barefoot dressage? - Page 3

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barefoot dressage?

This is a discussion on barefoot dressage? within the Hoof Care forums, part of the Horse Health category

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    08-06-2012, 09:05 PM
JulianeAHS - my youngster is currently rising two, so not yet under saddle. However I purchased him as an FEI prospect. As a young horse he will stay barefoot until such time as myself and my wonderful farrier feel that his feet will benefit from shoes.

Others who have commented on shoes in dressage - please go back to the first page and read my first comment. Shoes are NOT compulsary in dressage. There are barefoot Grand Prix horses. HOWEVER, they would have to have incredibly tough feet to do so. Unfortunately warmbloods are generally not bred with terribly brilliant hoof soundness, and shoes are the answer to keeping them healthy.
Shoes are not the spawn of satan to a horse's hoof. If you have a good farrier who shoes correctly according to the hoof conformation and how the horse moves, shod hooves can be just as healthy as barefoot hooves.

My 10 year old warmblood is shod all round and has been since he was young. He has excellent feet, no cracks, no soreness, healthy soles and frogs etc. He is training at elementary/medium level with no soundness issues whatsoever.
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    08-06-2012, 09:39 PM
IMO needing to shoe a dressage horse has very little to nothing to do with their breed. If you could get a hard footed American Mustang to GP and with all the workload accompanied with it, he'd probably need shoes too.

I don't think a lot of people realize just how much stress dressage horse's legs and hooves are under past about third level. My horse has been shod up front since he was 5 years old and I put hinds on at third level. I asked my coach if I could take them off for the winter and she looked at me like I had several heads and said "do you know what you will be DOING in the winter??" and she was right. The stress and strain is enough that most horse's feet wont hold up to the 6+ hours of training every week. However, this is not all that the shoes can provide when done properly. A well shod horse will get a lot of support up the leg from lateral extensions if they are needed. Put some extensions out behind the shoe and you are supporting the hocks in the short work. Not to mention just the protection when you are going to shows and can't control the footing or how much gravel, etc.. there is.
The other thing that shoes serve to do is give the horse consistent angle, consistent sole depth and more consistent traction in footing. So the horses are used to everything. Change an upper level dressage horse's toe length by a few millimeters and you would not have the same horse. For my guy who has hi/lo his farriery is a very important part of his management and he gets re shod every 4-5 weeks. He would not be at the level he is at without the excellent farrier work of my current farrier and certainly would not have held up to even half the training without shoes at all.

Up to about second level I think you can get away with many horses being barefoot. However, once the workload is really increased for third and fourth, the demands of collection, etc.. really warrant shoes. Not that I can't be done but I think that a good shoe job is just another tool for getting to the higher levels of sport. And a good farrier is always your best resource.
    08-06-2012, 09:51 PM
Of all the disciplines, I would think dressage would be the easiest to do barefoot. The footing is usually fantastic. You can use hoof boots at some schooling shows if you ask in advance. I am currently eventing my horse barefoot and just doing schooling shows so we can use the boots until he's fine on the footing. (footing ain't great at schooling shows)

The only way you can know if it's a good idea for you is to try it. Just know that ironically some newly barefoot horses don't like soft footing that moves around under their feet the first few months. If yours turns out to be one of them, walking on pavement or concrete for about 10 minutes before switching to the softer stuff seems to help.

I'm also in New England. Renegade hoof boots have been working well for us. Did my XC in them yesterday and they worked fine.
    08-06-2012, 09:55 PM
Anebel, that may be the case for most horses. Though I do know of a number of Grand Prix horses in Australia that are barefoot. Though, I believe most of them have some draught breeding in them.

I wouldn't completely write off allowing a horse to work barefoot, if it is coping with it. Hence I'll be keeping Billy barefoot for as long as I see fit. If we see that his feet are suffering some wear and tear, the shoes will go on straight away. Obviously leaving a higher level horse barefoot is going to take a huge amount of maintenance, but its possible on the right candidate.

