Barefoot So Far

I think it’s time for a little update on Saleem’s life as a barefoot horse.

First off, I will say that removing his front shoes has so far, been painless. I was terrified of doing that, due to the reason why he got them on in the first place; his leg position, but it turns out, I am handling that for him, without the shoes, and he hasn’t even been sore.


He has been much happier lately, seeking me out much more than usual, but I don’t contribute that solely to him being barefoot. I haven’t ridden him much the last few months, because I wanted to see how it worked out with his hooves and I didn’t want to ride him if he may feel sore without showing it. Yeah, that is me, a little hysterical, but I can’t help it.

So, maybe he is happier lately, because I am not riding him. Maybe he is seeking me out, because he is bored, when I am not riding him. Maybe he is actually finding some safety on his own legs for the first time in years, and that is giving him courage and energy to seek me out. Because Saleem always used to stumble, sometimes even fall, no matter if he walked or cantered, his front legs would just disappear underneath him, and he never saw it coming. That, of course, would make him nervous, and make him shake his head, which made him fall even more. I have spent years, trying to break that circle, haunting my Ferrier, trying to make him shoe Saleem so he didn’t trip himself, and to no avail.



But here we are, without shoes, and Saleem has become surefooted, all of a sudden. No more stumbling, no more headshaking, just a happy young man, who actually wants my company.


I started last year, on riding him without the bridle, and then, he surprised me by not daring to trot, when I did not have a rein. (To support his head with. I presume, that was what he was missing, which was exactly what I was wanting to get rid of.) This year though, without the shoes, he trots easily, when I ask it of him, and he is happy about it. No headshaking, whatsoever.

I haven’t dared ask him to canter yet, as I am terrified of pushing him away, by asking too much of him, but for him to find it amusing to trot around the pasture with me, without tripping himself, that is a huge change in him, not just mentally but physically as well. He feels capable and able now. I have compared him to a snail before, not because he is slow, but because it takes a lot for him to peak out of his shell and it takes very little for him to withdraw back into it, but these days, he is not hiding in his shell. I cannot begin to describe how happy that makes me.


It is not all perfect though. We do have a rather annoying issue, that keeps coming up. He keeps getting minor bruises or abscesses in his left hind hoof. Nothing too horrible, I usually find them and open them easily, because with Saleem you are always sure where to look for the problem. He will tell you where to cut…

But it bothers me. Why that one hoof? Why is his front hooves and the right hind hoof doing so well, why is the whole horse improving, and then this one hoof keeps getting injured?

I know, it could just be coincidence, but I do somehow feel that this hoof is a little off. It never grew nicely when he had shoes on, it was always too flat and annoying, no matter what my Ferrier did. The toe was always a little too long.

I know all the things you must make sure off, (I think) if you want your horse to do well barefoot. The vitamin and mineral balance, (counted and mapped out to the last detail, and I even had blood samples taken on him, to check,) the not feeding too much sugar, limiting too fresh and green grass, the correcting the hooves a little, often, rather than a lot, once every 8 weeks, keeping the ground has hard as possible using gravel on the pressure spots, (since Saleem have a very hard time in mud, with his hooves,) I mean, I do think this could work, it should… And most of the time, it does.

I just can’t ignore how he keeps making abscesses in that hoof, no matter how easily I cut them out. And maybe it is just a transition period, maybe I just need to hang in there over the summer and one day we will look back on this and laugh, at how I was freaking out… But what if we won’t? I can’t help it. What if it won’t stop coming back? How much can I ask him to go through, when I could easily fix it with a pair of shoes?


That is the thing, really. Animal wellfare. That is what it comes down to. I may be convinced that the best thing for him is to be without his shoes, but if he keeps getting hurt from it, isn’t it my responsibility to keep him safe from harm? Isn’t that what it means to own an animal? To keep it from unnecessary pain? I know our law says so… So what is unnecessary? How long is it fair to keep trying? Does his pain when he bruises his hoof, outweigh how happy he is, that he is no longer stumbling when he plays with his son, or when I ride him?

Yeah, I can always drive myself crazy. If anyone has been through it, please feel free to comment, I would appreciate it.


And in other news, as I was preparing an Animalintex dressing for his bruised hoof today, I poured boiling water on my hand, because… I wasn’t thinking, really, but I think the main idea was that I had to check that it wasn’t getting too hot… Even though I knew it had just boiled… Not my brightest moment. For those of you, who haven’t tried to pour boiling water on your skin, all I can say is that I don’t recommend it. It doesn’t look too bad. It’s a little red, that is all. But it feels a lot worse than it looks…

And Saleem? He ran off, snickering, and no longer stumbling, not looking like he was in too much pain at all… It is not every day ones human does stupid things, but when she does, one has better make sure to take advantage of it. He should know though, having known me for 7 years, that I’ll catch him, bandage him and then I’ll cool off my hand, because his dressing was ready now, so I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to use it… Don’t worry, it wasn’t boiling on him, I checked…

(Most of the pictures are from 2014, when he was still wearing shoes. The pictures, where I am running with him, is barefoot.) 


