Barefoot Dressage?

One barefoot and happy, one in shoes and pads. I do what’s necessary for the comfort of the individual.


My TB has pretty good feet and was barefoot for the first year I owned her. She needs shoes when we are doing lots of jumping or riding on gravel. I know lots of lower level (2nd and under) that go barefoot fine.

There is a transition period to being barefoot sometimes they need a month or two for their feet to get used to it and some horses who don’t have good feet may not be able to go barefoot. I think it is most important to listen to your horse and do what is best for them not what you prefer.

1 Like

My gelding would be barefoot (up through 3rd level) if he didn’t have another issue going on. Hoping to pull the shoes next year.

Oddly enough, he came out of bar shoes and pads almost flawlessly. A tad sensitive on larger gravel at first and was a bit more careful on the somewhat rocky walkways for a few days. I was ready to order boots, go through a transition period, etc. But he was totally normal in the arenas and looked just fine galloping and trotting across his filed in an extravagant manner.

When he’s lost shoes in the past he never went lame or sore. So could still be turned out fine.

I found the whole thing to be strange to be honest :lol: I guess he has decent quality hooves. This is not a stoic animal by any means.

The bottom line is, you do what the horse needs. Some can certainly be barefoot up through their levels and working career. Some cannot. It’s an individual thing and there are a few different factors involved.

1 Like

I’d say the transition period can be more like 2 years, and that would be under good (motivated owner) conditions. Two years will allow 2 new hoof capsules, plus the development of the frog and other soft tissues that are critical to a high functioning bare hoof.

The magical part of barefoot, IMO, is in the way the bare hoof functions, although I get that barefoot doesn’t work for some because it involves time, effort, and sacrifices that they’re not willing to make. And I get that, because I nail shoes on sometimes, too.


My OTTB was shod upfront since I owned him (5 years) but was constantly an issue keeping his shoes on. Always pulling the shoes off and a chunck of hoofwall with it. He was on farriers formula double strength plus keratex but no real success. Tried three different farriers all had new ideas and all ran into similar issues. All said hed take 2 years to get comfortable barefoot and didn’t recommend pulling shoes.
I finally pulled his shoes and started using a barefoot trimmer in October when his feet were so crummy we couldnt keep anything on. I put him in easy cloud boots to help with the transition but imagined I may not be able to ride for months if he was sore.
He’s surprised us all and has been sound in boots from day one. We are 6 months in and his feet look great, his hoof wall has come in amazing and hes comfortable. I imagine I may use glue ons in the summer if the ground is hard but won’t keep shoes on 24/7/365 again.
Also try using kevlar hoof guard over keratex, WAY cheaper and great results.
Bottom line, I recommend boots to keep them comfortable and increase hoof quality. My barefoot only farrier admits not all horses will stay sound barefoot and is open to glue ons for several cycles in the summer (dry ground) but ultimately perfers boots to shoes thinking its more ‘natural’ and keeps a better quality hoof.
I’m hoping to keep my guy barefoot for a full year to really see what we have and make decisions from there but im totally floored with how great his feet look.
Also admit that since this transition I’m only working him 4 days a week, no jumping, poles only and schooling 1st level (H/J convert over here), so understand higher levels and jumping may be harder barefoot.

ETA: After posting this my horse was pretty on and off. Recently discovered he actually sustained a chip fracture in his coffin bone from being barefoot and putting too much pressure on his thin soles. I really wanted to be a believer that he could go barefoot if I was patient enough but I’m putting him back in shoes.

Why would anyone pull the shoes on a thinned sole TB??

Sure, some horses can have full careers barefoot, but most cannot. Why? We use shoes on equine athletes for one or more of these three reasons: protection, correction, and traction. Some horses need shoes to be pasture sound too.

Yes, there are bad BF trimmers and farriers. There’s bad nutrition. There’s the so-called “unnatural lifestyle”. But you know what? There’s also genetics. Sometimes fixing all the other issues still requires shoes if you want the horse to work.

I would immediately find a new farrier who is competent in trimming, shoeing and the use of pads.

There is just no need for this horse to continue to suffer.


All of my horses have had shoes. All of my horses started barefoot until it became clear they needed shoes to progress and be comfortable. I think I can speak for many who say NOONE wants to pay for shoes if they don’t have to!!! But it is the thing to do if we want to make our horses comfortable at the level of work we expect or the comfort level we want them to have, even without consistent work.

1 Like

We have a great barefoot debate which could arise.

There is magic in barefoot.
you pull shoes on a thinned soled horse, or any horse with inadequate feet and boot them, learn to do your own barefoot trims, address your diet and make sure it follows the anti inflammatory diet protocol and nature will fix what shoes have messed up.

hoof armor is GREAT. Riding Warehouse carries it. I put it on my OTTB (who is transitioning to barefoot) every 3 days.

He is also in scoot boots with pads. Scoot Boot has a 2 week trial deal which is great.

Go join the hoof rehab and equine nutrition fb pages.
I joined those pages in Dec because I was at my witts end with farriers ruining my OTTB repeatedly.
I’m now going to barefoot trimming school, then will go to farrier school, and I just launched a formula for a new regional mineral supplement for the plains region (southern states).

there is magic in barefoot.


