That Andalusian Can't Go Barefoot

Submitted by Lisa Morris, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

Has anyone ever told you that your horse has hooves that can’t be barefoot? 

I was contacted earlier last year to help out a very experienced horse person, Jennifer D, who had a lovely new Andalusian, Amigo, with some serious soundness issues. Her hope was to use him for Classical Dressage and Pleasure Riding. He certainly had the conformation and the breeding for the discipline, except he wasn’t sound. He looked like he could star in a movie as a Spanish Baroque Warhorse but I wonder if anyone would notice that he wasn't sound? Jennifer was deeply concerned for her new friend.

Amigo in CA

Trying out Amigo in California. His training was California Charro and Pleasure riding.

Jennifer D purchased the horse after flying from San Antonio, TX to California in late 2010 to see him based on sales pictures that took her breath away. He wasn’t in great physical shape (unless round is considered a shape), nor was he totally sound, but her gut instinct was to bring him back to Texas and to help him. He is gorgeous and he has a wonderful mind. She couldn’t wait to work with him. When she got him back to Texas she began working with him to develop relaxation, his previous riding had been rather opposite of the supportive classical foundation she was providing Amigo.

Amigo seemed sore in his rear end, he would twist in his hocks rather than moving solidly. He had very unbalanced shoulders with one much larger and higher than the other, this made saddle fit very challenging. Amigo was in steel shoes and was being maintained by very well respected farriers, but he had a lingering high/low issue in the front hooves.

Jennifer D working on relaxing Amigo at the canter in Texas.

To Jennifer D’s credit she was very open and persistent about getting to the root of Amigo’s his physical problems. During this period she worked with vets to monitor his hooves with x-rays, and documented his hooves by photographing them after each farrier visit. She kept meticulous records. She worked with bodywork and saddle fit professionals to try to get him as comfortable as possible physically while remaining in work.

This was Amigo's "flat" under-run hoof shortly after Jennifer bought him.

This was Amigo's upright hoof - quite a difference in these two hooves, but both toes are quite stretched.

When she contacted me, she said that her gut instinct was that he would be better off like their other Andalusian, Paz who is sound barefoot. The response she received was that Amigo couldn’t go barefoot. The first time I saw them, we met for a consult at the local soundness wiz-vet for a full workup. The Vet confirmed the twisting in the hocks as being possible arthritis. He also blocked the LF (low) leg and confirmed that he had joint pain in his fetlocked. He performed Shock Wave Therapy on the affected fetlock. Amigo was prescribed with injectable or oral joint supplements. The X-rays that were taken of Amigo that day were a good guide in developing a plan to take Amigo barefoot.  We made no hasty changes, I simply offered some suggestions.  Meanwhile, the treatments didn't seem to help much.

Here is the LF low hoof - How do you pull these shoes and remain in work? Look at the unhealthy central sulcus butt crack in the frog. This is never a healthy situation. Jennifer treated the suspected central infection effectively with cattle mastitis medication. Amigo was sore if you inserted a hoof pick into that crack.

I suggested that one of Amigo’s biggest problems were his hoof form. He had always been in steel shoes, probably without a break. Horses like this often have very little digital cushion development. He had very flared hoof walls and his toes were very long and his heels under-run. He had deep cracks in the central sulcus of his frogs that made me suspect there was an infection in his frogs, despite frequent use of that purple thrush treatment. The vet prescribed a wedge pad in the front hoof to try to match the higher hoof. I suggested that she begin treating Amigo’s frogs for infection using an off-label product that treats mastitis in cattle. I suggested that she should request that her current farrier should back up the toes, while preserving the height of the toes from the bottom. I also suggested that we could try removing the back shoes first, and try to get him comfortable in that situation before removing the front shoes. 

We  discussed his feeding program.  Andalusian horses are typically “easy keepers” and can not tolerate high starch diets. Amigo had been maintained on a diet that was too rich for his metabolism in his prior home. Jennifer D changed his diet to a very low starch ration balancer that would compensate for what was lacking in coastal Bermuda hay. Our typical hay needs to be balanced with more Copper, Zinc, Biotin, Amino Acids, etc to encourage healthy hoof growth.  

Lf sorta oblique

7 months later, this frog is still a bit stretched forward in the "flat" LF hoof, but it is so much healthier!  The good, balanced, low starch nutrition and movement has helped as well.

This would be a process over time rather than a quick fix. The ultimate goal was to grow in new, healthier hooves that were better lamina attachment. We wanted to keep him sound for work and help him develop a stronger digital cushion so he could comfortably land heel first and flat in a correct manner. Easyboot Gloves would be prescribed to help him to stay comfortable as needed during this process.

Easyboot Gloves are a suitable hoof boot for dressage training.

When the rear shoes were removed, we noticed that Amigo was growing the medial (inside) of his right rear hoof much longer than lateral (outside) of his hoof wall. This was the hock that was twisting upon landing when he moved. The farrier suggested using Superfast to build an extension of the shorter wall. That was not a lasting solution, so I took over care of the rear hooves and the farrier maintained the fronts. For a time, we met frequently to tweak the back hooves as needed. I put a steeper bevel on the lateral (outer) hoof wall so it wore a bit faster and started to keep up with the wear on the inner wall. With keeping the hoof balanced, Amigo started to become much more comfortable in his movement and the twisting hock began to resolve. We were very encouraged. I do think the joint supplements and bodywork were helpful in this regard as well.

6/11 - Amigo's front shoes were pulled after 2 cycles in a corrective frog/heel support pad shoeing package. His back hooves had the steel shoes pulled a month prior and naturally trimmed in preparation for going fully barefoot. Transitioning in steps is a great conservative way to approach going barefoot.

Eventually, it was time to remove the front shoes. I gave Amigo a conservative set-up trim, focusing on bringing the toes back so the rest of the hoof could grow in more correctly attached, rather than forward.  We fit him in Easycare Glove hoof boots and I encouraged Jennifer to use them anytime that she was going to ride outside of the well groomed indoor arena. His soles were very flat. I also suggested that she consider riding him in the indoor for a time with boots to offer him additional comfort and support so he would use the back of his hoof correctly. 

We tested the boots at all gaits with Amigo at liberty in the lovely indoor arena. He put on a show that proclaimed he felt great with gorgeous Spanish movement, playing in the indoor. We asked him to make frequent gait changes, rollbacks at the canter, etc to test the boots and to accustom Amigo to wearing them before asking him to use them under saddle. I suggest everyone test new boots this way before saddling up.

lf 3.2012

This is the LF about 7 months after we pulled his shoes. We took the X-ray when he was due to be trimmed in case the vet needed us to tweak things. This is his flat hoof and he has grown in a much better attached hoof wall. Because he is due for a trim, his toes need to be backed up. I would like to see him grow a bit more heel, but it is still much improved. He trots sound across gravel for the vet for his check up lameness exam. No more hock twisting unsoundness issues were noted in the rear end at this checkup!

