A Barefoot Story

Back in 1992, (wow, LONG time ago - seems, sometimes, like just yesterday) ... I acquired a horse for our 4-H Club. 

(The Cape Coral 4-H Horse Lovers Club was the first in history
for that city so we got lots of publicity.)

He was known as "Saint Bubba" 

However, in as much as he was the "kids" horse - Bubba was *my* soul horse. He was sick when we got him - very sick. But he was a great teacher as we all nursed him back to health. 

(One of our "Classic Horse Show Series" shows that the 4-H kids put on) 

He came in, if I remember correctly, barefooted. 

But then, of course, he was not being ridden or exercised prior to my getting him - he was just 'out to pasture' as he was so sick. So, no shoes required.

One day, thinking about what I could arrange as a teaching demonstration for our club kids, I thought ... "Hey! Great!  We'll have a farrier come in to teach the kids about hooves! Awesome!"  

OK, so I arranged for a farrier to come in to demonstrate how to trim horses' hooves and  ... get this - how to SHOE a horse. 

We all waited for that day to come with great expectation and anticipation. We couldn't wait! 

The day finally arrived. 

The farrier was great!  Went through each step and explained clearly to the kids what he was doing and why. 

Clean the hooves
Trim off all excess wall
Knife off the frog to a "perfect" shape
Knife out the sole so it gave to 'thumb pressure'
Trim off the heels
Rasp the entire hoof to make sure it was nice and flat. 
Measure the shoe against the hoof.
Trim the hoof some more to fit the shoe. 
Nail on the shoe and clinch it off.
Rasp entire outer wall of the hoof to make it look nice.
Wipe on some polish so the hoof is nice and shiny.

And so, shoes were put on all 4 of Bub's hooves.

He stood like a gentleman through the process, lifting one hoof after another even in spite of the hammering of nails and all into his 'feet'. I'm sure this task was not unfamiliar to him as he had previously been a therapeutic riding horse. So, I'm sure he knew 'the ropes' like the back of his own-- hoof! 

The kids were great. They were all pretty enthralled!  They were totally riveted to this 'magic process' of putting iron shoes on a horse. They asked questions, they were curious and thoughtful and even worried that the process hurt Saint Bubba. 

Nope, the farrier assured them that he didn't feel a thing except some banging on his hoof. 

Bubba was fine. A little 'footy' but nothing that wouldn't work out, said the farrier.

And so the days wore by and yes, Bubba got over his 'footiness'. 

But then, about 2 weeks later, as I was cleaning his hooves I noticed he had NO frogs left!  Nope, not a one. Where he had nice, thick, callused and strong frogs prior to the shoes, he now was left with pretty useless little wedges of ... nothing. And his heels seemed to be squishing together - the hooves were forming a crack between the heel bulbs. 

To me, his hooves just didn't LOOK right nor did they FEEL right to me. 

So, off came the shoes. 

Bub was barefooted once again. 

By the time the next hoofcare cycle came around he was back to plumb, strong frogs and wider hooves. 

Because of that and because the club's finances (and mine) were in a constant perilous state, we all decided to keep him barefoot. Afterall .. he was striding out better than he was and very much more 'lively' than he had been. Seemed to all of us he felt better without shoes on his hooves. 

(Bub takin' a young 4-H rider over 'the course') 

That barefooted horse went everywhere with kids on his back and with me on his back - down tarred roads, over jump courses, through sugar sand and ravines filled with water. He never took a bad step. He remain barefooted until ... 

Yep, we moved back to New England where there was snow and ice and rocks and harsh, unforgiving terrain. Bubba took a year to get used to the cold, snow -- he was afraid of it! (After all he had lived his entire 16 years in SW Florida where snow doesn't exist and the sun always shines.) 

And I had started up another 4-H Club for the kids up north. We had a great club and, once again, I thought it would be neat to have a farrier demo for the kids! 

Pete and repeat ... farrier up north did the exact same thing as the farrier down south; step by step. 

And then ... wouldn't ya know it - 2 weeks passed and once again ... no frogs, hooves were getting more and more narrow to forming a split between the heel bulbs and lots of thrush. 

So, once again, I pulled the shoes of Mr. Bub and promised him, never again would I put iron shoes on his hooves!

And so, I never did. I kept him trimmed up and his hooves turned into the likes of the iron of which his shoes had been made.  ... strong, resilient to the different ground and weather. He could gallop down the rocky trails of New England or soar over jumps and fallen trees as if he had wings. 

His hooves carried him soundly wherever he went until he passed on over the Rainbow Bridge at 32 years of age in 2006. 

There's still a huge hole in my heart that only he could fill. 

And what is the moral of this story? 

I think you guessed it. (Tell me below what you think it is!) 

I hope y'all had a very MERRY Christmas, Happy Holidays and will have a wonderful, awesome, bright, HAPPY and prosperous NEW YEAR!

See ya in 2018! 

1994 ... Me and Bub and some photo bomber in the background! 



Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen -- gwen.santagate@gmail.com or telephone in the US (239)-573-9687. For further information please click here:  www.thepenzancehorse.com








Hi Barbara! Thanks for your comments! I am so happy that the change in feed has made all the difference! Read Jan 1st blog … “The First Focus” .. think you’ll agree with that, too. :) And I am so sorry for your loss. Losing our guys is never an easy time in life …

Gwenyth Santagate January 03, 2018

OH, and your Mr. Bub sounds so much like my Spago… he only had shoes on once for about 6 weeks…. and then the farrier asked me why?? Why when he had such perfect feet was I adding shoes?? Because I thought all horses needed them…. (1986)… OK, we won many a Grand Prix over fences with my heart horse barefoot!! Had many other horse people tell me I was crazy, that he would never hold up that way…. and yet I have video of him jumping still at the age of 26 and he won 3 Grand Championships in dressage barefoot at the age of 28…. and he passed that fall , November 11, 2011, from a terrible colic…. and my heart went with him….

Barbara ODay December 27, 2017

Keep the shoes in the farrier’s truck and not on the horses!! Had just one that I thought I was going to have to keep shoes on because his feet were so soft…. but your recommendations for a change of feed has made all the difference and now, he too, is barefoot!!

Barbara ODay December 27, 2017

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