Tuesday, March 06, 2007

barefoot horses

Yesterday I stopped in the middle of my horseback ride to have a conversation with a fellow in town who trains, shows, and sells Tennessee Walking Horses.

My horse, Blue, has a tendency to become impatient if I stop and visit with someone while sitting astride him. He's liable to paw the ground, or even turn his head around and act like he's going to bite my booted toe (it's only an act). He wants to get on with the ride.

But he knows a horse-lover when he sees one. The whole time I was chatting with Dale, Blue had his face as close to him as possible, almost against his chest. He was relaxed and smiling (of COURSE horses smile). Dale, typically, was talking to him and petting him occasionally (and asking if I'd take $1,000 for him, because he knows I won't sell; I told him last year I wouldn't even take $10,000).

Then the horse-guy bent down and scrutinized Blue's unshod feet, and my heart sank, because this man is often critical of my lack of horse knowledge and I figured a lecture was forthcoming; Blue hasn't worn shoes since last fall.

"Bring him forward a step," he commanded. I did so, and braced myself for a tongue-lashing.

But no. He was quite impressed at Blue's feet which for two years prior to this had been chipping and breaking, with shoes on.

I explained to him how I had taken advice from an Internet friend who knows horses; she had assured me that Blue's hooves would toughen up eventually, if I rode him barefoot awhile.

"Well, she told you right. I've got two I'm letting go barefoot myself. Those feet look good! Of course, you're still using that supplement in his feed, right?"

Uh oh.

"No." (The stuff costs $70 a bucket, and didn't seem to help a bit.)

"Oh my, get him back on that immediately, and be sure and put Hoof-flex on his feet a couple times a week!"

OK, I have to remember with whom I am dealing. I am making a mental note, next time he asks, to lie. "Oh, of course I'm giving him the supplement and putting Hoof-flex on his feet."

Does that sound convincing?

Let's see, what are some other areas I'll need to tell stories about. Oh yeah, this man thinks you ought to give horses lots of grain, twice a day. The horse experts I follow say horses don't need much grain, if any. Mark Rashid thinks overfeeding of grain is one of the main causes of horses misbehaving.

The only way to get along with some folks is to lie. And get along I must, if I want to pick this man's brain later on.

The trouble is, I'm not proficient at lying. Wish me luck.


Astaryth said...

I'm with you on the grain... my guy gets a little less than 1/2 scoop twice a day... I do have one of my old guys getting quite a bit of Senior feed, but thats because he won't hold his weight otherwise...I even wet his feed to make it even easier to eat/digest.

My theory is to feed as little grain as I can get away with (for the vitamins/supplements in it) and feed plenty of hay... I base how much grain everyone gets on how they look. If your skinny you get more till you look good, then get cut back... Then I feed what it takes to maintain a nice body look.

Astaryth said...

Oh, I forgot to say in the above comment that my horses are just 'pasture ornaments', and my own horse gets ridden just as a pleasure horse... when I work a horse regularly, show, or have one I'm using for work, THEN I feed quite a bit more grain as they need the extra energy/protein provided by a good feed. That's probably why your trainer friend feeds more grain than you do... but they don't need all of that extra energy to eat grass and hang out ;p

BarnGoddess said...

donna, I LIKE you!! Blue sounds like such a cool horse too..smiling-yes horses do smile :)

Ive recently found an awesome barefoot-shoer. He does a great job and I have NOT had shoes on the old guy since last summer. I have to say I am impressed. I never used to ride him w/out shoes. he has always had excellent feet and I did not want to cause any problems so I kept shoes on him year round.

I still would never rope off him w/out shoes (luckily hes retired from that) but Ive been taking our short trail outings barefooted and YES his feet did toughen up. I am very happy.

Now the grain, I tend to overfeed the old guy. He just turned 28 yo. I lightly ride him 1X a week. He gets fed Equine Senior 3X a day with 1 flake of horse hay and 1 flake of alfalfa(at night). During the summer, he still gets Equine Senior 3X a day in a smaller amount but no hay/alf because he has 30 acres pasture all to himself.

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm not a good liar either, nor do I want to be. I try to come up with an answer that sounds like what he wants to hear. something like, "Of you can be sure, that I'm giving him everything he needs. I wouldn't think of short changing my horse" so I'm happy with myself and gets the kind hearted know-it-all off my back.

I don't feed a lot of grain either. I have lots of young horses and not only does it make them hot, it can cause growth abnormalities too.

Nice blog!

Midlife Mom said...

I use grain all year round but more in the winter as they need that extra as they burn so much more energy in the cold weather keeping warm. I use Horse 10 which is lower in fat for my ehem....more rotund horses and Charger for my young Thoroughbred/Welsh as he isn't an easy keeper and needs that extra fat. They all get hay 2 times a day too except in the summer when the pasture is lush. When they get it eaten down I supplement with hay too. My ponies never have had shoes on they have great feet but my horses have shoes in the summer as we ride on the road a lot and their feet tend to break up. I am a firm believer in Hoof Flex.

Julia said...

No shoes! Good for you. Unless he's a working horse, why would you need shoes?

I had a gorgeous little pony who went to stay with my Aunt at her "5 Gaited Barn". You know the types: Saddlebreds, Hackney horses. The 5 gaited horse industry sounds like it might have a lot in common with the Tennessee Walker horse "industry".

Anyway, my Aunt grained my pony half to death. He was so looped, so wired, so out of control on 2 grain feeds a day. He went from sedate and bomb proof to absoultely insane. I don't like too much grain for temperment reasons.