Wendell Berry is an author, poet and farmer who writes about the way of living he believes in. He values the interconnectedness of hard work, pure food, sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, healthy rural communities and the connection to place. He recently released his first book of poems in five years entitled Leavings.
I've never been labeled a tree-hugger and although I know I should, I don’t eat organic food every day. But I do think the holistic philosophy described by Mr. Berry helps us better understand the principles of natural horse care.
There are two interesting updates in the great barefoot experiment for you to consider.
Rocky Gains One Boot Size in Six Months
One of the horses in our herd has increased by one boot size since we pulled his shoes. His front hooves have grown from 00.5 to 0. He only measures 14 hands so the hoof to height ratio is OK.
Before: Rocky's feet are measured with a Fit Kit six months ago.
After: Rocky in Gloves at a training ride last Sunday. Look at how nicely the 'v' spreads.
I attribute the change in barefoot hoof size to the following four factors:
1. His heels were very contracted. Before pulling the shoes, his feet were contracted and his toe was stretching forward (one issue goes hand in foot with the other). The hoof capsule has greatly benefitted from the opportunity to expand and contract. His frog is now bigger and wider.
2. Regular movement. This horse has a regular work schedule, even if it is just being lunged in the roundpen when time doesn’t allow for miles. When he was going through a few weeks of sensitive feet, we would put him in Gloves for half the day.
3. Regular maintenance. One of the tips from Duncan McLaughlin was to bring back the toe every few days. As hoof growth allows, I have consistently beveled his toe back to the white line . I rasp from below first, then from above. This has really helped the heel decontract.
4. Diet. This horse gains weight quickly if his diet is not properly managed. He becomes foot-sensitive if he gets too many sugars.
Rocky’s foot today.
Which is the Right Candidate For Natural Hoof Trimming?
Don’t assume horses with tough feet are the only barefoot hoof candidates. Horses with hoof problems are the very ones who might benefit most from a natural hoof trimming approach.
Redford is an interesting case study. I hesitated before pulling his shoes because he was always so tentative in hard footing. Today, the white line disease in his front feet is mostly grown out. His feet are looking balanced and they are tough.
I took him out into the desert for a couple of good training rides in Easyboot Gloves last weekend. Not to tempt fate just before a multi-day ride, but he has never felt so sound – even when he had shoes and pads.
Discovering a connection to place.
Get Your Boots On
Wendell Berry’s poems speak to the value of solitude, quietness and watchfulness on the world. I hope that reminds you of the fulfillment you reap from a solid ride on a good horse. So put on a set of Gloves and get out there. Maybe we'll meet on the trail.
Keep up the bootlegging!