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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Elephant in the Corner.

((Edit: Due to an influx in random comment spam about Viagra and the fact that I want to know who is leaving comments on complicated posts such as this one, I've had to disable anonymous posting for now. Sorry for the inconvenience.))

It's high time I touched on a subject I've been vastly avoiding for the past three months. I've heard the question asked so many times now that I have no choice but to confront it. The skeptics, the critics, the naysayers are all gleefully certain that I have failed in my barefoot quest, that obviously because of the incident at the AECs I am destined to fail and will surely change my sordid ways now. I hear the question everywhere I go, from everyone I talk to: Will you shoe your horse now?

The answer, my readers, is no.

No, I will not alter what I consider to be the best horsecare decision I have ever made, and after this long post you will understand why. I hope that by now those that know me understand that I am here on earth to make the best decisions I can for my horse's health and well-being. If that were to mean shoeing her, I would. If that were to mean giving up eventing, I would. But it doesn't. I have quite a lot to say on the matter, so get comfortable. Knowing what I know about feet - seeing what I've seen - I just can't go back. Taking the barefoot route is a choice for her health, and I will not choose metal shoes for my convenience. There has to be a better way to provide traction and protection for those that need it. There HAS to be. And do I need it beyond what I already have? Quite frankly, no, I don't.

Let's first talk about the mechanics of a bare foot versus a studded foot. The bare hoof has a certain amount of natural slide engineered into it. You want the foot to have a little wiggle room when it lands because it cushions the impact and lessens strain and the likelihood of subsequent injury. That being said, a bare hoof is surprisingly "grippy" on most footings. In a lot of scenarios, a bare hoof is actually a better option than a regular smooth shod hoof because flat steel/aluminum/whathaveyou can be VERY slick. The bare hoof might have a little give, but the metal shoe once it starts to slide doesn't stop. Think about wintertime for example - not a sane soul would keep a horse smooth shod around an icy, snowy, hilly place. Everyone either goes bare for the winter or uses caulks/borium. It's a similar situation on grass - smooth shod hooves are just too slippery. So that leaves me two options essentially - staying bare or going with something with caulks. The big question is, do I want a little bit of give to lesson the beating a leg takes while in action and risk a bigger slide than I want, or do I want to potentially torque and damage a leg through not allowing it that natural slide when it needs it? In a normal situation, a bare hoof actually provides a surprising amount of traction, much more than a smooth shod hoof. A nice, cuppy foot holds ground very well, and varied, texturized structures on the bottom of the foot increase surface area and the "grippy" factor in most situations. At the AECs, what I failed to take into account was the footing that day, because it seemed just fine at first glance. My horse had been going round the soaking wet mountains of New England all season with not ONE single slip anymore - or ever in her entire LIFE that I can EVER remember! - so I felt pretty invincible. Imagine how stupid I felt when the beautiful, totally flat footing proved dangerously slick - unlike my soft, wet New England hills, this footing was rock hard but covered with a layer of wet, slick, long grass... like a sheet of ice. In some circumstances, no one can cope with footing situations like that. Let me say this in bold to stress its importance: All feet - flat shod, barefoot, borium, calks, studs, boots, anything - can slip under the right circumstances. Your average horse weighs between 1000-1200lbs. A tiny piece of studded metal nailed to the bottom of a foot is realistically not going to stop a slide if the conditions are right. Case in point - at the AECs, the day before I ran XC, at right about the same time in the morning that I ran XC, a Prelim horse with studs all around slid right about where I slid, in no relation to any fences. My horse caught herself and continued on. That horse slid, fell, fractured its scapula, and had to be euthanized. At a Championship show, monkeys are not going around riding at Prelim. This was obviously a competent pair. Studs did not help that horse in that situation. And, quite frankly, I wonder what would have happened had I been riding a studded horse. Either the studs would have stopped the slide, or they would have seriously compounded her injuries. As it stands, I feel lucky that the damage was as minimal as it was. It could have been worse.... so much worse. And one of the reasons I believe she is recovering as rapidly as she is now is because she is bare. The blood flow in that foot is uninhibited, and free to bring a rich supply of nutrients and fibroblasts to the site of the injury. It's helping her heal.

When it comes to caulks, it takes two to tango - the foot needs to come in contact with the ground for the studs to take effect obviously, but the ground has to be firm enough to match the force and return the hold. Sure, calks add traction, but not all the time. At Huntington, for example, the stadium footing was horrible and soaking wet. You know that turf that just comes up when you step on it, the kind that you could grab a handful of and the grass would just release from the mud underneath it? That's the kind it was. No foot - studded or otherwise - is going to negotiate that well. I actually watched a studded horse refuse a fence from well over a few strides out, and he sat on his haunches like a reining horse and slid.... and slid.... and slid..... and slid, right into the fence, nearly flipping over backwards on his rider because his hind end rocketed underneath himself so fast that the rest of him didn't have time to catch up. Did Gogo negotiate that footing well? Nope. (And I have a feeling I know why that is, but I will explain that shortly). The girl who won my division had a quick, catty little horse who, as she described it, skipped right over the footing. Gogo, with her different stride length and style, didn't.
Caulks can really be a scary thing. They are designed for one thing - keep the foot where the horse puts it. If a hoof at speed needs a little bit of slide, it doesn't get it with studs. This can lead to strains, hyperextensions, and trauma. (I'm not saying it does, I'm just saying it can.) If the caulks aren't big enough, they're worthless as traction devices. If the caulks are too big, they can do damage through either the aforementioned strain, or by creating pressure points on the foot. (This is why you remove studs immediately after your ride - standing around on hard ground with studs still in can be VERY damaging.) And let's not forget what happens when a horse miscalculates where to put its legs and stabs itself in the belly/legs/chest/wherever with a studded foot. They make belly guards for a reason, you know!

So what I want is traction. I don't need protection like an endurance horse out in the rocky desert might. For the most part, I have all the traction I need with her big, gorgeous bare feet. And I'd prefer that she be able to slip a little when she needs to in order to keep her from harm. So now, it's back to a question of morals - if the footing is bad enough that I would need studs, should I even be running her at all? And, in all seriousness, it's Novice we're talking about here. It's not Rolex. If you can't get around a regular, nice-footing Novice course without needing studs, then you've got some serious issues, I'm sorry. It's been raining for a week straight and the ground is a muddy mess and you're doing to die without your biggest spikes? Well.... maybe you should just call it a day and go home with an intact horse.

I need traction. But I need give when she needs give. And I need stop when she needs stop. 99% of the time I've got exactly what I need when I'm bare. And I think the most important thing to stress now is that I don't think she slid at the AECs because she was bare.

