Understanding Bio-Mechanics

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

 A broad, well defined, true frog tip is an indication of a properly suspended coffin bone.  When the live sole is thick it forms a bowl, referred to as concavity.  When the bowl is symmetrically shaped and deep, (at least a 1/2 inch measuring from the bottom of the collateral grooves at the tip of the frog to the peripheral edge of the sole in the quarters) the coffin bone is not only suspended off the ground by a thick flexible dome (the sole) but due to the highly vascular venous plexus at the corium, and valve like nature of the hoof capsule, P3 is also floating on a cushion of blood.  In well developed feet, added support from the digital cushion and lateral cartilages that form the internal arch make the hoof capsule a super structure that's not only capable of withstanding years of almost constant concussive forces but having the ability to convert these forces into beneficial vibrations that result in stored energy like a power pack.  The back 2/3 of the foot has the ability to develop like a muscle when the weight bearing is correctly placed over the soft tissues.  Add boots or rubber shoes to this equation and you begin to wonder...what's the limit of strength and endurance?  
This isn't a new revelation.  We read and hear about the bio-mechanics of bare feet all the time in books, videos, and on the internet but we rarely see photos of really healthy, high functioning feet. 
This video has three parts:

  • In part 1...I talk about the importance of the back of the foot being properly shaped for efficient movement.
  • In part 2...I talk about the importance of knowing the relationships of the major structural  landmarks of the sole in order to assess and mitigate structural migration. 
  • In part 3...I show some techniques to safely and effectively use a sharp hoof knife because I feel that application is more important than theory. 

Sound or Insensitive?

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

When I first started trimming I thought the goal was to have horses that could travel barefoot all day over rocks.  Since then I've realized that this is where ego comes in, and compassion goes out.

Another problem is that horse's hooves are adaptable to their environment, however, this can get them into trouble if they don't get enough daily movement and the environment they are in is not conducive to good feet.

Something that should be constantly considered about horses is that their feet grow at a rapid rate (roughly 1/16 inch every 4-5 days).  This isn't just the walls. The sole, bars (which are just continuations of the wall), and frog try to keep up with the rate of the wall.  Just like human fingernails and toenails, hoof walls are only live tissue until they grow past the peripheral edge of the sole (the specialized equivalent of human skin) where they lose moisture and feeling.  Rock hard hooves aren't necessarily a good sign.  A healthy sole is at least a half inch thick and relies on constant movement or simulated natural wear (proper trimming) to keep the wall and frog very close to the live sole plane.  A thick, healthy, live sole  can be identified by it's quality and appearance.  There will be concavity that measures at least a half inch deep from the peripheral edge of the sole at the quarters to the bottom of the collateral groves at the tip of a well defined frog.  The surface of the sole will be smooth like leather but not necessarily shiny like stone.  It will be void of lumps and bumps.  There may be a crackly texture directly under the coffin bone forward of the bars and surrounding the frog.  This is retained sole and can be between 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick.  This is a good thing that adds comfort when it's managed properly.  It should feather out to nothing about half way from the bottom of the collateral grooves to the peripheral edge of the sole.  This should be a result of high mileage, proper trimming, or a combination of the two.  

Because of the conical shape of the hoof capsule, when the walls are are allowed to grow past the peripheral edge of the sole for long periods of time, the sole tries to migrate with it.  The problem is that the sole has a border and the wall doesn't.  This causes the sole to stretch and flatten under the horses weight.  This would draw more attention if the horse would just go lame every time this happened so we could all recognize a pattern and agree on the cause.  Horses have adapted to this problem over millions of years of evolution by accumulating, retaining, and producing an excess of the retained insensitive sole that I mentioned earlier.   In nature this would happen during the wet season when grass is abundant and the ground is softer.  It quickly gets worn away as it dries out and horses have to move more miles over more abrasive terrain in search of grass and water as it become more scarce.  This accumulation of retained sole keeps them sound enough to survive until it's worn back down.  If over-growth persists and is not managed naturally through wear or mechanically through proper trimming then the retained sole gets thicker as the live sole gets thinner.  Eventually there will be nothing but thick retained sole that the horse becomes reliant upon for soundness.  At this point if an attempt is made to rectify the hooves, the retained sole can exfoliate all at once exposing the true, thin, live sole.  Exfoliation is a natural response to growth equilibrium of the hoof structures...out with the old, in with the new.  It's just not meant to happen all at once after an extended period of overgrowth. 