RF later

This is the LF about 7 months after beginning this barefoot journey, again he is due for a trim so his toes need to be backed up/break over trimmed. This is a much healthier hoof than the first  X-ray.

Over the past few months, we have continued with monthly hoof trimming and Amigo is no longer a lame horse. His saddle fit is no longer an issue because his shoulders match better. His high/low syndrome is no longer problematic as each hoof has grown in toward it’s potential, although they will never be a perfect match. Amigo is progressing beautifully in his classical dressage work and he is a pleasure for Jennifer D to own.

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with them and I give credit to Glove boots for being a tool to help Amigo's successful transition from steel shoes. Jennifer D was tireless in finding the solutions to help her horse.

This horse can go barefoot! 

Amigo Stars

How have Easycare boots helped your horse through a tough transition? Do you have any other tips to consider for those that are thinking of trying to go barefoot with their horse?

Lisa Morris

Endurance Using Easyboots in the UK

Submitted by Karen Corr, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I love reading the reports from endurance riders from other parts of the world but there seems to be a lack of reports coming from the UK, so I thought it was about time I put fingers to keyboard and attempt a blog for the first time.

I've been competing in endurance rides for about 15 years and have only managed to sample endurance outside the UK once - the President's Cup in Abu Dhabi, crewing for a British rider, whose horse was spun after 25 miles. But we got to see the rest of the race in full flow and followed some of the horses along the course in the desert - an experience I'll never forget. We have travelled the length and breadth of the UK to compete in endurance rides but with the ever-soaring price of diesel, we are becoming more selective as to where we go and how far we're willing to travel. The furthest we'll travel now is a maximum of three hours to get to an event. That's probably just down the road for a lot of riders in the USA. My favourite rides are in the North of England - they tend to be a lot hillier and more varied in terrain and generally more of a challenge.

Over the years, I've tried a number of different boots for endurance riding and until 2010 I was undecided as to which worked best. However, in 2010 I was sponsored by the UK distributor for Easyboots - Trelawne Equine - this was an amazing opportunity to try out the Gloves and Glue-Ons throughout the season. My gelding was eight years old and at Advanced Level - in the UK this means he had completed two 65km rides and one 80km ride at a set speed. The aim for that year was to introduce him to some faster work at this level and aim for his first race rides. Upping the speed was no problem for him - he had the base of distance work behind him and at the beginning of July he completed his fastest 65km ride to date at the Wirral (fast and flat on the West Coast) in Easyboot Gloves (see picture below).

Looey completing 64kms at the Wirral in the UK

One month later, we decided to try Glue-ons for an 84km Performance Formula Competition in North Yorkshire - the results are based on a formula of HR and speed, so the faster you go and the lower your horses HR at the end and the more points you achieve. Despite being covered in glue (us not Looey), the boots stayed on really well and we came 3rd in much more experienced company. In fact, the boots were glued on so well that we left them on for a week afterwards - they then began to separate from the hoof wall and it was easier to prise them off. We weren't worried about thrush since we'd used Equipak CS to pack the gaps between the boot and his sole/frog. We used Adhere around the cuff on the boot. The farrier at the ride predicted that they'd stay on for about two miles and once we hit the thick red clay they would all come off - fortunately he was very wrong. We had lots of interest from other riders of barefoot and shod horses - none of them had ever seen Glue-Ons in use before.

He looked so good after this we entered him for his first race two weeks later. This race was to be held over the fells and ancient turf hills of Cumbria. The one thing I'd learned was that the tread on the Gloves/Glue-Ons was quite slippy on short wet grass, so we decided to increase the traction on the sole by routering some extra tread - a bit rough and ready but he didn't slip!

Easyboot glue-on with extra tread

This would hopefully give us the extra traction and be able to compete side by side on a more level playing field with the shod horses. We used Glue-Ons again and had slightly less glue make-up this time! The farrier at the ride was very interested in the Glue-Ons and said he'd be watching with interest as to how we got on.

I was a nervous wreck on race-day - I hadn't raced for a few years, since I'd started Looey from scratch four years previously and had lost my FEI horse to cancer. Loo is normally a pretty chilled character (he is 50% Bahraini which helps!), although no-one can predict how they are going to react to a mass start. My original plan was to warm him up out of the way of the other horses - watch them set off down the field and then follow on at a distance and settle him into a nice pace. However, he was being such a good lad, I threw caution to the wind and set off with the leading group. The pace set was reasonable but started getting out of hand over some rough going into the first vetgate, so I pulled back - the leading group disappeared into the distance very quickly. The landscape had changed, the fells were now littered with slabs of limestone which is like riding on a surface covered in soap when it's damp - so if you hit one of those at speed you're a goner!

We had just got through this stretch and started to pick up speed again when I saw a group of riders and horses in front of me - someone had fallen. No-one could get hold of an organiser on their mobiles, so I rode to the next road crossing and collared a crew to send for help, they were in a 4x4, so headed out over the fells to see what they could do. Luckily, both horse and rider were fine - just badly bruised. In situations like this, whoever stops to help is given a time allowance - this makes things a little complicated when trying to work out who is now in the lead during a race.

So I continued on to the vetgate knowing there were two horses in front of me and some behind, who in theory could still be ahead. Looey passed the first vetting, and made good time to the second vetgate - both lead horses were vetted out here - so I was in first place. Or was I? Two riders had retired on course, one due losing a shoe and ripping off a big chunk of hoof and the others were miles behind. It turned out that the second place rider was in first but only just if you took the time allowance into consideration.

So back out onto the last loop on our own, with riders constantly heading towards us going home - Looey made a stirling effort to keep going on his own and picked up when we turned round and headed for home. We crossed the finishing line first and vetted well, but it all depended on how far behind the next rider was - she ended up beating us by two minutes. It would have been so different if we'd been riding together but was still exciting in a very different way. Again my horse and proved himself in good company and the glue-ons worked a treat. Interestingly, the winning horse was completely barefoot, so a well-deserved win.

The new style gaiters have made life a lot easier, we no longer have to think of ingenious ways of wrapping his pasterns to stop rubbing from the rolled edge - I still do trim the lower edge of the new gaiter just to make sure we don't have any pressure points. Another learning point for us in 2010 was using athletic tape round the hoof under the boot. The tape sticks to the hoof wall, heats up and then the glue seeps though and sticks to the boot. You do need to use good quality tape, we've found that cheaper alternatives tend to disintegrate. We always put power straps on each boot too.

