My mare Callie's only 1/8 Appaloosa ie but seems to have inherited hoof, skin and eye issues along with her spots. To be fair she's also been blessed with a great deal of common sense, sure-footedness and (important for a rider who is easily distracted) infallible radar for the way back to the barn, especially if she thinks she'll be late for dinner. One of the big reasons why several people I respect have called her the best looking App they'd ever seen is that her unique coloring (only calico-colored horse I've ever seen) is that her coloring comes as much from her sire, a roan named Grand Slam, a prince of an Oldenburg Iron Spring Farm. So she's a princess, the kind of horse that requires negotiation before she gives you her best, who looks down her nose at anyone so ill mannered as to shout. She gives me a certain look as she steps on the garden hose if the water is too cold or too hot, knowing that I will know to adjust the temperature.


She may be a bit spoiled but in a good way. She's patient, forgiving, affectionate. In turn, And she spoils me as well. I'm appreciative of her floaty trot, her positive work ethic, and natural collection, conformation good enough that it's easy for her, and her brain is hardwired for dressage. Unfortunately, though, over the years we've had a lot of down time, waiting for abcesses to heal or cracks to grow out. And as the saying goes, no foot no horse. Over the last year, Callie in her late teens and me well into my sixties, I've finally committed myself to putting issues with her feet behind us. And ferverently wish I'd made the effort a long, long time ago..


So if you too are ready to take the shoes off your horse, the first step is an evaluation from a farrier you trust--and Kenny's one of the best. If he says my mare can go barefoot, even though she's worn shoes her whole life, then I too can believe. To learn more about Kenny


When people talk about taking the shoes off their horses, they usually mention how much money they're going to save, and they probably will--eventually. It takes about a year to grow a hoof from coronet band to toe. Getting there is a bit of a gamble--don't spend too much time reading about abscesses, you're going to be on top of things before they turn ugly. Plan on making extra trips to the barn even on days when you don't have time to ride--I lucky that I already live here. And you're going to be seeing your farrier more often, every 5 weeks at the minimum. Ask him if he has an old rasp he can let you have so you can trim the occasional hang nail yourself. There's a shopping list as well, and don't bother waiting to see if you REALLY need all these things. You do and you will.


Transitioning from Shoes to Barefoot

Sometimes it's not a choice.

Farrier, Mentor and Guide
(full disclosure: also my son-in-law)
Time to go back to the drawing board.

Alexis and Callie

Shopping List

Kenny and I put this one together. We don't particularly endorse any of these products, these are just the ones we've used over the last nine months that seem to work.

Biotin supplement

To read more about the latest research on biotin


for more information about Biotin 800 Z Pellets, the hoof supplement we order from horseman's warehouse (which is kind of like Costco for barns)

Topical applications

One for wet weather, one for dry

To read more about Keratex



Keratex hardener has formaldahyde in it, which you don't want to get on your skin, or your horse's, but it works wonders to harden up the sole. Be sure to let it soak into the white line at the rim of the sole and coat the frog. Then use hoof gel topside, all the way up to the coronet band. No need to worry about thrush when you're using formaldahyde.

Brushes and picks

Having shoes on can make you lazy about picking out a horse's feet except right before you ride. Barefoot transitions mean as close to daily cleaning and checking as you can manage. I know it's healthier for a horse not to have those nails driven into her feet but I have to admit, it IS more work! Kenny suggested a small flathead screw driver for picking out bits of gravel out of the soft channel around the rim of the sole just under the hoof wall.

Front right

looked worse than the other three, but even feet that didn't have cracks had pink bruises that wouldn't have been visible on dark feet. That day I ordered trail boots, ones that fell apart after about a month but at least I learned that I NEEDED trail boots, except not big clunky ones that made her trip and came off when we cantered. 

Half Way There


March 2013

Kenny says her feet are looking great and not to worry about the cracks, that they'll grow out, and that the hoof walls feel entirely different than they did last summer. It takes about a year to grow a new hoof. Callie's shoes came off May 11, 2012. The day I took this photograph I changed tactics. If you're going to attempt this there are no half-way measures, it has to be a full on campaign right from the beginning. I knew that for Callie and me, one year wasn't going to be long enough. I ordered hoof supplement--and wished I'd started giving it to her about 15 years ago, when we first put a saddle on her and took her out on the trails. 

June 2013

Kenny tells me that her feet are looking great. Less bruising, cracks are superficial. What you can't tell from a photograph, though, is how different the hooves feel, as if they were made of ivory. I almost wonder if they weigh more, they feel so solid. But I know that we have a long way to go, that this is no time to slack off, and I've gotten used to cleaning and painting her up every morning before I turn her out. And it's time to order another tub of biotin Z.

Boots we love!

These are EasyBoot gloves. Kenny measured her feet right after a trim. Based on that, I sent away for a fit kit, letting Kenny take charge of that as well.  I use a rubber mallet to tap them into place. I put boots on all four feet when we ride, every time we ride. 

Cleanliness is a State of Mind

I've learned this the hard way, to look after your things by keeping them clean. Putting everything away lessens the stress level the getting ready for the next ride. I hose off my horse, her boots, the saddle pad, the girth and even give my paddock boots a quick once over. I swish the bit in a bucket and dry it off, using the damp towel to wipe down the bridle and saddle. Installing a warm water hose on the side of the house was one of the best $300 investments I ever made!   

Progress!

August 29, 2013

Callie is SO PATIENT about the morning routine, even though all the other mares are out already. She's a glutton for attention!


To Compare


The 'Before' picture for another horse in the barn. Today was day one in making the change from shoes to shoeless. A photo doesn't convey the soft feel of the sole, the white line almost gummy where it has been covered by shoes for so many years. Maybe we're starting a trend! Every horse and every situation is different but Kenny's given the thumbs up on this horse and the dedication of the owner, the third pair to undertake the process. Not a commitment to be taken lightly!

Flies

See the page on Pest Control for cost-effective ways to make the farm a more pleasant place to live in the summer, for people as well as horses. Kenny stresses the importance of protecting horses from flies because stomping feet loosens shoes and can crack hoof walls. And besides we want to keep on good terms withthe neighbors who of course don't want to live with swarms of flies--better that they not think about flies at all, and just admire the (very cute!) pair of geldings in the front pasture.

August 29, 2013