Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Trials of Going Barefoot

This summer I made the decision to take my horse barefoot. His feet were a mess, falling apart out from under him. I knew I had to wait until the end of the riding/breaking/training season to do it. So in November, right before Thanksgiving we pulled Twister's shoes and began the battle to keep them off. I knew it wouldn't be an easy journey, but I never thought it would be quite this much of a roller coaster. I'll go weeks where he's doing great, then BOOM.

First I switched his feed to a low sugar and starch feed and took him off the sweet feed. Then I bought some Farrier Barrier and applied it to his feet religiously. It took a few months but I could see changes. First it was the strong, tight new growth at the top of his hoof. Then it was the hoof wall getting thicker. His feet gradually got tougher. But in the past couple of months (we are 7 months barefoot) we've had problems with contracted heels and now it's a nasty case of thrush. The Farrier Barrier is supposed to help prevent thrush but I guess it wasn't enough. So now I'm treating thrust before his frog falls off his foot. If anyone reading this has any remedies I am open to suggestions! I think the thrust is also what's screwing with his heels. It's always something. But it won't be this hard forever.

Going barefoot is not for the faint of heart. It is tough. You have to be dedicated to your horses feet. Always be applying stuff and picking feet. 2 weeks ago I learned how to use a rasp to keep his toes from getting out of control in between trimmings. He gets his feet done professionally every 4 to 5 weeks and his grain costs an arm and a leg. I had to buy hoof boots for doing any riding off the farm. I got pretty lucky finding a pair that fit on only the 2nd try.

For a horse with weak, cracked, falling apart feet you can't pick and choose what you do to get him barefoot. It's all or nothing and by nothing I mean you should probably slap some shoes back on him. I've seen people online saying they want their horse to go barefoot but continue to feed him sweet feed. They only want to buy cheap hoof oils. But I'm telling you, if you do it and do it right it will be worth it. And I'm not an extremest. I don't think ALL horses have to be barefoot. It's not for all horses. But for horses with several issues, it's the best thing. Let the hoof heal and grow stronger and then if you still think you need shoes, nail 'em on.

And the number one tip for anyone wanting to take their horse barefoot: KEEP AN OPEN MIND. Ask for advice and keep it all in mind. Don't make 60 excuses for why you can't do those things that people suggest to you. Remember, you haven't gone barefoot before, but these people probably have. And find a good natural trimmer. I have absolutely nothing against regular blacksmiths. But they care for feet as if they are going to have shoes on. So you want to make sure you have someone that won't cut the feet too short or cut out all the sole.

And remember: NO HOOF, NO HORSE.

 Day The Shoes Were Pulled

One Month Barefoot, before his first trim.
First or 2nd trim

First or 2nd Trim

January, 2 months barefoot

Over 6 months barefoot following a trim

Today, 2 weeks after his trim, after this photo I knocked his toes back a bit.
 See the thrush in both of these?

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