No. There is no “magic” involved in the care of horses hooves. No matter how hard anyone tries to sell it. There is none. No magic. Whatsoever.

There are good farriers and bad, and horses that have good feet and those that have difficult feet. No MAGIC. :no: Only skill and education.:wink:

No horse should be ridden when it is “sore”. It is not OK to let a horse be in pain, in the paddock or undersaddle, because its owner wants it to be “barefoot”.

@angelssix The saying is “Don’t go off Half Cocked”. It is an old firearm reference.


I agree wtih @skydy, there is no magic in barefoot. What is “magic” is when you actually find a GOOD farrier in the middle of BFE :lol: Now, that is truly incredible. One that shows up too!

Anyho, I am not of the belief that every horse in every job can be barefoot. Nature will not “fix” what shoes have messed up because nature is not perfect nor does it always do the “right” thing.

I agree that a proper diet is key in general. Someone on another BB mentioned a “barefoot diet” and I was like wth is that? Then I realized it is the same diet I feed my shod horses. A PROPER BALANCED diet. Nothing barefoot or magical about it.

I wish my gelding’s current issue could be solved barefoot since he does so well in respect to not being sore, but after 2 vets (farm calls), 2 clincs, and 2 farriers, the consensus is shoes. Eventually he can transition back if I’d like. Or I could keep the shoes off and throw him on the pasture for a year (with trims) and he’d either come back ok or it’d be a disaster. I didn’t want to risk it…and other complications arise from extended time off.

Another gripe I have is use the boots that FIT YOUR HORSE. People recommend Renegades all day long, and I think they are great boots, but they do not fit my geldings current hoof shape. Therefore, if I were to buy boots I would buy what does (I think the Equine Jogging Shoe and one of the Easyboots). So don’t get Scoot Boots, Renegades, or Cavallo stuck in your head. Buy what fits the hoof otherwise you’ll be banging your head.

I don’t know, I think the bottom line is that people to listen to their horse. If the horse is sound and healthy barefoot, then rock on.


So after a week, he has gotten much more comfortable! He is moving around in the field and eating just fine, doesn’t look like he is hurting at all.
I don’t know if we will be able to keep him barefoot, but for now, it was the solution to him trying to kill the farrier, his wife, and me. He went berserk when he tried to nail the first nail and we decided to leave them off and see what happens over the course of a couple of weeks.
I still think I will have the vet out to take a look at him at the beginning of the month. We may do some films just to see if there is something we need to do for him. If I cannot leave him barefoot we may end up doing some glue on or other options that don’t require nails.
I read a couple of old posts about horses that couldn’t tolerate shoeing for different reasons. I don’t think he ever did this before, but I only owned him a few weeks before I moved him and I never saw him getting shod.
He has been absolutely a pita about picking up his left front when I try to pick his feet, even before I took the shoes off, so there may be some underlying thing going on that the vet will need to look at.

I would also highly recommend this product. My girl has always been barefoot but this fall she was sensitive with the suddenly frozen ground and I used this stuff. One day she was striding short and the next she was back to her normal self and comfy on her feet. It’s not nearly the protection of a good set of boots but for a little sensitivity it’s magic.

1 Like

Utter Majikal BS here.

Sorry. Horses aren’t majikal.

Lots of horses are stoic and will adapt to pain - a lot of owners don’t even realize their horses are lame…


Yeah, the people I bought him from are that way. I rode him once and he was lame as shit. No one cared, he was climbing over rocks the size of my head to his pasture on a hill. They also put recycled asphalt down on the path up to his pasture. His feet were constantly wet. They wanted to sell him because he refused to work. I wonder why?:no:

Like you said, you really need to have this horse checked by a vet.

He was lame when you got it, it’s still lame now.
It has trouble being shod - and even resist hoof picking.
Something is going on more than just thin sole.

Arthritis, other joint degenerative disease, tendons or damaged ligaments… all these could cause reactions when the leg is bent or the hoof hammered.

You really shouldn’ t ride it until this problem is resolved by a vet.


I agree but, No one is as blind as those who are unwilling to see.

I’ve had 5 horses over my riding career. 3 did fine with front shoes only. 2 horses had great hooves and were barefoot. One was a 3rd level horse and the other was PSG. I always had the input of my vet and farrier before making any decisions re: hoof/shoe care. I also was flexible in case any changes needed to be made. Just because a horse starts off barefoot may not mean he can remain so his entire riding career and vice versa!

None of my horses are shod. The mare i am taking dressage lessons with was once diagnosed as having thin soles. (radiograph at MIZZOU). This was in her first 6 months of having arrived here. Now, two years later, according to my farrier, her soles are like iron. We (farrier and i) attribute their good feet to the terrain. Ground is turf but every day they will cross rocky creeks and the rocky shore on each side.

My 16 year old Danish Warmblood is barefoot. Always has been, and is sound as could be. The first horse I have owner in my life that is barefoot.

1 Like

My 18 year old GP Westfalen gelding was shod all around until he was 16! He’s been barefoot since then and goes MUCH better.