Tag Archives: hoof boots

Cloud’s hooves

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.

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Cloud’s left front hoof, 23rd June 2013.

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Cloud’s left front hoof, 18th December, 2013.

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Some tack photos

I have stored an excessive amount of photos on my laptop and am doing a spring clean. I have come across these two possibly worth posting as regards tack and equipment:

Ben enjoying his Micklem bridle on the second bitless setting – where the reins are attached to a leather curb strap:

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The Trail hoof boots failing at the first serious test – we rode into a stream and then up a small bank:

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After all that…

Ben is rock crunching again. Last Saturday the clocks went back and we had only time for a short ride. So I thought this was a chance to ride without boots. He strode out across the roughest area and trotted over small loose stones with no difficulty. So we have ridden without boots since.

This is obviously huge progress since September. It could be due to being kept off grass all autumn. It could also be due to the track drying up once again – I am pleased with how quickly it drained once the torrential rain stopped. (Although as I type we are having icy showers.) So his frogs visibly improved. And it could also be due to the increased exercise he has been getting since Cloud has joined us – lots more riding.

At least I have hoof boots I can use when I need them. There is very definitely a need for a reliably useful pair that can be pulled out when needed; carried with me, perhaps, for a longer ride in the forestry or waiting in the tack room to provide reassurance when he becomes footy again.

He is looking great – getting hairier by the day, more muddy than one could possibly imagine, with a soft, bright eye and such a soft coat once the mud is brushed off.

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The vexed question of hoof boots

Barefoot woes. I remember my old riding instructor telling me she thought I was mad for going barefoot and her farrier boyfriend stating that you need shoes for the roads and “whatever you do, don’t use those awful hoof boots.”

But we have been rock crunching, we really have.

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Last summer we rode flinty forest trails truly barefoot. Sometimes Ben steps out on the very rough and stony roads here quite confidently without any boots. But not right now. Despite a track system, heavy rains have meant a lot of mud. Ben’s frogs are softer than they were a month ago. And the amount of exercise I have time to provide cannot combat this. So I need boots.

But which boots?

We started originally with Renegades and, while they came off a couple of times, I was generally pleased with how they performed and how Ben went in them.

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(A very hairy Ben in his new Renegades in winter time two years ago.)

He started with a size 2w, but after a few months needed a 2ww. I have never been completely happy with the boots since. They can come off in trot and they rub the outside heel bulb on his right hoof. I first discovered this as a small blister and since then I have played with the cable adjustments but with no great success. We have been riding regularly recently and I kept watching for rubs. One day Ben was snatchy with his right hoof after a ride and did not want me to touch his heel bulbs. I felt very bad and that was the end of those boots for me.

Finding a replacement has not been easy.

We have no supplier of hoof boots in this country. I have been in e-mail correspondence with Liz from Hoof Bootique in England who has been incredibly helpful. She suggested a larger sized heel captivator for the Renegades. My husband cast his engineer’s eye on Ben wearing his Renegades. He pointed out a dark patch towards the edge of the heel captivator on the right boot which seemed to correspond with the rubbing spot. He also suggested trying a bigger size heel captivator. But I have lost faith in those boots for Ben. Too many “ifs” and I want to boot I can be sure about.

Cloud wears Ben’s old, size 2w, boots with great success. They also look quite different on him and this has made me think of the different conformation of a cob. The shell of the boot also does not come up as high on Ben’s hoof as it does on Cloud’s.

So I tried Equine Fusions.

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I really like the concept behind design of these boots and, as Sandra is successfully using them on Minnie, I thought it would be worth trying them on Ben. Ben took a size above Minnie and when the boots arrived I went for a short hack. Ben over reached, which is not like him, and over reached so badly that he kept stumbling. I tried again with the same problem. Comparing them with Minnie’s, the size bigger has not just a bigger shell, but is also higher and it is obviously too high for Ben’s pastern. So the fabric bunches out behind. So they were returned.

