I’ve been doing some crazy stuff lately. I hardly dare say it out loud. Everything I was taught as I grew up in the equestrian world, is going against what I am doing now, and yet, it suddenly feels right somehow.
I think it snuck up on me, as I was watching Apocalipse grow up. Apocalipse’s mother, Amalia, had the worst hooves you could possibly imagine. We fought her entire life, to keep her shoes on, and if she lost a shoe, she became instantly lame. As in, needs-painkiller-lame, until the Ferrier could show up and fix her. I still have nightmares, when he is on vacation, dreaming that Amalia has lost a shoe, and I wake up in a state of panic.
Then there is Apocalipse’s father, Saleem. Saleem has some serious flaws in the way his legs are positioned and he got his first shoes as a one and a half year old, (much against my Ferrier’s will, but ordered by the vet, since we simply couldn’t help him enough without shoes,) and he has been wearing shoes ever since. He is turning 8 this year and the last four years, he has been wearing fourpoint shoes, just to straighten his legs out.
Saleem has some very tender soles and even if he hasn’t lost his shoes much, when he has once in a while, he has been instantly lame.
So, back to Saleem and Amalia’s son, Apocalipse.
Apocalipse is turning five this summer. He isn’t wearing shoes yet. My Ferrier kept telling me for years, every time I felt that he was too tender in his hooves, (mostly at winter when the grounds froze,) that he was too young yet. He had to be at least four, before he got his first shoes, because otherwise we would damage the growth of the hoof. So, I waited patiently for Apocalipse to grow up, so I could get those shoes on him, so he would walk easier on frozen ground…
And then, this winter came and I realized that Apocalipse had turned four and that he was going on five and I just did not feel like getting shoes on him. Looking at his hooves, and how they were working out perfectly in 90% of the weather we have in Denmark, I suddenly felt that giving him shoes, would start an endless cycle of pain and stress, and heartache, for both of us, because the nails would weaken the hoof wall and what if he was his mother’s son, or his father’s son, instantly becoming lame, if he lost a shoe? Would I want us to go through that? (Make no mistake, I suffer just as much as my horses do, when they are lame…)
I guess that is when I started questioning the way I was raised for the first time. Everything inside me revolted against Apocalipse, wearing shoes.
If there is anything I have learned in my time in the equestrian world, it is to listen to my gut instincts. If it doesn’t feel right for Apocalipse to wear shoes, then why should he?
Looking at Tardis and Ablaze, who both has hooves as hard as Adamantium, I realized that I was never planning on getting shoes on them. Why then, on Apocalipse and Marble? Because they are tender, once in a while?
Marble has a tendency to become flat and annoying in her hooves, but with her temper, I have no idea how we were ever going to calm her down long enough to actually get shoes on her. I realize that being a hysterical mare is hardly an excuse, but it is a reason to not force it on her, unless absolutely necessary.
Over the winter, my Ferrier was kind of tired of mud and wet horses, (as much as he loves us, he clearly prefers horses in ordinary stables, and I have full respect for that,) and as such, I took up trimming the little ones myself for the first time, over the winter, sparing the Ferrier the mud and the rain, and keeping an eye on their hooves myself. I find that trimming them is working out better than I dared hope for. I always imagined that I would have him trim them again, come spring, or at least once or twice a year, to keep an eye on my work, and maybe I will.
The thing is though, he keeps doing things I don’t exactly agree with, like filing at the outside of the hoof, because it looks nicer. I have asked him about it more than once, and he always says that it just looks better, so that’s why he does it. I just think that taking off the top layer of the hoof like that, is making it weaker…
Please don’t get me wrong, I adore the guy and he is a brilliant, brilliant Ferrier. He is as skilled as they come in Denmark, and watching him work on my horses every sixth weeks, for twenty years, I dare say, I learned from the best. I just feel like trying out something else now, because ordinary hoof care isn’t quite working for me. Not that it is letting me down, like it did with Amalia, but still… it doesn’t feel quite right anymore, either.
And then, while trimming the little ones, I started looking at Saleem and how he is developing arthritis in his one hind leg already, no doubt from his bad let position, and I wondered if I removed his shoes, could I support his hind legs better? With regular trimming, perhaps every third week, minor adjustments all the time, rather than major adjustments and shoes every sixth to eight weeks? Wouldn’t that maybe be healthier on his joints and tendons?
I realize that people wear shoes on their horses, because they want to ride all year. I don’t have any problems with not riding when the ground is frozen for instance, if that is what it takes for my horses to function better, most of the time. I was watching Saleem this winter, and in all honesty, shoes or no shoes, he wasn’t walking that much better than any of the shoeless ones, when the ground froze up.
I had his hind shoes removed by the Ferrier a little less than two months ago. The world did not implode. He did not become lame. He isn’t tender while we ride on the road… In fact, I haven’t been able to feel it on him at all, but I have been able to trim his hind hooves twice, while his front hooves has been growing in their shoes.
And then I realized how it bothered me that he was wearing those shoes on his front legs. I mean sure, if he needs shoes, to not be in pain, he is getting shoes, like he did when he was young, but what if, all our years of correcting his legs, has paid off? What if, he doesn’t need the shoes anymore?
Saleem has been growing increasingly impatient with my Ferrier as well, and I am not sure why. He is usually the most kind hearted and gentle spirit imaginable, but the last two or three times he has had new shoes on, he has been kind of a pest about it. It may be a coincidence, but it has had me thinking. I can trim him with no issues. I can have his leg for hours and he never loses patience with me. Why put him through the stress then, of being shoed, if he doesn’t have to?
And even more radical, what if, it might be better for his hooves to be without those shoes?
I hardly dare say it. I was taught not to. It is not in my blood, to have horses without shoes. Yet, it feels right at the moment.
So, two days ago, I removed his front shoes. I did it myself, not daring to ask my Ferrier to do it, because I am sure he wouldn’t like the idea. And because I didn’t want him trimmed that much. I have noticed that when Ferrier’s remove shoes, they trim the hoof, quite a lot. For a horse like Saleem, with soft soles, removing the shoes and trimming him at the same time, feels like suicide.
No, I have a game plan. Removing the shoes, trimming him just a little, keeping his leg position correct, and leaving the sole alone for a while. Then, in a week or two, once his sole (hopefully,) will have hardened up a little, I can perhaps trim him a little more. The main issue now, is to keep him walking without pain in the transit period. Let there be no mistake, Saleem’s hooves has been greatly weakened by wearing shoes at such a young age. I don’t regret doing it then, because I don’t think he would have been alive today without the shoes, but now… No need to hang on to the past, is there, if one no longer needs it?
Saleem has been without shoes for two days now, and he is happy, playing, and walking like he always does. I spot no difference in his movement, whatsoever. No indications of soreness…
So, yes, I have been doing crazy stuff lately. Learning about hoof care myself… The idea is insane, I know. And removing Saleem’s shoes feels impossible… and yet here we are, and no one has died yet. I still feel like a despicable human being, for even saying it out loud, and at the same time, every time I watch Saleem walk these days, my heart sings. At long last, he may be shoeless and who knows, maybe I can restore his hooves somewhat, over time, to make up for the damage that was done to them when he had to correct his legs when he was a colt.
I think that what I am so happy about now, is that the future is finally uncertain. I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know how it is going to work out. But there is a possibility that it might be better for him, than what we have been doing so far, is. After all, isn’t that worth a try?
If Apocalipse can not wear shoes, with his parents and genetic makeup, then why not Saleem too? Fingers crossed.