I still haven’t taken any pictures of Saleem’s hooves yet. Not that they look bad, actually I am rather pleased with how they are shaping up after I removed his shoes this spring. I don’t know, I just can’t bring myself to document the transformation, as part of me wishes he didn’t have to go through it in the first place.
I was told, all of my life, that horses in Europe needs shoes, and to some extent, I guess it is true. The ground is too soft over here, I was told. For most traditional ways of keeping your horse, that sure is true.
When I got Saleem, the “pasture” I had available was knee deep mud, (the horses knees,) most of the year. 20 horses on a piece of land too small to carry four horses without muddying it up. When I got Saleem, that was the lucky Danish horses. The ones that actually got to spent time outside every day. We just had to accept the mud and every horrible thing it brought with it, like evaporating hooves and constant skin infections on the legs. And still, we told ourselves that other horses, most horses in fact, never get out at all. I guess fresh air in knee deep mud, is better than being confined in a cage 24-7, isn’t it?
Not much, really. Luckily, I had a horse back then, Apollon, who never failed to tell me that he did not accept the mud. I always knew that if ever I got the chance to have my horses on a real pasture, all year round, with little to no mud, then I would grab that chance and run with it as fast as I could.
I guess that is the age old truth. Just because other horses have it worse, doesn’t mean that it is okay to make your horse go on a muddy pasture. Just like it isn’t okay to beat your horse, just because all the professional horses have it worse. Or to starve it, because there are horses in third world countries that has it worse. Two wrongs, doesn’t make one right. I always knew that, but for years, I looked for a way out of the mud hole that most people keep their horses in, and failed to find one.
For all those years, keeping my horses barefoot, was impossible. No hooves can stand the amount of mud and water on an ordinary Danish pasture. The only solution is to keep your horse locked up in his cage, (stall,) or to nail shoes to his hooves.
Now that I have found a way out, I can only beg Saleem to forgive me, for not having found it sooner. Now that we do have a nice, dry pasture, houses he can walk in and out of as he pleases, no cages, very little mud, (fighting the mud with gravel as much as I can, on the pressure spots, like the entrance to the houses,) grass all year round, and the option of walking 24 hours of the day, like a horse is supposed to, I at long last, removed his shoes.
At first, he was very sore footed, and the last time I wrote an update about him on this blog, he kept getting abscesses. I haven’t ridden him all summer, as I have chosen to give his hooves a chance to heal instead. And it is working.
He hasn’t had abscesses in a long time now, and his whole demeanour has changed. He can walk now. I mean, really walk, using his shoulder and his spine in the movement, not to mention his pelvic.
I have had my vets and my chiropractors look him over so many times over the years, because I felt that he was stiff, short in his steps, and locked in his back and shoulders. They always agreed with me, and they always fixed it, somewhat, but it never lasted.
Turns out, Saleem needed to feel his hooves. The shoes has been making him take smaller steps, because he was afraid of falling, (he did that a lot,) which in turn, tightened him up in his shoulders and his spine. I knew we had a problem, but I never imagined that it was the shoes.
I thought I was doing him a favour, making sure he had shoes on. I thought I was being a nice and responsible horse owner, doing my very best for my horse. Turns out, I was clipping his wings.
Watching him walk now, is quite an eye opener for me. All the trouble we used to have with Poseidon, with Apollon, Amalia… What if, I had had the option of having them this way, on a dry pasture, without shoes?
I will drive myself crazy, thinking like that, I know. Truth is, I always did my very best for my horses, only sometimes that wasn’t good enough. And, sometimes, I didn’t know any better.
As it is, I am not afraid of the oncoming winter anymore. When I removed Saleem’s shoes this spring, I wondered if I would break and get him his shoes back on, come winter. What if it rained too much? What if he got sore again? What if, when the frost comes, he can’t walk on the hard ground?
Well, we will handle it then. I just know one thing. Watching him walk these days, how he is able to move his shoulder, for the first time in years, I am not going back. In fact, I am waiting for my gravel man to show up soon, to help me keep the mud off my pasture again this winter. To be honest, money spent on gravel is MUCH better spent, than money spent on shoes.
And my horse is happy these days. He even rears up against Apocalipse now, when they play, instead of getting bullied. Saleem is the undisputed leader of my herd at the moment. I never thought he had it in him. Turns out, all he needed was a bit of courage and the shoes was killing his confidence.
As a side note, I love my Ferrier and I want it understood that as much as Saleem didn’t work out with shoes on, it was not my Ferrier’s fault. He is very skilled and very attentive to the horses needs. Only, he is used to doing caged horses, not free ones who run around on a pasture all day.
So, yes, I can only say, to all of you who told me to not have shoes on my horses; you were right. Absolutely. I wish I had had the pasture for it sooner. Now that I do, looking at my horse and how he is evolving, I have no doubt that shoes do nothing good for a horses hooves.
And I will take pictures of Saleem’s hooves. Soon. Promise. I know that I will want them in a few years, to see the difference… I just don’t want them now…