Back in 2002, Tufts University hosted a seminar for farriers and veterinarians to review the barefoot hoof care methods devised by German veterinarian and author Hiltrud Strasser, Dr. med vet. Crossing paths at the conference were attendees Robert Cook, FRCVS, PhD, professor of surgery emeritus at Tufts and developer of the Bitless Bridle, and Patrick Reilly, chief of farrier services at New Bolton Center and a researcher working on the development of a protocol for the use of an in-shoe force measuring system.
Cook, who has authored numerous pro-barefoot/anti-horseshoe articles, is an advocate for keeping all horses barefoot–no exceptions. Reilly, who has co-authored an article assessing the Strasser method, believes that individual circumstances dictate whether a particular horse benefits more from being shod or unshod.
For both men, the Strasser conference served to underscore their differing beliefs, and six years later their positions remain unchanged. The two gentlemen share their viewpoints in this article.
The Horse: In general, are hooves healthier with or without shoes?
Cook: All horses’ hooves are healthier without shoes, and barefoot horses are healthier than shod horses. They live longer, happier, less painful lives. Barefoot is a requirement for health and should be accepted as a condition for keeping a horse. Humane management is not just preferable, it is non-negotiable. The foot evolved to function unshod. Nature has developed the perfect design for