Merits of Barefoot vs. Shod: Equine Practitioners Discuss

Equine practitioners are often asked for their opinion and input because owners often read or are told that having a horse barefoot is far superior to having him shod and that it’s the only acceptable method of hoof care.
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The Barefoot vs. Shod table topic session at the 2008 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Calif., was very well-attended, and the attendee participation was excellent, according to the session moderators. The purpose of this session was to look at the merits of each method of hoof care rather than debate if one is better than the other. Equine practitioners are often asked for their opinion and input because owners often read or are told that having a horse barefoot is far superior to having him shod and that it’s the only acceptable method of hoof care.

The barefoot, or natural, trim has its roots and has been patterned after the so-called research on the wild or feral horses. This purported research is hard to justify as the type of foot encountered is based on the heredity and genetics of the feral horse and is driven by exercise, environment, and the terrain on which the animal walks. If taken out of this environment/terrain, the horse will immediately assume a different foot conformation.

I would be the first to state that having the horse barefoot is the best possible state in which to maintain a horse’s feet if the individual situation is conducive to this method.

Being a farrier, this moderator also feels that horses can be shod in a physiological manner such that the health of the foot is not compromised. This might be dependent on the skill and competency of the hoof care provider

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Stephen E. O’Grady, DVM, MRCVS, was a professional farrier for 10 years prior to obtaining his degree in veterinary medicine. He learned farriery through a formal apprenticeship under Hall of Fame farrier Joseph M. Pierce of West Chester, Penn. After graduating from veterinary school, O’Grady did an internship in Capetown, South Africa. Then he joined Dan Flynn, VMD, at Georgetown Equine Hospital in Charlottesville, Va., as an associate for five years. Since that time, he has operated a private practice in Virginia and South Africa, with a large portion of the practice devoted to equine podiatry. He has published numerous articles and lectured extensively on equine foot problems. His web site is www.equipodiatry.com.””tephen E. O’Grady

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