Going Barefoot

Going Barefoot

The why’s and how’s

I get a lot of questions as to why my guy is barefoot and what that transition looked like for him. I have FINALLY gotten around to doing a blog post with all the juicy details! So buckle up because I’m going to explain all there is to know about our story.

My first dabble into the barefoot world was an experiment. I was hoping to help improve Charlie’s proprioception in the hind limbs because he was a little bit ‘trippy’. I also saw that he had low under run heels, which can be a problem for some thoroughbreds. I started reading up on the matter and in my research I learned that the bare hoof is an excellent proprioceptive mechanism for the horse. I also read some Pete Ramey articles which talked a lot about the diet of the barefoot horse and how to help with heel growth. In order to help combat under run heels there is a strategy in which you rasp mm of the hoof/toe every other day or so in order to help promote caudal hoof growth. I made a point of learning how to do this and immediately started implementing this into our routine for Charlie’s recently bare hind hooves. Sure enough a couple months down the road I thought I was starting to notice a little more heel.

Pictured below are comparison photos: the left being just after we pulled the hind shoes (notice the nail holes) and the right photo was a good 8 months or so into our journey. These changes are not fast by any means.

After I got over the shock of the chipping while the nail holes grew out, I really felt like we were thriving with our hind bare feet. Charlie didn’t show any signs of discomfort and after the initial chips we didn’t have any other problems. I stuck to my routine of rasping the toes every so often and was very pleased with how things were going. I also started him on a trace mineral supplement (california trace).

Fast forward about a year. I started eyeing Charlie’s front hooves. I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on but something didn’t look right to me. His feet looked a bit cramped.. smaller than I had remembered them. Like they weren’t fitting into his shoes properly. I started digging through my phone and found an old picture of his R front. Sure enough that foot had gone DOWN a shoe size within the last year.

Photos L to R: remedial shoeing, photo showing contracted heel (L front), comparison photos showing larger shoe size in comparison to smaller shoe/hoof size one year later (R front).

So now that I had validated that I wasn’t crazy or just seeing things, I got to business trying to figure out what could be done. I spoke with my farrier about my concerns. I was noticing contracted heels, an unhealthy looking frog, a deeper central sulcus groove, under run heels and high/low syndrome. These problems were concerning to me because Charlie had already had an issue with some suspensory desmitis. I had my theories as to how much of that was caused by his feet. I knew that any imbalance or deep rooted issue with the feet could potentially cause ongoing problems in the distal limb/tendons/ligaments/navicular etc. We tried 2 cycles of corrective shoeing in an effort to try and let the heels expand. I noticed no difference, so in somewhat of a panic I decided I wanted the shoes gone before any more damage was done. I figured worse case scenario I could always put them back on.

This time around was a little more daunting. More weight is carried on the forehand so it can be less of a seamless transition when pulling shoes up front. I ordered a pair of scoot boots to help with the process which helped immensely. There was some initial chipping when the nail holes grew out, just like with the hinds. I also determined that at this point I was in a little over my head and I just wasn’t getting the proper support that I needed from my farrier. After all, I single handedly found these issues and had to push to have them addressed in the first place. So I decided to find myself a proper barefoot trimmer. Someone who exclusively trims barefoot horses and could help set us up for success.

Fast forward almost a year and we have some very obvious changes!

Improvements consisted of: widening of the heel bulbs, healthier frog and central sulcus, Improved growth patters and angles.

I plan on redoing radiographs this year so I can document the difference of the angles of internal structures as well as any changes in sole thickness.

A couple things that play a big part in the barefoot process besides just the intermittent rasping that I do and the monthly trims from my barefoot trimmer, are diet and turnout. Too much sugar in the horse’s diet can cause an inflammatory response which means sensitivity in the hoof. Horses that are barefoot also need to have access to varied terrain as they would in nature. This helps to build a strong and sturdy hoof. It can be tricky at first, using your judgement to try and determine when the hoof needs protection. In the beginning, I alternated every other ride using my scoot boots (USE CODE: abequine for a discount when ordering your pair). I wanted to expose Charlie’s hooves to harder ground, but I also wanted to make sure that we weren’t doing too much too fast. There was also a learning curve with figuring out what type of trim kept him most comfortable. This was mostly up to my trimmer to figure out, as I only do the bare minimum when it comes to rasping.

By no means has this process been quick or without tribulations. Just like anything else in the horse world it takes dedication and patience to do it right. I felt like this was the best solution for my horse so I was determined to make it work. I feel he is in a great place right now with his feet. We still have a bit of chipping here and there, but it’s nothing a little rasping can’t fix!