July 2, 2013

Oh, those front feet!

Like a couple other fellow bloggers (Ashley and Gingham) I am stressing trying not to stress over Rose's feet. She usually gets a little tender in the spring, and at random times throughout the year, but this year it is worse than usual, I think mostly from the quack trim job she had three months back coupled with a month of rain and standing in a muddy dry lot.

This morning she got trimmed again by my new farrier JS. This is his third time trimming her, and I have to say he's doing an excellent job. He might cost double what I'm used to paying but he spends a good 45 minutes trimming her, really pays careful attention to her feet, and to top it off he is a good conversationalist. I told him about how she's been off on her front left, so we trotted her out and he also tested her soles for pressure. This was mostly so that we would have a base line for next month. She's still off a bit on her left front, and looked like she even took a funny step here or there on her front right. It's all very very minor though, and she's sound in the arena, just not on the asphalt. So for now we are giving it another month and seeing if she comes sound during the dry season.

Post Trim. Looking a bit pitiful...she really wanted to eat the grass
rather than ground tie.

I am hoping whatever it is she'll come sound, but to be honest I'm starting to think that front shoes are in her future. Despite having nice big feet, she is a big horse. There is a lot of weight on those tootsies and it is near impossible to keep the flaring down. She's also getting worked more, and harder than she ever has in her life. Since I'm not showing this summer, and no longer selling her, I'm not worried about her remaining gimpy for another month if it means she comes sound barefoot. It would be nice to go at least one more year bare, but at the same time I don't want my poor horse chronically sore because her soles are too thin for her big body. I refuse to have her in pain because of an ideal that in her case just may not be possible to achieve.

If I had my own property I would have additional methods to try to keep her bare and sound, but alas I live on a golf course and must board. I'm fairly certain the HOA (and drunk golfers) would protest Miss Thing in my backyard. Though it would be a tempting April Fools Day prank. But, I digress. As a border you have to take what you can get, and you can't always control every aspect of your horse's care as you might like. That is unfortunately the reality. Right now I'm doing the best for her feet that I can given the current boarding situation (and there is no way I'll move her elsewhere). If another month isn't enough, then I guess we are looking at front shoes. Meh...

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


  1. Everyone I know is having issues and according to my farrier, every one in Colorado is having issues with soft soles. We have finally seen some movement in hoof hardening in the past couple of weeks. I used Farrier Friend and boots for Ashke until his feet were tougher, but even then the farrier says his soles are still very thin.

    Good luck.

  2. I feel like 'if its not broke, don't break it' because sometimes people put shoes on their horses when they really don't need to, but also, I think that a lot of times people try too hard for too long to keep their horse barefoot, I mean, some horses just need them! It's not ideal but if its what's best for the horse, then why not just do it! (Not that your doing that, I'm just saying that I agree with you giving it another cycle then just shoeing her)

  3. I have the same problem with my gelding. We tried for the last year to go barefoot and it was working for a while, but then come spring he was getting sore. I ended up putting shoes on again. I love the idea of barefoot and my other horses are, but I cannot see him in pain because I would like to have him barefoot. Like you if he was home we could have changed more to possibly make barefoot work, but it just isn't the case. While shoes aren't ideal, sometimes they are needed. Good luck!

  4. I have the dumb question of the week! I've been reading Gingham and Ashley's barefoot woes as well, but I feel like I'm missing something. Why do you feel it is important to go barefoot?

    Honestly, no criticizing or anything like that, I'm genuinely curious (that, and I can't pass up an opportunity to learn!)

    1. I personally don't see shoes as a bad thing. Rose is the first "barefoot horse" I've had. And to that end Rose is barefoot for the following reasons:

      1. Horse's feet grow until they are 5. Keeping them bare until at least that age will allow the foot to fully, proportionally and properly form, including nerve endings and circulation. Shoes restrict the growth of hooves (think tiny showmanship quarter horse hooves, that is not necessarily natural to have size 00 hooves). Now that Rose is 6 this isn't so much a concern anymore. Her giant feet are as big as they will get.

      2. When I got Rose she was barefoot, and you couldn't pick up her feet. You couldn't even get near her hind end if you wanted to keep your head. So it was enough just to get her gentled to the point where she could safely be trimmed (it took me three weeks). Sound or not, my farrier at the time was not willing to attempt to put shoes on her. Since she was sound, I kept her bare and began educating myself on barefoot performance.

      3. The hoof is an important part of the horse's circulation system. When a horse steps down on it's foot the foot expands and pushes blood up the horse's leg. Nails in the hoof wall can cut off those blood vessels as well as stop the horse's hoof from expanding and contracting. The horse then has to work much harder internally to circulate their blood properly.

      4. Shoes also numb the horse's hoof to some degree by cutting off nerve endings. Again from the nails in the hoof wall. The horse quiet simply doesn't really know where it's feet are. They still can get bruised and have thin soles, but the shoe can provide some comfort, and it can also mask other problems.

      So, I guess reason number 3 & 4 are the only reasons at the moment that I would like her to stay bare. I assume that is the case for Gingham and Ashley as well. Ashley is still concerned with reason number 1 as well. But I am not a radical when it comes to being barefoot. It would just be nice for her to be bare if she were happy and sound that way. If she needs front shoes then she needs them.

    2. I'm in a similar boat. I have successfully evented barefoot horses through Prelim before, but I also have my gelding in full shoes with some therapeutic needs - so I'm not a hardline fanatic either way.

      I do agree that a strong bare hoof is ultimately a healthier choice. I think it allows the heels to function better, remain wide, and I think it's easier to maintain an ideal shape and structure when the hoof is bare. 3 months with my mare in front shoes and I can already see her toe wanting to run and her heels narrow (and that's with *very* good trims every 5 weeks!).

      I also acknowledge that not every horse can manage a full workload bare, and even more horses require shoes if they don't have a well managed turnout/footing situation that encourages a healthy hoof...

      It's hard to know where the line is, but I think being thoughtful about the choice is half the battle!

      My mare is huge, but I think she actually gets better "support" from her bare hoof that allows me to keep her heels under her, than with shoes which easily rob her of load bearing surface...

    3. Thank you so much for the info! I really appreciate your thoughtful responses. I guess I feel similarly, although more because I have a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" kind of philosophy. It's definitely good to hear the more scientific reasons behind the issue though. So thanks for educating me!

  5. The two most important things for keeping bare feet healthy is diet and exercise, A diet based mainly on forage with little or no sugar is best and lots and lots of exercise helps strengthen and build up the hoof. Hooves are like muscles. If they aren't exercised they weaken. Also if they are in shoes they weaken because they aren't contracting and expanding with each step as mentioned in an earlier comment. However in a boarding situation it can be difficult to control every aspect in your horse's life, so a bandaid (shoes) are better than being in pain. I hope she comes sound so you don't have to resort to shoes, but you know that no one is going to hold it against you if you have to. We just want Rose to be happy and pain free. Good luck!!

    P.S. I was just sharing my tiny bit of knowledge on barefoot for Tracy. Was not lecturing you. :D



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