I read up on were fairly complicated.  Or the setting didn’t apply to my situation.  Or the horse wasn’t going to do the same type of work.  (Or, you know, do much of any serious work at all…)

Thank you for contacting me and asking how we’re doing with it!!  Appreciate it!

Quick share of my story today as a follow up to last spring.  Because you asked.  And because it didn’t have the predicted outcome.

Transitioning a young dressage horse to barefoot can be pretty straightforward.  Maybe you already know that, and that’s great;  this is for the rest who would like to, but haven’t been able to pull it off (hepp) just yet.

It started out really stress free.

Adding that her hind shoes were removed a few months before the fronts.  It’s the way to go.

  • Over all, undramatic.
  • I didn’t use boots on her.
  • She didn’t have to putter around for weeks in pasture doing nothing while strengthening tender soles and heels.
  • No massive applications of hoof hardener several times per day.  Some, but no overkill.

Here’s your fine print:  I didn’t become part of the Barefoot Sect.  All inner Hoof Goddesses have to restrain themselves here.

Hooves starting out:

Some 2 1/2 years ago – Barefoot on all 4.

I liked this shape better. ↓ Excuse the goat hair leg.

Hind soles.  Gorgeous!

White line after spring grass. ↓  Still love the nice open frog.

hind hoof with no thrush


Still, as she continued training for another year and a half, her fronts showed signs that the level of work might be limited to mostly this type of work 😉
preventing lateral walk


We tried a short period with shoes on her hinds, then this last January transitioned to full barefoot again.

horse with crossed front legs

grey horse after bath


So much healthier, and of course no one’s going to miss picking muddy feet.  Or worrying about lost shoes.  Or lost winter season bell boots.  Right?

picking out a hoof

fleece top velcro bell boots

Tons of positive hoof testers later, it was clear that her fronts didn’t want to develop any concavity at all.  Farrier helped in as many ways as he could.  Trimming every 5 weeks, with me filing on my own in between to help the walls.

By May she had developed fluid in her right front, both toes were sore, she got an injection and the vet waived the red flag for that coffin bone.  I didn’t need any more convincing, front shoes went back on, and at vet recheck a couple of weeks ago she was wonderful.

blue bell boots on grey horse

So that’s your recap!  Still believe in barefoot (and she still is on the hinds, and I may cycle rest periods for the fronts too.), but within reason.  Creating an athlete, not a cripple.

17 thoughts on “Easy Barefoot Transition?

  1. I generally keep fronts on Cheetah bc she just moves and trusts her feet better. And grows better. Barefoot behind. I have been doing that for a while now. She used to be barefoot. Right now she is barefoot all around and will get a full set next go round for a trip. We are having a lot of I think weather related hoof issues right now. It has been VERY dry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, and with the dry hot summer – flies! Some excessive stomping can get shoes flying… I like fronts, but would really like to stay away from hind shoes for as long as possible… We’ll see 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cracks are the worst! They’re sneaky, and all of a sudden they’re huge. And can take a long time to get rid of. This is why I can’t justify subscribing to forcing them to barefoot only – it’s just not fair to them right? Things can go sour fast, and I’m with you, rather keep them healthy and comfortable than hanging on to something that may not be right for them.


  2. I think so much is based on the individual horse. Lucy is barefoot in back — can’t tolerate being barefoot and in work in the front. Previous to Lucy I had an appy/hanovarian cross with nice hard strong feet. He was barefoot all the way around, all of the time. Ditto for a Friesian I had a million years ago. If they have strong feet it is definitely the way to go. Ours can all tolerate being barefoot behind, but none are completely barefoot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is why I held on for so long to wanting to be barefoot in the fronts – her hooves had excellent quality! Hard, shapely, and with lovely frogs. However, as she matured and worked more, things started escalating. All that grass we had this spring and winter didn’t help either – she needed a trim every 3 weeks, and still got long.
      Hope Lucy is coming along great by the way!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I actually just put fronts back on May. The hoof we grew back after she ripped her shoe off is so much healthier than what we would have had if we did glue ons.

    The feet looked amazing but the lack of rain in KY meant that everything except the arenas were hard as concrete. May told me she was sore, even with boots on. We might try again in a few months, but I have decided to just keep doing what is right for my horse… Barefoot, front shoes, or even shoes all around of that becomes necessary.

    In the end, I think that’s all that matters.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep! You have to listen to your horse, and do what is best for them and their specific situation. It’s ludicrous when people make blanket statements like “barefoot is best” when in reality it COMPLETELY depends on MANY factors. Anyone who has ever owned a horse should know nothing is ever that black and white. 😛

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks Tonia – that’s just it, isn’t it!? Never black and white.
          I’ve been hoping for barefoot from the start, trying in all sorts of different ways. When the vet starts mentioning coffin bone, yeah, something has to be done, right away!

          Some can get a bit religious about it all…


  4. I could not agree with your mindset more!

    I think if you can keep a horse barefoot and they are happy and comfortable that way then fantastic! Why wouldn’t you? But I also believe some horses just are not candidates for having bare feet, and that’s ok. Priority is healthy and happy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Appreciate your input!!!
      Glad to hear there are many out there that agree. I’m still longing for that day when there’s a true, viable, option to traditional shoes. So far, a few, but not realistic for us. Until then, this is what we do 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I used to let previous two horses go barefoot over the winter. Current pair are too tender-footed. Front shoes for now. Not looking forward to weaponizing either one of them with hind shoes. I believe in shoes but as minimally as possible for each horse. We once had a blacksmith refuse to shoe our mare b/c her feet were too nice. Had to once we moved to a state with harsher footing.


  6. I have just gone bare foot on the backs with my mare – baring in mind she use to act like she had a leg missing when she lost a shoe – she lost a back shoe and seemed to be dealing with it so I had the farrier take the other one off and to be honest I dont think shes noticed yet! She is coping amazingly with it I am even debating taking off the fronts!

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    1. That is great!!! If her hoof quality tolerates it, it’s the way to go! Bare hinds should be a possibility for most horses, yes, even up the higher levels of FEI dressage. A lot depends on genetics, footing, and day to day pasture conditions etc. I can’t stand to see a poor little contracted, thrush-soggy, heel with an almost non-existing frog…
      Maybe a chance for you to test out going bare on the fronts later – just make sure to wait at least a couple of shoeing cycles with bare hinds first. Then, equip yourself with your own rasp – you’re going to need it to keep the fronts nice and even, and have the farrier ready to come out and trim OFTEN. When I started again with barefoot fronts this spring, we did just 3 weeks in between visits the first time, then 4 and now 5. The reason is that when the shoes are taken off, the farrier can’t just hack it all up to a neat barefoot hoof on the spot – the hoof needs time to develop a callus, for the frog to strengthen and for the heels to be able to toughen up to bear the load. And, the hoof wall will splinter a little, as it’s not used to be in direct contact with the ground and the nail holes are there. Having your own rasp to sort of keep up on the hoof shape a little bit on your own will do really good.
      Might be worth a try!


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