Lincoln Rogers
Parker, Colo.

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May 16, 2011
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Three experienced farriers discuss barefoot and shod hooves

Over the centuries, it has become an assumption that horses (if you ride them regularly) need to be shod, especially when it comes to performance venues and/or less than ideal terrain. But is that assumption a fact?

To address the topics of barefoot and shod horses, three Colorado farriers with more than 100 years combined experience shared their views regarding traditional trimming/shoeing along with what is called a "natural barefoot trim."

• Lloyd Britton - Farrier in the Douglas and Elbert County areas since 1975. Member of the Rocky Mountain Farrier Association. Certified Journeyman Farrier by the American Farriers Association (AFA).

• Kevin Hall - Certified Journeyman Farrier working in Douglas and Elbert County with three decades experience. Participated in a farrier exchange program in Europe. Served on AFA Board for a number of years.

• Dan Craig - Farrier based in Franktown with 34 years experience. One of the first 15 ever certified by the AFA and a fellow founder of the New Mexico Professional Horseshoers Association. Craig espouses a "natural barefoot trim" method developed by Jaime Jackson, though he will perform traditional shoeing upon request.

To begin the subject, Britton started from the ground up.

"All the (farrier) technique in the world is real fine, but if you don't have good (hoof) structure and genetics then you are really fighting it," he explained while answering questions in a client's barn. "Over the years a lot of shoers were kept in business by poor legs, poor feet and poor genetics. There might be a more structurally sound horse for the legs and feet that is not quite as pretty, (but) a lot of times that kind of horse is not as much in demand."

What does seem to be in demand with most riders is a desire to shoe their mounts. Since equines don't have shoes in the wild, how did the items become such a tradition?

"I think we as human beings have to control every aspect of every little thing (and) we can eliminate perhaps the possibility of lameness if we shoe them," answered Hall while drinking coffee in a local shop. "We have just created that. We think we need to shoe them."

"I kind of look at it as you go back to medieval times when the horses had to be within the castle walls and they protected their kingdom," described Craig via telephone. "The horses weren't roaming on a pasture where they could go gather them up. You can't stable a horse (in manure, urine, etc.) and have any kind of feet to jump on him and go chase the bad guys over rocky ground; it doesn't work. So it kind of evolved and that's just the correct way to do it according to almost everyone out there except a handful of natural barefoot trimmers that are spreading the word."

But traditions may reach their status due to successful outcomes over time. With that in mind, all three discussed the pros of shoeing a horse.

"There are a lot of different terrain and performance situations and the feet of certain horses are not structurally sound enough to take much work without having extra support and protection," detailed Britton. "The shoe provides both. It can give the support they need around the heels and the protection for the bottom of their feet."

"I can't really develop a case to say you absolutely need to shoe your horse (but) I think the key thing that comes back to me all the time is protecting the hoof capsule," said Hall. "That would be the number one reason you would need to shoe your horse. And therapeutic reasons."

"There's a lot of reasons we need shoes," conceded Craig about the issue. "One of them is, most people are not willing to make the commitment to toughening up the feet through a period of time and challenging the feet until they get to be good tough feet that can go through rocks and all. That takes a commitment ... a commitment from the owner to transition from shoes to barefoot."

On the other side of the issue, there are pros to a barefoot horse.

"I think it's obviously more natural to them, not having shoes on," noted Hall. "I think a horse owner needs to be cognizant of what they are going to do with their horse, the environment they are going to ride in throughout their horse's career ... and base your shoeing needs on that alone. I don't know that there are really any cons to having a barefoot horse."

"I would rather see them barefoot unless they need the shoes," agreed Britton. "On a lot of horses, it's easier to keep their feet healthy when they are barefoot because a shoe is going to trap manure and debris and their frog starts getting rotten and atrophying."

"The people that are trail riding their horses, they are genuinely concerned about the health of their horses," said Craig on the topic. "So what is happening is a movement going across this country, and it's all over the world, to keep your horse Au Naturale. That's the movement that the natural barefoot trim people are on the heels of ... let's keep our horses Au Naturale. Let's not put them in stalls, let's put them out in a pasture, let's keep them in as big an area as we can afford to do. And we're going to be more Au Naturale about everything about our horse."

Going Au Naturale the natural barefoot trim way is labor intensive for the horse owner, but Craig believe it extends the useful life of a horse. In a conventional "farrier's trim," the hoof's sole and frog is cut away a certain extent each time the hoof is trimmed, which Craig said leaves the hoof more sensitive. The natural barefoot community also believes shoes don't allow normal expansion of the hoof upon ground impact and, as a result, not as much blood circulation to the sole and frog, which can lead to atrophy and lameness. While traditional farriers do not embrace a direct relationship between lameness issues and long-term shoe use, Craig stated the natural barefoot trim is based upon research and studies of horses in the wild, and the method allows the sole and frog to develop a calloused bottom of the foot that acts like its own shoe.

