What do you say when you want to keep your horse barefoot(unshod) and you are getting the, "I think he needs shoes up front" suggestion. My horse has been barefoot since I bought him last March. In the beginning my trimmer had work to do to correct the poor trimming my horse came with and get past some minor cracks and flares as they grew out.
At this time his hooves look the best yet. However, in the last 2 weeks, he has been showing an "ouchiness" when led from his stall or if he moves when he's been standing for awhile. There are no cracks. The walls look strong. The frogs have been shedding a lot and the crevices on each side of the frog are kind of deep but there seems to be no tenderness. No bad thrush, although the paddocks have been very wet from the weather we've been having.
I have watched Rugby as I do groundwork with him and once he's moving he seems to work out of it. Occasionally he seems more uncomfortable going over deep footing or uneven ground or he'll take a misstep if he steps on a rock or twig. The best I can do to trace it back is about 2 weeks ago I took him out to do lunging and groundwork in the polo arena and he was feeling very fresh and in his antics on the line I get the feeling he may have overexerted himself and strained something higher up in the limb. There's no heat or swelling anywhere below the knees. Maybe it's a stone bruise to the hoof?
It hasn't gotten worse than what it is. In fact, he gets a lot of time off during the week and it seems a little better. I figured if he strained something, rest is the best thing for it so I let him hang out. When I worked with him this weekend, I tried lunging/riding him in the blue stone ring behind the barn which has harder but more level footing than the polo arena and he seemed to be moving better on that ground than in the softer sand footing of the polo arena. Hmmm...
The barn manager asked me this weekend if I noticed his gimpiness. I told him yes and that it seems to be getting better. Then he told me the vet noticed it too when they were floating Rugby's teeth last week and he thought maybe I should put shoes on Rugby. That maybe his feet are tender from the wet ground and the shoes will give him support. I listened, said thanks and yes I will consider it. My hoof trimmer is scheduled to come work on Rugby's hooves this Sunday. I want to talk to him about it first and see if he notices anything unusual with the feet and if Rugby is better or worse after the trim.
I want to keep the big guy barefoot. Not just because it's less expensive but because he's got good hooves for it and because I'm not convinced that shoes are the "fix" for this. I was always a shoe advocate but I've had my eyes opened to the benefits of barefoot. If I felt that his hooves were not adapting well to being unshod, I would have him on shoes already. Winter is upon us and my training time is impacted by the weather and footing conditions. Rugby will be getting a lot of hanging out time. I'd like to let him stay barefoot, just leave it alone and see where it goes. The horse isn't being asked to compete or even do more than walk/trot when worked.
Has anyone else had a situation like this, where you are being told you should go back to shoes and you just don't feel that's the answer? I want to trust my 35+ years of horseman's intuition on this one but would like to hear from you if you have had a similar circumstance and what the outcome was for you.