So what happened? I have a theory. Stick with me on this one because it might take a small bit of explaining.

Remember those hock injections?

Let's start there.

Daun awakened this little kernel of thought in my head. We were talking about injecting her right stifle when she was at Tufts and how I didn't want to make my horse a pincushion but that I felt that this time, unlike the hocks, we really did have hard evidence and that I felt less ethically stressed about it. We both feel pretty much the same about injections, only I've subjected my poor animal to them and she has not. You all remember how I essentially gave myself an ulcer going back and forth about whether or not to do her hocks in August, and how I eventually caved and went ahead with it. And yep, she did in fact feel better... but it was hardly the miracle I expected. What Daun had to say about injections, particularly in the hocks, is that besides all the ethical drama behind them, they can also "move the problem" somewhere else. Making her hocks feel better (even when they were doing their job just fine before) increases the likelihood of her injuring something else. To quote Daun, "The whole leg is connected, obviously, and if you give them 5 degrees more flexion in the hock, that is 5 degrees more movement the stifle and pasterns must absorb as well. Say the horse is tracking up fine pre-injections, but now after injections the horse easily overtracks by 6". At speeds, that is a LOT more strain on those tendons reaching under, suddenly, overnight, because the hocks feel better. Stuff like that scares me. Also when changing the way of going via shoeing or the feet. The tendons and support structures need time to adjust to the new way of movement, but we don't give them time, we change things suddenly." (This is why I love Daun. Because she has brains and she uses them.) And I certainly don't disagree. In fact, I am quite certain this has quite an enormous part to do with her injuries.
We were all shocked when she did bilateral tendon injuries on XC, no one more than me because of the countless hours of slow work on tarmac that I did alllllllllll spring and summer long. Her tendons should have been made of IRON. And I think they probably were... until I changed things. Suddenly, she had a bigger range of motion. Suddenly, she had more push and more stress upon limb flight and landing. I counted it up and prior to Huntington (the first show after the injections), she hadn't taken a rail down in 9 shows. 9 SHOWS. That is astounding. After the injections, at Huntington, she smashed through a couple of warmup fences like a madwoman. Strange, I thought... she's normally more careful than that. I think perhaps she had a bit of a Superwoman complex... no need to protect those hocks anymore Ma, they feel awesome so I can take off wherever I feel like and I don't have to be careful with them anymore! And before that fifth fence, she took off early and both hinds rocketed out from underneath her. She didn't protect herself in that footing AT ALL. Not like her in the slightest. (Ironically, she handled the soppy, soggy, hilly XC like a champ, giant hills and all.) And who knows? Maybe during that slip - maybe during that last month of gallops and hacks - those newly-loaded tendons started to get a little tired. Maybe I didn't give them enough time to adjust. Maybe I overstressed them simply by giving her a bigger range of motion far too late in the season, when we were already training at maximum capacity. Whatever the case may be, when I half-halted her before fence four at the AECs, instead of carefully slowing herself and coming up in front like she normally does, she saw no need to protect her body and wasn't careful about the way she took the half-half. And the fact that during a very small, routine slip - when I have no memory of her ever slipping on XC ever before in my life - she did such extensive damage begs the question, did she have undetected bilateral microdamage before? It wouldn't surprise me. In fact, I feel pretty strongly that this has a large part to do with it.

In short: I don't think she slipped because she's barefoot. I think she slipped because she wasn't protecting her body, and because I had quite likely inadvertently caused a predisposition to an injury. It was probably me that caused her body to fail. I don't think as horse owners we sit back and think about these things enough. We rely on our trainers, our barn managers, our vets and our farriers to give us their best opinions, but sometimes all we really need is our own selves to make the best choices. Sure, Gogo felt better after the hock injections - what horse wouldn't? But she was moving just fine before. At what cost did an unnecessary procedure come? Maybe we all need to look around at all our injured and damaged horses. All right, so Sammy did a suspensory on XC when he slipped. Sure, we've got that. So we put studs on Sammy when he's better and don't think about it anymore. But maybe what we should be doing is looking back at what led up to Sammy's injury. Maybe Sammy's farrier work was unsatisfactory and that predisposed him. Maybe he was worked too hard, maybe he was injected too recently, maybe he's a 16-year-old OTTB, maybe the footing at home is terrible, maybe he's conformationally lacking, maybe he's been showing a lot and his body is tired. There is so much that goes into all of it. And at the same time, it's crying over spilled milk, and after an injury there's nothing we can do but just plow on. But hindsight is 20-20 every time, and you find yourself always thinking, I wonder if I had done things differently, would the outcome have changed?

Add, add, add, add, add. We are always adding for our horse's benefit, or so we think. My horse is working hard, so let's add a joint supplement. And let's add DMG, and an antioxident, and supplements to support his tendons and ligaments. His feet aren't so good, let's add a hoof supplement, and fancy shoes, and pads, and studs. His back is sore, so let's add these fancy new pads. He hurts from all the new strain we're adding to his body, so let's inject his whole body. Oh now he has ulcers, let's give him thousands of dollars worth of treatments that may or may not help, depending on what else his lifestyle is like. He's broken all over now, so let's double all our efforts. Soon, you have a horse living miserable in bubble wrap, so broken and over-supplented, over-shod, and over-drugged that it's hardly a horse anymore. You know, Mother Nature did design everything in the world to work well on its own without our interference. Sometimes, we should just do our best to try and stick to Her plan.

You can tell I've had a lot of down time to think about all this.

In summary, I think slapping on a metal pair of shoes isn't going to change a damn thing, except her hooves, and not at all in a desirable way. I think there is far more to all of this than a simple solution. I think it's complicated, stressful, and altogether morally challenging, like all things related to horsecare. As I said before, if putting shoes on her was the answer to the problem, I'd do that. It's not about pride in a horsecare style I've opted for. It's about her, and what she needs.

Quite a lot to think about, going into this New Year.


Albigears said...

This was a well thought out post. I thought the part about injecting joints and how it may stress other parts of the body was VERY insightful. I've never injected before, but now have things to think about if I ever have to make that decision.
Thanks Andrea!
(Are people really questioning your decision to go barefoot? At Novice???)

Andrea said...

I KNOW right? It's Novice, and it's not like I was running up and down giant slippery muddy mountains.... it was at Lamplight, where they aerate the footing before every show, and on totally flat ground, I mean come on! That's why I think there HAD to be a bigger factor in all of it.

stilllearning said...

