Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Foot

No Horse.

Click here to skip this post and go straight to photos

If you've been around horses for years, you've probably heard this a few dozen times. I was reminded of it today when I arrived at the barn late from work with the good intention to work with both our horses. Last night we had a bit of rain, and by a bit I mean a bucket, and by a bucket I mean the jet stream picked up half of lake Erie and dumped it over Vermont. And right now, some where out in a soggy 10 acre pasture, Huey's right front shoe is relaxing in a mud bath thinking, "Boy it's good to be out from under that lummox!" If you asked Armani about it, he wasn't as pleased. I had extra time to work with him and gave Huey a good grooming instead. The farrier will be coming as soon as he can and we will discuss, as he had suggested the possibility earlier, if Huey might go barefoot.

Armani has been barefoot for over a year. Let me assure you, I am not a granola munching (ok I like it a bit), broccoli hugger (ya I do love broccoli), nor am I a toothless Texan (sorry Texas, not messing) looking to star on an episode of Animal Cops Houston (love the show), nor is Armani a brood-mare, and believe me I'm quite, quite sure I don't miss that much. If you asked me before I owned Armani if a horse could be barefoot and learn dressage, trail ride, jump a little, and work every day (Ok almost, but I do try), I would have told you no. And I know I'm not alone. We've gotten a few questions about our barefoot babe look (at least one of us is, and I know I had boots on) at shows.

A horse is a bit like a suspension bridge, sprawled over four tooth picks. Throw a pick up truck on top (or even a sub-compact), add a little motion to the ocean and you are asking for a lot out of those tooth picks. The trouble is people just do not breed for soundness enough. As far as I see it you've got 5 things you can breed for:

1. Appearance
2. Bloodlines
3. Ability
4. Temperament
5. Soundness

Oh, but what is with that order, you ask? I think too many people breed in that order and often enough do not get beyond 2 or 3. As far as I'm concerned you should flip that list up-side-down. They wouldn't all free-jump 6ft, piaffe in the pasture, or win the Kentucky Derby, they wouldn't have great-grandpa-super-pants, or be homogenouzigiouziezed for rainbow stripes, and they wouldn't get mistaken for unicorns. But there'd be more healthy, happy horses, living out their entire life with content owners.

I'm no expert but I believe not every horse has good hooves. Some horses will always need shoes. And even the best feet will need maintenance to stay that way. As I said Armani's been barefoot for over a year. It began when he threw a shoe himself and the farrier said "Let's try him without them."

  • The farrier still trims Armani on his visits.

  • He eats a balanced diet and gets plenty of good grass and hay.

  • He gets lots of turn out and regular exercise.

  • On the trail I dismount on rough gravel and I try to avoid too much pavement.

  • I pick his feet every day, if I'm riding or not.

  • I use a good hoof dressing to keep moisture in. I'm not sure if they work, but I don't think they hurt.


His feet have held him up, and me up, for a year, and I'm hoping for a good, long, long while (he's half Morgan after all).
And speaking of farriers, if you find a good one, keep her.


If you are looking for photos of good and bad feet, this website has some fabulous galleries.

1 comment:

bruce said...

i have known an appy mare, spot-i know, who is currently 23 years young and has been barefoot most of her life. she had a really bad shoeing experience when she was 9. my best friend then decided to try barefoot and has never gone back. i had a mustang back then that you couldn't shoe without massive trauma and drugs who i never put shoes on. we live in phoenix, az and ride everywhere. yes, all over our neighborhoods, done to dunkin donuts, etc. spot was born and raised in south phoenix and has never lived anywhere but the city. there are 150 miles of canal trails to ride and many parks. we have to cross two big streets to get to the canals but wether its pavement, dirt or gravel the girls always did great. until this spring spot was a member of a local hunt group that has rides across the desert terrain, she also pulls a buggy---the guys at mcdonalds love her. my friend got a peruvian paso in 2006 for christmas. ruby is 5 and never had shoes on, and never will. as long as a horse has good nutrition, good hoof care, and a responsible human companion most can safely go barefoot. i know, after owning a mustang, its the most natural way to travel. to repeat an old saying--you beat mother nature--. you can go around her with selective breeding, and that's where we get our problems. mustangs are a prime example of what a horse can and should be, they might not all be beautiful, but baby if you can make it in the wild you can make it anywhere. the hardest part in our society is getting a farrier that will do barefoot trimming for you correctly.