I am trying to transition him to being completely barefoot (he has been barefoot behind for the past year), due to extensive research and the recommendation my farrier. We pulled his shoes three weeks ago, and aside from an even, very slight soreness for the first two days, he has been very comfortable and sound in normal work.
After he turned up lame yesterday, I immediately called the farrier, assuming he had a sole bruise or abscess in his newly barefoot, extra sensitive hoof.
The bolding here is mine. But, this is where I'm confused. Your horse has an extra sensitive hoof, but it was still recommended by your farrier and extensive research to remove the shoes? I think in that case I'd be looking into other farrier options. Seriously.
Here's my story - I fell for the BUA mentality hook, line, and sinker. I mean, come on - who wouldn't want their horses "more natural," infinitely "more healthy," and since "all horses can perform all functions barefoot," why wouldn't someone go for it?
I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but heck I fell for it. And my mare suffered. For MONTHS. And she's not some high-performance athlete, at the time we were riding pretty level, even, soft trails twice a week for an hour each time. Every time I called my "certified trimmer" about her pain, I was told that it was the "transition period" and to expect that it could go on for 6 months or more. Afterall, she'd had shoes on for years, how could I expect her to be sound right away without them?
I'm not sure what was the final straw for me, but one day watching her limp and gimp around, after months of not riding at all, I just realized that it wasn't worth it. There is NOTHING worth seeing your horse lame, day after day after day. And it wasn't just her feet, because she was so footsore, she was compensating in her body and so then I had to address her body soreness with the vet and chiropractor. I found a great new farrier, who basically told me I was nuts to think my horse could ever move around without some kind of 24/7 protection (and xrays proved his theory in spades), whether it be boots or shoes. I tried boots. We measure multiple times, and I worked with the boot company (not to be named here) to make sure I was ordering the right size(s). The boots, no matter what I did, gave my mare horrible sores. So, I gave up and said "put her shoes back on please." She wasn't completely sound right away, heck she was so footsore and bootsore that there is no way anything short of entire leg blocks that could've made her sound. But, she came around and came through it...and was completely sound after she healed.
Long story short, using my wonderful "new" farrier (this was all almost 9 years ago) who correctly trimmed and shod my girl, we were able to correct her many issues. Now, some 9 years later, she's able to go barefoot in the winter. She is a bit sore on very rough gravel for maybe the first couple of days...but it goes away very very quickly.
OP, please get a competent vet and farrier, and probably chiro, out to work together as a team to sort out your horse. Look, I get it - you seem to want to do the best by your horse...and you thought barefoot was the way to go. Your horse is screaming to you that this isn't the case, at least right now, and needs your help. Good luck to you, from someone who has been right in your exact spot.
“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion.” ~Emerson
I've had one OTTB that needed constant shoes and pads. He had horrible feet, and I preferred he stay sound. His previous owner insists on barefoot, and the poor guy was so sore he just wanted to stay laying down most of the time. Most of the rest of mine remained barefoot the majority of the time (always wear them when showing regularly, or trails around here). If they need shoes, use them! If they don't need shoes, then owner's preference.
That said, I am also an avid runner who prefers to be barefoot in everyday life as much as I possibly can. From 5k to marathons, including the Pikes Peak Marathon. I started using barefoot or FiveFinger shoes for short runs (up to 3 miles) a couple days each week. Now I am having horrible issues with patellar and peroneal tendonitis...from barefoot running. Yes, I transitioned extremely slowly. Yes, I have proper technique. Yes, my "real" shoes are minimalist or slightly minimalist with no more than 4mm drop (depends on what I need on any given route). No, I have never had this issue before.
The point? Barefoot doesn't work for everyone; horse or human.
"IT'S NOT THE MOUNTAIN WE CONQUER, BUT OURSELVES." SIR EDMUND HILLARYMember of the "Someone Special To Me Serves In The Military" Clique
Just want to let the OP know that barefoot or in shoes, having a correct well done trim is VERY IMPORTANT. I know that I thought my previous farrier was doing a great job, but after spending some time reading, I now know it was a terrible job, and my mare would have been lame if he had her barefoot.
