Some horses can work straight away at the same level as when shod, but this is unusual.
Generally you will find that if your horse was sound in shoes he will be happy to work on grass or in an arena, but may need boots for stony or hard ground for a period. In time, when adjusted and healed these feet too will work happily over all surfaces.
You will need to have patience. It took time for these hooves to become unhealthy. they need time to get back to full health.
Movement is crucial. It increases blood flow to the foot, enabling healing and growth to occur.We would always say to owners, ride as much as possible within the boundaries of your horse's comfort levels.
Modern hoof boots offer great protection and comfort to feet that are not yet able to cope bare.
Most are easy to put on and take off so you can carry them with you if you know that part of your ride is going to be particularly stony or challenging and ride barefoot for the remainder of your ride.
The following is taken from an article by Pete Ramey:
"At some point, I started considering hoof boots to be the 21st century horseshoe. They allow us to have our cake and eat it too. We can provide the health and function of barefoot turnout and still protect the hooves when the demands of the rider exceed the health and capabilities of the hoof. The owner continues using the horse while watching the health of the hooves steadily improve, rather than steadily becoming less healthy over the years as is often the case"
"I found ........ I could get horses comfortable enough to ride when no fixed shoeing methods seemed to help. Of course once we get a lame horse working, the stimulation speeds growth and increases circulation. It speeds up everything we're trying to accomplish in growing healthy hooves, taking rehab time to amazing new speeds."
"Basically, if there is not an abscess, chronic internal pathology or current acute laminitis we can find a boot/pad combination that puts the hooves to work (and somtimes when these situations are present, we still can.)"
It is common for shoes to be masking underlying fungal infections. Generally these clear up quickly once exposed to the air and can be helped along by daily applications of Hibiscrub, Milton, or similar. Either sprayed or scrubbed on.
You will also find that unviable hoof wall will chip and break off. Especially until the old nail holes have reached the ground. This is nothing to worry about - it is just hoof wall that the horse doesn't need. Any soft, infected wall will crumble away to be quickly replaced by hoof of better quality.
Dry, hard hoof is good. There is no need to add oils, moisturisers to bare feet.