Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Jack Has A Boo-Boo.

Being an exuberant, and kind of dumb, 4 year old, Jack nearly always has a boo-boo of some sort, but this time he's got a boo-boo that's left him lame.

Picture not related, surprisingly.

Jack had pretty bad feet when he came off the track. The combination of frequent trimming and re-shoeing and some of the medications horses are given on the track can take a toll on their hooves. It's not uncommon, and it usually resolves with time and proper care. It doesn't mean that OTTBs have bad feet, just that some need a little more time to adjust to their new lives. 

In Jack's case, his feet were so bad that the only solution was to pull his shoes and just start over. That's what my farrier recommended and that's what I did. It's not like I'm in any hurry to get him to Devon, I have plenty of time to let his feet heal themselves.  

Pulling shoes on a horse with bad feet does two things: it means you aren't putting any more holes in an already compromised hoof wall, and the concussion of the bare hoof against the ground encourages new, stronger growth and re-shaping. It's especially helpful for horses with long toes and low heels, like OTTB's, as it encourages heel growth and breaks up the toe. 

Jack has been barefoot for over a year now, and his feet are improving by leaps and bounds. But, there are always hiccups along the way. Last week Jack was a little tender on his right fore. That tenderness gradually progressed to all-out lameness and it became pretty clear that an abscess was brewing. 

I have always believed that it is very important to know what you don't know, and I don't know Jack about the science of farrier-ing, so I called the farrier. (Nice pun, huh?)

Through a series of mis-adventures, the farrier was not able to get out for a few days. It ended up being a good thing, because when he did get here the abscess was ready to go and he was able to release it. Jack is much more comfortable now. 

However, while I was waiting for the farrier I got to hear absolutely everyone's two cents on what I needed to do. Their two cents basically amounted to, "zOMG! He needs shoes, stat!"  And then the conversation would go like this:

Me: "His farrier wants to keep him barefoot for now."

Them: *sniff, eyeroll* "Who is your farrier?"

Me: "Farrier McFarrierson." (Not his real name, although that would be awesome)

Them: "Oh. He's really good." 

Me: "Yup, that's why I'm paying him and not you."

Jack does not need shoes right now. He is not barefoot because I am cheap, he is not barefoot because I am anti-shoe.  He is barefoot because his farrier recommends he stay barefoot to help his hooves grow and heal. And, seriously, do these people really think shod horses never go lame or get abscesses?

Shoes wouldn't have prevented this abscess, anyway. It's too far back on the sole, and likely came from a stone bruise that a shoe wouldn't have blocked. (That bit of info came directly from Farrier McFarrierson)

Will Jack always be barefoot? I don't know. I pay my farrier to decide these things. I have a great farrier that I trust and communicate openly with. If the horse needs shoes, he will get shoes. For now, the shoes stay off because putting shoes on will just set him back. He's still growing out and re-shaping his hooves. It takes time. 


  1. Good for you. I faced some animosity from a lot of different people in my life when I mentioned pulling my horse's shoes. His feet look like crap -.-;. I had someone tell me that a TB can't possibly ever go without shoes and I was like....what? Keep up the great care. I'm glad he's feeling better and I hope he is 100% soon.

  2. I agree, good for you!! I'm glad you're giving him the chance to grow healthy, new feet. Everyone at the barn where I used to work and take lessons always pulled shoes in the winter so they would have a chance to recover. Also one of the lesson horses constantly got abscesses... with shoes on!! It doesn't prevent them. :) I'm glad he's feeling better!

  3. great post. I love how everyone knows what you should do. I have a horse that is always getting abscesses. After following everyone's advice on how to deal with those I figured out what works for my horse.

  4. 100% agree with you. Everyone else seems to know what is best for other people's horses. Hoping Jack feels better soon!

  5. Dawn (OTTB) was in front shoes for many years, but has been out of shoes for several years and her feet are much improved. People don't seem to understand that shoes (which may perhaps be necessary in certain circumstances such as hard, rocky ground - for certain horses, not all horses) don't make horses sound, they merely conceal the symptoms of poor hoof health. And hoof health isn't about trimming, or shoeing, it's about nutrition, time and exercise. Any horse can get abscesses, but in my experience horses in shoes are more prone to them - because they have weaker feet.

    Good for you for telling off the busybodies - there are sure a lot of them in the horse world (and, with rare exceptions, their advice is useless or worse).

  6. Amen! Why are shoes such a contentious issue?! No matter what you do, someone thinks it is wrong.

  7. Farrier McFarrierson is a pro for a reason, and nobody will care more about your horse's welfare than you. it's a mystery as to why people feel compelled to provide unsolicited advice like that lol

  8. Don't know why people get so uptight about what others choose for their horses, but it's really annoying.

    I pulled Val's shoes immediately after I got him because:

    1. He regularly overreaches and springs them (I was warned, and he promptly did this on the second day of ownership)

    2. My farrier lives three hours away. No such thing as emergency visits. I pulled those shoes myself with borrowed tools - which sucked.

    It has taken years, mostly due to my inexperience, but his feet are decent now. Not rock crushing, but healthy, and improving all the time. Diet, exercise, and in-between farrier visit maintenance from me have played equal rolls.

    I've heard it theorized about why tb feet (off track tbs anyway) can be problematical - having to do with shoeing them so early, so often + sporadic hard work and lack of turn out ...


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