"You have to build a callous and keep it there and leave it alone," offered Craig. "You don't trim a lot of foot off because the more foot you trim off the softer it is."

According to Craig, building a sturdy callous requires time.

"We leave it barefoot in the winter; in the springtime we leave it barefoot and by that fall, you've got a horse that has pretty good, tough feet if you ride him at least three or four times a week," he described, while acknowledging that commitment level may be an obstacle for some.

"Most people want to go get their horse out of the stall and go riding whenever," he admitted. "Only the committed people that really ride a lot will tackle the barefoot thing and get their horses barefoot and be successful at it."

Britton and Hall agreed the transition period sounded challenging, and they also considered a conventional trim sufficient for a barefoot horse in many conditions while proper shoeing took care of the rest.

"We're working for individuals who, in my line of work, they want to be able to do what they do with their horse five or six days a week," stated Hall about the difficulty of anything requiring a transition time. "Maybe they are going to prepare all winter for this summer's horse shows. To say, I'm going to pull your horse's shoes off and we're going to trim him, whether it's the farrier trim or the barefoot trim, they're just not going to buy that transition phase," he continued. "Because you get asked this, 'Is he okay to ride him when you are done?' Well, if he's not, then I didn't do my job right, in my opinion."

"They studied wild horse feet and that's good. In a perfect world, that's natural selection process," said Britton before adding a caution to avoid any absolutes. "But those (wild) horses are not being ridden. They're not asked to do some of the things that domesticated horses are. There are still a lot of horses out there that have to work for a living. It is definitely a challenge to keep their feet right if you shoe them," he offered on the other side of the coin. "Because (the hoof) functions differently when you nail steel on there. So it's very much a challenge for a horseshoer to keep the feet in the manner God intended for that horse to be - confirmation and structure - because you are altering the function of that when you put the steel on. You have to take an individual horse into account and each individual foot as far as that goes."

"It's a case by case thing," summarized Hall. "I would suggest whether you want to shoe them or trim them, find a competent individual to perform that task, somebody you can trust and communicate with, because a lot of that needs to happen no matter what you want to do with your horse. If that's barefoot, great," he said with conviction. "If you need to shoe them, there you go. I'm not fool enough to think my way of shoeing horses is the only way or Lloyd's way or Dan's way is the only way. We should take the horse into consideration and be a steward of the horse and consider the welfare of the horse. If we do that, whether we're doing the barefoot trim or whether we are shoeing horses, then we are doing our job."

Contact information for the farriers

• Lloyd Britton: (303) 621-2734

• Dan Craig: (303) 552-1030 or E-mail: info@ontrackhorsecare.com

• Kevin Hall: (303) 475-7559 or E-mail: uhohranch@fairpoint.net

* Note: While opinions respectfully differed on some points within this article, all three farriers agreed on many topics not covered due to space constraints.

Over the centuries, it has become an assumption that horses (if you ride them regularly) need to be shod, especially when it comes to performance venues and/or less than ideal terrain. But is that assumption a fact?

To address the topics of barefoot and shod horses, three Colorado farriers with more than 100 years combined experience shared their views regarding traditional trimming/shoeing along with what is called a "natural barefoot trim."

• Lloyd Britton - Farrier in the Douglas and Elbert County areas since 1975. Member of the Rocky Mountain Farrier Association. Certified Journeyman Farrier by the American Farriers Association (AFA).

• Kevin Hall - Certified Journeyman Farrier working in Douglas and Elbert County with three decades experience. Participated in a farrier exchange program in Europe. Served on AFA Board for a number of years.

• Dan Craig - Farrier based in Franktown with 34 years experience. One of the first 15 ever certified by the AFA and a fellow founder of the New Mexico Professional Horseshoers Association. Craig espouses a "natural barefoot trim" method developed by Jaime Jackson, though he will perform traditional shoeing upon request.

To begin the subject, Britton started from the ground up.

"All the (farrier) technique in the world is real fine, but if you don't have good (hoof) structure and genetics then you are really fighting it," he explained while answering questions in a client's barn. "Over the years a lot of shoers were kept in business by poor legs, poor feet and poor genetics. There might be a more structurally sound horse for the legs and feet that is not quite as pretty, (but) a lot of times that kind of horse is not as much in demand."

What does seem to be in demand with most riders is a desire to shoe their mounts. Since equines don't have shoes in the wild, how did the items become such a tradition?

"I think we as human beings have to control every aspect of every little thing (and) we can eliminate perhaps the possibility of lameness if we shoe them," answered Hall while drinking coffee in a local shop. "We have just created that. We think we need to shoe them."

