"Do I or don't I, need to shoe..
This question gets more lip service that any other.
If you shoe or ride barefoot, it is a personel choice. No one will argue that. What you feel is correct for your horse, is what you do, and many folks go with shoes, many go barefoot, and many go half and half..
But take a look at the question, it says "Need to".
The answer to that is very simple, "NO". and as with all things there are exceptions.. Horses today are doing things that mother nature never figured on. and these things are the ones that create the biggest discussion.
For the trail rider, the argument has always been, "If the wild horse don't need them, why do I. This is all that needs to be said. "Why".
I have been having my horse shod since the very early 60's. When it came time to do some serious riding the shoe were on. But most of the time old Rex was running around with the cows barefoot. I use to jump on his back with my belt around his jaw like a indian and ride him around the pasture for fun or to bring the cows home. On the good days a couple hour ride on the back 40 to check fences and see where the deer has been moving. Never ever gave it a thought about his feet. I hooked him up to the buggy and way we went around the fields or sometime out on the dirt road. Barefoot. But when it came time to really ride ( somewhere other than at home) the shoes were put on.. Some times twice a year..
When it came time for me to start my dream of riding the USA the shoes where on.. So for the last ten years and thousands of miles ridden my horses have been shod.
Then I met Kathy, and up to then, she has never shod any horse she owned. and that has been a few. From the very first mount (the family cow) she has ridden barefoot. She has always done most of the every day hoof care her self. A little nip here and some file work there kept her horses foot ready to go. With one exception. When she felt the foot needed some help, ( in the spring when the hoofs were still soft from the wet ground) she used Easy Boots. She did it all, endurance, showing, cross country, parades, either barefoot or Easy Boots.
When we were married in 1996 we took a four months honey moon on horse back. Out through the midwest and ended up the last 6 weeks in the New England states, for the fall season.,.but I had talked her into shoes for her big Fox Trotter for the trip. We had no problems and for the few years after that, she kept her fox trotter shod. We believed it was to make sure he would gait correctly, and protect his feet from all the rocks we were riding on, same with mine. and believe me that was a real problem when we traveled. Every blacksmith has his own ideas on how to shoe these two horses, In fact it got down right interesting at times when I knew how the horse was suppose to be shod, and the out of town smithie telling me differant.
In 2001 Kathy sold her Fox Trotter and started riding her Airb 1/4 cross. The same horse she had been riding for 20 years barefoot. We thought that year we would go south for the winter and she with her old horse (barefoot) and I with a new 4 year old mixed breed ( shod) started out and was gone 5 1/2 months. We rode 1400 miles on that trip, her barefoot, me shod.. Side by side, on every thing from the beachs of Florida and the high MTs in New Mexico, from NY, to Florida to Arz to Wisconson and back to Tenn and home, Side by side, her barefoot, me shod. Makes a man start to think.. I had to have my horse reset and new shoes twice and she worked on hers with her file. That really makes a man think. With in days of our return to NY I went to pick up old Rowdy my Fox Totter from the barn where I had him boarded while we were gone. At the barn when Kathy and I arrived, there was a fellow by the name of K.C La Pierre doing a clinic on "Shoeless Not Clueless"
He had the most interesting thoughts on going barefoot, and after having my eyes opened to that idea, from the trip we had just came back from, I sat and listened, What I learned there that day, has made a huge differance in our horses lives. No more shoes, but one wife telling me " I told you so" I had asked KC what about gaited horses going bare foot. His answer.." why not".
Rightfully so, why not, and for the past two years we have been shoeless on all kinds of ground and loving it.. We found the answer was not in the shoes but in the foot.
( yes, my fox trotter gaits just beautiful barefoot)
The natural horse is doing nothing differant than trailriders do. or the other way around.. It is all in the foot.
Getting the foot, healthy and trimmed correctly for nature to do what it has done for a million years, and that is, condition the foot to its surroundings.