Go Barefoot or Keep Shoes
you know the saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"? i keep coming back to that every time i start thinking i want to have my mare's shoes pulled...
she is a 16.3hh tb who just turned 4 in march. she has a mild clubbed foot or grazing foot on her front left which she has never taken a lame step on (*knock on wood!*). i ride her 5-6 times a week, just flatwork but i'm hoping to start her over fences in the near future.
"smoochie" has had a full set of shoes on since long before i bought her last june. when i bought her, she originally had metal pads on her front feet as well.. the woman i bought her from told me it was because the area we live in is too rocky. i continued using the same farrier as the woman i bought her from for a short while.. he ended up putting thick rubber what he called "draft pads" on her feet. long story short i ended up very displeased with him after a while and found a new farrier.
my new farrier immediately said there was no reason to have pads at all as my mare had hard soles. so starting last november we took the pads off but left all 4 shoes on. we then went through a period of having pulled shoes one after another. she must have pulled 6 shoes (my farrier said she was stepping on them) within 2 1/2 months time.
smoochie had she shoes reset last in feb and is due again next week. this time she has managed to keep all 4 shoes on the whole time. last time my farrier was out i had mentioned maybe just pulling the shoes and seeing how she does barefoot hoping to get some sort of opinion from him. the only real response i got was "well i can pull them if you want, or i can just leave them. doesn't really matter much". not the answer i was looking for!
so like i said, i keep coming back to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". smoochie has never been lame (once again *knock on wood!*) so why change what isn't broken, right? at the same time, from what i have learned based on internet and books barefoot is the best way to go.
the other thing driving me towards barefoot is when smoochie went through her period of constantly losing shoes, there was a time when my farrier was away for the holidays and it took about 2 weeks for him to come replace her shoes. during this time (i could be imagining this, could be wishful thinking) it looked to me like on her mild club foot the heel actually expanded slightly.
so i really need some good solid opinions, go barefoot or not and why. like i said i tried to get advice from my farrier on this but he really had nothing to offer.
so sorry that was so long! and thank you all in advance!!
IMO if you pull them and it doesnt work, its pretty easy to have them put back on. The way I typically do it is to pull the backs first one trip and the fronts the next if the backs are in good shape. Make sure your farrier applies a decent bevel to the outer wall on the bare feet to prevent chipping and does not carve out any live sole or rasp the sole, especially at the toe. If he does, most horses end up sore.
First is the animals general condition; specifically limb/hoof conformation and health.
Second is the horse owners use of that animal and the intended usage terrain.
Your use suggests a horse that may be better off shod. While many barefoot horses will meet their owners performance expectations, the domestic horse in daily use as you've described may experience excessive hoof wall wear. That same horse will generally benefit from the additional support, traction and mechanics that a properly installed set of shoes can provide.
The only insight you've provided into the condition of this horses feet is a possible club foot. There is often a functional limb length disparity associated with a club foot. The farrier can compensate for that balance disparity without relying on excessive heel length typically present on the club foot. That same management is more difficult if the horse is left barefoot.
It is disconcerting that your farrier offers no more specific counsel than to suggest it simply be up to you. A horse owner should be able to depend upon their farrier to provide a protocol best suited to the needs of the horse and the performance expectations of the owner. More pointedly, the farrier should be able to explain in very specific terms why a horse will benefit from a recommended protocol.
I shoe a lot of horses in my custom. I also trim a lot of horses for barefoot. In each instance I can explain to the owner exactly why I would recommend one protocol over another for their horse. Any person presenting themselves as a farrier should be able to do the same thing.
If your farrier "had nothing to offer" in explanation, my "good solid opinion" is that you may have reason for concern beyond whether your horse should be shod or barefoot.
go barefoot or keep shoes
I wonder if the farrier would prefer you to keep shoes on because, of course, he charges more for shoeing than trimming? Both of my riding horses are currently barefoot and doing fine. My farrier used to hot shoe them (front only). He is a very good farrier, and does a nice job now when he trims them every six weeks. The trails here can be quite rocky, so when I am going out for a longer ride I put Mac boots on the front. My horses seem to like these fine. I don't need boots when I ride in our dressage ring or in the grassy fields. If you want to try it, start by going without back shoes to see how your horse does. If that seems fine, you can try the front. But I would probably wait until winter to also remove the front shoes, depending on where you live and if the ground will be very hard (frozen), or soft. It would be better to take them off when the ground is not real hard. I also put venice turpentine on the soles right after they are trimmed as it helps to harden the soles.
thanks for all of your replies. to give a bit more info... i live in the high dessert of southern california. the ground is very soft dirt, almost sand-like where i live. it is also extremely dry.
mark, you said there is "often a functional limb length disparity associated with a club foot"..
from what i am able to observe (once again, i don't get much explanation out of my farrier) standing behind her when she is squared up there is no height difference in shoulder, there is also no height difference in her knees from the front as long as her feet are maintained on time. however, if the heel is allowed to grow without being lowered with each shoeing, her knees will eventually become uneven.
you may be right, maybe i should be more concerned with the farrier not offering advice than i am with going barefoot or not...
dearides, it is possible that he simply wants to keep shoes on to charge more for the shoes and that could be why he is not offering much advice.
like i said in my original post, one of the main things driving me to take the shoes off is the fact that when she lost her shoe and it was not replaced right away, it appeared as though her contracted heel has started to expand slightly.
Since your horse is only 4, I would give it a try. At age 4, his feet are still developing and you have a much larger chance of success than I do with my 9 year old. I would search out either a more competent farrier, or find a barefoot trimmer who can provide you with some references of other customers you can talk to. Like any skill set, some are very good while others are hacks. Go see their work before using them.
You will need to provide your horse with lots and lots of movement. Heel first landings are paramount. You said several times in your post that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", but if you are asking the question, something in your gut is telling you otherwise.
@myboypuck, thank you for your input! i agree that few seems to actually address the club foot. the past 2 that i have had both said you just trim it like its a normal foot and thats the way it is.
i guess the search for a new farrier begins now..
Curious, is your horse's club foot frog currently making contact with the ground when he's standing on a level surface?
My first thought is that she's only 4yo & has already been shod for how long? Therefore, while it may not be 'broke' yet, I'd definitely take her shoes off. You may or may not find she's up to the terrain you expect her to work on - tho at 4yo I wouldn't be doing much ridden with her yet either - but it doesn't have to be a choice only between bare or shod - there are plenty of good hoof boots to choose from these days, to protect your horse's feet on terrain that's too much for what she's conditioned/ready for.
I am not experienced with shoes in regard to club feet, but I don't understand what's so difficult about managing them bare. I don't find heel height is such an issue - it often works itself out with basic maintenance, but the extra loaded toes are what I find often take the most management, being more inclined to flare & flatten & I find that frequent 'micro trims' to keep them in form are important, which is not possible with shoes.
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