Barefoot Trim

What exactly is a barefoot trim?

In theory, a "barefoot trim" gives a domestic horse's hoof the same shape as a wild horse's hoof. Supporters of the barefoot trim believe that if it happens in nature, it must be the best thing for the horse. So, it would be reasonable to associate a ‘barefoot trim’ with ‘natural.’

This ‘natural’ design is based largely on a study of mustang hoof wear in some specific western North American environments. Sometimes, you will also hear a barefoot trim referred to as a "mustang trim" for this reason.

Traditionally, farriers have been responsible for trimming both shod horses' hooves and barefoot horses' hooves. Fans of the barefoot trim, however, suggest that a farrier trims every hoof as if it will eventually have a shoe on it and that a 'barefoot' horse requires something else entirely. The 'barefoot trim' is actually quite different than the trim a shod horse receives.

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Traditional Trim

    • Heels longer than barefoot trim
    • Bottom of hoof edge rasped sharp
    • The toe is left longer and sharper than barefoot trim

Barefoot Trim

    • More petite look from taking off more heel
    • All flare removed from the sides
    • “Breakover” in the toe of the front feet

The breakover is where the front third of the hoof of the front feet is angled or beveled, eliminating the sharp long toe. This arrangement is said to provide a more natural pivot point in the step, so the flex and mechanics to the foot and leg structures are more natural and better for the horse.

It also is generally explained in barefoot-trimming literature that this trim should ensure a heel-first landing, placing the bulk of the weight landing onto the heel, which may not always be the case in a more traditional trim where toe-first landings are most likely. Horses with barefoot trims are thought to have a reduced risk of injury, an overall proper balance of motion and better performance.

The Vet’s View
“There’s nothing wrong with a horse going barefoot.” says Dr. Tracy A. Turner, of Anoka Equine Veterinary Services in Elk River, Minnesota. Dr. Turner, whose specialty is equine lameness, worked as a farrier before entering veterinary medicine and published the now-classic article, “The Art and Frustration of Hoof Balance,” in the American Farrier’s Journal.

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“If your horses don’t need shoes, don’t put shoes on them. I’d choose to have a horse go barefoot over being shod in general.”

On the topic of barefoot trims, however, Dr. Turner has some words of caution.

“Some are really radical,” he says. “My rules of thumb are: Anything that draws blood can’t be good. Anything that leaves your horse lame afterward can’t be good.”

His professional advice comes from personal experience. He has witnessed instances where radical and bloody trims were performed on horses’ feet by self-professed barefoot trimmers in the name of healing troubled hooves, which had sad and ultimately fatal consequences. He stresses, however, that a good trim is a good trim, regardless of who does it – farrier, trimmer or horse owner.

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