2011 was a very different endurance year, we were selected to represent Team Easyboot for the first time and were now able to keep in touch with other members of the team from all over the world, pick up tips and share our experiences with other Easyboot users in the UK. The recession hit us pretty bad in the UK last year and my partner and I made a decision early on to have a year off endurance. We had two four-year old arab fillies to back and start, so that took up a lot of our time.

Looey and I had dressage lessons to improve his way of going and work on his core muscles to help him recover and hold himself better. We both loved the lessons and he is a different horse this year. I also had the opportunity to crew for my filly's dam, whom I used to own. Shannon's owner lives in the South of England, but wanted to attempt her first race ride in Southwell which is mid-way between where we both live.

I couldn't wait to see her again. Shannon has always been barefoot, I did her first endurance ride on her in boots, but since moving to live with Janet she has never had boots on - much to the disgust of some of her mentors in the Endurance world down where she lives. Shannon looked very fit and was definitely up for the job in hand. Janet needed a bit more organising, though, and this was a big learning experience for her.

She nearly blew it at the first trot up - Shannon sort of waddles like a duck if her trot isn't moving forwards from behind - I did the next one and the rest of the trot-ups throughout the vettings and she was fine scoring A's for action. There were only three starters - the race was open only to horses who had never raced before, we call them a Tyro. The three competitors stayed together all the way round the first loop.

However, at the vetgate the temperature soared and the other riders struggled to get their horses HR's down below 64bpm. Shannon's recoveries are amazing and I knew we'd make up loads of time and get out in front of them. She ended up with a lead of nearly 20 minutes going onto the second loop. But, Janet let her do her own thing and said she wanted to go slower (she was actually doing a " I can't be bothered cos I'm on my own now" stunt!) - at the frist crew point she had nearly lost all of her lead - but after some motivation from me which consisited of "if you don't get your act in gear, you'll be doing the rest on your own!" - they both upped the pace and came into the last vetgate in the lead.

Again, Shannon vetted very quickly and they set out on their last loop which they flew round at their fastest speed all day, finishing first on the all weather racecourse and walking calmly over the line. Shannon vetted straight away and passed with flying colours - I was so proud of them both.

Shannon & Janet at the start of their first 80km race

One thing I noticed was how many more people were now competing in hoofboots - the majority being Easyboot Gloves - and at a high level in races. More people were also trying the Glue-Ons, so there was much discussion about technique, how long are they left on for etc. So despite not competing myself, I still managed to get out and about and help and advise others on using boots.

2012: again I've been most fortunate and have been selected onto Team Easyboot. Again, funds are tight, we're trying to sell our house and have lots of other projects on but due to the winter in the UK being a lot milder than the previous two years, I've managed to keep Looey quite fit. He did blow two massive abscesses (one hind, one fore) in early January which put him back a few weeks - but boy do those boots come in handy when they are growing out - they provide such great protection.

My partner has been getting his five year-old quite fit and our little coloured cob has been getting out and about a bit more too. When the Easyboot Glove Back Country was launched we decided to get a pair and give them a go.To be honest, at first we thought they were great on Squiggle (our cob) but she has so much feather, that it was impossible to tuck it all in or let it stick out the top of the boot and so we've been using them on the five year-old mare's hinds with Glove on her fronts. Again, we've adapted the Back Countrys slightly by extending the velcro to ensure debris doesn't creep under the straps and stop them sticking together. Hamra moves extremely well in them and considering this is the first year she has worn boots, she doesn't seem to realise they are there.

Of course, there is always something which happens to scupper your plans - the first one was when Bond took Hamra out on a hack with his mate riding Squiggle - they were having a mad dash round the woods (no boots) and disaster struck when Hamra punctured her sole on something very sharp but blunt. So that was one down and big lesson for Bond about wearing boots for protection. Then Squiggle started coughing during a training ride - she picked up some sort of lurgy and ended up with swollen glands and snots. She had a course of treatment but has only just stopped coughing. I've been watching the others like a hawk especially Looey since he was entered into his first competition for 18 months! Looey has stayed clear of infection - he went and did his first ride of 40kms in April and stormed round with the fastest speed of the day - see picture below of him relaxing after the ride - his boots are still on since I'd taped his hooves and couldn't get them off after the ride!.
 
Looey relaxing after his first competition of 2012
 
 
What's missing?
 
I was lucky with the boots - another lesson, remember to tighten all the screws before setting off.
 
We try to vary our training and occasionally take the horses to a cross country ride where they can jump obstacles. The course is very undulating, so is great for fittening.
 
Great hills for fittening work
 
It's approximately eight miles long, I go round once with Looey and do the jumps (which he loves) and then go round again passing the jumps but up the speed and use it for hill training. On our last trip, Hamra even had a go at some small jumps for the first time - we do get some strange looks jumping cross country jumps in endurance gear.
 
Hold on tight! Hamra's first time jumping...
 
Our other filly has now come down with the lurgy - swollen glands, cough, snots, so she's getting away with murder. Touch wood the rest are still fine, so we're taking each day as it comes - if all goes well Looey will do a 65km ride soon and then be entered for races depending on what choice there is at the time.
 
Unfortunately, a lot of rides hosting races have been cancelled in the UK this year, so choice is limited. Hopefully, I'll be able to do some more blogs reporting on our successes in boots later in the year As yet we have to try the Goober Glueing technique, so must give it a go soon. Watch this space.
 
Karen Corr

Our Second Natural Hoof Trim

Submitted by Carol Warren, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I rasped Newt's hooves for the first two weeks after his first trim as planned. I don't know if I really did much, but his cracks did not get worse. We had a big ride the third weekend so I did not want to rasp that weekend. By the time I was able to get to him, it was ten days after our last rasping. I knew we had an upcoming ride about two hours from Trista's normal trimming territory the following weekend.

I called Trista to see if she could trim Newt while we were at the Valley Mills Texas Trail Challenge. Turns out Trista had to give a demonstration at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine Open House and could not meet us there. Since we were both planning to travel through Waco, Texas on that Friday, we decided to meet up in Waco. We met in the parking lot of Office Depot at the corner of I-35 and Hwy 6. Now if any of you know the area, that is a high traffic interchange. We decided to meet there since it was easy to get our loaded horse trailers in and out of there and plenty of places to eat lunch. 

The new hoof growth. This picture was taken four days before I met Trista in Waco for the trim. The hoof cracks are smaller.

We got Newt's feet trimmed with only a few stares from people.  Not sure if people were used to seeing horses in general or if we were not as "out of the ordinary" as we thought. Trista said Newt was only one of a few horses she would ever attempt to trim with so much activity around - he is such a good horse.  Trista said he was getting a little sole concavity already. She really worked on getting his toes back to the water line to help get rid of the toe crack. I had not been rasping off as much as I thought. Trista showed me again how to rasp at a 45 degree angle and how far to go back.  We could see about 1/2 inch of new growth from the coronet band and could tell his hoof angle was already beginning to change some.  

