The ride made me realize something.
Mel, over at Boots and Saddles, recently did a 2 part series on the Iron free hoof and how it has improved her horses feet. Her post and my recent ride inspired this post.
I have had similar experiences. In late 2008, JB's first season of training of endurance (and mine!), he sustained a pretty bad bruise to his sole and heel, with an iron shoe, no less. Before that injury , JB never traveled in a way that I would have considered normal. While he wasn't lame,he was terribly slow and just had a funny way of going.
After his injury in August 2008, my vet insisted I have a farrier put him in therapeutic pads and EGSS shoes (Gene Ovnicek). So I did. There wasn't much of a choice. JB was so sore, he had to be kept comfortable enough to be able to move, in order to heal. After 8 weeks, the shoes and pads came off. his bruised heel and sole were about 75% better but he was not 100% sound. His xrays revealed the culprit, thin soles, which was a surprise, given his breeding. At that point , I had a choice. Keep him in pads and shoes for the remainder of the summer to protect him and hope for little long term health of his hoof or keep him barefoot and work on getting his long toe, low heel syndrome better sorted out, while improving the health of his hoof. Pretty simple decision. I had already done some reading up on the barefoot trend and now was as good a time as any to give it a go.
For the next several weeks, I went through the painful process of finding the right fitting boot. This was an education all by itelf. Turn out JB doesn't have typically shaped feet. or , atleast the typical shaped foot that the boots were based on. His are very round feet and not oblong at all. Unfortunately the easy boot glove didn't even come close to fitting. His hoof popped over the edge of the boot and he looked like the horse hoof version of the "muffin top" look. After a few phonecall, remeasuring a few times, and reordering, we finally got the Epics. They almost fit perfect... almost... JB has what I can best describe as short feet, meaning there is not much distance between his coronet band and the bottom of his hoof. The Epic was just a bit too deep for him and it sat dangerously close to hitting his coronet band. I finally ended up ordering the medium insert pads for the Epics, which I needed anyways to protect his sole. It added just enough of a lift for JB's foot. Additionally I cut away the tongue for added safety as his foot settled in the boot. As soon as those boots went on him, he literally jumped for joy, bucking and leaping on the end of the line like a trout. I knew I had made the right decision. It was a defining moment for JB, me and our future in endurance.
Here is a photo of one of his newer boots( we are on our second pair since March of 2008) Sorry or the blurriness but you can see that the tongue is cut so when this boot is buckled down there is just enough tongue to protect the foot from the wire digging in.
The only other trouble I ran into was that I could not use boots on JB's hind feet. He is so short coupled and overreaches so much, that he was busting the buckle on the back boots with the bottom of the front boots. I tried everything to remedy this until I just had to give up. As a result, JB was shod on the hinds all of the 2009 season. Even with the shoes on back, he still interfered and you can see in the photo below how he catches the left side of both front boots, to the left on each one... I consult with a natural balance farrier with JB and had him check everything out . It appears to be simply how JB travels and not something that trimming can necessarily correct. It jsut beats the hell out of the boots....
All in all, JB did well throughout all the miles of conditioning that we covered in the 2009 season with boots on. We crossed rocky river bottoms, sludged through mud, scrambled through shale and finished our summer out with a second place finish in volcanic rock footing... all with the boots. I also saw a tremendous improvement in the way JB traveled in general. he finally stated reaching and moving out. I have no reason not to believe it was strictly due to the boots. Barefoot has served JB well indeed. The only time I have had any trouble with the epics is that in one of my late fall rides about a month ago, the tongue of the boot dug into JB's hoof wall a little, leaving an indentation. Nothing major but I had never had this before. I can't figure out what was different that time, maybe I didn't have the boot tight enough or on his foot correctly.
Now as winter has begin to bear down her icy grip, Satuday's condition ride was a reminder that the Epics aren't for ice and snow. JB was losing traction and slipping on the 1/2 inch of snow we rode through. I absolutely cannot risk another issue by riding him without some type of hoof protection and even if I could, we get too much ice and snow that even barefoot would be hazardous. While I want his frog, digital cushion and lateral ligaments to be stimulated as they are while barefoot, I also have to be safe. If I have any chance of maintaining any level of fitness with JB between mid January and the end of March, I have to put borium shoes on , along with pads. I am not real excited about it but will 3 months of shoes and pads really ruin anything?
I would say probably not. His feet came out of pads in November looking very good and he had been in them since early spring with trims every 6 weeks.
While I really have embraced the barefoot trend and have seen my horse first hand experience the benefits from it, I also have to consider the climate I live in while trying to maintain a level of fitness for JB. More importantly, I have to take into account safety. Borium shoes offer that. Ofcourse, just because I have borium shoes doesn't guarantee I can ride all the time. Sometimes, the footing simply gets too bad, even with borium.
What's everyone elses take on borium's? Likes/dislikes? I'd like to hear about it.