Surely, the person responsible for these feet should be placed under house arrest and be forced to listen to the omnibus edition of the Archers. They are certainly the worst set of hooves I’ve ever seen. Sadly, they were mine to sort out. I had some help along the way but here is the story of Carrie’s feet and how they became…well, you will see…
Carrie was a 15-year-old bay thoroughbred who had done some eventing. She looked good and she was fast – even with those feet – but her only role left in life was as a companion. She was on Bute to help her with navicular (serious and sometimes incurable condition in the feet) and she was a lousy companion thanks to her aggression. It seemed she had reached the end of the road. I got a phone call from my friend who had Carrie on loan. The rescue charities were full and the owner couldn’t take her back. Carrie might have to be put down – could I take her?
Of course I could. I wasn’t doing anything for the next five years.
She had shoes on all four and I asked if my friend’s farrier would trim her and only refit the fronts. I was anticipating some kicking and I wouldn’t have her with weaponry. I wanted her to be barefoot but it was a hot summer and the ground was hard and we might have to wait. Her feet had other ideas. They were so long and weak that her new front shoes didn’t stay on beyond a few days. That’s when this pictures was taken. Fortunately, you can’t see one of me in a state of panic. I have never seen hooves fall apart so quickly. They peeled and they broke off in lumps and, although she could potter around the field very much the boss, she wouldn’t have won any prizes.
The set up at my place is all horses live out all year round. There is a field shelter and there are rugs for any horse that needs one. At the time, there was also a foot bath made from railway sleepers, pond liner and carpet. Five star, eh? It was at the top of my summer field and that’s where Carrie put herself most days – sometimes for long periods. I wish it had been enough to stop them crumbling and looking like they had woodworm. It gave her some relief though and gradually she was able to be ridden again.
In spite of regular trimming – big thanks to Alicia Mitchell who introduced me to Jame Jackson’s barefoot trim – her feet remained flat and weak, but rideable. She was prone to abscesses and wouldn’t have impressed on the roads. They improved slowly and Spring with its rush of grass was always a time to take extra care of her. It was important that she didn’t get too much of the lush stuff which put a strain on her feet.
The breakthrough for Carrie was another great idea from Jamie Jackson. His book Paddock Paradise shows how you can increase the amount of movement for your horse in his everyday life. It’s simple and works brilliantly in the summer with very little work. Using electric fencing, you set up a track system around the edge of your field until it looks like a gallop for race horses. And that’s what they did when I first turned them out on it – galloped for a couple of circuits.
Later, I’ll write more about Paddock Paradise. For now, I’ll concentrate on Carrie and her awful feet which do so much better if she keeps moving and isn’t overfed. The thing about a track system is the horse has to walk for his daily ration and the herd moves together in a way they would naturally – pushed on by a leader.
Carrie’s twenty four now and survived navicular and an early exit. I believe shoes were to blame for the state of her feet. They are not her best feature even now but they manage an impressive trot on the roads and I’m proud of them. Oh, and by the way – she’s still the boss.
Here are some things that helped to get Carrie through: –
+ regular trimming
+ movement / exercise
+ cutting down on lush grass
+ in summer – oil with tea tree applied in the morning while hooves are damp