And no, it doesn't have anything to do with breed generally, BUT, wbs are not bred for hoof soundness. That is a fact.
Compared to say a sturdy welsh mount pony with feet of steel ;)
    08-06-2012, 10:01 PM
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
Of all the disciplines, I would think dressage would be the easiest to do barefoot. The footing is usually fantastic. You can use hoof boots at some schooling shows if you ask in advance. I am currently eventing my horse barefoot and just doing schooling shows so we can use the boots until he's fine on the footing. (footing ain't great at schooling shows)

The only way you can know if it's a good idea for you is to try it. Just know that ironically some newly barefoot horses don't like soft footing that moves around under their feet the first few months. If yours turns out to be one of them, walking on pavement or concrete for about 10 minutes before switching to the softer stuff seems to help.

I'm also in New England. Renegade hoof boots have been working well for us. Did my XC in them yesterday and they worked fine.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA to the bolded statement. Maybe where you live, but not around here. Can you maybe email show facilities around me and let them know their footing should be better than a load of gravel covered in beach sand?? That would be awesome.

I still think breed generalizations Re hoof strength are a moot point. Hoof strength IMO has more to do with environment than bloodlines. And those GP horses with no shoes mustn't get schooled a whole bunch - especially with the heavy breeding that's a lot of weight on dead cells.
    08-06-2012, 10:01 PM
Sorry this got long but imma post anyway LOL Please note that im generalizing and we all know every situation and horse is different. Dressage footing usually isnt soft BTW...its usually kinda hard and gravelly IME. Kinda weird considering the strain these horses put on their legs at higher levels. Heck, I PARKED a truck and trailer on the dressage rings at FENCE LOL...It barely had tire tracks.

IME horses that are shod too early in their lives and stalled alot without lots of movement or are neglected as babies with their hoof care and allowed to grow underrun heels and long toes from the get go (NO you can't just turn a baby out till its a yearling without hoof care because it doesnt "need" it. I beg to differ! Babies need hoof care just as much if not more than adult horses when the foot is at that critical developing stage ) tend to need shoes/protection as adults because they never fully developed their foot.

Consider this...high level (IE expensive) horses usually live very cushy lives in barns with lots of shavings and lush pastures with lots of feed and are kept too fat for their own good as youngsters and even down the line which are not conducive conditions to developing healthy well developed hard feet. A young horses foot is nowhere near mature just like his body when we start riding them generally at age 3 but much younger for racehorses. Their feet grow and mature as long as their body does, which in big WB types means till 6 or 7. If they are shod young and kept stalled and from enough stimulation to turn the fatty baby Digital Cushion into hard tough cartilage, they will be stunted in hoof development.

Some are left locked into tiny shoes that fit as a baby (how many farriers short shoe so the horse wont overreach and pul shoes? I very seldom see properly set shoes these days) and recieve poor farrier care in general setting them up for long term problems also. Or they are simply used too hard for where their body is at developmentally also. Again thinking racehorses but we all know this. Not only are their skeletons not mature but their feet are very immature also and being asked to stand up to extreme conditions. Again its just asking for problems as the immature hoof capsule and baby fat digital cushion squishes under the force.

I look at it like head binding babies. If you apply force or constriction while the baby is developing and still "squishy" for lack of a better word, it deforms even the very bone as the creature grows. If left go on very long, it can affect the whole foot all their lives. IMO the same horse. If he were left barefoot and allowed to recieve lots of movement and the stimulation of harder terrain till his body and skeleton were mature might have developed a completely normal and adequate hoof that could have gone sucessfully barefoot in most situations, except perhaps the harshest.

This is my experience and my observations based on raising and trimming babies and watching them develop as they grow with and without shoes. Anyway....sorry for the novella...just food for thought. Long story short, IMO, young horses whose feet are actively developed by their owners just as their bodies are developed do better and are more sound over the course of their lives are are more able to go barefoot as adults even over terrible terrain. If you have to shoe a youngster, consider a flexable shoe and promptly remove it as soon as possible and TURN THE BABY OUT!

I used to believe most horse's feet could be rehabbed to being sound barefoot if given the proper time trim environment and so forth, but now I believe that shoeing them too young, of course shoeing them improperly and leaving shoes on young horses long term can really set them up for needing shoes their whole life. They just can develop the foot they were meant to have and it is essentially stunted or damaged for life. Again JMO based on my observations. Take what you want from it.
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    08-07-2012, 12:30 AM
^^What she said. It's about 'deed' vastly more than 'breed'.

