Gradually conditioning the barefoot horse?

Anyone have experience and advice on how to gradually start conditioning barefoot horses? (Both had been previously fit, and have wonderful barefoot feet but have been off work the last year and a half due to my own health issues.)

There is a complication however, my IR mare did founder mildly in both fronts the winter before last.
She is now sound and healthy and has been cleared by the vet to start conditioning for 25 mile LDs.

How do I go about conditioning both so as to gently strengthen their feet without causing soreness? We do have gravel roads that will be part of our conditioning route.

TIA

In my experience, if the horse has good feet, ie decent concavity, sole thickness, minimal flaring or separation, etc., they should be ok to go out barefoot. On the other hand, if they have problems, I personally am not really convinced that any amount of “conditioning” is going to help. I know people are into walking over gravel and things like that, but when my horses were sore, they were sore, and I don’t believe that making them continue like that is ri fair or beneficial. I would definitely use boots…my horses are doing well barefoot but I use boots for any ride that will be over say a few hours or is harsh terrain. I would also not hesitate to put shoes back on if I felt I needed to…in fact, I have done that for a bit to get over some issues and was able to go back to barefoot again.

I would always go out in hoof protection - boots or shoes. Even if you think you’ll just be on sand or soft ground some ride, all it takes is one rock…
and no, I don’t think you can strengthen their feet/hooves by work/‘conditioning’ them. Like Saratoga said, it’s getting the hoof itself to grow into a good foot.

I have a new horse, came to me 2/22, always shod for Spring-Fall and shoes off in the winter. My horses are all barefoot. I started the new horse on easy, short trails barefoot. He did fine. I purchased boots for longer, rockier rides, and we have used them a time or two. I would boot him for the first half of the ride, then remove the boots for the ride back. We did about 11 steep, rocky miles Friday barefoot, and he was just fine. Sometimes, I think we over-think it. Many horses will do just fine without too much intervention. I personally wouldn’t buy a horse that didn’t seem to be able to go out barefoot. Having my new guy on trial for two months was a huge help with that.

Work your horses intelligently and watch them carefully. If they get “foot sore” then you need to do something about it. Boots, shoes, whatever. What you must NOT do is allow a “philosophy” from a book to trump what you see with your own eyes.

Consider, too, that while the hoof is where the horse meets the road the hoof is also a result of the horse’s genetics as expressed through your exercise, nutrition, and training program.

Put another way, you condition the whole horse not just the hoof.

The horse, itself, when properly worked is the best indicator of whether the work is successful.

There are a bunch of “conditioning” protocols out there for folks looking to ride endurance. Pick one you like and try it.

G.

It’s a long road sometimes if they have been shod for quite a few years. We’ve done it with several horses and had success but it took time and we still don’t take the mare out without front boots if we’re going to be in rocks. If it’s real rocky, she’ll be booted on all fours. My morgan has never had shoes in his life (he’s 15) and he’s fine barefoot on all terrain. I still won’t trot him over rocks tho.
You have to look and know what the hoof is doing through out the process. If heels are contracted, you’ll need to watch for that widening to happen. I wouldn’t dare ride them out barefoot with contracted heels. And listen to your horse. They will never lie.

[QUOTE=Alberta Horse Girl;7569392]Anyone have experience and advice on how to gradually start conditioning barefoot horses? (Both had been previously fit, and have wonderful barefoot feet but have been off work the last year and a half due to my own health issues.)

There is a complication however, my IR mare did founder mildly in both fronts the winter before last.
She is now sound and healthy and has been cleared by the vet to start conditioning for 25 mile LDs.

How do I go about conditioning both so as to gently strengthen their feet without causing soreness? We do have gravel roads that will be part of our conditioning route.

TIA[/QUOTE]
If your definition of barefoot is “no nailed on shoes, but boots and a naked hoof qualify”, then I would suggest you get the horse(s) comfortable boots (all four feet) designed for long stretches of trotting, and then pick an Endurance conditioning program that suits your time and needs. The boots will adequately protect the horse’s feet so that you can condition the rest of the body - yours and theirs - without downtime worry from sore or injured feet.

Foot protection protocol should always be the #1 concern of anyone conditioning for Endurance and LD. A true barefooted horse - as in “nothing on the feet beyond what Nature herself provided 100% all the time rain or shine” really doesn’t belong in a distance sport where a limit to the time and an ungroomed surface for 25 miles or more are the deciding factors.

If the entire distance will be on grass, and all you do is condition on 100% grass, then knock yourself out with the barefoot (totally naked all the time) scheme. If any other surface comes into play, even for conditioning, you’re being stupid - and risking downtime - for not protecting against soreness or injury.

My driving ponies are running around barefooted in their pastures, but for work they are booted on all four. One is shod in front and wears boots over the shoes because his front feet have never hardened up to the demands of gravel roads, even with Easyboots on.

The one pony I’m preparing for his first LD in the fall I started this Spring barefoot (no protection), simply to delay shoeing as long as possible and to see how well we could do without shoes. Unfortunately, he’s pure hell on boots - they just disintegrate within a mile or two from home, and those things are expensive to replace. I’m not kidding - I never met a horse that killed boots. He can…and does. And don’t think I haven’t tried with different makes and types. Nothing works, or stays alive for long. The stories I could tell you. Oy, vey! Shoes … not a problem.

