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

Boots and Wine - What Could Be Better?

Submitted by Leslie Spitzer, Team Easyboot 2012 Member

As an endurance rider I find myself being very goal oriented for the most part in my riding. I worry about the mileage I need to get in for training, the speed I need to go and if we will be properly prepared for upcoming rides. I worry about making sure my trim is current and that my boots fit just right. Will we be going up hills at speed? Should I tape or not? Should I touch up the toes just a bit first? It can be exhausting.

Sometimes it is nice to take a time out, slow down and smell the roses - or in this case, the bouquet. That would be the bouquet of fine California wines I would be speaking of. Two weeks ago I attended the Spring Stampede Winery Ride in Livermore, California. The ride is put on by CHSA Region 5 and is a fundraiser for their Trail Trials program. The ride is 6 miles long and basically you ride in staggered groups to three wineries in a guided group. The trail winds through the vineyards which are surrounded at the moment by green foothills. It is quite idyllic: horses are only allowed ever in the vineyards during this ride. At the wineries the horses all get tied in a specified area and are watched by volunteers and fed carrots. The riders all head into the winery and enjoy gourmet food and wine.

I brought Spider for a friend to ride. Spider is a big, strapping grey gelding and he went with the rugged, yet sophisticated look wearing the new Back Country boots for his hoof wear. I brought my horse Eagle for myself. He went the more elegant route wearing the equine equivalant of the little black dress: Gloves with black power straps, fronts only. Classic and understated. After all this was a high society event. My friend Pamela brought three of her horses all oufitted in Gloves as well.   

Spider and Eagle in their finest footwear.

The ride starts out from the Stampede Grounds which is in an urban area. Traffic is stopped on a busy street for the horses to cross and then it is on into the beautiful vineyards and our first stop.

Heading out to the vineyards

Heading out to the vineyards.

Beautiful future Vino!

The first winery stop was at Murrietta's Well. It is a beautiful winery. Here we enjoyed appetizers and some really good wines. A favorite always at this stop is an appetizer made with cream cheese, brown sugar and a touch of vanilla to dip apples in. Heavenly!

 Yummy!

Eagle patiently awaiting my return.

After Murrietta's Well we rode through the vineyards eventually arriving at a very large facility. This is a combined stop of Wente Vineyards and Tomas. The horses were all tied to large, flatbed trailers which doesn't sound so safe, but actually was.

Yum another carrot stop!

At Wente we enjoyed more really nice wine and light lunch. This included Pulled Pork Sliders, cheeses, veggies, fruits, and dips. Very good. After lunch Tomas provided yet even more delicious wine tasting incuding a to die for Barbera Port. I am not a port fan but oh wow. They also provided the dessert course which was cheesecake with a Zinfandel Chocolate Port sauce and Strawberries which you could dip into a warm chocolate mixture. 

Dessert at Tomas Winery.

After this leisurely stop it was time to heave our full and relaxed selves back onto our horses and make our way back a couple miles or so to the Stampede Grounds where we could pick up our purchases before heading home. Our group was a mixture of all types of people and horses, from ponies on up to a Clydesdale. There were pleasure horses all the way up to high end eventer horses. The question of the day for our booted gang of Arabs was "Are you guys endurance riders?" 

Groups arriving and leaving a winery. Horses everywhere.

Spider heading back wearing his Back Country Boots. He was pretty good for his (new to horses) rider, despite being convinced this must be an endurance ride.

It was a fabulous, warm California spring day and everybody had a great time. The best thing for me was just slowing down and having fun. It was really nice to just know we were going out for a trail ride, nice and relaxed and nothing technical. It took me all of two minutes to slap both horses boots on. No need for tape or touch ups. I knew I wouldn't have to give them a second thought and I didn't. I encourage all you goal-oriented and driven types to take days like these with the only goal being to relax and have a good time. Excellent brain-training for our goal oriented equines as well. If any of you live in the Northern California area I encourage you to check out this event. This was my third time attending and I will definitely be back next year.

Leslie Spitzer

Four Years and Counting

The peoples of The Steppes have been riding bare and without hoof protection for thousands of years, we know them from the history books and heard about their amazing horses: the Parthians, Scythians, Cimmerians, Huns and Mongols created some of the largest empires the world has ever seen. They scared and defeated the Greeks, Romans and other western powers with their incredible riding and warfare skills. Their skill were  always far superior to the western powers and they always rode barefoot.

Mongols honing their archery skills.

Natural hoof care was and still is the norm with the Peoples of the Steppes.

Mongol horses are being trimmed. Notice the strong healthy frog and tough sole. These horses are being ridden over rocks, grass and sand.

This Natural Hoof Trimming contrasts starkly to our western civilizations Hoof Care. Only very recently did we start to embrace barefoot trimming. Until about 4 years ago, 80% of all Hoof Care procedures at the  Global Endurance Training Center were applications of steel, polyurethane or aluminum shoes. Today, maybe 5% of all Hoof Care services involve application of steel shoes, more than 80% are bare hoof trims. What a huge change. What have we noticed during these 4 years in regards to the health of the hooves?

  • - a thicker and tougher sole
  • - a huge reduction to total absence of white line separation
  • - a bigger and healthier frog
  • - a naturally developed break over

An example of a mostly bare hoof in rocky to sandy terrain.

