Horse Riders' Information
Nancy Nellis, Phone (406) 685-3541 PO Box 526, Pony, MT 59747
Horse care and
Rider topics:

Caring for
your horse:

Horseman's Conference
Horse Nutrition/Feed
Horse Care
Horse Health
Riders info:
Horse Transportation
Horse Rescue
Horse Diseases
Horse Tack
Hoof Care
Resource Links
Horse Miscellaneous
Contact Us
Horse Training
Horse Trainers
Horse Stories
Horsemans Room
Site Map
Resource Links
copyright (c) 2005
Nancy Nellis

Horse Shoes (NOT) & Hoof Care
Read on for more information on barefoot methods:


I couldn't have been more pleased with the "Is Barefoot Best" article (February '06) and how well it was researched and written. I'm a professional natural trimmer who's really noticed a shift in my clientel in the last year as this "fad" has grown. I used to be the last resort for lameness issues when all other treatments had failed. Now I'm often the first person called, and not just for lameness issues. I trim for some of the top performance horse trainers in Texas. While I'm thrilled to be able to help horses with pathological hooves find soundness again and strongly feel this form of hoof care is the best way to rehab lameness issues, I'm also glad to see people are finally realizing the performance ability it provides.  Most of my clientel consists of high-performance horses from the disciplines of reining, roping, jumping, and barrel racing. I also know of many barefoot horses throughout the world successfully competing in eventing, steeplechasing, flat racing - and yes, they win against shod horses.  I think some people believe barefoot equals no traction, and this couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, with a typical "pasture trim", the horse might have little or no traction, and the hoof wall may chip or split. But with a natural "wild horse" trim, the horse's hooves develop concavity and a strength that will rival the grip of any shoe.  Moreover, natural-trimmed horses are bolder and more confident with their hoof placement, and thus quicker and more responsive. Stumbling, forging, or clipping often become things of the past.  Some people shoe out of fear of the hoof wearing down. But there are many mounted patrols that use this trim, including the Houston Mounted Patrol. In the past, patrol members believed their horses' hooves would be worn down by walking for hours or concrete. But now they've learned that wear stimulates growth, such that their now barefoot horses are ready for a trim every four to six weeks! The hoof adapts to what is asked of it. Plus, the patrol horses now have better traction on concrete, better shock absorption to protect their joints [and better blood flow].  Pete Ramey is right: We haven't "bred the hoof off" the horse. I've yet to meet a single horse that I can't successfully take barefoot. People think of the time their horse lost a shoe and was lame or sore, or the hoof cracked and chipped right away, and they assume that's what will happen if they "go barefoot". This is not the case if you have a skilled natural trimmer.  Another misconception is that you must be natural on everything - a "Tree Hugger" essentially - to successfully use a natural trim. Some trimmers do promote herbs, natural lifestyles, and other things of that sort, but that isn't always necessary. Yes, all horses benefit head to hoof from 24/7 turnout. But that's not an option for many horses in this world. I trim horses that live the traditional boarding lifestyle, with only eight to ten hours of turnout each day, yet I'm still able to help them have great feet. The Houston Mounted Patrol has over thirty horses on a few acres wedged on the side of the freeway, far from a natural environment, yet their horses excel on this trim. There are many things you can do to counteract a less-than-natural environment, this trim being one of them. Quite simply, when the hoof can function as it was designed to, it won't fail the horse. When its natural design is altered or inhibited, it eventually fails.
Eddie Drabek
El Campo, Texas
The hoof is a vital part of the horse and a healthy hoof is essential to the well being and usefulness of the horse. Trimming is necessary to prevent sand cracks and breaking off of the hoof wall, which often results in lameness. Trimming is also required to balance the hooves so a horse moves consistently and at its best. A horse that receives regular hoof care is potentially a safer horse to ride, both to the rider and horse itself. They are less apt to slip, stumble or fall. Moreover, they are less likely to sustain injuries that would either put them out of service or require the services of a veterinarian.

Horses should receive routine hoof care at intervals of 4 to 8 weeks. Allowing the feet to accumulate an excessive growth of horn (wall) and may prevent the frog and elastic structures of the hoof from contacting the ground, thereby, preventing the hooves from performing their proper functions. This can result in a contraction of the whole hoof, which can lead to disease problems in the hoof.

