Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why Barefoot and Bitless?

One afternoon, I was spending my daughter’s naptime surfing the web (so easy to waste time in google-land!) for trail-safe, husband-safe, beginner-safe horses for sale, just out of curiousity. I ran across one gelding named Revere, and the ad specified that he was being ridden in a Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle, and that he was Certified Barefoot Trimmed.

I had never heard of either of these things before, and was intrigued the person writing the for sale ad would have taken the time to specify hoof care and type of bridle (I could have understood listing the type of bit!), and began searching for information.

I was unable to find certified farriers locally, and also learned that barefoot trims need to be done much more frequently; every 2-3 weeks compared to the 6-8 weeks I had been used to. I gave up the idea for a while, but revisited it every so often…the pesky idea, “I could learn how to do this myself!” kept coming up. I looked for a local clinic, or workshop, but to no avail.

By this time both Jack and Arabee were in desperate need of a trim, though they had long been barefoot (since 2002). I needed to do something! I determined it was time to take the rasp into my own hands, and teach myself the barefoot trim.

These sites were most helpful:

I studied the photos and perused countless other websites dedicated to natural hoof care.

I purchased a rasp and hoof knife (we already had a pair of hoof nippers around the farm).

I took “before” photos from front, left side, right side, bottom of each horse’s hooves. This photo is of Arabee’s feet from the front, on 9/26/08, they were in pretty desperate need of attention at this point.

I did two hooves a night. Fronts on one horse, hinds on one horse, then the next horse – a total of 4 night’s HARD WORK. We used a car jack stand with a towel folded up to help hold the horse’s foot, and on the first trim my husband helped me to squeeze the nippers to trim around each foot. This is hard to do – Jack’s feet (black hooves) were a lot harder to do than Arabee’s (white hooves). Then I rasped a mustang roll. The hind feet weren’t as hard (tough) as the front feet were. I was sore in places I never imagined. I mean, I figured my arms and shoulders would be sore, but what really surprised me was that I was sore from my butt all the way down my legs! So, be prepared – hoof work is a whole body exerciser!

Right after the first trim, Arabee was pretty tenderfooted on gravel even for groundwork, and even on grass under saddle. I’ve been trimming (after the first trim with the rasp only to refresh the mustang roll) every 2-3 weeks very regularly since the first trim, and she’s drastically improved! She’s always been tenderfooted undersaddle on gravel before, but now just a few months later it’s much improved than before we started the barefoot trim.

I am very glad to be able to say I trim my horses’ feet myself. I am much stronger than before, I have more control in how my horses are cared for than before, and am much more knowledgeable about their feet. I love the financial freedom from paying someone else to do what I can do myself. Compared to what I was paying annually before to trim two horses every 6-8 weeks I’m saving a ton. I also believe my horses are more comfortable being trimmed more frequently.

If learning about going barefoot strikes a chord with you, check it out, if not, well, no big deal, just put the info on a shelf in case it becomes useful to you later.

To those of you out there who keep your horses barefoot - What started you into it?

What results have you found?
Are you glad you barefoot?
What activities do you do with your barefoot horses?
I'd love your comments!

More info on riding Bitless next time!


Melissa said...

I started out like you - learning everything I could from those websites, and I ordered Pete Ramey's book. I had a barefoot trimmer out for about a year, and learned what I could watching him work, then started doing little bits between his visits. Eventually, I just maintained what he had done myself. I've been doing it for almost 2 years now, and have been really happy. I'm much more in tune with her feet than when I just signed a check, and 'checked out', so to speak. I splurge for a hoof jack after a year, and I love it. I'm reading your blog now, after seeing your post on Kitt's saddle fitting site. I'm hoping you'll see me and my horse's photos there soon too!

Melissa said...

Oh, and can you post some pictures of Arabee's feet for the 'after' comparison? I bet it would be a great contrast!

Nicole said...

Melissa -
How timely - I had just finished taking pictures of Arabee's feet this weekend. I hadn't decided if I was going to post them or not (too boring?) and your comment convinced me!

I know what you mean about the check-signing checkout!

What kind of riding do you do with your horses?

Glad to have you join in!