Trista Lutz trimming Newt in the Office Depot parking lot in Waco, Texas. I normally hold the horse, but just could not pass up the photo op.

Newt was a little sensitive over the rocks during the ride, even with his boots on. I have ordered pads to see if that helps until his his soles have a chance to toughen up.  I have been rasping once a week since then, and he seems to be doing well. I am gaining more confidence in how I am rasping. Newt is gaining more confidence and patience with me as well. It is now taking me about half of the time to rasp as when I first started. He is not as sensitive on hard, uneven ground so hopefully he is adjusting well.   

We are going to try our first NATRC ride and ride in the novice division. We have been training pretty hard for the last six weeks: lots of trotting and trying to figure out our pace.  I'm sure glad we have our Easyboot Gloves.

Carol Warren in Goliad, Texas

Good Reasons to Easyboot

Submitted by Karen Bumgarner, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I always have people asking me "Why do you use boots and not shoe?"

Before EasyCare invented the Gloves I mostly booted over shoes for rock protection on rocky rides like XP and a few others. My shod horses were all successful. Tonka had 1,895 AERC miles plus ride and ties. Sunny completed 4,410 AERC miles, Speedy had 5,515 and Zapped+/ had 6,485 miles. All those miles included 100's and multi-days and no LD's. However if there were a few weeks inbetween rides we would pull shoes and trim to give the hoof a rest. After the last ride at Thanksgiving until the first ride in April, all of our horses were barefoot. We conditioned bare and the horses got shod just before the first ride of the season. That was always our standard procedure for the hooves and our horses were healthy and sound so we were pretty sure that we were doing something right. 
 
So if we had success why switch to all boots? I won't deny that saving money is not one of the reasons. After all, the boots last for several hundred miles and I do all my own trimming so I do save money. But it isn't the most important reason.
 

Barefoot tracks with the frog making ground contact, in a shod hoof track you only see the imprint of a shoe and no frog. 

I suppose the most important reason is hoof health. It really is hard to deny that a bare hoof, when properly cared for on a domestic horse, is a healthy hoof. Why? Because the hoof is allowed to contract and expand with each step. As the frog comes in contact with the ground it pumps blood through the hoof which increases circulation. The old adage of "out with the old and in with the new" applies to blood in the hoof and legs as well. Fresh blood helps keep the horse sound, warding off inflammation as well as possible navicular conditions, contracted heels and other lamenesses. Even when the hoof does sport a boot it is only for a few hours, and that hoof can still work with the boot on.

So besides saving money and improving my horse's well being what is left?
 
Enter the mighty "Thunder" into the picture. A veritable shoer's nightmare who at six weeks of age developed a badly turned out foot requiring continual trimming to get it corrected. It turned due to a mineral deficiency. Thunder also grows very fast so he simply continually needed trimmed. In four weeks he needed reshod as his hoof wall would quickly grow over the outside edge of the shoe (yes he was left with plenty of expansion) and he would get a bit unbalanced as the outside of the hoof grew faster than the inside. So it was easier to leave him bare as much as possible, maintain balance through trimming and ride in regular boots.
 
 
This picture is dated fall 2009 his first Gloves in back, Epics in front. You can see the rear Gloves are too big, part of the learning curve because at the time I thought they fit.
 
In 2007 I was introduced to Team Easyboot and a couple new boot designs entered the scene, the Bare and the Epic. Up until that time I had only used Original Easyboots so I could see some new promise of success. He didn't pull off the front Epics with the gaitor, that was an improvement over regular boots. Only he also over-reaches so the hardware clamp on the hinds would get a bit beat up and it wasn't the best option. The Easy Up clamp worked better for him but it was best for trail riding and not endurance. So I would have to shoe at the last minute and then pull shoes again between rides to maintain the hooves. The Bare was hard to get on so I wasn't crazy about it for Thunder. We kept fumbling along though in our practice of alternating shoes and barefoot with boots until the Gloves came along.
 
The Gloves were wonderful and Amanda Washington helped me secure the fit and gave me a few pointers. Now I believe we are into our third year of using Gloves. I love them and so do the horses and we have had very few problems with rubs or loss. Thunder is a bit hard on the gaiters, but believe me when I say Thunder is simply hard on everything. He has around 2,000 AERC miles in Gloves and Blue has around 700 AERC miles in Gloves.
 
 
Steve Bradley took this on Day Four of Owyhee Canyonlands as we waded through Sinker Creek Canyon with our Gloves.
 
But besides all of that, I really do like trimming the hooves and doing all this myself. It is more work but so satisfying. If their hoof is unbalanced or I fail I have no safety net - no one else to blame. But I learned to trim as a kid, was married to a farrier and I'm not saying I am an expert, but I know enough to get by. I love it when people ask me, "You horse's hooves look great, who is your trimmer?" And I get to say 'Me!"
 
So those are all my great reasons for booting and I have to say thanks EasyCare for great products and for Team Easyboot.
 
 
My grandaughter McKenzie and me with Scarlet and Thunder in their Gloves.

Karen Bumgarner

Converting Shod Gaited Horses to Barefoot with EasyCare

Submitted by Anna Pittman, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

I learned to ride about six years ago. I started taking lessons on a Tennessee Walking Horse. I was 34 years old and clueless about horses. After about a year, I bought a show horse that was up for sale. I had been taking lessons on her for about three months, and I was hooked. She was a top five ribbon mare in the show ring competing in rail classes. She had Lite Shod shoes on, but they were heavy and overhung beyond her heel bulbs. I had problems with her over-striding and stepping on the fronts; this resulted in pulling them off or bending them. Eventually, I went to Keg Shoes. They were lighter, cheaper to replace, and I didn't have problems with them being stepped on while she was out in the field. I had begun to become concerned because, her hoof wall was starting to look rough and chipped with all the nail holes. I began to suspect that they were coming off more often now because of the weakened walls from repeated nailing.

Show shod.

At this time, I didn't know anyone who went barefoot. I was new to the horse world, and my friends and family were walking horse people. I was taught that horses had to have shoes for show success or for riding them any length of time outside their soft pasture.

After owning this horse for about a year and a half, I decided that I really enjoyed trail riding and so did my mare. I discovered competitive trail riding and NATRC (North American Trail Ride Conference) through a Google search. I was very intrigued and started learning all I could.

The first ride I attended was at Uwharrie National Forest in North Carolina. I came as a volunteer to see what it was like and determine whether it was something I thought I could do by myself. I didn't know anyone who did it and couldn't get anyone interested. It rained hard and was cold on the Saturday leg of the ride, which consisted of the first 25 miles. I was a scribe for the veterinarian judge. We would camp out in the woods and on rocky outcroppings to view the horse/rider teams attempting certain obstacles or terrain challenges. The vet would tell me the scores to write down for the horse/rider teams as she evaluated them.

