Why Barefoot is Better

There is a growing movement in the horse world….  as more and more people are learning about the benefits of keeping horses barefoot.  Not only will it save you a bundle in shoeing costs (!), it is infinitely better for the horse for many reasons.

The horse’s hooves act as an auxiliary pumps for the circulatory system, and work by expanding and contracting as the horse moves.  When a shoe is nailed to the hoof, the hoof can no longer expand and contract as is normal, which results in decreased circulation in the foot.  After a while, the lack of proper circulation begins to have negative effects on the physiology of the foot structure, resulting in problems such as navicular.  Yep, putting shoes on your horse can cause navicular.


(Image from Dr. Hiltrud Strasser)

This thermograph image shows a horse who has three bare feet and one with a shoe.  It is quite clear from this image that the circulation has been impaired by the shoe.  What do you suppose will happen after many years of cutting off circulation to the hoof?

My horses have been barefoot for about 5 years now.  I am currently trail riding and foxhunting my horses barefoot!  Almost any horse can build up enough of a callous on the feet to do most chores without shoes.  Start off slowly, and walk them on a little pea gravel or a dirt road for a few minutes a day.  Gradually increase the time walking on gravel, and the speeds.  Before long, your horse will be comfortable enough on gravel to do just about anything!

For a more in-depth explaination of why barefoot is better, please check out these two wonderful websites:



Both of which offer excellent advice and information about why keeping your horses barefoot is so important.


Here is another excellent article:


How to know if your horse has problem hooves?

(Hint: Look at how he stands)

By Chrisann Ware
     Equine Myofunctional Therapist, UHHGM
     & Co-ordinator Equethy Barefoot Workshops (Aust.)

       As an Equine Myofunctional Therapist dealing daily with equine musculo-skeletal problems and through Equethy workshops (who have now delivered hundreds of workshops all over Australia in the past seven years), I have had the pleasure to meet many horse owners who turned to barefoot rehabilitation.

The comment I hear all the time after they see the dramatic changes that occur both in hooves and bodies is “I wish I had known how to spot hoof problems earlier…. I could have helped my horse years ago instead of wasting all that time while he was getting steadily worse……I feel like such an idiot!”   Read the rest of this article here.


Excellent article here.

If your horse has been diagnosed with navicular disease, or navicular changes, have a look at the website of Dr. Eby, who is doing studies involving a liquid supplement that seems to be having a positive affect on “navicular” horses.


11 Responses

  1. Hi..I’d just like to thank you for this website. I am part of the growing movement to improve our equine friends lives. I have always intuitively felt shoes had to be bad for a horses foot but never really knew why I felt it so strongly. I resisted all efforts to get me to comply with the standard way of doing things. Then I started researching and read a lot on the subject but have never seen this photo. Wow you can’t make much of a pro shoe arguement with that staring you in the face can you? Now I’ll have more ammunition to fight back with. Are you located in the US or the UK.
    Jan (Springfield MO)

  2. I am located right here in the good ole US of A. Northern Virginia, to be exact. Thanks for your kind words. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi Aeron! This is Sienna..Nathalie’s daughter! I have been an active member of parelli natural horsemenship for quite sometime and started a 4 year old with it. But recently I moved barns (and the 4 year old is at the other barn..and becuase she wasn’t mine i wasn’t able to bring her
    with me 😦 ) As i think you know..Nina had a pony that she was willing to give to me for as long as I wanted..and now i have her! I have had her for about a month and she is AMAZING…i have been doing parelli with her but i’m not completly sure that its the best possible way tobuild a realtionship between Easter Bonnet and I. I would really like to explore some different methods of natural horsemanship with Easter Bonnet. I have seen your videos and they are AMAZING..and I feel like what your doing makes a lot more sense then parelli. Although bits of parelli make sense to me it seems like you have pulled those bits out of the different natural ways and created something amazing!! To get to the point..I would REALLY LOVE to come out to your house with Easter Bonnet and maybe work on things with her in the round pen like stickyness and just get a better relationship going. My Mom said that it could maybe be like lessons of natural horsemanship? Just putting it out there! Also totally agree about the shoe-less thing..Easter Bonnet had them and Nina graciously took them off for me 🙂 In fact I do her feet..so i’m the little natural horsemanship farrier..so to speak. Myself or my mom were hoping to ask you about the lesson thing sometime in the near future and I came upon your site and decided to just put it out there! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. I do agree that barefoot is better where possible. However, my warmblood mare at 5 YO was developing a partial locked patella and on the advise of my vet we have been forced to put corrective shoeing after a year of trying to correct the problem via training . After several weeks with the shoes the problem is already starting to correct. Given this, are there situations where corrective shoeing is justified and/or necessary.

    • Yes, absolutely there are situations where some types of corrective shoeing can be beneficial. I am definitely an advocate of the barefoot ‘movement,’ but I am not anti-shoe. If it works for you and your horse, then that’s great!

  5. I ended up learning barefoot trimming because the farriers in my area either refused to work on our Percheron rescue or it was cost prohibitive. My wife and I never bought into the whole shoeing thing and the natural horsemanship instructor on our farm introduced me to Pete Ramey’s trimming method.

    I have found the following resources very helpful:



    We are one year into the patient rehab (our mare was my first client so she had to live with the learning curve) and it is amazing the difference. It definitely challenges “conventional” trimming but makes a lot more sense once you learn how the horse’s hoof works.

    Natural horsemanship taught us how to ask our mare to pick up (and hold) her own feet and barefoot trimming allowed her to develop sound hooves.

  6. This site is wonderful. Even tho I do not have a horse, I have been passionate about them ever since I was about six (am now 49) If I had the money & place for one I would most certainly have at least 3 ! To me there is no more beautiful, graceful & powerful animal on the planet! Keep up this site, it is so informative & beautiful. You do a great job here. I am curious tho, what state are you in? We live in Ohio.

    Thanks, Lisa! I am in good old Virginia, the horse capital of the world! I hope you one day fulfill your dream and own your own horse! Even if you just pat them and smell them every day, it’s worth it!!! ~Aeron

    • Thanks, Lisa! I am in good old Virginia, the horse capital of the world! I hope you one day fulfill your dream and own your own horse! Even if you just pat them and smell them every day, it’s worth it!!! ~Aeron

  7. I’ve wanted a horse so badly for the past 6 months. I’ve done so much research on… wel pretty much everything. I live in New York which doesnt really help me out a lot but I’m trying to get my parents to move to Georgia where my family lives and get a farm there. I want a career with horses sooooo badly. I want to train them just like you did with Sundance. You have been an inspiration to me. You have pretty much put a huge dent in my horse research. Thank you so much for those videos that you posted on youtube.com and I know that they were posted forever ago but if you could post more that would be AWESOME!!!!! Thanks again!:)

  8. I have got to say thank you, thank you, and thank you again .I have been into horses for a long while now. I have failed many horses. My first one especially. Through research, people like you Aaron, and a willingness to be patient. I have had some success. Your information has been a real treat. P.S. My horse says thanks as well. LOL

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