Obviously your horse is telling you something, be it thin soles, bad thrush, contracted heels, or a bad trim. If the horse was sound with shoes, and really not sound barefoot, there is a problem. If the horse has thin soles, it could be very sore just from that, not to mention if there is stone bruising/abscess' brewing, etc.
Laminitis is a very real possibility, and it isn't always metabolic! It can be mechanical. Also, you can have more than one issue going on, which is most likely.
If you are brave, post some pictures to see what people have to say. It can only educate you further!
"On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."
I think you are doing a terrific job responding to the pressure on the board, so I am not sure you need my support. But I thought I would share my experience.
Last year I pulled my horse's (OTTB) front shoes (he is barefoot behind) for the winter on my farrier's recommendation. His feet improved a lot over the winter. They got harder and had a better shape. They also grew more hoof than before.
I did put shoes on again this spring because I needed studs for cross-country. I pulled them again for this winter.
Thank you for the support! My story sounds similar to yours in that my farrier actually recommended pulling the shoes just during the winter season to allow for some changes to occur. His original goal was not to transition my horse permanently to barefoot, but to allow his heels to de-contract a little and for his toe to come back a bit. My horse has nice feet overall, but there was an issue with a quarter crack six months ago and both my vet (after x-rays) and my farrier thought that being barefoot for a time could potentially help the foot find a better balance on its own.
When my farrier first recommended pulling shoes, I began research right away, leading me into the whole barefoot debate. Basically, since we were already pulling shoes, I thought that it would be an organic time to try being barefoot. Like you, thought, we compete cross-country (no grass in our areas, so little need for studs), so if my guy continues to be sore, needs shoes for competition, wears down his feet too quickly in normal work, etc. I will happily put them back on. I would be frustrated with myself if I had never tried being barefoot (especially because his back feet which have been bare for a year look better than his front feet), but it has been a tough decision. Even the staunchest shoe advocates I know agree that a period of being barefoot each year can have significant benefits. It's hard when other posters are suggesting that I am being cruel and careless for letting my horse be barefoot, but we each have to make our own informed decisions. Again, I appreciate the words of encouragement!
Considering that the average foot grows 1/4" to 3/8" in a month it may be that is why it took a month. When I pull shoes to leave a horse barefoot, I pull the shoes and trot the horse out in the pasture, use hoof testers, and if the horse is sound, I don't trim any length from the foot or take my knife to the sole, just round up the edges and roll the toe. So the transition is instantaneous. Either the horse is sound for its intended job when I pull the shoes, or it goes back in shoes.
But I do cheat by using Durasole to harden the sole and white line. Sometimes a little chemistry can make a big difference, sometimes it can't.
That hasn't been the case in my practice. I have a lot of horses that go in and out of shoes based on where or how the owner plans to use the horse. They may wear shoes for one cycle just to go on a trail ride where the ground is rocky, and then the next cycle, pull the shoes and still ride the same day on soft ground.
Shoes on for fox hunting season, shoes off for summer trail riding on the beach. Shoes on for driving show season, shoes off for hacking trails. There is no "waiting" for the feet to get stronger to ride. Either the horn is tough enough for the intended terrain and use or it isn't. And I run about 90% barefoot in my practice - barefoot backyard trail horses are my bread and butter.
Well now you can say you know of a person that has had thousands of horses come out of shoes and not be sore. And if they are, I come back the next day and shoe the horse for free. (Actually had to do that 3 times in the last 12 years. So there's PROOF that I have imperfect judgement.)
Neither am I being cruel by immediately returning to the scene of the crime and putting the shoes back on for free if I'm the one that decided the horse could go barefoot and I was wrong.
This is a very interesting point. My horse was very slightly sore for the first two days after pulling the front shoes, but it did not feel like a "crime scene" type soreness. I hand-walked for a half an hour each day, and within two days he was completely back to normal. We went on with our normal routine and he seemed to be doing great. This is why the sudden onset of soreness was so surprising and concerning to me.
