Just what is natural
horse and hoof care?
After 40 years in horses I didn’t have a clue until
I had an Arabian horse
named Sham. He was ready to retire and I was looking for a
second horse. I surfed ads for half-Friesians and found a
website called Equinextion with some beautiful horses for
sale … and some different stuff about ‘Barefoot and Natural’.
When I’d bought Sham, with
his super tall coke-can feet (the fashion in the Arab world),
I had him trimmed and shod ever since. I was taught that if
I wanted to ride “on that ground” and “that many
hours a week”, shoes were necessary. I didn’t question it
… until I started reading the Equinextion website and a little
voice in the back of my brain said, “This makes sense.”
But all that ‘natural’
stuff the word was overused. Sham was fine. He moved
like a dancer on his toes. I clearly remember asking
why his feet hit the ground toe first, kicking clouds of dirt
ahead of him. “No problem,” the professionals told me. “It’s
just his way of going.” Okay. I saw many horses that moved
like that so they must be right.
Still that little voice
drew me back to Equinextion. I started reading other barefoot
websites. They all promoted full turnout. I was doing that.
After nine years in a boarding stable, Sham was now in my
backyard free to come and go from his box stall. Of course,
I was forced into this because Sham could barely breathe where
he had been. Now his allergies no longer needed any drugs
and he wasn’t nearly as ‘hot’ and spooky.
I was doing great for
him, wasn’t I?
Why didn’t my little voice agree?
I decided to call Equinextion
and see how much the half-Friesian horses cost. I talked about
Sham. I said I liked her idea of putting horses in the woods
and I could do that too. She said it might be dangerous if
Sham was still wearing shoes. I explained that I couldn’t
take off is shoes. There was no time to transition him to
bare feet. I HAD to ride regularly or my arthritis would seize
Spring came. Sham’s big
trot just was missing. And one day he refused to trot on the
road. I was very worried, but there was no sign of injury,
heat, lameness. Friends said, “He’s getting old. He has arthritis.”
I agreed. I shopped for another horse in earnest. Something
closer to riding age. When it was time to have Sham’s shoes
reset, that little voice prodded me to test the water. I asked
the farrier, “Can I let Sham go barefoot when he retires?”
“NO. He’ll wear his heels down to nothing. He had no heels
on him when you got him.” Hmm, that wasn’t correct.
I compared Sham’s feet
to photos on the internet. They were contracted some. And
his heels were a little high … maybe. But he needed shoes.
“Why?” asked that annoying voice. “Why can’t he walk on the
gravel road barefoot? Why does adding 5mm of steel around
the edges suddenly make gravel okay?”
I couldn’t answer those
Then on a trail ride Sham
tripped … three times. The next ride he stumbled and we narrowly
missed crashing into tree trunks. Experienced horse people
said, “It’s his shoulder.” “His knees.” “Arthritis.” “My old
horse does that all the time. It’s nothing.” But I knew it
wasn’t nothing. I called the vet. He said, “… damaged
nerve in the shoulder. Can’t be fixed. “I called another vet.
“… brain tumor. Never ride him again.” I sobbed for hours.
The next day I took video
and played it in slow motion. He hadn’t tripped at all! His
leg buckled suddenly – as if from a shock of pain in his
foot. I called Equinextion. I don’t remember what I said.
But I remember what she said. “We’ll be there Friday. Just
send me directions. And I’ve got the perfect horse for you
to buy. I’ll bring pictures.”
Lisa and Charlyne arrived
with confidence and soothing smiles. When they picked up Sham’s
feet, the silent exchange of glances shouted volumes. I cried
a lot that day. I can write about it now … the overwhelming
guilt has mostly gone.
Sham was the ‘poster child’
for contracted feet.
It was no wonder I had
suppressed my little voice for so long, sandwiched as it was
between that guilt and my helplessness. I know now that there
are many, many people out there wanting to help their horses
but are unable to find the right information and if they do,
they are unable to face their inner voices – to deal with
the fact that their conventional horse education let their
After Lisa’s trim, Sham’s
immediate comfort was obvious. Over the next weeks his chronic
sore back, hyper-ticklish skin and, most importantly, his
stumbling, all disappeared! And I was learning how to trim.
It was terrifying … and I LOVED it! Lisa supported me endlessly
with phone calls and email. Sham and I even started trail
riding again. I’d like to say this story has a happy ending,
but it doesn’t … and it does.
In my husband’s words,
written to family and friends on October 3, 2003, “Yesterday
was a sad day for us. Anne Louise found Sham collapsed and
struggling in the woods in the early morning and when I arrived
we made the decision to have him euthanized. His back half
was paralyzed from a dislocated spine and he was suffering
so it was the only choice.
her new horse Isabelle is due to arrive tomorrow. Mixed emotions
abound. We had hoped for a transitional phase with Sham continuing
to be ridable for about three years while the youngster was
brought along, but it was not to be.
it is with great anticipation that we await the arrival of
Isabelle. Sham was Anne Louise's wonderful equine companion
for thirteen of his twenty-three years. He was a terrific
all around sport horse and trail explorer. He was amusing,
entertaining, and just beautiful to look at. We'll miss him.”
Two days after Sham’s
death, Isabelle arrived, a Friesian x Thoroughbred filly.
The next spring I bought a trail hose and companion for Isabelle
– Prince, an older Canadian gelding.
My life with my horses
has become joyful and relaxing.
With full turnout and free
choice hay, I no longer rush home to take horses in or let
them out, to meet feeding schedules, to wait until the 'meal'
is digested before I ride. I don't have to walk out a damp
horse on a cold day - they do that for themselves. I don't
have to go to the barn after dark. I don't have to muck out
stinky, ammonia-soaked stalls. I don't pay farrier fees, buy
shavings or bags of grain. I actually keep two horses for
LESS than the price of one kept the old way!
I continue to study with
Lisa. I have become an Equinextion Mentor Trimmer. I teach
people how to care for their horses more naturally - more
consistent with the true nature of the horse - and how to
maintain hooves so their horses move better, behave better
and live longer.
Big words? Yes. Possible?
You bet … but only if people know about this option in horse
care. So feel free to read the Equinextion website, equinextion.com.
Maybe you'll end up like me - the owner of super healthy happy