Pasture vs Barefoot Trim Pt. 9 - Maintenance of the Horse in Transition

Hi Folks!  Those reading in the USA I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend!  Oh wait ... I wrote the last  blog post on Labor Day!  Well, hope you had a good one -- I forgot to wish that for y'all last week. 

I want to kind of wrap this series up with talking a bit about the maintenance of a newly transitioned horse. That is, one just taken out of shoes and trimmed NATURALLY.  We've gone over much of the essentials and the differences between what a farrier might do with a trim to what the natural trimmer would do. So where do we go from here? 


Well, I always recommend trims every 4 weeks or so at first. That always allowed me to get a good feel for the individual horse and how he or she grew his/her hooves. It also allowed me to get a good feel of how the rider rides! Yep -- it's all telling in the horse's hooves. Imbalances in the saddle will create imbalances in the growth of the hooves; former injuries to the hooves will have their quirky growth patterns that need to be recognized and tended properly; if the horse is going to need on-going trims for soft ground or hard use on hard ground ... things like that. 

When farriers remove shoes on a horse, most likely they're going to do a pasture trim on that horse. Leaving long toes, shaved frogs and soles, flat feet and no heels. BUT -- and this is important to recognize ... and to know ... a GOOD TRIM IS A GOOD TRIM REGARDLESS of who does it ... a farrier or a natural trimmer.  A good trim is going to be just what the individual hoof needs at the time of the trim. 

Sometimes I would see that the hooves are nice and strong coming out of shoes and would trim but maintaining modesty. Other times I'd simply round off the wall and leave all else alone until the next trim. And sometimes, I wouldn't trim at all but simply remove the shoes and let the horse do his own trimming in the interim between the removal of the shoes and the next visit. 

Again, it all depends. I say again because I will always say that .. "it all depends". 

Do you remember what *it* depends upon?  Yep -- you're right ... 

It depends on the hoof-in-hand on the horse-in-hand. 

So, there is not wrong or right way to trim a hoof ... there's only ONE WAY -- and that's the way that is best suited for the individual.  

Nice, long strides and tracking up straight. No evidence of sore hooves after having shoes removed just 2 days prior.

So -- removal of the shoes, trim up according to the individual's needs, and, if necessary for the horse's comfort, throw on a pair of boots.  Then .. go RIDE!!  The more the horse moves, the better of he is.  More circulation, more wear and growth. More callusing taking place and more adjustments being made in a 'natural' manner.  

It's all good. 

Have your trimmer scheduled to come out again in 4 weeks from the initial trim. Don’t be afraid to add some anti-inflammatory herbs or essential oils to your horse’s diet to help transition. Many horses will appreciate some nice bodywork or massage during his or her transitioning. We all know that too much sugar in the diet will wreak total havoc in the horse’s system and, ultimately, will end up in the hooves. So I usually try to stay away from

Complex carbs, processed feeds and anything that has processed sugars in it. I love the natural sugars of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Those natural sugars are usually high on the glycemic index BUT .. very low on the glycemic load so the sugar is well regulated as to how fast it gets into the bloodstream. Immune-boosting herbs and vegetables are a plus to add to your horse’s diet and the results you’ll see in just 4 weeks to your next trim will knock your socks off! 

I like to keep it as 'natural' as possible so I feed a raw, naturally chelated mineral complex with the feed. It simulates the horse licking the purest dirt one can imagine thus providing all the trace minerals and salts the horse's body needs for maximum health and wellbeing. 

Be sure to pick your horse's hooves at least once a day.  I like to pick just before a ride and just afterwards. Don't worry about the 'clean dirt' in your horse's hooves as that can aid in support during movement and the natural functioning of the hoof will knock it out during expansion on hoof loading. But, we don't want manure and urine soaked bedding or mud staying in the hooves for a long period of time. 

Turn your horse out as long as possible. Mine are out 24/7 with free choice shelters. This allows for maximum movement over the varied terrain that we have here. 

