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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Monday, December 22, 2008

Compromise - A Response

Well, I had lots of very awesome and interesting responses to my last blog post, so I thought I would put my response in another post.

First of all, I want to make this perfectly clear - I am no barefoot nazi! I have no interest in trying to convert everyone in my path. The point of my last post was to talk about propaganda in both the shoeing AND the barefoot world, and just as I think it's wrong to spin a yarn about the why a horse needs X Y or Z shoes, I think it's wrong for a barefoot person to go on about how shoes are KILLING horses and CRIPPLING horses and people who shoe are just EVIL and CRUEL and all that nonsense some barefoot folks go on about. No, if us pro-barefooters are ever going to positively impact the world, we need to be SANE about it, and a lot of people don't take us seriously because a lot of us AREN'T sane! I'm not out to make people angry, I'm not out to convert people, I'm not interested in making people upset or suggesting that I might even remotely have enough knowledge to advise them on such a big decision, or tell them what they are doing is or is not wrong. Like I mentioned somewhere in my post, I think that both barefoot trimmers and farriers are viable options for horse owners, and that's why these two worlds need to work together and figure out a way to unite their differences. And I also agree that the advice of a competent vet should always be in order, but sometimes, competent vets just.. aren't around. There are vets in this area who still recommend a big huge bran mash after a horse has a traumatic colic :O Now if a vet is THAT old school in his thinking (and in that case, wrong!!), then I certainly DON'T want him making a call on my horse's soundness! This is the problem though... shoeing is a very old tradition, and it's just commonplace for a vet to recommend shoes for this or that kind of problem. It's NOT yet common for vets to recommend removing shoes for problems like navicular and founder, because it is such a novel idea at this point. But no, if I gave the impression that I'm some nutso barefoot lunatic then I am very sorry indeed, because I am FAR from it!

Daun brings up a good point about her mare, how she tried her hardest for a long time to make the barefoot thing work for this horse, and it just didn't, for whatever reason. I'm a huge believer in early development in hooves, and keeping young hooves bare and healthy and youngsters moving and playing like they should be, because this really, really impacts how hooves can hold up later in life. Stick with me, this explanation is long, but I will bring it back around to this point, I promise. Now, I have no idea what Daun's mare's history is, so I am in no way insinuating that this mare in particular was shod at a young age or ever improperly shod as a baby or whatever, but my point is that there ARE a lot of young, baby feet who, for one reason or another, find themselves in shoes as weanlings, or yearlings, or two and three year-olds. Bowker did some very interesting dissections of older hooves that had been shod at tender, young ages, and found that if a hoof is shod before its internal structures have time to fully develop, an early shoe will essentially "freeze" the internal structures of the feet so that they remain immature and undeveloped. This means that while an adult hoof may appear fully grown on the outside, inside they can't hold up to whatever a normal bare hoof might be asked to do on a regular basis. I can only assume it hurts these horses when their shoes are removed and their internally immature structures are asked to move in ways that they aren't adjusted to moving. Do the immature structures remodel (bone, digital cushion, lateral cartileges) when the shoe is removed? I don't know. They have to, to some degree. But they won't be the same as a hoof that was kept naturally, or a feral hoof, or a hoof that wasn't shod until an older age. But I do feel like this situation explains why a lot of people are on about "tiny, boxy, crappy QH feet" and "flat-footed, underslung, crappy TB feet"... less because of genetics, more because QHs and TBs are shod this way as babies (weanlings and long yearlings) in order to show or race.

This is all so much more than just a trim or a pair of shoes. It's work, it's environment, it's diet, and it's care, and I think there is absolutely no reason why a good competent farrier OR trimmer should not be able to keep a horse healthy, sound and happy. HOWEVER, that being said, I am an unfortunate product of a generation of progressive thinkers... and here's what I believe, and will strive to stick to for the rest of my life.

I believe that the era of shoes will come to an end, but it won't be soon. The equestrian world is is seeped in tradition, that's for sure, and the tradition of shoeing horses won't die easily. I don't think that barefooting will fully replace shoes. What I DO think will happen is that people will start searching for a healthier alternative to shoes, but will still ask for traction, protection, and safety. What we need to develop is a booting program - hoof boots for the VERY high performance horse. Hoof boots that will give the Advanced level event horse the grip and traction it needs without risk of chafing or losing a boot mid-ride. Hoof boots that will dissipate force as a horse comes off of a Grand Prix level fence, and will still offer a safe, non-torquing turning ability that is otherwise unparalleled. Hoof boots that, after a competition or heavy training session is over, can be removed, and the hoof can be allowed to function in a healthy, natural way, which will contribute to overall soundness, happiness, and health. Think of it as going out to run a marathon in your high-tech running shoes, and then coming home at the end of the day to kick them off and relax. There is a future in this, I believe it. There is a future and this CAN work for upper level horses. Can an Advanced level horse run a full course barefoot? I don't know. Nobody's ever done it before. It would be great if it could be done barefoot, but can it? I hear the argument that "we do unnatural things with our horses (and that's why shoeing is okay, because it's unnatural too)", and I agree that we do ask these animals to perform far beyond what they would ever, ever do in the wild - simply by putting a rider on their backs, much less ask them to jump 6' fences or do passage-piaffe-passage transitions. We ask their bodies to do so much for us, just for the sake of our own enjoyment, and we ask their hooves to do just as much.

