Saturday, May 26, 2012

My hoof care preference

One of my favorite parts about having horses is caring for them.  Riding is second to that.  In the four months between owning horses, I sorely missed the responsibility and JOY of going out daily to groom, pick feet, fly spray, and whatever else I could come up with to dote on my equine friend.  Getting dirty in this process doesn't bother me a bit.  Its fun.

Learning to trim and maintain feet is this whole new awesome world to me - another facet of the "Yay, I get to go take care of my pony!" love that I have.  I get pleasure from it.  (Maybe because I can't manage to keep my own nails as neatly manicured and need an outlet?  It just isn't as important to me to have long, pretty painted nails.  Keep 'em short and clean, good enough for me!)

I like being able to be free from relying on someone else for this part of horse care.  This in NO WAY means that I wouldn't have a professional out to do it.  I'm just saying I'd like to be able to work on becoming more self-sufficient with this process in coming years.  Though I wouldn't hesitate to call someone if I was uncomfortable or unable to do something.

I'm on a quest to have happy, healthy, sound horses.  I'm a constant student to the methods of doing this.  Part of this quest includes hoof care.  There is SO much to learn about it though.  And there are ups and downs with any method you choose.  Shoes?  Barefoot?  Boots?

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I know there are a lot of cult-like barefoot gurus out there.  I love, love, love the articles I've been reading on Click and Trim, like this one that point out myth vs. fact of barefoot.  I can't describe how much I appreciate that someone has taken the time to point out the whole story and not just one extreme side.

I really strive to hear all sides of stories and methods and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  But with so much information on the barefoot cult movement out there it's hard to find something like the above that is more down to earth and accepting about different ways that can, and DO exist.

Learning about strictly-barefoot horses in the past year or so has been this crazy new world to me.  I had no idea it existed.  The diet restrictions, the need for turn-out etc. - these were things horses I've known have always had. 

Most horses around here live in big open fields with run-in barns/sheds.  They get grain occasionally, but its not a necessary thing unless they're under hard work.  They have their grass and hay and salt/mineral blocks.  They're happy and healthy whether they have on shoes or not.

I grew up knowing I should pick out a horse's foot before and after ride.  I never knew a strict reasoning behind this, it was just something that needed to be done according to my mentors, so I did it.  I knew what the frog was, but that was it.  I always wish I knew a little more, but I never really knew who to ask.

Owning my own horses has led me to be a lot more aware though.  I'm learning more because of it and I enjoy the new learning opportunities.

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From what I've learned and soaked in during the past hour + of readings, combined with what I personally have experienced has lead me to this conclusion as far as my horse's feet:  I prefer the boot method - but ultimately, I will do whatever is best for that individual horse.

Why?  Why do I like boots?  Honestly, because it is one of the most frustrating things in the world to me to lose a shoe and then have to jump through hoops to get a farrier out to tack it back on.  It just peeves me for some reason.  I just reckon if I'm going to ride with a couple "back-up boots" just in case I lose a shoe on the trail in the middle of no where, I may as well just strive for booted feet.  This seems the most reliable to me.  Yes, boots could break and then I'd still be screwed, but I can just buy another and overnight it if it's such a huge emergency.

Another push for boots is that, for me, the booted route is a cheaper route in many cases - especially if you can learn to trim and maintain your own horse's feet.  And I'm having SO much fun learning how to do that!  But seriously, the price of having shoes put on, what, 4? times a year vs. buying a pair of boots that may last me multiple years is an easy choice to make.

Booting my horses its sort of a middle-of-the-road option to the whole shoes vs. barefoot dilemma.  But it's worked for me over a lot of the terrain I have pursued.  It's worked for my horses, too.  And if they're happy and sound, that is what really counts.

As long as my preferred method can help out my horses, I plan to stick with it.  It's been a fun journey so far, and I hope I can continue to learn more and improve my horses' well-being as we go along!  ....besides, the boots come in fun colors! ;-)

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