Read Part 1 here where I explain why I am transitioning Leo to barefoot and how I plan to go about it.
The first two weeks without hind shoes have gone well for Leo and his feet are changing already. He is showing no sensitivity to any surfaces at the moment so I started 30-40 minutes hacks out both ridden and in-hand over as many different surfaces as I can find. Here is a little video of his striding over some gravel with no bother (link takes you to my Instagram post and you’ll need to swipe to 3rd position I think, the other two are from the same hack).
I also started schooling for 20 minutes at a time but decided to limit the arena time only to shoulder-in work and some trot work on 20m circles. This is because there is quite a bit of crookedness that is present in Leo’s body and I am curious as to how this improves now.
He no longer twists his left foot and it has considerably changed shape for the better…it still loads not quite balanced but I want to see if changing his movement under the saddle will help his improve the foot balance further.
The Pro Hoof supplement arrived 10 days ago so he went on it straight away and despite some reviews saying horses fussed with it, Leo eats it without problems. I feed it together with Keyflow Key3Oil at 30ml. I’d just ran out and was going to go for a few weeks without to see how Pro Hoof works on its own but having re-read ingredients and recommendations for supplementation with Pro Hoof, I just ordered another bottle of Key3Oil (it is recommended to feed ProHoof with Linseed exactly for oil content).
Plan for the next 2 weeks:
work 5 days a week
hacking up to 40 minutes on varied terrain
in-hand hillwork 30min 2 x week
schooling 20min at a time, straightness focus
polework for proprioception and coordination
Re-evaluate at the end of 4th week.
I am so tempted to take the fronts off with his next shoeing cycle but I think I will let him go for another one. Decisions, decisions!
By Wiola Grabowska If you don’t know Leo’s story please see HERE and HERE as some of the below will make more sense if you know why I have Leo…
Even though Leo arrived to live with me in most dreadful circumstances, I feel privileged to have him. He became a big part of my life and whilst I had some plans for him at the beginning, they evolved and changed. Right now, he’s my “learning together” horse. With my keen interest in biomechanics and rehabilitation, he is helping me learn about movement, soundness and together we are testing different groundwork therapies/in-hand work.
Some of you will have heard of Kingsley, a horse that opened my eyes to knowledge I was oblivious to prior having him and whose 2010/11 barefoot transition journey can be followed on Rockley Farm Blog. Him and Nic Barker has inspired me to learn about hoofcare every day ever since.
In contrast to Kingsley, Leo is sound and happy in low level, hacking work which is all I realistically have the time for. As far as I know, he had been shod all his life.
Why am I taking his shoes off then?
As most good farriers I had a pleasure chatting with about hoofcare have always said, shoes weaken horses feet.
Everything about horses’ management have progressed at a speed of light from some top spec materials used for rugs, numnahs, boots to bedding we use for them, to the way we feed them, to the science of saddle fitting and saddle design. Pretty much everything has changed. Except hoofcare. We shod horses in Xenophon times (c. 430–354 BC) for war purposes and we still shoe them with metal shoes in 2017…So amazing or so insane? I don’t claim to know but having ridden (sound) barefoot horses I know that there’s a different level of suppleness, fluidity, body awareness and dexterity to their movement that I have never felt on a shod horse. It is true that sometimes, shoes can change the movement to more extravagant and I have seen this happen but I don’t personally consider that a positive as far as soundness and longevity of the horse goes.
So why am I doing this with Leo?
Mostly to learn more. To help him have the healthiest, soundest life I can give him, to test if his movement patterns improve (he has slight pelvis asymmetry), to see how his feet change and what impact will this have on him overall, to understand further the benefit of improved proprioception on the rest of the body biomechanics.
5 weeks before…
In preparation for his shoes coming off I put Leo on Key-3 Oil by Keyflow for its Linseed oil and recommended joint care benefit. My reason for this is that hooves are incredibly dynamic and change in ways I have never imagined possible (you can watch Kingsley’s hoof changes on Rockley’s Farm blog I linked above as Nic kept a good record of those) but from what I gather, joints must have a harder time to adjust to those fast changes. Any person with some kind of foot issue will know how using different shoes can cause plethora of aches and pains in every joint as well as back/neck. As Leo is otherwise healthy and is fed a handful of high fibre nuts by Castle Horse Feeds simply so I have something to put his supplements in and so he has his “I had breakfast and dinner fix” , I have not changed his diet that much. He is on hay during the day and night turn out from about 3pm until 8am.