"I kind of look at it as you go back to medieval times when the horses had to be within the castle walls and they protected their kingdom," described Craig via telephone. "The horses weren't roaming on a pasture where they could go gather them up. You can't stable a horse (in manure, urine, etc.) and have any kind of feet to jump on him and go chase the bad guys over rocky ground; it doesn't work. So it kind of evolved and that's just the correct way to do it according to almost everyone out there except a handful of natural barefoot trimmers that are spreading the word."

But traditions may reach their status due to successful outcomes over time. With that in mind, all three discussed the pros of shoeing a horse.

"There are a lot of different terrain and performance situations and the feet of certain horses are not structurally sound enough to take much work without having extra support and protection," detailed Britton. "The shoe provides both. It can give the support they need around the heels and the protection for the bottom of their feet."

"I can't really develop a case to say you absolutely need to shoe your horse (but) I think the key thing that comes back to me all the time is protecting the hoof capsule," said Hall. "That would be the number one reason you would need to shoe your horse. And therapeutic reasons."

"There's a lot of reasons we need shoes," conceded Craig about the issue. "One of them is, most people are not willing to make the commitment to toughening up the feet through a period of time and challenging the feet until they get to be good tough feet that can go through rocks and all. That takes a commitment ... a commitment from the owner to transition from shoes to barefoot."

On the other side of the issue, there are pros to a barefoot horse.

"I think it's obviously more natural to them, not having shoes on," noted Hall. "I think a horse owner needs to be cognizant of what they are going to do with their horse, the environment they are going to ride in throughout their horse's career ... and base your shoeing needs on that alone. I don't know that there are really any cons to having a barefoot horse."

"I would rather see them barefoot unless they need the shoes," agreed Britton. "On a lot of horses, it's easier to keep their feet healthy when they are barefoot because a shoe is going to trap manure and debris and their frog starts getting rotten and atrophying."

"The people that are trail riding their horses, they are genuinely concerned about the health of their horses," said Craig on the topic. "So what is happening is a movement going across this country, and it's all over the world, to keep your horse Au Naturale. That's the movement that the natural barefoot trim people are on the heels of ... let's keep our horses Au Naturale. Let's not put them in stalls, let's put them out in a pasture, let's keep them in as big an area as we can afford to do. And we're going to be more Au Naturale about everything about our horse."

Going Au Naturale the natural barefoot trim way is labor intensive for the horse owner, but Craig believe it extends the useful life of a horse. In a conventional "farrier's trim," the hoof's sole and frog is cut away a certain extent each time the hoof is trimmed, which Craig said leaves the hoof more sensitive. The natural barefoot community also believes shoes don't allow normal expansion of the hoof upon ground impact and, as a result, not as much blood circulation to the sole and frog, which can lead to atrophy and lameness. While traditional farriers do not embrace a direct relationship between lameness issues and long-term shoe use, Craig stated the natural barefoot trim is based upon research and studies of horses in the wild, and the method allows the sole and frog to develop a calloused bottom of the foot that acts like its own shoe.

"You have to build a callous and keep it there and leave it alone," offered Craig. "You don't trim a lot of foot off because the more foot you trim off the softer it is."

According to Craig, building a sturdy callous requires time.

"We leave it barefoot in the winter; in the springtime we leave it barefoot and by that fall, you've got a horse that has pretty good, tough feet if you ride him at least three or four times a week," he described, while acknowledging that commitment level may be an obstacle for some.

"Most people want to go get their horse out of the stall and go riding whenever," he admitted. "Only the committed people that really ride a lot will tackle the barefoot thing and get their horses barefoot and be successful at it."

Britton and Hall agreed the transition period sounded challenging, and they also considered a conventional trim sufficient for a barefoot horse in many conditions while proper shoeing took care of the rest.

"We're working for individuals who, in my line of work, they want to be able to do what they do with their horse five or six days a week," stated Hall about the difficulty of anything requiring a transition time. "Maybe they are going to prepare all winter for this summer's horse shows. To say, I'm going to pull your horse's shoes off and we're going to trim him, whether it's the farrier trim or the barefoot trim, they're just not going to buy that transition phase," he continued. "Because you get asked this, 'Is he okay to ride him when you are done?' Well, if he's not, then I didn't do my job right, in my opinion."

"They studied wild horse feet and that's good. In a perfect world, that's natural selection process," said Britton before adding a caution to avoid any absolutes. "But those (wild) horses are not being ridden. They're not asked to do some of the things that domesticated horses are. There are still a lot of horses out there that have to work for a living. It is definitely a challenge to keep their feet right if you shoe them," he offered on the other side of the coin. "Because (the hoof) functions differently when you nail steel on there. So it's very much a challenge for a horseshoer to keep the feet in the manner God intended for that horse to be - confirmation and structure - because you are altering the function of that when you put the steel on. You have to take an individual horse into account and each individual foot as far as that goes."