Naturally worn break over.

Another example of a healthy bare hoof.

For 4 years now, Global Endurance Training Center and EasyCare have been conducting and sponsoring hoof care clinics all over North America and Europe. I have been traveling at least twice a year to Europe to conduct clinics in Natural Hoof Trimming and Protective Horse Boots application. We are constantly educating and learning all at the same time.

Here is a schedule of Hoof Care Clinics and workshops: I will be spending three weeks in Germany and France in the month of May.

1. May 12 -13, 2012 in Dresden Germany

For info and sign up, contact Veit Koppe at Koppe@heine-bau.de

2. May 25 -26, 2012 in Baiersdorf, Germany

For info and sign up, contact Gunnar Schillig at info@pferdmensch.de

3. May 29 - 30 in western France

For info and sign up, contact: info@globalendurance.com

June 3 - 9, 2012 is Natural Horse Care week at Global Endurance Training Center. We will be  conducting Hoof Care Workshops at the Global Endurance Center in Moab, Utah. These workshops are free, we are going to share and discuss the latest findings in the area of Natural Hoof Trimming and demonstrating the newest horse hoof boots, glue on techniques, sole protection and therapeutic measures. RSVP required. We can help you with lodging.

July 10th, the day before the City Of Rocks Pioneer ride in Almo, Idaho will see a Hoof Care Extravaganza. GETC, EasyCare, Equiflex and Vettec are all sponsoring a 3 hour free clinic at the ride site. The clinic starts at 3 pm. You will be able to observe trimming techniques, tool maintenance protective horse hoof boot applications, gluing techniques, various Vettec sole protection methods, Easyshoe and Equiflex shoe gluing methods and more. The Vettec Company is sponsoring the wine and cheese party directly following the clinic. And the following day is the start of the new 4 day ride through the incredible beautiful City of the Rocks wilderness at the Utah/Idaho State line. An event not to be missed. The sponsoring companies are giving away various prizes for the clinic participants and ride participants: Glues, EasyCare Hoof Boots, Equiflex shoes and Free Hoof trims. You may want to mark this event on your calendar.

For more information on all the above outlined events, you can contact the Bootmeister directly at info@globalendurance.com. For the City of the Rocks Hoof Care Clinic you can also contact Steph Teeter at steph@endurance.net.

It is a given: none of us will  ever be as good a horseman, rider  or archer as the People of the Steppes. But I know for certain that our horses can have hooves as tough as the hooves of the  horses of the legendary Sarmation and Mongol people.

Mongols with their horses.

See you at some of our clinics.

Your Bootmeister

Money Talkin: Barefoot Thoroughbred to Re-Race in 2012

It may be Derby Days for some, but not for me. I'd rather be following the second career of barefoot, natural thoroughbred, Money Talkin owned, re-trained and rehabilitated by friend, trimmer and I.T. wiz, Maureen Tierney of Harned, Kentucky.

 

The Racehorse Experiment was one of those 'Ah Ha!' moments for Maureen. “I realized that Dr Fager's world record for the mile set in 1968, and which stood for decades, was 1.32; a good time today would be a mile in 1.36. That's only a difference of 4 seconds. Can a four second difference be made up with feet that 'fit', better diet and more exercise?” I think most of us reading the Easy Care Blog commiserate with racehorses. What about a rehabilitated racehorse. He is definitely happier and healthier but I wonder, could he run faster?

 

Instead of shod and long-toed hooves, instead of a traditional diet, instead of minimal exercise, instead of being drugged and stalled with resultant boredom, insecurity and pain.

 

What If?

  • The horse had correct, bare hooves with full circulation and proprioception.
  • The horse ate a diet designed for the Equine athlete.
  • The horse was trained with appropriate and varied exercise,
  • And lived in an established herd 24/7.
  • The only drugs given the horse were those required to race and worming medicine.
  • This athlete knew his job was to come in first.

 

In sum, what if the Equine Athlete was treated similarly to the human athlete?

 

Might that racehorse make a comeback? That's the question Maureen asked herself in 2009 when the project was launched. Regardless of the conclusion to this great experiment, lessons continue to be learned and shared and this lovely, bay horse, nicknamed Chance, has found his forever home.

 

The Horse - Money Talkin' aka Chance

 

Money Talkin

Money Talkin's photo in the C.A.N.T.E.R. Catalog.

 

"I found Money Talkin by accident.

I went to the website for Suffolk Downs, a racetrack in East Boston, Massachusetts, trying to locate the phone number of a trainer I used to know. I didn't find his number, but stumbled upon the rescue C.A.N.T.E.R., which took me to horses for sale. There were quite a lot of horses. After checking them all out (viewing their photos, and looking up their pedigrees and race earnings ), the only one that seemed to really suit was Money Talkin.

I contacted his trainer, Pam Angevine, and arranged to purchase him and have him shipped to Kentucky.

He had all the qualifications I was looking for:  (1) A gelding between the ages of 4 and 7,  (2) A horse who had won an allowance race, (3) But was no longer running well.

Chance had won on dirt and the turf.  As an added bonus, he was really bred to run.  His sire, Aptitude, earned $1.9 million, and finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. His dam's sire, Broad Brush earned $2.6 million and was 3rd in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness." - Maureen

2009 Front Hooves       Rehabilative Left Front Foot

2009, Tiny Bit of Connection at the Top.             From Hairline to Ground, the Same Angle.

