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To shoe or not to shoe, removing the shoes during winter...
To shoe or not to shoe, removing the shoes during winter...

To Go Barefoot or Not

This is the time we may start thinking more about keeping the home fires burning rather than riding.  With the great weather, and for self-serving reasons, we don't like to see your priorities move away from the horses, but it does happen.  If you do not plan to ride as much, this is a good time to have Dobbin' s shoes removed and the feet trimmed.

We like to see the horse spend some time without shoes.  If there is to be little riding, or if the riding is to be on the farm with little road or hard riding, most horses will do just fine without shoes.  Of course your farrier's opinion is important here, they know the situation with your horse's specific hoof condition.  Our discussion today will address horses without hoof problems.

As you have heard us preach before, the horse's foot acts as the heart of that leg.  With such long legs, mother nature devised a system specifically for circulating the blood through them.  The blood is propelled down the leg by gravity and the heart using the arteries as conduits.  Within the foot, specifically under the sole, blood is allowed to pool. This pooling takes place when the horse raises the foot to take a step.  When the foot is placed on the ground, the blood is forced up the leg thru the veins.  Along the length of the veins, there are one way valves that close, preventing the blood from running back down the leg.  This circulation provides the leg with the blood it needs for oxygenation and repairs.

Part of the success of this system is the expansion and contraction of the hoof wall.  When the foot is nailed to the shoe, movement is limited somewhat.  The sole is also raised off the ground.  However, in most cases circulation through the leg works just fine.

It is just as important to trim the foot at the time the shoes are taken off as it is when putting shoes on.  Now is the time for your farrier to balance the foot and correct any defects in the walls.  If the wall is unhealthy as indicated by several cracks, it may be necessary to leave the shoes on.  Treatment would also be indicated so wall growth could be stimulated and the old hoof grown out quickly.  Supplementation with a concentrated biotin and lysine source will speed growth of the hoof wall by 50 %, to the amazing speed of 1/2 inch per month!  It is important that the concentration of biotin and lysine is adequate to correct the shortages that, exist.

A few months of going barefooted will stimulate the tissue of the foot by allowing unlimited movement of the walls and sole.  You will need to see your farrier just as often during the winter as the hoof growth will be even faster while Dobbin is barefoot.

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