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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Hoof cracks - update

31 05 10

06 02 11

This horse is in their early 20's. Written off several years ago unsound. May 2010 unsound. Now sound, rather lively and being ridden and has been since last summer (not sure of precise date).

Regular rolling has allowed the crack on this hoof to grow out. Trim intervals were initially 4 weeks, these have now been extended to 5. Any longer and the crack starts to lever open. The horse lives out 24/7 on very wet ground.

Hoof cracks do not necessarily need to be a cause for major concern, or shoeing, filling or otherwise high octane intervention.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

They are my babies too..........

Client asked me the other day if I get attached to the horses I 'do'. 

'Ooh' thought I 'Now there's a highly charged question!'

It's a fine line to tread - 100% putting out for the horse, their welfare, physically and mentally, but still staying removed enough so as not to tread on the carer's toes.

I am not so sure I do that very well.  So apologies to all my clients for when my enthusiasm gets the better of me.

Because you see, I do get attached to the horses.  All of them.  Even the little darlings that kick me every time I so much as look at them.  They are my babies too.

And the hardest part of the job is when you have to walk away. Because you can't trim a horse sound and healthy if there is something else going wrong in their life which can't/won't be fixed.  From inappropriate diet, unnatural living and perhaps the hardest of all (to discuss with carer anyway) riding technique.  And while I could keep pitching up and doing my 'thing'; in my heart and soul I just can't.

But there are huge compensations - I was just thinking back over just the last few months and you know what, without even trying I can think of half a dozen horses that were chronically lame, some written off, which are now sound and working.  And that is in less than a year.

Most of them, with changes in lifestyle and diet come sound in just a couple of months.  Some of them will need boots periodically.  But you know, boots is better than dead.

Yes they are my babies too and I love them all, nearly as much as my own.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Best time of year to transition

I have come to the conclusion that there isn't really a 'best' time.  It all depends on the horse, the carer and the circumstances.

If you have a 'metabolic' horse, when the shoes come off you may find a stretched white line, maybe a thin sole and a fair bit of thrush.  If you were previously unaware of these issues it can be a bit of a shock and it takes time to absorb the information and then adjust to managing the consequences.  It is easier to transition metabolic horses when there are the least amount of triggers around.  High summer or mid winter maybe.

Thin soles can struggle over hard, rutted or stony ground until they are restored to greater health, thickness and function.  But equally a horse prone to thrush is going to struggle with fetlock deep mud 24/7.  Not that it wouldn't be a problem with shoes on, it would, but it is more noticeable when the shoes are off.

These are just two of the reasons that your trimmer might recommend boots for the transition period.  So that you can keep a horse with compromised feet working, while you work on getting them better.  And as movement helps a lot, then it helps to fit boots if necessary to keep the movement going.  It is no good working a horse that is miserable.  You want to work your horse within their comfort zone.

Then think about you too, when you do your first barefoot transition it helps if you are mentally and practically prepared.  For some, the hostility encountered from well intentioned traditionalists is surprising and a bit hard to take. So do your research and make sure you have some support from somewhere.  You will be taking your horse bare for good reasons which you have thought through carefully, so write your reasons down somewhere, so you can remind yourself if the going gets tough.

Probably not a good idea to embark on the transition process just before competition season though.  Unless like me you gave up competing years ago (I so hate dressing up). Transitioning your horse doesn't mean you have to necessarily give up riding, but your horse may need boots and she may need her work programme tailored for hoof building purposes.  Boots go down like lead balloons in competition, so get your horse transitioned well in advance of any competitive activities.  Then you can proudly do your lap of honour 'naked' and not have to worry about losing a shoe the day before.

And remember, I tend to talk 'worst case' scenarios, some horses have their shoes off and barely notice.  Some skip, buck and grin with joy.  One got very 'fresh' - mistaking the foot care for foot fetish........ :-)

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Southern England, United Kingdom