The Hooves

As with 99% of all racehorses, Chance arrived with typical, shod racehorse feet. His toes were long because it is a common misconception that long toes 'dig in' better! His long, under-run heels were pulled forward by the toes. When the horse lifts his heel, the front of the foot 'breaks over'. With a long toe, the break over is well in front of where it should be. To compensate the horse expends time and energy, getting over the long toe. In the process, it is common for ligaments in the leg to be strained or torn. The 2007 Report from the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation continues to be ignored by most. Click here and page down to the February 2, 2012 entry to read the report in full.

 

"Long toes can cause strain on tendons, the suspensory ligament and the sesamoid bones while short toes combined with high heels can cause concussion to the hoof (putting the horse at risk for navicular disease, ringbone, and arthritis). Low toe angles have been reported for horses with musculoskeletal and/or lameness problems.

In one California study, all groups of injured horses had acute toe and heel angles suggesting that decreasing the difference between toe and heel angles should decrease the risk of suspensory apparatus failure for Thoroughbred racehorses and should be considered to help prevent injury.”


Sole right after shoe removal       Sole in 2010 during trim.

 

2009: Right after Shoe was Removed.                                           A Year Later.

 

In 2009, the before photo, we expect to see a lot of hoof in front of the toe because the capsule is flared from the hairline. This means that the hoof wall is disconnected from the coffin bone; the laminae is broken. In relationship to each other, the coffin bone is too low and the capsule too high on the leg. I expect a flat sole. I would also expect a small, deformed and soft frog.

 

Most professionals would call the 2009 hoof, a good one. What they don't realize is that the frog can double in width and that a healthy foot opens up or decontracts in the back. Maureen exfoliated the sole for the photo. It is concaved to the first gray line or laminae. The laminae is tight and narrow, all good.

 

The next bright white line, on all horses, is the now, much thicker inner wall, often called the water line. And beyond that the thicker outer wall, which on this horse is black. Maureen is preparing to angle the outer wall for the mustang roll.

 

Maureen credits her ability to quickly rehab horses like Chance and even foundered horses, to the trim which focuses primarily on keeping the toes back, from 10:00-2:00. Other than making sure the heels are at the same height, she usually leaves them alone. Horses need heels to protect the back of their foot while they redevelop it, inside and out. In her trim, she works with the healing power of nature. Her experience of working on 1,000's of horses results in fast and sound rehabs.

 

Exhausted After the Great Adventure

The horses are exhausted after their Great Adventure around the country. Read more about Farm Drama!

 

The Diet

From quarts of sweet feed and pads of alfalfa, Chance's diet changed to a horse diet of primarily forage, both grass and hay. Supplementation was based on Pat Coleby's book, Natural Horse Care. Maureen was careful to provide minerals and vitamins that are often overlooked today. Chance's diet also changes in accordance with the amount of work he was doing, so he did receive some grain, but never more than 2 quarts per day.

 

The Turf Track at the Farm

Chance's Gallop

 

Training

Most racehorses are stalled for 23 hours per day. Their training is minimal and certainly not enough to insure hard bones and strong tendons. In fact, research has shown that standing in a stall results in loss of bone density in young horses.

 

You may be surprised to learn that most horses are raced infrequently out of fear of breakdown. And given their feet, living conditions, training and side effects of common drugs which result in brittle bones, the owners should be afraid of disasters. Eight Belles come to mind.

 

In her previous life, Maureen was a trainer in the northeast, and it was clear to her that Chance, like any human athlete, needed various types of exercise, at various speeds and intensities. His program began with light riding, eventually working up to long gallops over natural, uneven terrain. Maureen created a training track (above) with her mower. Unlike other racehorses, Chance frequently gallops several miles, well beyond what he will face on race day. And like any top athlete, he was introduced to interval training.

 

Speed Training

Chance at the Training Center Working on Speed.

 

30-45 days before a race, Chance goes to the track to work on speed. While conditioning, Maureen learned quite a bit from this seasoned racehorse.

  1. He will not run at maximum speed without another horse to compete with. He knows to save himself for when it counts.
  2. He will not jump a cross country course or in a ring. What's the point, he wonders.
  3. He wouldn't consider basic dressage in a ring. Going around in circles is a waste of his time.

 

Isn't this a good reminder for all of us. Sometimes our horse simply does not share our enthusiasm for a particular discipline. The rider must shift gears; after all aren't we supposed to be the smart one.

 

After doing speed work at the Training Center, they'll head home. No stabling at the track. Surprisingly, Maureen had no problem entering a barefoot at Turfway Park. It was a non-issue.

 

“Over the years I’ve come to realize that human nature is a strong factor in horse racing. Specifically jockeys. A common phrase is ‘pace makes the race’. And that is true, but only because the jockeys believe it so strongly."

 

Maureen favors a more scientific approach:

  • Find the horse’s maximum cruising speed,
  • Ignore pace, and
  • Minimize the distance the horse is asked to perform at maximum ability.

 

This approach would result in faster times and safer racing. The world record for a mile is slightly over 1:32 but most races never come close. A decent racehorse can run a half mile in 48 seconds (this is not that fast) and most likely could run a second half mile just as fast. That would make a mile in 96 seconds or 1:36 – a time that was good enough to win the Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct on April 21st of this year, with a purse of $200,000!