Anyway, what I’m trying to impart is… I was in your boat at the start of the season, wanting to condition on naked winter soft hooves on Spring rain soaked gravel roads. It worked for … oh, I’d say about two weeks. I was very careful as we were mostly just walking the gravel roads to get his body used to the work. And then he stepped on a stone. Hey, it’s a gravel road, littered with stones. Limp, limp, ok I’m fine. Nope, not really. A few days later he abscessed. We both lost a whole two weeks until the foot adequately drained, the hole in his sole sealed, and he was good to go.

I promptly got out my farrier equipment, strapped on my apron, and nailed aluminum St. Croix eventers on all four hooves, with the addition of Durashock pads on his front hooves. He sailed down the road at a free trot, happy as a claim. Didn’t feel a single thing under his feet. Those shoes not only protected, but they made his job a piece of cake, and I no longer had to spend 90% of my time at a crawl, looking down to steer a path through the road rocks. With foot protection I could finally concentrate on the program, not every little thing on the ground. We’ve ready graduated to climbing the mountains, and are ready for the OD’s LD in mid-June (except I will be elsewhere at the time, so won’t be there).

In short, you do your horse no favor at all to do any Endurance, ride or condition, attempting it with a naked hoof. Trust me - it isn’t worth it, it isn’t fun, your horse won’t benefit one iota, and you won’t be looked upon favorably by any intelligent person in the sport.

Get your horse some good, well fitting boots first - if you’re that determined to avoid the farrier’s hammer - and THEN start planning your conditioning program. :slight_smile:

this x1000

[QUOTE=gothedistance;7595003]If your definition of barefoot is “no nailed on shoes, but boots and a naked hoof qualify”, then I would suggest you get the horse(s) comfortable boots (all four feet) designed for long stretches of trotting, and then pick an Endurance conditioning program that suits your time and needs. The boots will adequately protect the horse’s feet so that you can condition the rest of the body - yours and theirs - without downtime worry from sore or injured feet.

Foot protection protocol should always be the #1 concern of anyone conditioning for Endurance and LD. A true barefooted horse - as in “nothing on the feet beyond what Nature herself provided 100% all the time rain or shine” really doesn’t belong in a distance sport where a limit to the time and an ungroomed surface for 25 miles or more are the deciding factors.

If the entire distance will be on grass, and all you do is condition on 100% grass, then knock yourself out with the barefoot (totally naked all the time) scheme. If any other surface comes into play, even for conditioning, you’re being stupid - and risking downtime - for not protecting against soreness or injury.

My driving ponies are running around barefooted in their pastures, but for work they are booted on all four. One is shod in front and wears boots over the shoes because his front feet have never hardened up to the demands of gravel roads, even with Easyboots on.

The one pony I’m preparing for his first LD in the fall I started this Spring barefoot (no protection), simply to delay shoeing as long as possible and to see how well we could do without shoes. Unfortunately, he’s pure hell on boots - they just disintegrate within a mile or two from home, and those things are expensive to replace. I’m not kidding - I never met a horse that killed boots. He can…and does. And don’t think I haven’t tried with different makes and types. Nothing works, or stays alive for long. The stories I could tell you. Oy, vey! Shoes … not a problem.

Anyway, what I’m trying to impart is… I was in your boat at the start of the season, wanting to condition on naked winter soft hooves on Spring rain soaked gravel roads. It worked for … oh, I’d say about two weeks. I was very careful as we were mostly just walking the gravel roads to get his body used to the work. And then he stepped on a stone. Hey, it’s a gravel road, littered with stones. Limp, limp, ok I’m fine. Nope, not really. A few days later he abscessed. We both lost a whole two weeks until the foot adequately drained, the hole in his sole sealed, and he was good to go.

I promptly got out my farrier equipment, strapped on my apron, and nailed aluminum St. Croix eventers on all four hooves, with the addition of Durashock pads on his front hooves. He sailed down the road at a free trot, happy as a claim. Didn’t feel a single thing under his feet. Those shoes not only protected, but they made his job a piece of cake, and I no longer had to spend 90% of my time at a crawl, looking down to steer a path through the road rocks. With foot protection I could finally concentrate on the program, not every little thing on the ground. We’ve ready graduated to climbing the mountains, and are ready for the OD’s LD in mid-June (except I will be elsewhere at the time, so won’t be there).

In short, you do your horse no favor at all to do any Endurance, ride or condition, attempting it with a naked hoof. Trust me - it isn’t worth it, it isn’t fun, your horse won’t benefit one iota, and you won’t be looked upon favorably by any intelligent person in the sport.

Get your horse some good, well fitting boots first - if you’re that determined to avoid the farrier’s hammer - and THEN start planning your conditioning program. :)[/QUOTE]

If I was doing endurance again, I would never do a ride barefoot. I have a lot of friends still doing endurance and they all boot up. In my earlier post, I’m only talking trail riding.