Back in Time or Back to the Future?

Natural Hoof Care, protective hoof boots, bare foot trimming, seems like hoof care is evolving at an ever faster pace. We are learning more everyday, we are understanding more with every hoof we trim.

Just came back from a two week trip to Germany, where I had the honor to conduct a couple of hoof care clinics. The first one was in central Germany, near the town of Kassel in North Hessen. The area is famous for the old medieval castles and forts, the area where  the Grimm Brothers wrote all their famous children's stories like Snowhite, Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood. In the second one, I had the privilege to assist Bernd Jung from Hufshop in a two day clinic for hoof care practitioners. Bernd conducts regular seminars to teach natural hoof care and hoof protection. His program is very unique and provides in-depth knowledge about horse hoof trimming and protective horse boots.

Bernd Jung and the Bootmeister

Bernd Jung and the Bootmeister

The clinics  included anatomy of the horses leg and hoof, history of hoof care, Natural Hoof Trimming demonstrations, applications of Easyboot Gloves and Glue-Ons with Vettec products.

Horses and participants getting ready for demonstrationHoof drying















Horse and participants getting ready for Glue-on demonstration: Drying of hoof

Christoph 1

Using the rubber mallet to set the Glue on onto the hoof.

Christoph 2

CS Equipak is being injected through pre-drilled holes for sole support.

I also demonstrated the use of Vettec Superfast to build a temporary shoe. Below, the material Superfast is added to the hoof wall, plantar and dorsal. Hoof is placed onto a foam board.

Superfast

Then the dried material is rasped and shaped to whatever form desired.

Hoof is rasped

finished hoof

The trimming and EasyCare hoof boot application was performed on a variety of horses from various breeds and various hoof shapes and conditions. The weather was typical for Europe in November, cold and wet. But with proper preparation and diligence, we had great success in Glue-on application.

The equestrian industry in Germany is growing at a very fast pace. There are ever more horses year after year and the demand for educated hoof care practitioners is huge. The enthusiasm of the participants was contagious, everyone is eager to learn and has a lot to contribute. As always, when I teach hoof care clinics, I'm the one who is learning the most. It is fascinating what we can learn when we are open minded.

Surprising, at first, is the fact that founder is very widespread. I did not understand why it is so common, till I learned that the pastures where nowadays horses are grazing, were until recently used by dairy cattle. The grass was heavily fertilized and genetically altered to increase milk production. This resulted in a 220% increase in milk production. Fewer cows were needed and pastures opened for the horses. Needless to say, horses have a difficult time with the altered and super rich grass, thus the high occurrence of founder.

So, more than ever, horse owners and riders are looking for remedies to help their foundered horses. We know that barefoot trims are helpful, so is frog and sole support. It is only logical that hoof boots in conjunction with Vettec products for sole support are in very high demand in Germany. Natural hoof care is being embraced more in Germany than in any other country I have visited.

A special "Thanks" goes out to Martin Boesel, who did the on site preparation and organization and provided logistical support for the clinic in Hessen, Christoph Mueller, the VETTEC Area Sales Manager for northern Europe, Garrett Ford and Kevin Myers for their tireless support and advocacy for Natural Hoof Care and finally, Bernd Jung and his family for taking such great care of me during my stay in Oberrot, where his business and home is located.
 

Medival knight castle near Amorbach, northern Bavaria

Medieval Knight's castle in Amorbach, Northern Bavaria. Here is also the location of the oldest known residential home still standing. The house below was built in 1291.
 

Oldest existing home in Germany

Your Bootmeister






 


The Healing Power of Barefoot featured in Equus Magazine

Congratulations to Barefoot trimmer and EasyCare dealer, Karen Reeves of Keno, OR. whose work was recently featured in Equus Magazine. The magazine ran a nice article titled Healing a Hoof Crack, "A Hoof Made Whole". Karen as many of you already know has quite a reputation for trimming and booting mules as well as hoof rehabilitation. In this article written by Robert Sproule, Karen takes on a gelding with a nasty crack that ran from the coronet band to the ground. The gelding's persistent crack stemmed from an old injury to his coronary band. After exhausting all other means to rectify the situation and running out of options; the owner, although skeptical contacted Karen for her opinion. After a lengthy consultation the decision was made to give barefoot trimming a shot. Karen's plan was simple, get rid of the thrush, return the hoof to it's natural form and let the horse heal.

Big's hoof crack, shown here with glue in attempt to hold the hoof together. Photo by Karen Reeves

The photo above shows the condition of the hoof when Karen started. The hoof was shod and crack glued in hopes of offering some stabilization. All photos are courtesy of Karen Reeves.

Solar view, shoe freshly pulled. Photo by Karen Reeves.

Shoe pulled, before the White Lightning soak. Glue is still in the right heel area near the base of the frog.

With a balanced barefoot trim it took just three months to see the owner had made the right decision and they indeed were making progress. In just seven months of diligent horse owner care and natural barefoot trimming the horse had grown in a solid hoof wall that was crack free. There were ups and downs along the way but as you can see by the photos below, Karen's assessment was spot on.
 
Healthy hoof, with crack grown out. Photo by Karen Reeves Solar view of the now healthy hoof,  Photo by Karen Reeves

Karen's photos along with a few quotes were used in the article and Karen was very happy to see this national magazine was open minded enough to print this kind of story. She feels barefoot trimming has come a long way and is being widely accepted. Karen says that taking a horse barefoot is not quite so foreign to the horse world as it used to be. A lot of this has to do with the advancements in protective hoof boots . New designs in hoof boots make the transition from horseshoes to barefoot much easier these days for both horse and rider. 

Our hats of you to Karen for the fantastic work you did restoring this gelding and for helping Equus readers discover the amazing benefits of natural hoof care and horse keeping. 

Many times problems like these stem from hoof imbalance. Does your horse have good hoof form? Not sure? Check out Karen's thoughts on a healthy hoof form

Trimmers, Karen's presentation is an excellent educational tool and one you might find helpful to your clients.

