Leading by Example: Barefoot Endurance in
by Sheryl Campbell
On the 27th October, 2002, during an 80 km Endurance ride, my horse Pendell
Solma tripped over his feet, fell down a hill, tore his hamstring, and quietly
carried his lucky-to-be-alive but uninjured rider (me) back to the ride base.
The following day, I removed his shoes (the far too big and far too heavy ones
that my unqualified farrier had made fit for the ride one week previously).
I had been tossing over whether to go barefoot for the previous year. At the
Annual General Meeting of 2002, New Zealand Endurance voted in the right to
ride barefoot. After the accident, I decided the time had come.
Initially, I had no idea what I was doing, and with the help of a neighbor, I started trimming my Solmas feet myself. Ten weeks later, on the 28th December, I rode in my first barefoot ride. Four weeks after this, I competed in the 80 km ride at the North Island Champs, and came in fourth place. I was hooked, and I took off as the new promoter of barefooting in Endurance.
Unfortunately, not everyone was supportive of thisin fact, I would say
that 99% of riders were unsupportive, and I ran headfirst into negativity. One
person made it their mission to tell me, in front of a crowd of people, that
my horses feet would end up with bloodied stumpsI decided,
there and then, to lead by example instead of my over-zealous mouth!
Within about 6 months of going barefoot, things started to go wrong. My horse
short stepped, started having a jilted action, and was starting to look strained
in his face and muscles. Something was not right. I read all I could, and immersed
myself fully into getting Solma going freely again. I knew I was on the right
trackall his metabolics and heartrates were improving noticeablybut
I just could not figure out where the problem was.
We had new neighbors move in, and I had heard that they knew something
about feet. Little did I know that an SHP (Strasser Hoofcare Professional) had
moved in next door, and knew a bit more than a little something.
By meeting Teresa & Glenn Ramsey (and, consequently, Penny Gifford), I had
found my answer that I had been searching for. I needed a high performance
method, a total lifestyle method, a scientific and researched
approach and I badly needed support.
I threw myself into learning. Teresa answered probably ten million questionssome
really stupid, and some not so stupidbut I started to see that there were
so many issues that I had not been dealing with.
Slowly, but surely, Teresa (and eventually Penny) worked on Solma, and I started
work on myself. When I think about what was the hardest thing in transitioning
from shoes to barefoot, I would have to say that, although Solma went through
some big changes, he took it all in his stride (excuse the pun). I, on the other
hand, was the emotional case. However, I pushed through. Off with the covers,
out with the chemical wormers, processed feeds, martingales and kimblewicks,
and in came the herdlife, oats, bitless bridles, and the endless day after day
soaking of hooves, and lets not forgetmovement, movement, movement.
I would have to say that this has been a real emotional roller coaster for
me, and a major learning curve in my life. When you do Endurance, you spend
a lot of time in the saddle, you build a very strong partnership with that horseand
you believe that everything you do for your horse, you do with their best interests
in mind. To suddenly find that everything you have been doing is wrongand
that it is actually potentially damaging to your horseis a really hard
thing to come to grips with. Knowledge is everything, and I try to learn as
much as I can.
To date, I am trimming Solma and my other horse myself (having done the Basic
Hoofcare Seminar), using the Strasser Method, and this is overseen by Penny
at about 6-week intervals. Teresa and Penny have always made themselves available
to me for questions, study, etc., as well as the odd reality check.
One more interesting thing: Solma had been kicked in the knee as a colt, and
this resulted in a fluid build up around the knee. Although unsightly, it had
never caused a lameness issue. Since taking his shoes off at age 10, the swelling
went down approx. 1/2 cm. Today, 2 1/2 years later, the swelling has 95% disappeared,
and even the vets do not pick it up anymore.
No one can tell me that horses cannot go barefootI feel Solma has proven
that on many occasions now, and on varied terrain, without any use of boots
or hoof protection. Metabolics and lag times have improved easily by 50%. People
are not so negative towards barefooting in Endurance now, and tend to be more
open to asking questions. In fact, they have a good laugh at me soaking Solma
in his portable footbath between loops! It is generally accepted that I ride
barefoot, and no longer do I get, oh, be careful out there Sheryl, it
is really stony, and he probably wont get through. My little white
horse has tough little WHITE pigmented feet, not the bloodied stumps as predicted.
Thank you, Solma, for teaching me that I was the one with the problemnot
you. Thank you, Teresa and Penny, for being my hoofcare team. Thank you, Dr
It is hard to put so much blood, sweat, tears and hope onto one article. Below are Solmas successes, and I have picked out 5 of my most favorite moments of success:
Solmas Ride History after going barefoot
Kilometers to date: 1144
1 x 20 km ride
2 x 40 km ride
1 x 48 km ride - vet-out, blew an abscess (movement, movement, movement!)
1 x 41 km ride
1 x 50 km ride
1 x 60 km ride - did not qualify, overtime (yes, okay, I rode too slow)
1 x 65 km ride
6 x 80 km rides - 1 withdrawal mid-ride due to bad weather storm
3 x 100 km rides - 1 vet-out, horse fell and ended up in electric fence 1 km from base, went on heartrate.
2 1/2 years barefoot, and only 2 vet-outs, with only one of these due to lameness. Pretty good statistics!
My favorite rides since going barefoot:
Jan 21, 2003, North Island Championships 80km - placed 4th
Feb 16, 2003, Whongamongama 80km - placed 6th
Jan 25, 2004, North Island Championships 100km - placed 25th
Apr 11, 2004, New Zealand Endurance Nationals 100km - placed 16th
Feb 20, 2005, Te Miro Points Ride 65km - placed 2nd
About the author: I am 32 years old and live with my partner, Rodney in Hikutaia, New Zealand (in the North Island of New Zealand). Rodney is a dairy farmer, and I work in town as an Accounts Assistant. We have one dog (Ruger), one cat (Angus) and the two horses, Solma and Opal. We have 350 acres on which we run the dairy herd and dry stock and some sheep. We have just finished building our first home together. While this was being built, we lived on the farm in the horsetruck for nearly 6 months! Outside of horses and training, you would be likely to find me sitting in an armchair on the deck, with my head in a good book, or out walking the countryside! Contact Sheryl at horse1 @ hgleach.co.nz
Article published in The Horse's Hoof Magazine Issue 19, Spring 2005
Note: Photos are provided for reference and educational purposes only, and are not meant to indicate guidelines for trimming. Every horse should be trimmed as an individual. Opinions vary as to what constitutes "correct" but keep in mind - there are NO PERFECT FEET, not even in the wild. Owners are cautioned to seek professional help for the trimming of their own horse's feet. Owner trimming of pathological feet is not advised. Photos may not be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way.
©2006 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.
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