Wednesday, September 3, 2014

SOS: Barefoot Toes

One of my favorite things about the blogging world is the access we all have to each other! Our experiences, tips, advice, knowledge & stories! I learn something new almost everyday reading, and discover new horsey blogs weekly. Its a wonderful little-big network!

This is mildly redundant, considering my last post. But a lot of you commented with advice and I wanted to formally reach out and ask for it! (Note: I NEVER dislike unsolicited advice and am always welcome to ideas and thoughts! Unless you're rude about then BAI)

If you read my last post (posted Tuesday) then you are aware that I am mildly losing my shit over the fact that my farrier and I co-decided the best option to fix Yankee's fucked up feet was to pull shoes. temporary for now, unless he improves and then we will keep him bare until show season.

Thats a BIG "if".

In the past, his feet have aggressively self destructed sans shoes. He can't go without them, but now he seemingly can't go with them either. But, over the years, repeated intrusion of nail holes and the ever slow contraction of his heels have basically created the worst pair of "healthy" feet out there. 

Meaning, he can't hold a shoe, but he is NOT lame.

My question to you all has many parts.

1) Anyone out there with equally as shitty OTTB feet to manage? How did you?
2) If recently barefoot, how did you manage the transition? Boots? Salves? Supplements?
1a) if you picked boots, PLEASE explain how
-where purchased
-HOW SIZING WORKS (so clueless I can't even)
1b) salves? 
-what kind/usage?
1c) Supplements?
-what kind
What my farrier gave me as our managed care plan (oh god, using Medicare terminology) was a bottle of turpentine, and his phone number. Basically said good luck, call me if he goes lame and we will tack shoes back on and hope his feet don't disintegrate.
What *I* would prefer is that this POA actually works and his feet grow back healthy and we can go about using shoes during show season, and go barefoot all winter. Thinking long-term here.
So I'm kind of flying blind here. Never gone from a horse who NEEDS shoes, to going barefoot as a treatment option.
**apologies for went wonky halfway through and I am no code writing genius


  1. Ugh. I have done this and it is bloddy hard and not always a good idea, but you already knew both of those things.

    1. Call your local tack store and ask if they have an easy boot fit kit. It's just a bunch of easy boots of different sizes in a bag that you should be able to check out and try on to find the right fit. The whole "measuring in millimeteres" sounds terrifying. I'm sure other kinds of boots work too, but we had a local rep and my vet recommended them. They aren't hard to get on and off and (bonus!) they never did rub the old man.

    1b. Beware of boot funk. Srsly. Nastiest smell ever.

    2. Salves--I used Rickets (I think?) to help toughen up soles. I'm not convinced it did anything, but it was a strong smell that wasn't boot funk, so maybe it helped? On the recommendation of a farrier, I'm currently putting hoof conditioner on Courage every day. It's lanolin based, so keep out moisture. I apply it in the morning before turnout to try and cut back on the murderous wet/dry cycle that is summer turnout.

    3. Supplements--I'm about to go here due to SOMEONE growing no hoof but adding lots of flare all over. My science friend (aka eventer79 highly recommended smarthoof, which you can actually buy in buckets through smartpak now if you aren't set up on them already. (I'm not. I've been avoiding supplements.)

    Hope you enjoy the novel and best of luck with yanks. :-/ I have had terrible luck with barefoot thoroughbreds, but you could be the exception!

  2. I'm blessed with an OTTB with great feet, but I was very proactive when transitioning barefoot. These things were recommended to me by a gal who goes Prelim barefoot, and they've really helped.
    1. Keratex hoof hardener. (It was pricey so I got TuffStuff instead. Ended up getting the Keratex later and wished I hadn't wasted $$ on TuffStuff).
    2. Zephyr's Garden Thrush Spray. At the tiniest hint of foul smell or dark goo, spray away for several days!
    3. Mineral supplement. We (Prelim gal and I) use CA Trace because formulated to supplement CA hays.
    4. Walking on concrete. Sounded counter-intuitive to me, but it really helped the transition a lot.

  3. I have a TB with whom I do endurance. We completed our first 50 mile ride this summer. She has been barefoot for the last 3 years. We average about 20-30 training miles a week, at least half of that bare. Training rides over rocky footing or if it's been raining (rain = softer feet) occur in boots.

    She still has thin TB soles but when it's dry, she is sound over gravel. She lives outside 24/7 but if it's going to rain for more than 24 hrs straight, she gets brought into a stall overnight so her feet can dry.