"It's a case by case thing," summarized Hall. "I would suggest whether you want to shoe them or trim them, find a competent individual to perform that task, somebody you can trust and communicate with, because a lot of that needs to happen no matter what you want to do with your horse. If that's barefoot, great," he said with conviction. "If you need to shoe them, there you go. I'm not fool enough to think my way of shoeing horses is the only way or Lloyd's way or Dan's way is the only way. We should take the horse into consideration and be a steward of the horse and consider the welfare of the horse. If we do that, whether we're doing the barefoot trim or whether we are shoeing horses, then we are doing our job."

Contact information for the farriers

• Lloyd Britton: (303) 621-2734

• Dan Craig: (303) 552-1030 or E-mail: info@ontrackhorsecare.com

• Kevin Hall: (303) 475-7559 or E-mail: uhohranch@fairpoint.net

* Note: While opinions respectfully differed on some points within this article, all three farriers agreed on many topics not covered due to space constraints.

Over the centuries, it has become an assumption that horses (if you ride them regularly) need to be shod, especially when it comes to performance venues and/or less than ideal terrain. But is that assumption a fact?

To address the topics of barefoot and shod horses, three Colorado farriers with more than 100 years combined experience shared their views regarding traditional trimming/shoeing along with what is called a "natural barefoot trim."

• Lloyd Britton - Farrier in the Douglas and Elbert County areas since 1975. Member of the Rocky Mountain Farrier Association. Certified Journeyman Farrier by the American Farriers Association (AFA).

• Kevin Hall - Certified Journeyman Farrier working in Douglas and Elbert County with three decades experience. Participated in a farrier exchange program in Europe. Served on AFA Board for a number of years.

• Dan Craig - Farrier based in Franktown with 34 years experience. One of the first 15 ever certified by the AFA and a fellow founder of the New Mexico Professional Horseshoers Association. Craig espouses a "natural barefoot trim" method developed by Jaime Jackson, though he will perform traditional shoeing upon request.

To begin the subject, Britton started from the ground up.

"All the (farrier) technique in the world is real fine, but if you don't have good (hoof) structure and genetics then you are really fighting it," he explained while answering questions in a client's barn. "Over the years a lot of shoers were kept in business by poor legs, poor feet and poor genetics. There might be a more structurally sound horse for the legs and feet that is not quite as pretty, (but) a lot of times that kind of horse is not as much in demand."

What does seem to be in demand with most riders is a desire to shoe their mounts. Since equines don't have shoes in the wild, how did the items become such a tradition?

"I think we as human beings have to control every aspect of every little thing (and) we can eliminate perhaps the possibility of lameness if we shoe them," answered Hall while drinking coffee in a local shop. "We have just created that. We think we need to shoe them."

"I kind of look at it as you go back to medieval times when the horses had to be within the castle walls and they protected their kingdom," described Craig via telephone. "The horses weren't roaming on a pasture where they could go gather them up. You can't stable a horse (in manure, urine, etc.) and have any kind of feet to jump on him and go chase the bad guys over rocky ground; it doesn't work. So it kind of evolved and that's just the correct way to do it according to almost everyone out there except a handful of natural barefoot trimmers that are spreading the word."

But traditions may reach their status due to successful outcomes over time. With that in mind, all three discussed the pros of shoeing a horse.

"There are a lot of different terrain and performance situations and the feet of certain horses are not structurally sound enough to take much work without having extra support and protection," detailed Britton. "The shoe provides both. It can give the support they need around the heels and the protection for the bottom of their feet."

"I can't really develop a case to say you absolutely need to shoe your horse (but) I think the key thing that comes back to me all the time is protecting the hoof capsule," said Hall. "That would be the number one reason you would need to shoe your horse. And therapeutic reasons."

"There's a lot of reasons we need shoes," conceded Craig about the issue. "One of them is, most people are not willing to make the commitment to toughening up the feet through a period of time and challenging the feet until they get to be good tough feet that can go through rocks and all. That takes a commitment ... a commitment from the owner to transition from shoes to barefoot."

On the other side of the issue, there are pros to a barefoot horse.

"I think it's obviously more natural to them, not having shoes on," noted Hall. "I think a horse owner needs to be cognizant of what they are going to do with their horse, the environment they are going to ride in throughout their horse's career ... and base your shoeing needs on that alone. I don't know that there are really any cons to having a barefoot horse."

"I would rather see them barefoot unless they need the shoes," agreed Britton. "On a lot of horses, it's easier to keep their feet healthy when they are barefoot because a shoe is going to trap manure and debris and their frog starts getting rotten and atrophying."