 

"As a rule, cold logic is not involved in thoroughbred racing. Flowing adrenaline and a lack of sport science knowledge result in a couple of horses rushing out first, blazing along until they are spent and overtaken, in the stretch, by horses who are still fresh. The horses held back may well be able to go at a faster, cruising speed than the jockeys allowed.  The front runners were worked too hard (which is risky) when they might have done better if not pushed to their maximum for so long. In my generation there are just of handful of really talented jockeys," she told me.

 

I’ve often watched Chance galloping with the herd in the field,” Maureen recounted. “He keeps his eyes on the other horses. He knows when to put on the steam and he clearly loves to win. That's one thing I did not have to teach him.” Thoroughbreds may enjoy running, but what horse wants to reach the cougar first? Not too many.

 

Some of the horses, 12_2011

Winter and the Herd is Foraging.

 

The Herd

Maureen's established, forever herd of ten adopted and rescued horses provides the backdrop for Chance's recovery. Most competition horses, racing and show, have ulcers. Stall life is the antithesis of what any horse would chose. Chance returned to what came naturally: moving around with other horses, grazing, napping, having a roll in the mud, playing, in short the herd life.

 

Zola, a baby racehorse!

 

Maureen and Zola   Zola at 23 months           

Maureen and Zola, 17 Months                                    A Gawky Two-Year Old

 

Zola Today

 Zola at 4 (April 2012). Good Shoulder, Well Laid Back Withers, Great Depth of Chest for Lungs and Heart, and Plenty of 'Tude.

 

Although The Racehorse Experiment was originally designed for 1 experienced thoroughbred, Maureen couldn't resist purchasing Zola, Hip #601 for $1,000. The undersized, chestnut filly didn't sell at Keeneland. Even as a small yearling, Maureen saw the potential in the filly. With the carefully designed lifestyle at Wild Dreams Farm, Zola matured into everything Maureen had hoped for. Could any of this happened if she had been stalled and raced as a 2 year old? Not a chance.

 

And then came the barren brood mares, Tiz Life aka Beauty  (by the world famous sire, Tiznow) and More Oysters aka Maura. Both were free; both have forever homes. Could the right diet, rehabbed feet, and herd (both sexes)  life bring them back in fertility? Read more at The Barren Mare Project, part of Maureen's Horses A Better Way.

 

Drugs

Drugs are a poor substitute for proper exercise and a natural lifestyle,” Maureen told me. “Not only that, people seem to forget that drugs have side effects!”

 

Many racehorses today are on the following three drugs: corticosteroids (for growth and pain), phenylbutazone ('bute' for pain) and lasix (a diuretic). All three are known to cause loss of bone density. “I believe that to be only one reason why horses don't seem as durable today as in the past. And I think drugs may well be responsible for catastrophic injuries such as Barbaro’s and Eight Belles,"  Maureen said. It shocked me to learn that some breeders are now putting youngsters on steroids to bulk them up for the sales.

 

For the record, Chance receives only the shots mandated by racing. And he is wormed. That's it.

Other Resources

Mangled Horse, Maimed Jockeys. New York Times, March 24th, 2012. "The new economies of horse racing are making an always-dangerous game, even more so, as laz oversight puts animal and rider at risk."

National Thoroughbred Times, The Industry responds to the NY Times story, essentially with agreement and not denial.

Chance at the Training Center

Watch Out You Kentucky Thoroughbred. Neigh to the Butt.

 

So much more detail is available at The Racehorse Experiment, Maureen's Blog and Horses A Better Way. Please feel free to contact Maureen with moral and financial support. Every little bit helps!

 

Maureen will be checking Comments if you have any questions.

 

Until next time, happy trails,

 

Dawn Willoughby

4 Sweet Feet

Maintenance Trim for the Beginner on YouTube

 

 

The Racehorse Experiment

is dedicated to the memory of:

Come Afternoon

Summer Bee

Dixieland King

Calculated Gambler

Power Road

Rhythmic Force

Gran Judgement

and

Quiet Soldier (Quarter Horse)

7 Ways to Make Life Easier

Sore backs, bloody hands, uneven trims?

Which horse hoof trimmer has not dealt with all of these problems, maybe all of them each time trimming? Here are some tips to make horse hoof trimming a lot easier on your body.

1. Stand pigeon-toed with your knees together. Use your upper thigh to keep you balanced and supple.

2. Keep your back straight, flex from your pelvis forward, do not bend your back. You might want to practice this posture a few times.

3. When trimming sole with your hoof knife, push the knife with your opposing thumb. It is a lot safer and keeps your hands from being cut up.

4. Start with a different hoof on each trim.

If you always start with the same hoof, by the time you are done with the last hoof, you will be more tired than when you started. A trimmer that habitually starst with the front left will work that hoof differently than when he finishes with that hoof. You thus avoid creating major differences between the feet over time. Pay close attention to patterns that show up if you are trimming several horses.

5. Switch your rasping strokes evenly. One hand is stronger than the other. If you always push the rasp with your right hand, you will rasp more off one side of the hoof than the other, thus creating imbalances. Push with the right hand diagonally down while guiding the rasp with your left. Then push with the right hand  diagonally up across the hoof. Switch hands, push with your left hand diagonally down while guiding the rasp with your right hand, then push with your left diagonally up.