Lots and lots of food for thought here for all horses in all disciplines. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Very good post! As far as people giving you grief about going novice, I know plenty of horses going around training with NO issues and NO shoes (and no boots, actually, the woman will only put a boot on if the horse has a shoe). And I am planning to event my horse barefoot this summer. I've always felt that if the footing is SO bad that you feel like you need huge studs, maybe it's safer to just not run. Someone once told me that you can tell the difference between a competitor and a horse(wo)man because when conditions aren't good, the horseman goes home. I enjoy your blog because you're a good horsewoman, not just a good competitor.
Also, the stuff about the hock injections was really interesting and makes a lot of sense.

Tapestry Institute said...

Good post, Andrea. I have the good fortune to work with a biologist and biomechanics expert. I have learned so much from her about the connection of everything. We tend to focus down to what we think THE problem is, but it's connected to everything else, so chances are, it's not just one thing that's causing a problem.

You might see if you could write this up as an article for an eventing magazine or another horse publication. It's a very good example at looking at the whole picture to see what is going on and to thinking about our horses first.

Austen said...

This was an awesome post, and I'm glad you have sorted through your doubts so methodically.

I know I just pulled the shoes off of my 11 yr old TB (he's never had them off ...!). For the first 5 days, I was pretty sure I would have been better off shooting him instead. Now though, while he's still SUPER tender, his heels are spreading out and he actually looks more comfortable stepping. It's almost like his arthritis isn't hurting him so bad now.

It was a rough decision on whether to go all out with him and pull off wedges/shoes and everything. After seeing just HOW contracted his feet were ... I couldn't leave them on.

The thing about injections makes sense. I don't like medicating myself for muscle/tendon pain for the same reasons. I'm afraid it won't hurt and I'll injure myself worse. I might as well suck it up and heal better.

SprinklerBandit said...

Thanks for the post; it was very interesting. I'm not a die-hard barefoot-only type, but my mare is currently barefoot, and I'll keep her that way as long as it's practical. Thanks for the encouragement.

Amy said...

Wow! Thank you for the very insightful post - the hock injection ideas made sense and really makes one think about injecting and other supplements as you suggested. Thanks for a great post!

Karen said...

Excellent post ... lots of good questions. I agree the thoughts about the hock injections was very interesting. Sometimes a variety of factors may contribute to an injury, sometimes injuries just happen. In any case, I plan on keeping my horse barefoot and will most likely try Eventing in a few years (he's only 2 now). I can't believe some people question your decision to keep the mare barefoot ... horse people can be so odd sometimes.

monica said...

fantastic insightful post!
I have on e question though, I haven t been with your blog long enough to know the condition of Gogo's feet...the reason I am asking is because my OTTB Yankee has had shoes off once, and his feet promptly crumbled to pieces so I decided to keep them on 365. He has never had lameness issues, but after a 4 month college session and my horse being left in the hands of someone else, I realized just how small his feet are getting and have been for a long time, I just never noticed because I was always around him. I am concerned he is getting even more contracted heels and it seems his frog is dissapearing and his feet are just getting narrower and longer.I am unsure if i should pull shoes for fear that his feet will be a disaster and therefore ruin or put a damper on our training program for this summer/fall. Any adivice? What was Gogo like when you first pulled? Were her feet terribly like Yankees or are they pretty stable? I am just afraid pulling would do more damage than good since his feet seem so unstable to begin with. THANKS :)

Alighieri said...

I have no quibbles about you running around barefoot at Novice, but I am curious about your stance on hock injections.

I see your point about the immediate change in stride affecting the horse's way of going, and the lack of needing to protect herself affecting her mental attitude about show jumping and half halting. It's a very good point, and you may very well be correct about it causing the slip at the AECs.

However, you yourself state that Gogo felt better after the hock injections and that she no longer felt like she needed to protect that area of her body. If she needed to protect that area of her body, don't you think that perhaps she was experiencing some low grade pain there? As I recall, you were receiving comments on your dressage tests about her lack of hock movement prior to the injections. I think you even posted a video and I too noticed her hind end seemed to drag a little.

So theoretically, the hock injections brought her hind end under her and allowed her to use it without fear of pain.

Does this mean in the future that you will use hock injections but give her lots of time to get used to them, or not use hock injections but attempt to find some other way to alleviate the pain there?

I'm just saying this because your post sounded a little to me like you didn't think she was in pain before the hock injections, but the injections just made her feel better. But if she was having to protect that area, she was most likely in pain.

Excuse me if I am incorrect, I know you are a very conscientious horsewoman. I was just curious to know what you had decided to do about her hocks.

Andrea said...

Actually, I was thinking about this while making up grains this morning, Alighieri.
First, if my horse is struggling and I need to medicate her hocks in order for her to feel better, then I will, but I will not be doing it without some serious precautions next time. Perhaps far earlier in the season when we are just starting our conditioning, or at the end of the season when we are winding down, but not in the heat of things. That was a bad idea and I regret it now.
Secondly, as to whether or not she had low grade pain, well, I'm not sure. She's not a flamboyant mover behind, but I certainly was getting comments about her lack of push which I hadn't gotten before. Which is, obviously, what led me to pain. In hindsight, while ouchiness may have played a part in it, I also was at a dressage barn surrounded by a lot of people obsessed with frames and not so much the push from behind. I think I was absorbing a lot more of that than I ever meant to, and was creating this sort of sluggish movement on my own. But, then again, she did feel better after the injections. However, I still got the same comments on my dressage tests - needs more push from behind - which makes me think it was me.
Perhaps "protect the area" wasn't quite what I meant. She wasn't lame by any means. Was she in pain before the injections? Who knows? Probably some. But she's certainly been in much more pain these past three months and in that way, it wasn't worth it.

Mel said...

Long time reader! and only occasional commenter. I loved this post and linked it on my blog.

I deal with this issue a lot in endurance. I was on the fence when I pulled shoes ~6 months ago, but after seeing the positive changes, I'm going to do all I can to keep her barefoot. I love that you really examined the possibilities and came to your own conclusions. Barefoot can be such an explosive issue and it's refreshing to see the issue thought out on both sides, whether someone is deciding to put shoes back on, or keep them off.

I also like how you analyze if the injury could have possibly been a factor of something you did. I do this after every pull. Sometimes it's my fault, sometimes sh*t happens. I HATE when people keep getting the same injury over and over and over and over......and they never consider the possibility that it's THEM!!!!! :)

Sorry this is so rambling. Sounds like you are a thoughtful rider who really cares about your horse and doing right by her (which is why I read your blog! :)

Lisa said...

