A few emails and facebook questions this week suggested I revisit the barefoot trim again. We’ll cover only a few key points here, but it might help.
|My mare Kessy's beautiful bare foot- Great sole, wonderful healthy frog.|
Let’s remember caring for and riding a barefoot horse is more than simply removing shoes, though that is of course the first step. Barefoot horse care is a different paradigm, one that puts the horse first—perhaps that is why so many people find it difficult, in that there are a few things needed to be done differently. At first these things may seem too much bother, extra work, but in time after the initial changes it is actually less work, less money and of course more healthy. Read "Barefoot Paradigm HERE-
Housing and exercise are paramount. The horse must be able to move about, and not only in grass. There should be dirt, stones and rock. Pea gravel is excellent. I’m a huge supporter of what Jamie Jackson created, the Paddock Paradis, track system. In it horses move about at will on a track, have free choice housing, no stalls and limited grass. Hay feeding stations and water placed strategically to encourage movement. This is so much better than big grassy, weedy pastures or fields. When you think of a horse in big grassy fields, think overweight man on the couch gorging on potato chips and cookies. You can read more about PADDOCK PARADISE and horse healthy housing HERE.
Diet is important. Limited grass, no grain and no sugar. All forage diet is best. Horses are designed for forage, and yes a horse can and will gain weight on all forage diet. HERE is my mare’s diet.
The trim. Keep it simple. Don’t be intimidated by all the talk out there how difficult it is to trim a barefoot horse. It is not. And yes you can learn to do it yourself. First thought, if your trimmer also does iron shoes, I suggest you find another. If a person can see the wisdom of nailing shoes on a horse, they cannot truly grasp the biomechanics of the horse and horse’s foot. I have been saying that a long time, and I keep seeing things happen that make it even more true to me. Preparing a hoof for a flat shoe is totally different than seeing the whole horse, the sound hoof, and the two cannot be blended.
Trimming schedule should be every 3 to 4 weeks. The horse should walk on the sole, not the hoof wall. Very few horses can go 8 weeks without the hoof wall becoming too long and therefore stretching the lamina. Even a little stretch is bad stretch, much of the health of the foot lives in the lamina. If you need to use a nipper the trim has gone too long.
|Filing Kessy's hoof- takes about a minute a foot ...|
Trimming is best done from the top down with a file, not a nipper. If the 3 week schedule is maintained it is very little effort. For Kessy it takes me about a minute a foot. Never pare or scrape the sole, ever. Almost never trim the frog. The frog should touch the ground. No more than one third of the foot should be in front of the apex of the frog.
No horse should ever be lame or tender footed after a trim. You should be able to trim your horse and immediately go for a ride. You can read more about a simple maintenance trim HERE
Transitioning from shod to bare does take time. Six months to a year for riding. But there are many great boots out there today, so don’t let that hold you back. You need not lose a day’s riding while transitioning.
A barefoot horse will enjoy better hoof health, of course, but will also enjoy better health overall. From legs, tendons, joints, muscles to even their organs. The free hoof is able to absorb the shock as intended, not transfer shock to parts of the body never designed to absorb shock. A bare hoof will also pump blood as it is designed to, to and out of the foot bringing nutrients and removing toxins—that’s why barefoot horses feet always look better than shod feet, and do not need hoof supplements and paint on products. Read "Why Barefoot?"HERE
|Kessy loves her Paddock Paradise!|
Having a barefoot horse is today not as mysterious or difficult to understand as it was 30 years ago. We know have the evidence of many thousands of barefoot horses and their caregivers in all disciplines. I find the growing acceptance of the barefoot horse wonderfully exciting, for the horses’ sakes.
|Kessy's pretty and healthy feet|
Gitty up, Dutch Henry