PUSH the rasp, don't press down with it. Let the rasp do the work.

Watch the sequence in the 4 following frames. Left hand carries the watch, right elbow is wrapped for easier identification of left and right.

 

6. Use an apron. It saves your legs and knees.

Back is straight, the hoof rests on thighs protected by the apron.

7. Use a Hoof Jack. It is safer for you and your horse and protects your back. A Hoof Jack is an investment for life.

You can place your pigeon toes on the Hoof Jack to stabilize it.

When you are not hurting, Horse Hoof Trimming is a lot more fun and you will do a lot better job!

So long,

Your Bootmeister

 

Personal Accountability: Don't Blame the Boots

"I tried using boots but they did not work."

When I hear this comment, my first inclination is to determine why the boots were not successful. More often than not, I discover the boots are not at fault. Booting an overgrown or unbalanced hoof and/or using an inappropriate boot style are common factors responsible for poor booting experiences. Horse owners who have personal accountability and employ critical thinking are more successful than those who blame the boots.

Hoof

6 weeks after a trim. This horse would benefit from a shorter trim cycle.

At a recent boot fitting, I worked with a frustrated customer who had trouble with boots twisting on the hind feet. The fit looked good; however after only a few strides both boots had twisted. I removed the boots and took a closer look at the hooves. Even though they had recently been trimmed, there were imbalances in the heels on both hind feet. As horse owners learn to recognize these imbalances, they stop blaming the boots and instead look to the farrier or trimmer. Instead of focusing on the negative, determine what needs to be done to correct or minimize these issues. After showing this imbalance to the customer, I recommended she work with her hoof care practioner to develop a strategy to minimize this imbalance (such as a shorter trim cycle or having the owner do some rasping between visits). You never want to trim a hoof to fit a boot but often times boots can expose trims or hoof conformations that are less than ideal.

Boot Styles

Selecting the correct boot style is key to success.
Pictured above from left to right: Easyboot Glove, Glove Back Country and Trail.

If the hoof is balanced but the boots are still not performing as desired, the wrong boot style may have been chosen. I talk with people who are overwhelmed by our number of boot styles but offering multiple styles allows us to accommodate a wide variety of hoof shapes. As discussed in my blog One Size Does Not Fit All, hoof measurements are the starting point in boot selection and they help determine what is suitable for your horse. Another thing to consider when selecting a boot is the intended use. Are you looking for a boot that can do weekend rides or endurance competitions? Using the Easyboot Trail for an endurance ride is akin to using a hiking boot to run a marathon - neither are appropriate footwear for these activities. The Trail is much better suited for casual riding or use as a therapy boot. Don't buy the first style you see or rely solely on a friend's recommendation. Your chance of success is much higher if you determine the style most appropriate for your horse's hoof conformation and your type of riding. If in doubt, the customer service team at EasyCare is more than happy to advise you.

 

Alayna Wiley

Alayna Wiley, EasyCare CSR

Customer Service

As one of the customer service representatives, I am happy to help get your horse into the right boots. I have plenty of hands on experience since my horses have been barefoot and booted since 2003.

 

What to Expect From Your Barefoot Trimmer

With the natural hoof care movement growing by leaps and bounds, many horse owners are seeking out barefoot trimmers. But just as in all professions, there are good and bad. Many people latch on to the first practitioner they find (kind of like I do with boyfriends) without having any idea what to expect from this person.

Below are some things to look for in a qualified trimmer.

An educator as well as a trimmer

Professional hoof care practitioners realize it is important that the horse owner understands the basics of how the hoof works, what common ailment might appear and why, and especially during the transition process. You should always feel comfortable to ask questions. If the trimmer has an issue with this, you should be concerned. Remember this is a partnership with the goal of a healthy, balanced horse.

They realize they don't know it all and is always a student of the horse

A giant ego has no place in natural hoofcare as there is not one answer for every horse's needs. Successful trimmers always seek out new information and are open to other methods even if it is different than the training they have had.

Has basic working knowledge of the "whole horse"

Just as you don't expect your dermatologist to know anything about orthopedic surgery, you shouldn't expect your trimmer to be an expert in all facets of horse care but they must be aware of the aspects that affect not only the hoof but over all health of the horse.

Must possess great stall-side manner and gentle horsemanship techniques

Inappropriate handling is detrimental to your horse's well-being and will cause more issues in the future. There is a big difference between being assertive and being aggressive. If you are not comfortable with how your equine partner is treated during the trimming session, find another trimmer.

Looks at each horse and hoof individually

The goal for a trim is not necessarily four perfectly shaped hooves, but soundness. There are no exact measurements that dictate balance. Ultimately, the horse is the final judge. If you find your trimmer is forcing a certain shape or angles that result in soreness after every  trim it is time to find a new trimmer.

Is respectful of your time and strives to stay on schedule as much as possible

On the same token, it is your responsibility to have your horse ready for the trimming session when your practitioner arrives.

Where to begin your search for a natural trimmer

Although there are numerous programs out there teaching barefoot trimming, just because someone is certified or taught that method, does not guarantee they are qualified or the right trimmer for you and your horse. There are some wonderful practitioners who have learned from various people and through hands-on experience that are highly qualified. References from people who have been getting great results are extremely valuable as well as social networking such as chat rooms and blogs. 

