Early Days

Barefoot

Look ma, no shoes!

This past Tuesday I had Hemie’s front shoes pulled. Although I’ve been thinking about it for a while, I realize I haven’t actually posted about going barefoot before. Given Hemie’s hoof health, the weather/competition season, and my knee recovery, I decided now was an excellent time to give it a try.

When I first got Hemie, his feet were not in good shape. They were quite long and his front shoes were missing, though his rear shoes were on. His hooves were chippy and cracked, striated and overly dry looking. Surprisingly he was only a tad sore and it quickly got remedied with a farrier visit. I pulled his rear shoes off at that first trim, thinking we could always put them back on if he didn’t adjust well.

Day 1 – looking good!

Over the last 8 months (I’ve had him 8 months now!!!) his hoof health has dramatically improved. We started with an 8 week trim schedule, and in the scorching hot summer I regularly applied hoof conditioner (in addition to him soaking his own hooves). Then over time his hooves started looking overall healthier and growing faster, I’m sure helped by the buckets upon buckets of vitamin-filled feed. We had to switch to a 7 week trim schedule. Then to a 6 week. His hind hooves always looked better than his front hooves, which got me to start thinking more about going barefoot.

This past Tuesday I, too, had a farrier visit of sorts – it was my orthopedic follow up for my left knee. Good news, it still looks as though its just a tendon issue; however, in another month I should have very few episodes of pain or else I will need an MRI to check the meniscus. In any case, he gave me some advice on exercise and recovery, and I am officially cleared to ride. Okay, okay, well actually he said I shouldn’t ride because he’s afraid of me falling off and hurting it again, but he said the actual act of riding shouldn’t bother the knee at all. Which is practically official clearance. I’m going to spend the next month or so trying to get back into the swing of things but without pushing myself too much or doing anything that might be asking for a fall.

Anyway, Tuesday I decided to longe Bohemian just walk-trot to gauge what he thinks about no shoes. And he was a bit tender. His behavior was normal – willing, aware. And he was willing to do a nice medium walk as well as some trotting. But his head was hanging a bit lower than normal, bobbing a bit, and his front leg action was clipped – just overall sore on his fronts. We’ll see how it improves over the next few weeks.

I welcome your thoughts on barefoot, as well as suggestions for making the transition easier for both me and Hemie!

On a random note, I got the fabulous Oster hairbrush for Christmas and I LOVE it! Way better than my old hairbrush which knowing me I probably got for free somewhere. It seems to detangle much faster, and fluffs the hair so it looks fuller. One of many horsey gifts I got. =) 

4 comments on “Barefoot

  1. Excited to see how his feet do bare! Prairie's bare all around and (knock on wood) has stayed comfortable and sound like that all year in full work. Pia still needs fronts and I think she might always, but I really like watching their feet grow and change. It's sort of like watching really big, really cool sea monkeys! who knows what they'll do next :)

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  2. First of all, I'm no barefoot expert, although I try to read a lot and have 3 horses now working successfully barefoot. If a horse has been in shoes, the sole, frog and palmar hoof (heel structures) will not have been exercised/developed to the extent they will be by being barefoot. It takes at least 6 to 9 months, and maybe more, for a horse to grow a new foot, although changes start immediately.

    Two thoughts – be very conservative with trimming, don't ask the horse to work on surfaces that make him uncomfortable, and seriously consider using hoof boots until his hooves strengthen. Good hooves grow as a result of appropriate hoof stimulation/exercise and nutrition. Trimming and what we put on the outsides of the hooves have very little to do with it. I'd also recommend the Rockley Farm blog – it's all about transitioning horses to barefoot (and in their case, rehabbing horses who are unsound). Good luck!

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  3. Lol sea monkeys! But its true – you can really see a difference in healthy vs unhealthy hooves yet it is hard to describe.

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  4. Thanks for the tips and also for the blog recommendation Kate! Rockley Farm blog has lots of interesting info =) I've been keeping him on nice soft footing, and will very gradually introduce other terrain (trail rides) – gotta give him every chance to get used to it!

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