"The people that are trail riding their horses, they are genuinely concerned about the health of their horses," said Craig on the topic. "So what is happening is a movement going across this country, and it's all over the world, to keep your horse Au Naturale. That's the movement that the natural barefoot trim people are on the heels of ... let's keep our horses Au Naturale. Let's not put them in stalls, let's put them out in a pasture, let's keep them in as big an area as we can afford to do. And we're going to be more Au Naturale about everything about our horse."

Going Au Naturale the natural barefoot trim way is labor intensive for the horse owner, but Craig believe it extends the useful life of a horse. In a conventional "farrier's trim," the hoof's sole and frog is cut away a certain extent each time the hoof is trimmed, which Craig said leaves the hoof more sensitive. The natural barefoot community also believes shoes don't allow normal expansion of the hoof upon ground impact and, as a result, not as much blood circulation to the sole and frog, which can lead to atrophy and lameness. While traditional farriers do not embrace a direct relationship between lameness issues and long-term shoe use, Craig stated the natural barefoot trim is based upon research and studies of horses in the wild, and the method allows the sole and frog to develop a calloused bottom of the foot that acts like its own shoe.

"You have to build a callous and keep it there and leave it alone," offered Craig. "You don't trim a lot of foot off because the more foot you trim off the softer it is."

According to Craig, building a sturdy callous requires time.

"We leave it barefoot in the winter; in the springtime we leave it barefoot and by that fall, you've got a horse that has pretty good, tough feet if you ride him at least three or four times a week," he described, while acknowledging that commitment level may be an obstacle for some.

"Most people want to go get their horse out of the stall and go riding whenever," he admitted. "Only the committed people that really ride a lot will tackle the barefoot thing and get their horses barefoot and be successful at it."

Britton and Hall agreed the transition period sounded challenging, and they also considered a conventional trim sufficient for a barefoot horse in many conditions while proper shoeing took care of the rest.

"We're working for individuals who, in my line of work, they want to be able to do what they do with their horse five or six days a week," stated Hall about the difficulty of anything requiring a transition time. "Maybe they are going to prepare all winter for this summer's horse shows. To say, I'm going to pull your horse's shoes off and we're going to trim him, whether it's the farrier trim or the barefoot trim, they're just not going to buy that transition phase," he continued. "Because you get asked this, 'Is he okay to ride him when you are done?' Well, if he's not, then I didn't do my job right, in my opinion."

"They studied wild horse feet and that's good. In a perfect world, that's natural selection process," said Britton before adding a caution to avoid any absolutes. "But those (wild) horses are not being ridden. They're not asked to do some of the things that domesticated horses are. There are still a lot of horses out there that have to work for a living. It is definitely a challenge to keep their feet right if you shoe them," he offered on the other side of the coin. "Because (the hoof) functions differently when you nail steel on there. So it's very much a challenge for a horseshoer to keep the feet in the manner God intended for that horse to be - confirmation and structure - because you are altering the function of that when you put the steel on. You have to take an individual horse into account and each individual foot as far as that goes."

"It's a case by case thing," summarized Hall. "I would suggest whether you want to shoe them or trim them, find a competent individual to perform that task, somebody you can trust and communicate with, because a lot of that needs to happen no matter what you want to do with your horse. If that's barefoot, great," he said with conviction. "If you need to shoe them, there you go. I'm not fool enough to think my way of shoeing horses is the only way or Lloyd's way or Dan's way is the only way. We should take the horse into consideration and be a steward of the horse and consider the welfare of the horse. If we do that, whether we're doing the barefoot trim or whether we are shoeing horses, then we are doing our job."

Contact information for the farriers

• Lloyd Britton: (303) 621-2734

• Dan Craig: (303) 552-1030 or E-mail: info@ontrackhorsecare.com

• Kevin Hall: (303) 475-7559 or E-mail: uhohranch@fairpoint.net

* Note: While opinions respectfully differed on some points within this article, all three farriers agreed on many topics not covered due to space constraints.

Over the centuries, it has become an assumption that horses (if you ride them regularly) need to be shod, especially when it comes to performance venues and/or less than ideal terrain. But is that assumption a fact?

To address the topics of barefoot and shod horses, three Colorado farriers with more than 100 years combined experience shared their views regarding traditional trimming/shoeing along with what is called a "natural barefoot trim."

• Lloyd Britton - Farrier in the Douglas and Elbert County areas since 1975. Member of the Rocky Mountain Farrier Association. Certified Journeyman Farrier by the American Farriers Association (AFA).

• Kevin Hall - Certified Journeyman Farrier working in Douglas and Elbert County with three decades experience. Participated in a farrier exchange program in Europe. Served on AFA Board for a number of years.

• Dan Craig - Farrier based in Franktown with 34 years experience. One of the first 15 ever certified by the AFA and a fellow founder of the New Mexico Professional Horseshoers Association. Craig espouses a "natural barefoot trim" method developed by Jaime Jackson, though he will perform traditional shoeing upon request.