One of the terrain challenges was a hill that was one big rock surface. It was pouring rain and near freezing, and I noted that many horses were skating over the rock while climping the ascent. Some horses, however were scrambling up like mountain goats. I asked the vet why some horses were having a hard time and others were not. That's when I first heard about the possibility of horses going barefoot and/or riding in boots. I was amazed. She directed me to a rider that I could talk to later in the evening who used Easyboots. That was where it all started for me.

I went home and did tons of research online, inluding on the EasyCare site. I joined a chat group for competitive and endurance riders and asked tons of questions. Then I had the shoes pulled. I bought books and read about barefoot trimming. Then I found a barefoot trimmer online and had him come out. I had several friends and family memebers tell me that I would be messing up my talented walking horse and that she wouldn't "walk" the same or win anymore. I didn't care. I wanted a sound, natural horse, and I couldn't believe this horse who was bred to walk this way couldn't do it without shoes. I had seen colts do it in the field.

Barefoot and still gaiting.

Shortly after, my husband and I moved to another state with his job. I had to find a new trimmer. Fortunately, I found an awesome trimmer who also sold EasyCare products. I bought my first pair of Easyboot Gloves from him. I really wanted to start training for distance riding. We had moved from very sandy soil and flat terrain, to hard rocky soil in a mountainous terrain. My mare had only been barefoot a few months, so I needed the boots to help her transition to barefoot in this new terrain. I got four boots. I mostly used just the fronts for trail and training rides. Occasionally, the terrain called for rear boots too. She remained barefoot in the field, and I would walk her up and down the driveway with pea gravel at the beginning of my training  sessions barefoot, then put on the boots for the ride. Within a year, I had a wonderfully healthy, barefoot TWH, that could trail ride barefoot or with front boots in most places. I always packed all four boots in my Stowaway Packs, in case I needed them, or in case one of my shod riding buddies lost a shoe.

A happy barefoot horse.

My next step was to compete in a competitive trail ride. I went back to Uwharrie National Forest where I had previously volunteered. I began by competing in a one day ride. The terrain there is pretty rough, and shoes all around are recommended by the ride staff. At this time, NATRC did not allow anything above the coronary band for competition; so no gaiters. I had heard about some people gluing, but it was fairly new. I had no idea how to do it, and have the glued on shells stay put. After some research and consulting with my trimmer/ EasyCare dealer, I decided to put Sole Guard on all four hooves. We applied this on two nights before my competition. I had to leave the following morning to arrive at the competition for check in and vetting. I vetted my horse in on Friday afternoon wearing Sole Guard. My vet judge had to ask what it was. The following morning, I went on my first CTR for a one day ride consisting of 20 miles. When I made it back to camp, we had Sole Guard still in both front feet, but none left in the rear. I remind you that this is some tough terrain, and I too had to scurry up that hill that was one big sheet of rock. No slipping occured, and she amazed me how easily she took that hill. Upon my vet check after the ride, I had no downgraded scores for lameness or any marks on her heel bulbs or coronary band. I was thrilled when we one Second Place in Horsemanship in our Novice Division, as well as First Place in Horse Condition.

First NATRC ride in March 2008 using Sole Guard.

Since then, my mare and I competed in a fun show while barefoot. We still ribbonned. I have learned a lot more about horses and my riding abilities have improved over the years. I changed horses about 18 months ago. He too, was a shod TWH. My husband and I had had just moved back to our home state. I was on the hunt again for a skilled trimmer. Luckily, after some research and phone interviews, I found Rebecca Wyatt, PBHT II of Nature's Path Hoof Care. She also is an EasyCare dealer and is very knowledgable. With her guidance and skills, I  have converted my 12 year old gelding to barefoot. My previous mare's boots didn't fit him. I decided to try the Easyboot Edges first, but ended up going back to the trusty Easyboot Gloves. I'll save the experiences of my current mount and me for another blog.

Until next time, thanks to EasyCare and all the innovators in hoof trimming. Don't let anyone tell you that it can't be done.

 

Anna Pittman in North Carolina

Chevy's New Tires - Part 2

Submitted by Natalie Herman, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

In Part One of this blog post, I introduced you to a sweet Belgian mare with hoof problems as big as her. Megan Hensley of Holistic Hooves and I, are working together to hopefully help her grow some new hooves on Sparrow's Cheval, aka Chevy. Here is the continuation, her trim, and her journey to Megan's place, where she will be rehabbed.

Megan, on the right, and me, discussing what we should do. Pictures by Shannon Grinsell

 

Looking at the separated lamellar wedge and figuring how far back we can go on this trim. Megan starts to tackle the first hoof. Lots to cut through and a bit of work.

Rasping off the worst of the sharp edges and then taking some more from the outside. There is actually a normal hoof shape under all this I think. It will take managing the hoof until the new one grows back out.

More rasping, and then from the top. She was not wanting to stand it on a stand, so we did it on the ground. Meanwhile, I check the other hoof and see what we have there.

Good enough for today. Poor hoof is still pretty misshapen, but the worst of the wedge is off. We wanted to leave some, as she has no other protection for her hoof and her heel is more under her.

Next, we made some padded boots for her. We didn't have any draft sized Easyboots in stock, and it turns out, that even the largest Easyboot, Epic or Boa are still too small for her deformed foot, let alone an RX boot. We used Gorilla tape, an Easycare Comfort Pad (even the largest one of that barely fit), and vet wrap. This lasted a few days, but then was sucked off in the mud. We cut a sole relief area into her pad, as the dropped soles didn't like the pressure of the pad, or just standing on the foot without any relief.

The finished hoof and pad, and the pad fit. We missed getting a picture of the sole relief. But basically we cut a semi-circular shape, that had its arc near the tip of the frog, and went just forward of where the thumb on the right of the right side picture is, on both sides.We walked her both without and with the relief, and she walked out much better with the support.

Next a layer of vet wrap all around, to secure the pad and protect the hair from the tape. here we still had the full pad, then after walking we tried the sole-relief.

Chevy is walking alright on the padded hoof. Looking good, so now on to the other hoof, then we finish the 'boots' for her.

This hoof actually looks normal, just needs to be trimmed up.

I tackle this hoof while Megan holds the leg. We find that having two people, one leg holder, one trimmer, and switching off as needed, sure makes it a lot easier to work on draft horses. This is particularly true if they are unable to hold their leg up due to pain issues like Chevy, or unwilling or untrained to stand and leave hooves in a cradle or stand.

 I start my boot with a 'pad' of double layer tape, that will go on the bottom of the hoof and up the sides a little. Then I tape down strips on the wall, all around the hoof.

