Monday, October 17, 2011

Pony Feet

Rest assured my friends: despite my inconsistent riding and blogging, my tiny little brain has been churning like mad lately. Here's the root of the issue: hoofcare.

A huge number of bloggers keep their horses barefoot with pictures of healthy hooves, sound horses, and even competition results to go along with them. Of course, there are plenty of you out there who do the same with shod horses, but...

Izzy spends most of her time barefoot, in general. I like it because it's cheap and I'm poor. She got front shoes on this summer because she was not dealing well with flood irrigation and the ridiculously rocky footing we have in the desert. In theory, I'm fine with this. I wholeheartedly believe that some horses can go barefoot and some can't, and there's no point in worrying too much about it one way or the other.

Here's the kicker--while I will never pretend to be any sort of high performance athlete, I do run to keep myself fit to be a rider. I have found that I am at my best when using the very least in footwear--minimalist shoes that allow me to feel "barefoot" while protecting me from the hazards of an urban environment. I am more balanced, have better posture, am more comfortable, and am far more aware of how I am using my feet and my body.

Furthermore, Andrea mentioned some months ago that in her observation, horses were frequently more clumsy when shod, to the tune of tripping and stumbling more often. At the time, I wrote it off as circumstantial evidence from a biased observer (sorry), but that was when my mare was barefoot and almost never tripped on anything.

On to the past month. We still have nasty, rocky footing. Izzy is fine walking over the rocks in her shoes, but when we work, I've noticed that she tends to trip a LOT more than before. Yes, the footing is crap, but it's been crap all along. It's just that now her ground feel and feedback is reduced that she's begun having problems.

There is an obvious solution to this: pull the shoes. This is what I'd do this time of year anyways. The only problem is that as of 11/1/11, Izzy and I are moving in with beloved event trainer to spend 6 months working hard. That is exactly two weeks from now. (OMG 2 weeks from this very second I will be with my pony at the barn!!!!)

Two weeks simply does not seem like enough time to try and re-transition Izzy to barefoot in preparation for a serious training regime over presumably also-rocky terrain. In fact, it seems rather hair-brained. I'm going to contact my (very pro-barefoot) farrier and get an opinion, but I'd like some thoughts from you guys, too. How long would it take to successfully switch a shod horse back to barefoot? Have you done it? Are you currently (or have you in the past) dealt with barefoot performance horses?

Am I completely insane to even think about this? My plan was to stay in shoes for 6 months, then go back to barefoot when we moved back to our current barn, but 6 months is sounding like a long time of a stumbly horse.

If you have a barefoot horse with occasional tenderfoot issues, how have you dealt with it? Please, share your thoughts. Obviously, if I'm going to move on this, it needs to be sooner rather than later.

World's most beautiful big mare appreciates your opinions.


  1. My opinion: she is beautiful! wow.

  2. will get lots of varied replies I bet. Well, I think you know we are barefoot. It works well for US; however, now that I moved Laz to his new barn, there is no tough terrain, and in turn has turned his rock crunchers (fronts) into soft dainty feet that ouch ouch ouch over gravel now. Their feet are FOREVER changing and adjusting, to their environment, to their diet. I like it b/c I know where I stand honestly in regards to his feet. For Izzy; first off COOL about moving in for your training, how super awesome. 2nd; How long will you train before competing? You could boot in her in easy boots during transition? It's a pain but it's an option, and then keep her bare while she's turned out, but ride her in boots? My thoughts...OR, keep shoes on and do your barefoot transition when you have time to give that to her w/o riding hours and hours.

  3. My pony has been barefoot all along. We recently went with front shoes because he can get a bit tender right after a trim. We had a show coming up and would be traveling out of town where the footing may also wear his feet down. We have hard pack with some rocks in the driveway and around the shop/grooming area, but the arena and barn areas are all soft, as are the pastures & turnouts. I just pulled his shoes on Saturday and trimmed him, (I admit I got him a little short) again he is a little gimpy, but with our next show three weeks away, he should be fine by then.

    I have always heard that venice turpentine can be painted on the botoms of the hoof and it will help toughen them up. I'm not sure how quick it takes effect or if it is just a 'pacifier' for us while the hoof toughens on it's own, but there it is. It's an option to consider and ask your hoof care specialist about. I haven't used it on my pony but until he grows out enough to toughen on his own, I keep him in the arena or on the paved roads if we go out and watch where he steps on the rocky spots in between. Of course, your mileage may vary.