So next I reached for a rejected pair of Cavallo Simple Boots which I bought in the early days of transitioning Ben. I had not even ridden in these as I really did not like how heavy and clunky they were. They fitted Ben, but I still was not happy with their weight. Liz suggested Easyboot Trails.

These are better, much lighter than the Cavallos but similar in shape. Ben seems happy in walk, trot and canter. But…

I am now quite worried about heel bulb rubs. The boots are soft and flexible around the pastern so I do not think they will rub there. But they have a serious design fault – there is a seam and rough part just where the outside of the heel bulbs would sit.

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It seems a ridiculous fault for these boots to have. So I have tried out the pastern wraps that came with the Cavallo boots. It took a bit of trial and error to get their position right so that they would not ride up on Ben’s hooves. But they seem to be working. Hopefully after a while I will not need them any more. Ben moves well in the Trails however they do not seem very robust and I would wonder how long the stitching will last.  But I aim to use these boots until they either wear out or fall apart.

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The Glove Back Country would be my preferred choice, without having tried them. But they do depend on a very regular trim cycle which I do not have. And do not even want. I am happy to give a tidy up rasp and we have a good farrier now who understands barefoot trimming and who can cast his expert eye over the ponies about every 2 months. That should be all they need.

On a positive note, Cloud is stepping on the loose stones in our yard without a problem now and his thrush seems to be gone. He also strides out well in his Renegades (and looks quite smart too).

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Cloud

We are getting to know Cloud. The obvious difference is that he is bigger than Rosie. Which means that he eats more. A lot more. I have them on hay at the moment and initially left their entire day’s hay ration in the big haynets under the trees when I did the evening feed. I came out in the morning to find it had all gone during the night, every last blade, and two extra round ponies were sleeping it off at the back.

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They share haynets. Cloud may be in charge up there but Ben is not intimidated and does not wait back, as Rosie did, for permission to advance towards some hay. He has even taken hay out of Cloud’s mouth, Cloud being an incredibly messy eater who likes to stuff large amounts of hay in at one go. So I took one of my big haynets and put it inside the other in an attempt to make the holes smaller. But when hay is pulled out of those holes the nets line up and the holes are no smaller.

I really like those large haynets. They have lasted very well and still look good for quite a few seasons. They have stretched – they now measure 2.5 metres across instead of 2 metres, so I have made adjustments to how they are hung. But the holes are too big. I bought the 60mm holed haynets so I have ordered one big 45mm net to replace them. I would like an even smaller hole – I have seen 25mm nets but none that fasten as these nets from heunetz do. The design eliminates much of that head jerking motion. I have also ordered a couple of corner nets for the stables.

And I am now soaking the hay.

I thought Ben hoovered his food. He is nothing on Cloud. Ben used to like to eat some hay, take a break, come back for more. Cloud parks himself by the haynet and does not stop until it is all gone, tearing huge mouthfuls out at a time. So Ben has to stay with him. Maybe Cloud does not realise he is supposed to be a trickle feeder?

His teeth have scored lines in his bucket. He has taken hay from the muck heap – hay thrown out as not even palatable to Ben. You cannot go near him with treats on your person.

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But with all that, he is a star. Without food around he is polite, confident but not pushy, and clearly knows his job.

He had shoes on his front feet only. They have come off and as shoeing was very overdue, the farrier was able to trim above the nail holes. He has been a bit footy on stony parts of the track. We are treating his front frogs for thrush and he got a stone bruise last week which I feared for a while was an abscess. But in the last few days he has been much less tender. Fortunately Ben’s original renegades fit his front feet. I had bought a size 2w for Ben which then became too narrow as Ben’s hoof widened. Cloud did get a surprise when they first went on. But yesterday we rode out together for the first time, Ben leading the way. Cloud was great. As time goes on he will need encouragement to take the lead. I would suspect he is very happy to tuck in behind. But for these early rides we will let him slip in behind as my daughter gains confidence on the road. (Or rather as her mother gains confidence – daughter is loving it all and full of plans for upping the excitement level of the rides.)

