When should I enlist the services of a qualified DAEP?

  • When your horse is lame and conventional treatments are not working
  •  When you suspect your horse’s feet are not as strong and healthy as they could be
  • When your horse keeps losing its shoes
  • When your horse is barefoot but shows occasional discomfort
  • When you want information on transitioning from conventional horseshoes to barefoot or alternative hoof wear
  • When you are trimming your own horse but want a professional to check your work from time to time
  • When considering high level competition with a barefoot horse (endurance, dressage, show jumping, etc.)
  • When you or your veterinarian want a second opinion from a highly educated specialist
  • When you plan on buying a horse and want an assessment of its hooves

How often should my horse be trimmed?

Each horse is different, but in the early stages of transitioning (period after shoe removal), plan on a visit from a DAEP every four weeks. This will allow for properly establishing of foot balance and new horn growth. Once correct foot balance is established, the period between visits can be extended to 5 or possibly 6 weeks. This will depend on the growth/wear ratio of your horse’s feet. This ratio depends on the genetics, discipline and the level of competition, coupled with the frequency of the horse’s training and the quality of the surfaces it is trained.

My horse’s feet are too bad for him to go barefoot, aren’t they?

In most cases, it is precisely these horses, those with “bad feet” that will benefit the most from going shoeless. If the feet are damaged/weakened they will likely only continue to deteriorate with continued shoeing over time. Rehabilitation will be a greater challenge, but if the owner is willing to invest and dedicate the necessary time, it is highly probable that the feet will improve dramatically in a relatively short period of time.

Is the HPT Method and Applied Equine Podiatry just another barefoot scheme?

To make a long story short, no. Applied Equine Podiatry is an innovative science-based concept that takes equine foot health and treatment to a new level. Rather than using predetermined angles or standards, students are taught to use external reference points derived from the internal structures of the foot. This allows them to bring the hoof capsule and internal structures (internal foot) into functional equilibrium, biomechanically and neurologically. Moreover, the HPT Method is only one of the tools used by a DAEP who practices the science of Applied Equine Podiatry to develop and maintain healthy, strong feet capable of high performance.

I ride a lot on the road; without shoes, my horse’s hooves would wear too much, wouldn’t they?

This is a common misconception. Riding on the road can be of great benefit to your horse’s feet, as long as their hoof/foot structures are healthy. If you gradually and regularly expose your horse’s bare feet to the road, health will develop. Cases where horse’s hooves wear faster than they grow are rare. A balanced foot receives well distributed stimulus from the impact of working over a hard surface with moderation of course. Common sense rules the day, when you have a good understanding of proper foot function and structure health, you and your DAEP can develop a treatment protocol tailored to your horse.

I do a lot of jumping and so I need studs. How can the bare foot provide for needed traction?

In terms of traction, metal on grass or tarmac falls short of providing the best performance. This is why traditionally, studs are added a horseshoe to compensate for poor traction. The bare foot can provide a non-slip foot possessing adequate traction in most environments. The ground surface (gravel, dirt) accumulating in the collateral grooves of the frog and the slight depression of the white line “creates friction” with the ground providing excellent balance, stability, traction and braking. In those competitions where additional traction is needed, many DAEP are trained in applying appliances for traction that support proper foot function.

How long will it take to rehabilitate my horse’s feet after removing its shoes?

The only responsible answer is it depends. It depends on the current state of health of your horse’s feet, the extent of the damage or weakness, the environment in which the horse lives, his diet and also—very important—your investment and involvement as the horse owner. If you are ready to put forth the necessary efforts, the rewards can come more quickly. Transitioning to shoeless is a long-term investment, not a “turnkey quick repair solution”. Time is an essential factor; in fact the fifth dimension of time that truly defines health!

Can one compete in the higher levels of competition in all disciplines without conventional horseshoes?

There are many horses that compete in high-level competitions from flat races to steeplechase, in dressage, endurance, show jumping, reigning, cutting, etc. without shoes. A DAEP will tell you what your horse’s hooves are capable of today and will guide you in developing strength in its feet to bring them to the level of health required for the competition you are considering. Remember that each horse is a unique case. For various reasons, your horse may not be able to develop a foot capable of enduring a 60 km endurance competition over rocky terrain. You may not be able to compete at your desired level of competition with the hooves your horse has; you may need to protect them. To illustrate this, we are all able to play basketball, but not all able to palm the ball with one hand and jump to the level of the basket. Many DAEP are trained in providing the necessary foot protection required to compete at the higher levels of competition in most disciplines.