Debbie Schwiebert

easycare-vet-hcp-deaaler-accounts-manager-debbie-schwiebert

Vet Dealer & Hoof Care Practitioner Accounts

I manage the hoof care practitioner and veterinarian dealer accounts at EasyCare. An integral part of my job is to stay current in all areas of barefoot hoof care, which enables me to serve this vital group of EasyCare dealers at the next level.


Thinking Positive!

There are two ways to look at things- you know, the whole glass half-full, glass half-empty saying. While I try to look at things in a positive manner, sometimes I find myself focusing on the negative and dismissing any silver lining as tarnished. I recently caught an early case of the winter blues, and even more quickly decided I was going to be miserable if I let them take hold *this early* in the winter!! Truthfully I think part of my "blahs" could be attributed to the huge bang I ended my endurance season with, and much like "post-marathon depression," I was feeling it. I am a very goal-oriented person and while I had some thoughts and plans for the winter, I needed to put some goals into place. I urge you to do the same, and please share!!


Topper looking lovely in his gorgeous summer coat. Said coat is now long-gone and covered snugly in his winter blankie. 

I decided my first priority this winter is working with Topper, who I posted about here. Topper is now four and a half. I purchased him in July of 2009 as a young three-year-old, and have been battling a strong flight response and a flared quarter on the right front foot since. Having three horses going might not be much for some people, but for myself, it has been difficult, and Topper has continually been put on the back burner, which is fine given his age. Giving Replika the winter off is the right decision, and that frees up "Spot #1" for The Topster. Not only am I going to be working on his foot with my hands and tools, I am going to be working on lateral work and gymnastics to improve and equalize strength in case there is something further up in the body that is causing or exacerbating the flare. We will also be trail riding regularly and working on exposing him to new things. Ahhhh the joys of bringing up baby....


I know I showed this before, but I still can't believe I brought this horse home with feet like that!! August 2009



One year later.

 
My next major is goal is to get Khopy's feet perfect! They have come so far. The more you watch horses move, the more educated your eye becomes, and the more obsessive you can be. Yay for me ;-) I am working very hard on balancing him, and will be getting radiographs done in the very near future to check my work. 


Khopy when I first looked at him to buy. I knew we could balance him up in no time! January 2010.



July 2010.

Those of us who use natural hoof trimming are extremely lucky. Our horses' bare feet (and yes, I do believe my horses are barefoot despite the fact I use Easyboot Gloves and Glue-Ons for competition and long training rides) show us so much more than what is happening near the ground. Much like the cheesy phrase, "The eyes are the window to the soul," the hooves are the window to the horse. We can observe and adjust conformational anomalies, loading and breakover patterns and possible lamenesses, some even before they fully manifest. The other brilliant aspect of barefoot trimming is that the horse is free to adjust the trim as needed. Nature at its best! If you shoe an unbalanced foot, the hoof remains unbalanced throughout the entire shoeing cycle of six to eight weeks- the horse is not able to wear off the imbalance as though they would if left barefoot. I shudder to think of what would become of Topper's tendency to flare if shod, or even Khopy and Replika's propensity to have a higher and lower angle on the fronts, which is totally normal and 100% manageable with regular trimming. I remember admiring my horses freshly shod hooves, before I knew any better, and also remember thinking about how poor their feet looked four or five weeks later. If you're on the fence about pulling shoes, observe carefully, and even take pictures every two weeks. Careful though, you could become one of the "barefoot crazies!" 


So.. point of this looooong-winded point is to use the winter to your advantage! I think we get so caught up in the moment, the season, the game, that we forget to slow down and look at the bigger picture. I am using this down-time to re-paint my big picture. While slowing down isn't appealing to some (myself included), I am going to enjoy the slower pace, bond with my youngsters and use the dark, cold nights to read and learn even more about natural horse care and barefoot trimming. We just won't tell the natural horse-care Gods that my guys are snug in their Rambos and hanging around the feed tubs like welfare ponies, instead of foraging for their dinner :-) 

Make some goals!

~ Amanda Washington
SW Idaho

Don't Nail Your Glue-Ons!

The Moab Canyons 3 Day Pioneer ride just finished. Like every year, EasyCare and Global Endurance Training Center are represented and helping riders with trims, boot fitting, Glue-On and Glove applications and advice.


Christoph and Sean Mahoney are preparing boots at the Hoof Care Joint Operations Center. The team, supported by Kevin Waters, worked every day till nightfall.

What makes this ride so special is the beautiful scenery and the slick rock. Nowhere else in the West does one encounter these vast areas of red sandstone plates, named slick rock, because in rainy conditions these slabs of sandstone not only get very shiny but also slippery.

Contrary to granite and limestone, sandstone is a very soft rock. Hence the formation of the famous arches and the abundant sand trails. The rock itself is often covered by a very tiny layer of sand, invisible to the naked eye. The elements work relentlessly to break up the sandstone into sand.

Traction is friction, friction is greater when a softer material meets a harder material or vice versa. It is diminished when a hard material encounters hard material and soft encounters soft material. Easyboots and polyurethane horse shoes are about the same density and hardness as a bare hoof.  Much softer than steel, bare hooves and EasyCare hoof boots have much more traction when encountering concrete, pavement and other hard rock slabs, while steel shod horses do poorly under those circumstances. Two years ago at the Big Horn 100, we encountered a big slab of granite rock. The steel shod horse next to me slid like being on ice and fell instantly. Suffered major skin abrasions. Our booted horses trotted over it without missing a beat.

But on the soft slick rock, bare hooves and booted hooves do have diminished traction. It's the nature of physics. Metal grinds the soft rock slightly when hitting it, thus creating more friction. Knowing what we are facing and contemplating a solution, I booted some horses with the special studded Glue ons, provided by EasyCare for the North American Championship last year in Kentucky. Originally designed for traction in mud and wet grass, I already had used them last year at the Moab Canyon ride with great success.

















Not having enough of these studded boots available, I came up with an alternative plan for the other horses. How about placing horse shoe nails at the bottom of the boot and exiting them at the weld line between sole and boot wall? Therefore the nails would never even touch the horses hoof. That thought seemed to be worth a try.

















