In-Hand Harmony

Tender Footed :-(

It’s been nine weeks since we took Tobias’ hind shoes off without a hitch in the process. We’re now just three weeks since removing the front shoes. The first week seemed to go pretty well, but the last two he has been tender footed on those front feet. This winter we’ve had a mixture of warm, sunny days contrasted with below zero temperatures, snow and hard frozen ground. We knew the timing wasn’t the best, but are doing what we can to make Tobias comfortable.

Tobias in size 5 Old Mac G2s

Tobias in size 5 Old Mac G2s (which I changed to the other pair I have in size 6 the next wearing for a better fit)

Sole Guard or Boots

I talked to our farrier, Jason Critton, this morning and he said he could apply sole guard to protect his tender, flat feet, but that would require 24-hour stall confinement in shavings to dry the feet enough for the application. Even so, if Tobias stood around in slush, the coating might come loose. Jason, always practical, said, “Hey, Cath, why don’t you just try those boots you have?”

So I dug out the Old Mac G2’s that we used years ago and chose the smaller of the two pairs to try on his front feet. I also found two pads for the boots, so I slipped those in first. We took a walk around the barn, rechecked the fit and snugged things up a little.

Tobias moved well up and down the concrete inside the barn where a moment ago he was low-headed, bobbing in time with a limp. Good. Walking and trotting in the round pen looked good. Great!

I turned both our horses out to the pasture for an hour. When their hour was up, they were standing across the fenceline from our neighbor’s horses, visiting. I was really surprised, when I called to them and raised one hand as I usually do, that they came galloping and cantering back up to the gait. Nice when that happens, even if it does tear up the grass roots.

Tobias and I did a little ride around the neighborhood. He was obviously still a little bit tender when we walked over gravel with the boots, but not to the extent he had been without. That added up to about two and a half hours the first day with the boots. I plan to leave them on an hour more each day in hopes of avoiding chafing. Tomorrow, though, I’ll try the larger of the two pairs since today Tobias did get a bit of chafe on his heel bulbs regardless of my best intentions.

Another Piece Of The Puzzle

Meanwhile, I signed up for some riding lessons this winter with a well-known local dressage competitor and trainer, and dear friend of a friend, Frances Carbonnel, of Classical Legacy. It’s not that I’m really that interested in competing or even doing dressage, but I value the gymnastic workout. Ever since last summer, we’ve been struggling once again with forward impulsion.

Two years ago, we realized we needed a new saddle — we went from a Collegiate Convertible Sr. Event saddle to a custom County with dressage seat and jump flaps — which seemed to make a huge difference up until last summer when things were falling apart again. Part of the reason for removing Tobias’ shoes was to see if we could find a solution to this puzzle. Equine bodyworkers couldn’t figure out why he was still so reactive. One of my colleagues/friends suggested that Tobias may have gotten a bit spoiled during his rehab and I might want to try spurs.

Now, I very well may have spoiled Tobias during his rehab, worrying whether or not he was comfortable. But another consideration is that two years ago Tobias’ back was quite different. His topline muscles had atrophied from the ill-fitting Collegiate and he had developed what the saddle fitter described as a “J” back. The County seemed to solve that, and I just loved it. Last spring, we had some of our best riding AND jumping!


Tobias sporting his Skito saddle pad (which I had custom-made to accommodate a cantle bag) and his new Albion SLK saddle.

This past year, I had saddle fitting concerns once again and had a veterinarian/chiropractor take a look at the fit last spring and he said it looked great. The saddle fitter came over in the fall and adjusted the flocking. But it just never seemed to fit properly again, hair was ruffled and then went white. No amount of adjustments or shims seemed to really help. I think what happened is that Tobias got into such great shape following his rehabilitation from colic (I exercised him nearly every day in-hand), that he outgrew the County.

Now, one of the reasons for enlisting a trainer was to be sure I used the spurs properly, which I had indeed purchased. After my first lesson with Frances, she said “That saddle just doesn’t fit him. Let’s try one of mine.” We rode in one of Frances’ Albion dressage saddles and everything changed. “With a better-fitting saddle, you might not even need spurs!”

While I am mostly a trail rider, I appreciate the lighter weight, less bulk and closer connection with an English saddle. The other consideration is that Tobias has a very short ribcage for a horse of his size, plus large shoulders, so his rideable back is rather short. Due to his conformation, Frances thought that the dressage framework might work better for him than the forward flaps of the custom-made County. After trying out four different dressage saddles — one of Frances’, two from the local consignment tack shop, and one from a gal in Franktown — I purchased a lightly used Albion SLK with a medium-wide tree.

Reluctantly: Saddle For Sale

I know many people keep a variety of saddles on hand for the changes in their horses, or new horses, but I need to sell anything not currently in use. So just in case you’re interested, I am now selling my used, 17.5 with a M, custom County.

Time will tell which choices work well and which don’t…

Happy Trails!

  • EasyCare Boots
    • I’m currently using a 10-yr. old pair of Old Mac G2′s but after getting input from my farrier/barefoot trimmer friend, Ruthie Thompson-Klein, I’m also ordering a pair of EasyCare Transitions, which is their newest boot. I’ll still need to gradually accustom Tobias to wearing either boot — to avoid chafing and for his proprioception. Having two pairs will allow me to alternate boots so that, once he is able to wear them longer, I can let his foot dry out in between and put on a fresh, dry boot.
    • Ruthie also suggested using Gold Bond Foot Powder. As it happens, I have another foot powder on hand — talc-free, paraben-free with tea tree oil — that I’ll use.

One thought on “Tender Footed :-(

  1. Diane

    Sorry to hear that you are experiencing some problems with Tobias’ front feet in going barefoot. But you may have a point about how our ground is lately with the freezing and thawing. I’m sure that doesn’t help.
    Nice to hear that Frances is helping you with saddle fitting for Tobias. Your new saddle looks very nice on him! Frances and I are not what I would call best friends, but we have known each other for about 20 years. I first boarded my old Morgan at Mariah Farms where Frances is when my driving trainer and I were trying to change JJ into a dressage horse for driving. I admire and respect Frances. Her stallion Fino is one of the most gorgeous horses I’ve ever seen – he’s the one she won her gold medal on. I got to see one of her Garrocha (Doma Vaquera) performances at the Stock Show one year during the “Dancing with Horses” show. And after my accident with Wren and just before I had to euthanize JJ, I took some dressage lessons with Frances to try to get myself re-organized in riding again. I rode Banjo, and I preferred Frances’ older dressage saddle over her newer, more expensive one. Frances was very kind to me and helped me with both my fear of riding again and also with my emotions in having to put JJ down. She’s a sharp lady. I didn’t last long in dressage again, though – my “jumper” legs just never have adjusted to the longer dressage leg! Hope your new saddle works wonderfully for you and Tobias!

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