In-Hand Harmony

Will My Horse Benefit From Seeing a Barefoot Trimmer?

TobiasHoovesFrontViewLike a lot of folks this time of year, we scheduled our farrier to pull our mare’s shoes for the season — but not our gelding’s.

When Tobias (a 1995 Appendix gelding) first came into our lives over ten years ago, the barn where we boarded was a barefoot barn full of Friesians, Icelandics and Rocky Mountain Ponies. I knew that Tobias’ shoes had been pulled each winter of his life prior to coming to us. I also learned that he frequently got abscesses.

Even so, in 2005 I was convinced that most horses were better off barefoot than with metal shoes and kept Tobias barefoot for two years, using Old Mac originals and then G2 boots while riding. Unless he was in boots, Tobias was never comfortable.

The first year, he had an abscess. The second year, he abscessed in both his left front and left hind feet. He was in such pain, the local vet couldn’t touch him so we took Tobias to a highly-regarded clinic on the mainland. When I asked about possible scenerios for Tobias to go barefoot in the future, the head veterinarian said, “You’ve already tried that, haven’t you.” He made it clear Tobias was not the kind of horse to go barefoot. Now, Tobias has worn shoes continuously for more than eight years.

[The vet] made it clear Tobias was not the kind of horse to go barefoot.

HindLegsFrontViewThis year, Tobias was going really well in the spring. But come summer, he moved reluctantly. Not only was there no enthusiasm, he’d get down right pissed off when circling or lunging. I thought it was the uneven footing. Our equine bodyworker couldn’t figure out why he was not moving better and thought that his feet were sore. I talked to my farrier — whom we respect and have recommended to others — and he assured me that Tobias was properly shod.

A couple weeks ago, I had a trainer/bodyworker friend of mine (Corrine Fierkens) come to see if she had some advice. I thought there might be some holes in our training, and there were. But on her second visit, Cori felt a need to point out the clips on all four of Tobias’ shoes, hard places above his coronet bands, the way his low heels appeared pinched, the length of the toes and how the front hoof, due to what Cori saw as excessive filing, was beginning to show through to the white line. Then she had me feel the heat coming off of the front of his hooves. In my farrier’s defense, this was six weeks since the last shoeing. But then Tobias bit at his front left hoof, bobbed his head, licked and chewed. Interesting.LeftFrontOutside

Cori also told me that she recently attended a barefoot trimming workshop by a woman who plans to move here from California and schedules appointments every six weeks. Cori was excited and inspired by what she had seen. This new trimmer also had great reference from a well-respected local horsewoman who had been using her for four months: her cushings horse had benefited greatly. But what if I got started down this road and she decided not to move here. My gut just couldn’t get comfortable with giving her a try, even though she seemed knowledgeable.

My farrier/riding buddy, Ruthie Thompson-Klein from Lopez Island, Washington, stopped shoeing a few years ago and now only barefoot trims. She is AHA and PHCA certified, is an EasyCare dealer and has been subtly telling me for years that even Tobias could go barefoot. But here I am in Sedalia, Colorado…LeftHindOutside

I went to the EasyCare website and found someone who now lives in Parker, Colorado, under “Dealers.” Gail Snyder had worked as an aerospace engineer for Boeing and, after helping her own horse, has become a barefoot trimmer and has written several articles on barefoot trimming. After sending out an inquiry, I learned that several of my friends have used Gail and have been thrilled with the results. I decided that I would contact her and give her a try.

[My farrier] was incredibly gracious. I told him I didn’t want to burn any bridges, because I might be calling him in a few months. He laughed and said that’s usually what happens. We’ll see.

One of the difficult things I had to do in order to begin this barefoot journey was to make a phone call to my farrier: that kind and generous person who loaned me his champion roping Quarterhorse all last year while Tobias was rehabilitating, the man we have entrusted with our horses’ hoof care for years, even if we are not home. He was incredibly gracious. I told him I didn’t want to burn any bridges, because I might be calling him in a few months. He laughed and said that’s usually what happens. We’ll see. My husband and I are scheduled to meet with Gail Snyder tomorrow.

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