I rode 37 miles on Far last weekend – 31 of them completely barefoot. I’m getting him ready for the Dynamite Dash 100 on February 27th. It’s the first time I’ve done so many miles barefoot at one time – and I did it partly because of the concepts Duncan McLaughlin so ably described in his post on concussion yesterday.
One of the 25 mile loops at Dynamite Dash. I had the enviable task of pre-riding two of the loops in Tonto National Forest on Monday.
One of our winter guests pointed out to me how much confidence I have obviously built in barefoot in the last forty weeks without shoes. And he’s right: I would never have gone out there barefoot on such a long training ride 12 days before a 100 mile race if I did not have such a high level of comfort that this is the best way for my horses to go.
Far moves boldly and with ease through sand, rock and decomposed granite. His heels are decontracting nicely and his feet look healthy. We’ve had a fairly wet winter down here in south central Arizona – and I think the regular wetness in the ground has really helped his feet expand.
Far: amazingly tough feet. They still look flat to me, but there is obviously change going on.
I also rode Redford 11 miles without boots. He had an aggressive trim a couple of weeks ago a day after three days of constant rain. He was sore for a few days. When I rode him last weekend he was very comfortable over all but the rockiest sections of the trail – it proves to me that each horse reacts very differently to barefoot/booted – even when conditions and diet are the same.
You’ve got to be committed
One of the lessons Redford has taught me is that there is more to natural horse care than just pulling the shoes.
An extreme: this photo was taken at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show last weekend.
Diet may be one of the most surprising factors in a horse’s ability to go down the trail comfortably. With Redford, Rocky and Rain, there is a direct correlation between a starchy diet and tender feet. If I feed a grain hay, oats or beet pulp, Redford is almost instantly different in his way of going. Far seems to be the only one of the four who doesn’t demonstrate a reaction to sugar.
You’ve got to move, too
Another shocker is the correlation between movement and hoof growth. Using natural hoof trimming principles, I usually trim Far once a week while he is working and it is shocking to see how much his feet are growing now compared to the ten-week break I gave him after he completed Tevis. The growth is not just in length of hoof, but also in width and shape – something I never saw when my horses were shod.
This is obviously not Far - but definitely worth seeing. Also from the Scottsdale show.
Ride the curve
There is lots of information to digest – and you’ve got to want to learn and to be curious and bold and experiment here and there. The EasyCare website has good information to get you started, but nothing equals getting out there and doing it for yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love having greater control over your equine partner’s feet instead of having to deal with horse hoof problems on an ongoing basis.
Far got first place middleweight in the Southwest regional standings in 2009: an accomplishment I directly attribute to using Easycare boots.