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Barefoot conundrum

Rosie has been clearly more comfortable since her recent trim. She is walking easier on hard ground and has lost that rocked back stance. It is my job to maintain that trim now – not that easy as it is a remedial trim that requires some courage to trim enough.

But Ben, there’s a different story. I was so proud of how well he had transitioned. We were hacking out on these rough roads without boots and it is hard to describe just how quietly satisfying that was.

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Since the trim he has been sore on the roads and I am riding him now in all four hoof boots. There was an obvious and immediate difference after the trim. So much that it felt wrong to be asking Ben to walk along the road and I found myself wincing with every step. It clearly affected Ben and he spooked his way around the circuit, relaxing and moving forward only on grass verges. I apologised profusely to Ben, looked at his lovely neat hooves and thought long and hard about this; as well I read everything I could, addling my brain in the process.

Was too much taken off? I had taken a very minimal approach to trimming all summer, just giving a light rasp where chips were. Ben, at Sandra’s, lived on wet ground and I rode him on roads as and when I could. And he clearly thrived, and his hooves, while maybe not very pretty, functioned very well, doing the job they needed to do. I really thought that after this last trim I was grasping far more the principle of how a hoof should be trimmed. Was I focusing on an abstract principle and not on a specific horse’s working hooves – Ben’s? What has happened for Ben with this trim? Clearly he is feeling sore. Was the hoof wall trimmed too close?  Was the toe backed up too much? Were the bars taken down too much? Or the heels? Did he have thicker areas of hoof wall, around the quarters which looked like flares? Did he need these and miss them when they were taken away? How closely did I observe his hoof over the summer? Clearly not closely enough.

I am going to back right off: hands up, stand away and let nature take its course. I will continue to enjoy our rides, as Ben so clearly does, thanking Renegade for making such good boots. When I clean out his hooves, I will look at them more closely, observing the growth and the changes.  I will also walk him out in hand, without boots, and at some stage, maybe after Christmas, I will ride him again without boots.

And that is all I will do for now.

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Four bare feet

Ever since I bought the renegade hoof boots for Ben, I have been riding him out in them. I had two boots for his front hooves first and he would still try to protect his back feet by walking on the grass verges where he could, rubbing my legs against the shrubs at the side. Then I bought a further pair and rode out happily enjoying Ben striding out in the centre of the road again, over loose stones and rough patches. Putting those boots on became part of the routine, just as much as putting on his saddle.

Then he got a small rub on his heel bulbs. It appeared as two small blisters high on the heel bulbs of his right front hoof. Now this was a moment of real panic for me. My (disapproving) farrier had warned me that whatever I did, “don’t use those hoof boots” as he had seen very bad rubs. I had liked the design of the renegades and been thankful that Ben’s feet were small enough for them. I e-mailed Gina at Renegade who was very helpful and told me that I was probably putting too much tension on the bottom strap of the boot. As far as I understand it, there are two areas where boots can rub: the coronary band and the heel bulbs. Renegade boots do not come up to the coronary band and the heel captivator is designed to move with the hoof, so rubs should not happen. If the bottom strap was tightened too much, the heel captivator seemed to ride up a bit, at least that’s what I noticed when I played with it. I had been tightening the bottom strap against loss of the boot.

So I gave Ben a break from riding out, which allowed me to spend time on the in-hand work. I am satisfied that the rubs, which have now healed, were caused by too much tension on the bottom (cable) strap of the boot. But I also thought about how I ride Ben and wondered if I really need to always use boots. I consider the roads around us to be quite rough but I started to notice how Ben was striding over rough ground with much more ease than he had done a few months ago.

So today we rode out with four bare feet. And he strode over the loose stones and the rough parts and did not seek the grass verges. My legs were safe and his legs felt very good indeed.

I will keep the renegades for the very sharp forestry roads but I think I can declare that, ten months on, Ben has now transitioned.

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