barefoot progress: 6 weeks

I recently got a barefoot rehab book as an early Christmas present to myself (which is part of the reason I’m on a full spending freeze right now; early gifts get me like woah). This, of course, made me think much more on Murray’s foot progression, and where we’re at in this little experiment.

RF landing

Excitingly, we now have a just barely heel-first landing on the RF (upright foot). It’s not consistent, but it’s pretty much there, and definitely there in soft footing.  Unfortunately, the LF is still decidedly toe-first and will take a while to change, I suspect, as the LF heel is particularly weak.

LF landing

I had thought the RF was our problem foot, but data proves me wrong again. Farrier was right — it’s the LF that causes us issues!  (And honesty, wouldn’t that explain why he short steps with the RF? Doesn’t want to put too much pressure on the LF!!)

LF progress since 10/23 (click to embiggen for detail)

Most importantly, Murray returned to overnight turnout on 12/1, and I am very, very, very excited about it.  His leg hole is holding up (still bandaged as you can see — I was not about to risk scraping the scab off and having the proud flesh come back) and healing nicely.  The movement he gets in pasture (at least an hour or so a night, even if he’s out there for a full 12) will be far more than I could ever have given him in an hour or two at the barn, and movement is key to palmar hoof development!

I created a handy little line-guide to show the changes in the frog in particular. The red lines are based on the frog as of 10/23, and I’ve copied that exact image over to the following weeks so you can see how his frog is (literally) bursting the seams.

somehow it’s moved back, gotten longer, and gotten wider!

Interestingly, I haven’t seen much progress in the angle of this foot. It’s a little distressing, but thanks to my new book, I have some ideas on how to improve nutrition and movement to help the dorsal hoof move along better.

The right front appears to be making less progress but might have been a healthier foot overall, so perhaps it isn’t too worriesome.  Things I really like about this hoof’s development are that it’s rounding out a fair bit, which means it will become less upright overall!  I also think that I’m not going to see a much bigger frog until after there’s space for it between the bars (and this weak icky frog has scraped off… whenever that will be).

I’ve applied the same line system above, and while it looks like there’s not as much going on here, you can see a serious widening of the bars and lateral grooves to make way for a new frog (I hope. I’m not a farrier or vet!).

Because we got new sand footing, Murray is now back to light work.  We started with some lunging, and he’s not sound sound, but he’s pretty sound for Murray.  Work is good, and as long as we’re on a supportive surface like sand, I’m going to keep the groundwork going and add in more and more under saddle work.  One of the best parts of this clicker training business is that Murray is actually listening to me when I get in the saddle, so he’s not thinking “oh, how do I not do this thing?” he’s thinking “oh, how do I do this thing and acquire more goodies?”

left hind progress — wider frog, and getting a little more symmetrical I think!

Murray was not only happy to work, but pretty confident in his work.  At one point down the long side I felt him really propel himself down the arena with great, for lack of a better word, purpose.  I’m not sure if it is because he knows I like to ask for forward, or if perhaps he was feeling particularly comfortable and confident on the footing, but he felt fantastic!

RH progress – also more frog, but less symmetrical!

There’s a lot of work to do before we can be sound anywhere other than our lovely and supportive indoor, but I like what I’m seeing here.  I need to make some feed changes if I’m to expect Murray to keep making progress (notably increasing mineral intake and decreasing sugar — bye bye, barley), but the outlook is good!

The book I keep blabbing on about is Nic Barker and Sarah Braithwaite’s Feet First, which feels like a great starting resource. I’m tempted to buy the “sequel”, but not sure if I deserve more Christmas presents just yet…

18 thoughts on “barefoot progress: 6 weeks”

  1. What’s your plan for trimming? Is your farrier still doing him or are you letting him wear down naturally? And if your farrier is doing him, how many weeks apart is he getting done? SORRY THIS IS SO INTERESTING I LOVE NAKED HORSE FEET.


    1. We don’t have a plan just yet!!! I was just thinking about this yesterday too because we would normally trim in two more weeks but, you know, Christmas is then.

      So I think we are going to let it work itself out for now. That is, go au natural. After Christmas I’ll check in with farrier for a trim and get her thoughts on this experiment! So that will be ten or eleven weeks, and I’ll let her tell me what we should do moving forward.

      I’m pretty comfortable with the rate they are growing and wearing so far though. Growth is not outpacing wear at the moment, so his feet are still a reasonable shape (except that stupid flat one). I’d really like to get some work in on rougher surfaces to stimulate more growth, but can’t do that until we are heel first…. So we will see!


  2. Love this. It’s always so crazy to me how fast their feet change. Bast’s feet totally changed shape (like completely unrecognizable) in a month. Pig’s feet took much longer to change, but he was on much less turnout than Bast. I have found more turnout to be the biggest key to good development. Also, I don’t set a lot of stock in hoof shape. I’ve found the right shape for the horse will become apparent, and it’s not always textbook. Pig grows beautiful textbook feet standing in a stall, but is lame as hell walking on them in real life. I guess I relate. My feet are super ugly, but they do a lot of functional work daily!


      1. Ack! I know! Feel free to text, gchat, batsignal. It’s usually a reliable way to get in touch with me. I love talking feet. 🙂 This is also a great reminder that I need to trim Pig pretty badly. Whoops!


  3. Curious – what made you start on the barefoot journey? I have literally no knowledge on this subject and am curious what motivated you.


    1. The Rockley Rehab blog has always been really interesting and compelling to me. Something about horses ***NEEDING*** shoes to be sound in a modern and/or competitive environment has never really sat well with me. (Silly emphasis to underline some people’s stance on shoes, though by all means not everyone’s.) I always wanted to try doing barefoot properly, but my horse was sound in shoes and not sound out of them, and I wanted to keep competing. So I didn’t try.

      That was all sitting in my mind when the leg hole saga this year meant that Murray was confined to his stall for eight+ weeks. The time seemed right.

      There’s more to it than this, but I haven’t thought it through quite enough to make a coherent comment. Maybe I’ll write a post on it soonish. Email me if you want more deets tho!


  4. This is really interesting to see. Is barefoot your plan for ongoing Murray life now? Or are you planning on putting him back in shoes once his feet settle into the larger hoof plan? I’ve always understood it as horses need a bit of extra support for jumping.


    1. That’s a good question… That I’m still waiting on the answer to myself! I’m going to see how it goes and keep his feet as healthy as we can. If that means shoes for performance, we’ll pop them back on. If we can keep jumping without them, I’m open to that too!

      I think the evidence is quite mixed with the need for shoes for jumping. There certainly aren’t many GP level jumpers going barefoot. But for lower levels? I think there might be more than people think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lower levels I can totally understand. Also show jumping specific to upper levels because the main footing they will be on is nice cushy arena footing. The cross country aspect of eventing is definitely more intense on the feet as you can’t control the footing. It will be interesting to follow along!


  5. If I was your secret santa I saw a book that I would have bought you. It’s actually not in the package that is waiting for you at your old house, but damn do I want you to get it because omg.


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