We have had the pleasure of owning curly horses since 1997. The attributes that we admired most was the tough, hearty nature of the breed. Their reputation for good, strong hooves that 'rarely needed shoes' was especially important to us. We bred curlies for about 7 years and maintaining great hooves was a part of our program. As our breeding days came to a close in 2004, and we reduced our herd to just riding geldings, we found we rode alot more. What used to be a weekend stroll, became a daily routine. I started paying closer attention to our geldings hooves and especially my gelding Reese since I was riding him most. He had always had a tripping problem, but what concerned me more was the way he was wearing his hooves, especially his toes. He also was tender over gravel. My farrier said with the riding I was doing, I definitely need to put front shoes on Reese for the season. That was the summer of 2005. Quite honestly, I was disappointed. I hated the hassle of shoes and yet I wanted Reese happy.....so I took his suggestion. We rode that summer without incident, except that his tripping grew worse over time. It was just something I learned to live with and figured he was just clumsy and wasn't watching his step. It was very noticeable to those I rode with too. I remember a few of my friends would say, "Man, how do you deal with that tripping all the time!" I just chuckled and said, "Ah...it's taught me to have good balance. ;-)"
Reese's shoes were removed in October of 2005 and I continued to ride him all winter without a problem as we had lots of snow that year and it made for nice soft footing.
In the spring of 2006, without hesitation I scheduled shoes to be put on Reese for the summer riding season. But this time, my farrier suggested ALL 4 hooves. He said the back hooves were wearing down on one side more than the other and his toes were also wearing and it was because I was riding on alot of sand and it was like sandpaper to the hooves. It all sounded reasonable and I went with his suggestion to put shoes on all 4 hooves. Half way thru the season, his tripping grew worse again and my farrier said it was partly "rider error" and that he is just not picking up his feet. (Reese is very heavy on the front end). So when it came time for a trim and reset, my farrier tried a heavier shoe to encourage Reese to lift his feet. The problem got worse! I also got alot of comments from people I rode with that said, "wow, his toes are really long, who is your farrier?" I decided after 3 comments like that, I would have my farrier back and correct the angles and also put the lighter shoes back on, because it was not helping the tripping issue at all.
(For those of you with any barefoot trimming experience, the answers are quite obvious, eh ;-) But to me, not knowing anything about hooves, I hadn't a clue what was going on! I trusted my farrier, and really had no reason to doubt him)
The tripping improved a tiny bit after the adjustment, but was far from perfect. October of 2006, the shoes were removed and that winter Reese struggled. I knew his feet were tender and they looked terrible. I can't explain it... I didn't understand flares or what a good healthy hoof looked like, but I KNEW something about his hooves were wrong. The sole itself was lumpy and the hoof wall was chipping above the sole plane. He had thin walls compared to my other geldings and a deep grove around the wall was growing worse. (disconnected wall from sole) I just didn't know what was going on or what to do. I realized that I was probably going to have to have boots on him during the off months just to keep him comfortable. I tried 3 different hoof boots, and none fit him correctly. In retrospect, it was probably due to the bad flares and poorly shaped hoof. I held back from riding much that winter and grew disappointed. By March, my routine riding of about 20 hours per month was reduced to just TWO. If a horse is only as good as his hooves, well I was losing my horse fast and it troubled me greatly!! I HAD to DO something!! I started reading a little about barefoot trimming through links where I bought the hoof boots. (http://easycareinc.com) I started to understand the dynamics of the hoof and how it functioned and why shoes limited full mechanics of how God designed that hoof to work. (limiting circulation being the key). Aha, SO that was WHY Reese's hooves were declining over time! I got fired up to find the solution!
I belong to a curly chat group called Curly Haven and started a discussion on the topic. A few curly owners knew a great deal about the Barefoot Trim and encouraged me to give it a try on Reese. To say I was skeptical is an understatement!! Surely, such a trim can't make that much difference, could it?? Even for riding 100+ miles per month consistently? ANY terrain? I wanted PROOF!
SO, I started a Barefoot Challenge, through Curly Horse Country. There were a few brave souls willing to participate. Their goal? To ride their Curly horse, barefoot; 100 miles per month for 3 consecutive months. We were approaching April and one person in particular was quite convincing! She was riding long hours in very rough terrain and she took videos and pics. Thank you Cindy Chaney and Braveheart for opening my eyes to the possibilities!! Wendy Snell and Michelle Ives were also very encouraging and answered all my questions.
