Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Barefoot Thoroughbred, A Comparison

Last July, trimmed by a "professional" for a year.

Three weeks ago, after being trimmed by me for the last 10 months.
As I've discussed before, Guinness' feet are a unique case. In case you're new, here's a summary of the important points:
  • When I purchased this horse he was in thick wedge pads in front and heavy steel shoes behind. The back shoes were set on his frogs. He does not have any navicular changes (x-rays to prove it) or bone issues that should necessitate wedges like that.
  • He is prone to thin soles, which have thickened and toughed considerably while barefoot on full turnout. Gravel roads are tough for him sometimes. It depends. He may have a slight insulin resistance, but it's nothing really worth watching right now (as he ages, it may).
  • He has severe fetlock arthritis in both front legs. (Did you look at the x-rays?) This keeps him from being able to extend his foot out and actually use it fully, resulting in chronically run-under heels. This could be fixed with pads, but pads + shoes add weight. Weight = extra strain on arthritic ankles. My vet recommended keeping him barefoot if I can, for the sake of his bones. Either that, or use expensive and annoying glue-on egg bar shoes. So, I keep him barefoot, and manage as best as we can.
Last summer, Guinness was still being trimmed by the local "barefoot trimmer." Most of the horses at my barn are done by her, and seemed to be okay. Unfortunately, Guinness was not one of these horses. After every trim by her he was lame for at least two days. I found this to be unacceptable. She seemed incapable of trimming him in a way that kept him sound, so I fired her. 

Of course, with no one else really capable of keeping him sound - I decided to give his foot care a try myself. After owning this horse for years, I was pretty familiar with what shape of foot he was soundest with, and how his feet tended to effect his arthritis. For example, he tends to do well with a fairly long toe. I think it helps compensate for the fact that his heels are always going to be run under (see the above point about his arthritis restricting his range of motion).

For the past year, he's been a sound and happy horse. I've learned a lot about his feet, and gotten stronger from standing under him holding his feet and rasping away. This winter was the first we didn't have long layups where he was too sore from arthritis to get work done, or too footsore from frozen ground. In fact, we ended up doing a lot of trotting and walking on the local gravel roads. He was fantastic. This summer, has been a challenge just keeping up with the massive amount of foot he's been growing. I've had to trim him every week and a half just to keep up! 

I'm not perfect at doing feet, and wouldn't touch another horse's feet unless I was as familiar with them as I am with my own horse. Even with Guinness, I'm not terribly confident. When I trim his feet, I try to keep them evenly balanced, watch for any strange flaring, and shorten his toes as much as possible. He seems happy, though. He tends to whuffle through my hair and nap while I work, and stands comfortably after I'm done. That's enough feedback for me, I suppose.

Anyone else dealt with extremely special needs feet? 

6 comments:

  1. Good for you!!!!! I manage every single aspect of my horses' daily life. Except their feet. I don't want to learn the intricacies of farrier work, but I do know what a good trim/shoe job look like. I have an AWESOME farrier who is happy to explain his work and the progress made with my boys' feet. I just don't want to do it myself. I am impressed with your ability to keep your boy sound and happy; that must have been a real challenge. Nice job!!!!!!!

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    1. You've talked about your farrier before, and he sounds like quite the catch! A good farrier really does make all the difference, I think.

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  2. I'm glad you found a solution that works for you! I love my farrier, it took a couple years to find him and another year of him getting to know Carlos and Carlos' feet but my farrier kept my horse very sound.

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    1. That's fantastic. I do think that having a farrier take the time to know your horse makes all the difference. I hope he's still around for Sir Spider Legs!

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  3. Bravo for trimming your horse' s feet. I think we as owner-trimmers are a somewhat rare bunch.

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    1. I really think so, too. I get some weird looks at the barn when I whip out the rasp, but the money saved and my horse's comfort mean more than weird looks! :)

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