    Good luck at the new barn. Sounds like a great opprotunity for you both. I look forward to reading about it.

  4. I love this topic, so I went ahead and posted about it! Check it out:

  5. Oh! A blog post dedicated to us. Thanks!

  6. It does take time to transition to barefoot - any time in shoes will weaken the frogs and heel structures - they need to develop and strengthen for the horse to be sound on all surfaces. I've got one in front shoes (Dawn) and two that are barefoot and have always been. I'd transition Dawn to barefoot too - it can take 6 to 9 months in a horse that's always been shod before - but she doesn't go on the trails (she's more than a bit nutty and unsafe on the trail), so she wouldn't have the variety of surfaces - pavement, gravel, limestone, grass, sand - to develop a new foot properly - she's only on grass and sand and those surfaces are too soft to properly build the foot over time. So she's staying in shoes for now. The other two, Drifter and Pie, have amazing feet with great frogs and heel structures and can travel on any surface just fine.

  7. No help here. My Tucker has utterly failed as a barefoot project. Chance is fine, but has never had shoes, so "transition" is not a word in our vocabulary. Toby can go barefoot quickly but he is pretty semi-retired, so the working aspect of how his soundness would hold up is not an issue.


  8. I think it depends on how healthy her feet still are. Shoes reduce circulation and the weight-bearing role of the back of the hoof, so if she has thrush or contracted heels, it's going to take a bit longer. I don't think she'll be able to develop rock-crunching feet in two weeks, though hooves can go through amazing changes in a short period of time, but I highly recommend keeping her barefoot, so something to think about is investing in some Easyboots (Gloves are my fav) or Renegade hoof boots to help along the transition process without being ouchy if you're going to be riding on very rocky ground. If you are feeding her correctly and she's getting trimmed properly, there's no reason why she can't do well barefoot. All of my horses (4 of them!) are happily barefoot and three of them are in full work so, take what you will, but that's just my two cents!

  9. Interesting question.

    Unfortunately, like all things horse-related, it is difficult to pin down a timeline for a transition to barefoot. If she already was going bare and sound over many surfaces, than her hooves will probably transition very quickly as long as the back of her foot is healthy. Diet plays a huge roll in footiness and the horse's ability to work on challenging surfaces. If she is tripping in shoes and was not doing so bare, than I would say that removing the shoes is in her best interest. You may want to invest in some boots if she will be working on surfaces which are tougher than the ones she lives on.

  10. I wouldn't do it. I'd keep the shoes on. For this reason: you are going to work hard and have invested in this, you don't want to have to say, oh, sorry, my horse is footsore today, can't ride. You could do boots, I guess, if you could guarantee they will stay on and be able to handle all the work (I have had multiple boots fly off jumping, so, yeah, not so great).

    I have not found AT ALL that shoes reduce a horse's coordination. Solo's been back in shoes for maybe 3 years? He is consistently surefooted and balanced, he knows how to use his body. And that's a downhill built horse, so there you go. I don't really buy the "shoes equal tripping" thing. You don't exactly see horses tripping all around events and the vast majority of them are shod. They can still feel their feet just fine, it's not like you're chopping their nerves off!

    There are many variables that lead to tripping -- is she really up in front of your leg? Is she really paying attention to her footing?

    From my observation, a clumsy horse is often one who takes his footing for granted. Running through woods and fields and uneven terrain will teach him that this is a poor strategy and he needs to pay attention and stay balanced.

  11. Well, I just had Jasper's shoes pulled off for winter and he's so sore he's been on Bute for the last 3 days and I've been painting Iodine on the bottom of his feet. Poor guy.

    He is much more confident and forward in shoes. I was determined to go barefoot until I realized it was hurting my horse.

  12. might be cutting it a bit close if you pulled her shoes now. HOWEVER, if she's not had a big transitional period before when you pulled her shoes she might be fine.

    If you are going to be working her at the new barn in primarily good, soft, deep (but not too deep!) footing you may be just fine. I know I harp on how great Durasole all the time, but it really has been the difference for Miles in being able to work in not so ideal footing and having shoes. Before I started painting his feet with it, he was ouchy on gravel and harder or uneven ground, and would trip occasionally.

