Barefoot Performance Horses

Most of us know that shoes are the norm when it comes to performance horses. Even I kept shoes on most of my horses back when I was barrel racing. Of course, I didn’t know then what I know now.

Many people say it’s easy to keep your horses barefoot when they’re just hanging out in the pasture. This is true, but there are also many performance and working horses out there who are barefoot. And if you ask their owners, being barefoot is a big factor in their success.

Now, I don’t confess to know a whole lot about every riding discipline, but when it comes to speed events, I know the common school of thought is that horses need shoes for better traction. Well, barefoot horses are proving this just isn’t true.

One such horse is Tulsa, an accomplished 1-D horse who belongs to my good friend, Summer. Tulsa has never worn shoes and consistently outruns many shod horses. In fact, just a few weeks ago, she placed 24th (in the 1-D) out of over 1600 horses at the Run for the Bonus Race in Lincoln, NE.





And of course, Tulsa isn’t alone. Many people were happy to tell me about their barefoot performance horses on my Facebook page last week. Here are a few:


This is Charley, a 13-year-old grade gelding who competes barefoot in youth barrel racing. He even won a saddle last year!



Photo courtesy of Life Reflections Photography

Photo courtesy of Life Reflections Photography


And here’s Smokey, a 15-year-old Paint mare and trick horse who performs barefoot.


Brynda Imel Skelton



And Ming, a barefoot jumper who is also in training for eventing:

noelle dever



And 21-year-old Jax, a show horse who competes in Western and classical dressage, Hunt and Saddleseat, as well as several other disciplines:




Here is purebred Arabian dressage horse, CJA Debbonheir +/. He is currently showing second level dressage and schooling third level movements.




He’s been barefoot all his life except for (as his owner, Debi puts it), “an ill advised trial in shoes”. At the suggestion of a former trainer, Debi agreed to a one-year trial of shoes, which she describes as “an utter failure!” She says she will never again put shoes on him.


CJA feet



Bo is a 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding and was shod for most of his life. He’s always battled underrun heels. Vets advised several types of corrective shoeing included spider plates and wedges. His owner, Meagan, even tried natural balance shoes, as well as several other types of shoes. None of them seemed to help. But since going barefoot not long ago, Meagan says his hooves are finally coming into balance and have never looked better.

Bo is currently schooling in 3rd and 4th level dressage.






This is Juneau, who appeared to be hopelessly lame until his shoes were pulled and he was rehabbed by his new owner (and barefoot trimmer), Marilyn. He went on to compete in Grand Prix dressage where he won his rider a gold medal!





And finally, we have Jedi, a former rescue horse. After also being rehabbed by Marilyn, he became a top 50-mile endurance horse. And yes, he did this barefoot!


jedi endurance horse



If you’d like to see even more barefoot performance horses, I encourage you to check out this page.





Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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4 Responses

  1. Harold Sitton says:

    CJA Debbonheir looks to have some flare in his toe which could result from improper trimming and/or improper placement of the shoe for breakover.

    If properly cared for from birth, barefoot can do all I Am convinced. But after two years of trying barefoot, I’ve decided my horse has such an under developed frog and digital cushion that I have gone to Ground Control shoes. It’s only been two months but his feet are seem to be making some really good changes.

    After a year depending on his foot, I will try barefoot again.

    I just didn’t think that one example of CJA Debbonheir should put ALL shoeing in a bad light.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Harold, I don’t think CJA’s experience puts all shoeing in a bad light–that was simply her experience. The purpose of this post is not to condemn shoeing, but to highlight barefoot performance horses. Many people simply don’t think horses can function barefoot. But obviously they can and many excel this way. Best of luck with your horse’s situation. Have you tried rehabbing with hoof boots by chance?

  2. Chris says:

    I like your page. I am really for barefoot horses. Both my thoroughbreds are barefoot, have been since coming off the track 2 years ago. Absolutely no problems. One plays polocrosse, and the other plays polocrosse, show-jumps and does 3-phase eventing. He has won more than 50% of his jumping classes and is very fast and sure-footed across country.

    I find that the trick is to keep on top of it – monitor their feet every day. I have learnt to trim them myself as well, so that means I can have full control.

    I agree that in exceptional cases, horses may need shoes, but the reality is that most people are just to lazy to try going barefoot. (It takes work of course!).

    Here in SA, barefoot is on the rise.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Chris–you are so right about keeping on top of the trimming. That’s one of the reasons why I learned to trim myself as well. And glad to hear barefoot is on the rise where you live. I think it’s catching on in a lot of places. 🙂

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