I get a lot of reader e-mail, and I read and cherish every one. I try as hard as I can to reply to all of them (as some of you know, I totally fail at this), and want all of you to know that all of it touches and moves me. It makes me feel like I've touched you and moved you too.
This is a letter I got in before I got the bad news about Gogo. It so parallels the journey that Gogo and I were taking that I asked the sender if I could share it, and she said yes.
My name is Tylia (pronounced tee-lia), and I stumbled across your blog sometime in the Fall of last year when I was doing research about barefoot horses. I spent about a week reading the whole thing from the beginning and have been keeping up ever since.
I want you to know how powerful your gorgeous Gogo, and your blog about her, is; you both greatly inspired my decision to 'go barefoot' in November 2010.
A good friend of mine who is an Equine Body Worker has had her horse barefoot for years, and she was always going on at me about how great barefoot is. I always blew it off as a hippie-weirdo thing....because you know, show horses NEED shoes! But as I got more interested in the more 'natural' and homeopathic side of horse care, the barefoot thing began to pique my interest. It really made sense when I thought about the fact that horses have been on Earth for millions of years, running around just fine on their bare hooves.
So I ended up glued to my computer for weeks, doing hours and hours of research. I became obsessed with hooves and learning as much as I could about hoof mechanics and barefoot horses. For my old retired Dutch mare, Fanci, it was pretty much a no-brainer. She's now a pasture pet that goes on weekend trail rides, and had been suffering from soundness issues for a few years (LF DDFT and suspensory injuries), and after trying every shoeing trick and gadget under the sun I was ready to let her wear her feet the way that would be most comfortable to her. But for my little (7 at the time, now 8) Swedish/TB gelding, Aramé, it was a much tougher decision. I was really torn. We event in Area VI in southern California, and pretty much nobody has barefoot horses around here. I've never seen bare hooves at an event, even the littlest ponies are shod. Also, my coach is very old-school and I knew she would disapprove. I kept worrying about what other people would think, and if my horse would really be capable of eventing without shoes. I Googled 'barefoot + eventing + blog' one night hoping to find some first-hand experiences, and there it was: Eventing-A-Gogo! Right there was a horse who evented barefoot without any problem. My horse would be able to do it, too.
I just couldn't stop thinking about yanking those shoes off....so I did! My farrier was not too pleased with the idea, and frankly I wasn't too pleased with his work anyway, so I decided to begin working with a wonderful couple that do barefoot trimming in my area (www.wildheartshoofcare.com). I put Fanci in the turnout after her shoes came off, and I cried as I watched that mare trot away from me, sounder than she had been in three years. She'll never be in the show ring again, but she's happy as can be out on the trails---throwing in a naughty buck-and-bolt here and there and amazing people when I tell them she's 23.
Aramé's shoes came off and I was SO nervous! But I hopped on him and WOW! I had never felt such easy, floaty gaits from him before, and my 'clumsy' boy didn't trip once, he was suddenly so sure-footed. I knew there was no going back! I didn't even tell my coach...I do all the riding myself, I only take lessons from her, so I figured I'd just wait until she noticed to offer an explanation. Plus I'm a wimp and avoid confrontation at all costs. She didn't notice---or just didn't say anything---for about two months, and when she did it wasn't particularly pleasant. She basically told me I wouldn't be happy with it long-term and that the ground gets so hard and his feet will start hurting, blah blah blah. Well, we won our Novice division at the season opener at Galway a week later!! Take that naysayers!
We've totally been kicking ass this season. Both Aramé and I got our Gold Medals a few months ago, and we've also received a Blue Ribbon Award. I'm at the top of the Adult Novice Leaderboard for Area VI and near the top of the USEA Leaderboard. In July we traveled to Coconino in AZ for the COTH Western Adult Team Challenge, and our Novice team won, so we got featured in an article in the August 1st, 2011 issue of the Chronicle! And just last weekend we won the Area VI Novice Rider Championship (We scored a 21.5 in the dressage, it was SO amazing!).......and now fingers crossed for moving up to Training at Galway in November!!
I'm so lucky that both of my horses transitioned out of shoes so easily. Fanci is battling a little bit of white line separation, which is due to her having Cushings, but otherwise I just kick myself that I didn't take her barefoot sooner. I will always wonder if it would have kept her sound longer..... And Aramé's feet are just so easy, he's only had two real trims since the shoes came off because he self-maintains so well that I just touch up the roll myself to get rid of anything that is a bit snaggly. I love just sitting around and looking at and admiring their pretty little feets! And I've also become really into learning about feed and supplements since they are such a huge factor of hoof health, so now my horses are on a whole-food diet: no fortified feeds stuffed full of soy allowed! I've seen so much improvement in their hooves, hair, and attitudes that's its worth all the mixing and matching and fumbling around with six different grain tins, LOL.
Andrea, it is apparent from your blog that you are an awesome horsewoman, and therefore you must be simply an awesome person! I wish you all the best with your beautiful Gogo. I know all too well the heartbreak and emotional turmoil that comes along with these animals---not to mention LIFE in general---so I'm sending some seriously positive energy out there for you both! Hopefully our paths cross someday, because I would very much like to meet you in person!
(Photos by Captured Moments Photography)
Letters like this are one more reason I am so glad I started this blog. I feel like I've really influenced some lives just by giving a wholehearted account of my journey with Gogo. I started this blog as just as a way to keep track of what I was doing every day with my mare. It has become so much more than that. Thanks to all of you for sharing this journey with me, and for being there for us during this awful time. It really means a lot to me, and I don't have enough words to express it.
The very special Ridgeway weekend
3 days ago