Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Barefoot Horse: Ch-ch-changes!

 Change is in the air.

Changing seasons,
turnout routine,
and some flying changes!

(Since the show is over, we are not stuck in counter canter mode anymore.  He was very happy!)

And more hay for me!  *Celebrate*

Harley's turnout routine has been changed to turnout for the daylight hours only.  He will remain stalled during the nighttime, with his buddies in the barn, and will enjoy a half-bale all to himself.  The major benefits of keeping him stalled at night are:

-Hopefully better maintenance of weight and condition as he will be out of the elements.  The barn is pretty warm with nine horses.
-He will not have to share his hay with his buddy.  This should also help him keep warm and maintain condition.
-The barn owners do not have to worry about getting to his paddock in bad winter weather or dark, cold nights.  My words, not theirs.  They would definitely keep him out at my request.

The major detriments are:

(You guessed it)

-His feet 
-Less movement
-Being confined to one's own bathroom for the night
-Less space to lay down or roam as the body sees fit.  I do notice that he tends to stock up behind when stalled at night.  I hope that this decreases as his body acclimates to less than 24/7 turnout.

I have left him out all winter for the past two years, except for the worst, snowiest parts of the season, but I was not happy with the amount of condition that he lost.  He never showed signs of being cold (no shivering, thick winter coat, often out in the middle of his paddock hanging with his buddy even though he has a shed, cheerful in temperament, etc.), but he also does not have extra poundage to spare.  Such are the woes of the owner of a hardkeeper.  I have discussed blanketing with my vet, but she did not seem real keen on the idea.  Blanketing actually freaks me out.  I have been looking on line, but I am just so worried about messing with his own thermoregulation.  More hay is the best way to maintain heat and the only way to ensure that he gets his ENTIRE share is if he is not out with his buddy.  Being out alone is not a good option either.  Did I mention that he has jumped out of his paddock before?

So here are some "Before" shots of his lovely feet.  I plan on cataloging the condition of his frogs especially as he endures more than half of his day in a 12' by 12' box.  That sounds pretty negative of me.  I apologize.  It is just that turnout is an important factor in the equation to healthy bare feet and I do not slave away all year long so that his feet can fall too pieces between November and March.  Sigh.  If he keeps the pounds and the changes in his feet are not too serious, than I guess it will be worth it.  I need an effective winter routine before he becomes a senior and really has trouble holding weight.  Senior horse.  That's like thirty, right?

Right front: still with grit from our ride (four days after his last trim)

Right hind: The inside bars are looking straighter and the outside bars are getting there.

Left front: I think these bars are almost where they should be (un-crushed).  I just trimmed them a few days ago.  These photos are more than a week old.  Feet do not stay the same for long!

Left hind: The outside bars on the hinds are the wonkiest, but I do see improvement.  They were more pulled forward in photos from earlier this year.  Again, I am not trying to make them straight.  I am keeping them trimmed to the level of the sole to benefit the health of the caudal hoof and letting them change at will.  I think that I see a little decontraction, but it is difficult to tell, because he started off with a nice set of feet.  Lucky boy.

As for my feet, I have been regularly riding in my jacket or fleece vest and I just unleashed the Rimfrost!

Hello Toasty Toes!

I wanted to buy these boots two falls ago, but decided against them for some reason.  Then we had a very, very cold and snowy winter.  My toes froze more times than I could count even with thinsulate socks and enough so that I remembered my pain up until the following autumn.  I snatched up these Mountain Horse Rimfrost boots last year with a coupon.  OH. MY. GOODNESS.  I have never experienced winter riding without the bitter sting of cold feet when I dismount my horse.  These boots really work!  They are warm, waterproof, easy to clean, difficult to damage, have reflectors on the outside of the calf for trail rides, and are cut short so there is no wear-in or "drop" period to survive before they feel comfortable.  The first time that I rode in these babies, was on an 8-mile Turkey Trot ride.  That was nuts!  I was certain that I would come home with massage blisters, but I was so comfortable and warm that I completely forgot that I was wearing new boots.  The only flaws that I can find in these boots are that they ARE clunky, so don't expect the elegant look of a tall boot, they are not very comfortable for walking (on two legs), and I am not sure how they would fit a taller rider.  The calf height is perfect for me, but a taller rider might find them too short in the calf.  Just a speculation, as I am in no position to judge and my height is one thing that WILL NOT be changing anytime soon!


