Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Have I Done? (Farrier Edition)

Happy boys playing in the arena before the latest ice sheet
Ok, so I have this rule on my blog: no discussing of hoof care techniques. It's like discussing politics and religion in polite society. Just don't do it. People get all up in each other's business and things are said that shouldn't be. We all have opinions and we probably hold them dearly and if we want to change other people's minds, we need to do it on NOT MY BLOG. K?

That said.

Cuna has stereotypical TB feet. His last farrier didn't do him any favors, but the new guy is doing his best. Cuna's right front hoof has a badly underrun heel and it hasn't been getting better. Given our absolutely horrific winter weather and the fact that our trainer escaped to AZ for better working conditions, we aren't doing a ton.

I told the farrier to pull Cuna's hind shoes. I got my hours cut way back, and every little bit helps. He hemmed and hawed and muttered and grumbled. And then muttered and grumbled more. "Are you having a brilliant idea?" I ask him.

"I think we should just pull them all," he said.

After subjecting him to a string of questions and verifying that he would indeed come back out and put shoes on if/when it starts to go very badly, he did it.

"That's all?" I asked.
"That was a fine bit of work there," he said.
"Well yes," I said, "but usually your fine work takes a lot longer."

Cuna is boss horse. Go away.
So there it is. I never, ever thought I'd say this and I'm not convinced it will last, but my TB gelding who has probably been in at least front shoes since he was 18 months old is now barefoot. The plan is to leave his shoes off for one cycle to let his heels decontract a bit and hopefully get them growing more.

Only problem so far? Due to the aforementioned cut hours, I have to choose between new muck boots (mine gloriously died and we have INCHES of water and ice everywhere) and a hoof supplement to help him out while we try this out. Or neither and then I can afford gas.

It's not like we have a lot else to do.
So that's the story of my barefoot thoroughbred. Alternate title: "Oh god, oh god, what have I done?"

Someone tell me his hooves aren't going to explode into tiny pieces and take years to recover. I am really quite nervous.


  1. I did the same as you -my mare came with shoes (which she couldn't keep on) and a bad farrier. When I switched to my new and amazing farrier, we got her barefoot and haven't looked back. Of course, every horse is different, but I can promise that there was no hoof explosion, no lameness, and much smaller farrier bills.

    Hope all goes well!

  2. My TB gelding hasn't had shoes in, um...five or six years? When we were competing frequently I had front shoes with borium grips on him to give him some traction on XC. They always came off in the winter and Moe was fine. He's never had any lameness or explosions or anything.

    I bet Cuna will be totally fine! And your wallet thanks you. :)

  3. I have taken Archie's shoes off for the winter too. First time without shoes in 6 years. His feet are not getting any better or worse, and he is too flat footed and foot ouchy to ride now. He will need them back on before he starts up again.

    That is my unsuccessful story. I hope you guys have better luck!

  4. He'll totally be fine. Ella has typical TB feet too. I pulled her shoes off when she got pregnant and she has been totally fine! Life saver = Pine Tar. Its goopy and a PITA to paint on but it helps their little feet so much. I tried so many supplements and honestly thought they were a waste of time. She was sore and ouchy on gravel at times but you just have to remember that thats normal and as long as they aren't cracking then he will naturally toughen his soles and become used to it. Poppy has shoes on though so I definitely know both sides!! :) Go get you some Pine Tar ;-)

  5. We pulled all 4 off our OTTB last winter...and he did great. His feet actually improved - grew hoof! We put front 2 back on him in late Spring, just because he gets foot sore from going in and out of his turn out pasture (which has rock). Granted - he is mostly retired, rarely gets worked or ridden. But I am betting Cuna will be fine :)

  6. Good Luck. :) If nothing else I think seeing what your horse's feet do when they are bare gives you a new set of data points. Even if you end up back in shoes you'll know more about Cuna's feet and how they react and what does or doesn't happen than you did before.

    Plus, if that heel wasn't improving with the current plan, why not try something else?

