In all of the equestrian disciplines there is an ongoing discussion about the advisability of shoeing a horse. To shoe or not to shoe? There are horse owners and trainers on both sides of the discussion. The anti-shoe side says that shoeing is not natural and a horse is better barefoot; the balance of the foot is better, less strain on the tendons and ligaments of the leg, the circulation is improved by the contact with the ground with every step. The pro-shoe side says that for a horse in work the shoe protects the hoof; less risk of damage, breaking and chipping of the hoof wall, stone bruises on the sole causing abscesses, shoes, and also with the addition of pads , can assist in correcting improper balance of the hoof.
Well you get the picture. But who is right?
I think a great deal depends on what you do with your horse. For a police horse that is on hard pavement whenever it is ridden barefoot might be difficult. For a cross country eventer not having the studs to provide a non-slip hoof could be dangerous. Can a trail horse that is constantly traversing rocky ground go barefoot?
Truth be told I can’t answer all these questions. I can only tell you what I do with my horse. My horse is a 50-50 horse. He has shoes on in front and is barefoot behind.
He was like this when I bought him and it seemed to be working so I did not change anything and in the three years I have had him as there have been no problems. When my farrier started working on Biasini he told me he had thin soles. The answer? I stared to put Keratex , a hoof hardener, on the soles of his feet twice a week. That seems to be successful.
Here are some photos of his hooves: the unshod hinds and the shod fronts. His hooves are healthy and in good shape both the shod and the unshod. The photos were taken in the wash stall so his feet are wet.
Now there are many who would say that an upper level dressage horse needs to be shod behind to give the support needed for the advanced movements such as the pirouettes. Well, Biasini is very good at doing the pirouettes. He is a horse that can lower his hind end and sit well enough to come and take a seat at your dinner table. The pirouettes are not problem for him. Here is a video clip of my coach Belinda Trussell doing some training work on the pirouettes. She is asking him to be quicker and he wants to respond by spinning. That is great for a Western Reining horse but a dressage horse is not supposed to spin. You can see her working him through this and you will also see that he has no difficulty with the movement despite the fact he is balancing on his bare feet.
So I have no clear answer to which is best barefoot or shoes. For each horse it could be a different answer and for my horse it is a bit of both.