  1. Val - funny stuff. Some of my blog posts for this coming week center on the slow arrival of fall. We finally had some days in the 50s this weekend, but I still rode in a t-shirt. Of course, we pay for a our sunny CA weather in August when it hits 100 and above daily.

    I've looked at those boots many times, but it simply doesn't get cold enough here. :0)

    Poor Harley. Stuck inside like the kids. I am sure he'll enjoy his turnout time. I am with you. I prefer not to blanket, especially living with such mild climate. Believe it or not, many of my friends blanket all winter. Doesn't make much sense to me.

    Kare from

  2. My winters do not get quite that frigid, so purchasing winter boots is out of the question - but I LOVE LOVE LOVE my mountian horse zipper dress boots - By far, the most comfortable and lovely boots I've owned to date. I used to swear by ariats, but I am in love with my mountian horse boots, and have had mucho compliments on them!!!

    I put turn out rain sheets on my horses for winter and that is it. It rains a LOT in Washington, and gets VERY windy as well, so I don't worry about the insulated blankets, I just stick with a waterproof/windproof sheet and my horses do very well, grow lovely coats, and as an added bonus, don't get muddy!

  3. I've had the Mountain Horse boots too. They are really warm, and comfortable.

    I hate to say- they break down with heavy use. My first pair lasted only two years- the zipper and elastic system wore out and broke. I couldn't find anyone to repair it, either :-(.

    Good luck with Harley's feet! And yours :-)

  4. I don't like to blanket either. The last few years, I've done a trace clip on Jackson and then dealt with blanketing. I never felt like he was as comfortable as he would be in his own coat; even though he adored his blanket. This year, I am going to try not clipping at all and no blanket. I'll ride him in the mornings when it is still cold and do my best to avoid heavy sweat. He is also on turn out during the day and stall at night. My goal for this winter is to maintain weight and muscle and come out of it with healthy feet. No sore soles. No concussion laminitis. We're gonna take it easy.

  5. Oh!! I so want winter riding boots.

    Best of luck with winter stabling/turnout plans. I didn't want Izzy out in the mud all winter, but I'm not totally loving having her in all day, either. Maybe your solution will do nicely.

  6. Karen- I beat myself up about the decision to keep him in at night and then I saw his happy little face at dinner time. He has his dinner with beet pulp, a huge pile of hay, and no one to chase away or share with. His look of contentment as he slowly ate his dinner made me feel a lot better.

    The funny thing about NJ is that we have both extremes, even though I am sure that most non-New Jerseyians would not suspect as much. We had many upper nineties/100 degree days this summer and in the winter the ground freezes. The state gets varying amounts of snow and unfortunately we have received more in my area the last couple years. Snow makes me go Booooooo (and then Boo-Hoo).

    HammersArk- I have the Mountain Horse High Rider boots, too. They are pretty rough and ready, but I cleaned them up for the horse show and they looked nice. Rain and mud are the pits. We get that in the spring, but to a much lesser degree than Washington!

  7. booksnstrings- Welcome and thanks! I am wondering how they will hold up. They cost less than a new pair of Ariat paddock boots, so I won't be too upset if they have a short life, although a couple seasons would be nice. I am definitely not taking it easy on them.

    Annette- I have never blanketed. Part of the reason is that I cannot get to the barn everyday and definitely not in the middle of the work week to check on Harley's blanketing needs. None of the other horses on the farm are blanketed, so this would be a real hassle for the barn owners (and would cost me an additional 'care' fee). I ride very carefully in the winter, always checking that he is not sweating in his winter coat. Cold days are great for riding as long as the arena is still soft. I choose not to ride if we have an unusually warm spell while he is still woolly. My plan is basically your plan!

  8. SprinklerBandit- I thought you might!
    Since the ground freezes at some point, we do not have to worry much about mud until spring. Sometimes I wish that Harley had a run and stall, so that he could enjoy the best of both worlds, but he really does need his social time, too.

