My Path to Barefoot by Letha Simmons
I would like to share why I went down the barefoot path, including using equine boots, and some of what I have learned on this road of discovery. I am not a veterinarian but I have spent countless hours studying the barefoot concept.
I obtained a horse about 20 years ago that had laminitis. I was suddenly thrown into a world of why to do barefoot trims and the nutrition necessary for a sound hoof/horse to save this mare.
I went to seminars/clinics by some of the most knowledgeable people at the time in the U.S. (Tomas Teskey, DVM; Robert Bowker, DVM; Pete Ramey, and more). I have continued to study the anatomy of the horse’s legs and barefoot trims throughout the years since. I dissected hooves and studied how the bones from the knee down on the horse move. I have always had a quest for knowledge and I can’t get enough information at times. I have not shod a horse since the initial barefoot clinic. I firmly believe if a person learns/studies the effects of the iron horse shoe, they would probably feel the same as I, they would “never” put a steel shoe on a horse again.
I will touch on some the many issues of using steel shoes. One of the biggest is the concussion/vibration caused by the steel shoe. This has been studied many times and there is consensus that structural alteration in the lamellae of the corium are serious when using steel shoes versus going barefoot. The lack of absorption creates pain and often, debilitating damage to the lamellae along with the stress to the joints with the ultimate end result being pain and/or unsoundness. With technology as it is today, one can now test to see the impact something has on an equine limb. What they found was the impact on asphalt with a shod limb was nearly 10 times the impact with a barefoot limb. Not to mention the lack of blood flow in the shod limb versus the barefoot limb due to the digital cushion not making contact with the ground on shod horses. Horses are known to be stoic and not show pain until its extreme. Due to being a prey animal, if they showed pain, they would be lunch or dinner all too often. Our equine friends put up with so much for us and never complain, or if they do complain we don’t really know the cause of their pain (until it’s too late). I live in Southern Arizona, U.S.A. where our soil/pens/riding trails are often the consistency of a paved/asphalt road. Basically rock hard. Our horses are not walking on normal soil that has “give” or cushion of any kind. Oh, we do have sand and soft dirt here and there but in general, hard packed ground is what you would ride on plus often the area is covered with sharp rocks.
A few months ago I purchased a horse from Kentucky, U.S.A. where the soil is soft and it rains all the time. He would have been lame if I had not booted with pads when I transitioned him to our environment. He wore his Scoot Boots 24/7 for several weeks. He has almost totally grown out a new hoof and the supporting mechanisms are coming into place nicely. Without the boots and pads, it would not have gone near as smoothly nor would I have been able to have continued riding him throughout this period of time.
Speaking of rock hard ground/trails/pens, it is amazing how many horses end their useful life as riding horses as teenagers rather than in their 20’s. I suspect it is due to the use of steel shoes which cause so much damage to the limbs of the horse. In addition to the concussion causing issues to the limbs one needs to look at the bone structures from the fetlock to the coffin bone. They are basically in a somewhat straight line. When a horse is barefoot, the hoof can actually bend/absorb a lot of the side/uneven force whereas a steel shoe forces this “straight” line of bones to be tweaked to one side or the other when stepping on an uneven surface. This constant tweaking/bending of these joints could well be the partial cause of navicular or ring bone. We have more range of motion in our wrists and ankles and can move those joints to a large degree sideways as well as backward and forward, whereas the horse’s lower leg from the pastern to the hoof is truly designed to move in basically one general, forward and backward not twisting or sideways.
I’d like to speak about boots for a bit now. Twenty years ago, boots were impossible to get on and impossible to get off, yet they would fall off as soon as you increased your speed from a walk to something else! I used a specific brand of boots 19 of those years. Going through at least 7 different design/changes during that time frame. But I was never satisfied. I was tired of needing a rubber mallet to put them on, a crowbar to get them off, Velcro that tore easily and filled up with seed heads and boots that wore out in just a few weeks. In the winter, I had to put them under the heater vent to have any hope of getting them on.
A few years back I had heard about Scoot Boots but they were not available in the U.S. I was so disappointed but never forgot about them. I hit a point with my former brand of hoof boots that I simply had to seek out something else.The quality was going downhill and I was tired of constantly replacing boots. I sought out Scoot Boots again and yeah, I could finally purchase them which I did so immediately. I became so impressed by the boots, I decided to become a dealer fitting and selling them.
Some of the best things about Scoot Boots are they:
- last longer than the brand I was using
- stay on better
- are SO much easier to put on
- add less weight to the horse’s leg
- tend to flex with the surface allowing the hoof to do its own flexing when necessary
- are less bulky
This article only touches the surface as to why my horses are barefoot and will always be that way. And yes, I am passionate about this. Having your horses barefoot does take a little more effort on your part but the payoff is great. If you are not certain whether to go barefoot or to stay with shoes, I honestly advise you to do some research, attend one or more barefoot workshops, etc. Your horse will benefit from it so much and possibly stay rideable/drivable a few extra years!
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Letha Simmons has owned and raised horses for over 40 of years. Letha learned how to do barefoot trims twenty years ago but is not a trimmer or a farrier, concentrating only on her own herd. She’s owned Morgan horses for over 20 years and spent a few years raising naturally gaited Morgan horses. Having studied equine colour genetics and nutrition, she knows that nutrition is a big part of having a successful barefoot horse. She also believes that solid hooves come from the inside out and is influenced by how you house your horses.
Letha trail rides her own horses all over the U.S.
Southwest Scoot Boots
Mescal, Arizona, U.S.A.