Just about that time, a friend who knew my situation, sent me a DVD that featured Pete Ramey explaining his trim during a Clinton Anderson Episode. HOLY COW! Oh boy, I was on fire! Pete made it all so simple and it was like a light bulb flashed on.....I GET it! ;-) Thank you Carrie for sending me that DVD!!!. AND THANK YOU PETE RAMEY for changing the life of my horse!!!!
That was Mid April of this year, 2007. I had just had my farrier out to trim my horses the week before so it gave me a chance to compare the style of trims, which were so different. I took pics of my geldings that day to have as reference for the future. I showed the video to my husband, Tom and he was as excited as I was..and was eager to get started. Heck, what did we have to lose! I went online and bought a rasp, knife and hoof stand that week. We watched the DVD many times and I also bought Pete's book. In addition, Pete's website (http://hoofrehab.com) became one of my favorites and I read every article he had online. I found it overwhelming at first, but started with the topics that concerned Reese and built from there. I wasn't quite ready to fire my farrier because I had a long way to go to rehabilitate Reese's hooves, but I was pretty optimistic. I figured I would know more in 12 weeks and would break the news to him then, that I no longer needed his services. (There are no barefoot trimmers in our area, so we would be "on our own")
We started trimming our horses every 2 weeks to start and expanded to 4 weeks. All we did was simple rasping and followed Pete's advice to never over trim. We addressed the flares, added a nice mustang roll and balanced the heels. I made sure to keep riding Reese, to be sure he was always BETTER after a trim and never worse. Then I knew we were on the right track. There was one time that Tom trimmed a tiny bit too much heel and the very next day, Reese was tripping again. It sounds crazy, but it correlated exactly with the trim and continued for the next week or two...until that heel grew back out. When the time came for his maintenance trim, that heel grew twice as much as it had the time before, which Pete says is the hoof recovering from a bad trim. Bingo! We learned a valuable lesson and started paying closer attention. Pete says the hoof will tell you what you need to know, if you pay close attention. This is so true!
In August, I was convinced that the Barefoot trim was the only way to go and made the call to my farrier. What was really sad was that my friend Carrie had given him the same DVD she had given me in hopes that she could convince him to try the trim on her horses, but it fell on deaf ears. I knew then, if I wanted it done Pete's way, we had to do it ourselves. Actually It is empowering to take control over the welfare of our horse's hooves and see such incredible changes in such a short period of time.
In the past 6 months, I have logged almost 600 miles on Reese, which was my goal to prove my horse CAN go the distance barefoot!!!! One weekend in September we rode 50 miles and not only did Reese travel well, but there was no wear at all to his hooves, no chips, no isses whatsoever. I have never had to stop riding Reese due to him wearing too much hoof. To my amazement, his hoof growth kept up with the wear of riding. You see, IF you have proper hoof balance and good circulation, together that encourages excellent hoof growth. Wow, eh? ;-)
Words can not describe how I feel. To think where we were just 6 months ago and where we are now....it's like a miracle. I not only have my horse back, but to see him moving with such grace, power and comfort is amazing! All of our curly geldings have benefited 100% from Pete's technique. I am just so thankful for the knowledge and simplicity he has brought to the horse world!! I am also thankful to my very willing husband who inspite of his bad back, took on this challenge with a smile. And even put up with me when I would say things like, "you missed a spot there, honey" or "can you touch Reese up again for me dear, before my big ride this weekend?" ;-) I could not have done this alone. Thank you Tom!
I would like to add that Reese NO LONGER trips!!!! What caused it? It is quite simple. Reese had no support in his heel. His heels were trimmed way to low, his frogs were cut out entirely and his toes were left way too long. When toes are left too long, it would be like us strapping a piece of wood to the bottom of our shoe that extends out several inches. Not only will you trip but you could easily pull tendons. (Reese has a splint on the inside of his front leg which is mostly a result of that...thank heaven he never went lame). IMAGINE long toes on a horse with shoes! He couldn't even wear down his natural break over, like he would without them. So he was tripping due to long toes, but also when going barefoot, his heel was too tender to land 'heel first' so he would land on his toes when the ground got difficult for him. This caused him to land wrong and trip forward. This also caused his toes to wear unnaturally.
