Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Going Barefoot

Forrest, team player in the barefoot process
Three weeks ago I decided to remove the shoes of my horse to go barefoot. It was about time! Well, I've been thinking about it and talking about it for almost a year. I almost did it last summer. But because she was unbalanced and living on rocks I decided to postpone at that time. I worked with my farrier toward a better balanced feet (yes we could have done it without the shoes too) and continued my research. The more I was studying the hoof and observing horses the less I could stand shoes. But what decided me for good is when my horse told me in December, during her last shoeing, that she was done with it. She didn't want them anymore and it was clear. She wouldn't stand still when the time to nail them would come and gave me the look "What are you doing?". I thought how can I work so hard on building trust in my horsemanship when she shows me something and I don't step up for her. By the next day my decision was taken but first I had to wait for her to grow some feet again.

At that time I didn't know about the pasture. It just happened mid January and it was a blessing. Although there is still rocks in the pasture there is also lot and lots of grassy area. She just has to be aware of where she walks which is actually a good thing.

On January 21st I asked my farrier to pull the shoes off. I cannot say she felt good right away and even today she is still sore. I know it can take some time to adjust and although it can be painful to watch her walk on gravels or rocky path I know it's temporary and for the best!
So in the meanwhile I bought her boots. Not so much to ride her but for now it's to give her some relief when I take her out of the pasture and then to go back to our training (online and liberty). It's not miraculous but its helps for sure. After three weeks now she is doing better. But as Marjorie Smith said: 
"Be patient and trust the horse to heal."
 I am patient and very happy that a little bite more, I let my horse be a horse.

Renegade boots

What going or being barefoot means?
In touch with the earth has it is intend to
When a horse is barefoot, the flexing of his hoof pump an enormous amount of blood into the hoof capsule every time the hoof hits the ground; and it pushes it back up the leg when the hoof leaves the ground.
The blood circulation in the legs protects the joints, the ligaments and the tendons. It nourishes them.
When metal shoes are nailed to horse feet, it restricts the circulation because the hoof need to flex to pump blood.
Without proper circulation the nerve endings quit transmitting and the horse looses the feelings. The white line lacks nutrients and becomes weak and stretched.
Nailing metal shoes on a horse also weakens the hoof wall and it eliminates the natural shock absorption mechanism. The frog must touch the ground. It needs to be able to expend to absorb the impact.

The transition from shod to barefoot
The transition represents the time to rebuild and restore the hoof. Pulling the shoes has for direct effect improving the circulatory system and firing of the nerves.
It can take several days, weeks or a month to recover. But if the hoof are not healthy it may need months (6-8 months to a year) to grow a new hoof capsule.

Finale freshly trimmed after pulling the shoes

Interesting fact about why horses in transition are "sore on gravels":
The transition from shod to barefoot is not about "toughening up" the sole. It is not the sole that is sore, it's the corium -- a layer of living tissue on the bottom of the coffin bone that grows the sole. Iodine or other drying treatments do not speak to the actual problem. Putting gravel in the horse's turnout to "toughen the feet" will work against you; wait until after transition is completed.
When we have a stretched white line -- due to the lack of nutrition in a shod hoof, or due to the mechanical forces of a flare -- the coffin bone sinks away from the hoof wall and presses down onto the sole corium. The corium gets inflamed by the constant pressure of the bone. When the horse walks on gravel or rocks, it hurts. It's like when you have an inflamed finger; you'd rather not bump into sharp corners with it.
The horse will not go sound-on-gravel (or other hard, uneven terrain) until the white line has healed and tightened up, and the coffin bone is held firmly up inside the hoof wall. This should generally happen within a year.

Going natural
Going barefoot is more like a philosophy and lifestyle. It goes beyond pulling the shoes. The horse nutrition plays a major part. A horse needs to be able to graze full time or have hay/forage available 24 hour. Attention must be brought to the amount of sugars in the feed and to the right amount of minerals and vitamins. A poor diet will damage the white line and hoof health.
A horse also needs to be able to move. 24 hour turnout is ideal but when no choice, long turnout are necessary. Hoof need continued movement for health and healing.