    My friends:
    - Durasole. Was recommended by multiple farriers who compared it to Keratex for hardening hooves, but at a fraction of the cost. Valley Vet sells it. Paint it on Yankee's soles every other day and/or before riding. This stuff is pretty incredible. Valley Vet sells it for $12/bottle.
    - Magic Cushion. It is truly magical. Draws out inflammation and also hardens soles. Pack it into Yankee's soles/frog, sprinkle some sawdust over it, and put him back in his stall. Best done overnight, since you keep him in at night.
    - Hoof boots. I use Easyboot Gloves for training rides, Renegades for competition. You can buy the Gloves on for $60/boot with free shipping. They also do free returns. Measure his feet in mm (go to for instructions) and order the boots that match most closely. Don't measure in inches and convert: that is a PITA and will get you inaccurate measurements. Just do mm from the get-go. Gloves should be quite snug: they should be hard to get on and they so stretch a bit over time with use. Only put them on for riding; don't leave them on all the time.

    The more he walks barefoot, the faster his feet will toughen up. Don't hesitate to work him as usual with boots. I second the recommendation for walking barefoot on pavement. We do walks on our barn's looooong driveway about once every other week for hoof toughening benefits. The drier his feet are, the faster they will toughen up. Do expect some ouchiness if his turnout gets very muddy (mud/moisture = softer feet), though being in a stall half the time like you do with him should help prevent that. It takes about 3 months for hooves to toughen up.

    I live in MD, where we get wet springs and falls. I use boots more during these two seasons, but work my mare almost exclusively barefoot in the drier summer and frozen winter, NBD. Good luck with Yankee's feet! Hope this helps. :)

    1. Ok, so now that I'm on a normal keyboard and not responding from my phone :)

      I can tell you right now that finding the right hoof boots for your horse, for you and for what you're doing can be a MONUMENTAL PITA. BUT: once you find boots that work, it can be pretty freaking awesome. And it is SO much cheaper than shoes in the long run. Here's the rundown on what I've used, what worked and what didn't:

      Cavallo Hoof Boots:
      Pros: they are easy to fit for and they are convenient. They are easy to put on and take off, and they tend to stay on. I had no problems with them coming off. They are also pretty affordable at $120/pair.
      Cons: they are sold in pairs, so if Yankee has different sized feet (as many horses do), you're going to have to deal with one boot being too snug or the other too loose. If you ride through mud, it tends to accumulate in the treads and the boots become quite slippery. (I have not had this issue with other boots.) They also become quite heavy when wet. And they are made of leather, so if it's humid out, they will take forever to dry out. If you're riding for more than an hour or if the boots are wet, they can chafe badly. Especially if you have a sensitive-skinned horse. The pastern protective thingamabobs don't stay in place over extended periods of time at faster gaits (trot and canter) and I also tried Vetrap without success. Andrea over at The Reeling had success with the Cavallos for endurance training but not in competition (30 miles) - the boots chafed her thin-skinned mare.

    2. Renegades/Vipers: both are made by Lander Industries and can be purchased at
      Pros: The company has OUTSTANDING customer service and they have a boot fit guarantee that no other company has. They will help you figure out size and if the boots don't fit, you can send them back (despite having used them) for boots that will fit. They are sold individually, which is awesome. Renegades fit a spade-shaped hoof (pointier toe) better, whereas the Vipers work better on rounder feet. They have cables and straps but once you have them adjusted, you don't need to mess with the cables again. Unless they snap, which can take several hundred miles of use to happen. They are some of the coolest boots around because they are made to move with the horse's hoof, which usually means no chafing (as long as they are properly fitted and work with your horse's hoof shape). I have had NO problems whatsoever with these chafing. They have a very aggressive tread and I have had no issue with slipping when using them over all sorts of terrain including rocks and mud, sometimes on the edges of cliffs. They are lightweight and don't hold in water. At endurance rides I'll slap them on the horse when we get there the day before the ride and leave em on until after the ride some 48 hours later. No ill effects. The design is open enough to avoid mud/sand/debris/water accumulation.
      Cons: they are pricey at about $80/boot. And they are meant to fit slightly loosely. Why is this a problem? Because newly transitioned hooves will get larger, as will the feet of a horse who's increasing distance training. My mare went up a FULL SIZE when she went from riding in the arena to 30 miles a week on the trails. It only took a few months to outgrow the boots that I had spent $400 to buy! Yes, I had a full set! (And yes they have a boot fit guarantee, but it's only good for a couple of rides, not months.) So I honestly do NOT recommend Renegades for a newly transitioning horse because Yankee's feet are going to change so much in the next couple of months. The good thing: these boots retain their value and are coveted. I was able to sell my outgrown boots after a few weeks posting them on the Renegade Facebook page.