To begin the subject, Britton started from the ground up.

"All the (farrier) technique in the world is real fine, but if you don't have good (hoof) structure and genetics then you are really fighting it," he explained while answering questions in a client's barn. "Over the years a lot of shoers were kept in business by poor legs, poor feet and poor genetics. There might be a more structurally sound horse for the legs and feet that is not quite as pretty, (but) a lot of times that kind of horse is not as much in demand."

What does seem to be in demand with most riders is a desire to shoe their mounts. Since equines don't have shoes in the wild, how did the items become such a tradition?

"I think we as human beings have to control every aspect of every little thing (and) we can eliminate perhaps the possibility of lameness if we shoe them," answered Hall while drinking coffee in a local shop. "We have just created that. We think we need to shoe them."

"I kind of look at it as you go back to medieval times when the horses had to be within the castle walls and they protected their kingdom," described Craig via telephone. "The horses weren't roaming on a pasture where they could go gather them up. You can't stable a horse (in manure, urine, etc.) and have any kind of feet to jump on him and go chase the bad guys over rocky ground; it doesn't work. So it kind of evolved and that's just the correct way to do it according to almost everyone out there except a handful of natural barefoot trimmers that are spreading the word."

But traditions may reach their status due to successful outcomes over time. With that in mind, all three discussed the pros of shoeing a horse.

"There are a lot of different terrain and performance situations and the feet of certain horses are not structurally sound enough to take much work without having extra support and protection," detailed Britton. "The shoe provides both. It can give the support they need around the heels and the protection for the bottom of their feet."

"I can't really develop a case to say you absolutely need to shoe your horse (but) I think the key thing that comes back to me all the time is protecting the hoof capsule," said Hall. "That would be the number one reason you would need to shoe your horse. And therapeutic reasons."

"There's a lot of reasons we need shoes," conceded Craig about the issue. "One of them is, most people are not willing to make the commitment to toughening up the feet through a period of time and challenging the feet until they get to be good tough feet that can go through rocks and all. That takes a commitment ... a commitment from the owner to transition from shoes to barefoot."

On the other side of the issue, there are pros to a barefoot horse.

"I think it's obviously more natural to them, not having shoes on," noted Hall. "I think a horse owner needs to be cognizant of what they are going to do with their horse, the environment they are going to ride in throughout their horse's career ... and base your shoeing needs on that alone. I don't know that there are really any cons to having a barefoot horse."

"I would rather see them barefoot unless they need the shoes," agreed Britton. "On a lot of horses, it's easier to keep their feet healthy when they are barefoot because a shoe is going to trap manure and debris and their frog starts getting rotten and atrophying."

"The people that are trail riding their horses, they are genuinely concerned about the health of their horses," said Craig on the topic. "So what is happening is a movement going across this country, and it's all over the world, to keep your horse Au Naturale. That's the movement that the natural barefoot trim people are on the heels of ... let's keep our horses Au Naturale. Let's not put them in stalls, let's put them out in a pasture, let's keep them in as big an area as we can afford to do. And we're going to be more Au Naturale about everything about our horse."

Going Au Naturale the natural barefoot trim way is labor intensive for the horse owner, but Craig believe it extends the useful life of a horse. In a conventional "farrier's trim," the hoof's sole and frog is cut away a certain extent each time the hoof is trimmed, which Craig said leaves the hoof more sensitive. The natural barefoot community also believes shoes don't allow normal expansion of the hoof upon ground impact and, as a result, not as much blood circulation to the sole and frog, which can lead to atrophy and lameness. While traditional farriers do not embrace a direct relationship between lameness issues and long-term shoe use, Craig stated the natural barefoot trim is based upon research and studies of horses in the wild, and the method allows the sole and frog to develop a calloused bottom of the foot that acts like its own shoe.

"You have to build a callous and keep it there and leave it alone," offered Craig. "You don't trim a lot of foot off because the more foot you trim off the softer it is."

According to Craig, building a sturdy callous requires time.

"We leave it barefoot in the winter; in the springtime we leave it barefoot and by that fall, you've got a horse that has pretty good, tough feet if you ride him at least three or four times a week," he described, while acknowledging that commitment level may be an obstacle for some.

"Most people want to go get their horse out of the stall and go riding whenever," he admitted. "Only the committed people that really ride a lot will tackle the barefoot thing and get their horses barefoot and be successful at it."

Britton and Hall agreed the transition period sounded challenging, and they also considered a conventional trim sufficient for a barefoot horse in many conditions while proper shoeing took care of the rest.