Miles of daily wear, frequent proper trimming, or a combination can develop any foot to its true potential.  I believe that the horse's true potential hasn't even been seen yet.  I do know that with the recent advancements in rubber boots and shoes the standard has been raised considerably.  Rubber hoof wear not only protects, but it helps build the horse (and saves the legs) and the highly regenerative structures of their hooves.

When people see photos of the feet that I've developed over years of simulated wear,  they often ask, "yeah, but is she sound all day on rocks?" My answer is, " I ride in boots so they are improving with every step."

A Tool for Everything

Submitted by Rusty Toth 

Meet Delilah, she is a 16.1 h former race horse I was introduced to to help her become sound again. She is a sweet and kind mare with some issues from less than stellar shoeing practices in her past. She has a low heel, long toe and very flat thin soles.

After a discussion with the owner, we decided to try the EasyShoe Performance. The frog stimulation, I believe, will help grow sole while getting her off the rough hard decomposed granite that is our ground in the Phoenix area. She was so tender standing on a mat she could not load one foot long enough to either directly or indirectly glue on the shoes. Poor girl gave it an honest try, but she just couldn't do it. Now what?

In trying to problem solve the situation, I remembered a blog from Christoph some time ago about modifying a shell into a shoe. Bingo! With the Adhere being so quick to set, the shell encompassing her hoof wall, she could set the bugger down quickly and with gusto, and I knew the boot would remain in place.

We truly have an excellent group of people collected with EasyCare. A quick call to Christoph to ascertain the size of hole required for the size of shell and we were off and running. I used a three and a half inch hole in a size #2 Glue-On shell. She needed the support of the base and frog.

Knowing how sore she was, I did not apply any glue to the sole surface, and applied Adhere to the wall of the shell only. Using a duct tape damn, I applied Vettec Soft to make her immediately comfortable. Knowing this product has zero sticking quality we will remove the packing in two weeks time to allow the sole to breath.

The owner reported the next day that Delilah was walking sound, landing flat and even heel first for the first time in a long time.  Problem solving at its best. I am grateful to be part of such an incredible team of people collected, using amazing products with an infinite ability to be used to solve any problem. Thank you EasyCare.

 

That's My Story and I'm Stickin' To It: The Learning Curve

Submitted by David Landreville

That's My Story by Collin Raye was a popular song in the 90's. I don't know how many times back then I would hear someone finish their sentence with the line, "That's my story and I'm stickin' to it." I feel sorry for Collin Raye as I'm sure he never escaped his fans shouting this line at him. What I find interesting though, is how a hit country song aimed at self deprecating humor quickly became a national anthem that seemed to "stick." This method of "tweaking the truth" has become very prevalent in our society and has become an every day part of my personal experience with horse people: Veterinarians, farrier/trimmers, trainers, and horse owners. It's easy to judge the success of a concept, or product, by your own experience, but not very productive to just stop there. Here's a self deprecating story about my learning curve with EasyShoes.

I've spent many years developing a predictably successful trimming protocol. The trouble is that success is like money, and it seems that you can never have enough. When the EasyShoe first came out, I have to admit, my first thought was negative because it looked too much like the demon I'd been fighting for years. A funny thing happened, though. Over time, the closer I looked at it, the more interested I became until I was modifying Glue-On shells to mimic the design (because they weren't available to the public yet). I started gluing them on my own horses and immediately had some positive results. They improved the movement and the integrity of the soft tissue in the back of their feet.  I was excited about this and couldn't wait for the EasyShoe to become available. As usual, when trying something new, there will be a learning curve. My problem was being able to make them last for a full trim cycle. I was getting anywhere from a day to a month. I still saw hoof improvement as long as they would stay in place. I was afraid that I wouldn't be very successful using them on my client's horses if I couldn't reasonably predict how long they would stay on.