Stay with bare! No matter what others try to convince you! People like you and I and others that also go bare are the ones that aren't afraid to learn for ourselves and challenge topics that are considered normal.

I compete in endurance BAREFOOT! One of my conditioning areas is 25 miles of gravel and rock with SOME grass. My barefoot horse trots over it without a single head bob or issue while others who have shod horses weave their way around and walk over the rough gravel spots. When the hooves are taken care of correctly and are able to be conditioned the way a wild horses hooves are, they will become stronger than any shod hoof.

Just know there will always be people to support you in your barefoot quest!

Alighieri said...

I'm glad to see you've thought the hock thing over. :-)

And, in my opinion, protecting the area that may have low grade may not necessarily cause lameness. For instance, my gelding had terrible thrush in August 2008. I did all I could to manage it, but the humidity of Texas is rough for those feet. The horse was sound, sound, sound, but when I attempted shoulder-ins, he was just NQR. Not lame, but very much wasn't using his shoulders to the best of his ability. That is how we discovered that the thrust was causing him low grade pain in his heels in the front.

Agreed that perhaps her newfound range of motion was what caused her to slip. However, the pain was not a direct result of the hock injections themselves and I think that if hock injections alleviate the hock pain, so long as you place them properly within her training program, they could still be an appropriate tool.

Although, if you find another way to alleviate any pain in her hocks, go for it. Injections aren't for everyone.

Alighieri said...

And of course, if you discover that her hocks are pain free and the lack of push was from your dressage barn habits, then by all means desist from injections. I do think it's ridiculous when people inject perfectly sound horses. :-)

Anonymous said...

Love the post! My trainer wanted me to inject my OTTB's hocks as he'd tighten up and leave his hind end behind while warming up. I thought he was 12, but later we found out he's over 25 (looks and acts 6). He lived in a pen at the time and didn't get the work he needed. He now lives out in a 5 acre grass pasture and hasn't had any issues with his hind end. All he needed was room to move. I'm glad I didn't inject now that I've read the post. Thanks! I love your insight.

Heather said...

First time reader, come from Mel's blog. This post was really interesting. The thought you have put into this subject is evident and impressive. My first inclination is to say that you are right about making decisions based on footing. If its too poor, go home. I was surprised this year at the AERC championships that the footing was o poor that they decided to shorten the course from 100 to 75 miles. I was surprised that they didn't cancel.
Another thought is that Renegade hoof boots have a boot with studs. Also there is also Vettec that has a filler that you put on the bottom of the sole that looks really grippy. Never used it or known anyone who has, but it looks like it would provide grip.

Anonymous said...

A very thoughtful post indeed, with some questions from myself.

I like the point about the hocks, in theory. It makes a lot of sense--but the problem is the fact that were it the case, wouldn't a lot of horses who get hock injections suddenly have problems? Because a lot of horses who are doing a lot of work under saddle (not talking about the western pleasure horses here) get hock injections, and they all had that 'first injection' moment in their lives. The moment where they're moving better, and the owners are now expecting more out of them. Wouldn't we have more of a correlation? Were Gogo's changes big enough to do that much damage? There are plenty of horses that are clearly lame before injections, and not afterward--and their tendons are still sound.

Also I was thinking, what if it wasn't her hocks at all? I'm beginning to wonder just how many horses have back pain and compensate for it in different areas. I was reading something the other day that was suggesting horses that are ridden before four can damage the very sensitive, still not-fused yet spine. You do your absolute best to keep Gogo's back nice, no doubt about it, but this is just food for thought in general.

It is also nice for the slip to have a reason, but sometimes they don't. If you watch nfl football players, they work on grippy surfaces and wear cleats and get paid tons of money, and sometimes... they just slip. Maybe the halt-halt unbalanced her. Maybe she hit a spot that was more slippery. Maybe she wasn't really paying attention or just had a 'whoa' moment. Or maybe the tendons had been a while coming, and were a progressive injury--which is why Gogo ran on and why you couldn't feel a sudden lameness.

I love answers as much as anyone, but sometimes its as simple as 'she just slipped'. You may not have to beat yourself up over the hock injections, or anything else.

Anonymous said...

That post was full of contradictions. One second you are saying a barefoot horse needs to slip because studs don't let them slip - then the next you are saying a fully studded up horse slipped and slipped and slipped into a jump. Then you state your horse slipped because of the footing - but you admittedly failed to inspect the footing at the AECs the day before and the morning of your xc run. You are so sure that running barefoot guarantees a sure footed horse that it equates to not having to check footing at a show? If your horse is/was experiencing hock problems (and her hind end conformation isn't that great as she is not very much under herself to begin with) I believe - shod or not - even a small slip could cause soft tissue injury coupled with her conformation and her existing hock condition. She doesn't engage her hind end at all- there is obviously a reason for her resistance to engage and come through in her back. Maybe look beyond the barefoot issue and look elsewhere. I see she is starting to rear again - don't laugh it off - that is a sign of resistance due to pain. If your mare is resistant to engaging her hind end that opens up a can of worms and when she experiences a minor slip like she did at the AECs - then the result is what you have on your hands now.

LiveToFly said...

Just a personal aside, I totally agree with you that a barefoot horse has the best traction when compared to a shod horse. That isn't to say that I don't shoe my horses, because one needs corrective shoeing and therefore must be shod, but I've had less footing-related problems with my older barefoot mare then I ever had when she was shod throughout her show career.

And to reiterate your point about boreum and studs catching too much, I have proof that they can sometimes be more detromental then helpful. I used to shoe my horse with borium every winter until my best friends horse (also shod with boreum) was running around and playing in the pasture and went to stop near a fence. Without the boreum he would have just slid a bit and been fine, but instead we watched as the boreum caught (like it is intended to do.) I'm sure you can imagine what happens when a foot stops and the leg keeps going...basically the torque shattered his entire ankle and coffin bone and after months of money spent and agressive treatments to heal it, the vet said he would never recover and he had to be euthenized anyway. All because he had boreum on his shoes!

LiveToFly said...

Sorry, another little comment that I wanted to make about your thoughts regarding WHY exactly Gogo slipped.

I had a similar experience about 4 years ago with my older hunter mare. I was just getting ready to age out of the juniors when we had a moment of miscommunication down a line and she ended up taking off SUPER long, splitting the oxer rails with her front legs and flipping through the jump, injuring her suspensory and essantially ending her career as a junior hunter. Like you, I spent MONTHS agonizing over WHY it happened and asking myself so many of the same questions that you are. Like you, I also had a theory about a pre-injury that might have just gone unnoticed. As reasoning human beings, we always want to know WHY but sometimes the answer really is that it just happened, especially with a slip. Sometimes, we just have a bad eye for a distance or a miscommunication and leave long to a big oxer...sometimes our horses just slip. Thats not to say that you shouldn't consider the whys, but its just a thought to entertain that sometimes there really isnt a reason, sometimes it just happens.