After curving the nail tips slightly to the outside, I placed them as shown above. I cut and clinched them like a farrier does when using steel shoes. On the right image, notice how the clinches are so low that the nails never touch the hoof of the horse.

That was a trial, I did not know if the nails will rip out of the boot, cause too much traction or not enough traction. Therefore, I used that method only on my horse, Stars Aflame, on Day One.

An example of the slick rock the riders went for several miles.

After checking at the vet check at mile 25, everything looked good. The nails were worn quite a bit already, surprisingly, considering all the sand and the soft sandstone we travelled over.  At the end of the 50, this is how the bottom of the boot looked.


 The nail heads were almost level with the boot, but all of them stayed in place nicely. I had great traction all day long, Stars Aflame never slipped even once.

That afternoon, I fitted all the other Global Endurance Center's horses with these nails. During the next two ride days, they all stayed in place, provided just enough friction, but not too much.

Equipped with the modified Glue ons, Trinity and Katie Defrancesco descending safely down Wipe Out hill on Day Three. The pair finished second that day.

Day Three riders enjoying the rising sun.


 A rider heading towards Tombstone Rock early in the morning, crossing vast areas of Utah's famous slick rock.

The booted horses from GETC won on two days, had two second places and received two BCs. Not a bad showing for the EasyCare Glue-Ons over the challenging slick rock country.

Your Bootmeister 

Uno Gets a Mega-Trim

During the week before Virginia City 100, in two separate evening sessions, I trimmed and stuck Glue-ons on Uno's front and back feet. It took me about 20 minutes to trim and glue the rears—and an hour and a half to do the fronts. Why? Because I was desperately trying to smoosh Uno's large front feet into a size too small boot.
 
This was a gradual trap to fall into. Each time I'm trim him, I'd have to take a bit more off until I'd crossed that line from "slight reshaping of hoof to get a nice snug fit" to "complete resculpturing of the foot to get them on" <grrr>. I'd also made a mistake about two weeks previously: during a moment of inattention, I'd trimmed one heel on his right front too short (I have to work really hard to not be over-enthusiastic with my new nippers), so had to even them up.

What a dummy <sigh>. Just what we needed before Uno's first 100. I wasn't terribly surprised when we lost both front glue-ons about 45 miles into the ride. It kind of reminded me of a pair of riding tights I made for myself - I was warned to be sure the calf was good and tight and of course made it too tight. As a result, the stupid things are always slipping down. You want your boots snug, but if they are too small they'll just tend to boing off.
 
Realising that it was time to take a step-back and that Uno was on break for a month anyway, I let his feet grow out for nearly seven weeks    =8^o   (<-- that's ASCII artwork showing "hair-raising") so I could start again from scratch and see what was really going on.
  
So here's my attempt at a step-by-step trimming example.
 
If you're a new trimmer and considering starting to do your horse's feet yourself, I'd recommend not doing it this way. It's way harder to trim a horse with 72"-long feet, than to touch-up an existing un-out-of control foot, so better to get a "Hoof Care Professional" to get the foot where it needs to be and then work from there.

What you will need:
  • A rasp (this is crucial)
  • A hoofpick (I like those ones with the spiky brush on the other side to get the bits off the hoof)
  • A hoof-stand (trying to trim without a hoof-stand is possible, but it's about 50 times harder than with a stand, and much, much harder to do a competent job without becoming demoralised)
  • A hoof knife (I like a narrow-bladed one to get into the nooks and crannies of the frog). 
  • A horse with feet.
In addition, a pair of really good nippers is wonderful. Having said that, for the first year or so, I didn't have nippers and did everything with a rasp. This works fine until you don't get around to trimming someone for many weeks and then have to remove half an inch of hoof wall in the middle of the summer.  Can you say "sweat and biceps"? 

If you're worried about shelling out lots of money buying expensive tools for something you're not sure you're going to be able to manage (and you won't be alone - I was that person once), get the hoof-stand before the nippers. The hoof stand will make your life so much more pleasant and you're more likely to feel like you are capable of trimming your own horse.

Anyway. On with the show. My caveat is that I'm self-taught and this is meant to show how I trim my horses - knowing how they grow, how they move, how much work they're going to be doing, on what kind of terrain, what has/has not worked in the past. I'll probably forget to mention some super-important detail, so please don't follow this as gospel and lame your horses because of it. This is just what I do.  You need to read as much as you can (I highly recommend Pete Ramey as a common sense, non-radical, real-life trimmer), think about what you read, discard things that don't work for you, and experiment to see what does. 


1. Above we see Uno's right front pre-trim at 7 weeks. Euw - bull-nosed toe (I'd rasped and rasped to get it in the stupid boot. Remember - do not try this at home, it works really badly), and very long and spatulate-like.


2. To start with, clean the crud out of the foot, so you can see what's going on. I scrape most of the mud off the outside of the hoofwall, as well as the underside of the foot. Clean out the frog so you really know where the mud ends and the foot starts. Then take a look at what needs to be done. 
 
In Uno's case, I see is horrendously long heels, overlaid bars, lots of sole, and raggedy-thrushy frog.

3. He was shedding some frog at the front, some of the rear portion had lots of funky flaps and pockets for thrush to hide in, and there were some flaps along the groove, so using my hoof knife I trimmed all the rubbish off. 
 
My objective with the frog is to leave it as much alone as possible (although you couldn't tell that, looking at this example), but at the same time I'm trying to avoid hidey-holes in which for thrush to develop - so what/how much you cut off becomes a judgement call. If I know the horse is going to be ridden barefoot exclusively so will self-wear (or if the horse hadn't been allowed to grow out for 7 weeks and get completely out of whack) then I'd be much less aggressive in my frog sculpting. What you see here is way more radical than I would normally be comfortable with.
 
But, yikes, trimming off that frog made his heels look even longer!

