Barefoot: Shelby man helping horses ride shoeless

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Some people may call him crazy, but Danny Thornburg of Shelby likes going barefoot.

Two years ago, former horse farrier Thornburg heard about the American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners and learned that with changes in diet and living conditions, horses could have their shoes pulled and feet trimmed to handle almost any terrain.

After becoming certified through the association, natural hoof care practitioner Thornburg replaced his horse&8217;s shoes with all-terrain boots and began transitioning them to become accustomed to going barefoot. He said, &8220;Some horses can come right out of shoes and start riding, and some can&8217;t.&8221;

The average transition period for horses to go fully barefoot can be eight months to a year. During that time period, the natural hoof care practitioners trick the hoof into thinking it&8217;s on more aggressive terrain than it really is and trim the hoof so it eventually will be shorter and the angle the hoof grows down from is steeper. Over the eight months, Thornburg uses horse boots so he can still ride and put his horse out to pasture. &8220;For the horse, it&8217;s like they&8217;re in a good pair of Reeboks.&8221;

The process may be simple, but it is not fast. &8220;I don&8217;t want people to think they can just take the shoes of their horses and go out on the trail. It takes commitment from the horse owner to go through the transition period.&8221;

Much of the transition also depends on diet. &8220;Everybody thinks their horse will be healthy if it&8217;s on a lush green pasture. But according to FDA, 46 percent of horses that founder, founder off of green grass.&8221;

Since completing his certification, Thornburg has helped horses with foot problems that nobody else could fix. He said, &8220;It&8217;s not magic, it&8217;s just simple. The horse does it. All I do is set up the hoof so it can do the healing itself.&8221;

Currently, Thornburg and his son Danson practice on about 160 horses all over Alabama, with one client hauling her horse from Pensacola every six weeks. For more information about the AANHCP visit their website at