It's that time of year where spring seems to have sprung, at least in our neck of the woods. I am sure as I am writing this there is a wicked snowstorm or impressive hail clouds developing, but for now, I'll happily take the shift where there seems to be more good days than bad. With the swing in weather, the longer days and the overall feeling of spring comes more riding! We've been lucky to have kept riding most of the winter, short little hacks and trail rides, mostly at a walk with a little trot thrown in and an occasional gallop. These rides have all been done barefoot. My main trail horse this winter has been the adorable little mare, Belesema Dazling Lady. Dazl wasn't shod when I got her, but I still believe going from unshod and pasture pet to barefoot/booted riding horse is similar, if not the same, as transitioning a shod horse.
Dazl came to me with pretty overgrown hind feet and a pretty normal "pasture trim" on her fronts. I've learned the hard way in the past, that sometimes less *is* actually more and I have stopped being so over-zealous in the trim department during the first few months. I want to ride my horses and want them to be comfortable. Because our horses are on such large acreage, they tend to need a little more foot at the beginning of the transition to stay completely comfortable. I have been able to ride Dazl barefoot on all of our rides since she came to me last fall with a less aggressive trim than maybe my hot little hands wanted to do. This worked out well as she was starting with no condition and could only handle short rides. Then the Deep Freeze of Hell (my version of hell is cold) came and I was even happier I had left her with some foot, as the poor horses stood on rock-hard frozen ground for two months. During this time, there was almost zero hoof growth on both of my ponies. Our rides were short on good footing but were no doubt very good for her transitioning hooves. Her condition in body, mind and hooves has improved immensely.
6 Months After.
At this time, our rides have increased in both length and frequency. The footing is beautiful and it is very tempting to keep riding barefoot but we've reached the point where wear is exceeding growth, and the balancing act between booted and bare begins. How do you balance the need for hoof protection with the benefits of riding barefoot? Do you wing it? Stay on a schedule? Adjust your riding? Having the choice is one of my absolute favorite things about having barefoot horses. Ride on!