What is your argument against the theory that hooves need a toughening period (analogous to a human's feet developing callouses when first going barefoot in summer)?
It would be helpful to see pictures of the horse's hoofs. Usually the sole will help identify any problems that may exsist and you would probably get help insted of being bashed on. It's sad but the barefoot vs. shoes debate is a real wedge in the hoof care buisness. So if you say you want the horse bare and the horse can't take it straight off, you are bad. Forget the fact that a cerified farrier recommend you try bare foot. He is seeing a reason for the recommendation, I am sure.
Equi Cast and sole guard will protect those hoofs. Ask your farrier if he thinks it will help.....usually does.
Thank you for pointing this out! I have used two farriers, and I am by far the happiest with my current one. I have high standards for whom I have working with my horse's feet. As the old adage goes, "No hoof, no horse." My farrier and my vet have worked together to examine x-rays of my horse's hoof (due to a quarter crack six months ago that my old farrier wanted to treat simply by slapping an apoxy patch on it, rather than trying to discover the cause behind the crack). They are conscientious, respected, highly qualified professionals. My farrier puts shoes on many horses and has explained to me time and again that some horses need shoes to be comfortable and/or to perform. However, he recommended (without prompting from me), that my horse be barefoot (at least for a season). In conjunction with my vet's approval and my own research, we decided to try this course of action. Thank you for the product recommendations. I will look into them both!
OK, I'll respond because I think I had a similar experience that may be helpful, PLEASE do not get me in the middle of the debate! NOT interested!
My horses have always been barefoot. ( I do dressage through GP, serious trails.) A new horse I bought 6 years ago did fine. But, after I moved to a new barn about two years ago, I had similar problems to yours. She has always been sound, but had what I thought was soreness, abscesses, whatever. Couldn't get anything to come out, and it kept seeming to "switch." My vet out--very good at lameness. What we decided was it was bilateral in both front feet when blocked.
We didn't do the xray route, but what we figured is the old barn and pasture was on the sunrise side of a hill and dried out slowly. The new barn is on top of a hill and dries out quickly. We had a winter (I'm in northern CA) where it would rain heavily and the dry out for a few weeks over and over. Her feet were getting softened from the rain and not "drying out" as fast as the ground, which would get hard really fast. and she basically inflammed in the bursa.
Heavy bute helped considerably, but we didn't want to keep her on that, and it didn't solve the problem. So, we ended up injecting both front feet to really get at it and putting on shoes. That really helped. I ended up taking off the shoes after the first cycle because she was actually getting more sore again. As soon as I took off her shoes, she went from 80% is sound to 100% sound, especially behind.
With Tom's advice, I used Durasole to thicken the sole so that she has that extra protection. I still use it abut weekly. She stays sound.
So, there may be something there that is helpful to you.
Thank you for sharing about a similar experience. I'm glad you mentioned the rain, because it normally does not rain in our area but for the first two weeks of having shoes pulled it was very wet. In the past week, everything has dried out (quickly and hard, as we are in sun-baked SoCal), which is when the soreness developed. Of course, there's no way to know definitively if there is a connection, but it is something to keep in mind while trying to get to the bottom of this!
Because I and other former BUA that I know have horses that can go in and out of shoes any time any place any weather and never need a 'toughening period.'
Healthy feet are healthy feet.
I want to be careful not to get too heavily involved in this debate, because at the end of the day no one is going to "solve" the problem of barefoot vs. shoes. However, I would argue that healthy feet are not always healthy feet. Perhaps by transitioning to barefoot, the unhealthy feet of one of horse could become healthier. Conversely, by transitioning a barefoot horse to shoes perhaps the unhealthy feet could become healthier, more stable, etc. Again, I think it largely depends on the resources available to you and the individual needs, preferences, conformation, weather, stabling, footing, and performance demands on your particular horse. By the logic of "healthy feet are healthy feet" the only circumstance under which it would appropriate to try barefoot trimming would be if the horse's feet are perfectly healthy. This seems rather limiting, as one might want to try this as a course of treatment to improve unhealthy feet.