After a few brave souls offered to be experiments, I slowly broadened my experience and learned to improve my success rate. I achieved good changes in the hoof but only moderate success with them staying on the feet. To be honest, it was very close to a matter of doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Something finally changed but it wasn't for the better. A new client asked me if I would apply them to her horse as she was going on a 50 mile endurance ride in the upcoming weekend. She seemed thrilled at the chance to be getting to try this new product. After applying them she took photos and proudly posted them on Facebook. One of the comments read, "not enough glue"... from Garrett Ford. A nagging feeling crept in and I couldn't get rid of the sense of foreboding. I was terrified that they were going to come off during her ride. My internal dialogue took over from there. I couldn't wait until the weekend was over. I called her on Monday hoping to hear that she had a great time and all my fears were over nothing. Instead, they were confirmed. She had a horrible ride, losing all but one shoe by the forty mile mark. She had no way to remove the last shoe and for fear of hurting her horse she got off and walked him to the finish line. I'm sure my name came up more than once in that stretch of the trail. I apologized but wasn't sure that would be enough.

After a futile attempt at justifying the failure with rationalizations such as, "these shoes just don't work on a well trimmed hoof" and "if the horse had better conformation there wouldn't have been so much torque on the shoe", but I knew other people were having more success than I was. I decided to reply to Garrett's comment, "I would appreciate any tips that you might have." Garrett graciously offered to show me first hand the protocol that he had developed for predictable adhesion (the same protocol that is available on the EasyCare website). After spending a day gluing shoes on his horses, I realized that what he was showing me and what I had been doing were a universe apart. Garrett advised me that, if you don't develop a strict protocol, you'll never be able to look back and see why you were successful or where you failed. This made perfect sense to me because I felt the same way about trimming. I'm grateful for the lesson and now I am very proud of my shoeing results. As a matter of fact, I've had to develop my own protocol to remove them in a timely fashion. If you're not having good results with something that other people are, you may just be the variable.

Well, that's my story and I'm sticking' to it...for now.

The Illusion of Heel Height

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

Many people don't know this, but horses aren't "stuck with the feet they have". Over time, their feet can be restored and can reach a state where continual development is possible. Don't say "That's just what they have." Hoof development is not necessarily limited by age, conformation, or even tissue damage. I believe it's mostly limited by knowledge and perception. For instance, someone can have a lot of success keeping horses sound with their trimming and booting protocol, but when they teach someone else that student has their own experience and interprets it a little differently than the teacher. When that student teaches someone else, the same thing happens and this goes on and on until the details of the original protocol get lost in translation. It becomes very unreliable, like the telephone game. If the founder of the original method is unfortunate enough to have their name attached to it, they will most certainly get as much blame as praise. The success rate may become uncontrollable and a new method will eventually arise.

Photo credit: Daisy Bicking.

There have been plenty of good trimming methods developed by good practitioners, and the best ones are constantly evolving (methods and practitioners). What you don't hear so much about is hoof development. I believe this is because everyone is too busy arguing about trimming methods to realize the incredible regenerative qualities of the horse's hoof. Almost any hoof, whether the horse is young, old, or debilitated. The challenge is methodology. There is a certain relationship that the hoof structures have to be in for the hoof to reach growth equilibrium and for the structures to reach a state of continual development: a relationship that must be maintained constantly. This is one of the lessons of the Mustang Model. It's nothing new. Horses have been doing it for themselves for eons.

Many hoof care practitioners realize the advantage of self wear for establishing individual physiologically correct hoof conformation. For some, including myself, it is a source of great frustration. I'll admit that when I first heard claims of achieving barefoot soundness from acres and acres with 24/7 movement on varied terrain my reaction was "What about the rest of us who only have small acreage or just a rented stall?" After I brooded on this for a while, the thought crossed my mind, "Why not simulate the wear?" The only thing I had to change was the frequency of my trim. I had noticed on my own seven horses that within one week of beveling the wall in order to load the peripheral border of the sole, they had already grown enough wall to transfer the weight from the peripheral border of the sole back to the wall. 

All the photos of wild hooves and the self trimming domestic hooves that I had seen looked more like my horses directly after a trim, so I decided to increase the trim frequency to once a week. This isn't an original idea. There are plenty of horse owners that ride regularly, do their own trimming, and dress their horses feet up a little just before or after a ride to keep the chipping and cracking down or to keep their boots fitting optimally.

