June 22, 2016

Goodbye NGs

I miss the good old barefoot days I had with Gem. Well, actually not really. I liked the ease of care, but I was always a little timid about going fast over rocks. Having her in the NGs up front/steel in the back gave me a boost of confidence to move out over the flat and rocky access roads that litter the trail systems around here.

The NGs had a lot going for them. They provided a nice wide base of protection for the hoof while still allowing the natural flexion of the heel bulbs. Gem seemed to move out really well in them and never slipped or missed a beat in all types of terrain (except for water since we never managed to find a water crossing while wearing them).

Pete looking handsome
They held up really well too. After 100 miles of gravel at Biltmore, they were still able to be reset and she hadn't lost any in the two cycles of use.

There was one glaring issue that played heavily on my mind from the start though. My farrier charged $260 to put them on with 4 nails, a small amount of glue on the sides and packing.

Even had things worked out differently, it was highly unlikely that I could afford to keep her in a set long term. After the mini heart attack I had when he finished putting them on and told me the price, I told Dusty that I would most likely reset these ones and have to switch to steel. Only when I reset the ones I had with nails only because the side clips that he glues gets ruined after one time, he still charged me $190 and that was pulling her hinds and going barefoot in the back for the summer. Ouch. A reset wasn't really in the budget either apparently.

I was still plotting and planning a way to try to make it all work out financially when I went to the barn on Sunday and saw this

The grand canyon does not belong in my horse's hoof. Ugh. Thankfully it was dry and no signs of thrush. The squeegee of packing out the back isn't too pretty either.  

It actually didn't surprise me which is kind of sad. I had a bad feeling during the last farrier visit. I know I am not a farrier and I do not proclaim to know more than a professional, but I do know my mare's hooves inside and out. I like to inspect the soles to make sure that the heels are taken down far enough each time and this became even more important to do when they were hidden under a shoe. This last time, he slapped the shoe on so fast that I didn't even realize it and when I asked about the heel he shrugged me off. I did manage to inspect the left foot and noted the extra heel and made him take it down.

When he was gone and I was sweeping up the aisle way, I noticed that while there was a decent sized pile of clipped and shaved hoof by her left front, there wasn't much of anything by the front right. I was worried that her heel had been left really high and that is not good.

I'm not going to fully blame the NG shoe for the above atrocity. I mostly blame the bad trim job although I think had she been in steel it wouldn't have propagated so badly. Since the NG allows for the natural flexion I believe that the high heel coupled with the flexion and the frog plate created a lot of friction between the heel bulbs thus causes a crevice to form.

Regardless, the shoe needed pulled and the hoof addressed. I shot a text with picture to farrier Sunday morning asking if this was a problem that needed to be addressed. The shoe had just been put on June 2nd. He never responded.

Gem staring me down as I arrived at the barn

I then texted my BO asking when her farrier would be out next. As luck would have it, he was due out the next day and I added her to the schedule to pull the shoe, look for issues, trim and put on a steel set. I didn't think I would make it out there in time, but work was a mess and I escaped early to head up. I got there after the shoes were pulled and the foot trimmed, but was able to inspect the feet really thoroughly. After the trim the crevasse was much, much shallower and he took off a crap ton of heel to get it even with the sole. It was almost embarrassing.

Would I try the NGs again? Yeah. I still love the theory and she moved well in them. I don't like the NGs paired with a bad trim and I don't like the price tag that came with them. I think the NGs are not as forgiving as steel and they weren't as easily shaped to the foot like a pair of hot shod steel shoes are. The summer will show if she does equally as well in steel as she did in the synthetic shoes or not. It cost me $80 to shoe the front and trim the back in comparison.

The farrier deals mostly with event horses although he at least knew what endurance was. He also put up with my million questions and even took a marker out to draw on the hoof to show me all the important lines he looks at. It was an interesting 2 hours.


  1. I think the thing that gives me the most anxiety about having an endurance horse of my own again is hoof care/shoeing. My guys are all barefoot, even the TB sale horses, and they do well because I work with a podiatrist who does an amazing trim. However, my horses don't do anything that requires hoof protection. I got very lucky with Ozzy and his feet were so so strong and hard. I did almost all of our rides completely barefoot, even in Maine and New York. We never did a ride that required hoof protection. Towards the end of his endurance career, he started wearing his foot faster than he grew it, and I tried Easy Boots on our conditioning rides. He would. not. canter. in them. Now that I'm older and wiser and have competed on booted horses, I know that boots are not the way to go for me. For our last endurance ride, I ended up getting the Sigafoos glue-on shoes put on Ozzy (front only). They were great and I loved them, but I had the same problem you did... the price tag was severely limiting. ($250 for the PAIR!) Plus, they only came in aluminum at the time and it wore out in one endurance ride and had to be removed. Hoof technology has come such a long way since then, but I still don't see an option that makes me 100% happy. I think if I had to do it all again, I'd keep my horse barefoot as long as humanly possible, using my current podiatrist for trims. I'd boot for conditioning as needed. Then, before a ride, I'd have a certified Journeyman put shoes on the existing trim. I'd let the shoes live out their lives, then pull and go back to barefoot. And I would be super broke and still not thrilled about the nails. *sigh* This sport definitely forces you to think outside the box!

    1. I am in the same boat as you. Hoof protection is driving me slightly batty. Gem has performed beautifully at 25s and 50s bare in the past, but with her hoof wall damage from the injury last summer I just feel better with her protected. Plus I can't imagine doing a 75 or 100 without anything on. Boots drove me to the brink of insanity.