"We're working for individuals who, in my line of work, they want to be able to do what they do with their horse five or six days a week," stated Hall about the difficulty of anything requiring a transition time. "Maybe they are going to prepare all winter for this summer's horse shows. To say, I'm going to pull your horse's shoes off and we're going to trim him, whether it's the farrier trim or the barefoot trim, they're just not going to buy that transition phase," he continued. "Because you get asked this, 'Is he okay to ride him when you are done?' Well, if he's not, then I didn't do my job right, in my opinion."

"They studied wild horse feet and that's good. In a perfect world, that's natural selection process," said Britton before adding a caution to avoid any absolutes. "But those (wild) horses are not being ridden. They're not asked to do some of the things that domesticated horses are. There are still a lot of horses out there that have to work for a living. It is definitely a challenge to keep their feet right if you shoe them," he offered on the other side of the coin. "Because (the hoof) functions differently when you nail steel on there. So it's very much a challenge for a horseshoer to keep the feet in the manner God intended for that horse to be - confirmation and structure - because you are altering the function of that when you put the steel on. You have to take an individual horse into account and each individual foot as far as that goes."

"It's a case by case thing," summarized Hall. "I would suggest whether you want to shoe them or trim them, find a competent individual to perform that task, somebody you can trust and communicate with, because a lot of that needs to happen no matter what you want to do with your horse. If that's barefoot, great," he said with conviction. "If you need to shoe them, there you go. I'm not fool enough to think my way of shoeing horses is the only way or Lloyd's way or Dan's way is the only way. We should take the horse into consideration and be a steward of the horse and consider the welfare of the horse. If we do that, whether we're doing the barefoot trim or whether we are shoeing horses, then we are doing our job."

Contact information for the farriers

• Lloyd Britton: (303) 621-2734

• Dan Craig: (303) 552-1030 or E-mail: info@ontrackhorsecare.com

• Kevin Hall: (303) 475-7559 or E-mail: uhohranch@fairpoint.net

* Note: While opinions respectfully differed on some points within this article, all three farriers agreed on many topics not covered due to space constraints.

Over the centuries, it has become an assumption that horses (if you ride them regularly) need to be shod, especially when it comes to performance venues and/or less than ideal terrain. But is that assumption a fact?

To address the topics of barefoot and shod horses, three Colorado farriers with more than 100 years combined experience shared their views regarding traditional trimming/shoeing along with what is called a "natural barefoot trim."

• Lloyd Britton - Farrier in the Douglas and Elbert County areas since 1975. Member of the Rocky Mountain Farrier Association. Certified Journeyman Farrier by the American Farriers Association (AFA).

• Kevin Hall - Certified Journeyman Farrier working in Douglas and Elbert County with three decades experience. Participated in a farrier exchange program in Europe. Served on AFA Board for a number of years.

• Dan Craig - Farrier based in Franktown with 34 years experience. One of the first 15 ever certified by the AFA and a fellow founder of the New Mexico Professional Horseshoers Association. Craig espouses a "natural barefoot trim" method developed by Jaime Jackson, though he will perform traditional shoeing upon request.

To begin the subject, Britton started from the ground up.

"All the (farrier) technique in the world is real fine, but if you don't have good (hoof) structure and genetics then you are really fighting it," he explained while answering questions in a client's barn. "Over the years a lot of shoers were kept in business by poor legs, poor feet and poor genetics. There might be a more structurally sound horse for the legs and feet that is not quite as pretty, (but) a lot of times that kind of horse is not as much in demand."

What does seem to be in demand with most riders is a desire to shoe their mounts. Since equines don't have shoes in the wild, how did the items become such a tradition?

"I think we as human beings have to control every aspect of every little thing (and) we can eliminate perhaps the possibility of lameness if we shoe them," answered Hall while drinking coffee in a local shop. "We have just created that. We think we need to shoe them."

"I kind of look at it as you go back to medieval times when the horses had to be within the castle walls and they protected their kingdom," described Craig via telephone. "The horses weren't roaming on a pasture where they could go gather them up. You can't stable a horse (in manure, urine, etc.) and have any kind of feet to jump on him and go chase the bad guys over rocky ground; it doesn't work. So it kind of evolved and that's just the correct way to do it according to almost everyone out there except a handful of natural barefoot trimmers that are spreading the word."

But traditions may reach their status due to successful outcomes over time. With that in mind, all three discussed the pros of shoeing a horse.

"There are a lot of different terrain and performance situations and the feet of certain horses are not structurally sound enough to take much work without having extra support and protection," detailed Britton. "The shoe provides both. It can give the support they need around the heels and the protection for the bottom of their feet."

"I can't really develop a case to say you absolutely need to shoe your horse (but) I think the key thing that comes back to me all the time is protecting the hoof capsule," said Hall. "That would be the number one reason you would need to shoe your horse. And therapeutic reasons."

"There's a lot of reasons we need shoes," conceded Craig about the issue. "One of them is, most people are not willing to make the commitment to toughening up the feet through a period of time and challenging the feet until they get to be good tough feet that can go through rocks and all. That takes a commitment ... a commitment from the owner to transition from shoes to barefoot."