I just decided to do it on seven of my own horses for as long as I saw favorable results. That turned out to be about seven years. Most of my horses were rescues with hoof/body issues and less than favorable conformation. I found that when I kept their feet perfectly balanced, the structures began to develop and take on a shape of their own. This contributed to the overall unique shape of each foot and transferred into the improvement of the horse's conformation. They were all standing more square and this, in turn, transferred into their hooves, maintaining their balance. The longer I kept at it, the less I had to do at each trim interval and the better their feet and bodies looked. And the better they were moving. They all fit nicely into Easyboot Gloves, and though they could be ridden bare foot, they went even better when booted. It's been about ten years since I started my simulated self wear experiment. A few years ago, I completed my track system and imported tons of sand. The extra movement and forgiving footing has allowed me to reduce the trim frequency to 2-3 week intervals with out compromising hoof development. 

Caudal hoof development can be measured by assessing the ratio of vertical heel depth compared to vertical heel wall length. A well developed heel has more heel depth than heel wall length. Here are three examples of of heel development.

I've measured the vertical heel depth from the pink line at the hairline to the blue line at the termination of the collateral grooves and the heel wall length from the blue line to the green line at the ground bearing surface of the heel wall. 

David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

How to Achieve Hoof Growth Equilibrium

Horses' hooves are highly regenerative. They are designed to be a sustainable structure that not only lasts a lifetime but improves over time. When the horse's weight is continually and properly balanced over the horse's hooves and the surface area of every structure receives the correct amount of pressure, you will achieve growth equilibrium. When this is frequently maintained through miles of wear, and/or simulated wear from trimming, the hooves will continually develop over the lifetime of the horse. This means that horses have the ability to have the best feet of their life when they are older. When this is tapped into, the rest of the horse benefits also.  There will be less strain on the legs, hips, back, shoulders and neck. This will minimize injuries and allow the horse to become well conditioned with out having to compensate.

Draft cross on 80 acres, Bermuda grass diet, and a two-week trim cycle. Before and after trim.

The benefit to the horse and human is that the comfortable working career of horses can be extended well into their later years. Imagine a horse that's well conditioned when they are in their twenties. This isn't easy to do. In fact, it takes money, time, knowledge, and discipline. By now, most barefoot enthusiasts know well that it can be very difficult to trim your way into successful bare hooves. It's even more difficult to trim your way into well-developed bare feet. Most also know that this isn't likely to happen if the following criteria are not met:

  1. A proper diet of mostly grass hay.
  2. Adequate movement over varied terrain.
  3. Frequent, minimal, and proper trimming.
  4. Proper use of boots, pads, or composite shoes.
  5. Balanced riding.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but I believe that most horses have room for improvement. Hoof development goes far beyond typical maintenance trimming and requires either a lot of land for adequate movement (many daily miles for self balancing wear), or knowledge of equine physiology for trimming that closely mimics balanced self wear.

Recognizing Structural Development

  1. A dense digital cushion that you can feel when you palpate the tissue in-between the frog and the pocket in the back of the foot that's formed by the span of the heel bulbs.
  2. Full and rounded heel bulbs from healthy well stimulated lateral cartilages.
  3. A full frog that feels like tire rubber.
  4. Thick undeviated hoof walls and bars.
  5. Smooth concave soles.
  6. Well-connected lamina, especially in the heels and between the toe pillars.
  7. Well-defined edges between structures.
  8. An even layer of retained sole that's only present in the deepest part of the sole continuing around the tip of the frog (sometimes this will form a circular shape outlining P3 ).

What strategies do you employ to achieve hoof growth equilibrium?

David Landreville, Landreville Hoof Care

Get the Drift

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

The photos below are the right front foot of a right fore-limb dominant Warmblood. She stands 17h and has size four feet. These photos span five months time. The previous trimmer was doing a good job keeping the heels level and the toe reasonably short but due to her body weight being imbalanced over her feet with the majority being over her right front, the hoof capsule drifted laterally until the outer structures started to break away from the corresponding inner structures.

She wasn't lame at the time that the first photo was taken, in fact, she was being ridden weekly by the trainer/trimmer and by the owner for weekend dressage lessons. I feel that this is important to note because many horses endure excessive damage to their feet and limbs because they don't show obvious signs of lameness and the owner/trimmer either doesn't recognize hoof distortion or isn't sure what to do about it.