EasyCare has a Hoof Care Provider list available on our website. These people will be happy to consult with you on your trimming needs as well as aid you in finding the best Easyboot style and size for your horse's needs.

As always, please feel free to call our customer service at 1-800-447-8836 with any questions you may have. 

Shari Murray

Customer Service

If you call the customer service help desk, you’ll probably get me on the phone! I process repairs, returns, credits and exchanges that come into EasyCare.

 

Small Thing Sells His Soul to the Weather Gods (In Which We Don't Make Our Debut)

It's possible that Small Thing is in league with the weather gods. Last Saturday we were supposed to be galloping across the NV desert (...well, maybe doing a frantic speed-trot) on our first official distance ride. But once again, despite promising forecasts earlier in the week, by Friday the highway over the Sierra was closed from snow and ice-related accidents and the ride had been postponed for five weeks due to the swamp-like qualities of the alkali flat that was supposed to be ride camp (eloquently described as "slick as snot").

So I had to find something else to write about.

Hoof-boot Evangelism

A discussion arose this week about how horse-folk can be very evangelical about their specific way of doing things - their way is the way - and it was suggested that hoof-booters can be a bit overbearing in their attitude at times.

Personally, I have nothing against steel shoes when applied to properly trimmed hooves - they've worked for a long time. On the other hand, I am biased against bad trimming - barefoot or otherwise: - flared feet, long toes - or against a cr*ppy shoeing job - I cringe when I see horses with baked-bean cans instead of feet, frogs up in the air; or more commonly, splayed feet that have little structural integrity (often accompanied by the proud statement "My horse has huge feet") or the other favorite, ski-jump shaped toes. 

'Course, horses with cr*ppy shoeing still do well anyway. Go figure.

This horse did well at a tough 100 mile ride despite its rather alarming shoeing.

To opt to go barefoot is a personal preference and one that requires commitment. There's little point trying to convince someone about its value if that person doesn't share that philosophy.

My personal reasons for using hoof-boots are:

• With hay approaching $20 a bale, I can't afford to pay someone to put shoes on my horse. Sad but true. If I had tons of money, would I pay someone else to trim and boot my horses for me? Probably. Grovelling around in the mud can be fun, but not when you have to do it as a chore and you're already suffering from a severe shortage of time. I can think of a multitude of other things I'd rather be doing. 

•  As with all things that are hard, I get personal satisfaction from doing my horses' feet. Of course it's easier to not have to deal with it and to sit around reading a book, eating bonbons, but not nearly as rewarding

•  If I shod my horses I'd still have to stand and hold them for the farrier, so if I have to spend the time anyway I might as well do them myself, on my schedule.

•  In the old days, whichever horse I shod would always be the horse that didn't end up getting ridden (because of the horse's health, my health, or "life stuff" going on).

•  I like the control I have over their feet. With one toed-in horse and one who grows tons of toe, I like being able to poke at them at regular intervals to keep it under control. If I look at their feet and go "euw" then it's my own fault. 

•  I don't have to worry about trying to synchronize shoeing schedules with ride schedules (just as well, given that my ride schedule is making itself up as we go along).

•  When I get kicked/stood on/ran over the top of, I much prefer the horse to be barefoot.

•  When I'm on pavement, I don't have to scrinch my body in angst convinced the horse will fall down (to reiterate, this is my personal paranoia and has little to do with reality). 

•  If you're going to do lots of miles on a horse, doing it with the least concussion possible seems like a good plan. Boots provide protection against concussion.

•  And finally, the thing that really tipped me over the edge was Roo doing an enormous spook about 50 miles into a 100 mile ride and only half wrenching his shoe off in the process - it was still firmly attached but offset by about 3/4". Luckily it was as we were coming into the vet check and even more luckily, my farrier happened to be doing the ride and was just ahead of us so I was able to interrupt his lunch hold to ask him to reset the shoe (I'm sure he was thrilled). Never again, however, do I want to be in the position where I would potentially have to pull from a ride because of something that stupid. Not to mention the fact that usually when they wrench shoes, the horse yanks out half the hoof-wall at the same time, so there's nothing left to nail to. And even if they don't pull off half the hoof with the shoe, they tweak their leg and go lame. 

Now admittedly, the above reasons may not be sufficient for many to make the switch - that's their choice. One size does not fit all, and if shoes are working for them, then good. If people don't have the desire to mess with boots - without that initial commitment, then, no, boots probably aren't for them.

One time I can see it being appropriate to suggest a change is when people say:

"Look, my horse has [insert foot problem], how would you fix it?".

(thinks: keep the horse barefoot and use boots - being able to work on the horse's foot at every 1-2 weeks would eventually solve the problem, and if it's congenital, at least you can keep it under control with regular trims)

 

With this kind of toe-growth, being able to trim at short intervals keeps things under control

...Or if your horse happens to have been constructed with the front legs stuck on the wrong sides.
When this horse was in shoes, he needed shoeing every four weeks to keep his toed-in front feet from becoming a problem.

"My horse has sensitive feet and gets bruised easily, but I don't want to pad" (thinks: use EZ Boots - voila, instant pad that you can take off afterwards).