On the other side of the issue, there are pros to a barefoot horse.

"I think it's obviously more natural to them, not having shoes on," noted Hall. "I think a horse owner needs to be cognizant of what they are going to do with their horse, the environment they are going to ride in throughout their horse's career ... and base your shoeing needs on that alone. I don't know that there are really any cons to having a barefoot horse."

"I would rather see them barefoot unless they need the shoes," agreed Britton. "On a lot of horses, it's easier to keep their feet healthy when they are barefoot because a shoe is going to trap manure and debris and their frog starts getting rotten and atrophying."

"The people that are trail riding their horses, they are genuinely concerned about the health of their horses," said Craig on the topic. "So what is happening is a movement going across this country, and it's all over the world, to keep your horse Au Naturale. That's the movement that the natural barefoot trim people are on the heels of ... let's keep our horses Au Naturale. Let's not put them in stalls, let's put them out in a pasture, let's keep them in as big an area as we can afford to do. And we're going to be more Au Naturale about everything about our horse."

Going Au Naturale the natural barefoot trim way is labor intensive for the horse owner, but Craig believe it extends the useful life of a horse. In a conventional "farrier's trim," the hoof's sole and frog is cut away a certain extent each time the hoof is trimmed, which Craig said leaves the hoof more sensitive. The natural barefoot community also believes shoes don't allow normal expansion of the hoof upon ground impact and, as a result, not as much blood circulation to the sole and frog, which can lead to atrophy and lameness. While traditional farriers do not embrace a direct relationship between lameness issues and long-term shoe use, Craig stated the natural barefoot trim is based upon research and studies of horses in the wild, and the method allows the sole and frog to develop a calloused bottom of the foot that acts like its own shoe.

"You have to build a callous and keep it there and leave it alone," offered Craig. "You don't trim a lot of foot off because the more foot you trim off the softer it is."

According to Craig, building a sturdy callous requires time.

"We leave it barefoot in the winter; in the springtime we leave it barefoot and by that fall, you've got a horse that has pretty good, tough feet if you ride him at least three or four times a week," he described, while acknowledging that commitment level may be an obstacle for some.

"Most people want to go get their horse out of the stall and go riding whenever," he admitted. "Only the committed people that really ride a lot will tackle the barefoot thing and get their horses barefoot and be successful at it."

Britton and Hall agreed the transition period sounded challenging, and they also considered a conventional trim sufficient for a barefoot horse in many conditions while proper shoeing took care of the rest.

"We're working for individuals who, in my line of work, they want to be able to do what they do with their horse five or six days a week," stated Hall about the difficulty of anything requiring a transition time. "Maybe they are going to prepare all winter for this summer's horse shows. To say, I'm going to pull your horse's shoes off and we're going to trim him, whether it's the farrier trim or the barefoot trim, they're just not going to buy that transition phase," he continued. "Because you get asked this, 'Is he okay to ride him when you are done?' Well, if he's not, then I didn't do my job right, in my opinion."

"They studied wild horse feet and that's good. In a perfect world, that's natural selection process," said Britton before adding a caution to avoid any absolutes. "But those (wild) horses are not being ridden. They're not asked to do some of the things that domesticated horses are. There are still a lot of horses out there that have to work for a living. It is definitely a challenge to keep their feet right if you shoe them," he offered on the other side of the coin. "Because (the hoof) functions differently when you nail steel on there. So it's very much a challenge for a horseshoer to keep the feet in the manner God intended for that horse to be - confirmation and structure - because you are altering the function of that when you put the steel on. You have to take an individual horse into account and each individual foot as far as that goes."

"It's a case by case thing," summarized Hall. "I would suggest whether you want to shoe them or trim them, find a competent individual to perform that task, somebody you can trust and communicate with, because a lot of that needs to happen no matter what you want to do with your horse. If that's barefoot, great," he said with conviction. "If you need to shoe them, there you go. I'm not fool enough to think my way of shoeing horses is the only way or Lloyd's way or Dan's way is the only way. We should take the horse into consideration and be a steward of the horse and consider the welfare of the horse. If we do that, whether we're doing the barefoot trim or whether we are shoeing horses, then we are doing our job."

Contact information for the farriers

• Lloyd Britton: (303) 621-2734

• Dan Craig: (303) 552-1030 or E-mail: info@ontrackhorsecare.com

• Kevin Hall: (303) 475-7559 or E-mail: uhohranch@fairpoint.net

* Note: While opinions respectfully differed on some points within this article, all three farriers agreed on many topics not covered due to space constraints.


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The Fence Post Updated Aug 14, 2012 05:00PM Published May 16, 2011 01:05PM Copyright 2011 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.