4. Another view showing his long heels.

One question that comes up is "how do you know how much foot you can trim off?" My guideline is the seat of the corn (see red arrow) - this is the little corner of sole which sits in the V-shape of the bar/hoof. On a horse with lots of overlaid bar, it can be hard to find sometimes. This is part of the heel area that you're trying to trim down to move to the back of the foot for support. I clean that area out down to proper sole (as opposed to mud or crumbly sole) and that's my limit - I go no deeper than that.

For the rest of the foot, towards the end of summer most of the horses are hiding proper sole under lots of dry, dead, false sole which presents a problem. Do you dig around and take it off, or do you leave it?

Ideally, you want to avoid paring away sole - you're hoping to get that nice barefoot callous going. But in reality, if your horse isn't housed on rough terrain there is usually a time when you need to get the old sole off because it's packed in there (by the end of summer, my horses are living in fluffy dirt in their dry lot - the chances of anything wearing off their feet are slim to none).

So the answer to that question depends on the horse. A few months ago, a friend and I trimmed four horses between us, aggressively removing false sole from all of them. Given how much I'd taken off, I expected mine to be sore but surprisingly they weren't. Of my friend's two horses, one was fine, while the other (trimmed in the same way) could barely walk for about a week.  So the trick is know your horse - and experiment little by little.

When I first started trimming I took very little off. The only thing I used on the sole was my hoof-pick - if the sole didn't come off with that, it could stay there. Now I'm more enthusiastic (did I mention my new nippers?) and have to mentally curb my desire to hack away at the sole. I'm guessing the ideal is somewhere in between the two.


5. Here I've taken my nippers and worked on Uno's overlaid bars. He grows lots of bar and if not kept under control, it starts to flop over onto the sole. I've also trimmed off some of the more upright parts of the bars. On some horses you can do this with a hoof knife. Not Uno, though, he grows bars of steel.


6. Here I've gone a step further. I'm gently poking around on the sole to try and ascertain what's healthy sole and what's junk. Because Uno has been allowed to grow out and because it has been wet here, his feet are very soft and crumbly underneath. In reality, until I get some of the loose sole off, I can't tell what's what, so I'll just scrape away any obvious excess junk sole. If I were to look at his feet again in a week or two, there will probably be more sole to take off, but I'm going to err on the side of caution here and not go bananas this time around.

Again, if Uno was working, if it was drier here, if he was walking on rockier stuff, etc, his soles would be nothing like this - they'd be hard, shiny.


7. Here's my first pass with the nippers. Now the foot is starting to get where I want it.
 
In the olden days, pre-nippers, I'd have to rasp off all the excess hoofwall, so being able to chomp my way around it is a good thing (provided I am very cautious about not taking off too much heel <grin>).
 
The red arrow is indicating some bruising that I found under his overlaid bar - if too much of it builds up, it's like a stone in your shoe - not comfy. 
 
The blue arrow is showing a crease in the sole - this is a slight separation between bar and sole and was initially completely hidden by the overlaid bar. Some crud has got in there. 
 
His hoofwalls are nice and thick, although there's some separation along the white line on the inside quarter (the black stuff along the edge of the hoof below/left of the red arrow). The longer the hoof, the worse this can become - the hoof is being bent away from the foot and stretched. This will result in the horse getting ouchy, unwanted crud working its way into the resulting groove, and your horses feet never improving. So the goal is to keep the feet nice and short to avoid this happening.
 
One area that is fairly sacred is the toe-callous - it's the area of sole closest to the toe, between the end of the frog and the front of the hoof. You want good, thick sole there to protect the front edge of the coffin bone on your barefoot horse, so always consider carefully if you feel the need to take anything off that area. Often I'll leave it completely alone. Here, however, I've been quite aggressive because I know Uno is long and grows lots and lots of toe. But this would be an area for caution on a horse you don't know.
 

8. Once I've gotten this far, I switch out the cradle on my stand for the rubber stopper and work the hoof from the top. In the old days, pre-nippers, I would do most of my work from the top - it's easier to take off extra hoofwall working from the top than the bottom, so if you're nipper-less consider that.

This is also the point you would be looking for any flare on the hoofwall and removing it. In Uno's case, there isn't much flare on his fronts, so I'll have to wait for another example to show that.

To start, I took off a bunch of that nice thick toe - good to have it as protection, but not so good in terms of faster breakover and strain on the tendons - I like my toes really short. Another consideration is that having short toes, especially on a toe-y horse like Uno, you're far more likely to have success keeping your boots on than if you have long toes.
 
Uno still had globs of Adhere Glue (the black stuff) stuck to his hoof walls from his Glue-ons at Virginia City, so I chiselled that off a little, and worked my way around the bottom edge of the hoof, bevelling it slightly.


9. And this is what it looks like on the underside now - much less toe and hoofwall, and no sharp edges to snag hoofwall. And bravo, Lucy - you have resisted hacking away at the still-too-long-heels in favour of a slightly more finessed rasp-approach – still to come.

Looking at this photo, it's a pretty radical trim and not what I would do on a horse that didn't grow as much foot as Uno. Again, it's a case of knowing your horse and knowing his characteristics. I will try to take a photo in a week or so to compare with this to show how much he grows.


10. One thing that is worrying me at this stage is how deep a groove he has (where my index finger is pointing). I don't know if this is because he has excess sole still to shed, or if I need to trim more off. For now, I'm not doing more, but will watch this to see what happens. He's very flat-footed - I seldom see much concavity in his feet - and even less right now. Again, how much of this is a product of letting him get so long?


11. Here we're much closer to being finished. I'm working from the underside again.

Holding the leg by the fetlock, let the hoof flop vertical and sight down the foot. What you're looking for is any unbalance from side to side. Is one heel higher than the other? do you have a bulge of foot somewhere that needs to be taken down? When the foot lands, will it have a nicely-balance platform?

I've taken a rasp and rolled the entire outside edge, filed down the heels, and have paid special attention to that separated area on the right in this photo - I don't want the hoofwall there to get snagged on anything, so roll it extra specially. When I think I'm done, I'll run my fingers around the bottom edge to see if I can feel any areas that might get snagged by rough ground and chipped/bent and touch them up into a nicely smoothed bevel with my rasp.

