Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Barefoot Journey

First of all, what an eventful weekend it has been...

Yesterday was a long day of shopping with one of my best friend's M. After a morning at the barn, we drove down to one of our favorite tack stores for their annual holiday sale. Although there wasn't anything SUPER awesome on closeout, we did par-take in the BOGO clipper blades (a tradition and a favorite! yay body clipping!) and I finally got a breast collar for Cool/Johnny. This one came from the racing tack section, but I love it all the same. For only $36, I took home a soft, well oiled breast collar. I used it today on both Cool and Johnny, they both look smashing in it.

It was 65 degrees today (woohoo springtime in the winter!) so I worked all of my horses today...well, all except for Emmy, who decided to choke and make me call the vet, but that's another story.

I've been doing lots of research on conditioning and barefoot conditioning/hoof health. This has become an interest of mine since deciding to venture down the road of barefoot rehabilitation with my two "crippled" horses. Both Cool and Johnny have significant, yet similar issues. Both have been diagnosed with navicular and ring bone (my main concern with Cool) and Johnny has significant DJD in his stifles which causes him more pain on some days than others. Cool has never had his hock x-rayed, but I'm sure that trouble is brewing back there as well.

I used to be of the mindset that the whole "natural barefoot hoof trimming" movement was all a bunch of crap...and honestly, there are some "natural barefoot" farriers who I think ARE full of crap. I wouldn't let them trim my finger nails, let alone my horses feet. Perhaps this is because I'm from an area full of quarter million dollar show hunters who would never dream of going barefoot...the shoeless horses are yahoos just like the shoeless children running around!

I was all about the horse shoes...the wedges and the pads (pour-in's only please on my horses!) in fact, Emmy competed for YEARS successfully with just that package. We pulled her shoes one time in the winter and she was crippled as fuck. She didn't walk a sound step until I put her shoes back on in the spring time. I loved my farrier then (I still do) and I accepted the fact that my tender Thoroughbred just wasn't meant to walk without Prada's.

And then I moved out to the boondocks with (at the time) future hubby and the hunt was on for a new farrier. I went through 6 of them that first year...SIX. Every 8 weeks someone new came out to shoe my horses. I was ready to rip my hair out. How hard could it be to trim correctly and nail four shoes to some hooves? If you've never owned a horse, you just can't even being to understand the woes of finding either a new farrier or a new vet. Its like finding a new dentist....its just impossible.

We finally found R, a reasonably priced farrier who did good work and was (bonus!) from my home town area. We knew many of the same people and I found out that he actually shoed for many of my friends back home. We had lots to talk about, and I insisted that he not change a single thing on Emmy's feet. She was hard to shoe, I told him. Just keep her like she is.

Of course, he didn't. He took her out of her wedge shoe on our third appointment together. Emmy instantly went lame. I called him back, bitched him out, and told him to put her back in it. She HAS to have her wedges I told him. He complied, came back out and changed her shoes. Emmy was sound. A few more appointments later, I picked up her feet one day and realized that, once again, she didn't have a wedge shoe on. Except that this time, I hadn't even noticed that it was gone, and Emmy didn't seem to mind either. The longer he shod my horses, the more "crap" he took off them. I began to understand what he was trying to convey to me the first time he'd pulled the Prada's off my girl. R's philosophy is to grow a better hoof, not just Band-Aid a crappy one together. The problem is that growing better hooves takes time, and no one wants to wait for that.

Last winter, we pulled shoes on all of our horses. The temperatures were sub-zero, we had no indoor to ride in, and I was sick of popping ice balls out of my horses feet. R pulled shoes on everyone except Gus....and miraculously, Emmy never walked a lame step.

In fact, she's never worn shoes again.

In the years that it took him to sculpt my horses feet, what he did was make her foot grow to a better, stronger shape. When I decided to pull her shoes, it didn't matter, because the internal and external structures of her foot were strong and correct. She's never taken an sore step in a solid year without shoes.

I noticed also, that Cool, who has been plagued by mysterious lameness all summer, was also suddenly sound. In fact, when we x-rayed him the following spring and found his navicular, he really hadn't even been lame.

Of course, the vets gave me a regiment of shoeing changes for him. One told me eggbars, one told me wedges and another told me to roll his toe for the ringbone. We compromised with an aluminum shoe and a small wedge. I mean, we had to do something right?

Cool was sound for like 1 week, and then went completely lame.

Never blocks, Isox, Osphos injections and one more shoeing change....hundreds of dollars later I had a horse that was barely sound at the walk, let alone the trot. The Osphos did seem to help him, but the more we messed with his feet, the worse he got. After an entire summer of zero progress, I was frustrated and ready to give up. The farrier came back to trim him and I told him that I was done.

Pull the shoe I said to him I'm not putting another dime into this horses feet.

And miraculously, he got better.

And then I began to think. And I realized, that Cool has been at his most sound point over the winter and into the early spring, WITHOUT the shoes. It was only after nailing pieces of metal back to his feet that we really began to see lameness again. I started researching barefoot navicular horses on my lunch breaks at work, and what I found, really made me think.

To read the website that really inspired me, visit

I think you'll find it worth your time to read. I'll elaborate more in my next post! Until then, do your research my friends!

Until next time



  1. I pulled my horse's shoes two years ago because he was being completely crippled constantly pulling his shoes off. His feet were an absolute wreck. It was a loooong, tough transition period, but he is so sound now and his feet are rock hard. Never putting shoes on him again!

  2. That's wonderful! I'm learning so much in doing my barefoot research, the more I talk about it and read about it, the more I find people who are having success with it!