Hoof Care is Good Economy -

Proper care of hooves is basic economy. Nothing is saved by using heavier shoes than necessary simply to get more wear out of them or by not trimming the feet as often as needed. Hoof care is even more critical in young, growing horses. This care should begin on normal foals at approximately one month of age. As long as everything progresses normally, the foal should be trimmed approximately every four weeks. The feet should be kept level and the edges of the wall rounded to prevent breaking. In the normal foal this will encourage correct bone growth in the hoof and limb. It is also important to keep flares from growing on one side of the hoof, which creates excessive stress on the bones that may lead to lameness and/or incorrect bone growth.

Every horse owner should have a certain basic knowledge of hoof care and be able to evaluate the care given to their horse's hooves. To understand the principles of good hoof care, and evaluate a farrier's work requires a basic working knowledge of the hoof and its care.

The foot of the horse is truly a complex, very efficient and marvelous structure. It performs supporting, anti-concussion, circulatory regulating and traction functions. The hoof is a highly specialized horny-shell which covers sensitive bones, nerves, blood vessels and tissues. The visible outer covering of the hoof, viewed with the hoof resting on the ground, is called the wall. When the horse's hoof is picked up, it can be seen that the ground surface of the hoof consists of the wall, bars (an inward continuation of the outer wall), the sole (the concave area beginning just inside the wall), and the frog (a V-shaped structure in the center of the hoof).

Each portion of the hoof has a specific function. The wall is designed to carry the bulk of the horse's weight as well as protect the underlying structures. The bars act as a brace to control expansion and contraction of the hoof; the sole covers softer tissues, and is somewhat concave to provide traction and allow for expansion, while the frog aids in absorbing concussion, circulation, expansion and regulating moisture in the hoof. If any of these outer structures are abused by excessive trimming, injury, or infection, then normal function and soundness of the entire hoof is jeopardized.
Hoof Anatomy -
Common sense, thoughtfulness and a good dialogue between the horse owner and trimmer will help assure a horse is ready to perform when called upon. When selecting a trimmer, the best is one in which you have confidence and is readily available when needed. A trimmer should not be selected simply to emulate someone else, but rather selected on his merits. However, if you have little knowledge about the work of trimmer, the best means to find a competent, reliable trimmer may be to ask horsemen in your area for recommendations. Your horse must depend upon you for proper care, and as a horse owner you have the obligation to provide for the horse's needs in the best possible manner.  And, DO NOT let your farrier convince you that your horse needs shoes!!  That is hogwash!!!  And, if he/she will not trim your horse the way you wish it to be done, let that trimmer go.  This has happened to me.  He pretty much thought I was crazy and would be begging him to come back and put shoes on my horses.  That was the last time I ever talked to him.  That has been a couple of years.  I have now found a person who does the natural trim on my horses and their feet and their minds have never been happier!!
Conclusion -

Have you ever thought about taking your horse to the "Barefoot" stage, but didn't know how to?

Here is a lady that can teach you all you need to know, and you
can learn online!  Her name is Linda Mair.

Click on this link for a preview of a video on how to go barefoot with your horse:

It's about learning to recognize the parts of the hoof and how they fit together. It's imperative that we trim the hoof today to create a healthy, functional hoof for tomorrow. Whether we are working with competitive athletes, pasture buddies or serious conditions, the hoof is a key to the horse's longevity and well-being.

Linda strives to make resources available to the beginner or seasoned professional trimmer in helping guide the trim for optimal hoof mechanics.

With the help of the video's, gauges and personal services, caretakers are successfully rehabiliating their horse's hooves. The video's are a wonderful tool which most people find they watch over and over again. The gauges and tools will help to ensure the measurements and angles for the individuals hoof is well balanced and as close to a 30* ground-parallel coffin bone. And then there are her personal services used to guide the trimmer through the questions you are presented with your horses situation.

Please visit and email her with any questions you may have about going "barefoot with your horse"!
You and your horse will be glad you did!!!

Long Toes as of 7/10/12
Progression of front hoof trimming from July 9, 2012 through November 3, 2012, a little over 3 months.

Go to to learn more about "how" to perform the barefoot trim.  If Linda Mair can bring this horse back from the brink of painful founder death, just think what she can do for your horse!
Here is a thermal image of a horse that has one metal horse shoe nailed on.
The blue represents cold and the red is hot.
Notice how the shod hoof is blue.
This is telling us that there very little circulation is in this hoof.
The barefoot hooves are red, orange, and yellow, telling us that they have good blood flow.

Click on Equine Laminitis image for more information.