As a final step, if the foot was thrushy, I'll treat it with some magic potion before letting the horse go out to play. My potion of choice is Coppertox, but I know many people feel it's a bit too toxic, you end up with green hands, green horse and green stall, it's stinky, and it's not that cheap. This is an area for research - see what others are using and decide for yourself.


 12. The finished foot, compared to its neighbour... ah, that's better.

For me, figuring out what the foot should look like is a little bit like being able to recognise good conformation in a horse. To begin with it just looks like a horse. Then gradually you start to recognise "well, that horse's back is rather long"... and your mind starts to filter out "horse shape" and see "good/bad conformation horse shape". Same with trimming. Eventually you won't just see "horse foot", you'll start to notice "too much heel", "too much toe", "flare on the outside"... etc.

13. The finished right front foot.
 

14. The untrimmed left front neighbouring foot. Ack.

Because I let him go so long, I will probably check again in a week or so to see what's happening. That's one of the neat things about doing your own hooves - you can keep poking at them and see what happens.

You know what you're aiming for: short heels, short toes, no flare, minimum chipping, and lack of thrush. By working towards those goals, the feet should eventually turn into what you're hoping for - it might just take a while. But one day you'll look at them and think "Huh, all that [insert whatever hoof problem your horse had] is gone and I didn't even notice". 

If you make a mistake (as I did, over-trimming Uno's heel... and then did exactly the same thing a couple of weeks later with Roop), the foot regrows. Your horse may not be too impressed with you, but so long as you learned from the experience, you can try to avoid repeating it.

In the early days, I would take off much less foot, unwilling to get too carried away, but invariably would look again a few days later and wonder why I thought I had done enough - a fresh eye often shows you things you didn't notice at the time - either in terms of uneveness or just not taking enough off.


This is actually Fergus, who got trimmed next. Patrick bought me this little rolly-stool which I sometimes use for initial foot clean-up. Whilst it helps my back, I would caution the use of one of these - you need to consider your particular horse/trimming situation carefully and make sure you aren't inviting a recipe for being trampled. As an example, I would never use it on a windy day <grin>.


If I know I've got plenty of time to trim the entire horse (sometimes I'll only do the feet two at a time and come back later to do the other two), I usually work my way around the horse, instead of doing both fronts followed by both rears.

My reason for this is that if you do the feet in pairs - both fronts, then both backs - a mysterious force means that the right rear foot will always get done last. Since the right rear foot is the only one that ever does any work, it's usually the one the horse is least comfortable on, so better to get it over and done with earlier on while you're still fresh and can cope with a wriggling horse.

In Uno's case, this time around, I did RF, RR, LR, and LF.

It takes me about an hour to trim each horse - depending on how dirty they are; how long the foot is; how cooperative they feel; how my back feels (this weekend I did three horses and my back was pretty sad by the end - I don't do this for a living. I take lots of breaks to untangle mane, watch the chickens, admire my horses, etc). It also depends how much time I spend staring at the foot to see what needs to be done - Fergus has a wry foot; Roop is toed-in; Jackit grows high heels; Provo grows long curly toes but no heel; Uno just grows and turns into dinner plates; and Hopi, who has the best feet of the whole herd but is the hardest to trim because he's Hopi, gets done too infrequently.

If you poke at the feet more often (once a week? ...much easier to do in the summer when they aren't covered in crud), you'll do yourself a favour and it'll take a lot less time because you're just touching things up not having to do a complete overhaul as I have here.

Oh. And what did I discover at the end of this session? The whole reason I left Uno so long was to discover what size Glove he should actually be wearing - and as suspected he's grown into a size 2 (I put a shell on and then couldn't get it off - always an encouraging sign). Luckily, Fergus wears 1.5s on this back feet, so Uno's front 1.5s can go to F and I'll have to get Uno some 2s. This should really help prevent my recent struggles and help avoid boot-losses. Yay. Mission accomplished.

"In The Trenches" - Pete Ramey's Latest Video

EasyCare will be offering Pete's latest video starting this week.


"It is common for even highly experienced practitioners to feel lost and uncertain when faced with a truly bizarre, unique or hopeless situation- it happens to me, too. So Ivy and I figured the best thing we could do for hoof practitioners is to compile a collection of the cases that have challenged us- you know... the fun stuff! These are the cases that keep us up at night- the cases that always teach us something. In The Trenches is my favorite DVD set so far, and I believe it will be a very valuable tool for any hoof professional. I certainly wish it had been available for me 20 years ago." Pete Ramey

This DVD set is packed with information. Ivy and Pete take you to the first meeting with 11 different "hard cases". Watch as they sort through the problems thrown at them over time. Nothing in this DVD set is easy - none of it is pretty, but almost everyone who watches it will see something they've never seen, and hopefully become better prepared to face big challenges.

The Demonstrations
  • Heat fitting Easyboot Glove hoof boots to distorted hooves
  • Heat fitting Easyboot Glove hoof boots for half-sizing and pad use
  • Heat fitting Glue-On hoof boots Glue-On prep, application and removal Trimming distorted hooves
  • Building sole on laminitic horses Effects of dietary management over time
  • Post laminitis- growing in well connected walls Pulling shoes
  • Opening/treating wall infections Equicast hoof cast applications
  • Pad techniques for laminitic horses
  • Pad techniques for "navicular" horses
  • Using a handsaw on foundered toes (3 different cases)
  • Trimming laminitic feet on the ground Trimming a recumbent horse
And so much more!!

Chris Freeman
easycare-customer-accounts-manager-chris-freeman

Accounts Manager

I am responsible for the accounting at EasyCare. My responsibilities require me to manage accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchasing, receipt of inventory and international order processing.

Hoof Snob

The worst thing about taking your horses barefoot is that you become a hoof snob when it comes to looking at other horses' feet - so many hooves like baked-bean cans, frogs an inch off the ground, ridiculously long toes, or hoof-walls flared to dinner plate dimensions.
 