    Also, I vote for muck boots. No reason for both of you to have sore feet :)

  7. Good luck, I hope it turns out better for you than it did when I tried Lucy barefoot. I basically lost 6 weeks of riding because her feet were so bruised/bashed up. Recently she lost a shoe and went barefoot for a week and then I got to battle an abscess for another week, caused from bruising. And that's WITH her on a hoof supplement.

  8. So in my experience when hard riding is involved most tb's need shoes, that said I've known a few that raced successfully without them :o right now we (by that I mean me, husband, and owners) have 12 barefoot turned out thoroughbreds this winter, all sound.

  9. His hooves are not going to explode and take years to recover. ;)

    Having said that, some horses do better barefoot than others. From what I've learned, it seems to be sole depth and lack of concavity that causes soreness after shoes are removed. But, feet can change quickly, and if he's not in hard work, you may be really amazed at how much change you see in just 6 weeks. Oh, and be prepared for the hoof wall to chip around the nail holes as the hoof begins to self-trim. Don't panic!

    And if you would like, I still have half a bag of BioFlax20 from Saga. He grew 10 mm of sole thickness in 6 months, and that was literally the only thing that changed in his world. LMK if you'd like me to send it to you! I think you have my email address - just drop me a line.

  10. Isn't it so amazing how shod v. barehoof is such a flashpoint? I do get so confused by people's zealousness on the issue.

    Anyways, I always believe that you have to follow your gut instinct. I worked for a psychic, and I learned that your inner intuition is more important that we normally give it credit for.

    So if your gut feeling is that barefoot is not the best option, listen to it! This coming from a person who has her OTTB barefoot. ;]

    I also vote for muckboots > supps.

  11. I yanked Red's shoes the day he came off the farm and he rode around like a wild mustang until the day he died. On the other hand, Bobby's feet would literally fall off of his body if he was barefoot. So channel the power of red TBs, Cuna, and be barefoot proud!

  12. Nothing is going to explode. Beyond that, it depends on the horse and his genetics. Encore has PHENOMENAL hind feet. They are barefoot right now, rock hard and gorgeous. He has one front foot that grows funny, so I let them be bare for two cycles (always good to give feet a break) then put the fronts back on and he is most comfy this way on any surface.

    Solo is barefoot but if he was in full work he could not be. He has shitty feet. His heels were crushed by a previous shitty farrier. If they are crushed long enough, they will not come back. So we manage and use boots if there will be any rocks or gravel.

    You will just have to watch and see. I always recommend at least once cycle a year barefoot to rest the heels, two if you can. After that -- they are all different.

  13. You give me hope!! I would be just as nervous as you about exploding hooves. My TB has horrible feet, but with an amazing farrier we have him looking almost normal. I'm hoping that by next year we can give barefoot an attempt. Good luck!!!!

  14. I have owned several TB's - all with "horrible" feet and have never shod them. They all worked quite happily in bare feet in the arenas and boots on the trails! Actually, they had lovely feet :)

  15. He is going to do just fine! I've owned Roz for almost 7 years and never had him barefoot up until this fall. He is doing fantastic and his feet have held up really well. Also, Chevy is full TB and has only had front shoes the whole winter and has done well. Hopefully he will see a nice change in his feet. :)

  16. I'm sure the Cuna-bear will be just fine. We owned a red chestnut OTTB for a few years and when we first got him we were told that if we didn't get him in shoes ASAP he'd go navicular, and be lame for life, at best.

    Well, my Dad started trimming him regularly and his feet were as solid as a rock in six months time, and never looked back from there. I am sure Cuna will be the same! :)

    bonita of A Riding Habit

  17. Wow, I had no idea feet were that taboo on your blog.

    Leaving the shoes off for a while is recommended by lots of farriers, even if they are not barefoot gurus. If you are not happy with the current state of his heels, trying something new is not a bad idea. The trim his feet received once the shoes were removed can make a difference to his comfort. The traditional pasture trim may have left him without toe callous (underneath) and with a long toe (top of hoof), which may leave him uncomfortable. Ideally he received a "barefoot" trim, which would have set him up the best for comfort and new, balanced growth. Good for you for giving it a try!

