Why Barefoot...

Wild hooves are perfectly designed to bear the weight of the horse and to sustain travel over many miles of often challenging terrain each day. In fact this large amount of movement is vital to a horse's psychological and physical well being. Because hooves are micro trimmed naturally - almost continually as the horse moves, they are sculpted into a healthy and well functioning shape which supports physiological processes and correct bio mechanical movement.
Domestic horses however are usually housed in smaller areas and live on softer terrain than in the wild. Limited movement, together with walking on non abrasive surfaces prevents hooves from wearing down naturally. They begin to over grow in various ways - individual to the particular horse. This over growth creates stresses in certain areas of the hoof and limb, and hooves can become dysfunctional, diseased and sometimes extremely painful.

It is therefore crucial that domestic horse hooves are trimmed frequently and correctly to emulate the wear that would occur in the wild. This ensures joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue are operating in correct alignment and range of motion, and that blood flow and cell renewal is optimal. Most hoof problems are simply the result of either too long a time period between trims and|or the application of sub standard trimming techniques.

There are significant differences between a 'farrier' or 'paddock' trim to a physiologically correct barefoot trim. Traditional farriers focus mainly on the making and fitting of shoes rather than learning hoof and limb anatomy and the complex mechanics of hoof function. Farriers completing a paddock trim tend to trim a hoof as they would in preparation for the application of a shoe. Therefore usually the hoof wall is left excessively long, as would be required in readiness for shoe nails. Very little or no attention is paid to heel height, toe length, the white line, flares, splits, breakover, the sole, bars or frog and particularly correct angles, symmetry and balance.

The occurrence of excessive heel height or toe length causes flares, splits, stretching of tissue and incorrect weight distribution which can contribute to white line disease, bruising, abscesses, laminitis, coffin bone rotation, navicular syndrome, intermittent lameness and joint dysfunction. These problems are very easily avoided by ensuring hooves are trimmed on a schedule recommended by a competent barefoot hoof professional who takes the horse's individual situation into account, and who also applies a physiologically correct barefoot trim. The photos below show some common hoof problems.

Excessively Long Toes Incorrect Weight
Excessively High Heels

Contracted Heels + Frog Quarter Flares +
Soft Crumbly Sole + Wall

A physiologically correct barefoot trim should always adhere as closely as possible to the wild hoof model and progress the hooves towards having :

  • low heels
  • short, steep, rolled toes with a tight white line
  • concave soles
  • open heels with supportive bars
  • wide frogs two thirds of the hoof length
  • correct angles according to inner structures
  • balance and symmetry individually and overall

There are many misconceptions regarding whether barefoot horses can endure various riding conditions. However barefoot hooves have excellent traction, far superior to shod hooves and because they are designed for travel over very challenging terrains, they are well able to sustain riding over any kind of surface. Care must be taken however to adjust hooves for the task required which also includes the added burden of the rider's weight. After becoming accustomed to these tougher conditions, consistently frequent periods of time should be spent on these surfaces to ensure the hooves remain in a toughened state. If time is unavailable for adjusting or maintaining tougher hooves, then specially designed hoof boots are available and are recommended, particularly for the front, more weight bearing hooves.

As a general guide, trimming hooves every four weeks is usually ideal, however if the horse is exercised on abrasive surfaces, trimming may be required less frequently. Each corrective barefoot trim takes approximately thirty minutes - a little longer if shoes are to be removed. It would be appreciated if horses could be ready on time, with legs washed down if muddy, and able to be trimmed in a dry, flat, covered area. It is also very helpful if horses are trained to lift and hold their legs backwards and forwards. Please ask if any assistance is required with training to do this. At the first trim, before and after photos may be taken and sent via email.


$35  -  per horse
$20  -  shoe removal (set of four) or $5 per shoe

Charges are kept to a minimum to encourage owners to adhere to a frequent trimming schedule. Even at intervals of four weeks the yearly cost of barefoot trimming is much more economical than shoeing, far healthier for the horse and results in less likelihood of the necessity for veterinary treatment.

Price comparison :

Yearly cost - shoeing every six weeks at $120 per visit is $1040 per year
Yearly cost - barefoot trimming every four weeks at $35 per visit is $455 per year - less than half!

It is helpful if owners are able to maintain their scheduled appointments if possible, as particular area locations are allocated to certain days. Appointment cards are given at each trim for the next appointment, and trimming charges are structured so that travel is minimised. If this is inconvenient, then individual 'one off' trimming is available. The cost of this is $45.

Please note an extra mileage charge may be applied if trimming location is further than fifteen minutes drive from Albany, Auckland.

Further information about bitless training or barefoot trimming may be viewed on the 'profile', 'photos', 'articles + movies' or 'testimonial' sections of the website or by contacting Horse & Human by email, phone or text.

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