Gemma and Spencer
‘I just want to say again how pleased I am with how good the boys feet look, especially Spencer's considering every summer I have had him, his feet have looked shocking! I have been trying to find some pictures to show how bad they were but the ones below were the best I could find, I purposely avoided taking pictures of his feet as I was so ashamed of how horrible they looked! People would always tell me it was obvious barefoot wasn't suitable for him, at least not in the summer and I should consider shoeing him (though I initially took his shoes off for the summer to give his hooves a rest because after every set he had on came off after 2 weeks bringing half his hoof with them!) I did sometimes think those people might be right but as he was never lame or footsore I decided to keep the shoes off.
I got Spencer as a 4 yr old in July 2004. He was shod and had been all the time he had been in work at the dealers, though he had come over from Ireland, I think around April time, and not sure if he had been shod whilst over there at all. I kept him shod the rest of the first summer I had him, and all through the winter.
I noticed that when walking he seemed to slam his feet down quite hard , when hacking on the roads it made me think about the impact it would be having on his joints. We had a lot of roadwork from the yard and whenever he was walking down hill he would slip quite badly with his hind feet and seemed to get increasingly nervous and tense. On the flat he would also stumble quite often, to the point I started hacking him in knee boots as I was convinced one day he would fall right over.
The following summer his feet were growing very quickly, each time he was shod, one or both front shoes would fall/be pulled off after about 2 weeks. Having the lost shoe put back on meant more nail holes in his hoof, not to mention the damage often caused to the wall when the shoe had been pulled off. Towards the end of the summer it was agreed to leave his shoes off for the winter to give his feet chance to recover before putting them back on in the spring. (I had been reading up on forums about keeping a horse barefoot and decided if his shoes were coming off I would try and keep them off for good, though everyone on the yard told me he was too big/heavy a horse to be able to cope without shoes!! Although I had read about natural hoof care I struggled to see how it could offer me anything more.)
Thankfully the transition period was very uncomplicated - in fact there wasn't really one to speak of. Spencer was only in light work anyway at the time his shoes came off and he never struggled with any of the terrain he had to walk over, even the stony tracks around the yard. He was never lame, footsore and I never even had to consider the prospect of using hoof boots.