What needed to happen over time thru the Pete Ramey trim was: Reese needed to start building a heel that could support him and encourage 'heel first' landing. Which included NOT touching the frog, leaving some heel, backing down the toe thru proper trim and the mustang roll, and addressing the flares to regain that wall/sole connection.
What is VERY cool is that the more I ride, the faster the results. By riding, we create excellent circulation in the hoof and help build wall/sole and a healthy hoof all around. What is also so cool, is that his trims are taking less and less time because he is now traveling correctly and wearing his hoof down in a balanced way.
Okay, so to illustrate where we began, I included some pics and a story of our journey.
The photo below was taken in the summer of 2006 when Reese had the heavier shoes on and his angles were really off. I was smiling in this photo, until I saw what was going on. It was after seeing it that I knew something was wrong and immediately called my farrier to reset & retrim. (click to enlarge)
The below photo was taken a another parade after the reset and trim. You can still see how long his toes are and also note Cheyene's as well. (click to enlarge)
Photo below: 4 weeks into Rehabilitation. You can see the toe flare pretty well on the left hoof. (white). It is no wonder he is wearing his toes so badly. Also notice the heel.
4 MONTHS LATER - PICS BELOW - AUGUST
Photo taken at the end of August.
NOTICE the angle of his pastern now and how comfortable he looks. He is NO longer tripping and is one happy boy!!!
6 MONTHS LATER - PICS BELOW
This is Reese's right front hoof, my 6 year old Curly Gelding.
The April Photo was taken just 2 weeks after my farrier gave him a trim. The frog was completely cut out.
Left Photo: Notice the under slung heel and how he is wearing his toe round. Huge gap between wall and sole, due to flares. Also notice the deep/wide collateral groove. You can't see it but his sole is not concave in the April photo. Right Photos: Notice how well defined the heel is becoming! It is setting back where it should be and the toe is also dropping back. From the side photo you can see how strong and solid the hoof wall has become and the concavity of the sole! The frog is healthy and is finally able to do it's job well. We still have a long way to go, but Reese is sound, happy and traveling over almost any terrain without tenderness.
Photos below showing Reese's Left Front Hoof The April Photo was taken just 2 weeks after my farrier gave him a trim. The frog was completely cut out.
NEW UPDATES! 9 MONTHS LATER January 2008
We continue to make progress, but due to the wet fall season Reese's frogs are declining a bit. I am going to start treating him with Pete's Goo (1/2 antibiotic cream, 1/2 1% Clomtrimazole) and see if I can't get him back on track. I would like to see his walls build as well as his sole by springtime. But that can't happen til he is landing heel first consistently. This boy is always a work in progress! But I am thrilled to see the concavity continuing and such a difference in the photos from May.
Scoll down to see January updates on Cheyene too!
CHEYENE'S HOOVES - OUR 12 YEAR OLD CURLY GELDING
Chy has never had shoes on his entire life. He was ridden extensively in the arena being shown (jumping) and Ok barefoot for years. However, when trail ridden he would wear his toes square like Reese and our farrier said he would eventually need front shoes. Alas, he never did and he never will!!
Left Photo: Notice the huge gap developing between the sole and the wall. He could have easily been headed for White Line issues. Also note the bars and how laid over they are. I recently read that when you see laid over bars like this, it is due to lack of support in the heel and the bars are trying to help support the hoof any way it can. Right Photo: In just 12 weeks, ...Chy's frog it developing and his heel is widening. The bars are no longer folded over, (we didn't touch them...it corrected itself on it's own) but supporting the hoof much better now! All we did was address the flares, leave the frog and heels alone and keep the hoof balanced.
Update: Chy's Same hoof as above, photo taken January 2008. Frogs declined due to the wet fall season just like Reese but still progress has been made and concavity is coming! Heels are coming back really nice.
This has been such an amazing journey for me. In writing this article I hope it will help others. I am thankful to my internet friends that have assisted me in this process, gave me support and offered advice when I needed it. Without them, I would have not had the courage to even try. And once again, I need to Thank my wonderful husband for being such a diligent 'Farrier" throughout this process. He has even assisted friends who have a desire to learn Pete's Natural Hoof Trim.
But most of all, Thank you to Pete Ramey!!!!
NEW Update! September 2008
Reese's Hooves before and after our 25 mile Competitive Trail ride. He has been ridden 100-140 miles per month since May. Reese has now been barefoot for 18 months.
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