    3. Easyboot Gloves
      Pros: they are made to fit snug but will also stretch a little with use. So they are actually perfect for the newly transitioning horse because they will fit for a long time. Sizing is easy as long as you measure in millimeters and you can get a free fit kit if Yankee is between sizes. Riding Warehouse has the best price on them: they are sold individually at $62/boot; if you buy more than one at a time, it's $60/boot. Free shipping and free returns with this company, and they do offer the fit kit. When fitted properly, these boots STAY ON. And I really like that they don't have cables that need adjusting. Also, if you lose a boot, it's less expensive to replace than Rennies. I've lost one of each. :/ They work well with Vetrap underneath them if necessary or Easycare Mueller tape (Riding Warehouse also carries it for $2/roll.) I've used these on boots that I later realized were a titch too large and it helped with boot retention issues. Once sizing has been figured out, I've had these stay on through cannon bone-deep mud. I've never ever ever had these chafe. They too have an aggressive tread: no problems with slipping either. They do encase the hoof so I don't recommend leaving these on for more than a day at a time, as they will retain moisture and the hoof will sweat in them, making the sole softer. They are lightweight and the snug fit means there is no room for actually retaining volumes of water and mud like the cavallos will do.
      Cons: the materials used for the gaiters are flimsy. They drive me bonkers. The Velcro is shitty and the seams on the edges of the gaiters tend to fray, which will affect boot fit. (They need to take a hint from Renegade and use THAT kind of Velcro for the gaiters!) I've had to replace gaiters every 100 miles or so. Still cheaper than buying an entirely new boot: Glove gaiters are about $23/gaiter. Given your choice of sport, however, I doubt you'll have as much a problem with them as myself: I'm out there on my mare scrambling over rocks, through rivers and mud, so my boots do take a monumental beating!

      So there you have it with boots. Use the boot measurement guide for the specific boot you decide to use and measure in millimeters. Sizes are NOT universal from one boot company to another, sometimes not even from one style boot to another from the same company. And I do strongly recommend getting a hoof rasp for keeping flares in check in between trims. This will help ensure that the boots continue fitting between trim cycles. Your farrier can give you one of his old ones for free. A lot of farriers are willing to help you out and show you how to do a quick maintenance trim. It's less work for them in the long run. ;)

    4. When it comes to supplements, I'm kind of meh about the hoof supps. The best thing for healthy hoof horn is a mineral-balanced diet and those are hard to do if you are in a boarding situation or can't always get hay from the same supplier that is grown in the same fields. If you're in this kind of scenario, you want a hoof supplement with biotin, yes, but you also need copper, zinc and methionine. One of my favorite hoof supplements is Kauffman's Integri-Hoof: The problem is that it doesn't come in Smartpaks. I've switched over to Farrier's Formula Double Strength, which has similar ingredients in the same ratios, and is available through Smartpak...but at treatment doses is twice the price of Integri-Hoof!

      I know this all sounds daunting, but once you have everything figured out, it really is smooth sailing. It's just a process in the beginning.

  4. I used Farrier Barrier religiously when transitioning my horse last fall.

    For boots, I used my barn's Boa boots. Bobby now goes in a size 2--that's pretty big for most shitty footed TBs, but his feet have grown enormously since losing the shoes. I like the Boas better than Easy Boots because I think they're a lot more forgiving if you don't get the perfect size. Without a doubt, boots are going to be your best friend if you want to go even remotely long term without him being miserable.

    Supplements? Eh. Haven't really found anything that blows me away, and I've tried a few different ones over the years.

    And trust me--I always thought Bobby would not survive a millisecond without shoes. He was literally pulling one a week though, and now he's cruising around sound totally naked. If you put the time in and don't cave to mincing sad pony pants, it can happen.

  5. We went barefoot right after I got Val because two days into horse ownership he pulled a shoe halfway off one of his his shelly, thin-soled tb feet, and I had to yank them. Had no tools at the time so that was fun. Barefoot takes a while, and a farrier who understands barefoot hoof balance is important.

    1. Venice turpentine for toughening the sole.

    2. Veterycin (holy water) to defend against foot funk.

    3. I feed straight biotin that I buy inexpensively in bulk - way cheaper than the combo supps.

    4. If you haven't been to Rockley Farm's site you might check it out - tons of great info about how diet affects feet

    5. Walking on hard surfaces - strongly urged by my farrier. My guy lives on straight sand here at the beach, so I have to take him out to the road to do this. He's doing well now, but I would still use boots on gravel. Got him a pair of Cavallos... fitting boots is nerve wracking. Cavallo has little socky things that prevent pastern rubs... Good luck!