Setting the Record Straight

This week I was contacted by Rachel Shackelford who was mentioned in a post I wrote a few months ago concerning Tevis (article here). She wanted to set the record straight regarding her horse Cody's pull at Tevis in 2010.

It is true I wasn't even on the US continent when this event occurred (I was in England attending my brother's wedding, surrepticiously following the ride over the internet while trying to pretend to be a wedding guest). I was enthused to see locals Rachel and Cody doing so well that year (they were running in third place) and bummed when they showed up on the pull list. Afterwards when I asked people who'd been at the ride what happened I was told that Cody had slipped going through Foresthill (the paved portion of the ride) and returned to the vet check and pulled. Seeing in the AERC records that Cody was pulled for "surface factors" (which invariably means abrasions of some sort) I put two and two together and came up with what seemed to me the obvious scenario.

Except that's not what happened at all.

Rachel says she was about four miles out of Foresthill on the dirt singletrack when Cody tripped on a rock and fell on his knees. Although he had no scrapes and was sound, she opted to return to the Foresthill check and have him looked over by the vets. Despite getting a clean bill of health, she still wasn't comfortable with continuing - as she put it: "Cody ...NEVER trips. He is the most sure footed horse that I have been extremely blessed to ride...he gave me a sign that it wasn't his day" - so she opted to pull.

Given the above information, then, no - as suggested in my post - Rachel probably wouldn't feel the need to switch from steel shoes to boots.

And in Cody's case he retired sound after over 4,000 miles of competition so shoes evidently worked fine for him. I applaud Rachel for being able to race a horse with that many miles at that level - no flash-in-the-pan there - something I have great admiration for.

In my defense, I was writing about the train of thought I had that day - that if a horse had slipped on pavement then wouldn't the rider want to switch to footwear with better traction? Since that isn't what happened, it doesn't apply to her.

My apologies for any offense caused.

--
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California

Our First Natural Trim in a Year

We had a very interesting weekend. We competed in the Texas Trail Challenge CTR in Whitney, Texas. It has turned out to be a such beautiful spring in Texas, and what a difference from last spring and summer. We finally received some rain over the winter and spring, and the wild flowers are in full bloom. Friend and Natural Hoof Care Practitioner Trista Lutz was at the ride with her beautiful 7 year old daughter, Dani. Trista and I have been talking about her doing Newt's feet, but unfortunately she lives about 5 hours away.  

We know of no natural hoof practitioners close to where I live. I have been studying up on natural hoof care, but have never really seen a trim, and frankly, I am afraid of trimming Newt's feet. The Natural Hoof Care Practitioner I used for about 2 years has moved. I rarely saw him work, as I would drop Newt off for his trim at the farm where he was working. My current farrier does a good job, but is of the old school. Newt's toe cracks were worsening and now he is getting quarter cracks, which he has never had before. Of course, my current farrier wants to put shoes on to correct the cracks. Help! 

Trista took a look at Newt and said no problem. She pointed out that his heels were a little long, and his soles were flat and a little thin. She explained the cracks were from all of the peripheral loading. He has decent hoof walls, just too many of the wrong kind of forces working to cause the cracks. Things I kind of knew, but was not sure of how to handle. Trista trimmed him, explaining all the while what she was doing and why. I took pictures, and really tried to eel the wall and waterline relationship. One of the most interesting things I noticed after Trista trimmed Newt's feet was the sound of his feet hitting the ground. Instead of the usual clip-clop, I now heard pad-pad. I was thinking, "Now I know why the Indians always snuck up on the settlers - their horses must have had much more natural feet. No long hoof wall to make clip-clop sounds!" I know his feet are not perfect, but I feel like we are improving.

Left front after trimming.  You can see the right front without the trim.

Right front trimmed, left front still untrimmed.

Hind foot before finishing the trim.

Working on the hind. Notice the miracle rasp.

My job now is to try to keep Newt where he is through weekly rasping of his hooves. I rasped some yesterday. Don't think I did any harm, but unsure if I did enough. We are at the beginning of a huge learning curve.  

Trista also gave me one of her old rasps. What a difference! My old rasp was difficult to use, hard to cut with and very grabby. Trista's  worn out Vallorbe Swiss rasp is amazing. It cuts so easily and smoothly. Who knew there was such a difference in rasps?

I also re-measured Newt's feet for the new Glove Back Country boots and Easyboot Trails. We have been wearing the Easyboot Gloves for over 2 years. I wish I had saved my measurements from the first time, but I do remember his measurements did not really correspond to the size that actually fit best. The measurements I took yesterday indicate he needs different sizes. Guess I'll try another fit kit and see if his feet have really changed over the last few years. The Gloves seem to fit well now, even the new ones I ordered about 4 months ago. Trista also suggested adding pads to help his soles out. Hopefully, Trista and I can get together at future TTC rides and keep Newt's feet healthy.  I am so looking forward to this journey in natural hoof trimming.

Carol Warren

A Skeptic's Review of the Easyboot Glove Back Country

Submitted by Roger Rittenhouse

For the past two years plus I have used other boots with good results on my horse, Omni. While very satisfied with the other brand, I wanted to try another boot that might be easier to install and have less mass going down the trail. Omni has oblong, non-round hoofs, but the other boot is round. So while it fits the length, it is wide for his hoof. The first pair of the new Easyboot Glove Back Country boots arrived today.  With good spring weather, I had to ride and test the boots.

