Friday, April 29, 2011

Weather and hooves

I may have mentioned before that it's been raining here. A LOT. We've had 8 inches of rain this month, historical averages for the month of April here is 3 inches. You can imagine that it's a tad muddy out there.

There was a brief dry period at the end of March/beginning of April when Coriander's hooves starting building a callus while growing in a little extra sole to fill in some of his winter concavity.

I think I need a quick aside here: Concavity in hooves is terrain dependent. Hooves that live and work in soft footing (like deep snow) will have greater concavity than hooves that live and work on hard footing (like rock). Pete Ramey has a nice article that explains it better here: "One Foot For All Seasons."

Back to Coriander: I was just beginning to get excited about the change in his concavity when the sky opened up and dumped all that rain on us for a month. The firm ground he had been walking on turned into mush and has stayed that way. Suddenly Coriander was all ouchy when we walked on the driveway.

Does thrush have something to do with this? Probably. But I think the bigger problem is all that water softened up his soles. Do you know what it feels like when you're in water long enough for your feet to get all pruny and then try to walk around on rough ground? It hurts because your feet got all soft. That's exactly what's happening to my horses right now.

While trimming his feet last weekend a chunk of sole peeled right out from under his toe, it was the callus that he'd made in the few days it dried out had coming off. I thought, "well crap, now we have to build that up again." But it's not going to happen until we stop getting rained on.

Considering that, I've got two options: Boot him or leave him be. Since we only ride on the driveway from about 50 yards per ride and then spend the rest of the time slogging through muddy trails or riding in a muddy arena, I've decided to leave him be. Sure he's a little sore going out, but I just let him go slow and pick his own way; once we're off the driveway he's perfectly fine. When we're on the way back I just dismount when we get to the driveway and then walk back to the barn with him.

I'm hoping this post will help some of you barefoot owners out there who might be dealing with the same thing right now. When you are committed to keeping your horse barefoot you need to pay attention to changing weather conditions and how hooves might adapt. It's not a good thing, it's not a bad thing- it just is the way it is.

PS- I am very disappointed in American news right now. I cannot fathom why they are giving as much, if not more, news coverage to a WEDDING on a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CONTINENT than they are giving to the TORNADOES that have devastated OUR OWN COUNTRY. For shame!


  1. Amen to your PS. I am shocked by the death toll from the tornadoes, think it a national disaster, and I'm baffled that it isn't bigger news, truly baffled. Do we have to hit a certain body count nowadays before it matters?

    Special thanks for the barefoot information. I noticed just the other day the deep concavity in my mare, Scout's, feet. Now I know why, as she too has been standing shin deep in mud for weeks now. No thrush at all, luckily, but I'm watching. This has to be the worst muddy season I have ever seen.

  2. Very interesting info on hooves. I had never read about the different causes of concavity.
    I agree with the tornado comment (although I live in Canada). It's shocking.

  3. I never even bought boots til I had a horse that was SO sound on MILES of gravel that she was wearing her walls down too fast. You're absolutely right; a tiny bit of hesitation over a few yards of gravel to get back to soft muddy trails won't hurt your horse. When I lived in Memphis, all my horses would mince over about 10 yards of gravel to get to sloppy mud trails then pound down them perfectly happy. :)

  4. I have been watching the news and the devastation from those tornados is just awful.

    We have had a lot of rain here too, but I think the difference is that we have had days in between that allow for some drying out. The mud is manageable.

    Thanks for the article. I took a look at the pictures and I believe that my guy's concavity is just right for the surface he lives and works on - grass, arena, dirt. I do hand walk him occasionally on some of the gravel in the parking area, just to expose his feet to different textures.

  5. Muddy K- it's been awful hasn't it? I think you live just a few hours from me so we've been living in the same conditions of bleh.

    Carol- I wonder if Canada would have handled this better, or maybe that's my own bitterness at the US media talking.

    Funder- exactly! Don't boot for the lowest common denominator of your ride. Wow, you must have been riding a LOT of milage!

    Wolfie- handwalking on harder stuff once in a while is a good idea, if nothing else is should help the horse naturally wear off anything that's ready to come off the foot.

  6. Shanon you are spot on with the crazy American's a shame and outrage..we need to see and help out those people!

    Yup, our April has made records in rainfall inches poor Wa, she's almost falling in the driveway. Our rocks are from 1 inch to 4 inch base cut "boulders"..for lots of trailer activity. I feel bad for her. I've had to boot her to ride too...timber service roads of rock.

    Hey, I just sent Sydney, at bitless horse blog my recent photos of Wa 's hooves. She just finished farrier school, but is a barefoot enthusiast. Would you look at them? Since I had her shod last year with "Easy walkers horseshoes"..the shoer seemed to change her angle in front..I do my own trims, but am unable to correct his change..wondering what I'm missing.

    My email is on my profile page ~

  7. Of course, hopefully you got my email...

  8. This rainy weather makes a lot of things go awry. I believe Dusty's injury is from slogging through deep mud regularly. There is nothing I could do about it but wait til the sun came out. I can see how the hooves are being affected too. We just have to deal with it I guess.

  9. I'm so bummed for you and Dusty. We need some sunshine, STAT!