Monday, August 17, 2015

One Year of Barefeet

We just marched happily over our one year anniversary here at Nature's Run Equestrian; and among the list of improvements we've successfully added to our farm and the livelhood of our horses... rehabbing all of our horses barefoot has been the most rewarding test of time!

While I wish we had been better at taking pictures throughout the process I want to take this day to celebrate our hard hooved graduates!

First and foremost, the main event who started it all.
Marry Me Johnny

I purchased Johnny in the spring of 2012 after he was left neglected over the winter with poor nutrition, poor hoof care and zero rehab from going barefoot the fall before. We went through many different rehab ideas for him; we even tried shoes! We spent 6 weeks in shoes before I couldn't handle the stress of it anymore. He was throwing shoes almost every 3 days, hurting himself in the process and ripping more hoof away than if we had left him barefoot. So I looked into barefoot specialists. I went through a long list of different specialists before a chance meeting with Kaileen at our boarding barn in the spring of 2013. We've never looked back. Though we have changed a lot along the way!
In the beginning we had Johnny on a 6-8 week schedule. He was living in a smaller dirt paddock and was eating from a round bale; with daily grain and mineral supplements. In this approach we managed to fix some of his major flaring/quarter cracks; but were unable to fully heal his hind quarter cracks. He also remained very flat footed; which made hard ground a very difficult adventure.
We then moved for almost a year to another facility with very similar living conditions. We saw little to no change in his feet.
After moving to our farm things changed the most. He was off of round bales and onto hay nets scattered throughout a large, hilly pasture with mixed terrain including pea gravel. We added black sunflower seeds to his diet. At this point in time we had to start changing his trim schedule. He was growing more hoof in 4 weeks than he was in 8 before this.
This was the changing factor.
4 week schedule of trimming and his angles started to change with each trim.
Now a year later, he has almost completely grown out his platypus feet and is now able to not just walk, but run on gravel without issue. We can hack out on the gravel road and back forests without a misguided or ouchy foot. He even started to grow new concavity in his soles! No more duck feet.
Now we are excited to document the growth of callus on his soles.

Next is Floyd.
Floyd came to me with chipped and flared long toe thoroughbred hooves. His previous owner gave me hoof hardener treatment to paint his soles with as he has always been very sore on hard ground.
We immediately put him onto a 4 week schedule; and the results have been incredible! He received his one year anniversary trim with us on Friday, and his feet are gorgeous! (I promise I'll post pics as soon as I get them) No more flaring, no cracking, no chips, holes or markings. They are the right size and finally at the right angle.
From here our next goal is to help him grow a stronger sole, and allow callus to grow in and help him over tougher gravel. While he isn't as ouchy as he used to be, he is still needing more rehab into conquering gravel roads.

The most surprising thing to me with him is his ability to move now that he has better angles. Over the winter I was worried he may be suffering early effects of arthritis as he was very stiff in his hind end. But with proper conditioning and now proper hind hoof angles, he is a beautiful mover; even over fences!

My favourite story of all is of our boarders!
How many we had coming into boarding skeptical of how we could bring their horses around from years of shoeing to be comfortable and forever sound barefoot.
Convincing them of a 4 week schedule, showing them how much faster their horse's hooves were growing in this new environment.. it was all part of the master plan!

Now we have 30 barefoot horses roaming our pastures over sand, gravel, rock and grass without issue. Many who hack out on to the gravel and asphalt roads daily.
No their hooves aren't waring away from the hard ground.. in fact, they are growing faster! Their hooves are adaptable. And giving them the chance to grow with the right environmental influences is so important.

I hear about it all the time; how not every horse can go barefoot. And yes, I am sure there are few who need shoes for corrective purposes from time to time. Just like we need casts or supports from time to time. But going barefoot is not about taking off shoes. It's about management, nutrition, conditioning and movement! You cannot take shoes off of a horse, and continue managing them in the same manner and expect them to come around eventually.
You need transitional varied ground types, sources of natural biotin minerals, lots and lots of movement and TIME.
It's taken us over a year to get some of our hardest cases sound again. But once they are fully rehabbed, they will be sound for life.
And that is the most important aspect of it all.

I owe my start in barehooves to Kaileen entirely. She has continued to educate me and my clients throughout the years; and I am happy to call her a friend and fellow equine enthusiast. She is here weekly to keep all of our horses on track; and is a key element in our decisions for footing and nutrition towards sound hooves!

You can check out Kaileen's Facebook page at:
Empathy Equine Natural Hoofcare

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