Some horses find the transition to barefoot easy and carry on with the same level of work that they were doing before while others (probably most) need a transition period.
The more movement a horse can get whilst being comfortable the better. Many people in the UK have installed tracks to improve movement and provide surfaces to develop hooves. You can find out more by visiting the Facebook Group Barefoot Approach to Whole Horse Health where there are many members who have built tracks for improving horse life and health. Find a link to this here.
Pea gravel is an excellent surface for shoefree horses as it exfoliates the dead, flaky sole and supports the base of the hoof while the sole, frog and digital cushion build-up.
With hoof boots most horses should be able to carry on exercising as normal. Easyboot Epics are a god choice although there are always more designs coming onto the market which are durable and have good traction on the road. Be warned the grip in hoof boots is not good on wet grass, mud or other slippery surfaces and road studs or extra tread may need to be cut into the sole of the boot.
Renegades have been tested in this country and are fantastic.
Most horses are fine after shoe removal straight away on grass and in sand schools and will be able to cope with smooth tarmac within a week or two. Gradually the horse will become more capable over different surfaces so build up the duration of the rides and the roughness of the surface but do not increase both at the same time. Think of this as fitness training for the feet and start with the smooth/easy surfaces and build up.
There is increasing evidence that insulin resistance is rising in horses (and people) and exercise is a key factor in normalising insulin and blood sugar levels. Exercise also speeds up the rate of hoof production so the more exercise you can do with your horse (without making him sore) the better his hooves will be.
Adapted from Shoe Free the site of UKNHCP certified trimmer Liz Chapman who loves to ride her horse Tara out hunting with the Sandhurst Draghunt. Find out more on our links page.