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Re: Barefoot vs. Shoes

He was shod and sometimes the steel shoes
> would wear thinner than a quarter in just 6 weeks.  Unfortunately, 6 weeks
> wasn't always sufficient time for him to grow out enough to be re-shod.  I
> would use Easy Boots in the interim.  If I had been riding him barefoot
> what would the result have been on his feet?  I can't imagine a hoof
> wearing better than steel or am I confused in my logic?  Bob

Bob, it is really hard to say if your horse's feet could have withstood this
being totally barefoot, meaning no hoof protection e.g Easy Boots. There are
many variables including the condition of the hoof horn, terrian, genetics,
how many miles you are doing, ect. Maybe I am real lucky with the gelding I
have. His feet I swear are as tough as if he had shoes on, and shows little
if any wear after a 50 mile ride. He is ridden about every day 10-15 miles
and turned out in pasture 24/7. Maybe it's partly his genetics? Maybe it's
because he has been barefoot from birth, and the hoof horn has fully adapted
(been conditioned to being barefoot over all kinds of terrian for the past 7
years of his existance)? I am not sure.
I would be a little hesitant with pulling the shoes, and right off the bat
riding the trails barefoot. There is a whole lot more to managing and
conditioning the barefoot horse than just simply pulling the shoes. It can
be like starting all over again with a new horse to condition. You do only
the miles/terrian the horse can comfortably handle until their feet toughen
up. You are specifically conditioning this part of the body (the feet). And
if this part of the body is weak (as it usually is after being weakened by
shoes) it does not matter how conditioned the other parts of the horse are.
You have to start all the way over with training this specific part (the
feet). Many people just don't understand this, and get discouraged right off
the bat, because their horse could previously do 20 miles or more while
shod, but then when they pull the shoes the horse might only be able to
comfortably go a mile or two. It's like pulling off your comfortable Nike
running sneakers, or in the case of horse shoes (metal tap dance shoes), and
all of a sudden trying to go for a jog barefoot. Your feet are adapted to
those comfy Nike sneakers, not jogging barefoot. I have personally had the
pleasure to meet and run with several talented Kenyan runners that condition
"barefoot". Some even run their races barefoot on the track, and still win.
They have some really tough feet, and callouses to show for it. I have asked
why they do this, and the response is that it is just more comfortable
running barefoot, (believe it or not).  Getting back to the subject, it can
be like learning to walk all over again. Years of damage from shoes, such as
contracted heels, underrun heels, little to no functioning hoof mechanism,
lost sensitivity of the feet ect. can be quite a shock to the barefoot horse
at first. When the horse is all of a sudden barefoot, he finally can feel
his feet, and now has full hoof mechanism (if trimmed correctly), and thus
he can now feel all the pain from the damage inside the foot that comes
along with it (e.g the heels have been used to being contracted, and can now
finally expand etc.) It can be quite a painful and long rehab process
depending on the degree of damage that is in the hoof. (Anywhere from
approximately 6-8 months is about average. Can be upwards to 2 years if the
horse has foundered ect., depends on the degree of damage) Anyone that has
ever gone threw physical therapy can vouch that healing can be quite a
painful, and sometimes long process. If there is no pain in the rehab
process we eventually end up crippled. This is the part a lot of people do
not understand, nor have the patience for when they pull the shoes. They
immediately give up, and do not have the time or commitment level to
properly deal with it.  I just don't want you to be mislead thinking that
life is going to be cheaper, or simpler by just pulling the shoes. I have
personally and successfully conditioned many miles over various terrian, and
have completed rides barefoot (with no soreness or pulls). I am finding
similar result with my other horses as well. Even my old guy that I swore in
the past could not ever go barefoot in a pasture, nevertheless riding him
barefoot due to his hoof horn being so weak is now ridden barefoot almost
every day around 10-15 miles. Nevertheless, riding barefoot is a challenge,
and  takes a continual time commitment and dedication. While I believe whole
heartedly in barefoot  for my horses, it just may make more sense for most
to just pay the darned 70 dollars for a good shoeing job (or preferably good
trim and hoof boots).

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