Finale with her pretty boots:)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Fun at the pasture

I think I am having as much fun and good time at the pasture as my horse! And for a change I wanted to share pictures.

Pretty bushes.

I've been working on a place to go back to our training. First step is to remove the rocks and make it comfy for the feet. One rock at a time ... I will get there!

This will be my Parelli playground#1

More flower here and there.

Happy herd.

 Happy Finale.

Well this one we don't want to keep it. It's what we call here fireweek aka Madagascar Ragwort. It's considered invasive and toxic to horses.
Important fact:

  • Each flower can produce 150 seeds, each plant can produce 30,000 seeds per year that spread by wind, hiking boots, vehicles or by animals when moved from infested to non-infested areas. As you can imagine it's hard to control!
  • Toxic to livestock when eaten, it causes slow growth, illness, liver-malfunction and even death in severe cases. Very scary. The good thing is that horses won't eat it but still not very reassuring to know it's there so little by little I help my friend to "clean" the pasture. 

One bag at a time ...

 Love the peace of being a horse gazing on the slope of Maui.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Pasture

Finale with her new herd
Last week my mare changed home. From a dirt paddock she went to a 18 acres pasture with lots of grass, trees and other horses. Before the move I was very worried. Scared of the separation from her herd, scared of the trip even if it was only a mile, scared of the integration to the new herd.
But everything went really well and smooth. She was ready and deep inside I knew it. 

Enjoying plenty of grass
It's been a week now and I love this place. I feel so grateful that my friend offered me to put her with his horses. She is thrilling over there. 
The pasture has the shape of a horse shoe:) with different elevation, different terrain. There is flat part but also hills and rocks to make it more fun. There is different type of grass (don't know them all yet), bushes and trees. It's beautiful and very peaceful. 
She has been integrated to the herd. She made friend with the gelding and her best friend seems to be Emma the mule.

Finale and her new boyfriend Ehu:)
My Parelli coach came to check it out and she said it was a great place to play with a horse. There is endless possibilities. Level 2, here I come:)

Yes Finale, all this space for you!
But what I like about this week is that I could witness my mare being a horse: choosing carefully which grass to it, testing with her lips, being very careful where she was walking, measuring every steps, communicate with her peers to find her place, following her new friends to discover the area, figuring out where the new noises were coming from, analyzing the environment. I could see her thinking. It was very moving to me and I wish every horse could get that. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Psyllium and sand colic

Psyllium has been on my mind again. My mare lives in a rocky sandy paddock. She eats hay from the ground and although hay is fed in feeders it always ends up in the dirt where she will try to grab every possible crumbs. I am very concern about her ingesting sand and eventually developping sand colic so I've been thinking of doing a psyllium seven days treatment and then the monthly routine.

Psyllium is a natural source of fiber. It acts as a bulk laxative. It's helpful to clean sand from the intestinal tract. We find it in two forms: pellets and powder. The pellets are more palatable for the horse as flavor is added.
It is important to note that psyllium shouldn't be mixed with water when fed. It will turn into a sticky gel mixture and will present a choking risk for the horse. Also psyllium does not work as well when wet (we want it to get sticky in the gut to trap the sand). For that reason pellets can represent to best form to feed.

Studies have also shown that psyllium fed along  with probiotics improves the sand clearance. Therefore it appears to be a good idea to add some probiotics to the diet during the treatment.

What Ayurveda says:
Psyllium is a bulk laxative, demulcent, anti-inflammatory. It helps to absorb mucous and bacteria in inflammatory intestinal conditions. It drags toxins and worms out of alimentary canal.
Interesting fact:

  • Prolonged use of psyllium reduces fertility.
  • Psyllium may slow the absorption of other medication. It's better to take it two hours after medication (allopathic or herbal)

Source: Ayurvedic Medicine, Sebastian Pole

Now the best way to avoid sand colic is by prevention. Feeding in a clean area, having rubber mats under feeder and hay net is a solution. Or as Dr Juliet M. Getty wrote in her book "Feed your horse like a horse": "Best way to prevent sand colic is to provide forage -lots of it- all day long.".

