Removing the Shoes

Guest Blog with Nick Hill

Nick Hill is a natural hoof care practitioner, trained with AANHCP and a registered instructor for Liberated horsemanship. He has close to 20 years experience in natural hoof care and shoeing.

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What happens/ changes when you remove horse shoes?

When you remove nailed-on metal shoes, the heart rate decreases, and the whole circulatory system relaxes, we know that fixed metal shoes have an effect on the hoof mechanism. This means the equine becomes less stressed and the temperament changes to a more relaxed state. This is just common sense. Just think about any stressed animal, what happens to their heart rate?

But sometimes, once you remove the shoes and load a weak hoof without giving support via boots/pads or suitable footing you can add stress to the horse and increase the pressure on the heart and circulatory system. This is sometimes why people go back to shoes as they don’t want to see their horses struggle. but strengthening and healing won’t happen if you leave the shoes/ put the shoes back on.

When you remove the nailed-on shoes, the hoof will start experiencing different sensations on all parts of the hooves that have not been previously engaged. The soft tissue, including fascia, muscles, and nervous system, will start feeling different sensations and will start a process of adjustment. In a lot of cases, the horse will appear to be losing muscle, but it is only because it starts to develop differently because the horse will start moving because of not having to compensate for the imbalances of shoes.

The hooves will generally break up around the nail hole’s until you get growth past this point. Depending upon what initial strength the hooves have at the point of removal will determine how long it will take to transition to good condition. Do not ride the horse until it is strong enough; conditioning takes time.

So we need to be careful and take things slowly and carefully, respecting healing processes. We need to be able to communicate correctly and understand each individual situation and explain as we go. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, but let’s try and not get any of the shell.


A word from Phillippa Christie, Hoof Boots Ireland

Many thanks to Nick for these thoughts, which offer reasonable arguments for using hoof boots when transitioning horses from nailed-on shoes to barefoot. Hoof boots don’t always necessarily need to be long-term, but I believe they should factor in the transitioning period where possible. Please feel free to speak to us for helpful advice on how we can work with you and your hoof care provider to offer support before the shoes are removed.

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