Horses with Hard Feet

Rocks are no problem for horses with hard feet!

by Mike Benack

How many of you have heard some of these lines from farriers, vets or other horse "experts"? "As a vet, I let the farriers deal with the feet", "If you pull those shoes, that horse will be permanently lame", "You want his feet to get hard? Here, just put some of this turpentine on his feet, they'll be hard as a rock in ten minutes", or "Believe me, your horse can't take the weight of a rider without shoes". Or the one I hear from owners all the time, " I tried pulling his shoes but he went lame right away so I had to have the shoes put back on".

I'll bet you've heard these and many other myths about how horses must have shoes or you won't be able to ride them. The fact that you're reading this means that you've probably found out the truth, that horses don't need shoes after all. I get such a kick, standing in the background listening to farriers and vets talking to their clients about the horse's feet. I have such an urge to speak up, but I've learned to keep it to myself. Know what I mean?

My horses had shoes for years. I shod them myself. (They must have forgiven me 'cause they still seem to like me.) I was taught that it was necessary. Don't argue with the "experts". Well, those days are gone for me! I have two horses whose bare feet are so hard that I almost can't trim them. They went back to barefoot just under a year ago. I had eight contracted heals and one club foot. We were on the road to ringbone, navicular, side bone, and who knows what else.

We used hoof boots during the transition from soft to hard feet. We still use them if we expect to be riding long distances over terrain that's harder than the land they live on. The heels are un-contracting and the club foot is long gone now. I'm not sure that the horses know the difference where their feet are concerned, but they sure are happy with the life style changes. They had large paddocks before but they were separated from each other. We opened the fences between some of the paddocks, (we have other bare footers in our group too), and they all play together now.

A positive side effect of this was the change in attitude they all had. They seem to have this "interested" look on their faces when we come in. It's more like "What are we going to do today?" and less like "Oh dammit, what does he want now?" They get much more movement now then they had before. At feeding times they used to stand still while they were eating, now they play musical flakes.

To say that this has all been a big change for the better would be a serious understatement. I can thank Strasser and Jackson for publishing their work and all the others who are involved with this effort through the on line support groups. My next project is to become an expert at hoof knife sharpening!

©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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