Monday, October 20, 2014

Equine Nutrition #2: Composition of the food

In this post I will give an overview of the composition of the feedstuff. As you can see in the following diagram, there are two main components in food: water and dry matter. The nutrients are found in the dry matter fraction. This is where we find the minerals, the vitamins, the carbohydrates, the fats and the proteins. (click on diagram to enlarge)


Water is an essential component of the horse's diet. Water is required for transporting nutrients in the body. It's involved in the thermal regulation. It's essential for the excretion of the waste products but also for the gut function.

Carbohydrate (CHO)

The carbohydrate falls into two categories:
- Structural CHO
It's the fibrous fraction of the food. The digestion of structural CHO takes place in the large intestine by microbial fermentation. It produces volatile fatty acids. It's the main energy source for most horses. It's a slow release energy but more steady and constant.
- Non-structural CHO
Non-strucutral CHO are in the cell content and they constitute the storage carbohydrate of the plant (energy source for the plant). We find here the starch, fructan and simple sugar. The digestion of starch and simple sugar takes place in small intestine by enzyme. It's a rapid source of energy.The fructans cannot be digested in small intestine and so travel through the large intestine where they are fermented by the microbial population. 
!!! If non-structural CHO are present in too big quantity the small intestine cannot digest them and the remaining undigested starch and sugar will end up in large intestine. The product of microbial fermentation will be lactic acid that can alter the gut environment. That is why we want to feed small amount of starch and sugar.

Oil and Fat

The fats that are present in forage are simple in structure. Fats added to the diet are mostly triacyglycerols. Horses don't require high level of fat. Fat is added to the diet to increase the energy content as it is a concentrated source of energy (2x energy content of cereals). The digestion takes place in the small intestine.
We are seeing an increase interest in the two essential fatty acids, Omega 3 and Omega 6, in terms of potential health benefits but more studies need to be done.


Proteins are required for structural purpose (muscle, skin, hair), formation of enzyme, hormones and immune system. 
There are two categories of protein: essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential has to be supplied in diet and non-essential are synthesized by the animal.
Lysine is an essential amino acid.
Protein requirement will increase with work, growth, pregnancy, recovery from injury, muscle loss, surgery, etc.
!!!! Too much protein will damage liver and kidney and create mineral imbalance!


Minerals are required for growth, transport of energy, co-factors of enzyme, etc. They are mainly absorbed in small intestine. There are two categories: macro minerals and trace minerals.
Macro minerals are required in large quantities (Calcium, Phosphorus, Chloride, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Sulphur). Trace minerals or micro minerals are needed in very small quantities (Cobalt, Copper, Molybdenum, Zunc, Manganese, Iron, Floride, Iodine, Selenium, Chromium).
!!!! Ratio between some minerals is very important like Ca:P 2:1 Calcium has to be twice as Phosphorus. Calcium has a good ration in forage but poor in cereals grains.
Another important ration is the Cu:Zn 3-4:1


Vitamins are required in small amounts but they are vital for many bodily functions like vision, immunity, growth, bone development, etc.
There are two categories of vitamins: fat soluble (A, E, D, K) and water soluble (C and B Complex).
The water soluble are not stored but are produced or synthesized by the organs.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A little walk outside the comfort zone.

I took my mare for a walk outside our usual path today. Fifi is a Right Brain Introvert in the Parelli language. In other word, she tends to be more on the fearful and nervous side, can be reactive, spooky and very emotional. Everything new or just different is a challenge in itself. Even going from working in the round pen to the arena made her nervous!

I love the look on her face saying something like "Are you really sure you want to go that way? I think I see something over there.... maybe we should go back".
It's not too bad on the photo. A few minutes later she got actually scared of the "something over there" that was actually a horse grazing and did a little dance on the spot. The good thing is that after that it only take her a minute or so to relax and chew and lick (secretly of course).
But at least we can go now. Before she wouldn't even want to walk there.
Love my Fifi:)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rainy day, cookie day

Thanks to the weather, I had some time today at home to be able to cook some horse cookies.

All very good ingredients, organic, no sugar or molasses, herbs to improve joint health.

It smelled so good and they taste really good too.

Let's see tomorrow what Finale has to say about that:)