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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Thought for the day

I think I am going to stop using the word 'transition' when discussing how to transform a sickly shod foot to a high performance barefooter; I've come to the conclusion that it creates false impressions and expectations in a lot of people's minds. 

Almost as though the process is no more challenging than moving from train station to airport lounge, when actually there is usually the need for a tremendous amount of hoof structure development which takes a lot of time and application.  Often many months of daily grind.

Which leads me to success factors.

What really counts? Time and consistent delivery of the things a healthy hoof needs; decent diet and appropriate exercise. Not money or lots of facilities.  Just quiet determination and the ability to read your horse and act accordingly.

The very best hooves on my books are attached to horses that frequently live out 24/7, often in less than ideal environments, one particularly so, but they are fed properly and work their butts off.

Note: they work their butts off - a hoof needs to work, one that doesn't will lose function and performance even if it is outwardly 'pretty' and tough.

Those on full livery seem to do the least well.  And it's not because the owner lacks dedication or makes no effort.  But 'things' have a way of happening that throw a proper spanner in the works.  From unhelpful turnout situations/timings; to equally unhelpful feeding practices and time/cost pressures on livery staff.

More than one horse on my books has had it's health transformed by moving from human 'ideal' livery to something far less luxurious.  Not sure the same can be said for their carers though..........  (only kidding - the carers seem to cope just fine!)

I  personally found the same with previous horses.  Moved them from very nice stables etc etc to a muddy field with a track, no rugs, no electricity or school.  They did just great, so did my bank balance. 

And oddly I ended up doing much more riding - with no yard to sweep or stables to muck out I had more time.  And the feet working so much harder were so much fitter - and so was I :-)


Wolfie said...

"The very best hooves on my books are attached to horses that frequently live out 24/7..." Perhaps you have already addressed this, but do you think that horses get enough surface variety to encourage good frog health when they are out 24/7 and only working in a sand ring??

Lucy Priory said...

Hi Wolfie, um that depends... out in squishy UK marsh then on soft sand arena for 30 mins a day, perhaps not. But with mine own, squishy UK marsh plus an hour+ road work every day, yes. Others drier field than mine, some mud but some dry standing, plus work on hard rubber mix arena, not so bad.

- Just to add to this - Grace is very playful and likes to explore, so keeps her hooves fitter than others in the same field.

Rather than be too prescriptive, I encourage clients to do the squish squash test..... If the frog has a squishy middle, then there is probably thrush eating up from the bottom and the middle is rotting out under the callous. If it squashes without squishing, it probably just needs some time at the foot gym. If it doesn't give at all then you have got a 'good un'.

I am not sure that helps - but there are sand rings and sand rings and my idea of work might be too much or too little for others.

Lucy Priory said...

To add a bit more. A lot of clients phone me in the evening and are frequently bemused to find me terribly out of breath as I puff round the car park with Grace in the dark. All in the name of helping her hooves - our arena is rubbish for that, so even a car park in the dark is better. And the bonus is that she is getting very good at following me regardless..... or maybe she thinks she is supervising because I am well aware her opinion of me is fairly low.....

amandap said...

I think you're right to ditch the word transition. Lets face it, many hooves (and horses) are actually sick. Ok not sick that we see but I bet the human in a similar state would have lots to complain about and feel awful!

I think of mine as sick. It was hard to face it but strangely liberating at the same time. I think they are on the road to recovery now but it isn't a linear path and it's so easy to get knocked off course by the smallest thing. I accept this now and just deal with it and keep my head down.

I know mine don't work hard enough though, I made the bad mistake of ending up with too many horses before I knew better.

Anonymous said...

I just had to quote you on this "Almost as though the process is no more challenging than moving from train station to airport lounge, when actually there is usually the need for a tremendous amount of hoof structure development which takes a lot of time and application". What a breath of fresh air to hear this...I feel and i'm sure that you would agree that I have only just had this realisation in the last few months. It doesnt make it hard to hear/ makes sense,finally.Thanks Lucy x

Wolfie said...