The way I see it is sort of like this.... look at a 1940's running shoe. It used to be state of the art, a very long time ago, it's simple, it works in the most rudimentary way but it's way outdated now. Now, look at a 2008 running shoe. It's sleek, it's high-tech, it's made of the most state-of-the-art materials and it is designed to give the athlete an edge while also preventing injury, and supporting the biomechanics of the lower-limb at the same time. This is how I view metal shoes versus the future in hoof boots. One has always worked, sort of, until now, and one is the future of the equine sport world - it will be high-tech and designed for safety and minimizing injury, as well as promoting the overall health of the horse.

Old 1940's running shoe, 2008 running shoe

Regular horseshoe, Renegage Hoof Boot

(Ironically, check out this article about 'barefoot running shoes' and the health benefits of running barefoot that professional runners are now starting to embrace..... see a trend here? I do!)

So, in conclusion.... I don't think just any horse can go barefoot, given its history. Sometimes, there are limiting factors. I do think that horseshoes will eventually be viewed as an antiquated practice that will still continue, of course, but that will start to lose favor in the face of healthier, safer, and less expensive (in terms of vet bills AND shoeing bills) alternatives, such as hoof boots designed specifically for horses working at the very top levels of competition that can be removed when the competition is over. Endurance people are already on board with this idea... now, we just have to get other diciplines looking into it too!


Kris said...

Don't worry, you didn't sound like a crazy barefoot nazi!

The concept of high tech/performance boots is an interesting one! Also something I had never considered. The only boots I have either fall off wayyyy to easily or rub so if the technology could be improved I think it would be definitely something to explore.

I hate the idea of shoeing a horse as a yearling... Let them grow up!! I guess this goes hand in hand with starting them really young as well, something else I abhor.

Has anyone here heard of rubber shoes? They glue on I think, I heard about them second hand but don't really have any details. It's something I would like to look into as a happy medium.

Beckz said...

you certainly haven't come across as a nazi at all, it's nice to see disscussion on barefoot in a normal and reasonable way.

Daun said...

I hope you don't think that I was implying you were a barefoot nut bag. In fact, I USED to be one until I was confronted with the tragedy of my mare.

Just a bit more background. I bought her as a long three year old. She was already jumping 3'6" on the FL circuit and already in egg bar shoes. I absolutely believe that poor shoeing and early jumping caused her problems. I didn't know any better so she stayed in shoes for a long time. Long enough for her digital cushion to just give up.

Brego's hoof is so healthy, his digital cushion so firm. Her's is like a weak sponge, even now after many years of barefoot trimming. I've had xrays done, lameness evals done, her sole thickness is fine, her coffin bone is fine (miraculously) and no, at 19 there are no traces of navicular even though she was positively diagnosed (via xrays) as a 4 year old. In short, there is nothing "wrong" with her feet, but she can't stay in heavy work and be sound.

Just one of those things....

barehoofer said...

Hi Andrea this is SHerry, the answer to your question If you pull shoes on a horse whose foot structure is imature on the inside, will it "mature"...the answer is YES. But it takes 2 to 3 years for a horse to completely heal. Although, The owner will begin to see very very positive results alot sooner. Hoof Boots are a must with horses that have this much damage, or don't use the negative word, how about hooves that have been "held back in development"....

The Renegade boot is probably the best boot on the market. Also, for your readers. They now have glue ons tested on 100 mile rides etc etc. You can leave a glue on "on" for about 5 days safely. So they are no likely to come loose, or you to loose them on a ride. Most of my more serious clients use glue ons for competition ( endurance in their case) and regular dailys ( as it would be) for training.

Also, if a Swiss Horse Boot is fitted correctly, it doesn't come off either. Your readers need to seek competent Hoof care professionals who are trained ( REALLY) in Hoof Boots.

Its nice to read your blog. Its like having you "home" again!


Andrea said...

Sherry!!! It's good to hear from you :D Gogo and I miss you very much!

Those Renegade boots are super cool - too bad they don't come in light blue! Not that Gogo needs them, lol. I'm sure up through Prelim she wouldn't need boots but if we ever go beyond that it's something I might need to look into. The trainer I'm working for is raving about her movement and is trying to convince me to make her into an upper level dressage horse, but I think we should do upper level eventing first ;)

Scroll down a little ways and look at the 'before' and 'after' pictures of the second trim Cliff did on her and the trim I did on her a few weeks after my first trim (I trimmed her three weeks after he did, and then again two weeks after my first trim as a touch up, so this is a 5-week change)... I think things are looking up! The heel which was collapsing forward and trying to run under has pretty much completely corrected itself in a really short amount of time. Maybe this is what I should look into as a career!

Keep in touch!!

Funder said...

Hey Andrea, have you seen this quiz? After I read this post I went poking around checking out barefoot resources again, and I stumbled upon this. (I got 12 right; almost all the questions I missed were anatomy questions.)

Hoof quiz