  9. Whoa -- I am baffled by a vet who would recommend against blanketing, especially on a horse who is losing condition? Obviously, his body is not doing a good enough job, so I would fail to see the detriment of giving him more insulation.

    I totally understand your dilemma as far as extra work for BO and extra cost and making sure he gets his food. But I definitely would not say it's bad for the horse -- I am a conservative blanketer in that I hold off till it's really cold, but I will absolutely use it to keep the weight on. Necessary for my guys because I will not stall them -- they come in to eat, but I kick them right back out again.

    Anyway, sorry, hope that doesn't sound like a rant, it just caught me off guard! The endgame is what allows your horse to be healthy and happy as a whole.

    I do have a pair of the Ice Rider paddock boots and I looooove them, very toasty and warm! I wish I could wear the high boots, but they do not make them for people with chicken legs. :-(

  10. eventer79- Thanks for commenting! I did not mean to catch you off guard, but I am glad we got to hear from you.

    My vet did not say "do not blanket", she just said that she usually does not start there and she had some other suggestions, which included more roughage for his body to burn. I explained in my comment to Annette that I do not have the means to monitor his comfort and manage blankets, but besides that, blanketing is not a cut and dry management technique. A horse can be colder in a blanket if it presses his hair coat down. More fill is not the answer either, as this can cause overheating as the temperature changes throughout the day or with activity. I have left many a Google search with mixed feelings about blanketing and still feel that a thick, hair coat is best. I think his problem may be more related to competition for food and not enough hay to keep warm.

  11. Good job on those bars- they are getting much straighter. Keep chasing them back towards the frogs and you'll see good things happen :)

    Keep an eye on those front feet though, they're pulling a bit forward. It wouldn't hurt to get some No Thrush or something and treat those central sulcus's just to make sure there isn't anything nasty trying to grow in there making him sore.

    I don't like to blanket either, but when it's really nasty I just have to, my mare is very sensitive. I knew it was the right thing to do when I brought out the blankets for the first time last winter and she nickered at me. I generally don't blanket if the temps are above 20F, and then really only if it's going to be windy. You have to do what works for the horse.

    Oh- and I have those boots!

  12. Hi Val, I'm going through such a dilemma this year as I've always rugged (what we call it here in the UK) but this year I'm going to try really hard not to, and let them self-regulate with their lovely thick winter coats. They're going to be living out and I won't be clipping. I'm giving myself an opt-out clause though just in case I can't bear it anymore!

    Re cold feet, I'm a real drip when it comes to frozen toes - can't bear it and I will happily cry with the pain. Then 2 winters ago I discovered heated insoles and they have saved my life! Winter riding is now a pleasure! Only £20 as well - absolute bargain and they're now an essential part of my winter wardrobe.

    Murphy sends a bit sloppy one to Harley!

  13. As long as Harley's happy inside, I wouldn't worry over it. Being in Southeast Alabama, we are blessed to be able to keep ours on 24/7 turnout year round (although they all have their own stalls).
    I would love to get my hands on some toasty warm winter boots (with the Raynauds I have a really hard time with the cold - popsicle toes don'tcha know ;o) I've wondered about those thinsulate socks - do they really work? Hmmm...Might just have to try some of those...

  14. smaz- Thanks! My suspicion is that the bars have been contributing to the slight creep forward of his front feet. I am hoping that his bars straightening will just be a second indicator of overall improved foot shape and function. Believe me, I watch that toe, but he keeps it back pretty much on his own. The quarters require much more of my attention. I treat his frog with Absorbine thrush remedy regularly. I think the sulcus will open up as the bars improve and the back of his foot decontracts a bit.

    I am still looking at blankets. I am thinking about having one handy for the below freezing days.

  15. Hi EquiNatural (Kate)- I am a cold-toes wimp, too! I have not clipped or rugged Harley, but I am looking to purchase a rug for extreme weather. I am at a loss as to when I should actually put it on him. How cold is too cold? Since he has not shown signs of being cold in the past, I am not sure. I just do not want him to lose weight.

  16. Jen- Popsicle toes are definitely not okay! I thought that my thinsulate socks in my Ariats were okay, until I started wearing my winter boots. Huge difference. No more stinging toes.


Leave a comment or add to my memoirs with some of your own.