I thought I had a difficult journey in Ben’s transition to barefoot. I did not. What made it difficult was the absence of expertise. As Dermot and John lived far away, beyond their first few visits, we were on our own. I read as much as I could, trimmed as I understood I was taught and trusted to nature. Ben is a cob, with good hooves, and he is rock crunching right now.
Since June 2013 I have had the benefit of consultations from Maureen Tierney. Currently I am having monthly consultations to guide my trimming of Cloud’s hooves and am learning how much I did not know. I am also seeing big progress in Cloud’s hooves.
Cloud’s mild bout of laminitis in October forced me to pay great attention to his hooves. I was too sanguine about his recovery from this and allowed him turn-out too soon. I had some days and nights where he was clearly in pain, hating me touching his hooves and confined to his stable. He watched miserably as Ben had the happy task of chewing down a small section of the paddock. Once most grass was gone, Cloud and Ben were turned out on it. Cloud walked happily on the soft muddy ground and, seeing this, I made a firm resolve to stop worrying and trust in nature.
I had tried: vet’s visits – anti-inflammatories and suggestions to put shoes back on; hoof boots and pads – boots walked out of in no time at all; and every suggestion a helpful tackshop assistant could make. (One suggestion is well worth passing on: put Staysound on the sole of the hoof overnight, packed into the sole with a cut out section of a feedbag put on top. This tip from her time in a racing yard was very effective in bringing down heat and pulses in Cloud’s front hooves after I had turned him out on the track too soon.)
After a few weeks, Cloud’s energy started to increase, he started to become pushy with me and with Ben over his hay. When I stood my ground he circled me with a most beautiful springy trot. A few days later I decided he was ready for the track again. As extra insurance I put on hoof boots and EVA foam pads and out he went. He trotted around the track, out of these boots as well and I watched as he walked over stones and tackled the steep descent of the hill. He stayed sound. He looked happy again, energy up, in charge of his world and proving to me that the track works as a space for him and Ben and that time does heal.
Cloud and I opened up to each other through those few weeks of pain. He hated me touching his hooves, and, even with pain gone, was clearly anticipating more as he would snatch a front hoof from me as soon as I picked it up. I found no easy way through this. Time, lots of patience and help from Ben all played their part.
Yes, Ben helped. Clearly aware, one night he drew near me in the yard as I cleaned Cloud’s hooves. Snatch, snatch, snatch. It was wet and cold. I became very aware of Ben’s presence. I put down Cloud’s hoof, straightened up and looked at Ben. “Ben could you ask Cloud to bear with me. I need to do this.” A pause; call me crazy but I had a strange sense that something passed between Ben and Cloud. I bent down again and picked up Cloud’s hoof. He rested his hoof in my hand, brought his head around over my shoulder and licked my cheek. He stayed relaxed as I finished his hooves.
Cloud’s left front hoof, 23rd June 2013.
Cloud’s left front hoof, 18th December, 2013.