The first week can be tough, there are not many horses who are immediately sound with no intervention coming out of shoes. Preparation relating to diet at least a month or two before removing the shoes will assist in the rehabilitation process. Be prepared to use boots, pads or modify the horse’s environment so surfacescan be avoided that can cause problems in the early days, e.g. large stones, gravel, rough concrete.
Don’t be alarmed if it appears that your horse’s feet crack and split. Unhealthy/unviable wall will break off. This can look alarming but is part of the hoof repairing and healthy hoof wall will be much more robust.
It is quite likely that the hoof will have an anaerobic fungus underneath the shoe. This is sometimes called white line disease if in the white line or mistakenly called thrush if around the frog. It is black, slimy and smelly. Even if the foot looks ok, a soak in Milton will get rid of anything lingering. A routine periodic spray of Milton or Apple Cider Vinegar is useful to help eliminate reoccurrence.
The hooves may feel quite warm (sometimes scarily warm) in the first couple of days. The same warmth in all four hooves is good, one hot hoof and three cold hooves is not. You will probably notice the hooves are warmer than when shod. This is caused by an increased blood circulation. This is a good thing!
Above all else, you will require patience. Going barefoot is not an easy option for some horses. It is important to learn to listen to your horse. If he is coping well then that is great but if he is struggling a little, use verges where possible when hacking out or exercise in the field or menage if you have one. Boots can be used too and always exercise within the horse’s comfort level.
Going barefoot successfully is a lot more than just removing the shoes. It involves you taking overall responsibility for your horse’s hoof care but a team member such as Deborah Powell from Barefoot Hoofcare can give you vital support and help maintain and support your barefoot horse. Find her website listed in our links area.