In the lead up to the transition I worked him for 30 min 5 days a week hacking around the fields and on the roads mostly focusing on hill work. I didn’t want him to be too fit as I knew I will be giving him a few weeks off ridden work once his shoes were removed.
As I mentioned above, I had to remove Leo’s front shoe the day before Jack was due to come to shoe him. As I walked him to the field over some stoney patch of ground I thought he would be footy but he wasn’t in the slightest. Out of curiosity I walked him around some more stones and he couldn’t care less. That’s when I decided to keep his feed unchanged for now and just ordered Pro Feet broad spectrum mineral balancer to add to current feed.
From all the adventures with Kingsley and other barefoot horses I have looked after, I know diet is the key, it is all much more eloquently explained HERE . I am looking into other feeds and considering what to put him on but for the moment, he seems fine so I won’t change anything until end of summer.
Why not in the winter…
There seem to be a common advice to transition in the winter when the ground is soft. I personally found winter second hardest of seasons (after spring) to keep a barefoot horse sound.
My main reasons for transitioning in the summer:
long, night turn out – grass is much “safer” at night (sugar levels drop). Hooves need movement to grow healthy. In the summer, Leo gets about 17 hours of turn out while in the winter, about 7h.
light evenings for roadwork (contrary to popular belief that barefoot horses shouldn’t do much roadwork, they indeed do. It helps hugely with self trimming and soundest barefoot horses I have seen and ridden are the most hard working ones )
this might be my personal experience only but I find dry ground means less bacterial infections (abscesses), less problems with white line disease and thrush
perfect weather for hacking on variety of surfaces to condition the hooves
more time to dedicate to the whole process
Farrier or trimmer
I decided to stay with Leo’s current farrier to help me with the transition. He understands the importance of minimal trimming and have done a great job with two other fully barefoot horses where Leo lives so I see no reason to change right now.
Plan for the next 2 weeks
Week 1: Turn out only, no work. Until Wednesday 28th June I am letting Leo figure out the changes by himself. I continue the Sole Cleanse daily and just keep monitoring him for any signs of discomfort. So far he acts as if nothing has changed!
Week 2: I will start introducing short sessions of non-ridden exercise on variety of surfaces starting with smooth tarmac and waxed sand surface of the arena and see how he copes. No plans beyond that as taking each week as it comes.
Please note: mine and Leo’s experience I will share on here is as individual as any other horse is. This is not a “how to go barefoot” blog but simply a diary of this particular horse’s transition. If you are after a more in-depth guidance please visit http://rockleyfarm.blogspot.co.uk/p/hoofcare-essentials.html
The yards, tack rooms and forums are full of heated conversations on whether to shoe or not to shoe one’s horse and in today’s video countdown I would ask you to have a little think with me 🙂
My question to myself as a trainer/instructor/horse carer is “am I asking the right question”…
What if the questions were:
“How important is it for my horse to be able to expand his hoofcapsule“?
“How degenerative and long term pathology inducing the rigid hoof capsule is for my horse?”
“How rigid hoof capsule affects the mental state of my horse?”
“Is the hoof’s inability to function without restriction connected to my horse’s back pain/shoulder pain/bridle lameness?”
Forget Shoe or Not to Shoe..Who cares…What if we ask better questions, ones yielding educational answers not just the “yes/no” answers…
Short Video for today…;) Please share your thoughts whether you agree with me or not!
As I mentioned in my yesterday’s blog, I had a great day teaching fabulous Rockley “graduates” at Milton KeynesEventing Centre this past Saturday. Normally I like to have everything organised well before the day but this time some riders confirmed their attendance last minute and some joined in on the day so this coupled with the fact I was compressing 3 days of content into one day made for a grand improvisation 🙂 I think we managed to get main points covered but I am hoping we can run a repeat with more coaching time next year!
As always I start with a chat with all riders to get to know them and their horses. As most of us follow Nic’s blog on rehabilitation processes with all the horses, nobody seems a total stranger.
Even a little chat with riders can be revealing regarding the real reasons for various riding issues. It’s important not to waste time on trying to sort out various symptoms. It’s the causes that need addressing for the riders and horses to benefit from long lasting effects. The biggest downside of very limited time is that many things just cannot be covered and worked through.
We did my ABC (awareness-balance-connection) workshop in the morning which I would normally do on a Friday when running the training as a full weekend event (you can read about the main principles of it in my post: Show me how you walk…). We had plenty of fun with that 🙂