I have a track system, which works very well, and is inspired by paddock paradise models. These models are concerned with ways to optimise movement in a horse and minimize access to sugars in order to preserve barefoot hooves. Going barefoot was not an initial issue for me. There is no local expertise and it is not something I would attempt on my own. So my track system accomodated Ben in his shoes; and Rosie.
Rosie of course is barefoot of necessity. She came to us, hobbling, with poor topline and ugly bulges on her hooves. Two years later she is running around with a gleaming coat, a good topline and those bulges have grown out.
Of necessity too, Christophe Mouze on Clare Island transitioned his horses to barefoot. Clare Island lies off the coast of Co. Mayo and Christophe could not persuade a farrier to reliably cross that often stormy stretch of ocean to tend to his horses’ hooves. So he researched other ways and found Dermot McCourt, a farrier who now specialises in barefoot trimming and is a member of AANHCP. When Sandra and I saw that Dermot would be giving a course on going barefoot in Clare Island this September, we booked places.
We arrived by ferry on a gloriously sunny Friday evening having left our car on the mainland. We went for walks to explore this beautiful, if bleak island.
On Saturday of course the rains swept in. We met Dermot and his son John, listened to an enlightening talk on the structure of the hoof, together with bone samples and a scary hoof capsule with a clip from a horseshoe embedded in it. Then we all piled into the back of two vans and bounced around the island roads to visit ponies in need of trimming. Mostly they were Connemaras who had never had shoes, but on Sunday we saw two of Christophe’s horses who had worn shoes for quite a few years and were told of their very different transition issues.
We left the island with plenty to think about, greatly increased knowledge of the hoof, and, for me, a realisation of how fundamentally simple and logical barefoot is.
I’m convinced. We will ask Dermot to come down to take the shoes off our horses, look at what is underneath and trim accordingly. I really hope I can keep my own farrier on board with this and will invite him to meet with Dermot to discuss everything involved.
But I am convinced. Before this weekend my thought was “if”, now it is “when”.