Then I wrap a continuous strip around the hoof from the bottom edge up to the top. This is a fairly effective boot and will hold a few days in wet weather, or a week or more in dry weather. You can always make a thicker bottom pad if it wears down. A nice, 'custom' boot. But the problem? It takes a bunch of vetwrap and tape and thus, money when changing this every few days or once a week for months of rehab you soon far exceed the cost of hoofboots). It is also not breathable, so you get thrush, seedy toes, and other issues, which are already a problem with these compromised feet. If you are working on an animal that is not very sore, and is very exuberant, the boots will wear through and fall off fast. But as an emergency measure, this is a tried and true method for abscesses, laminitis, navicular, or anything else you would have used a boot and padding system for in pasture.

Chevy is still not super happy (will be many months before that foot is better), but she is landing heel first and can walk! So we are pleased.

Chevy and her Hensley and Herman Draft Services Team. Megan leads her down the drive and to the trailer. Her next adventure awaits at Megan's equine rehabilitation ranch.

Will I fit? Yes. Most every horse does. I simply adore my Brenderup (center divider removed for her sake, usually it hauls two). I often wonder why here in the US we don't build light trailers like in Europe. With fuel prices skyrocketing, these little trailers can be pulled by a smaller pickup, an SUV, or a larger sedan even. The fit in even the smallest forest service camp grounds and are easy to maintain, since they are made of synthetic materials. This trailer is a 1980's model and is still going strong, even in wet and salty coastal conditions.

Fun! Usually all you can see is the tips of my horse's ears (14-14'2 size). Chevy looks like a normal sized horse in here, LOL. She rode fairly well and then walked out of the trailer quietly as well.

Is this my new home? She seems to ask... And there seems to be a lot of hope, for a great future, in her eyes. We'll try and get you there, Chevy! :)

Chevy's new herd...a couple of horses, a few donkeys, and a mini burro. All are happy to meet their new pasture mate :)

 

An introduction over the fence. And she is in the herd with no problems.

 

She is moving around the pasture just fine in her boots. Here is hoping for a successful healing.

This was a print one of her back hooves left in the driveway. One day, all of her feet will leave healthy looking prints like this.

Chevy's New Tires - Part One of Two

Last year in May, I got a call from a concerned horse owner. He had a Belgian mare with some hoof issues and was wondering if I took on new clients. I told him I do, but that I was due to leave on a ten week endurance ride across the country in a week or so, so he'd have to be ok with that. He said the horse was really sore and 'something is wrong with its feet'. He was not a very experienced horse owner, and he hadn't had this one for long. I agreed to come on out and see what I could do. 

When I got there, what I saw was a big mess. This was a foundering horse, and a big horse. I told him this horse needs to see the vet and get some intensive care, that I would be unable to provide since I was leaving. He asked me to do what I could anyway, so I did. She had active abscessing and a prolapsed sole, coffin bone likely very near the surface, and could barely pick up her feet, let alone hold them up. It took a long time to trim up the worst of her lamellar wedge, and balance her up to the best of my ability. I was not very happy with the results, but with the assurance of the owner he'd get her to a vet, and a few numbers of other hoofcare professionals in the area, I left hoping for the best, but fearing the worst.

Meet Sparrow's Cheval, or Chevy as she is affectionately called, a 17yo Belgian mare. All photos by Shannon Grinsell, except where indicated otherwise.

Fast forward to now March 2012. I hadn't heard any more from the Belgian's owner since I had gotten back from the ride in July. I had, in fact, even forgotten about her, when I got a message from another local Natural Hoofcare Provider, Megan Hensley of Holistic Hooves. She asked if I remembered a Belgian with hoof problems and how bad was it, as she had gotten a call to come out and look at it. It still didn't connect in my head that this was the same horse.

Here is the neat part of the story: she had put out a post to Facebook, the networking wonderland, the previous evening, musing about how she really wanted to work with a draft horse and help it. So a FB friend messaged her and said that her boyfriend has one, that it is in bad shape hoof wise, and no one in the area is willing to help. So they were going to euthanize her, as they didn't want to watch her gimping around in pain anymore. Would Megan like to have her and see if she could help?

The universe works in mysterious ways. She went out and then was posting about it on Facebook, asking opinions and also about a trailer ride for it to her place, so I offered since I had a good sized trailer. When Megan sent me the address, it all clicked. That Belgian! Oh my, she was still around? I went back and took a closer look at the hooves and x-rays and thought she had actually improved from when I saw her.

Megan later called asking if I could also give a few pointers. I have been practicing a little longer than she has, though there is still so much to learn, especially on these pathological cases. I told her I would come a bit earlier and we'd take a look. Then we talked about the lack of good hoof care for Drafts (the owners had been unable to get anyone to take care of it, the vets didn't recommend any corrective shoeing or trimming, and none of the farriers wanted to deal with it either. This is typical in our area and how part of that is also due to the fact there is a lack of well-trained Drafts as well.

I have worked on a number of Drafts, and those that are trained to have their feet worked with and hold them up, great! Those that aren't; well you can discuss things with a horse, but when a draft wants its leg back, you are a rag doll on the end of that leg. So this led to an idea on Megan's end: one that is not common, if it has been done at all. Why not work on drafts as a team? We could be Hensley and Herman Draft Services or something to that effect. One holds the leg and otherwise handles the horse and the other works on the foot. Trade off as needed. Brilliant! We also thought we could start a campaign on draft horse education for owners to help them learn how to handle and train their horse for proper hoof care and other basic horse things. Chevy could be our poster child! Well, those ideas are still be worked on, but for now, we are working together on Chevy, to hopefully get her feet feeling happy again. Below is our first work with her, and her journey from her old home, to her new one with Megan.

These are her x-rays from supposedly 7 months back. We REALLY need to talk to the local vets on how to take x-rays...nothing on the hoof has been marked, so you can't tell much of anything! We are going to photo copy he chapter on how to do X-rays in Pete Ramey's new book, and hand them in to the office.

I don't have a photo drawing program on this computer, but I was able to change some of the contrasts and such, and here is what I see: definite rotation in the hoof capsule, at least some sole now under P3, and what looks like an air pocket in the wall of the toe that matches what we see on the real hoof. Anything else is totally impossible to determine from these images. Large animal vets really do need to know how to take good images and how marking hoof wall, frog apex and other points of the hoof, is key to this. It is no help to the hoofcare professional (barefoot trimmer or farrier), if they don't have the tools to do the job. Good imaging is part of that tool box.

 

And here is what Megan saw when she first went out to see Chevy. She didn't do much with her feet at this point, just round off a few things here or there, take a bit of the heels. Photos by Megan Hensley. At least there is a frog and some sole: her right front is the bad one. The left seems fairly normal, if a little long.

