Friday, October 2, 2015

"Traction in Mud of the Barefoot Horse"

Howdy Friends,
We’ve had over 5 days of rain now and more on the way. Streams are high, our yard, Kessy’s playground, and yup the logging roads we ride are muddy. Here in central VA we have what folks call, Virginia red clay and the logging roads are pretty much red clay, baked concrete hard in summer months, muddy and sticky in the rain. Especially this much rain!
Sadie leads the way up the soggy red clay trail.
We had a bit of a break for a few hours yesterday so Kessy, Saturday, Sadie and I set out for a fun ride. Wet leaves and boughs splashed me plenty as we tiptoed along, a light mist decided to drop in, but we were undeterred.

In wet slippery conditions I always allow Kessy to set the pace, which she’ll hold to a sensible, careful walk. We stop at the stream with 25 water falls to take in the beauty of so many tiny ponds laced with fallen yellow tulip tree leaves.
Saturday and Kessy wade in the stream of 25 waterfalls.
After the stream we move to the logging road and into an area of a few hills. Kessy navigates wisely the grade changes and slick clay, her hooves making sloshing sounds with each step. But what they don’t do is slip.

I thought as we moved along about the marvelous traction a barefoot horse has in the mud. I did not feel a single slip or slide—and yes we were only walking, but still it was impressive. At one very level place she even stepped up to a gentle running walk, not a single slip, slide or misstep.

As we went along, confident and happy, I thought back to those years long ago, before I accepted the barefoot way and all the many benefits to the horse. I thought of one horse in particular, my magnificent Spotted Saddle Horse, Diablo, and the shoes he wore—and the slipping he would have been doing today.

That was back when I was certain, and no one could convince otherwise, that horses must be shod. And yes, we did different shoes for different circumstances. I even remember putting shoes on Diablo with cogs, to handle mud like yesterday’s ride. What damage do those cogged shoes do to the suspensory tissues inside the hoof? I can only imagine ... but I can compare the better traction Kessy displayed in the slippery red clay.

Kessy’s entire foot, every inch of sole and frog can, and does, touch the ground, supporting her and me as those magnificent feet had been designed. And providing great traction, mobility and surefootedness.

Riding in the red Virginia clay is a treat on a horse with bare feet.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry