Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Barefoot Hooves and Competition

I'm interested in hearing from all you barefooters out there:

Do you train barefoot, or booted? Why?

Do you compete barefoot, or booted? Why?

If you boot, do you boot all 4, or just front hooves?

I've got Renegades for the front, and Epics for the back, although I've never actually tried the epics on Arabee yet. Shortly after I purchased the boots, either something changed for Arabee where her feet got tougher, or it was the result of the ground thawing out and getting softer, but she has not needed to use the boots in training since I bought them. She is able to walk and trot with no trouble on gravelly sections of trail, and on gravel roads. Occasionally she finds a loose rock that hits a tender spot, but that is rare, and I only notice it at the walk.

I think I'd like to try competing barefoot, since when I say competing, what I really mean is compLeting....I won't be racing. On the other hand, I am a true newbie, to both barefoot and endurance, so I don't want to put Arabee's hooves at unnecessary risk. I figured for competing I might start barefoot, but carry the Renegades with me and put them on if need be. But, how would I know if I needed to - if she started moving "off"? And at that point, it would probably be too late for the boots to help.

So, any insight into this I'd really appreciate! Thanks!


Boots and Saddles 4 Mel said...

As you know, I'm a newbie to boots. All my completions have been in shoes except one, which was totally barefoot.

On LD distances I think totally barefoot (no boots) is probably fine, assuming you have decent footing. I do LD distances in training barefoot all the time. Once you start moving up distance I think it becomes mroe critical to have hoof protection. It's extremely difficult to pick up on horse that is sore equally in all feet, or the rear two/front two if the horse is half booted or half shod. They still move sound without a bob in the trot outs, but they are sore. I saw one such horse at Mount Diablo last year that was booted on the front. Sound, but the vet commented that she was starting to get sore in both hinds. This was at the 25 mile point in a ride that I thought had excellent footing (some gravelly roads, but not rocks, mostly hardpacked dirt). My guess is you could tell because the recoveries wouldn't be as good if the horse was sore.

The 50 I did barefoot had OK footing AND I went extremely slow. It was nice to know the horse could do it, but I probably wouldn't do it again. She wasn't off or particularly sore, but I just had a feeling she would have been more comfortable in boots/shoes.

I think a 50/100 mile race is such a significant finacial and time investment I would hedge my bets and use either boots or shoes, even if all my conditioning is done bare.

Sorry this was long!

Anonymous said...

I would use boots always at Clark State forest. Even for an LD and even for going slow. You don't want to pay all that money, just to have a pull for lameness you could have easily prevented. By the time you notice she needs them, it will be too late. I know there is a ride at the KY horse park, and that it's mostly on grass. I'd say that ride would be a good barefoot ride.

Michelle Detmer

Kari Elizabeth said...

The rides around here, especially up at Clark State, have very rocky footing and I know I will not be taking the chance with my horse. But its not because he NEEDS the shoes because his feet are actually very solid and I keep him on a hoof supplement, but I dont see a reason to take the chance. Imo, its better to spend the money on the shoes then to spend money on vet bills and xrays later down the road.

I'm not opposed to competeing in Renegades though especially for an LD on a horse with good feet and I would boot all the way around, again for precaution. I would however condition and train in them so your horse is 100% used to wearing and traveling in them in various conditions. All in all, I think you should try the first few rides with 4 boots, watch recovery times, and monitor anything that could even resemeble unsoundness and see how your horse does. Every horse will respond differently and if your lucky you have a low matianence horse with excellent feet ; )

Nicole said...

Hmm. I'm having difficulty wrapping my brain around this. What is the difference between training barefoot, no boots, and then at competition over the same surfaces you have to have boots? (since, after this Saturday, I'm really wanting to do training rides at clark the next two weekends)

Because as Kari said, I'd want to be training in the boots if I was going to compete in the boots so she was used to them. BUT, I feel there is a definite benefit to keeping a horse truly barefoot as much as possible.

I'm just having difficulty understanding why that doesn't translate to competition.

Since I really have pretty much zero experience, what is the general cause for lameness in a barefoot horse?? Is it too much wear on the sole? Is it stepping on a stray rock and getting a stone bruise (if so, can't that happen w/ a shod horse??).

I haven't seen hardly any of the Clark trails, but on the mountain grove loop we did there was only a short stretch of really nice, small size gravel, the rest was dirt trails. What I saw didn't seem to warrant boots, but again, there's 100 miles of trail there, I probably only saw 5 miles that day! Can you describe the rocky parts of the trail?

I see Michelle's point too about not wanting to risk lameness after working so hard, but I just wish I had a better understanding of exactly how much risk going barefoot would be.

Kari Elizabeth said...

I think the most common problem with competing barefoot is stress on the sole and making that horse "tender footed" especially if their feet are small in relation to their body and they dont have a wide sole and heel. Rocky terrain is hard on the feet themselves where as concrete is not as hard on the feet but harder on the legs because there is no extra "concussion absorber" from either boots or shoes....I need to go teach a lesson atm but I will finish this later!