So then we figured out a day I could meet up with her, to work on Chevy and bring her to Megan's place. It was a mixed bag weather day, alternating between warm and humid with sun, and cold and rainy. Not the best day for working on a horse.

Chevy and her herd: two donkeys, a mustang, and a goat :) All well taken care of and happy.

Chevy greets us at the gate...a sweet mare, she is a typical gentle giant Draft.

Hensley and Herman Draft Services. Here we are, me (with coffee in hand as usual) on the left, and Megan on the right, ready for action.

 

Chevy not so happy about moving around when asked to turn and cross over. Not too horrid on a straight away, but even then a little sore.

 

Chevy comes up to us and can at least stand square. We all seem to be saying "Rain? Now? Come on!"

 

Here is what they are looking like from the front and sides. Megan had rounded off the worst of it and taken the heels down a little already on the last trim, but we still had much to do.

Taking a first look and getting an idea of what we want to take, where.


A huge wedge. Remember the air hole on the x-ray? Nothing holding the wall to the rest of the foot.

And taking a look at the other hoof.

This one wasn't too bad, so we had at least one foot for her to stand on. Since it was only one hoof, we didn't think it was metabolically triggered laminitis, although we will do some blood tests later as more funds come in. She doesn't seem to show the typical body signs either. Best guess was maybe she had had an injury, and it was supporting limb laminitis that started everything.

"Help me please!" says Chevy."We will do our best, kiddo," says I.

Chevy has her own Facebook page now as well. We want to take new radiographs, do blood tests, and so forth. We want to do this several times throughout her recovery.

Next entry: we trim and pad Chevy's hoof, and take her to her new home. Read Part Two here.

Gaiter Rubs? Check Your Heel Height

Are you stumped by ongoing gaiter rubs or boot loss? Consider this: a hoof at the end of its trim cycle will almost always compromise boot fit.

As much as we'd all like hoof boots to fit perfectly no matter what the size or shape of the hoof, the fact is that one size really does not fit all.

Look at the photo above. This horse won a fast 50 in Easyboot Gloves two weeks ago and has been on lay-off since then. The height of the heel is literally lifting the hoof up and out of the boot. The gaiter is not sitting around the pastern the way it was designed to and the velcro attachment system at the front of the gaiter is strained. If this horse was taken out on the trail for a few hours I would not be surprised to see rubbing towards the front of the gaiter at the top edge. I would also expect to see premature wear where the gaiter attaches to the boot.

The photo above shows the same horse without the boot on. Although there is not much toe length or flare, it is clear his heels are high. This horse needs a trim for the boots to work optimally. So do we trim the hooves to fit the boots? Well, yes, actually.

The photo above shows the horse post-trim. The top of the Glove shell more closely follows the hairline at the coronet band. The gaiter sits around the pastern in the way it was designed to and the velcro at the front of the boot secures in a more secure fashion.

This Glove fits snugly: there is a nice spreading of the V at the front of the boot and the front of the gaiter is not pulling against the front of the pastern. I would feel very comfortable riding this horse in this boot for 50 miles.

Looking at the hoof post trim without the boot, you can see that the heel has been brought down and the foot - at least from this side angle - looks well balanced.

So if you're experiencing rubbing, work with your hoof care practitioner to see if you can slowly bring down the heel height on your horse. Similar fitting issues can be caused by a hoof with a long toe.

Keep up the bootlegging.

Kevin Myers

easycare-marketing-director-kevin-myers

Director of Marketing

I am responsible for the marketing and branding of the EasyCare product line. I believe there is a great deal to be gained from the strategy of using booted protection for horses, no matter what the job you have for your equine partner.

 

There Is An Easier Way – Some Thoughts On Grinder Trimming

By: Lisa Morris, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

 
I am a Barefoot Hoofcare Practitioner in the San Antonio Hill Country area of Texas. In my spare time, I am pulled in many directions. I have a busy family with three lovely kids. We live and work a ranch that has been in my husband’s family since 1867. I am active with my children's school. My time is precious and in short supply.
 
Mary Alice and Buddy
 
My daughter Mary Alice has inherited the horse crazy gene.
 
I enjoy recreational trail riding and I have begun training my naturally gaited, barefoot, Tennessee walking horse, Gator for ACTHA Competitive Trail Challenges. He is my steady riding companion who had a previous life as a Field Trial horse in Mississippi. Gator graciously agreed to model grinder trimming for this blog.  
 
 
Gator rocks his Easyboot Epic hoof boots with 12 mm medium comfort pads. Rack on.
 
I board a few horses, include the occasional soundness rehab project. So, in addition to trimming 15-20 outside horses on average per week, I maintain the horses at home. Last summer was brutal; the temperatures in Texas during the drought were record-setting. I was in survival mode to try to get everything done without getting heat stroke. To add injury to insult, the hooves were rock hard from several months of drought. I got serious about using an angle grinder to trim horses. The result is that my own personal horses, and the client horses that I have introduced to the grinder are fine with the process. Grinder trimming is very fast and effective. It’s easier on me physically than wielding traditional tools. A nice quality, new rasp and sharp GE nippers are hard to beat, but it is nice to have alternatives. Even when I lug my traditional tools around to work at the local barns on customer horses, I enjoy the change of using a grinder to trim our own horses.  
 
 
Gator has his tail tied in a knot and secured with a hair band for grinder trimming.
 
Here are some observations that may be helpful if you have considered stepping away from your rasp.
 
1. Consider the temperament and training of the horse.
If your horse is well trained and desensitized to body clippers, more than likely it would accept the noise of the grinder without any due regard. If the horses panics with clippers touch him, don’t even think about using a grinder until that is resolved. Even if your horse is a sleeper, introduce it to the grinder in a very logical approach and retreat manner; train it to accept the machine. I find that it is easier for the horse to accept the noise if it is constantly running, rather than off and on. Keep it running steady when possible. Start by having a helper hold your horse and touch your horse with your right hand, with your left hand holding the running angle grinder. Touch him in the safe zone of his shoulder and wither area. Your horse will feel the vibration of the machine in your free hand. When he relaxes, and accepts the grinder, back away and turn off the machine as a reward. Rinse and Repeat, both sides of the horse until it could care less. Don’t force the issue, look for acceptance and retreat. This is a nice situation to give your friend a cookie as a reward for accepting the noisy machine.  
 
Start the trimming process with the back hooves. As odd as it sounds, the horse accepts it more readily. I think the air from the grinder blowing on the belly is harder to accept for most horses. Some people also desensitize their horses with a blow dryer before they trim with the grinder. I usually start by trimming from the top, keeping the bevel low on the hoof wall. I then put the hoof in the hoof stand cradle and balance the bottom of the hoof. If the hoof is rather long, I usually just use my nippers and give a rough trim first.  
 