I don't understand the theory of conventional shoes supporting limbs for 'gruelling' dressage stuff, but yes, there are plenty of 'dressage environments' where mollicoddled horses don't cope barefoot on.

Re questions of circulation & shoes(what I think Cotton was having a dig at), yes, the overconstriction of hooves due to shoeing can be a problem, but not sure that it is as direct - it seems to me that even good shoeing, applied too early in life &/or too constantly does still lead to contracted, weak heels and I think lack of good function of the caudal hoof, not just whether or not it can expand, is a bit issue. But I think an even bigger factor is peripherally loading the walls. This puts pressure on both the coronary & circumflex arteries - running around the top and bottom of the walls. Interestingly, it's also been noted that while wild/barefoot horses have the circumflex artery running around the border of the sole to the outside of the distal border of P3, in shod horses, the circumflex artery is actually below P3 & gets squeezed between P3 & sole. Removing the base of the foot from active support also reduces function & therefore also affects circulation. So, that the shoe or nails doesn't touch any sensitive tissue or constrict blood vessels directly, doesn't mean that they don't affect circulation.

Re OP's prob with boots, good fit is by far the biggest issue with hoof boots IME & while boots can occasionally come off, if this is a big problem for your horse, I'd suggest that they're probably not a really good fit for him. Type does have a bearing too - high profile boots such as Old Macs, Easy Trails, Cavellos & such also don't tend to come off even in extreme conditions.
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    08-07-2012, 12:58 AM
IMO this is why so many horses are perceived to "need" shoes. Well, they DO need them......Now! But perhaps may not have needed them most of the time had they only been developed as a baby. Its an interesting study when you really start looking at it and see what really pops out.

What made me sit up and take notice is a few specific things.

A. Seeing the stark differences in young TBs that were raised with 24-7 turnout over varied terrain including hard stuff, great regular hoof care, no shoes except maybe one set here or there and came off quickly and had alot of movement .....vs OTTBs or coddled stalled TBs or the type of the same age in the same kind of work minus racing of course. The feet tell the tale and its a very loud one.

B. Watching my own youngsters feet develop from babies to adults as well as when and how they mature barefoot. 2 and 3 year olds still have jello feet comparatively. No they will not be impervious to rocks when they are started. They havent arrived there yet developmentally. I think its natures way of teaching them to watch their feet and be careful in a way lol...All my guys are very careful on the trail and very surefooted vs the ones who just kinda stumble on no matter what lol. They never had to watch their feet!

C. Watching other ppls shod baby's feet just kinda stall out developmentally or even go backwards once shoes were applied.... even tho they were riding and even turned out all the time. The back of the foot just "squished" for lack of a better word and stopped developing. I don't know why scientifically. Just that it consistently happened among different horses of different breeds in different situations and it almost always followed the trend. No, its not scientific...its just observation.

From what I have seen so far, once the horse develops his adult foot with the ideal conditions I mentioned above and it is healthy and sound, he can be shod, (WELL shod and well trimmed mind you) sometimes for years without loosing what he earned as a youngster so long as he isnt sitting in a stall and still gets alot of movement, isnt getting too fat/metabolic issues or allowed to get bad thrush or so forth.
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    08-07-2012, 01:09 AM
My friend does dressage competition with her Belgian and Fresian, both bare foot. Her horses had shoes but when she meet a barefoot farrier, she pulled the shoes and they've been barefoot for several years now. She reports her horses are very healthy and appear to be happier. So, as someone stated earlier, you can go into dressage competition barefoot. She shows them, they are used daily for riding lessons as well as trail riding.
    08-07-2012, 02:51 AM
Trinity - I 100% agree with your points. It is tempting to put your youngster on a perfectly manicured, lawn like pasture - particularly when you could have purchased quite a nice new car for what they cost you to buy and insure!!! But I am very glad that I have my rising two year old out in quite a rough, but safe, paddock. There's rocks, there's mud, there's dips in the surface, and its on quite a significant hill on the south side. He flies around in there, falls over, gets up, off he goes again.
My farrier loves trimming him, I book him for every 5 weeks when he comes to shoe my 10 year old, but at best, we only end up trimming him once every two-three visits as his feet are as tough as nails and beautifully balanced.
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barefoot, barefoot dressage, dressage, hoof care

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