The photos are two different views of the same foot. The time span between the images on the left and those on the right is several months.

This horse is not fully rehabbed at this point but she has continued to maintain progress in spite of many hoof care challenges. Here's a list of the pros and cons of her environment and lifestyle:

Pros:
1.  Lives in a 1/4 acre paddock with several other herd mates.
2.  Gets ridden regularly (and straight) by a professional trainer.
3.  Fed mainly Bermuda grass.
4.  Gets a properly balanced trim every 2-3 weeks.

Cons:
1.  The footing in her paddock is several inches of manure.
2.  She gets supplemented with alfalfa.

This mare had a chronic infection in the lateral bar that was being caused by the shearing forces from the outer structures tearing away from the corresponding inner structures. The footing in her paddock made this difficult to clear up.

This horizontal sequence of 3 photos shows her foot at different intervals of the rehabilitation process.

Left to right: 10/23/2013 - 11/9/2013 - 3/9/2014.

I've outlined the frog in pink and the outer edge of the collateral groove in green. The vertical blue line runs from the back of the central sulcus to the center of the toe. The horizontal blue line indicates the back of the heel bulbs. The red dots indicate:

From top to bottom:
- the center of the toe
- the tip of the frog
- the center of the back of the foot

The white outlined areas show where the foot is making ground contact. The top row are the same unmarked photos. When the coffin bone is correctly aligned with the hoof capsule the red dots should line up on the vertical blue line. The earlier this is detected, the easier it is to correct.

Conditioning from the Ground Up

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

Every step a horse takes can either build them up or break them down. Every serious rider is aware of the benefits of conditioning their horses bodies through regular work and play. Fewer are aware of the benefits of conditioning their hooves. Every time a horse takes a step there is also the potential for development or breakdown.

Development happens when the peripheral edge of the sole at the toe is making contact with the ground and the heel purchases, seat of corn, and the back of the frog are properly shaped, in a tight relationship with each other and the ground.

The heels must be kept as parallel to the coffin bone as possible and the posterior and/or medial or lateral drift must be corrected as much as possible. The more the foot is centered under the limb with the weight over the heels the more the foot can develop with every step. I believe that when the feet are continually kept in this level of balance, they can develop over the horse's lifetime. Even horses with so called "bad" feet can be improved. This leads to a well conditioned horse on well conditioned feet. This is one of the lessons of the mustang model.

True hoof balance is not commonly understood so it is very common to see a muscled up horse that needs a lot of body work because they're being trained while compensating on crooked feet. This leads to their eventual breakdown and the horse spending his/her golden years in chronic pain, when they could be spending them in the best feet of their life. This is an obtainable goal. It is possible for an old horse to have good feet when trimming is addressed properly and maintained frequently. Besides a proper trim, here are some other considerations for developing and conditioning hooves:

  1. Movement - the best trimming in the world won't condition the feet if the horse spends most of its time in a stall. Look into the benefits of Paddock Paradise style boarding.
  2. Footing - provide plenty of areas where the horse can sink his/her feet into a 3-4" deep small stone particulate footing like sand, chat, or pea gravel. This will increase stimulation and lead to an increase in blood flow which is beneficial to healthy growth. Creating some uneven surfaces with larger rounded rocks in a cobblestone effect is good for advanced conditioning.
  3. Diet - what's good for the ribs isn't necessarily good for the feet. Eliminate, or at least minimize sugars and starches or hot feeds. These types of feeds can produce poor quality hooves. Development relies on healthy growth.
  4. Booting - boots and/or rubber shoes are not just for protection. They can be used for advanced conditioning. I think of a booted foot as a "super foot." The horse's leg bones get smaller as they get closer to the ground, yet the forces from movement and impact increase. These same forces that are detrimental to a weakened foot can be advantageous to a foot with well developed caudal structures. There is a lot of energy generated from the concussive forces to a foot during locomotion as well as from constant pressure and release from weight shifting when the horse is standing. This can be used for or against the horse depending on whether the foot is properly shaped or not.