    Now? SOOOO much better. When the arena footing is ideal (ie it's been raked and is fairly even) he strides out beautifully and is very comfy. He will never love walking on gravel but he will do it. Trails? No problem at all. It took about a week of painting his soles/frog with it almost everyday to see a difference, and now I do it once a week to maintain. A bottle is CHEAP (like 13 bucks) and a little goes a long way. Supposedly, it changes the molecular structure of the hoof to expand and harden. My farrier even noticed a positive difference in his sensitivity when he trimmed him. I am also cheap (poor) so I wanted to try everything before I put shoes on him. I'm so glad I did! Anyway, there's my rambling answer for you:) If you do decide to pull her shoes I would do it asap. Or, you can leave her shod and see what the new awesome trainer thinks, especially if she's moving really well right now.

  13. I vote for barefoot with boots and pads to help the transition. A horse in work once the foot is transitioned will be sound on the terrain the feet are conditioned to - it is just the tricky conditioning bit that needs to be gotten through first.

    Can we please get a set of pics of her feet? (even with the shoes on) - especially solar and heel shots.


  14. In my opinion I'm always going to go with the barefoot option.

  15. Quick response as I'm supposed to be "working" but P definitely tripped way more in shoes than she did bare. That being said, my trimmer at the time didn't do a great job of managing her feet and I'm hopelessly not educated enough to trust my own hands.. so ultimately shoes went back on. she stopped being sore, but immediately started tripping again. 2 weeks won't give you time to get izzy "rock crunching" but the longer the shoes are on, the longer it will take to get her feet back barefoot (my opinion). If it were my horse, I'd pull the shoes and use boots as necessary. But that's because I'm also totally willing to downshift the workload to accommodate a change. Of course all that being said, P has front shoes on right now (hind are bare) and her feet have never looked better... sigh. no one way!

  16. When I transitioned my horse to bareboot I painted his sole with iodine and DMSO. If you have regular appointments with your farrier and want more hoof growth paint the cornet band with castor oil 2 times a week. It works!

  17. Another thing to keep in mind (and I'm not saying barefoot is bad at all - I love it for a horse who can pull it off) is that hoof boots are not legal in the dressage arena, so if you are going to be showing, you will not be able to use them. If she's fine on footing, this might be ok, but if she's at all ouchie or gets a bruise, not ok.

    Hahaha, I know, it's almost an impossible decision. I've been going back and forth on Encore. I have finally decided we will put front shoes on him because it will allow us to correct his hoof angles faster because we can chop more hoof with a shoe on there. Which means less time that the bones are out of alignment, which is definitely what I want!

  18. I think you know what my anwser is. :-)

    Re eventer's last post--Salem's feet were all kinds of f-ed up when he came down here in April, as he hadn't been trimmed in months. We trimmed every two weeks for several trim cycles and got his hooves back in line FAST. The May pics and the June pics don't even look like the same hoof. So, yes, it can be done; it just takes a really tight trim schedule at first. I know Kristen (sweet horse's breath) is working with Bowker's rehab trimmer and started out trimming every week. That way, you don't leave the horse sore, but you get everything back in place quickly.

    So, SB, YES I would try the barefoot thing. Get yourself some boots (the Cavallo Sports look very promising!) and see how it goes. If you and Izzy aren't happy, you can always put the shoes back on.

  19. I am going to agree 100% with eventer79. I would agree that less forward horses trip more. And her suggestion of differing terrain, genius. I have 3 horses barefoot and Steady is shod in front. I tried for a short time to let him be barefoot but after he was dead lame in the middle of a trail ride I realized barefoot is not for him. All my others are just fine barefoot but Moonlight who is very much barefoot is a tripper. Steady's back hooves can handle it front not so much. So point is, he is shod in front and DOES NOT TRIP, Moonlight always barefoot, trips! Steady being shod in front is VERY sure footed and smart with his feet. So I don't really buy into the shod horse=clumsy horse theory. If you want my advice, do not change anything right before you going into training. To me it is just asking for set backs.

  20. I haven't read all the posts, and this blog was posted a while ago, but, I thought you might want to hear my 2 cents worth (:

    All my 10 horses are barefoot, they are on hard ground, with some rocks. All but 1 have great hard feet that are never tender. The one that's a little tender is a fresh OTT his only had his shoes off for about 4 weeks, they are hardening up pretty good.

    I compete, competitively, I do Sporting(barrels etc.), mounted games, Eventing and showjumping.

    My pony (sporting/mounted games) has never had shoes and has the best feet out of all of them, never trips and barely ever slips. We won state championships for sporting this year.

    My horse, (Eventing, showjumping) barefoot for 4 years (6years now). We were at a comp, everyone but my horse had shoes on. everyone slipped at a corner, mine didn't. (was raining)


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