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re: Barefoot

The barefoot movement is becoming increasingly popular and has obviously
hit the endurance sector.

I have joined it whole heartedly because after researching ways to lessen
the concussion to my young horse and learning how really bad shoes are for
causing concussion up the leg and into the joints, I simply had to find
another alternative to shoes.  Every solution my farrier and I worked on

The horse hoof is made to absorb concussion.  The horse is also a
precision animal with regard to foot fall and foot timing.  Anything you
add to the hoof (and yes, that includes boots) will change the timing and
can cause undue and early fatigue.  Rafiq and I learned this lesson at
Purple Passion this spring when Rafiq's left front HorsNeakers was fit too
loose, and caused him to fatigue early and consequently have some muscle
soreness and not complete.

Therefore, when competing barefoot, you have a tough job ahead of you.
You must condition the hoof enough to be able to handle ANY surface
barefoot (yes, even the rocks at Tevis) while also conditioning enough in
your boots for your horse's soft tissues to remain in a condition to deal
with the change in hoof timing without early fatigue.

Rafiq and I are taking the summer off in order to do this sort of
conditioning.  At Purple Passion he ran the whole 50 miles completely
barefoot in the rear and had no tenderness or soreness.  He ran the last
12 mile loop barefoot on all 4 feet even through the rock beds.  He didn't
go any slower than any of the shod horses we were riding with.  Neither
did he gimp through the rocks.  Shoes don't allow any more protection than
a barefoot with regard to the horse's comfort over rocks.  The horse's
concavity of sole and proper trim is what allows them to handle the rocks
without pain.  However, the shoes DO protect from excessive wear to the
hoof wall.  This is the challenge of the barefoot horse/rider.

There have been several horses complete 50 mile rides totally barefoot and
a couple have completed in access of 50 miles.  I think the more we
condition and the more years they are barefoot there is a good possibility
to be able to complete 100 mile rides totally barefoot.  Hoof condition
appears to be accumulative from year to year just like the horse's
musculoskelator condition is.  Time will confirm/disaffirm.

I understand the ride manager's predictament.  However, PLEASE be sure to
advertise your rules regarding hoof protection prior to the ride.  It is
very discouraging and expensive to get to a ride and be turned away
because the hoof protection I have is not up to snuff with the Ride Mgr.
I'm learning to call ahead.   But, it's not always possible to reach ride
mgmt.  I don't use hoof protection at all on my horse's rear feet, but I
do on the fronts.  This has disqualified me from attending 3 rides this
year.  One of the rides was on exactly the same terrain that we train

Thanks for listening.  And, thanks in advance for keeping an open mind to
those of us who are trying to improve life for our horses.  We take this
stuff very seriously and put a lot of study time into the decisions we
make.  We make mistakes in judgement along the way and don't have very
many mentors at this point.  Please don't judge us so harshly.  And, as
most endurance riders know, when trying new equipment it is very difficult
to simulate an endurance ride during conditioning.  It is unfortunate, but
that is fact that we've all come to realize.  Barefooting it is no
different.  Until the details with conditioning and equipment are worked
out, we may have some pulls and failures.  Please have compasion and
understanding with our effort.

Karen Standefer
Rafiq who will NEVER have another nail in his hoof
Tory who has been barefoot for life and has hooves of iron! "Nothing
phases me, Mom!

Well said!!
Diana Hiiesalu

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