Barefoot In the Park

Lucky had his appointment with the farrier today. I basically took my BO at her word that this guy (Rich) was good, and figured we would see how it goes. It was, for a change, a beautiful morning (though it’s since gone back to monotonous gray overcast) but bone-chillingly cold. I’m not the most highly motivated person in the mornings and a little sunlight helps. I got to the barn while the farrier was finishing up with Takota, and groomed in Lucky’s stall while he did Dom, the trotting pony. I’m not one hundred percent convinced that Lucky is as tall as I think he is–sometimes I just think next to Dom, and to the barely-scraping-fifteen-hands Takota and Trudy, he looks bigger than he is.

I brought Lucky out on the lead and let Rich have a look at him. The shoes came off right away. Lucky does not need racing plates with toe grabs on the back, especially not in deep powder snow. He toes are long (no surprise), his heels undershot, and while the quarter grab is indeed almost grown out, he had flaking, calloused heels on that foot and on the other three. We debated a bit, and decided that the best course of action is to just try and let him go barefoot and grow in more hoof. The snow right now is deep, soft powder to act as a cushion, rather than frozen ground, and I won’t be riding much or at all until after the thaw. Hunting and steep plates with studs is even farther off. Rich is leaving an old file for me, and gave me my first lesson in how to rasp off any flaking, shelly bits that come up.

According to Rich, his diet must have changed for the better since he’s been here, as there’s a visible difference between the old hoof and the new growth. Lucky’s diet these days is (besides peppermints, and cookies laced with joint sups) less than a quart of sweet feed and all the timothy-mix hay he can eat. Come spring, there’ll be pasture grass as well. Now it looks like we’ll be adding biotin, and I’m thinking it might be a good idea to try SmartPak. Having pre-measured, labled supplements where I don’t have to worry about doses being missed or forgotten might be worth the extra money.

Lucky continues his campaign to rewire people’s thinking on off-track thoroughbreds by being utterly blase about the entire experience. Rich joins the list of those who’ve commented on what a quiet, relaxed horse he is. He stood, lifted, and held his feet up when asked, with a minimum of punitive leaning. With the chain on his nose, he even kept attempts to nibble to a minimum (one thing I will say, he is a very mouthy horse.)

Rich asked if I were following a particular system, and this seems a good time to mention my feelings on ‘natural horsemanship’, training systems, carrot sticks, horse whispering, religious devotion to barefoot trimming, and so on. I told him no, not really. I’ve had horses since I was six (with only the recent five-year break) and my only real system is I do what worked before, and don’t do what didn’t work. He said it sounded like a pretty good system to him. I don’t think there is a training gimmick or system out there that will work every time with every horse, or that is always beneficial. I’m not so old yet that I think it was a different world when I was growing up, but those of us who weren’t heavy into the show circuit would just throw on the saddle and go. While I did have many years with various trainers, in some cases learning a lot more about what NOT to do with a hyper, recently-gelded OTTB, a lot of what I learned came from my best friend and I getting on our horses and just riding around. There was no step by step process. You went with what worked.

Rich had some concern that Lucky was going to be sore with bare feet, after probably having spent the better part of his life in shoes with low heels and long toes. He mentioned that if there’s a problem, we can try casts, but to give it a few days. Then he had me walk Lucky up and down the concrete aisle, and said maybe we weren’t going to have to worry after all. Lucky stepped off like nothing had changed-no worries about the hard surface and no hesitation or ouchy mincing. The BO opened the door to his paddock and I put him back in his stall to let him go out if he wanted. Lucky has been, up to this point, mostly walking out along the fence line that runs from the end of the barn to the corner and back, and not exploring much farther, at least since the snow started in earnest. While Rich started on Trudy (the BO’s redheaded mare), I went out to see how Lucky was doing.

There are already tracks in the snow across the middle of the paddock. While I watched, Lucky went to his usual corner and whistled (whether to Takota and Dom, who were in their pasture somewhere, or looking for Trudy, who’s normally just opposite him, I don’t know) and then looked for a place to paw. After trying that, he got down, and for the first time that I or the BO have seen, he rolled. Like every thoroughbred I’ve known, he can’t seem to roll all the way over, and got up and dug another spot so he could get the other side. Once he finished, he came back to the fence briefly, with snow on his face, and then went back to walking as if he’d waded through snow all his life. I don’t know if it’s comfort, or whether pulling shoes is a cue, but Lucky finally seems to have decided that work is really over for the year.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Louise
    Jan 12, 2010 @ 17:24:34

    I think it’s a good idea to leave him barefoot, if you can. It’ll toughen those feet up, and with the deep snow cover, he’ll be able to do that gradually. Interesting about the roll. Maybe taking those shoes with the grabs off did make him more comfortable.

    I’m enjoying your blog, and watching to see Lucky’s progress.


  2. Natalie Keller Reinert
    Jan 16, 2010 @ 01:59:05

    I’m a huge barefoot fan! I second the notion that the snow will only help. If he gets ouchy when you want to ride- there are always boots! And Keratex works wonders.

    My boy is quite mouthy as well, I say I get bit within the week. . . .


    • luckytocope
      Jan 16, 2010 @ 15:48:07

      I’m figuring if and when we’re ready to start real work, particularly field hunting, he’ll need at least front plates (especially if I need to add studs for going on grass), but if I’m not riding much and he can grow out foot, plus get his toes shorter and heels higher, why not? Plus if he has more foot, we can think about glue-ons instead of nail-ons, at least for the first set when we’re just doing arena work. The ground does not seem to bother him right now, though on the places where it’s melted enough to be a thin layer when it refroze he skidded a bit today. But still no ouchyness. A few months with nothing and he should have solid enough hooves to not worry about putting something on or leaving it off.


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