Katherine Erickson said...

Very interesting post. Have you ever met/had a lesson from Suzi Gornall? I was her student/WS for 5 years and she definitely has very similar views to yours about shoeing and studding (which have rubbed off on me too over the years!). She does shoe most of her horses but when they don't absolutely NEED shoes, they don't get them. When I rode with her we studded very minimally, trying to do just enough to counteract the natural slipperiness of the shoe while still allowing for the natural give and slide of the horse's hoof. I definitely agree that studding is risky business, because anytime you take away the natural slide and give of the horse's foot, you open the door for injury (think of how many people have torn ACLs from the unnatural torsion caused by using cleats on grass playing fields). Anyway, I think you might really enjoy her if you got the chance; she's also an AMAZING teacher=).

I also agree that having pointy spikes on your horse's legs can sometimes be not the best idea -- my horse cut his cannon bone with his stud THROUGH his galloping boot on steeplechase this summer. I was so mad because I'm certain it was because I was using bigger studs than I ever had before per my new trainer's ORDERS that it happened, and if I had worn the very small studs I always wore he would have been fine and finished his second long format instead of making the long walk back from the 10 minute box, not getting to run at all (fortunately he was just stung - it could have been much worse!).

I wish there was an easy solution to this problem! Well, besides the obvious one: move to California! =) No but seriously the footing is super consistent here and no one really ever wears studs except for the very rare grass show jumping round. I'm also certain that barefoot would do fine in California, though the ground in general is harder (though not much) than on the east coast.

Andrea said...

Aah, I knew the naysayers were out there.

Let's start here: "That post was full of contradictions. One second you are saying a barefoot horse needs to slip because studs don't let them slip - then the next you are saying a fully studded up horse slipped and slipped and slipped into a jump."

No. I said that studs are designed for them to not slip, but that all things can fail under the right circumstances. A hoof needs a little slip under the right circumstances. A stud is designed for the foot not to slip under the right circumstances. It's circumstance. All systems can fail is my point, under the right circumstances.

"Then you state your horse slipped because of the footing - but you admittedly failed to inspect the footing at the AECs the day before and the morning of your xc run. You are so sure that running barefoot guarantees a sure footed horse that it equates to not having to check footing at a show?"

No. I was stupid and the weather was gorgeous, the footing was aerated and the grass was cut perfectly. It's hard to gauge if the ground is hard underneath that. Walking the course three times, it felt just fine. This isn't even a rock-hard opinion, the firmness of the footing beneath the grass. It's what I could only guess was the case.

"If your horse is/was experiencing hock problems (and her hind end conformation isn't that great as she is not very much under herself to begin with) I believe - shod or not - even a small slip could cause soft tissue injury coupled with her conformation and her existing hock condition. She doesn't engage her hind end at all- there is obviously a reason for her resistance to engage and come through in her back."

Okay now wait a second. Where did we get all this? Her hind end conformation isn't that bad. And you can't tell me that she doesn't push: looks like quite a bit of push to me, frankly. As for the preexisting hock condition? When a crazy, abusive trainer takes you and lunges you in one direction on terrible footing on a 12-meter circle every day for an entire hour, seven days a week, for six months.... I'd probably have preexisting hock issues too. Don't assume you know the entire situation.

"Maybe look beyond the barefoot issue and look elsewhere. I see she is starting to rear again - don't laugh it off - that is a sign of resistance due to pain. If your mare is resistant to engaging her hind end that opens up a can of worms and when she experiences a minor slip like she did at the AECs - then the result is what you have on your hands now."

She's not resisting engaging. She's rearing because that's what happens when you're an event horse on stall rest in December with major rearing baggage from when said Crazy Trainer flipped you repeatedly over, and when you spook and bolt and hit the reins you leap into the air. I'm not laughing, I'm lightly sedating and voila. The spooking - and rearing - has stopped.

As a side note, remember she just had a bone scan, and her back and hocks were completely quiet. Not a spot of inflammation to be found.

Andrea said...

And DIJ, about the injections - if she hadn't slipped, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion today. Lots of horses go on after their injections and are just fine. Not a lot of them are doing the kind of hard work that might warrent serious wear and tear. I think she probably would have compensated, gotten used to it and move on just fine had we not had that slip.

Also, remember the bone scan she just had - quiet back! :) She wasn't actually started until a couple of months before she turned 5, but her topline isn't great so I always worry. But like I said, nothing showed up on the bone scan, so I don't suspect back pain.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mrs Mom said...

First time reader here- not sure how I have managed to miss you up till now! (Thanks Mel for linking here and telling folks to head over!)

As a barefoot hoof care provider, married to a traditional farrier turned barefoot provider, we both have to say EXCELLENT. This is a very well thought out post, that looked well beyond *just* the hoof bare V shoe debate. Not enough people out there have cajones enough to take that look, and come to any conclusion other than the band aid of a shoe.

I look forward to reading more here, and the NEXT time some smart a$$ quips at me that there are "no barefoot event horses", well, they'll be sent right on over to meet Gogo!

BTW- those sure are some sweet feet seen sticking up in the air at the bottom of the page ;)

Mel said...

Jennifer - I too had an ex race horse, standardbred. After 3 months on stall rest/hand walking because of a bowed tendon, she was impossible to ride. She naturally had a high energy level (HAD to move) that it turned into a bucking/bolting crazy event. A fit horse that has to move and that's what happens. It's not necessarily a resopnse to pain.

On the other hand, my little arab in the same situation was JOY to get on a ride after her stall rest/hand walking. A little doll. she was also an ex-race horse

I think it really has a lot to do with the individual personality of the horse. Some horses and just like *that*.

Injuries ARE part of the horse owning experience if you are really using the horse to the limit of it's ability. You can do things *perfectly* and sh*t still happens. It's fine for someone who rides on the weekends, or someone that lightly rides a couple days of week to talk about keeping a horse sound, or never having an injury. It's quite another thing to be an eventer, a 100 mile competitor, or even a long term 50 mile competitor and to have a sound horse. Sometimes *we* (as in people who are using horses close to the max of their ability) catch issues earlier because we are watching so closely. Those same issues might slip by someone not riding their horses quite as much.

