During my test ride and subsequent PPE I knew the feet would be an issue. He hit all the other marks though and I figured the risk was worth it.
If you remember, the very week I brought him home I had the farrier come out. He had lost his right hind in the pasture and half the hoof wall with it not allowing a new shoe to be put on. He was extremely lame after that. So much so I that I took him to the vet. A few days of bute and Farrier’s Barrier and he was back to good.
At that same farrier appointment, he had new fronts put on. I wasn’t that thrilled with how they were trimmed but they started from a bad place and were improved on to the extent they could be. With two front shoes he was sound over pretty much all terrain except the heavy gravel in the water complex on cross country.
Well, dang if he didn’t lose his front left shoe in the pasture last week. It took a mighty chunk of hoof wall with it too. Knowing that we couldn’t likely get a farrier out soon, I had Dusty pull the right front and then he came up lame. Not as bad as on the hinds but lame nonetheless.
As of this post he is sound in the pasture but lame on gravel. I lunged him last night and he was sound but short striding on the front at the trot which had me cancel my lesson for tonight. Ugh. I hate canceling lessons.
My farrier is coming Friday anyway though I’m on a wait list to get in with another one that I’m hopeful will do a better job. I think this current farrier is doing the best he can but I want a second opinion. This leaves me with a bit of a decision to make and my gut is telling me one thing while my heart sinks a bit at the short term trade offs.
Here’s the deal. I firmly believe that a barefoot hoof is the healthiest hoof. Endurance is a sport of obsession with all things horse care related and I did hours upon hours of research on the hoof, trims, barefoot, boots and shoes. I also realize that the Big E has crap feet that will likely never be able to handle work while bare. I’m fully ready to put shoes all around.
But form tends to follow function when allowed to and right now his hooves are all sorts of wonky shaped. I’d love to put shoes back on him this week. He’d be sound and happy immediately and we can get back to riding and training. I could lesson next week. Life could move forward.
Except that is only a short term gain. He’d still have wonky feet. Even the best trim can’t simulate how the hoof responds to barefoot use. I’d love for his left front to build a better sole and thicker heel. For his frogs to widen, his toe to shorten and his grooves to deepen and shoes aren’t going to do that. Barefoot will with time.
The unfortunate part of leaving him bare is that it will likely mean time out of the saddle for a while. I’m going to try the cavallo boots I bought for his hinds on the fronts and see if I can ride in those for the time being. My thought process is that with barefoot ambulation in the pasture the hoof should start to grow out with a better angle, more support and a healthier overall hoof capsule and sole. Then if he still needs shoes for support, which I’m betting he will, at least the shoes are on a proper hoof instead of what he has now.
The timing is actually not that bad since it is already in the mid to upper 90s with no chance of cooling for the next two months. I don’t feel right asking him to work in 98F temps with high humidity. If I do it is at mostly the walk with some trot which he hopefully will start to handle pretty quickly anyway. Plus, between the right hind and left front hoof wall loss it’s not like he can even have a shoe tacked on with any hope of staying put.
So that’s where I am with the Big E. Barefoot by default basically for the time being and likely bare through next spring when hopefully he will have a new hoof grown out that will better take a proper shoe. The short term loss in the high heat and humidity for the long term gain in soundness and health is worth it. I could easily hop on him as he is right now in the arena and do walk work which at the current temps is all that is safe anyway.
We shall see how this journey goes.