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Flat Footed Horses - Shoes Always Necessary?

Hello, I just purchased my first horse (11yr DHH x Friesian) and he just had his first farrier appointment. I was told he is flat footed, and if regrowth is not substantial enough by next visit he will need shoes. I am looking to learn more about this topic, I am not against him having shoes but of course would love for him to be barefoot if it’s a possibility. Looking for advice and opinions on how to strengthen his hooves, and what direction I should take. He will be seeing a vet soon too anyway, but always open to more information!

Is he sound , currently barefoot and being ridden now?


I have had a few horses that were “flat footed” when I got them. They all eventually did well barefoot (booted on rocky ground). My suggestions -
-Look at his diet. Start with lots of hay/pasture. If the horse needs more weight in addition to the roughage, add a low starch feed like beet pulp, or Triple Crown Senior. I feed my guys a little bit of beat pulp with Vermont Blends, which has plenty of Cu and Zn and no added iron. Feeding enough Cu and Zn is important, as most horses do not get enough from forage alone, and a lot of feeds add iron too, which competes with the Cu and Zn for absorption.

-Make sure your horse is being trimmed well. I have had a number of Farriers in the past who cut the foot to be flat, as if they were going to attach a shoe, and failed to put a strong roll on the hoof wall. They have trimmed the sole at the toe in an effort to shorten it from the bottom, which results in a weak, thin sole. A thin sole is not strong enough to become concave. Once it gets to a certain thickness, it will start to become concave.
There are some barefoot groups on FB who can help you evaluate the trim, and tell you what to look for. Plan on having him trimmed frequently for best results.

-Boots! Buy a set (or two if he needs them behind), of well fitting boots to help him through the transition.

The amount of concavity of the hoof will depend on the footing he is on most of the time. If he is on a flat hard surface, stone dust for example, his sole will be flatter than if he spends most of his time in deeper footing. While I believe most horses can do fine barefoot, some may require a lot more maintenance than others, to make it work.

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I currently have a mare that was made flat-footed by the trimmer I was using. Naturally I fired him when he had no explanations why she had this problem when she didn’t have it before. Your horse will not develop concavity unless he is properly trimmed. I recommend ABC Hoof Care on facebook. You can post pics of the feet and they will help you evaluate the trim. Look through the posts or announcements and you will find examples of the photos you need to post.


There is plenty of research available that biotin is the best thing for hoof quality. My gelding’s feet were okay, but he had tiny ding on his right rear that turned into a shallow crack that wouldn’t grow out. I started him on biotin which worked. He is still getting it. The farrier who has shod him for 20 years says the walls and sole are thicker and stronger. She was considering a shoe change to glue-on but wanted to talk to the vet first. The vet said she would set it up and they arrived at the same time. The farrier had a set of x-rays of his feet our now-retired vet did 10 years ago. She couldn’t figure out why she still had them. Vet did a complete set of both feet. She said they are perfect, no signs of any problems developing, and it is the result of having excellent trimming and showing for all of the years. Great news because he is 26.

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Thank you for all the information! This really helped, I will be focusing on his diet and hoof care and see where it takes us!

Lots of good info here on diet, trim booting… there is no reason he cannot at least be perfectly comfortable in turnout barefoot. It’s possible he may need some sort of protection over hard rocky surfaces always, but it’s also very possible that he can be comfortable over that too with time.

I love Hoof Armor to help build sole and the developer David Jones also has a facebook page called The Successful Hoof Care Group. He’s always available for questions and there are a lot of knowledgeable people there too.

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I’ll be the other voice here–my horse is very flat-footed and needs four shoes. Even mostly retired, my farrier and I have never been able to get him comfortable barefoot. He just doesn’t grow enough wall to keep off his sole. In his case, it’s a conformation issue and not a nutrition issue. My vet and farrier agree, and so shoes it is. He is comfortable and sound in shoes, and without them, he’s ouchy and bruises easily, even after months barefoot, so it’s not just about toughening up. He can go without hind shoes, but he moves better with them and has a tendency to get abscesses without them. Every horse is different; make sure you are working with a good vet and farrier and make decisions based on the horse in front of you and how he goes for you with or without shoes.

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