To Shoe or Not to Shoe: Part 4

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In this seven part series I sat down with one of this country’s leading farriers to tackle the age old debate of shoeing your horse verses leaving him or her barefoot. The series is both controversial and enlightening and in the end, my goal is to provide information on both sides of the fence so that you may make an informed decision about your horse’s shoeing needs.

In the previous two installments, To Shoe or Not to Shoe: Part 1 and To Shoe or Not to Shoe: Part 2 I introduced the series and provided some initial shoeing factors. In To Shoe or Not to Shoe: Part 3 I covered the healthy hoof and options to protect it. In this week’s post, we cover pasture vs barefoot trims.

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Part 4 (Pasture vs. Barefoot Trims): If, after the team of caregivers has discussed all of the available options and has decided to leave the horse barefoot, Davis is sometimes asked about different methods for barefoot trimming. “My recommendation is that the horse’s coffin bone should dictate the shape of trim,” Davis says. This type of trim is most commonly known as the pasture or field trim and is one that farriers receive training to provide. He is not a proponent of any of the so-called “natural trims” few of which trim to the shape of the coffin bone.

Names of the more common natural trims are the Wild Horse, 4 Point, Strasser, and Pete Ramey trims. Some of these types of trims are more controversial than others while some have more merit than others but there is limited research to support their successful claims. Davis explains, “These natural trims have been around for some time but have become more popular within the last fifteen years. I really feel that this is due to the natural or green movement where society has a desire to return to a more natural state. In addition, hoof care can be expensive and when owners begin to look at ways to cut down on the costs of horse ownership hoof care is often one of the first places they look.”

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He goes on to say, “These natural trim methods also do not require as much maintenance. Anytime you have a horse that is barefoot it is easier to monitor his feet and of course there are never any lost shoes so they can look appealing but they can also be damaging to the horse. I have seen horses who received a natural trim become quite sore and there is some anecdotal evidence of an increase in the occurrence of abscesses for some horses.”

Interested in learning more? Stay tuned for the three remaining series installments where I’ll be covering: reasons to shoe, selecting and keeping a farrier, and optimal hoof care.

About the expert: Jeremy Davis has been a professional farrier for nineteen years. He is a Certified Journeyman Farrier with the American Farriers Association and is a Diplomat with the Worshipful Company of Farriers. He is currently the Farrier in Residence at The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.

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