 
Working on the bottom of the hoof, trim in progress. HIs hooves were overdue.
 
2.  Consider your own training and expertise.
Are you already experienced with trimming horses with conventional tools? Can you map out the strengths and weaknesses of the horses hooves and objectively balance them correctly? If you are a beginner trimmer, it is best to continue practicing with quality conventional tools. If you are frustrated with your tools, perhaps it is because they are cheap and ineffective. Invest in quality tools. The angle grinder is a great tool, but it is easy to over due things quickly. If you are not experienced at handling horses in spooky situations, I would skip the grinder. You and/or your horse could get hurt.
 
 
Angle Grinder with trigger switch, hair bands, safety glasses, 60 grit flap disks.
 
3.  Invest and use the right equipment.
Even if you are just experimenting with grinder trimming it is best to have the correct things you will need. The lighter the grinder is to hold, the better off you will be. Compare the weights and hold them when shopping for a grinder. I like an angle grinder with a paddle switch or a trigger. A grinder that has a constant on/off switch only is much more dangerous when things go wrong. With horses, things will eventually go wrong. If you are working anywhere around water, like a wash rack, use an extension cord with a circuit breaker GFI plug. Cordless angle grinders are great, but much heavier due to the battery packs.  
 
I use 60 grit flap disks and I only trim a couple of horses before replacing the disk. They get dull rather quickly. I am also one who is quick to change out a rasp if they are somewhat dull. Use a quality hoof stand with a cradle; do not use a tripod type stand. Do not attempt to hold the horses’ hooves in between your legs or in the traditional farrier stance. If the horse spooks you do not want him tangled in your legs, extension cord.  
 
TFTT
 
Keeping the bevel low on the hoof wall. I can release the trigger in the event of a spook and my grinder stops.
 
4.  Obtain and use safety equipment.
The trimmer should use gloves, I like the latex gardening gloves, ear protection and eye protection. I have longish hair, and I always wear it pulled back and in a hat. You do npy want your hair or your horse’s tail wrapped in a grinder. Don’t wear loose or flapping clothing.
 
Tie up your horse’s tail in a knot and secure it with bands. Have a horse savvy helper hold your horse. If you must tie him, only use a quick release ring like the famous clinicians promote. Make sure the area you are working in is safe and free from anything that could injure your horse if it decides to spook or otherwise have a tantrum. Have your horse treated with fly spray so it isn't stomping flies.
 
Tied Blocker Ring
 
Gator with a safety tie ring and tools, we are ready to trim.
 
Be conservative when trimming. Always stop before you think you need to and check your work from different angles. Give your horse mental breaks when he needs it. Summer is coming and I will probably start using my grinder a bit more again. I am glad I have an easier way for trimming when needed.
 
Have you tried using a grinder to trim your horse? What was your experience? Do you have any tips that I missed here? What equipment works for you?
 
Lisa Morris

Barebooted: My World of Trimming and Booting

Submitted by Tanja Benz, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

As I first started to think about how a blog could look like, I felt a bit overstrained. Then I thought, hey OK, normally everybody who reads this blogs is also interested in hoofs and hoofboots, so why not tell my story how I got into trimming and booting.

3 different horses with 3 different boots, but all walked awesome on our 6 hour ride

Since I was a small child, I was fascinated by horses, but never had the possibility to have an own one. I have to admit that the interest in horses during the time of adolescence was not this big as there seemed to be more important things for me. But I turned the other way around when I became an adult. After finishing my education as a forwarding agent, I had the spontaneous idea to leave Germany and travel to beautiful New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud. I didn’t really have a fixed goal where I wanted to head to. This turned out to be a good decision later on, as I ended up at Kate’s Riding Center in Kerikeri, in the north of the north Island.

The German Native Forest ;o)

Until that day I had nothing to do with hooves at all. Like many people, I thought a hoof needed to be shod, no matter what. But the people at KRC taught me the opposite. All horses were barefoot and they moved without any problems. I got a Shettland Pony there, trying my first trim. It took me ages and loads of sweat, but in the end it was a good trim for the first time.

So I started to become more interested in the whole stuff and it fascinated me to see how fast the horses turned sound again after a hoof abscess or hoof injury and only because they had to move every day and lived in huge paddocks all together, and were handled naturally at all. As these people said, “no improvement without movement," and today I know that’s true.

I still had not heard of hoof boots. After my return from New Zealand I decided to start a hoof trimming education and at the same time I bought my first pony. I soon rented a little Western stable and decided to leave all the horses barefoot which worked out perfect. When we went outside for a ride, the horses preferred to walk on the grass on the side of the road to avoid stony ground. I never really minded it but have to say now that it’s much more fun for horse and rider having hoof boots as your horse doesn’t have to go off the road.

By accident I saw an advertisement on the internet “How to become a hoofbootcoach”. I looked up more pictures and information about Easycare and hoofboots and decided to absorb this additional education, also with the thought of offering my customers a wider range of service and an alternative of shoeing. I need to say, that in my region in the deep south of Germany we haven’t much distance rides like in the US, and boots are not widely seen around here. We have a lot of show jumpers and dressage and these people believe in irons. If you mention hoof boots they tell you that they already tried some but they came off, that they’re difficult to put on and off and too expensive anyway. And often those guys only bought a boot without knowing much about and obviously most times the wrong boot for the horse.

The first may ride, 6 hours ride, which was really awesome !

When I meet these people now, I try to keep the boot conversation vivid and ask them which boot did you try, do you think it was the right boot, as it came off? I tell the people if the boot comes off too easily it’s not the right boot for this horse. Right now with so much knowledge of boots and fitting, for me it became kind of mission to show people the advantages of boots which can be:

- no irons anymore

- saving money with no irons

- keep your horse more natural and healthy

- only use the boots if you need them

Last October I gave a lecture on the entire Easycare boot line and people became bit more open minded about it. So a few days later the first one called me for a fitting. I started ordering more different sized samples of the different boots, as I couldn’t afford to buy a pair of every single boot and size, II bought only one of each. But it doesn’t bother me at all by fitting, as for me it turned out wise to put two different boots onto the hooves so you can see quite fast which one has a better fit or the horse likes more.

I rode the my Pony with the Easyboot Glove Back Country and it’s amazing where you can ride in these boots. Thanks to Easycare for this new invention. I really can say that their inventions only got better and better, I really like the Glove, but since the Back Country is on the market it’s the better one for me and the bestseller to my customers. I sold two pairs to a customer not long ago and we really underwent it a hard test. But maybe I can write another blog about this later on.

Suffice to say that I’m really glad having choosen this road. It changed my mind about hooves and horses and my goal is to meet more people who are open minded enough to give it a try and getting a happier horse. Because I gave it a try and it turned into passion and lifestyle for me and I really won’t miss it.

Tanja Benz, Germany