In-Hand Harmony

Going Barefoot

Day1FrontView

Day #1 Front View: Shoes With Snow Pads on Front Feet and Hind Feet Barefoot

Day1HindFrontView

Day #1: Hind Feet Without Shoes, Frontal View

While it was a very educational meeting with the barefoot trimmer, Gail Snyder, we ended up staying with our farrier, Jason Critton, as we transition Tobias from having been shod for eight years to seeing if he can be comfortable barefoot.

We met for four hours with Gail and learned quite a bit (although I must say we were both a bit over-saturated after the first two). Gail was very generous with her time as this was a free initial consultation. She brought a cadaver horse foot, along with bare bones to help explain anatomy and function. She presented case studies of extremely unhealthy hooves that she was able to help become healthy again. She touched on diet, horsekeeping and exercise.

Gail referred to the work of Dr. Robert Bowker, although I’ve had difficulty finding his publications online. I mentioned that one of our biggest concerns for Tobias was abscessing, and Gail explained that sometimes abscessing is the hoof’s way of healing itself and that perhaps we shouldn’t have let that deter us in the past. She also talked to us about peripheral loading and the use of a thing called the Keystone Hoof Bridge which she uses to support the sole and, thus, the bones.

Gail taught barefoot trimming for five years at a school in Oregon. Interestingly, Gail is not comfortable removing shoes.

…one of the great things about the barefoot movement is that they are doing an excellent job educating horse owners on hoof anatomy and function.

Day #1 Left Front (Outside)

Day #1 Left Front (Outside)

We also learned that Gail is eliminating her stock of hoof boots since she believes that, with the use of the Keystone Hoof Bridge, a horse could be sound and comfortable barefoot within three months. We were pretty excited about that even though being a distributor for EasyCare boots had been one of my primary reasons for contacting Gail.

Day #1: Left Hind (Outside)

Day #1: Left Hind (Outside)

During this process, I also received a phone call from our veterinarian/friend/neighbor encouraging us to continue with our farrier, Jason Critton, to best assist us in transitioning to barefoot.

We scheduled a meeting with Jason the next day. Jason was happy to reconfirm some of our new-found knowledge, adding that one of the great things about the barefoot movement is that they are doing an excellent job educating horse owners on hoof anatomy and function. He asked what our concerns and our goals are and proceeded to address each one to our satisfaction.

…not only is [our farrier] well-versed in metal shoes, trimming feet for shoes or barefoot,

he has additional tools and strategies … available for the well-being of our horses.

Day #1: Left Front (Underneath)

Day #1: Left Front (Underneath)

Jason explained that — in addition to being a well-educated, experienced and certified farrier, who now teaches others and competes in his trade — not only is he well-versed in metal shoes, trimming feet for shoes or barefoot, he has lots of additional tools and strategies (including various coatings for the sole) available for the well-being of our horses. As to supporting and protecting the sole, Jason suggested that even the sandy dirt that often packs the undersides of our horses’ hooves can be a good thing.

Unlike our Tennessee Walker mare, Tobias (a Thorobred/Quarterhorse cross) does not have what you would call “great feet”. He does have nice frogs and has some concavity in his hind feet, but his front feet are very flat and vulnerable. And, as I mentioned in the initial post, “Will My Horse Benefit From Seeing A Barefoot Trimmer“, he is very susceptible to abscessing. (Evidently, Gail wrote an article on abscessing which I hope to read.)

Day #1: Left Hind (Underneath)

Day #1: Left Hind (Underneath)

Jason and I agreed to take the process gradually. He would pull Tobias’ hind shoes for now and see how he does with that while keeping shoes (without the clips) on Tobias’ front feet and adding snow pads.

Jason and I agreed to take the process gradually. He would pull Tobias’ hind shoes for now and see how he does with that while keeping shoes (without the clips) on Tobias’ front feet and adding snow pads. After six weeks, if things are going well, we may pull the front shoes. In the meantime, Jason said to feel free to call him if we had any other concerns.

Gary and I have been through a few farriers and feel very comfortable working with Jason. We both appreciate that he is able and willing to engage in this dialogue without becoming defensive, angry, or being negative about others — not to mention his education, experience and resources.

As always, I plan to continue learning what I can to best care for our horses. I’ll keep you posted as things develop and will document our journey with photographs.

 

2 thoughts on “Going Barefoot

  1. Diane

    Wow, Cath – sounds like you got a whole education about horse hooves from Gail Snyder! Seems very sensible of you to stick with Jason Critton for the changeover to barefoot for Tobias. I’m sure that has to be a gradual thing.
    Good luck with this endeavor!
    Diane

Leave a Reply