So, what to do ?! Well, something that comes to mind is the following saying from Einstein 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.' I needed to try something different. Initially I tried different types of remedial shoeing using different types of shoes and various pads. My farrier is brilliant and I cannot faults his efforts to get my horses sound. He has certainly tried. But after going through 4 sets of pads with no difference, it was time for a change.
The shoes were due to come off my mare for her MRI scan anyway, and my new gelding who came in for behavioral issues had similar problems with his feet, although we thought it was just a bruised sole initially. So, two sets of shoes came off and it came to me that this was a way of trying something different with them.
So they have their MRI scans and both have bone bruising in their feet. What next? So I get on to doing some research on barefoot as there is no way I am hammering a set of nails in to sore feet. The first helpful things I came across were the UK Hoof Boutique and Pete Ramey's Hoof Rehab website: https://www.hoofbootique.co.uk/ and http://www.hoofrehab.com/Articles.html
These places really helped and I have since subscribed to the 'Barefoot Horse Magazine' also which has heaps of useful info. So the outcome of all of this is that I am going to try barefoot for 12 months to see if it helps. It certainly can't make things any worse. The idea is that you have regualr trims from a farrier that knows what they are doing. I am lucky, my farrier Phil Ibbotson based in Surrey is super helpful and keen to help, barefoot or not. A lot of farriers are not keen on barefoot, but they need to get with the program, things are changing. After hundreds of years using metal shoes, we are finally moving forward with something else.
So, whats new? OK, so while in the field, my horses are happy enough wondering about without shoes on, but I need to be able to ride them when they start coming back in to work. One, now 4 months since the MRI scan is looking relatively sound but what would be the point in going back to shoes when she was lame with shoes before? Instead I am venturing in to the world of hoof boots. I figure if a horse can ride a 100 mile endurance ride over rocky terrain in hoof boots (so I've read) then why can't mine?
Off I trot to size up some hoof boots. To start I measure the hooves and took quite a few pictures. I then, armed with my measurements, purchased two pairs off eBay and borrowed one pair from a friend. I bought the Cavallo Sport and the Equine Fusion Joggers and borrowed some Renegade Classics. Fitting is the most important thing I have found and Liz at the Hoof Boutique has really helped. To start you need to measure your horses hooves super accurately and take some pictures to email to Liz. she can then guide you on sizes and types of hoof boots.
The Cavallos are the easiest to fit but slipped around - just not quite right for my horse, the Fusions being tricky to get on and off at times although better fit on the horse with slightly longer toe and the Renegades needing some time investment at the beginning to get the size right. Once that's done they too are easy although the most expensive set of boots (but worth it in the long run versus shoes).
After much procrastination I have decided on a pair of Renegade Vipers for one horse and the Equine Fusion for the other. Each fits differently for differently shaped hooves. Renegades are better on rounder feet, the fusions seem better on a longer toe that is perhaps a bit slimmer, they do a slim version which I will purchase on eBay when a second hand pair come up!
The outcome here I hope is soundness, but being only 4 months in on my 12 month barefoot test, already one horse looks sound. Can't be bad. The real test will be when she comes in to work.
I have read that I regularly need to test my horses bare hooves on small amounts of different (i.e. rocky) terrain so the hooves adjust, before going out willy nilly over dodgy footing and cantering about. This is not going to be an overnight process BUT if I get a couple sound of horses at the end, I really don't care how long it takes. Some people have asked me why I don't just shoot them? My answer is that why would I shoot something that just needs some time to heal - we are just always in such a bludy rush !
Next steps ?? Wear the hoof boots when out on walk work, barefoot in the field, regular foot trimming, regualr exercise, hi-fiber & low sugar diets, lots of forage, mixed terrain for the hooves to adjust.......lets see !