Sunday, 25 November 2012

OK, the kids are both having a nap and it's ridiculous degrees outside so I thought I'd do another post given the amazingly good conditions!

How did I get into barefoot? Especially in a sport that is quite set against it....well, it all started with a friend of mine who is a mad endurance rider (and ranked in the top 10 in her weight division nationally). I listened to her talk about endurance horses completing 180km rides barefoot with no problems at all - in fact these horses usually pulled up better, recovered better and had longer competition careers than their shod counterparts. I was incredulous. Then I started firing up the old Google and there they were, these miraculous horses. With photos!!

I bought a book called Barefoot Performance and read it cover to cover, but it was firmly written for the UK audience where the problem is usually too much moisture, not a problem I experience often here in Canberra! But I learnt a lot about how the hoof works, the damage shoeing can do to the hoof structure and function, and the massive effect diet and exercise have on the health of the hoof.

The young warmblood I had just purchased had never had a shoe on, so I thought he was a good guinea pig, rather than trying to rehab a horse from shod to barefoot. But there are some pretty serious issues to consider when it comes to eventing in Australia:
  • Is a barefoot horse able to gallop across the different terrains of cross country in Australia?
  • Boots are no longer permitted in ANY phase of eventing by Equestrian Australia, for reasons unknown, so I can't take preventative measures
  • What about grip? I can't use studs (or boots) to increase my horse's grip in slippery conditions
I have so far been able to navigate my way through these obstacles successfully, but we're still at the lower levels. Grip has certainly never been a problem, and when I look at the underside of my horse's hoof I realise that the entire hoof wall is like a big hoof shaped stud. He's yet to slip at all, even on the slidey grass most shod horses skate on. I've worked hard to toughen up his hooves on dirt and gravel roads, and bitumen when I can, so he shows no change when traveling fast over the hardest ground, and he appears to have vastly increased proprioception, allowing him to protect his feet from injury on rocks.

More on that in the next installment!

Barefoot Eventer is born!

When I was first exposed to barefoot horse management a couple of years ago I looked and looked but found almost nothing on the internet from Australian eventers. I realise I am in the distinct minority campaigning a horse barefoot in one of the toughest equestrian sports on what is usually very hard and rough going. But the benefits to my horse have been such that I have found myself quite committed to this approach and wanted to share my journey online for the benefit of other eventers (or riders in general) in Australia looking to compete barefoot.

A bit about me, so you can decide if I sound like your kind of blogger: I'm 33, I work in the legal profession, I have two kids (my eldest is 3 and has Down syndrome, my youngest is 7 weeks) and a very understanding husband. I own two horses. The Barefoot Eventer original is a warmblood/Irish Sport Horse of dubious character who just turned 6 and, until I put him out for 7 months to have a lad's holiday while I was pregnant, had started competing EA80 (ie Intro). The other horse is a 3 year old Irish Sport Horse of gargantuan proportions who is off having adult time with a very handsome ISH stallion. I agist my horses and live in town, though hopefully this will change in future.

If you're still with me, thank you! My next post will detail my introduction to barefoot and I'll post a couple of pics of my horses' feet to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. The gelding has 'pony feet' according to the trimmer, but the mare's feet are a little more complex. And their hooves change constantly with the weather, season, diet, terrain and workload. More on that next time!