Back to the Future with Barefoot Endurance
by Shari Cartee
On the left is Shari Cartee and her horse Finali. At right is her friend Audrey Salisbury on her Blue Star stallion, NS Rahsil Royel-T (otherwise known as Smokey), who is 16 years old and has never been shod!
Admittedly, the decision to go barefoot is not an easy one. Horses
evolved barefoot and are born barefootyet how do you take them back to
barefoot? I wrestled with it for a year, after one of my friends made the leap
with her horse. I was nudged into it when my horse, Finali, tore a check ligament,
one month after completing our first 50-mile ride at the Old Dominion, in 2001
(shod all around and pads on the front). It seemed the opportune time, since
he was going to be out of commission for at least six months. So I had his shoes
pulled, and hes been barefoot ever since.
Probably the greatest obstacle to going barefoot is finding someone who knows
how to do the proper trim, i.e., patterned after the Mustang hoof and called
by various names: Wild Horse Trim, Barefoot Trim, Natural Trim. Those who couldnt
find a local, certified professional used to be left to self-education, via
books, tapes, and the Internet. The Internet IS a great resource, but nothing
beats hands-on by a professional. Fortunately, the barefoot movement is gaining
great momentum, and, nowadays, help is easier to obtain.
I, personally, have taken Jaime Jackson and the AANHCP (American Association
of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners) to heart. In July, I am hosting a clinic
conducted by his top Field Instructor, who has traveled the world educating
owners and helping horses in need. You will discover that, through Natural Hoof
Care, even your foundered or navicular horse can survive and become sound again,
without stall rest or reversed shoes and padsall of which only makes him
more miserable, and continue to suffer.
Theres no question, making this transition is not without its difficulties.
Ideally, one would never put shoes on their horse to begin with, and then you
wouldnt have to deal with the issues. I will have a new foal next year,
and it will never have a nail in its hooves, which brings up the point that
natural hoof care starts at birth, literally. Recognize that a wild foal may
have to run 15 or 20 miles the day it is born, and then keep that pace for most
of its life. Thats the foundation for the perfect hoof, but, unfortunately,
our pampered domestic equines dont get that advantage.
Natural Hoof Care is meant to emulate that perfect foot, but its not
just trimming the footits a lifestyle. Just like the secret to weight
control in humans is changing ones lifestyle, developing a sound, barefoot
horse is changing HIS lifestyle. Along with the proper trim, the horse needs
movement to keep the hoof pumping blood through it and keeping it healthy, so
24/7 turnout is highly recommended. And the more you can ride them, the better.
I live in the Piedmont of North Carolina, which means Im right between
the rocky, mountain trails of North Carolina, and the sandhills of South Carolina.
All in all, a great place to bebecause I can ride and condition in the
mountains all summer, and then continue the pace all winter, in the sand.
During the three years that my horse has been barefoot, we have competed in
16 rides, and completed 15 of themthat one pull being saddle-related.
The point is, barefoot Endurance riding is quite feasible, but the owner has
to understand that its going to take time and commitment. And the truth
is, those of us here in the soggy southeast have a harder time of it. What,
you say? Surely, those out West, where its all rocks, face the greatest
challenge. Not so. The perfect foot that we strive to obtain on our horses is
modeled after the wild Mustang, who comes by it naturally.
Once the natural trim is established, and the horse is ridden regularly, there
is very little to be done. I maintain my Endurance horse with an occasional
rasping about once a week, and visits from a Natural Hoof Specialist every six
weeks. He really comes to trim my pasture horse, who doesnt get enough
work to wear his feet down by himself. While hes there, he checks my maintenance.
For the horse in transition, hoof boots are highly recommended. I dont
think there is a horse that has been shod that can just make the leap to barefoot
without some help. At some clinics, if you bring a horse with shoes to be pulled,
you are required to either have hoof boots, or purchase them at the clinic.
This is so that you can continue to exercise and enjoy your horse during the
transition period, and he is not going to be uncomfortable.
Up until a couple of years ago, there were very few choices in hoof boots,
but thanks to the demand, competition is taking hold. Newer and better boots
are making the scene every few months. I have tried them all, and find the Boa
Horse Boots and the Marquis Supergrip Horse Boots to be the best for ease of
use and for staying on. Nothing is more aggravating than having to get off your
horse every 1/2 mile to retrieve a boot!
Losing hoof boots is, no doubt, one of the reasons that many people give up
on attempting to take their horses barefootbut most people give up simply
because they have their horses shoes pulled and then expect to carry on
as before. That wont happen, so be prepared to give your horse a break.
He will take to the side of the trail, he will avoid rocks as best he can, he
will watch where he puts his feetand thats a good thing!
I have found that my horse will gallop a rocky trail much easier than he will
trot on it, and he will find the shoulder on a gravel road. But thats
okay with me, because he will always be iron free. A barefoot horse
stops forging, moves more freely, endures less stress, and has beautiful feet.
We also dont have to worry about slipping on rocks or pulling shoes on
a mud-sucking ride! I havent had any boots on him in the past 9 months,
and have completed 8 rides totally barefoot, 4 of those rides in the mountains
of North Carolina.
I am encountering more and more people who recognize the benefits to their
horse as a result of going barefoot. As more of us get out there riding and
competing, more and more horseowners will see the results and benefits. This
is not a passing fadthis is the futureand there are thousands of
horses out there that cant wait to go Back to the Future!
About the author: Shari writes, I have had a life-long passion for horses, but only discovered Endurance competition 5 years ago. I live the single life on 8.5 acres in North Carolina, near Charlotte, with six cats, two Arabs & one on the way. The foal is by the stallion (photo above), and eagerly awaited. Needless to say, it will enjoy the luxury of bare feet, like its parents, neither of whom have ever been shod. This sire has 6 or 7 offspring competing in Endurance in the SE, so I am looking forward to raising another (barefoot) one.Shari Cartee, Windswept Farm, NC
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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