When I was in high school, my older brother had his first taste of roping and working cows with horses. And just as our luck would have it, a gorgeous sorrel gelding by Mr. Baron Red came to the barn needing a new home.
So that autumn we added one more to our herd, Zip.
When we purchased Zip, we were told that he had an early diagnosis of Navicular Disease. But after an initial round of x-rays at Colorado State University, the disease appeared to be mild and, with proper shoeing and care, he should be fine.
Prior to Zip, we already had experience with horses that needed special shoeing. My horse JJ had foundered before we bought him, and I knew that going into his purchase. What I wasn’t aware of, however, was the cost of shoeing a foundered horse. To reset his bar shoes, replace pads, do a corrective trim, and hold it all together with epoxy every 5 weeks became costly when I was paying for it myself.
A few months went by, and we weren’t seeing any success with Zip’s diagnosis.
So we started to do some research.
Since this was before we had the convenience of Internet at our house, we checked out books from the library, found what we could at local tack stores and asked as many questions as people would answer about trimming, shoeing and barefoot horses. One of the books I wish we had at the time is The Barefoot Horse (available on HorseBooksEtc.com).
Lucy Nichols, the book’s author, is a co-proprietor of a hoof-care wholesaler and one of the UK’s fastest growing online equestrian retailers, and as such is an expert on barefoot hoof care.
Her book The Barefoot Horse is just as the subtitle says “An Introduction to Barefoot Hoof Care and Hoof Boots.”
If you’re looking to let your horse go au naturel but don’t know where to start, this book is a great jumping off point so you can get your feet wet in the world of barefoot horses.
We were ready to get our feet wet.
After doing our homework, my brother had the idea of trying a more natural method for Zip: a balanced trim. Zip reached the point in his recovery that our vet, farrier and experienced barn owner thought foregoing shoes might be a solution.
What would ya know, after about four months and his third barefoot trim that rope horse was stronger and faster, ready to chase steers out of the chute. From time to time, Zip would still get sore after a long day of roping or a taxing trail ride, but for him, it seemed a natural trim is what suited him best.
Going barefoot might not be the best choice for all horses, but it is something to consider. And The Barefoot Horse is a good place to start.
Particularly if you’re interested in hoof boots.
Personally, I have never used hoof boots for anything but treating an abscess or if my horse threw a shoe, but now I’m sort of tempted since I’ve read the basics from Nichols who discusses:
• Advice and information on how hoof protection has changed over time
• The benefits of hoof boots
• Long-term hoof boot care and use
• Real-life case studies to help you make an informed decision.
Since I’m a hoof boot novice, I’m glad she put in a section about how to measure your horse’s hooves correctly so you get the right size boots. Like measuring for a new horse blanket, it seems simple at first, but there are a few tricks of the trade that the lucky ones know to (hopefully) cut down on those trips to the tack store.
Big things to keep in mind when you’re measuring for a new set of hoof boots are:
• Boots are meant to fit freshly trimmed hooves (if you can’t measure right away, at least within 10 days after the trim).
• The growth allowance for hoof boots is typically 3-6 weeks of healthy hoof growth.
• The width of the hoof should be taken at the widest point (to the nearest millimeter).
• The length from the buttress to the toe (to the nearest millimeter).
So before you pull those shoes and slip your horse’s tootsies into some hoof boots, grab a copy of The Barefoot Horse and start (or continue) your barefoot education.