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 JJ: 16 Hand TB, 8 years old, X-Race horse, never been shoeless, used as a trail horse in the last 4 years.

The owner had bought JJ just 1.5 years before any problems had show up in the feet. The first year of owning a horse is always a bit of a 'get to know' each other process. JJ had not been ridden much upon being purchased due to some bolting and bridling problems. The owner decided to try natural horsemanship and the horse made some huge changes, no more bolting and ended up being a great trail horse, however, his soles had become quite thin due to the shoeing and JJ was sore and a bit off. The owner took the shoes off between farrier visits and JJ was very lame in just three days. A different farrier was selected by the local vet and Xrays were taken. JJ had arthritis in the coffin joints, he was pigeon toed and he also had a bit of a broken back bone alignment, the vet advised the owner (who was thinking of going barefoot) that JJ would 'become crippled' if the shoes were removed. So the owner proceeded to have the new farrier apply a special gel padding to cushion the sole. In one shoeing cycle the sole had thickened but it was soft chalky sole not healthy exfoliated sole. Nevertheless, it allowed for an easier transition to barefoot as the foot had gained some height to it with the special gel padding.

After giving the owner information to make an educated decision if he wanted to remove the shoes or not, he decided it would be the best thing for JJ and was willing to not ride him for as long as JJ needed in order to build a stronger foot. The owner had put forth great trust in my abilities and my judgment that we could successfully transition JJ out of shoes.

We took the hinds off first and let them adjust for about 1 month, he seemed to be doing fine, he was on pasture at the time, so his environment was quite soft. We took his fronts off and clean traxed him immediately after his first trim to aid in killing any thrush or bacteria. The owner walked him in therapeutic pads for 5 minutes to 10 minutes a day on level ground to stimulate the health of his structures. He did this for one month. He seemed to be walking around fine with the exception to sensitivity on gravel. JJ was on pasture for about another 1.5 months, then the owner had to move him to a trail barn.....this would be a challenge as it was a very muddy and rocky area he would be going to with more limited turn out. The owner purchased easy boots to make his transition smoother when walking over these surfaces.

Over the months ahead the owner started to ride JJ on trail rides and JJ became foot sore, even with boots. I advised the owner that his feet were not ready for this type of activity and that if he must take him out for trail rides it should only be very short rides on level ground, then give him a few days off; his structures did not rate high enough on the scale of usability for 'trail riding'. I asked him to check for heat and pulse daily and understand when he should and should not be ridden. The owner became more aware of how slow to take things with his horse and JJ became more more sure footed.

He had the classic 'forward' hoof print compared to his foot print. His entire hoof capsule had migrated so far forward from shoes that when we removed them, it was difficult to keep up with the toe as the heels moved backwards. He also was pigeon toed with shoes but being shoeless this had gone away. When the feet scored higher on the scale of usability, the owner poured pea gravel in his paddock during the spring as it was extremely muddy. JJ's feet changed considerably after this change to his environment, the concavity he developed in only a months time was amazing.

The owner is now riding him on the road without boots and booting him still for the rocky trails, he goes out for two hours at a time and JJ is doing great. Again this owner was extremely committed and patient. I think the hardest thing to deal with at boarding barns is the pressure from everyone else to put shoes on as the 'transition period' can be hard for the horse and the owner. People that are not educated on hoofcare don't understand why anyone would go shoeless. They aren't willing to wait to see when the horse goes sounder. Once the horse is out of the transition period and doing better with fewer issues, that is when people start to be more supportive.

The most dramatic change with his left front is how much his hoof capsule has moved backwards compared to its original position. This was a severe case of the hoof capsule migrating forward from years of improper shoeing. The frog in the back of the foot has also expanded as well as the heels have moved back significantly. This horse exfoliated quite a bit of false sole. The sole when shed was quite thin and needed to build up again resulting in a beautifully concave foot. It was about 1 year until this horse could function on different types of terrain comfortably both with and without boots.

March 2006 - Left Front
This frog is very stretched forward along with the toe

November 2006 - Left Front
The heels and frog have moved back significantly
Left Hind Dec 2005
Stress rings in hoof wall, old abscess hole
Left Hind November 2006

5/19/07 - JJ is trail riding a few times a week, he wears boots on the front most of the time, but is doing great as the trails are very rocky. His owner will be trimming him after attending a clinic in June and I will only be there for checking up every few trims.