Tuesday, November 24, 2009

But I Like my Horse Barefoot

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.


Mrs Mom said...

Oh dear--- I hear this all the time. Seriously. Then folks find out that I do my own horse's feet, and my professional background... and they kinda.. stop.

How to handle this situation? First, listen to your gut. Ask questions - lots of them- of your trimmer. Watch closely, and see if you can pin point exactly where the soreness stems from. Get your trimmer to watch too- I know he has an eye for movement. The only suggestion I might have is remember- Rugby is HUGE. We have found that leaving just a hair more heel in really big horses helps them stay that much more comfortable in the long run, and prevent soreness. I also know that your trimmer knows this! ;)

If the crevices alongside the frog seem a bit too deep to you, you might want to get some White Lightning Gel, and pack his frogs over a weekend. That might help. (Email me for the exact site addy if you need to.)

So listen to your gut, go over him with a fine tooth comb with your trimmer, and see what happens from there! Give Rugby a pat from us, and say Howdy to the trimmer too!

Oh- good to see you posting! Hope the kids are healthy and well, and that you guys have a Fantastic Thanksgiving!!!

wilsonc said...

I always take my horses shoes off for the winter. My little guy, Boo, had a gimpiness a few years ago and I had the vet out. We thought it was higher up in his leg, but the vet watched him trot away and pulled his shoe and low and behold a small stone bruise! He was on stall rest for quite some time. I soaked it in epsom salt for awhile too. Can't remember now how long that went on. This could be anything and I think your farrier is the best place to start.

Carol said...

I agree with Mrs Mom that you should talk to your horse's trimmer about this. He may just need to do a simple adjustment in the way he is trimming Rugby's feet.

...maybe he needs to take less hoof off in a spot -- or like Mrs Mom said, leave some more heel or some other simple to moderate change.

I consider myself a barefoot/natural hoof believer. I will tell you right now that I won't criticize anyone for putting shoes on their horse, but I will never put shoes on another horse I own.

I still think there is a lot of research yet to be done on the whole to shoe/not to shoe theroy ... but from what I've read and what I've learned -- I personally feel a horse's feet are far healthier without shoes then with them.

It is my thinking that shoes affect the blood circulation in a horse's foot and they cause the heels to contract, neither of which is good.. A horse's foot needs to flex and bend slightly as they walk. When a shoe is nailed there, it prevents this from happening.

When circulation is deadened with shoes, a horse doesn't feel much (which explains why a horse who has worn shoes for a long time -- then suddenly has them removed -- is tender walking on his feet).

Also, if there is a problem with the hoof- (when the horse was previously sound), you will have a much harder time diagnosing the problem with a shoe nailed on, then if the horse were barefoot. A mild lameness can sometimes be masked with shoes, but that doesn't mean the problem is fixed. It is still there -- and working the horse could make it worse.

Unless your vet specializes in feet/hoof care, I would tend to look to a good farrier for answers before looking to a vet. Veternarians actually get very little training in "hoof" problems (unless they specialize in dealing with them).

The best case scenario is to have a good vet and farrier working together (usually with X-rays) to solve a hoof issue, but I wouldn't think you'd have to go that far yet..

I would start with talking to your trimmer though-- tell him how your horse is acting and have him watch the horse move on various types of footing. Hopefully it will be something simple that just needs an adjustment..

my thoughts for what they're worth...

Anonymous said...

I'm not a shoes or barefoot person, I believe in doing what you think is right for your horse and what you use your horse for. I also think that there are some horses that, due to breeding and foot structure, just don't, and can't do very well barefoot. Others do very well. I tried Maisie barefoot for an extended period of time in hopes it would help her hoof develop better structure, but it didn't work out for her - she developed concussion laminitis when she wasn't even in heavy work, and when we did x-rays we discovered that she has extremely thin soles - this is how she is due to how she was bred. I put her front shoes back on, and she's fine now with bare behind.

Whether you shoe or don't shoe is completely up to you, and don't worry about anyone else's dogma - trust your gut and your assessment of what your horse is telling you. And of course, follow Mrs Mom's advice - she's not called Mrs Mom for nothing!

southernbelle said...

There are a lot of interconnected issues to successfully going barefoot. I agree with most of what has been stated already. Trust your gut. Don't let someone talk you into or out of something you know to be right.

I keep all of mine barefoot, and I run into a LOT of people who just cannot beleive that we take rocky terrain barefoot all day with no soreness. Of course, I worked the horses up to that level of soundness, and I trim my own. Each horse's foot is a little different.

My "hardest to keep" barefoot horse needs trims every two weeks to re-roll the toe. If he does not get it, he quickly flares/chips and starts getting sore. As long as that toe stays rounded he is fine.

Good luck, and hope you can get the barefoot to work for you. I love it!

SunnySD said...

Lots of good comments already, so I'll just add one quick thought. Some sort of boots might offer a middle ground depending on what the problem turns out to be. No recommendations on types to try, as I've never used them, but I know a few folks who have with good results....

jill said...

Just my two cents here...I'm no expert, but I have moved a totally shod horse to barefoot against all adivce and eventually it was really good, but there were some sticky times too. We eventually found that Joe likes his heel a bit higher and his toe a bit shorter and hardly anything off the sole, ever, and viola, he was sound. Mrs. Mom might be better able to advise you, but if Rugby had been poorly trimmed previously, my thinkin would be that there is a lot of body adjustments going on as he is being aligned correctly in his feet. He's been used to standing and moving a certain way, maybe for years, and now your correcting it, or making it better for him, but there will be an adjustment period. Muscles,nerves,tendons,ligaments are also adjusting to his new feet and new way of going.
Maybe a chiro/massage visit is in order to see if he's out of whack/sore anywhere else. I know that our vet/chiro helps tremdously with this stuff. Remember anytime you do something to the horse's feet,teeth,back,or muscles..it will affect the whole horse in some way.
They are all inter connected. If he's only been getting done by your trimmer since March, in my opinion, you are still in the stages of him adjusting. You'd have to think about how much change has been done in these 7-8months. Maybe doesn't seem a lot to us, but a lot to him.
BTW, I believe you would see this same adjustment period if you shod him. But folks would probably be more likely to excuse any iffiness with "well he just got shoes, he's getting used to them".
Well I think it may take time with trimming too.
Sometimes shoes are the answer but trust your gut and good luck!

Stephanie said...

I agree with the rest. Go with your gut and take your time figuring it out.

I tried with Fawkes to go barefoot on all four with blessings from both my farrier and vet. It just did not work out, he ended up really needing them up front. I am OK with whatever I think works best for the individual horse.

SolitaireMare said...

Thanks to everyone for their input and some really good suggestions. You have given me excellent question ammunition to fire at my trimmer this weekend. I am definitely having the trimmer evaluate Rugby's movement and if he gets him comfortable I will look into having boots handy to try if he gets "sore" again. If the trimmer can't find the problem, then I guess a vet check is in order. I'll be sure to post what happens after he's trimmed on Sunday.