Here it is, one of the biggest debates in the horse world, should you shoe your horses or leave them barefoot? What is better for the horse? What will benefit the horse more? Although it’s a hot topic, it has never really been an issue to me. I have always shod my horses in the summer when I know we will be using them a lot and always leave the shoes off in the winter. I ride with a lot of people that will never use shoes or will sometimes only use a pair on either the front or back. Each person has their own beliefs and reasons behind why they choose to do what they do. For example, when I bought my current horse (around ’08) the person I bought him from only ever shod the front two hooves. I started putting shoes on all four of his hooves and they have been that way just about every summer since I purchased him. Then again, I’m only one person. Everyone has a different viewpoint on what is best for the horses and how to go about doing the best thing for their individual needs. That’s really where this question comes from for me. I want to know why; I want to know why people are so opinionated in one way or the other, as well as find out what is actually in the best interest of the horse.
The first person who popped into my head to talk about this topic was my personal farrier. His name is Greg Gutknecht. A farrier’s job is a unique one in the sense that being a farrier is not a skill you can pick up by reading or watching videos, it’s a very unique talent that takes a special type of person to achieve.
A farrier must be skilled in ironwork, be able to evaluate a horses hoof balance, gait, and conformation. For those of you that don’t know much about horses, a gait is just a fancy way to talk about how they move, and conformation is, by definition, the degree of correctness of a horses bone structure, musculature, and its body proportions in relation to one another.
Another important aspect a farrier must have is that they must be knowledgeable about all the different types of shoeing. They must be able to do corrective shoeing, shoe young horses, and be able to adjust the angle of the foot to lower limbs and promote proper growth.
Out of all the people I’ve had work with my horses in all the years I’ve had them, Greg is by far my absolute favorite. He has the most important quality anyone could ever have – he loves what he does.
I first asked Greg’s opinion on shoeing horses to which he told me that there were certain times and places for shoeing a horse that depended on discipline, location, and the specific horse. I followed it up with asking him when he thought a horse needed shoes. He replied with “I am a farrier by trade. I offer shoeing services as well as natural barefoot trimming. Each horse has a different story depending on what the owner does with it”.
He continued to say “many factors can affect this however, such as the kind of terrain they are being ridden on, and what the physical structure of the hoof looks likes since it...