  18. The key to underrun heels is trimming them sufficiently and making sure the toe is not left long. Swipe a rasp over them once a week if you can in order to keep them pulled back. I see underrun heels SO often and it drives me crazy because managing them is really not rocket science, but it seems like something many farriers/trimmers don't know how to handle (not saying your guy is bad, by the way!). Th heels should be all the way at the back of the foot, which I know seems like "duh" but a lot of hoof care providers don't pull them back enough. I did an underrun heel post a while ago, with pics, for anyone interested.

  19. I firmly agree with your 'no discussing hoof care' rule and I don't give my opinion on hooves unless I'm asked. I DO however want to tell you that I currently have not one, but TWO thoroughbreds living with me whose owners told me they had 'stereotypical TB feet', 'can't go barefoot', and 'chip up if you take the shoes off'. I pulled the shoes on both. Both are doing MUCH better than they were previously. Both are sound. The only chipping they experienced was from nail holes growing out. In fact, lots of their OTHER issues went away, hand in hand with the shoes. And those are just the TB's.

    As an aside, horses get under run (contracted) heels FROM shoes. It's basically because the foot is designed to have structures with a purpose. The shoes prevent the hoof from doing its job so it atrophies, just like any other part of the body. The heels and frogs are the first things to go. It's like putting your arm in a cast for a couple months... when you take the cast off, your arm is all shriveled and useless.

    I'll be posting the photos of Dancer's feet along with his progress as he makes the transition to barefoot. I welcome comments and discussion and questions (even if you do them by email so other people can't jump all over you).

    1. I don't care if I get jumped all over on someone else's blog. I just like to keep the environment here happy and supportive. ;) Thanks for your comments! Much appreciated.

  20. I used SmartHoof from SmartPak and really like it. Best of all SmartPak is super and if you feel like the supplement doesn't help or you don't like it they will give you your money back. I hope that the barefootness helps Cuna! :)

  21. I'm excited for you. Bravo to your farrier for suggesting a rest from the shoes! He's a keeper I think. :)

    I wouldn't bother with a hoof supplement. They often take 3-6 months to see results so if this is a short term thing it would be a waste anyway.

    Now his shoes are off, to get the best from it, he needs to move move move ok? LOTS of heel first landings are the only thing that will build up the back of the foot again so he can have good heels. This might take 3 or even 6 months though.

    Don't forget that there is the option of boots for riding (yes, even jumping) if he isn't coping well under saddle. The more riding he gets the better his feet will be but only if he is landing comfortably heel first! :)

    Don't get scared if he acts like he is going to die and can't move. This is a pins and needles type feeling once the hoof goes back to functioning properly, twisting, flexing, sucking blood in and out again. This goes away after a few days so don;t panic!

    I'm going to stop now. I am way too excited about this lol!

  22. Keratex Hoof Hardener! I pulled Cash's shoes not too long ago and I really think it helped him regain his soundness sooner and kept them from chipping too bad.

    That said, definitely expect him to be sore - but it will go away! Some horses it's only a few days, some it takes a month, so be patient :)

    Also, cracking at the quarters is totally normal and will happen. If you look at a barefoot horse the quarters are naturally a little shorter.

    Cuna will be fine! Just be patient and give him time, afterall horses were made to be barefoot. Us humans have kinda screwed up the design by making them dependent on shoes. Shoes do have their place, but if not needed, it's really for the best to let them go barefoot! :)

  23. We have an ottb at the barn who has been barefoot for years with great success!

    I chose to have Henry is front shoes (we tried full shoes but it wasn't needed).

    Whatever works for you and Cuna is the way to go!

  24. My last TB used to be barefoot and went perfectly fine. I think it depends on the horse really. Good luck and i hope it all works out.

  25. Yay! This is awesome and he will be fine I promise. I don't like shoes, but everyone at my barn has them on in the summer and off in the winter. Their hooves do need a break from shoes because shoes cause so much damage and atrophy. If his frogs are small and soft with deep grooves you can use plain old salt water to flush out the grooves and kill any thrush. Killing the infection (a lot of people don't even know their horses have it) helps make barefoot less painful and gets them moving correctly so they can build up their hoof again. If he has some chipping just use a rasp to bevel the edges so they aren't touching the ground. :D Good luck!


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