Off With Her Shoes (Part 1 of the 3 Part Series on Transitioning to Hoof Boots)
A while back my wife Julia and I pulled the steel horseshoes on her pony Pie’s front feet. I thought you’d be interested how we’re transitioning her (Pie, not Julia) to bare feet. From here on out, she’ll go barefoot. For extra protection Pie might need on rocky trails or abrasive surfaces like asphalt, we’ll slap on a pair of hoof boots.
Pulling Pie’s Shoes
It’s easiest for me to just show you photos of how I removed Pie’s shoes so here goes.
The Case For Going Barefoot
In the last 15 years, I have traveled over 9,000 miles on my mule and horse journeys with hoof boots instead of steel shoes. My barefoot journeys include:
- Atlantic to Pacific saddle journey with mule Woody and pony Maggie. You can read the account of this voyage in “Too Proud to Ride a Cow” and “Woody and Maggie Walk Across America”, found in the RiverEarth.com General Store.
- Canada to Mexico wagon voyage with mule Polly. You can watch the “Lost Sea Expedition” documentary about this journey on Amazon or order the DVD in the RiverEarth.com General Store.
- Across Newfoundland wagon voyage with mule Polly.
- North Carolina to Virginia and back on saddle mules with Julia.
That doesn’t count the hundreds of additional miles pleasure riding and driving since 2004 when I transitioned from steel shoes to hoof boots.
There are lots of reason why people choose to let their horses and mules go barefoot. A few of mine are:
- It allows the foot to act as the blood pump that it is. Every time a horse places weight on one of its feet, it expands, especially the back end of it, the end opposite the toe. When the horse lifts the foot, the hoof contracts. In addition, the frog, the triangular structure at the back of the hoof, pushes up and down when it makes contact with the ground. This in-and-out and up-and-down pumping action is vital for circulation. Steel shoes can restrict that 4-way action.
- It allows me to trim my mounts’ feet. I was never great at nailing on horse shoes but with a bit of coaching have become comfortable trimming my animals’ feet. My go to source is Pete Ramey’s “Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You”.
- It feels better for the horse. Do you wear shoes to bed? No, your horse or mule probably doesn’t want to either.
Read the Rest of This Series
Next Post: Back on With Her Shoes
I’ve always enjoyed transitioning horses and mules from steel shoes to bare feet. In my next post, I’ll explain how we fitted Pie with hoof boots. For a really detailed review of the 3 kinds of hoof boots Julia and I have used check out the Hoof Boot Report.
Julia and the New Book
Big thanks to Julia who helped with photos. You can read more about her travels and her pony Pie on her ConsideringAnimals.com blog.
Right now I’m deep in to the second draft of my next book about my mule journey from North Carolina to Idaho with my mules Brick and Cracker. In addition to lots of adventure and interesting folks, I cover lots of long distance riding techniques including bare foot hoof care. I’d be happy to give you a heads up when it comes out. Just sign up for the RiverEarth.com Newsletter . That’s right here.
Carpe cavallo y’all!