Horse care can be a rewarding experience full of valuable lessons. Due to the unique physiology of horses this care should start from the ground up - feet first. The photos show a before and after set-up trim where the heels and frog have been lowered, leveled, and properly shaped to control hoof capsule migration that leads to hoof distortion and structural damage. Shaping should emulate natural wear patterns to optimize healthy growth, function, and development. A horse standing and moving on feet that are perfectly balanced under him side to side and front to back will build beautiful feet that last a lifetime. Boots make this even more possible.

Do You Need Boots When You Ride?

Submitted by Asa Stephens, Hoof Care Practitioner

Here are a few hints that will tell you that you do.

In desert environments and in places where horses are stalled in small enclosures, you rarely get a horse that can handle sharp gravel on a trail ride.

A healthy hoof is short and has most of the bulk in the back part of the foot. It has a flat, dry, large frog. This frog rarely sheds and has no bacteria pockets.

A frog that gets paired away or is shedding at every trim or almost every trim, or has bacteria pockets in it, is not healthy and you should ride in boots.

A healthy sole will callous nicely. Dead shedding sole material does not accumulate in a healthy hoof. If this happens between each trim, the foot is not healthy. Ride in boots.

The bars are hoof wall that turns in alongside the frog and collateral grooves. They help stabilize the back of the foot. They are short and grow only halfway down the frog. If they grow out over the entire bottom of the foot between each trim, then the foot is not healthy. Ride in boots.

When you pick the foot up and look out over the heels and the hairline, you want to see thick hoof wall forming the heels and bars. They do not taper out and get thinner. The hairline should be pretty straight over the heels. If the hairline and heel bulbs form a W, the hoof is not healthy. Ride in boots.

A healthy foot will have air-tight seams between hoof wall and sole. An unhealthy hoof does not. It has separation where little gravel and dirt gets in. Because of the dry environment, the dead sole will often dry up and curl inward, making the separation worse. In the desert area, the sole has the same color as the sand and dirt so most people do not know this separation exists. The dirt is so packed in between hoof wall and sole, so you can’t see it. You will have to take a very sharp hoof pick and dig in the white line area to find it. If your horse has this separation, ride in boots. If your horse is not tender on gravel just before he is due for a trim but always after, then ride in boots.

A healthy foot should not feel a maintenance trim. When using boots while riding you ensure a healthy heel first landing which will help the horse grow the healthiest foot he can get in his situation. Adding a pad to the boot is even better as it stimulates the frog each step. 

Does your horse land heel first or at least flat at a walk? This can be hard to see and if it is difficult, look for a forward motion with no hesitation, with very little dust in front of the hoof when landing. Check that the fetlock is at its lowest before landing (not coming down after hoof is on the ground). If he doesn’t land flat or heel first, ride in boots.

A little misleading. The picture on the left is a toe first landing at a walk. The picture on the right is a heel first at a trot. 

A farrier does not trim or sculpt a healthy foot. The correct diet, exercise and the right environment build healthy hooves, and a good farrier maintains them. There are many variations of unhealthy feet.

Some are unfortunately permanent, if internal structures are too damaged. Some can rehab quite nicely. Some are inherently stronger (some breed of horses have an advantage because of thick hoof wall and massive frogs). They can sometimes go completely barefooted even with lack of sound “housekeeping”.

Remember, it is the internal structures that need strengthening, not so much the outer shell. By making your horse run around landing toe first battling the gravel in order to “toughen up his feet”, you most likely will never get the healthy feet you and your horse were hoping for. You are only hurting your horse. 

There are many boots on the market, and if you have patience you will find the right one. Try to be there when the farrier comes to trim if and when you need boot help. The farrier would love to help you find the right boots. If you are in any of the situations mentioned above and don’t want to use the boots, you can either try glue on shoes or shells, or go back to traditional shoeing.

So if you can’t fulfill all the necessary requirements for healthy feet (most boarding facilities in Nevada have few options for 24/7 turnout), the boots are an excellent way of protecting your horse’s hooves while riding. The boots will not cause damage. They let the hooves work the way nature intended. They can be taken off after the ride when the horse goes back to his stall.

If you think boots on a horse is a sign of failure, then I have truly failed you as a hoof care provider. Try to see boots as today's hoof protection in a sometimes imperfect situation: a way to have the cake and eat it too. Your horse’s hooves will continue improving while you ride and have fun.

