Chad worked on her every 8 weeks and got her fronts looking more normal and functioning amazing. She always had slightly higher heels than the "normal" hoof, but she moved fine and the consensus was to not bring her down anymore to stress her ligaments. Basically, don't fix what isn't broken. Unfortunately, we then moved to SC and had to find a new farrier.
At around the same time as the move I found the Rockley Farm barefoot rehab blog and began reading up. She recommends no trimming at all. Let the horse build the hoof it needs flares and all. Since I couldn't find a farrier I liked (the one at our first barn had every horse walking lame after a trim and the so called barefoot trimmer I used messed Gem up) I decided to subscribe to that theory. And it worked too. For a long time (about 18 months) she did great without any interference. She was self trimming like a pro keeping those heels down and the toes back all on her own. I was putting some heavy mileage on her in conditioning on hard surfaces and she was out 24/7 on 10 acres with rocks and hard pack mixed in with the grass. Her nutrition was fine: Strategy when needed and good quality hay. She completed her first LD at Biltmore, a RnT and her first 50 all barefoot on rocks. Her second 50 was sand and she did fine although her feet looked well worn at the end.
But after Pow Wow in early Feb something changed. It was subtle at first but kept snowballing. I wondered if she somehow could have bruised her feet at Pow Wow, but that seemed a bit odd given that it was 39 miles of sandy roads. What would have bruised them? It was super wet and rainy following the ride and perhaps that played a part too, but she lived in snow and mud up north without an issue.
The final straw happened Sunday. I pulled her out and took a good hard look at her feet. They didn't look good at all. Her fronts were nearly vertical and the heels had contracted significantly. Her bars were so long that when I looked from behind I could fit my whole finger (not smart by the way as she could easily have broken my finger) under it and the frog wasn't touching the ground at all. Not good.
I grabbed some quick pics:
|Back right. Pastern angle doesn't look horrible, but the heel is really high|
|Front left in the foreground with front right in the background. Look at those!! She looks like she is walking on stilts :(|
|Looking from behind at front left. The frog isn't bearing any weight at all|
|Contracting heel, long bars|
I happened to be talking with S Sunday night about another issue and she mentioned having a new farrier look at her mare. He is an endurance rider here in the SE and she knows him personally, but he lives a long way off in NC. He was coming down last night so I asked if he would be willing to come over and look at Gem when he finished with her. He was happy to add two more horses to his day (Pete needed a trim too) and I met him after work.
I talked to him about her and he was shocked at how high those heels were. I asked if he thought they could have bruised and he doubted it given the footing there and how rock hard her feet are. He was very impressed with that as has every farrier who has ever touched her. The girl has diamonds for feet. He took her bars down quite a bit, but didn't have to touch the toe much at all. In his opinion, he thinks having a longer heel is better than a longer toe to deal with. He didn't see any abscess or signs of bruising, but he didn't like the angles either and wants me to keep a close eye on it with the new spring grass coming in.
He was a bit more aggressive than I like, but then again she looked pretty bad. I was really worried she would walk off lame, but she seemed fine. Her angels improved by about half and he said the rest will come much more slowly. He wants to come out again in 5 weeks or so which I am fine with.
While I am a barefoot fan for lots of reasons, I also like my horse doing well and will give her what she needs. With my current riding and her diet, even though she roams 35 acres all day and night, it doesn't seem like I can continue the self trimming ideal like before. We will see what the summer brings once she is off the grain again and it dries up around here, but for now she is back to regular trims. He was only $35 which is the going rate for a trim around here and he seemed to do ok with her. If she shows up lame tonight for my weeknight ride, then I will have to do some more thinking. I don't like either of the barefoot trimmers around here and so that's not really an option. More on her hoofsies as time goes on.