Bottom line – you want your horse to m.o.v.e. … the more he or she moves the more circulation bringing O2 and nutrients to the hooves for healing and new growth … You know best what your horse needs. You know what is going to stimulate him or her to be comfortable. OH!  I almost forgot to mention .. if you don’t ride daily then at least take your horse for a 10 minute in-hand walk every day over smooth, clean tarmac. That will help condition those hooves better than anything!

If you are in transition mode with your horse and things don’t seem to be going as well as you expected, give me a holler!  I’d love to chat with you and maybe come up with something that can help. It’s hard to know – especially when ya don’t know!  My years of transitioning horses from shoes to barefoot might just be beneficial to add a little something that is not generally known. 


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:


I am an eventer, trail rider, foxhunter and ride warmbloods, ottbs, and draft cross breds. We do a nice job of trimming our horses yet few are in shoes as only those currently foxhunting / eventing / trail riding are in shoes. I have looked (and, purchased) a variety of hoof boots yet all tend to come off. Excited to learn a fellow foxhunter is using the Scoot Boot. Now, big question — where do I purchase these boots? Is it best to wear them all the way around or only on the fronts? Thank you!

sarah mccoin December 09, 2016

Hi K … sounds like you’re on the right track. (no pun intended! grin) … I’m not a fan of artificial supplements but of fresh foods (greens, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc) and raw minerals. Just those, together, reap amazing results for healthy hooves! And, of course, good hoofcare from a professional who’s ‘been there, done that’.

I’d be happy to put together a whole health for the whole horse plan for you if you’re wanting to … please email to me: I’d be happy to help.

Gwenyth Santagate September 28, 2016

Hi Jane … well, you’re correct in that the shape of the hoof will affect how the hoof lands. Barefoot all the time is good and yes, use boots when riding as long as not sore in boots, too. Can you tell me the diet? And getting someone knowledgeable and skilled with hoofcare is going to be your best bet. Anyway you can take her for walks on a smooth, tarred road at least 10 mins a day? That will help her trim herself along with the turnout on varied terrain.

Gwenyth Santagate September 28, 2016

Hi. I’ve just got a rescue thoroughbred who is currently barefoot. The farrier had a quick look last week and said his hooves looked long because he’s quite flat footed but that they were fine and he’d trim them in a few weeks. Suggested we leave him barefoot until he needs shoes (i.e. We’re doing roadwork). Ideally I’d like to stay barefooted so I’m after any info to help that happen – supplements etc. Any advice?

K Lawrence September 25, 2016

I started transitioning to barefoot in November last year when one of my three mares’ hooves were in such bad shape, there was no way to put on another shoe. This was – I now know – the result of years of bad shoeing.I am still in the process of educating myself on the subject. There are no barefoot trimmers in my region, maybe not even in the entire country (I am in Costa Rica). The transition is not finished. One mare still needs boots in the front when I ride on hard terrain. I have to be light work as she developed tendonitis in both front legs after I pulled the shoes in November. My first question is, what do I need to work on ? I have had a vet improve the nutrition for my horses and they are turned out 12 to 24 hours a day on varied terrain.
With the other two mares, I stopped shoeing the back feet in April. For one of them it was no problem, for the other one it was. The latter is a quarter horse and her hooves are flatter than my other two horses’ hooves. The quality of the sole and walls is however much better. She is still a little foot sore in the back and needs boots if I ride her. And I shoe her front feet with nailed on plastic horseshoes because she really was miserable without shoes and because I did not want to deal with boots for turnout.
Now that I know what to observe I noticed that the third mare lands toe first when she walks, just like a fashion model would walk. I think she has always done that, or at least has done that for the past several years. She is now 7. She is tender in the sole of her toes and the leg just at coronet band on both front feet is slightly puffy. She is not lame, but needs boots to be comfortable on hard terrain. When I started the transition I alternated days with boots and days without boots for turnout. Now she is barefoot all the time during turnout.
My question here is what should I do regarding the toe first landing ? Apart from regular trimming to improve the shape of her hoof – which is still quite elongated, long narrow frog, flared wall and under run heels (from what I understand).
Any help would be very much appreciated.

Jane Marchant September 21, 2016

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