Indeed. The unhealthy ones aren't going to get healthy until they are managed appropriately, and even then some horses are genetically deficient in regard to hoof mass to body weight ratio, i.e. QH halter types with 000 feet and a 1200lb body.
Just because one individual's feet had no tenderness and needed no transitioning does not mean that will be the case across the board...
The transition thing is a myth propagated by incompetent hoof care practitioners to cover their lack of training and experience.
I don't get what you are suggesting. Did the OP's certified farrier decide he was going to let the horse fix/balance himself by removing his shoes?
If he infact figured the horse could do a better job with the balance of his own feet he must be on to something.....as you stated.
If you are sugesting anyone can pick up a hoof and hack at it with no obligation as to the soundness or correctness of that action....you are living in another world.
In the right environment a horse WILL balance their own feet. Or go lame and get eaten. But sometimes the environment isn't quite right for "self balancing" and the human must lend a hand. Sometimes that means we put some iron on the foot to protect it and permit a higher level of use. Sometimes we don't have to do that, just keep the foot in the correct, general shape. It all depends on the horse's job and where they are doing that job.
But not all horse's feet are the same? Just because one individual's feet had no tenderness and needed no transitioning does not mean that will be the case across the board...
In theory you are quite correct. In practice, I think the theory doesn't hold up well.
Over the years we've owned and/or boarded up to 35 head at any given time. We are in a wet climate (50"-60" of rain per year). Our winters are very wet, spring is wet, our summers droughty, our falls sere. The pastures can go from being spongy with water to hard as asphalt and back to spongy in 10 days. And they do it multiple times per year. We were/are routinely pulling shoes as horses move in and out of work. We've yet to have any horse need a "transition" period beyond a day or two. This is with TBs, QHs, ASBs, Walkers, Spotted Saddle Horses, Marchadors, Foxtrotters, Rocky Mountain Horses, ponies of various breedings, and grades of various types.
If a horse needs shoes, and the owner does not provide them, then that owner is engaging in an act of cruelty. It's cruel to gratuitously require a horse to endure pain to satisfy the owner's idea of "political correctness" when it comes to hoof care. Those who enable this cruel behavior for money are lower than whale dung.
Well I'm a firm believer in keeping shoes on horses. Had horses since I was 10 yrs old, and have always had 4 shoes per horse. Heck, if I could have more than 4 shoes on a horse, I'd pay for it.
My farriers have tried to have my horses barefoot over the last dozen years. I have no idea why. Unlike everyone else, I don't want my horses barefoot and I don't quibble about the cost of shoes and frequency of farrier visits. Growing up, our old farrier came out every 6 weeks and put on 4 steels and off we rode all over the pavement and roads.
OP, I'll also a firm believer in having X-rays taken every time a farrier or vet recommends that I have them done. You can find out exactly what is going on with the hooves if you have the X-rays done, and you can see the results right there on the computer in real time. This will eliminate any worries about anything going wrong inside the hooves.
I also use durasole, which was recommended by a cother and which works for soft shelly WB hooves. I just wish it came in a handy one gallon size, instead of those tiny bottles since I have to order many bottles at a time from Jeffers. (One horse is a size 3front,2hind shoe; the other is a size 0 shoe all around.)
You can also use crossapol, which can be used on soles and walls of hoof to prevent chipping. Buy the 12 bottle case which is a lot cheaper per bottle than the single bottle size. Crossapol hardened the walls and soles of my horses' hooves. Of course they still wear their shoes, and now I use the durasole on the soles.
Everyone I know who has taken shoes off of his/her horses has had to deal with a transition period where the horse's hooves are ouch. The amt of time depends on the type of hoof (blue horn is the best) and the condition of the ground.
Thank you for sharing about a similar experience. I'm glad you mentioned the rain, because it normally does not rain in our area but for the first two weeks of having shoes pulled it was very wet. In the past week, everything has dried out (quickly and hard, as we are in sun-baked SoCal), which is when the soreness developed.
2 + 2 = 4
Of course, there's no way to know definitively if there is a connection
What do you need, a billboard with flashing lights? Good golly! Read the arithmetic on the wall.