I am the proud owner of a “Barefoot Buckskin Beauty”…she’s going on 12, and I was lucky enough to rescue her at the age of 7 ½. She has had tough little tootsies her entire life and had never had shoes when I got her. I had the farrier out, who declared that, simply enough, she didn’t need them. Accepting that the farrier knew his stuff, I never put them on her.
For 3 ½ years, she went barefoot without issue. Sure, there was that one time she had an abscess, caused by a little stone that became wedged up in the corner of her hoof, but shoes or no shoes, that would have occurred either way. Otherwise, she has remained completely sound for me.
She gets ridden for 30 mins to an hour 4-5 days a week, goes out on trail rides on all kinds of terrain, and goes to shows at least once or twice a month all summer – although we dabbled in Hunters this past summer, the 3 years before that were spent in the wild world of Eventing and we’re going back to it again this summer! So she’s a very active girl 😉
However, as successful as it’s been keeping my girl barefoot, I never seem to be completely free of those people who think horses “just need shoes” for no other reason except “just because”. They think that I’m being cruel not putting shoes on, which to me is so funny because really, shoving nails into the bottoms of their hooves isn’t?! And don’t get me wrong…I FULLY BELIEVE IN SHOES as much as I do barefoot. If a horse can’t go barefoot without constantly pulling up lame, or their hooves cracking and falling apart, or simply wearing down too fast, then putting those nails into their hooves to secure those protective shoes on is not just nice, it’s NECESSARY for the health and happiness of the horse!
On the other hand, why do it when it isn’t necessary? AND along those same lines, why can’t it be necessary SOME times and not others? Case in point, my Buckskin Beauty. Some of you have already read my blog “To Shoe or Not to Shoe”, where I discussed the terribly hot and dry summer we just had, in the middle of a horrid drought, when I had no choice but to put shoes on my previously barefoot girl.
She wasn’t taking any lame steps, but I didn’t like the look of how quickly her hooves were wearing down in between trims, and the chips and tears that were developing soon after a trim. After consulting with my farrier, we decided to be proactive about things and give her some front shoes.
So you see, contrary to what some may believe about me, I am NOT against shoeing…if it’s necessary. What irks me is when people tell me I should have shoes on my mare “because she jumps”, “because you ride her frequently”, or simply “just because”. To me (and to multiple farriers I have worked with over the years), that just does not make any sense. Why fix what is not broken?
That being said, after the drought was over, Sandie went back to being barefoot again. She had only worn shoes for a couple of months, so the transition back was without issue. I was expecting at least some adjustment, but I found that it was as if she had never had them at all. And since then, there have been no cracks, chips, or wearing down too quickly. She’s back to being happily barefoot again!
So here’s the bottom line that I think owners of all horses, whether barefoot or shod, should take away from both my previous blog and this one:
LISTEN. TO. YOUR. HORSE.
Simple as that. Only you (and your farrier) can decide what is best, and whether your horse is better off with or without a little steel (or aluminum) help! And CONTINUE to listen to your horse. If you start noticing too much wearing down and/or your horse is having issues with lameness or unexplained back soreness, those are red flags and signal that it may be time for a change.
And it doesn’t have to be forever, it can be temporary, as it was for my girl. I know tons of people who shoe during the dry hot summer and pull them during the winter with success. Find a good farrier and lean on him/her for advice. Don’t just do something because it’s the “trend” or because “that’s what most horses have” (or don’t have!) Horses, like us, are individuals, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for the one in the stall next door!
Listen to your gut and what your horse is telling you and you’ll always know you’re doing right by them…whether with, or without, a little tootsie protection.
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