I know that this was not the focus of this post, but I would like to point out,, that sh*t happens with horses whether they are being ridden or not. All you can do is do what you and the horse loves, watch for problems, deal with those problems as soon as you can, in the way you feel best for you and your horse, and give time off when needed.

GunDiva said...

I came over here from Mel Boots and Saddles and immediately clicked the follow button. What a well thought-out post. I don't compete in any form, but my mare and I do a LOT of trail riding over some very rough terrain and she's barefoot. She's got a club foot, so the first year I leased her, I had her fronts shod with corrective shoes. My parents' mustangs are all barefoot, so after I bought my mare, I went barefoot as well. She's a bit more tenderfooted than the mustangs, but is coming along well. There are trails that we ride that I won't take a shod horse over because they can't grip the rock and I have nightmares about their shoes slipping and a bad wreck occurring.

A lot of people in our area think we're insane for being barefoot and if they want to shoe their horses, more power to them, but in this economy not only is it healthy for the horse to be barefoot, but for the wallet, too.

Jalean11 said...

None of us can know what you were feeling with Gogo no matter how well you describe it and I hope you're not looking to any of your readers to validate or invalidate any of the decisions you've made with Gogo in the past year. At the end of the day, it's all up to you as her owner and sole rider.

I personally wouldn't have reached first for hock injections for my own reasons, but I do know horses that need them and I don't fault you for following YOUR gut about YOUR horse. I would have done the same if I felt she needed them.

Just like humans, some horses need shoes, some may be totally happy barefoot. (For the record, there've been multiple studies done showing that shoes are bad for running humans as well. If you're interested in specifics you can ask me, the physiological reasons are extremely similar to the reasons you'd keep an equine barefoot.)

Stop your snarky comments and holier-than-thou attitudes. Andrea wants (and values, otherwise she wouldn't have comments) your opinions, not your attitude. You can respectfully disagree or suggest your own ideas about the reason for Gogo's rearing/problems without personal attacks.

I think I'm a second time commenter, (long time reader and RL friend of fellow commenter Austen), but thanks for such an honest blog.

McFawn said...


In response to your comment "Well maybe you should run around barefoot - get injured and still refuse to wear corrective shoeing because it's not natural. I mean humans were born barefoot too right?"

I'm a distance runner (human, that is)and there is in fact a lot of research that points out that today's running shoes actually cause injury, and that running barefoot, or with minimally protective "bare" shoes, is far better than puffy, overly supportive running shoes that actually CREATE injury. See the book "Born to Run," for more on that. My point is that the "bare" movement extends beyond the equine world, and is supported by science, movement studies, and hard data. What mother nature has given us might indeed be enough.

Awesome post, Andrea.

Jennifer said...

Then go tell all those marathon runners to throw their sneakers away - I'll throw mine away too and my orthotics which stop my knee from twisting in when I run due to fallen arches. I know a TON of people who run marathons - they don't go barefoot while runnign the marathon.

Not snarky - truth. This is what happens when someone challenges people who think they know it all. I am definitely not jumping on this bandwagon anymore. Your ilk do more harm than good to a horse. But you have your chearleading squad - a very teensy percentage of the world population. Everyone should go barefoot - even those that have one leg shorter than the other (oh yea horses by the way have that problem too). Mother nature will take care of it - like I said by taking them out of the gene pool. I must be really bored tonight arguing with a bunch of people with this cultish mentality - akin to Jehovah Witnesses or reborn again Christians. There is no argument - only one closed narrow minded uneducated side. But have fun y'all cheering each other on.

Wow - wonderful and informative well thought out posts! Is that what you want to hear? All I see hear are opinions - bad ones too with no scientific proof or major studies done. Thank you GOD none of you will ever come near my horses. Good night and Happy New Year with your barefoot movement - which will be successful since none of you do much real riding etc. anyway.

Mel said...

Must. not. respond. LOL.

I'll be sure to let Farley know that she isn't doing any *real* work/riding in those 50-100 mile endurance rides she does for me.... *shaking head*.

for the rest of you: I must admit I did NOT want to turn into one of those barefoot nuts! I was neutral on the issue and went barefoot, just to try it and because I was so impressed with the renegade boots. 2 months into the experiment and I am absolutely hooked. I had decided that I would go with barefoot as long as she performed *as well* in boots as in shoes. Little did I know how much taking her shoes off would improve her performance (and I had an EXCELLENT farrier, it was not the shoeing method). faster recoveries at vet checks, no filling in her old bow. Wow!

Mel said...

BTW Gogo - you have what every blogger dreams about - controversy and a TON of comments! Lucky you!

Mel said...

clarification - 2 months into the experient I WAS hooked. It's been aobut 6 months siince I pulled shoes now.

Austen said...


Geez! What a ball of nutcases this turned out to be!

I have to respond to Jennifer's last ditch effort to make barefoot seem crazy by attacking humans without shoes. Whew ... don't you dare do that. I really don't like people who just flame the shit out of others, but this strikes home.

It's pretty obvious she must not care about her running enough to research the human foot. Apparently she has fallen arches. Oops. Lets look at what mainly causes fallen arches: Weakness in the foot while it is developing and "wearing shoes that don’t provide proper arch support." Oops again. There is no evidence that running barefoot hinders a person's foot and leg development. In fact, I (a one-leg-shorter than the other, averaging 25-35+ miles a week, pronating runner)love running without shoes. Sure, it sucks when my soles aren't built up - but they get there.

Last time I checked, my running shoes GAVE me tendonitis, and a funky adductor and ...

Ugh. Go bitch somewhere else. No one is trying to convince you to follow anything. Just to be nice.

Jalean11 said...

My whole point is, you can't pigeonhole an entire species based on a few cases. Not all humans or horses can go barefoot. Not all horses need injections, not all humans need knee replacement surgery. There is no blanket miracle treatment that makes all horses sound, and Andrea was trying to do what's best by her horse. You can support that intention without supporting her method, we're all trying to do what's best by our horses, but don't resort to personal insults.

Erica said...

I'd just like to add that the reason I keep reading this blog is because I really enjoy following Andrea's extensive thought process as she works with Gogo. I don't have my own horse (never have, not yet) so I can't comment in the same way others can, but as someone who has worked with horses for many years and as an equine research scientist, I appreciate her retrospective of the past few months and am very glad she's taken the time to share it with us. Thanks!

Austen said...

Whoops. I guess I was a teensy bit personally insulting.

... at least I cut out half the swearing.

Andrea said...