Horseshoes can be expensive, Is it cheaper to have a horse barefoot?

At the beginning of the rehabilitation process, you will probably have to schedule a visit with your DAEP every 4 weeks or even more frequently. You may also have to acquire materials to help with the transition, such as therapeutic hoof pads, Perfect Hoof Wear, and products to treat and prevent infections. It may seem expensive at the time, but you’re actually investing in the long-term health of your horse’s feet. Once your horse has recovered health and exhibits strong feet, scheduled visits will most likely be spaced out and the cost of maintaining your horse’s feet will be less. Having worked on many high-level performance horses has shown us that vet costs are reduced over time.

The wall of my horse’s feet are of poor quality, they chip up all the time. He surely can’t go without shoes, can he?

Brittle, poor-quality hoof wall can have many causes, such as inadequate or poorly balanced diet, a poor environment, hoof imbalances and underlying infection. But the most likely cause is poor hoof wall matrix development. Often internal wall deficiency (the non-pigmented layer of the wall) is seen in shod horses. The traditional rigid horseshoe restricts proper distortion of the hoof capsule resulting in poor matrix development.  Rapid and extreme changes in the moisture content of the hoof, as well as repeated applications of certain types of hoof dressings can also lead to a breakdown of the links between keratin molecules that make up horn. The first step in returning health to a hoof with poor wall matrix is in fact shoe removal. The second step is to achieve balance. The third step is to treat infection. And the final step is to create an environment that will provide correct stimulus for the return of health wall matrix. The trained DAEP can help you take each of these steps. They will work with you to develop a responsible treatment protocol for the return of health to your horses’ hooves.

Will my horse have to go through a period of lameness before being comfortable without horseshoes?

There is often an adjustment period. A knowledgeable Applied Equine Podiatrist (DAEP) will assess your horse’s hooves utilizing the Institute’s Spectrum of Usability. If there is excessive weakness or instability your podiatrist can offer treatment options. A horse that shows sensitivity and said to be lame, requires a DAEP having the knowledge to determine whether the lameness is due to poor structure or a pathology is critical. Some horses feeling pressure on structures that were not previously exposed to force can be sensitive, but this sensitivity is often short lived, provided the structures of the foot are healthy enough to deal with the force. The key is to gradually expose your horse to increasingly higher levels of force, while minimizing the risk of trauma by not exceeding the foot’s Spectrum of Usability rating. Horse owners can learn how to implement the Spectrum of Usability by attending one of the Institute’s Hands-on courses or by enrolling in an Online course.

What should I consider before deciding to remove the shoes from my horse?

  • What is most important, your competition season or the health and well-being of your horse?
  • Do you have the desire and resources to acquire the knowledge necessary for the proper maintenance of your horse’s feet?
  • Are you able to take an active part in the preparation and development of your horse’s feet, in order to bring them to the level of health required for the discipline you are practicing?
  • Are you able to commit the necessary time required for healthy development and improvement?

How does a typical ‘consultation’ take place?

Plan on two hours for an initial visit from a qualified Applied Equine Podiatrist (DAEP) in order that you and your horse both benefit from the visit. Subsequent visits will be shorter, as the horse’s feet progress in their overall balance and health. Good working conditions guarantee better results: a flat, hard surface, preferably sheltered and well illuminated is ideal. The DAEP will also need to see the horse move at the walk and trot, both in a straight line and on a circle; again, a flat area with firm surface is preferable. During the initial visit, all hoof structures will be evaluated on each foot in order to establish an understanding of the current state of health of each foot and to identify any problems. The results will be noted on a ‘Spectrum of Usability’, a scorecard. If needed, the HPT Method (High Performance Trim Method) will be applied, ensuring that the foot is balanced both biomechanically and neurologically. They will then provide you with a complete written assessment, often accompanied by photographs.  Their assessment will include specific recommendations for creating a “workable program”. Their report and recommendations will take into consideration environment, diet and training. Tip: Avoid working your horse just before your scheduled visit.