Without well-cared-for feet, you’re pretty much going to be out a horse. Routine hoof care is absolutely essential to your horse’s comfort and soundness, but are we paying for special shoes and gadgets that our horses may not really need? 

Take, for instance, what Dr. Michael A. Ball notes in Understanding Basic Horse Care :

“I am a minimalist and believe that simple solutions and sound basics are the way to go for most horses. A problem might require a special shoe, but using something just because it is a fad is generally wrong. … There are numerous products on the market that propose to soften, harden, moisturize, seal the moisture in, etc. Most of these products have not undergone controlled scientific experiments and many of them, in my personal experience, do either nothing or the opposite of what is proclaimed.”

Danvers Child, CJF, of the American Farrier's Association, shares similar beliefs as Ball, but stresses education and communication with your farrier above all else. Below is some useful information he shared with me:

"Professional farriers are capable of doing much more than trimming feet and installing shoes; today's professional farriers devote many hours to continuing education, ensuring that they stay current on both theoretical and practical concerns associated with hoof care. And they're eager to share the information with interested consumers. By considering these professionals as hoof care consultants and taking advantage of their knowledge, rather than just their services, consumers can often realize significant savings in their hoofcare program. ... As you develop a rapport with your farrier and a habit of asking questions, it's likely that you'll find other ways of cutting costs and realizing savings. Again, communication is key."

When it comes to saving money on ever-important hoof care, I think horse owners can take a step back, reevaluate how many shoes and accessories their horses truly need, and realize that sometimes less really is best. Read a Thrifty Horsekeeping excerpt about reducing hoof care costs without reducing your horse’s comfort here. 

With some basic knowledge it’s pretty easy to evaluate the state of your horse’s feet, but what about his teeth – so often “out of sight, out of mind?” What are your thoughts on annual or semi-annual floating versus treating your horse’s teeth on a less-costly as-needed basis: Can it be done? The complete Thrifty Horsekeeping health care chapter will address floating and dental care, but check out TheHorse.com’s reader poll on floating here. 

Hoof Care excerpt