All horses – not just the great ones – deserve the opportunity to have good feet. If your horse has underrun heels, long toes, and challenging feet, don’t despair. You are not stuck with those conditions; there are ways to manage them. Let me tell you a story.
Our family owns Altitude Arabians, and over the years we’ve enjoyed great moments of success in both endurance and track racing… two areas we are extremely passionate about as a family. One mare, in particular, has displayed incredible talent on the track. As a promising three-year-old, RB Kindle finished the 2017 season with 3 wins, 1 second, long toes, underrun heels, and a sore tendon. Rather than bring her home, we gave her some rest at the track because we wanted to get her ready for the next season. She went on to win another race in 2018, and she ran a disappointing second.
I was busy with projects at work and, regrettably, didn’t drill into the bigger problem. Kindle’s feet had gotten way out in front of her. She had long toes, very underrun heels, and poor angles. Kindle is pictured below at Retama Park in 2017. She looks fit, mean, and lean. But take a closer look at her feet.
Kindle’s feet had slowly gotten out in front of her, and I blame no one but myself! I didn’t travel to the track to see her in person. I didn’t ask for photos of her feet because I didn’t have time to travel. I was too busy for my horses. That’s no excuse because I know better. I’m not a farrier, but I have been in the hoof care industry for the last 25 years. I have the hoof and anatomy knowledge to prevent this from happening, but I didn’t have the time to go to the track and really look over my horses. I take 100% of the blame.
After Kindle’s second season wrapped up in September, 2018, I brought her home and started the process of bringing her feet back to a healthy condition. It was time to get more involved and see what I could do to help this very nice horse. My plan was to rehab her feet barefoot and use strap-on boots and glue-on protection when needed to keep her comfortable. I trimmed her every 10 days to 2 weeks until we grew in a full new hoof.
I have seen hoof care professionals in the industry (Sossity and Mario Gargiulo, Pete Ramey, Curtis Burns, David Landerville, Duncan McLaughlin, and others) turn feet around and get them healthy. It was time to give it a whirl by myself. I set out to make these major changes:
- Pull Shoes. One of the challenges with shoes is you can’t make trimming adjustments every 10 days to 2 weeks. Having her shoes removed allowed me to bring her toes back, trim her heels correctly, and grow in a healthy new foot. If you do use shoes and remove them often for trimming, your farrier will run out of places to place nails.
- Movement. Lots of movement in good footing stimulates blood flow and hoof growth. (We are lucky to have a 75 Euroxciser, but round pens and lunge lines work just as well.) Kindle walked or jogged 5 days a week on average.
- Glue-On and strap-on hoof protection. This allowed me to continue her training and protect her feet during the transition process. These products made her much more comfortable, and she trained well during the hoof transition.
- Put her in glue-on shoes after the healing was complete. When I was happy with the transition of her feet, I made a commitment to keep her in glue-on shoes and only send her back to the track if I could be involved with her hoof care.
So began the healing process when we brought her home in September, 2018. First, I pulled Kindle’s shoes and gave her the first trim. She was a bit footsore, but it immediately improved her angles. New hoof growth started coming in ten days later, with a better angle and better connection. The goal quickly became growing out her entire hoof capsule with regular trimming.
After we grew out her feet and I was happy with the results, I put her back into training with the hope of a strong racing season. I wanted to gallop her and see if I could get her fit. Mind you, I’m 6’4″ and 210 pounds without tack… a far cry from the classic profile of an exercise rider in both weight and height. But I figured if she could carry me in the offseason, it would only make her stronger. We started light work in January and steadily increased the workload.
Kindle getting in the work barefoot while carrying 220lbs.
We chose a venue close to home (Arapahoe Park Racetrack just outside Denver, Colorado) to ensure we could be involved with her ongoing hoof care. This local venue was less prestigious than other options, but it served our goal of an ideal location to prioritize her hoof health. I was determined to make changes because of the mistakes I made in the past.
Kindle started the 2019 race season strong at Arapahoe Park. Her first race was June 2nd, a 5 1/2 furlong race that she won without much urging. Her final time was only a hair away from setting a new track record. Kindle’s second out at Arapahoe Park on June 16th was at a 1-mile distance and she won again. Races were not likely to happen for the remainder of the season at Arapahoe Park, so we looked to combine a Fourth of July family vacation with a July 6 stakes race in California. The California trip allowed Kindle the opportunity to race against two significant opponents: 2x Darley Champion Dream Pearl and West-coast champion Sand Victor. This level of competition gave us the chance to better recognize Kindle’s current level of talent and health.
Needless to say, she won.
Kindle now has 7 wins in 9 starts. It’s been a fun and challenging journey. Not only has it given us the ability to change the life of a good horse, but it’s also given me the challenge to implement what I’ve learned from the hoof professionals I respect the most in this industry.
And the best thing? We have a healthy, happy, and fast horse ready to take on the boys wherever she goes for years to come.