I found your comment rude and insulting. If you read back, I mentioned several times that if shoeing her would solve this, I would shoe her. If people want to shoe their event horses, sweet, that's cool, and I don't care. Just because I chose not to - and share my journey openly with those around me - doesn't mean I am forcing my disgusting barefoot ways with the die-hard shoe crowd. I seriously don't care. I have never, ever once said that anyone is wrong for shoeing their horses. Not once. Ever. Go back and read every post, I dare you to find one place.

I'm just sharing my journey.

I also feel exceptionally insulted that my riding "isn't real." Gogo is a Prelim-plus prospect. Apparently this doesn't quality. What does? Advanced four-star only? Sorry, not gonna make it there.... I apologize that that doesn't qualify me as a "real" rider.

Valerie said...

Thank you for the honest, insightful post. I was sure that you would not put shoes on her, even after the AECs. The equine hoof is an amazing structure, plastic, and always adjusting to its environment. Since your blog is about the adventures of a "barefoot eventing horse (and her human)", I say you include more information about her trims, the shape of her feet, and comparisons to shod feet. It takes time to train one's eye to the balance and beauty of a well-trimmed, barefoot hoof. Many people do not see the difference in shape and movement or do not know how dramatically an out-of-balance hoof can change after the shoes are pulled and barefoot trimming is employed. Show the world Gogo's lovely feet!
I personally would love to hear more about your trimming process with photos.
Your blog is top notch!

Jen said...

Very insightful post. As a Reiner, I have to have sliders on my horse during the shoe season, but as soon as they are done, the shoes come off and he goes barefoot for 6 months. I think if I could I would do Reining barefoot, but unfortuantely, it doesn't work like that. Although i do know that if I would ever quit Reining, the shoes come off permanetly.

Again, very insightful to the barefooting and the injections. Sometimes we just don't know the reason why something happend, that's why there's "accidents". But I'm sure that Gogo will pull through perfectly fine in the end.

Heather said...

FYI- human marathoners CAN run barefoot. The 1960 OLYMPIC marathon winner refused to wear shoes. Granted, he trained barefoot on the rocky ground of Ethiopia, but it just goes to show that if you train an athlete barefoot, they can compete barefoot. Check out Abebe Bikila on wikipedia or google for references.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, can you define for the rest of us what REAL riding is? Please, since you're the expert and know more than all of us combined, enlighten us.

LiveToFly said...

Jennifer -

If you have nothing constructive to say then please take your comments elsewhere. No one is forcing you to read Andrea's blog, so stop putting her down and take YOUR narrow-minded thinking to good use somewhere else. If you actually READ her blog you would find that her first and foremost mission is to provide the best care possible for her horse and to share her experiences with a barefoot event horse. This is not some "barefoot cult" of people who gather around and talk about the "other kind" who shoe. I have two horses, one is shod and one is not. I am not a "closed-minded barefoot nut," but rather an intelligent horsewoman with an open mind to others ideas and experiences.

You should try it sometime, because the only person being narrow-minded here is you.

Sophie said...


Congrats on continuing to be an intelligent and thoughtful horsewoman. As for the eventing - there is a lady in the UK who has taken 9 assorted barefoot horses to intermediate level. And the UK as a rule is wet and slippy.

They all hunt over big hedges too.

Much debate here about bare being better because the horse can feel the ground and adjust accordingly. Slips do occur of course - but how much is rider error/horse inexperience/over enthusiasm. Can't blame it on being bare that's over simplifying a complex issue.

My old horse only ever had a bad slip the one time she wore shoes. The rest of her life was a blast of bouncing over all types of ground with cheerful enthusiasm.

McFawn said...


My comment about the running barefoot (or simply with less padded/overly supportive shoes) was meant to show that that there is a discussion within the running world right now about the injury-causing potential of today's too-padded, overdone running shoes. The point was that conventional wisdom--that all runners need the most "advanced" running shoes, that all event horses need shoes--is being revised.

This is not to say that all shoes are bad, or people/horses should all go barefoot, but I thought it was interesting that the benefits of "barefoot" are getting more traction in both the horse/human would at the same time.

mackenzie said...

I'm not currently a horseowner, so i don't need to have a firm stance on the shoeing debate, hock injections, and the like.

But I do know friends and trainers who use hock injections and it drastically enhances the performance of their horse. I imagine it depends on the specific animal- Gogo seems to be a super over acheiver, so she felt the freedom in her hocks and went "WHEEEE!" while her tendons then felt more pressure and went "ouch". Other horses may feel relieved in their hocks and leave it at that, happy to be without pain and not necessarily trying to do that much more.

With the model you proposed- the whole leg being connected, and adding more flexion in one area makes the others more stressed as well- assumes that all joints are equal. If the hock is only acting at 50%, and the stifle and tendon are at 100%, then the hock injections will do their job and bring the whole horse to 100%. The problem lies when each element is at, say 65% and you bring one up to 100%. Then the other parts are suffering while the injected area thrives.

Anyway, thanks for your post- it's made me think about the topic more than I thought I would!

You brought up (in the text and comments) that it's Novice we're talking about, not a four star. Are you thinking that you'll reach a point where you will shoe? When do you think that will be?

Andrea said...

This is a good point. I hadn't thought about that before. There are additional things I haven't factored in here either - was she fatigued from the long journey to the show? Probably. There are even more factors to it. (I'm going to give myself an ulcer.)
I think maybe we need to separate joints versus soft tissue structures in the leg. since the joints are there for mobility and concussion abatement through that mobility, and soft tissue structures are there for support and for the actual locomotion of the limb, as well as absorbing concussion too. Say the hocks are 65% but the stifles and fetlocks are 100%. If you make the hocks 100%, you've just added a whole new level of motion to the limb. Those tendons and ligaments now must work harder to flex and extend the limb, and absorb the increased concussion from a bigger push. The joints themselves are all working well, but the soft tissue structures need time to strengthen in response to the whole limb doing better.
I think. *brain fries*

I think I also want to add, not to you but to the naysayers, that I can't think of a single living thing that doesn't have some sort of low-grade inflammation, damge, or whathaveyou in the body somewhere, even if it's just a cut somewhere. That's the body for you. Bodies get damaged and they heal amazingly. No human or horse is completely 100% all of the time, even if it's something dumb like I lifted a lot of haybales yesterday and today my arms hurt. We can't be perfect. We just do everything we can to get as close to perfect as possible.

As for needing to shoe as I move up the levels, meh. I'm not going to get to a level and automatically go, it's time now! If she tells me she needs more traction, then we'll figure something out. I'd be interested in synthetic materials but I'd like to be able to take them off between shows, not leave them on all the time. We're not there yet in hoofwear.