      I don't like steel and have been trying to avoid it for 6 years. I'm not happy that she is now in steel, but I think I am a little stuck unless something else comes out that I can try. After the fall rides (Biltmore again in October and hopefully another 100 in November) I will pull her shoes off for the winter and let her go bare until I start pounding hard to condition for next season.

    2. I just got the Back Country boots from EasyCare, since no one I know in the area does the glue ons, and they are expensive for what you get. I tried them once and have had the same issue with how Ashke moves in them as I did in the gloves (plus they packed up with foxtails between the boot and the hoof - like handfuls. I think in Ashke's case, he feels like he is in heavy hiking boots, doesn't know where he's feet end, trips and stumbles over everything, and steps toe first. I'm going to have them evaluated by the chiro/accu doc and see what she thinks, but I really am trending to putting shoes on him for the summer and pull them in late October or early November. I'm weary of the go-around.

    3. Karen - that is basically where I am at. Everything I have tried to keep her out of steel has failed miserably. I think it is time that I just come to terms with the idea of steel shoes and remove them once our season is over.

  2. Jeez, not even a reply? I hope you're done with that character. Farrier work has skyrocketed in the past 10-15 years. My farrier will put cold steel all around for $80, bare trim for $30. I kept my boy shod til we moved to current barn, they dont allow shoes there:/ He does fine barefoot since we don't actively compete in anything and thankfully he has good feet. I can remember a full set costing $45 when I was a teen. I'm just greatful I have a budget friendly farrier who does nice work. Hopefully you can find someone who is endurance knowledgeable and offers good customer service too.

    Pete is your other horse, correct? Does his nose sunburn? I am using desitin, it stays on longer than anything else I've found so far. I can't use a long fly mask, his pasture pal will take it off. Razz still gets a burn around his nostrils tho, if you've got any suggestions I'm all ears hehe.

    1. Nope...no response and it is now 3 days later. Good, responsible farriers in my area are really hard to find.

      Pete used to get what we thought was a sun burn: dry, cracked and sometimes bleeding nostrils and nose skin, but since moving to this new place he looks great. I think there was a weed out in the pasture that he reacted to. Our current barn is on top of pasture management and keeping it as weed free as possible. We also used Desitin a lot and while he hated it, it did work. Pete can't have anything on his face either. He rubs and gets eye sores.

  3. I think you just need a different farrier. I go back and forth in my own like/dislike of the NGs, but they only cost $30 for the pair. You can buy them yourself from Riding Warehouse and have the new farrier tack them on. That's what I do with my farrier. I think trim for all 4 and shoeing with my own supplied NGs is $50 or $60. So my total cost is <$100. It's a hell of a lot better than $260. I don't do any glue or padding, just the shoes and nails. I definitely like them more than booting. I do not want to go back to boots and loosing boots and all that annoyance.

    1. Unfortunately everyone here in the SE say to use both nails and glue due to the high humidity and all the sticky clay. Those who have tried to just nail them have always lost them. I agree that I need a new farrier and I am hoping that the barn farrier does a good job. I think this guy was farrier number 7. Finding a good farrier in this area is extremely difficult.

  4. I've been pretty lucky that I've found two really good farriers for my guys. My mom uses1 and I uses the other but I know if I nee some help and my farrier is out of town I can call the other guy. If you end up needing another name let me know and I will glad share their contact info. Good farriers are hard to find but I think that's a worldwide issue not just limited to this area!!!

    1. I may ask for that in the future. I adored my farrier in WI. Haven't found one to match him yet.

  5. It is horrific and absolutely unacceptable that he would take down the heel on one front hoof and not the other! What the hell!

    I have a similar problem with plastic shoes: cost. Also the cookie cutter way they are produced, like you mentioned: if your horse's hooves are unconventionally shaped, it can be hard to find the right fit. I was paying almost $300 for glued-on and casted Eponas only on Lily's fronts when we first moved to MD. They were great for her feet but they would only stay on for 3-4 weeks. After 3 cycles we went bare in the front because the cost was too high.

    I've been surprisingly happy with steel this time around. I wish you could use Dan! He basically does a barefoot trim and slaps on the shoes; he trims for balance of the entire leg, not just to make the hoof look pretty, which is why I think Lily has been so very comfortable in them from the get-go. (Part of the reason why we had gone bare back in FL was because she would be uncomfortable for the first 4 days to entire week after being shod.) The shoes Dan uses for endurance horses are called Eventers: they have a hollowed rim that gives extra grip over East Coast terrain. Your new farrier might be able to get them if he specializes in event horses. Weirdly enough and against all conventional hoof knowledge, Lily's TB feet have developed concavity and thicker soles while in shoes. She's been barefoot in front for the last 2 weeks and she still has soles for days.

    I still prefer the way she moves in shoes to boots. She just lifts up and glides down the trail in shoes at an 8 mph trot, whereas in boots she takes a lot more prodding to keep up a pace over 6 mph at the trot. She also interferes when in boots, no matter how I trim her or what type of boot I use, which doesn't help with boot retention!

    But yeah: my plan at the moment is doing what Dom said she would do for an endurance horse of her own above. Claire Godwin, the manager of the OD rides and who has competed all over the country including Tevis, does not know of any farriers in the area that she would recommend! She has John Crandell do her horses' shoes when she sees him at rides. Which says something about MD farriers, since Claire is local to me. :/ I think endurance might be a niche for farriers; if only more of them realized this!

    1. The sad part is that the farrier I was using not only came highly recommended by several people I know but has also been the US endurance team farrier. I thought I had struck gold :(

      I will ask about the Eventers shoes. Thanks for the recommendation. Hopefully he will be open to using them.

      I keep thinking that I should just go to farrier school and learn it myself. Become a certified journeyman and do my own horses or start a small offering to friends. But it takes a long time and a lot of money and I have neither at the moment.