Question:I have a 7-year-old Paint/Quarter Horse gelding who is a large horse with a small foot. Would letting him go barefoot increase the size of his hoof?
Answer: This can be a tough question to answer without seeing the hoof. A horse that genetically has small feet (unfortunately Quarter Horses frequently do) will not grow a bigger foot by going barefoot. However, many horse's small feet are aggravated by the way they are shod or trimmed. The foot can get narrow, and the frog can get unhealthy and small. If this is the case, the feet will spread a bit as they improve in shape and as the frog gets bigger.
A couple of good web sites that can help you decide how well your horse's feet are currently trimmed and shod are www.hopeforsoundness.com and www.hoofrehab.com. The hopeforsoundness site has a video that can help you evaluate how your horse's feet stack up to normal ones, both shod and unshod, plus both sites have many pictures to teach you and your farrier about making a healthy foot.
Dr. Joyce Harman is a veterinarian and respected saddle-fitting expert certified in veterinary acupuncture and veterinary chiropractic; she is also trained in homeopathy and herbal medicine. Her Harmany Equine Clinic is in northern Virginia.
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