Ashlee said...

Wow, what a post! I have to say, I've read a few posts on your blog but never really caught on. I heard about this one from Stacey on The Jumping Percheron. It definitely gave me a lot to think about!
I have a personal question for you because you seem so knowledgeable, if that's okay. And because you mentioned pads, I was hoping you could give me some insight. Now, I've always loved barefoot horses. And I've always believed that was the best thing. I have a horse right now, a ~23 year old TB cross gelding. I bought him 4 years ago from a lesson school he never should have been at. Regardless, he was shod on all four hooves at the time and we kept with that. When I talked to the vet and farrier about his feet a year or so ago after some joint problems and a full check up, they showed me how on his right side his heel was much shorter than his left, with both still being short. To compensate, they add extra padding to that side to even it out. They mentioned his conformation was the factor. This came about when he had fallen onto his knees twice in a week from simply standing in his stall. It was found that he wasn't locking his knees sometimes and he'd move forward with more weight to eat his hay and fall. When looking, they saw that sometimes when he stands he leans one leg farther back. That is when the vet pointed out the angle difference on his heels. This is just his front, his back hooves seem to be fine. By the way, prior to all this being pointed out to me, he had gone through a bad case of white line disease which caused 1/3 of his hoof wall to be removed. We changed farriers after that to a much more knowledgeable and, must I say, expensive(!) farrier when the first hadn't recognized it when he should have. Anyway, the new farrier said he'd benefit from being on Farrier's Formula. He has now been on it for about 6 months and his hooves are much better. My dream would be to see him barefoot, but I don't know, because of him specifically if that is possible because of everything he has going on. (He also has an old injury to his lower hind leg that causes him to twist his leg as he walks forward - I don't know if that would change anything.)
Sorry for the long and confusing description, but do you have any insight into if him going completely barefoot or partially barefoot is at all a possibility? I haven't talked about it with the farrier (yet!) because I never thought it could be possible.

hwbowen said...

Just want to touch on the dressage-test comments issue and lack of push from behind. Were you yourself, Andrea, feeling a diminishing push? Or seeing it in pictures and video?

Because one thing I've noticed about dressage judges is that they can always find something to comment on. That's their job, after all! And another thing I've noticed is that as you (general "you") up your game, you start getting new comments because hey, the things they were commenting on before are better now, and it's time to improve something else.

Which is the say, are you sure those "lacks push from behind" comments were because she was showing less push from behind? Or is it possible they were the result of her overall education having improved to the point were the judges started wanting to see more? If that distinction makes any sense?

Just spitballing here, obviously; I haven't seen the horse go enough to have a real opinion about it and I can't remember how the timeline of the comments match up with the stops cross-country, etc., etc., etc. But the comments about the comments caught my eye, so.

Andrea said...

That's a very good question. Because I'd get the comment, "needs more push from behind, 8." So I'd still be getting 7's and 8's and 9's on all these movements and scoring in the 20's and low 30's. Maybe they were looking for the push to give it an even better score? I had one judge comment at one point that I just needed that little bit more energy to turn her into a consistant 8-9 mover. Which is very flattering, but hey, maybe they're right!

Andrea said...

PS - I felt no lack of push anywhere. If anything, she felt even better and stronger than she had the summer before. So I dunno.

Andrea said...

Hwbowen, shoot me an e-mail at and I wlll answer that ;)

Akhal-Eventer said...

OK. . . apparently this articulate and insightful post has already been massacred by the pre-pubescent rants of too many irate equestrian bloggers. . .so I won't exhaust it by adding any additional theatrics.

What I would like to say is that barefoot performance horses are not rare. . .and one of the reasons why most people believe upper-level barefoot eventers do not exist is because the people who own them are often NOT zealous publicists for your local branch of the Barefoot Cult of America.

In July 2009, I attended a clinic with David and Karen O'Conner, Amy Tryon, and Cathy Wieschoff. During a lecture on the proper use of studs, I learned that Cathy Wieschoff currently has a horse going Intermediate barefoot. The rest of her horses are shod. . .but this particular one has never worn shoes simply because he has never needed them. Both Wieschoff and the O'Conners are of the opinion that the choice you make regarding your eventer's feet should be based on the individual needs of the horse. If your horse is shod, you will eventually need to use studs. If your horse can perform barefoot, there is no need to shoe him.

My horse is currently competing barefoot at Training level, with plans to move up to Prelim towards the end of the 2010 season. He is sound, sure-footed, and never misses a step on cross-country. However, I would not be completely opposed to shoeing him if that's what he needed in order to perform confidently.

On the other hand. . .I am often shocked by competitors who regularly use studs during ALL THREE phases of a lower-level event, and wonder if people spend the time educating themselves on the supposed necessity and use of studs during a BEGINNER NOVICE DRESSAGE TEST.

But what can I say. . controversy is the juice of all life, and I definitely got my fix from this one. Andrea, I applaud you for taking the time to analyze your own actions, publicize your mistakes, and question the all-powerful gospel of mainstream equestrian sportsmanship.

Andrea said...

Ashlee, oops!! I meant for you to be the one e-mailing me for the answer to your question: ;)

Akhal-Eventer, NO WAY! I've only ever heard of one or two horses eventing at that level. There's a zillion barefoot GP dressage horses and I'm sure some big jumpers somewhere too, but I don't often hear of UL eventers.... that is great to hear. I think I will e-mail her and ask about it!

Akhal-Eventer said...

Wieschoff has also taken a horse around a Prelim course in a rope halter! Needless to say, I am impressed with that woman! I wish I had had more time to sit down and pick her brain. . .
I also met someone with a barefoot TB mare going Prelim at Rebecca Farm in MT last summer. I was at Heron Park after a clinic the weekend before the event when I noticed a woman strolling past me with a grey mare who was totally barefoot and not even noticing the fist-sized river rocks she was traversing. I immediately hounded her with questions, and discovered she knew very little about barefoot trimming, had her mare trimmed by a traditional farrier, and had always kept her barefoot because her farrier told her the horse didn't need shoes! She also said she never had trouble with slipping on course, and she was planning to move up to Intermediate the following year. She did say that she was considering shoeing her horse for going Intermediate, because she was worried she wouldn't be able to perform at that level without studs. Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to get her name, but I always look out for her at Area VII events!
I am obsessed with horses' feet. . .so it's always the first thing I notice in pretty much any situation. It would be interesting to know if barefoot eventers were more common a decade or so ago. . .unfortunately, it's not something that gets mentioned in the "Past and Present" columns.