NO SHOES, NO HORSE? NOT NECESSARILY.
I had a lovely dream that I tore the shoes off my horse and we galloped across a field of sunflowers, effortlessly moving as one. He felt like the wind and we barely touched the ground ... and then I woke up.
My barefoot-horse reality has been more of a long and winding road. It has taken a year of learning and hard work, of sore backs (mine) and sore feet (theirs) to produce a mostly happy ending.
I am a perfectly ordinary middle-aged woman who took up riding as an adult after dreaming of horses since I was a child. I now have two horses: Sancho is an arthritic retired ranch gelding and Sailor a younger appendix-type Quarter Horse who is my riding partner. My story starts with Sailor, a rambunctious palomino who regularly threw shoes, often right before something important like a lesson or clinic. He finally tore a front shoe off and somehow bent the shoe and cracked his hoof vertically. It wasn’t a terrible crack, but I was concerned about it growing out correctly. I had also noticed that the line of hoof growth at the quarters was compressed, pushing the hairline upward, and I didn’t think that looked right.
Someone mentioned having great results with removing her horse’s shoes and allowing a crack to heal barefoot. I was growing weary of all the lost shoes anyway. So, what else did I have to lose? Removing the shoes seemed to make sense.
BE NICE. USE COMMON SENSE.
KEEP PEOPLE & HORSES SAFE
“I acknowledge that horseback riding is a dangerous activity and involves inherent risks …”
Every liability release at every barn on the planet probably includes a similar statement. For good reason. Working with and around horses does present an inherent risk and no amount of diligence will remove all the chance that an unintentional action will create an accident that threatens the safety of horses and people.
As horse owners, especially when we board at a public facility, we accept that risk. What we should never accept is the danger presented by the intentional actions of our fellow horse owners, barn staff and anyone else who happens to be living and working in proximity of horses and their riders/handlers.
DESERT HORSE Q&A
WORKING WITH AN INSECURE HORSE
Q: I have a 7 year old gelding that my father-in-law bought for me at a sale a couple years ago, he is a very sweet boy, but soooooo insecure and lacking confidence (probably something icky in his past, poor fella). I have been taking things very slow with him and making sure I offer rewards and we have become friends, but he is still so insecure. I try to be very specific about what I ask and try to ask the same way each time and then reward (easier said than done). He likes to stay in his comfort zone at the barn. Do you have any exercises that would be good to help us gain more confidence?
A: Sounds like you're doing the right things with your gelding, just going slow and easy. I think the biggest gift you can give to horses like that is a routine that is just challenging enough to hold their attention but also designed so they feel physically good when they do it and they mentally/emotionally get to feel like they are doing right. My fallback still is the S-turns exercise,