A little break from Pathologies today ... want to address something that is concerning and that is ...
Why wait until your horse doesn't hold a shoe anymore? Why wait until the hooves are shelly, chipping, splitting, thrushy, yucky and your horse is just a tad bit 'off' ...
Why wait to get your horse barefoot?
For years I've worked on pathological hooves ... and mostly was called as the very last resort!
People would then say, "I so wish I had called you first!"
(me - the grand question) "Why did you wait?"
"Well, because my farrier said ...
(take your pick) -
Your horse can never be without shoes.
He has weak hooves.
Your horse is a Thoroughbred and everyone knows Thoroughbreds can't go without shoes!
Your horse has Navicular! He'll always needs special orthotics!
What? No shoes? You want your horse to founder?
Everyone knows horses NEED shoes to compete!
You can't show your horse without shoes!
Horses were always meant to be in shoes!
You can't ride a barefoot horse!
and on and on and on ... the myths perpetuate and the horse owners are ... afraid!
Afraid their horses can't simply be ... horses!
One of the first things I always told my clients when they took off their horses' shoes was ... NOW GET YOUR HORSE MOVING!
"But he'll be sore!"
"But I won't be able to RIDE him!"
But, but, but ... Yeah, but ...
Hey, there ain't no such thing as a 'Yeah But' !
OK, so you have your horse's shoes pulled -- NOW what? You want to ride. You want to compete. You want to ride those rocky trails. Guess what?
YOU CAN! And, in most cases you can RIGHT AWAY!
Barefoot Houston Mounted Police Horse
In fact, DO IT! Just, do it.
Measure your horse's feet just after a CORRECT trim and then order boots to fit.
It's that simple.
The few days you have to wait for the boots is nothing compared to the HOURS you'll have to spend in the saddle, at the shows, on the trails ... with HEALTHY, STRONG, FUNCTIONING hooves!
In over 50 years with horses I've never had one that was in shoes. Wait, I'm sorry -- that's a lie. They'd come to me IN shoes - in fact, my very first horse was not only in shoes but in special shoes with 1" wedge pads for Navicular. He lost one of his shoes. Within a week of arriving. Yeah -- a case of newly shod, lose a shoe thang. So I pulled the other and guess what!?!?
He went ... SOUND!
JC's Bubba, 1992
That was back in 1987. I rode him on rocky, New England trails, power lines, jumped him over small jumps, he gave riding lessons and he never took another lame step. Yes, I trimmed him and yes, I was told, "You're going to KILL that horse! That horse will be dead lame before you can blink your eyes." etc. etc. ... well, nope. He didn't die and I didn't cause him to go dead lame.
His hooves got STRONG. They got HEALTHY! And, most of all, I rode him almost every single day on gravely, rocky, hard New England trails and tarred roads. Heck, we even did Parades! My other horses have ALL been barefoot and I’ve jumped, ridden the trails, done cutting, barrel-racing (Championship!), dressage, competition, all of it. And, I’ve rehabbed thousands of horses over the years … barefooted. (no, not me – the horses went barefooted!)
I didn't have to get my first horse boots (they weren’t even in existence then) BUT ...
Some horses DO need them right off the bat after pulling the shoes. And that's OK !! 'Cause it helps them to MOVE .. and move CORRECTLY without the impedance of iron on their hooves. They learn to FEEL, once again, where to place their hooves for ultimate traction. They learn to FEEL the ground on which they move and that's all good. For the horse AND for the rider.
You see, horses weren't born with iron shoes and nails. They were born in perfect balance in BARE hooves! They're ultimately created to MOVE up to 20 and 30 miles a day on rocky, sandy, grassy, frozen, melted, muddy, woodsy, terrain ... and they're created to move SAFELY and EFFICIENTLY. Heck, their hooves even grow according to the wear they get!
Now, here's the catch ... if your horse lives the majority of his time on soft, grassy pasture then one cannot expect the horse to be able to get out on the power line trails and crunch those rocks without blinking right after removing the iron! No more than YOU can take off your plushy, fuzzy slippers that you've worn for months and go running up your gravely, stony driveway!
You've got to CONDITION those feet! Just as the horses have to CONDITION their hooves. And that ain't gonna happen while the horse is standing in a bedded stall or on grassy, soft pasture 24/7.
Hooves that don't move don't grow well. They don't get the circulation they need for ULTIMATE health. What can increase the needed circulation?
But, wait ... you say, "But my horse is sore after taking off the shoes. Guess he just can't go barefoot!" ...
HOGWASH! Read what I've written all over again.
MOVEMENT ... in BOOTS, if necessary, to help protect the tender soles that are unconditioned to real ground. Remove the boots when not being ridden and do some hand-walking with your horse on tarred road for 10 mins a day. BINGO … done.
You know where to find me.
Have a great week! Until next time …
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 includingThe 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 18 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. For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com Gwenyth also offers an online home-study of Natural Hoofcare 101 ... please go here: www.integrativehorsecourses.com to view information and to register.