A friend was recently telling me about her horse going lame during an endurance ride and how the vet had diagnosed unbalanced shoeing as the problem. She confided to me that her horse was now in "special shoeing" (she never explained what this "special shoeing" was - just that the horse was unbalanced but that "you could only see it on x-rays"). From her description, it sounded suspiciously like the horse had been allowed to grow too long a toe, had underslung heels, and was perhaps a bit unbalanced laterally - all things that your average attentive barefoot trimmer would be watching for and trying to correct every time they rasped their horse. 
 
I asked how often the horse would be shod and she said "oh, every 4-5 weeks". I suggested that she veer towards the 4 week option as know from experience that at four weeks my horses feet are already "too long" and out of whack. If that was her horse's problem, the "special shoeing" wasn't going to achieve much if its hooves were allowed to grow back to their formerly long proportions.
 
Her argument was that "well, the horse is going to be on 'light' work [he's on a walking-only regime for a month], so likely his feet won't grow much". In my mind's eye I thought of Uno's currently too-long feet  - Uno who's been standing around in his paddock of duff-footing, doing absolutely nothing for the last 4 weeks, getting time off after Virginia City 100. Hmm.

Uno's right rear foot this weekend, during
 a 15+ mile barefoot ride on the Pacific Crest Trail in amongst volcanic rock and granite outcroppings. He was last lightly-trimmed when I took his Glue-Ons off after VC100, 25 days ago. The flare you see on the outside is the reason I was having difficulties keeping Gloves on his rear feet back in August - duck-footed R us - a problem I have to keep on top off. You can also see how his bars tend to overlay and his heels get underslung. How would he fare on a 5-6 week shoeing schedule? Not pretty, methinks.

But I understand that the average person can't afford to have new shoes slapped on their horse(s) every 3-4 weeks. Indeed, you get into nail-hole problems if you do shoe too often and there's not enough solid hoof to nail to. But the quandary is, by the time the horse has grown out sufficient fresh hoof to nail to, he's too long to be at optimum hoof length.
 
When I used to shoe Roo for competition, I was in a constant struggle to balance his shoeing cycle with his endurance ride schedule. Ideally, Roo needed shoeing every 4-5 weeks (by 5 weeks he was too long and his toed-in front feet would start to look ugly). The perfect scenario was for his feet to be at 2½-3 weeks for a distance ride, but of course if we did a ride once a month it never quite worked out.
 
Nowadays, with a bunch of barefoot horses, I try and keep them where they need to be all the time - no scheduling necessary, unless you count the: "ack, we're going to a ride next weekend, so I really need to trim this weekend" (sort of like realising you've still got homework to do on a Sunday night after a fun weekend). 
 
Of course, real life gets in the way (I'm gone for work 12-13 hours a day, five days a week) and I don't always trim everyone as often as they should be trimmed - the two non-working horses sometimes go a couple of months before guilt gets me back to them, vowing each time that "I won't let them get that long again" (just don't look too carefully at them if you visit, OK?). 
 
But for the most-part, the worker's feet stay under control. In the same way you'd file off a split nail on your own finger when it occurs, I keep an eye on their feet and will rasp off any chips as they happen. Uno's long toes get regular attention - mostly because I hate the way his feet look and they make me crazy when they start to splay out. 
 
Formerly, could I have afforded to keep my horses shod as often as they needed? Nope. 
 
Did I used to sometimes shoe someone, only for them to go lame or get sidetracked on a different horse and realise that I'd spent $125 for the shod horse to stand around in the paddock, eating hay? Yup. 
 
Is keeping six horses' feet under control hard work? Yup. But then so is stacking a truck-load of 100+ lb bales of hay, or having to leap blearily out of bed at 7 am on a Sunday because you get woken up by unexpected pouring rain outside and remember that your hay isn't covered. So is mucking stalls all winter long because your horses can't possibly step out into the rain to poop. 
 
But in the long-run, the satisfaction I glean from having my horses feet where I want them (and if they aren't, it's my problem) is worth it to me. Sure, it's easier to just schedule the farrier, but I seldom have to avert my eyes from a set of baked-bean can hooves in my paddock.

Barefoot and Booted In Australia

I received some great pictures from one of our Hoof Boot Contest competitors. Lyn Summerfield and her daughter Kym are entered in our Easycare Hoof Boot Contest. They do a lot of competitive miles on their barefoot and booted horses. They compete at some of their events completely barefoot.


 
"We successfully completed our State Championship 160 km ride last weekend with my daughter. It was interesting that there were only 16 starters over the full ride. Of those only 6 finished; 3 wore boots (2 glue ons and 1 gaitered) and 1 went completely barefoot and 2 had metal shoes."

         

 

Thanks for sharing with us and our readers, Lyn. Riders around the world are utilizing natural barefoot and using hoof boots to keep their barefoot equine partners healthy. 

Nancy Fredrick

easycare-office-manager-nancy-fredrick

EasyCare Office Manager

As the office manager, I make sure the general operations of the organization run smoothly and seamlessly from A to Z. I have been on the EasyCare team since 2001 and have first hand product knowledge as my horses are barefoot and booted.

Canyonlands- Back on Track

A family photo- Replika, myself and my husband. Thanks for the picture Leonard! 

I promised in last week's post that I would return to the topic at hand - hoof boots and natural hoof care. So here we go! But first I just have to say that this ride marks a year with my mare. Last year's Canyonlands experience was much different than this years, not necessarily better or worse, just different. Last year we were only four weeks into Replika's barefoot transition. She was new to me and I didn't know how much bottom she had, what she liked to eat, or how she liked to be ridden. While she was sound, I took it very slowly as I was very conscientious about rocks and hard footing, given the fact she was newly barefoot. I worried and fretted, was probably over-cautious and hoped I had done right by her at the end. With the protection of Easyboot Glue-Ons and Goober Glue, we did four days. While the results were the same this year (200 miles in 4 days), the "getting there" was much, much different.

Me and Elly, both ponies in Easyboot Glue-Ons, riding the same ride. 

