Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Barefoot Hoof-venture: Pulling the Shoes

So I have made the decision to transition Oscar from shoes all round, to barefoot-- for winter at the very least. And it's been hard, actually really hard to watch him tense and contort his body into funny shapes to take the weight off of his hooves whenever we have to cross any kind of gravel/limestone.

As my partner is a (really flipping good) farrier, I'm going to assume that anyone who knows me and reads this will raise an eyebrow. Why would I choose to go shoe-less when I can get them for free, right? And what does that say about L?

Well.. This probably won't come as a surprise, but if you're engaged to a farrier you don't pay for hoof care. Pink shoes, diamantes, bar shoes, studs, heels - your wish is their command. Also, you're not going to take to Facebook to whinge (and rightly so) if your farrier puts you off for a week because they're busy/sore/tired/have an upcoming golf trip/*insert excuse here*. So naturally, you're the last client on the list, and also the only one who can be put off due to said excuses.

Add to the mix that I also don't really have much bargaining power because technically I should be doing the horses' feet myself. Once upon a time - I was a farrier too! True story. However, shoeing a horse is exhausting unless you're 'fit to the job', and since I'm not doing it regularly anymore - I'm well out of practise. My eye for shape and level isn't quite there anymore either. And frankly, being a perfectionist - L is a zillion times better at it than me.

Is this not a beautifully presented pair of hind feet? Room for heel expansion, perfect clenches and shape, well balanced - it ticks all the boxes.

Now if I had any horse other than Oscar, it would probably be ok that I'm occasionally pushed back by a week or so. But, my horse has a plethora of hoof issues. If I'm to shoe him, it needs to be on a strict 6 week schedule. Once upon a time, I said he'd never wear shoes again because of this. His feet are boxy and tend to grow upright instead of laterally. He has suffered severely contracted heels at the hands of past farriers, and where really accomplished master farriers prescribed remedial shoeing and scary spring shoes, L managed to open up his heels through basic, regular shoeing done to his usual high standards :D. However, as time has gone on and he doesn't need to 'impress me' anymore (haha) Oscar and I have been pushed farther and farther down the queue. Just compare the below near fore to the one in the above jumping shot, and you can see deterioration of the frog even within one shoeing cycle.

And so, after being given one too many "tomorrow's" when requesting my horse's shoes be refit, I just bit the bullet and picked up L's tools, pulling Oscar's shoes myself. I've always had a massive respect for barefoot performance, and I don't intend to have the shoes put back on if I can achieve healthier hooves by taking the barefoot route. So as such - our barefoot hoof-venture has begun.

(Oscar is also a super candidate for going barefoot, he has sole on top of sole so won't run into as many problems as his thin-soled cousins.)

In the next 'instalment' I'll share above, front on and side shots of each hoof to get an understanding of what needs to change, and then check in monthly to watch the changes that occur. Whilst I was frustrated over my #farrierproblems, this little adventure is actually quite exciting!

And as a completely necessary disclaimer, this little hoof adventure is in no way, shape or form, me joining #teambarefoot or #thebarefootrevolution or anything like that. I have seen first hand that you can maintain and absolutely improve hoof health through regular and correct shoeing. Shoes totally have their place and should we need them in the future I am not adverse to that at all. I just have trouble getting a farrier on time; just like the old saying goes "the builder's house is the last to be built". And routine farriery is kinda a big deal if you want healthy hooves. So there.

If any reader of this post is an advocate for barefoot hoofcare, and can link me to informative articles (particularly relating to the transitioning stage) in the comments below, I'd be very grateful. 
I do have L to bounce ideas off, and he is extremely supportive of the switch to barefoot, he recommends and prefers horses to go without shoes where possible himself; but extra reading never hurt anyone, right?! Right.

Here's to healthier hooves!


  1. Yay! I love watching the barefoot transition in horses. So, so interesting.

  2. Replies
    1. Not as brave as tackling the refit myself haha!

  3. Good luck with the transition!!

    1. Thank you!
      I need strength to get through the 'crippled-off-grass/sand' stage!