Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why I Put Shoes On My Horse

I have been playing with boots and barefoot on and off for the last several years. My endurance horse, Tanna, (he had only done 1 LD when I bought him) came to me barefoot and I decided to keep him that way. I conditioned him barefoot and even did our first 25 in boots (came flying off before the end) and his first 50 barefoot. Then he got hoof wall separation and I decided that I wasn't doing a good enough job keeping him trimmed by myself and since the nearest barefoot trimmer was several hours away, I got a good endurance farrier to shoe my horse. That was about 4 years ago.

At the end of my season, I pull the shoes and go back to playing with Easycare boots. With the early Epic boots, I had some bad rubbing after a 20ish mile ride and called my farrier to come shoe but quick. I figured shoes couldn't be half as bad as that rubbing I saw!

Since then, the Epics and the Bares HAVE gotten better. I was posting my results of my latest round of tests on my blog this past winter and I was having a good deal of success where I hadn't before.

There were a few reasons I decided to shoe yet again for this season. First, I was starting to see some rubbing at the 20 mile mark. Not bad rubbing. Only one small spot (about half the size of my pinky finger tip) on one hind foot. But something small at 20 miles can turn into a nasty sore by 50 miles and I was running out of time to figure this out before my first ride of the season.

Second, and the most important for me, is that the boots changed my horse's way of going. He felt clunky and unsure of himself at higher trot speeds (meaning more than 6.5 mph). He would dog trot with his hips cocked to the right or the left. When I asked him to straighten up, he'd just hitch to the other direction. I'm guessing to avoid hitting his front legs? He does not interfere in shoes and has a beautiful balanced trot that I missed greatly. I was also concerned that this drastic change would cause tendon and muscle injuries over the course of an endurance ride.

I had a few choices. (1) Recondition with the boots, slow down and get him good and used to the boots and hope he ends up being much more comfortable in the boots. I go slow anyway, so slowing down would mean no competitions until he got used to the boots (if he even would), because slower would mean not completing due to overtime. (2) Recondition barefoot to be able to ride completely barefoot, which I don't think is fair in the terrain that I go compete in. Or (3), get my good endurance farrier out to shoe and go ride my season on my conditioned 13 year old endurance gelding.

I opted for the last choice and since then I've had two really good endurance rides and some really nice bonding moments while helping with the Trace Tribute last weekend. I feel that I made the best choice for my horse and my situation. He's a very happy horse in shoes.

I will likely pull his shoes again after this season and go back to playing with the boots again. I still have 9 or 10 boots (Epics and Bares) and I can spend another winter doing more tests. At the very least, I believe pulling his shoes for at least 2-3 months a year is really good for him. If I could keep him barefoot and still compete without rubs and without altering his way of going, I would be happy to compete in boots, but until I can find that sweet spot, I'll have to go with what works for him.

I think barefoot's great and I really envy those that can make it work for them and their horse. Maybe someday that will be me. Maybe I just need a different horse with a different conformation. I'm sure I'll try all this on my next endurance horse, too, as I strive for the best for my horses.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I just had to look up your sight... (Jorrit from the motionbased log). Spiffy... I like arabians. We have Dutch Warmbloods (friesian www.hermanhillsfarm.com). umm, they aren't much for endurance, but are great for carriage CDE racing!
Good luck in the future,

Tamara Baysinger said...

Hey there, it's nice to find another endurance blog at last! I'm starting in on my first year in the sport (and blogging about it at The Barb Wire, if you'd like to visit). So, I've found your posts helpful and I'll be back often.

So far, so good going barefoot for us...stay tuned...