  6. Both my boys ended up going barefoot roughly 2 years ago. I use Keratex hoof hardener on both horses religiously and more frequently in the summer. I would have tried Durasole, but the instructions for application were crazy. I also found that using fly wraps in the summer really helps the hooves since it reduces stomping. I would do it with or without shoes now that I've seen the difference.

    Phoenix (appendix paint) was happier without shoes from day 1 (farrier kept trying to fix his angles and use pads but he would go lame) but to this day still has a rough time walking on gravel. Mind you my barn's gravel is not evenly spread out and there are big pieces so it's not very friendly. I've considered boots several times as he doesn't like the one arena at the barn that gets hard, but I mostly ride him in the grass in the summer where he's perfectly fine.

    Stampede got his shoes off at the beginning of winter before last because he slid so bad outside with shoes we had to add rhodium balls but then he instead was getting too much grip while riding and kept tripping and almost fell with me a couple times. By then I had already transitioned P, so I did the same gig with Keratex and he's done way better than I would expect for a TB. He can walk on the gravel better than P but gets more peeling and flaring. I use a file to clean up the sharp edges between trims.

    You can do barefoot, you just have to figure out what works.

  7. I didn't read all the comments, so sorry if this is double advice, but Keratex is AMAZING. Spendy, but so worth it. I can't count how many times I've had a horse recently barefoot or trimmed too short and have sore feet, apply it and next day, no soreness. Boots, I use Renegade and Easyboot epics. I'd recommend the easyboots. Stay on great! My farrier recommends padding them with yoga mat material if needed.

  8. I had an OTTB who I owned for 15 years. For the first 5+ years I tried everything to keep his shoes on more than 4 weeks per shoeing and avoid losing shoes in between shoeings, it was a nightmare. I tried many supplements but none seemed to make much difference. He actually did the best when we pulled his shoes (if you had asked me earlier I would have said that this would NEVER be possible), I was shocked. Once I pulled the shoes I never went back. I find that farrier's fix helps a lot, it has been recommended by both my farrier & the vet, it really helps to harden their hooves. Good Luck.

  9. I took my guys off and just let them grow. He had shoes for 6 years straight and it was an adjustment but it played out well. Hes now 10)% sound barefoot and still jumping and what not. I took them off right before I give them a few months off in the winter though, so that might have helped.

  10. I have an OTTB (retired eventer) who spent her first 16 years shod, and part of that was with wedge pads/shoes/tomfoolery to attempt to counter act her contracted heels and long toe problem. My experiences:

    1. Smarthoof Ultra made a difference for my mare. I did back off to a cheaper supplement but I would put her back on in a second if I could afford it

    2. Keratex is so-so for me - I think it's precariously bottled with the stupid brush and I don't know how not to fill the stuff with dirt when applying. I think if you can put it on daily with a minimum of PITA factor it is definitely helpful. I am a little leery of Durasole because of the directions and the fact that it has some pretty nasty ingredients.

    3. I have my farrier do short short toes for break over (related to the contracted heels, long toe problem) and ask him to mustang roll as much as he is willing too. This helps reduce the cracking/flaking/splintering on the edges - I purchased a rasp this summer as well to help head off the bigger issues. I trim every 7 weeks with the farrier and use fly boots to reduce stomping, which helps preserve the feets.

    My farrier also does some Equi-Pak work, and while the options are limited for bare horses, I would try it if you have a lot of sole problems in particular. I've used it with shoes and it really aids in comfort and weight bearing sole.

    4. I haven't gone to using boots (retired pony loses to showing pony in funds) but would go for Renegades if you can; they are a very cool product and I think they're one of the best products out there, and the closest that would come to fitting my mare who has wide, rounded but short feet.

    Please keep us up to date with Yankee!

  11. I think every pretty much covered everything, but I do want to explain something that will hopefully make sense to you... I suck at explaining things lol. The reason boots are such a great idea for a horse like Yankee is because exercise is so important to building a strong healthy hoof. If he gets ouchy and can't be ridden or worked then his hoof will be weak and won't decontract. If he has boots on he won't be in pain so he will land heel first and that is what builds up the heel bulbs, decontracts the heels and builds a strong hoof. It's also EXTREMELY important to keep a bevel on his hooves by rasping only the hoof wall. You do NOT want the hoof wall to touch the ground. When a weak hoof wall supports the weight of a horse it crumbles, cracks, splits and flares. Very important to keep the hoof wall off the ground. They are meant to carry their weight on their heels and frogs, not the wall. That's why shoes aren't good for hooves. It puts all of their weight on their walls (think about walking on your fingernails since they are connected in a similar way) and prevents the hoof from expanding when it takes weight which restricts blood flow. It's all more complicated than that, but I hope that will help it make sense. :D I left other advice on your previous post too. I hope it all works out and I'm glad you're getting great advice.