How I came to Natural Hoof Care.
I am sharing a story of a lame horse not to solicit opinions or stir opposition, but hopefully some part of my story will help someone out there with their own lame horse. Someone who is totally over-whelmed with no idea of what to do next.
In March of 2019 I bought a 7 year old Missouri Foxtrotter gelding. Like many horse owners out there, I brought my new boy home and called the farrier straight away because I wanted to start riding.
This horse had been a pasture manager for a number of years and had been barefoot all of that time. My farrier came and performed our first trim and set a new pair of shoes. Off we went to Arkansas for a week of trail-riding. During this ride, I thought I felt something off in his stride, however it was so slight I blew it off, and also as we were a new team, and this was our first ride, I thought maybe I just didn’t know him yet.
In early May 2019 we received our second trim and shoe set. At the end of May we went riding to a local park. While going down a very steep rocky hill he came up dead lame on the right front hoof. As you all know, nothing makes your heart stop like a limp on a leg. I had to walk him up the hill back to camp, deep dread and concern came over me like a looming thundercloud.
Immediately upon returning home, I called the farrier who promptly came out, checked out the hoof, used a hoof tester and said there was no apparent sore spot in the hoof. We decided to let him rest for a few weeks and keep an eye on it.
At this point in time I was not as educated in hoof mechanics, health or movement as I am today. At that time I could not see the lameness at a walk, only if you pushed him to try to move faster than a walk. And still I was unsure what I was looking at or for.
After two weeks, I called the farrier back out. He retested and suggested that due the lack of obvious outward cause, perhaps I should consult a veterinarian. I called one of the best clinics in our area and asked for a lameness assessment and some x-rays.
Another two weeks slowly passed by and our appointment with the veterinarian arrived. The attending vet listened intently to the description of the problem to this point, and offered x-rays and a nerve block test. Scarier words had not been heard and my heart sank. I signed up for both and the diagnostic journey began. At the very first block point in the pastern the horse was totally sound at the trot. X-rays showed a low heel with a negative Palmer angle. The vet administered pastern injections to ease the inflammation and pain in the joint and he said he would call and discuss his findings with the farrier.
It is at this point that everything headed south for me. After the vet/farrier consult I placed a phone call to my farrier. “After your discussion with the vet, what is your opinion?”, I asked. His reply was, “This horse needs corrective shoeing.” My second question, “What will corrective shoeing do for him, how long will this take to heal?” Was met with, “He will never be healed and will require corrective shoeing his the rest of his life.”
I was reeling and had to churn and digest what I was being told. I reached out to a trusted friend. She is kind and supportive of hysterical horse friends who have a lame, newly purchased horse. For a number of years she has been a participant in natural hoof care after dealing with a horse that was diagnosed with navicular. She calmly and gently suggested, “Barefoot”. I cried, and did research on the internet. What did all this mean?
My young vibrant healthy gelding, lame the rest of his life! After I brought my brain and emotions to a point of semi-calmness I called the vet because I had to ask the question, “The horse was not lame 8 weeks ago when I bought him, how can this be a permanent congenital defect?” And the answer was, “I really can’t say.”
I kept turning that over and over in my head, he wasn’t lame when I bought him. I called his previous owner, assuring her that this question was not an accusation. But no, there was no history of any problem. And calmly quietly my friend again suggested, “Have you ever considered barefoot?”
I decided to seek a 2nd farrier opinion. He agreed with the diagnosis, and even though I was unsettled I allowed him to put wedge shoes with pads on the horse. All of the time doing more reading and research. My friend suggested reading some articles by Dr. Robert Bowker and Pete Ramey. As the information began to take root, the unease in my soul grew. The more I read the more I wanted to know. Ramey is a hoof rehab specialist with years of experience correcting problem hooves.
Pete Ramey was holding a seminar in Lincoln, Nebraska! Close enough for me to attend. I signed up and headed to the seminar for a weekend of life changing learning.
When I returned home, I had decided to remove the shoes. I called farrier #2 and requested their removal. He refused to do so, stating if I removed the shoes I would cripple this horse forever. I was willing to assume risk and responsibility for all forthcoming results. However, I could not remove the shoes myself.
Meanwhile, my friend suggested I find a barefoot trimmer that followed the Ramey ideas. I searched the internet for barefoot trimmers in my area, sending the credentials to my friend for review before calling. Almost none of them returned my call. One or two were semi-acceptable when held up to the natural hoof care methods I was becoming familiar with. My friend again suggested, look for a Ramey barefoot trimmer. I did one last search.
As it turns out, I found one! 4.5 hours away and 8.5 months pregnant. I begged. I drove my horse the 4.5 hours and while the very pregnant trimmer sat in a chair, her son and I pulled the shoes and did the first setup trim. This was the start of my journey into Natural Hoof Care. I bought the Pete Ramey DVD series Under the Horse and the book Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Hoof. My new natural hoof care trimmer suggested I set up a Paddock Paradise, a method of increasing exercise developed by Jaime Jackson.
I took my gelding home, put him in Easy Care Trail boots with Happy Hoof pads. He wore them 22 hours a day, with a 2 hour rest period in the barn daily with out the boots to allow the hoofs to breathe and dry out. I set up the paddock paradise and diligently rotated feeding stations and access to water.
Each day inside the boots I dusted the boot and the hoof with Monkey Butt powder to try to control dampness and prevent thrush. By this time summer was in full swing in the mid-west so we weren’t faced with too much wet weather.
He was immediately more comfortable and after about 3 weeks there was no apparent limp in the boots and pad, and we followed this schedule for about a month. He remained barefoot for the rest of the summer and was not ridden until October 2019.
Over the coming months the hoof changed shape and healed and he became sound on his right front leg.
I could not go back to metal shoes. Not after seeing and experiencing a healthy hoof with a big wide frog, good digital cushion development and good collateral groove depth.
I wanted to try to write this down so that I would not forget and I feel like I have not captured everything completely. I may come back and edit this article, but if you would like any help please don’t hesitate to ask.