Last week I started off a series of posts discussing the challenges of keeping a barefoot horse happy and comfortable through difficult winter weather. If you’ll recall, I talked about how we had been dealing with over a month (abnormal for our winter-weather) of sub-freezing temps, and as result, over a month of rock hard ground in our pastures and on our trails. Of course the day after I posted, the mercury rose and we have been having near-record high temps in the high 40’s. It’s been awesome to thaw out, even though that means mud. That said, I have never been so happy to see mud in my life!
When I first thought of writing these posts, I identified a few factors in my mind that really seem to affect our horses and their feet through the winter. Coming in after the difficulties of frozen ground is lack of growth/lack of exercise. Now we all know that exercise stimulates the foot to grow, which is very important when the hard ground is wearing off precious foot. I know the last time I did a real trim was about a month and a half ago. Despite that length of time, their feet just aren’t growing. During the riding season, I literally can’t go over two weeks without trimming/balancing/adjusting something. I noticed last week how short my mare’s hind feet were and wished we had some unfrozen footing (even the sand in the round pen was frozen!) to get her moving.
During these cold months movement is still very important!! Even if it is just walking, it is going to be very beneficial to your horse. If you have access to a nice arena, even better. Whether you decide to free lunge, lunge in side reins/over cavaletti/small jumps/etc or work on your own equitation and balance, you will be doing your horse a favor by getting those feet working. Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure you keep a watchful eye on your horses feet as even riding in an arena can cause wear that he might need to protect his feet on turnout. The GREAT news is that the Easyboot Gloves work beautifully in the arena and are so easy on/easy off there is no reason NOT to use them.
Unless I haul out, we only have access to a 80 foot round pen and miles of trails. Normally our trails don’t ALL freeze, and we are able to do our sand draws year-round. Thankfully they are thawed now and hopefully we won’t have as many deep freezes so we can start riding again. I also like to utilize the round pen to let them play and also work on lateral exercises under saddle.
What have you been doing to keep your horse moving? Do you notice improved hoof condition on the horses that are being worked as opposed to those standing idle?
Keep ’em moving!