In March this year following a colourful ten year racing career jumping around the National Hunt circuit after he came into my care I decided to take off Poley’s shoes and go ‘Bare foot’. With the expert help of Debbie Crosoer from justhorsesense.com the plan was to provide the right environment for Poley to grow out a new hoof capsule, strenghten inner/outer walls, frog, sole and develop strength in his digital cushion and lateral cartilages. My goal; to be drag hunting bare foot by October.
A tall order that turned out to be!
Through sound applied nutrition for which there are no substitutes, dedicated foot management, trimming and podiatry re-hab Poley made significant gains, growing nearly a years foot and strength in six months.
It was not without its difficulties though. Boots on, Boots off, new pads here and there, worry over pulses, pickiness over stones, gait, “welly-wanging” boots off as we merrily cantered along, etc…But the results were worth the time and effort.
Under-run weak heals and toe-first landing became a thing of the past. Poley’s posture and gait became easy, strong and fluid. His musculo-skeletal system blossomed, stride lengthened and had it not been for his 13 years & my promise to him that he’d never see a racecourse again I’d have got him race-fit and jocked him up with an odds on bet!
And so came October with the exciting prospects of hunting, my worry though was knowing that if we were to loose a boot or two how would that go down amongst the other riders… would I be slowing everyone down whilst I dismounted and had to go hunting about on my own chase… Debbie and I discussed at length various boot options from old-mac’s to Easi-boots the same kind the endurance riders use but the same old problem came up – Poley had more work and re-hab to undergo and his feet had already come down a size and changed shape significantly enough to mean any purchased boots may not fit from one trim to the next. So the idea of shoes on for hunting only came up.
My initial worries were those of undoing all the strength we had in the soft tissue structures – when the heels, digital cushions, cartilages and frogs aren’t working as nature intended barefoot how much degradation will happen when he is in shoes? how would his gait be? Would he get a toe first landing again? Endless questions I bombarded and bored Debbie with but her reply was simple, ‘you can always take the shoes off at anytime’.
And so we both met with my farrier and discussed the plan of shoes on for hunting and then back to boots once the season ends. With naturally stronger heels and being shod ‘out the back’ Poley has maintained a heel first landing, he is sound, comfortable and has a big enthusiastic canter. His shoes will be off again in the new year ready to get his slippers back on, put his feet up and have a well earned rest before next October!