I used the same conconction of Goober Glue on the sole and around the bottom of the boot, and Adhere around the top. Again, my boots performed fabulously, but this time Replika strode out across the trail, never shortening or slowing through some of the stuff she slowed through last year, like gravel roads and jeep roads with embedded rock. She continued to amaze me, every single day. 

A long, rocky hill climb on day 5. Oh yay!

It's funny, but I guess I never thought so many Northwest riders would be riding booted this quickly. It seems like yesterday, we were one of two or three booted riders, and now it seems to be nearing half. And it's certainly not just the slower riders, either. While I know going barefoot and booted has been proven at speed in other regions, the riders here still have the false perception that barefoot horses can't be ridden fast, and that boots don't stay on. Riiiiiiiiiiight. I think both those beliefs HAVE been proven otherwise! 

Upon reflection, I found it funny that most of my rides this year have been in the company of other booted buddies. Although one of my most favorite riding buddies uses steel shoes (I'm working on her!), my other partners have been booted. I certainly don't set out NOT to ride with those in shoes, but I find riding with other booted horses is easier as the decisions regarding where to slow down or speed up are generally the same. Like I said last week, the three of us in boots were able to motor down the paved section of trail where I have slowed to walk in the past with my shod friends. 

Headed down the miles of pavement. Day 2. 

Replika had her boots on for a total of eight days. After taking them off, I once again found that a) she still had feet, and b) they weren't about to fall off. Just like with shoes and pads, there is obviously moisture in the boot and yes the sole does exfoiliate. However, having shod horses with pads in the past, the level of moisture in the hoof doesn't even compare to the hoof after having a pad in place for eight weeks. I also like to take advantage of certain situations, and find that a quick trim is much easier after pulling boots than after the foot has had a few hours to dry out and morph back into a steel mallet. 

Replika's front foot immediately after removing her boot and trimming up a bit. 

Another aspect of booting my horse that I value and love is the fact I can see exactly where she is wearing her boots during certain time periods, meaning how she is wearing her boots during a ride. As she had just come off an injury to the right hind, I was extremely cognizant of how she *felt* throughout the miles. I felt like she wasn't as fluid on the left diagnal on the first day, but she felt smooth and even after the intitial 50 miles. It was interesting to see that she had worn a thin spot in her right hind boot, which I found while taking off that boot. Considering the fact she wore holes clean through either one or both (sheesh it sucks getting old- I just can't remember!) of her hind boots last year, and the fact that we are able to gauge things like that is a handy tool. 

Right hind foot. I am fairly certain I wouldn't have noticed the extra wear should she have been shod. I am thankful for the extra information, any way we can get it. 

I trimmed up the mare after pulling her boots, and just a few days ago we had a nighttime rain. I pulled her out the next morning and finished up my trim finding her feet much softer after a night of rain than after a week in boots. I am always amazed at the amount of growth they have after riding so many miles. For now, she is completely trimmed up and enjoying the rest of her vacation. 

Looking amazing just a short week after riding 200 miles. Nice heel first landing, too. No hidden thrush there! 

The current question is- who do I take to the last ride of the season?!?! 

Happy Riding Y'all!!

Amanda Washington
~SW Idaho

Owyhee Canyonlands - Opportunities Abound

There is something magical about riding across the desert, in and out of canyons, through the washes and over the bluffs, to come home at night to a lively and welcoming ranch. Now times that by five- pure heaven.  I said this before, but the annual five day Owyhee Canyonlands ride has been my absolute favorite endurance ride since I first started the sport. I have been fortunate to ride many miles throughout the Owyhee desert, and never tire of it. John and Steph Teeter provide an amazing atmosphere to ride to your heart's content, and then come back to catered meals, ample wine and amazing opportunities for lifelong friendships. We were lucky to enjoy all of the above for the week and upon arriving back to reality, I have been able to reflect upon all things learned. 

Replika and I on day one. Every day was "the best day!" Steve Bradley Photography

The opportunity to soak up your experiences and learn from them is abundant throughout a multiday ride. Just six short weeks ago, I was unsure that I would be able to take my mare, whom I love riding above all others. You see she had an accident. She was in the hospital for over a week. I was terrified that she wouldn't fully recover. I put everything I had into treating my mare, trying to stay positive and not obsessing over the calendar and my upcoming most favorite ride. She healed at a faster rate then expected, but I was still worried about the surrounding soft tissue, the possibility for hoof sensitivity due to the massive amounts of antibiotics and her physical capacity after being off work for an extended amount of time as well as in a stall for a portion of that time. She was released for full work a couple weeks prior to the five day, and I started her back slowly. I knew it would be up to her in regards to the five day, and I was prepared to ride slow and cut it short if she only had a couple days in her. 

My poor mare's leg. The picture on the right was ten days past the initial injury, and the picture on the left was ten days after the first. It is now completely closed, with a small scar. 

We got one long training ride in about 10 days prior to the start of the ride, and she felt wonderful. I used my Goober Glue/Adhere method to apply her boots on the Sunday prior to the Tuesday start and felt pretty good about things. Her feet looked great and she hadn't shown any signs of being sensitive despite the upset to her system. The growth rings should tell the tale, and it will be interesting to see. We got to ridecamp Monday afternoon, and immediately set about finding old friends and making new ones! I was a bit nervous for the ride, which is completely unlike me, because it is always scary on that first ride back after an injury or extended lay-off. I needn't have worried, she was amazing as always! 

Elly and I leaving a vetcheck. It is so much fun riding with a good friend, on a good horse. 