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you! Thanks for responding. I like the frog test and I will continue to occasionally walk my guy up and down the lane where I board - hard dirt surface with small and large gravel scattered on top - just to provide some variety to the pasture and arena surfaces. :-)

Anonymous said...

So what is the ideal yard for good perfoming hooves? I'm a little surprised at your comment about how horses on 24/7 turnout are better. 24/7 turnout in my area has proven detrimental to all horses (all turnout around here is on grass) so the only other option is to stable for periods of time, hence restricting movement. Choice between hard place and rock I know, but what is the answer? Is 24/7 on green lush grass better than restricted grazing and turned into a stable for either day or night? What yard would you choose if those were the only two options available?

Lucy Priory said...

Hi Anonymous - why not leave your name? I always think that is a little odd - but that aside what I actually wrote is:

"The very best hooves on my books are attached to horses that frequently live out 24/7, often in less than ideal environments, one particularly so, but they are fed properly and work their butts off."

And to say anything else is to deny the truth.

I didn't say they were turned out 24/7 on green lush grass.

I have worked in a variety of countries and environments and it is so much less black and white than the colour or length of grass. This is why I encourage clients to listen to their horses and 'read' hooves rather than listen to the local ear mites or take too much 'wisdom' from forums and the like.

Taking hooves 'en bloc' then arguably one of the worst places I've been to is Scotland where the grass is considerably shorter and less green than my local Kent.

And I have clients whose horses when I first met them were too sore to stand on concrete without pads and/or boots which are now doing performing really well, completely bare. They are still turned out on "grass".

Some are on a track, some are in a large herd on fairly weedy unmanaged fields, some are muzzled. They all "work their butts off". And of those probably all of them would start to deteriorate when/if they stop working so hard. And Texas didn't win too many brownie points either and there was no grass to speak of at all there.

The ones that struggle the most - at least on my books - don't work very hard, maybe have an underlying and maybe unresolved metabolic issue, get fed something extra in the bucket (all too frequently I find its alfalfa). Or the owners believe organic allows them to feed higher levels of sugar and/or starch than really is good for the horse.

There are many reasons why horses struggle with 24/7 turnout and colour and length of grass are not the only culprits.

My own horse is the most challenging I have ever come across. In the right field she can go out for considerable lengths of time, if it were allowed (not at my yard) probably 24/7. But the field next door won't do.

Sounds bizarre but it's easy really. Field A which is ok is tightly grazed and has an extensive wood with a stream and lots of logs to hop over and places to explore. Grace loves the wood and will happily spend hours 'playing' and hanging out in there. When she does come out to graze she has to work hard for every mouthful. Field B has no wood and no stream. Grace is bored, doesn't move so much and as a consequence eats a lot more.

My preference for Grace despite her challenges is to be out 24/7 in her wood field (although not allowed) or to be on a track. Otherwise she is out at night and stabled by day. Except during winter and when it's frosty and and and and .........

So like I've said before the only sure way is to learn to read your horse, their hooves and their environment.

Sorry :-(

Oh and if your YM is totally unsympathetic and will only offer unsuitable grazing/turnout options then if it were me I'd move, as have a number of clients.

I might do a post on livery at some point.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lucy - I'm sure you know who I am ;) (and I don't have a Google account, open ID or URL hence the only option is to use the anon sign in) I'm having a horse vetted soon (this one is in work...) and all being well I need a good yard, hence my question.

None of the yards around here offer grazing in a field with woods/streams/track etc. It's all plain grass paddocks - some are more grazed than others, some are downlands grazing. I know I can change all other factors to suit the horse (i.e. diet and exercise), but I also know how important the environment is so for me it's vital to find the right place this time around. The more knowledge I'm armed with the better equipped I am to make the right decision.

Despite what you say - I won't ever give up finding my perfect arab partner ;) I'm not a quitter!

Lucy Priory said...

Hi Anon - actually I had you pegged as someone else entirely..... but I know who you are now :-)

I am thinking a whole post on the subject may be required. Give me a bit of time.

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Southern England, United Kingdom