I had measured his freshly-trimmed hooves at least four times. I could not find the mm scale so I used the 32-inch scale and converted against EasyCare’s advice. The sizing is the same as the Easyboot Glove, and from what I can gather, the boot should be long enough for base support but narrow to grip the hoof.

Based on the measurements, I settled on #2.5. It took some effort to get them installed so I used a rubber mallet to seat them. The right front was tight; the left front was better, but still tight. I felt the boots were perhaps a half size too small. I should have ordered a #3. Oh well: once installed there is no return and I had to test ride. Once I got them seated and worked the rear heel capture in place they were easy to lock in place. The mallet sure helped to get them seated. The wide Velcro back flaps worked great. That part was easy.

A little trot in hand went well and the boots stayed on. He moved out nicely. I re-checked the heel and was able to get a finger in the boot to check heel/hoof contact. Everything appeared OK.

We hand walked down the hard road, some trot. No slipping. I mounted at the dirt road, and off we went into the forest. We walked a mile, and then I asked for an easy trot: all felt fine. Due to size and shape, the other boots would clip inside on each other, but not hit the cannon bone. The Glove Back Country did not hit. He also did not forge from behind.

It’s impossible to determine if the boots are working as desired with just a few miles, so we did 7.5 miles, mostly at a walk some at a trot and some jerking around being an idiot Arab. I let him ramp up to about 8-9 mph to see how he traveled. Apart from the idiot Arab kick-outs and hops, he moved very nicely: almost the way he moves when barefoot. Very nice!

When I returned home, the left front was tight to remove. His heels looked good and the captive lip at the lower heel (what EasyCare calls the Comfort Cup gaiter) showed tight contact, as did the back of the heel bar. He had wear marks on the heels showing full base contact. The heel bulbs looked good and had no rubs. The right front showed more pressure contact on the hoof heel bar below the bulbs and more indentation in the heel captive lip. Both hoof walls showed the wear or marks from the grip of the Glove on the sides and the quarters. This shows good width size. The boots were gripping the walls the way they are designed to.

My second ride was not a long ride - only three miles.  I set the boots out in the sun while I cleaned up my boy, figuring it couldn’t hurt them and may make them a bit softer. They were much easier to put on. Since he was ten days into the trim cycle, I filed the left front just to clean it up some and get a better mustang roll. I worked the toe back just a little: a few swipes of the file were all I needed. This hoof grows sort of normal compared to the right front.

Off to the trails: I rode a mile or so on the dead-end hard top, then asked for a little trot. It was nice easy going with no slip. Then into the trails with leaves, mud and downhill terrain. Went quite well with almost no slipping. The tread gripped fine. We did a few loops around the woods trail and into an open field. The boots went through ankle-deep mud. Back at the barn, the boots came off with a slight effort, easier than first ride but they did not just fall off. The grip marks on the hoof wall at the quarters indicated a tight fit.

I think the # 2.5 is a good fit as long as I keep the toes and front walls close and tight. If he would go a week or two, the boots would be too tight. If I were planning on going more than two weeks without trimming, I’d go up a half size to account for the hoof growth. Since I am the primary trimmer, I can work the hoofs as needed. I have a professional barefoot trimmer on a 7 to 8 week schedule to re-do my trims and make corrections as needed.

I noted how well he seemed to move, as in break-over and getting the forehand moving faster. The boots have a natural balance design, that is to say there is a nice beveled toe with the break-over point back behind the white line. I think he moves better in the boots than barefoot. He has tendency to toe clip or toe drag, which causes him to trip at times. The boot design gets that toe over and up into the fight faster. At least I noted he tripped less.

As has been stated many, many times, no boot is perfect for all horses in all conditions. The advantages we have today to find a design of boot that works well for your horse and riding style is significant compared to the limitations that we had to deal with when they are shod. My Initial impressions remain positive. I will find out more as we hit the trails this spring. For me and my old horse the Easyboot Glove Back Country is working and meets my requirements.

Over the course of the next five rides with the four Glove Back Country boots, I used # 3 on the front, and #2.5 on rear. I was concerned the large size would result in pulled boots, but the boots stayed on though hoof-deep mud and rocky washed-out trails.

I am very pleased with the performance of these boots. I have used other EasyCare boot styles with mixed results. The new Glove Back Country really works for me and my horse. They are easy to put on the hoof and take off, and there is no messing around with adjustments. I fold back the Comfort Cup gaiter, slide the boot over the hoof and tap it in place with the palm of my hand to seat the boot. I close the Velcro flaps, and I’m done. I can install four boots in about five minutes. The larger size has allowed me to let the trim and re-shape go a little longer than with a smaller sized boot. He trots just fine over rock stone roads and blacktop. The boot tread and the grip helps to keep him from slipping on the blacktop.

For the riders who are thinking about this new boot design, it really works. I have used almost all the boots ever made over the last 30 years. The new Glove Back Country has performed the best for my current horse and how we ride.


Name: Roger Rittenhouse
City: Pikeville, Tennessee, USA
Equine Discipline: Trail, Endurance
Favorite Boot: Easyboot Glove Back Country