The first day is always a nice, easy trail to get your feet wet. We rode along ridges, flew through the washes and cruised around on familiar trail. What a great day! Despite the unseasonal heat, she looked great and we were cleared for day two. Now I have to laugh because I had nightmares about this day's trail the nights leading up to the ride. Last year I rode Replika through our transition period from shoes to boots, and I was ridiculously cognizant of every.single.rock on the trail. As this ride is pretty dang rocky, it had stuck in my mind. I needn't have worried this year! Not only did Steph route us around a particularly horrid section of trail, Replika felt amazing in her Glue-Ons cushioned with my beloved Goober Glue! We headed into the vet check after 25 miles an exact hour faster than I had predicted, and made our way home in the heat of the afternoon. We rode with a super-cool dude named Jerry who happened to be from Reno. He had ridden both Tevis and the Virginia City 100 numerous times, and compared the VC 100 with the first loop of this trail. Regardless, it was gorgeous and one of my absolute favorites! On the way back home, we came to a paved road. It is a short section of a couple miles but always seems to drag on and on. After a short pow-wow with my riding buddies, who were all in Easyboot Gloves and Glue-Ons, we decided we would keep up a slow 6-7MPH jog down the road, so as not to lose to much time. We got into our grove and soon overtook six riders in steel shoes who had to slow down because of the pavement. Not us oh no! We kept up our job and guiltlessly glided down the road, all twelve of our boots quietly padding down the pavement. 

Karen and Thunder in their Glue-Ons, and Tamara and Consolation in their Gloves riding down the pavement. The only riders we didn't pass on that road were on booted horses as well!!


Riding through Castle Creek, on the way to vetcheck 1- day two. 


Karen leading Thunder on a rocky downhill. About ten miles of the first loop was like this. 

Despite the rock and road, Replika continued to feel as strong as she had on day one. We decided to go for day three, which I was super excited about as this trail and out vetcheck are my favorite! I know, I know, they are ALL my favorite! Is that a bad thing?!?! I took off again bright and early with my pal and her silly horse, Jasper, who was also outfitted in Easyboot Glue-Ons and Goober Glue. I tell ya, this boot thing is starting to really take off up here in the Northwest! We hit the trail and were soon at the Sierra Del Rio ranch, where I have spent many holds. This ranch is amazing- hospitable, green and just gorgeous nestled in the canyon near the Snake River. We had a fun quick loop out of the ranch, and were soon headed from the ranch to home. There was a very special moment for me on this trail when I realized how much this mare has done for me. The trail was the same that Replika and I flew along by ourselves as the last loop of the 80 mile ride we did in the spring and it wasn't any less magical on this particular day. She never ceases to amaze me and I was having the time of my life with a good friend. It just doesn't get much better than this, folks. 

Elly's super classy solution to the gnats. Nice work, El. 

Scenic overlook of the Snake River just off the REAL OREGON TRAIL ;-) It was gorgeous.

Although Replika was cleared for the next day, I decided we both could use a day off. No shame, and I was able to help P&R at the out vetcheck, and then help crew for my pals as they came in off the trail at basecamp. It had been hot all week and we were ridiculously fortunate to have access to cold water from a real hose! The horses and riders all appreciated the thorough cool-down prior to finishing the ride. Towards the end of the day, I brought Replika out of her pen and trotted her out cold for the vets to make sure she was truly ok for day five. She got the thumbs up from two different vets and I was thrilled to be sharing another day with her on the trail. 

"You want me to go WHERE?!?!" This is Rep looking into the canyon that we would be going into.. all you could hear was the crashing of other horses down below. Or was it cougars? Or Bears? Or???




 

Phew we made it alive!!
Day five was no disappointment, as we were once again extremely fortunate to ride through MORE amazing trail! Sheesh does it ever get old out there?!?! We rode through several canyons and old homesteads on the last day, ending the first loop after a huge rocky climb with an AMAZING trail through a magnificent canyon. We are so freaking lucky! We cruised through the first loop and kept our momentum through the second loop. I was again riding with my girlfriend who I rode days one, three and five with. It was on the second loop that both of us hit a wall, thankfully at different times! Between the silliness and the abrupt "I'm done." statements, we made it through nearly top tenning the day. What a rush to hear the final "You're completed" after traveling so many miles with your best friend, human or horse. Such a feeling!
 
Leonard Liesens, from Belgium, riding Z Blue Lightning who is outfitted in Easyboot Gloves. Blue went on to complete two days in his Gloves. His pose says it all!

There is such an opportunity for learning at a ride such as this. I continue learning, and hope it will never stop. A few things I learned:

1) Easyboot Glue-Ons truly are an amazing option for so many different horses, riders and events. There were tons of horses outfitted in Glue-Ons, and I only know of one lost boot. Fortunately the rider and horse didn't realize the boot was gone until after the ride. It was all good in their case. 

2) Easyboot Gloves can be used at a multiday, although I would definitely want to make sure I had done plenty of miles in my boots to ensure rubbing wouldn't be a problem. It is also important to thoroughly check and clean gaiters and pasterns at every vetcheck to monitor and curb possible rubbing. There were a few horses who were rubbed by the gaiters at this ride, although I believe the rubbed horses were all in the old gaiters. Add powerstraps and athletic tape for a sure fit!

3) Christoph Shork, The Bootmeister, never stops. He rides, he trims, he glues, he rides, he advises, he run run runs. It was exhausting to watch. Just sayin'. 

Christoph and his groupies haulin' the mail into the ranch. What a great looking group of horses! The riders looked a little rough, but those horses were rockin' it! (Literally- they finished the rocky trails each day in lightning fast time. One could say Easyboots made that possible!

4) People who ride in shoes still use Easyboots! I saw a couple of people riding last week with original Easyboots over their horse's steel shoes. At least two of them (that I noticed) went on to ride all five days on the same horse. Easycare truly offers something for everyone!! Good job to everyone!

5) Pay attention to your horse. Every stumble, every nose crinkle, every flinch means something. I think it's better to play it safe then sorry. Unfortunately there were a few horses treated last week. Thankfully they were all sent home looking good, but in this sport it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Pay attention to your ponies and you may be able to prevent something catastrophic, that will not resolve with treatment. 

Since this post has turned into a novel and I have probably lost all my readers with the exception of the editor and my mother, I am going to end it here for now. Next week I will have more boot and foot stuff, which is truly what this blog is about. I hope you'll forgive my rambling and I promise to get back on topic next week! Something about being in the desert for five days makes one kinda silly. 

'Till next time! 

Amanda Washington
SW Idaho