Marie's Opinion

Submitted by David Landreville, Guest HCP

Transitioning horses from shoes or neglected bare feet into properly shaped, fully functional, and comfortable bare feet can be challenging. If you don't care for a good challenge, you're not likely to be successful...save for luck. You will really have to pay attention, listening to your horse, and being mindful. I tend to have an all or nothing mind set, so when I became convinced that shoes were a bad idea for our navicular horse, Santo, I pulled them off, and I also took them off of Cloud 9 and Marie (our 2 mares). The other gelding (Dante) was already barefoot. He was only two and not being ridden yet. Prevention made so much sense to me that I decided to go all out.

Cloud 9 had no trouble with the change, except for the rainy season in the 1st year. Marie had her own opinions about things. I bought her a pair of Easyboot Epics with 1/2" comfort pads. The first time we went out on the trail to try out her boots we made it about 200 yards and she came to a stop. I urged her on but she gave me her "pay close attention to what I'm about to tell you" look. She's an Arab...I dismounted, took her boots off, and checked for rubbing or pebbles. I didn't find anything. I left the boots off, mounted and off she went, with a little encouragement, for about 50 feet. She came to a stop and refused to move forward again. I looked at her eye again and said, out loud, "you don't like that either, do you"? I took her home and we got our exercise in the soft sand of the round pen. We did that for the next month, until she was comfortable on the hard dirt road. At our place, in order to get to the soft, sandy trails along the wash, we first have to travel down a hard packed dirt road with one inch gravel sparsely strewn and accumulated mostly at the edges and down the middle ( it's distributed this way from cars using the road ). I always try to stay between the gravelly parts. After a half mile of this there's a patch of the road that gets really rocky with golf ball to basketball sized rocks halfway submerged and very little earth in between. After that it's smooth sailing down the almost rock free trail. After Marie was comfortable enough to go out on the road again, without boots (I think it was the rubbing that bothered her) we routinely rode out and I got off and hand walked her through the really rocky part.  I remounted when we ran out of rocks and did the same on the way home.  I did this for over a year. I never minded it and I knew she appreciated it by the look in those extremely expressive eyes of hers. One day on our way back I dismounted at the rocky spot, as usual, and began to walk off leading her. She took a few steps and stopped. I urged her on and she wouldn't budge. I checked her feet for rocks and they all came up empty. I urged her again and she remained frozen in her tracks. I asked her what the problem was and she just stood there with a patient look on her face. I mounted up and asked her to move off and she walked right off.  I went a few feet and dismounted so she didn't have to carry me through the rocks.  Again she wouldn't budge. I looked at her and asked again what it was that she was trying to say. All of a sudden it dawned on me. She didn't need me to get off anymore. I mounted and we crossed the rocks and we've crossed them for several years now. She never complained again...about that.

Over the years, I always got the feeling that Marie wasn't all that wild about trail rides. She always went out the gate willingly, but she took every opportunity to tell me she would rather be home with the other horses. The further away we got, the more she let me know. She prefers the arena, especially if people are taking pictures of her. She will also pose for the occasional tourist hiker. On the way home, she usually tells me which routes are shorter.  We have had many arguments about this. When ever she loses she "mad walks" home. I don't care, as long as it's a walk.  That's the compromise.  She usually forgets by the time we get home anyway. When the Easyboot Gloves came out a few years ago I liked the design and wanted to try them out.  I put them on Marie and we headed down the trail. She was in a particularly forward mood this time so we went for a longer ride. I realized something else was different. She was more adventurous than usual. This time I was the one that said, "OK, far enough." On the way home, she argued at the forks in the trail, because she wanted to stay out on the trail. She had so much extra energy. By this time it was clear to me that she loved her new boots.

Marie is 15 here.

In the beginning, when she first came out of shoes, her feet weren't the proper shape yet. There's a big difference between a farrier trim and a physiologically correct barefoot trim. As I learned the difference, her feet became more properly shaped and fit more comfortably in the boots. I've become accustomed to riding Marie, as well as our other horses, in Gloves, Glue-ons, and EasyShoes regardless of how good I think their feet are. I keep their feet trimmed frequently and balanced properly. Even if they are sound with out boots, I prefer riding and not wondering about their comfort and knowing that every step is building a better foot and protecting their feet as well as their joints from future problems.