About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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6 Responses to Barefoot So Far

  1. I think it is great that you have taken the “leap” to barefoot with Saleem. The fact that he no longer stumbles or headshakes is to me proof that he is feeling better.
    You say that his left hind was always different to the other hooves. I do not think the problem is in the hoof as such, but further up. Have you considered having him checked by a skilled professional? I do not know, if you have McTimoney practitioners in Denmark – that might help you. Also is Veteranary Rikke Schulz (if I remember correctly) near you? She is not (or were not) narrow-minded.
    My Warmblood has now been barefoot for 3+ years. His feet are still improving. We just started feeding organic feed from Agrobs, and even though he hardly gets anything, the improvement in the feet is visible.
    You are doing a good job and I am sure you will find the cause of the abscesses. I do hope you will stick to barefoot – after all a shoe is just masking the problem (and creating other ones).

    • Starstone says:

      You are right, it could very well be higher up. But I’ve had him checked by everything from veterinary’s to chiropractors and healers and acupuncture people, you name it, I’ve tried it 😉 He has a bit of arthritis in his hook, on that leg, most likely because of the way the hoof always seem to develop a too long toe- which was one of my first reasons for removing his shoes 😉 So I could keep that toe in check more 😉 I hardly know what to look for anymore 😉

  2. jen says:

    From my experience with Blue, I have to agree with Lisbeth about the problem being higher up. It’s one of those “which came first- the chicken or the egg” questions. Blue’s hooves were a disaster when I got her, and while we were able to get most of them into shape over time, she always had one that was worse than the others – it was high-heeled and somewhat clubby. My hoof care gal believed that the real problem was in Blue’s shoulder and that the one front hoof was growing the way it was to compensate. The majority of Blue’s abscesses happened in that hoof, and I have to think it was simply because that hoof was more susceptible to stress/bruising due to it not being in ideal shape. It just didn’t have the correct support and cushioning (and probably as a result, blood flow) of a “normal” hoof.

    It doesn’t sound like Saleem has a major issue like Blue did, so time and persistence might slowly change the hoof. The abscesses he’s experiencing could be due to the hoof’s shape, extra pressure he’s putting on it when he walks, or just coincidence…I don’t know. I do know that the changes I’ve seen in my own horses’ hooves have always been agonizingly slow. When Duke first came to us, his hooves were exceedingly low-heeled, flat, and long in the toe. It took years of regular trimming (every four weeks) for him to develop a healthier hoof shape and more sole. Tequila had the same problem when I got her, but she’s slowly making the same transition. On the rare occasions that I ride her, I use hoof boots for her comfort! We get crazy looks, but the boots work!

    I’ve been totally brainwashed to view shoes as evil, so I am not a good one to ask about whether to shoe or not….but I do think it takes time to transition from shoes to barefoot.

    • Starstone says:

      I have to say, after having tried trimming all of them myself… the four little ones, that has never been shoed, has strong, hard hooves. Saleem, feel like cutting into a sponge. His hooves just give way at all times. Looking at the difference in him and the others, and knowing that they live on the same pasture, in the same house, and eat the same food, the only difference I can see, is that he used to wear shoes.
      I even have Apocalipse, his son, and his hooves are rock hard, so I doubt it’s genetic somehow.
      I would venture a guess, and say that we ruined Saleem’s hooves, by making him wear shoes for so many years, especially when he was so young, and of course that is going to take time to correct and heal.
      I am just lousy at watching and waiting 😉

  3. jen says:

    I hear ya – I hate waiting too! I’m excited that you’re trying barefoot though and super interested in hearing about the changes in Saleem’s hooves because of it! When my horses came to me, they had either never been shod or hadn’t been shod in many years, so I have no experience with recently-shod hooves. Take tons of pictures (if you haven’t already), because someday you’ll want them! I wish I had before and after pics of Duke’s hooves, because the change over time was remarkable.

    • Starstone says:

      uhu I was thinking that I should do that, but I kind of don’t like how his hooves look right now 😛 But you are right, I probably want them some day…. I’ll get to it 😉 When I can walk again, Apocalipse and I had a little mishap the other day, so I’m hobbling around on one leg right now 😛

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