What Does “Going Barefoot” Actually Cost?

*Picture is of an 11 yr old TB gelding – in shoes w/ a wedge pad, out of shoes, then after a conservative first trim. At the time, he was in the beginning stages of his barefoot transition process. He started out very sore, was wrapped in temporary boots, was then in EasyCare Gloves for turnout, and is now comfortable barefoot. His owner adjusted his diet, treated his thrush aggressively, asked all the right questions, and everything is going smoothly.*

Today I want to talk about the financial side to “going barefoot.” I recently wrote about the reality of going barefoot, and what that may look like. But what does it actually cost to make this switch in your horse’s life and health?

I don’t recommend that people switch to barefoot just to “save money.” It should be cheaper in the long run, as a barefoot trim normally costs less than a set of shoes. And a pair of boots, which can last months or years, are the same cost as an expensive shoeing. Taking your horse barefoot is about a lot more than the financial cost or savings, though.

But for anyone on a very limited budget, there are some financial aspects of going barefoot to consider. If you read my post about what going barefoot could look like, you know that adjusting diet, nutrition, lifestyle, and environment are all important factors in the transition process once you pull the shoes. Your hoofcare provider should have lots of suggestions for you along the way, and you can decide if and when they fit into your budget.

Things To Budget For Before/When Pulling Shoes

    • Radiographs: your hoofcare provider may request a few views of your horse’s feet if there are chronic or acute issues happening such as coffinbone rotation, founder, a navicular diagnosis, etc. You may already have rads on file with your vet, depending on your situation.
    • Temporary boots: many horses have an adjustment period coming out of shoes where their feet need extra cushioning and support. You may need duct tape, diapers, and vet wrap for a traditional temporary wrap with some sort of packing material like Rebound. You can use any sort of cushioning material (like a yoga mat) to add to the bottom of the wrap for extra support. If your horse is too sore to walk down the barn aisle or get turned out (movement is extremely important), they may need temporary wrapping. Many owners use temporary boots while waiting for their therapy or performance boots to arrive in the mail.
    • Therapeutic Boots: if your horse is suffering from a painful chronic or acute condition, they may need therapeutic boots. I really like Soft Rides ($225/pair) or a set from the EasyCare therapy line  (which runs $72 – $126 per boot). If you buy boots, you always buy two so your horse is balanced when wearing them. Therapy boots are for horses who are in pain, lame, or cannot walk from place to place without serious discomfort. Most horses do not come out of shoes with this level of pain, but it’s important to be prepared, especially if they have active laminitis or founder happening.
    • Riding/Performance Boots: many riding/performance boots can double as a “light” therapy boot. If your horse is sore, tender over gravel, or walking less confidently than before their shoes were pulled, they need boots for now. Many horses coming out of shoes have thin soles, are fighting chronic thrush infections, or have weak hoof capsules that need extra support. If you live in a dry or rocky area and continue riding during the transition process, you may need boots. I really like the EasyCare line (lots of different versions) and Scoot Boots for riding and performance boots. The EasyCare boot prices vary, and a set of Scoots is $190 + shipping. You can also add padding to riding/performance boots for extra cushion if needed.

*Every horse comes out of shoes differently. Don’t let this list scare you. Many or some may not apply to you. You may have a feeling in your gut already about how your horse will feeling coming out of shoes. Sometimes pulling the shoes makes them immediately more comfortable (this may also have to do with getting a different trim). Sometimes they are lame. And sometimes they’re slightly uncomfortable. It all depends. Ask your hoofcare provider for their recommendations in relation to the list above.*

Appointments To Budget For

    • You may schedule a vet visit for radiographs.
    • Some owners switch from a traditional horseshoer/farrier to a barefoot trimmer when taking their horse barefoot, so you may elect to have a consult appointment with a new hoofcare provider before taking the next steps. I meet many owners who want a second opinion before pulling shoes.
    • You may have one last appointment with your current hoofcare provider (if you’re switching) to pull shoes, or your new hoofcare provider may offer to do so at your first appointment with them.
    • Once the shoes are off, you’ll schedule a first trim and measuring for boots appointment (this may be the same appointment as one above).
    • You’ll likely be committing to a shorter trimming cycle, especially if coming out of shoes. So budget for a 3-6 week trimming cycle to start with. Your hoofcare provider can advise you on what’s best for your horse.

Other Items to Consider

  • Educational resources: there are so many books and DVD’s out there about going barefoot, barefoot trimming, diet and nutrition, what kind of lifestyle benefits a barefoot horse. Invest in your confidence in this transition and keep educating yourself. Your hoofcare provider should have suggestions if there are topics you want to learn more about. There are also many free Facebook groups you can join for support.
  • You will hopefully be making diet, nutritional, and environmental adjustments if and when your horse needs them. It’s hard to say exactly what your horse will need, so ask your hoofcare provider what financial costs you might be expecting in relation to changing their diet or lifestyle.

Hopefully now you have a slightly better idea of what going barefoot may cost. Usually owners find there is an initial upfront investment in a shorter trim cycle, buying a pair of boots, and changing the diet around. Then things start to feel routine again. Some owners are already investing in very expensive shoe packages and constant vet visits. How inexpensive or expensive barefoot will feel to you will depend on where you are starting. Some horses get to go barefoot as a last ditch effort after traditional shoeing methods have failed the horse or the owner. Some horses get to go barefoot because their owner starts seeing dysfunction in their feet and wants to try a different route.

However you get to this first step, congratulations for wondering and wandering outside the box of traditional hoof care. May you have the best of luck! 

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