Being realistic about transition

The "white line" is a layer of interlocking laminae. Like a sort of living Velcro (hook-and-loop tape), it connects the hoof wall securely to the coffin bone. When the foot is weighted, the white line takes most of the weight of the horse, shared somewhat with the sole. It takes an enormous supply of blood (nutrients) to keep the white line strong enough to handle this awesome job. Horseshoes reduce circulation inside the hoof; the "starved" white line becomes weak and stretchy.

I don't think I've ever seen a horse that was shod for more than a year, that didn't have white line damage. Anyone who helps lots of horses return to a barefoot condition comes to recognize that horseshoes (plus infrequent trimming due to shoeing) do damage the feet. Most feet are going to be sore for a while after you pull the shoes -- fronts much more than hinds, because they carry more of the horse's weight.

It can be very hard to admit to ourselves that we have caused this much damage to our beloved horses' feet by doing what we thought was best for them, e.g. keeping them shod. I know how hard it is from personal experience, as well as from "holding the hand" of horse owners while they go through the early part of Transition. The truth is, we made them sore; and so we get to live through the recovery time with them, including not riding for a while if necessary.

In general, it takes about a year of correct care before the de-shod hoof returns to the complete soundness it had before-shoes. The issue when you pull the shoes is not "Can I take him on a long, rocky trail ride tomorrow?" but rather "What's a good program to rehabilitate his feet?"

The "white line strategy" trim dramatically shortens the early part of transition; in some cases months of unrideability can be reduced to days. Generally it will not mean the week after the "first trim" will be totally pain-free.

Hoof boots are an important tool for the transition to barefoot; the comfort they provide will help your state-of-mind as much as they help the horse.

Another tool is your decision to be patient and trust the horse to heal. They do heal. They get better than you can imagine. I get email from people happily reporting on "my horse's rock-crunching hooves."

No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.  ~ Winston Churchill