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Fast Transition & Low Maintenance

Getting Gravel Crunchers Started Fast on the Right Footing

This is one of those times when I could shoot myself for not taking "Before" pictures!!! All of these pictures were taken 8 weeks after shoes were removed, 4 weeks after my setup trim and fitting her for Epic boots..

When I looked at this mare shortly before her shoes were pulled by her ex farrier, she had very tightly contracted heels and steep walls. Her size 2 feet had shrunk to size 1's, her soles were pancake flat and her frog was suspended well above the ground. I wish I had taken pictures, because after 8 weeks? This isn't the same mare.

Durango is a 20 year old dude string mare who lucked into a great long term home at a boarding operation adjacent Mount Diablo park in Walnut Creek California. Her owner, Roy, watched as two other client horses, Leaguer and Promise, made successful transitions to barefoot, and decided to pull shoes on his two horses.

The first horse to transition, Durango, has probably been in shoes most of her life. Little is known about her except that she had been on the bus - shipped seasonally to dude strings - for multiple seasons.

She transitions from many years in shoes to soundly barefoot without boots at a walk and jog on the trail in two months. How? Her owner used Passive Conditioning.

Passive Conditioning

I always advise folks to invest in pea gravel for their paddocks as a way to save money and improve hoof condition and durability, and this is a great example of how that investment pays off.

Durango's owner had the perfect paddock prepared by laying 4 inches of 3/8ths inch pea gravel in the paddock of the paddock/stall area that his horse shares with his wife's horse, Dragon. The paddock is an odd shaped enclosure that's approximately 30 x 30 not including the covered and matted stall area. The pea gravel was laid over packed road base.

The Long term Payoff

Pea Gravel loafing areas - a 3 inch layer of 3/8ths inch pea gravel laid over a layer of compressed road base - effectively separate dirt and mud from horses, and is fine enough to easily remove manure from if it's picked out regularly. Gravel works like shavings except it's a long term solution and is much better for your horses feet..

Horses love the way it feels on their hooves and coats. It distributes pressure like a bean bag chair so it's a great place for horses to grab a nap in the sun.

Pea Gravel makes a great place for horses to urinate; urine drains through easily and dries fast, unlike organic bedding. Gravel can be hosed down to flush away ammonia and dust, so the area stays neater for longer.

Gravel is also great for conditioning feet; and while Durango's feet are far from finished, her feet have come a LONG way in just 60 days.

Her heels have relaxed out to an almost normal shape in a very brief period of time. I assume the gravel was very comfortable so that she could use her heels properly from the time the shoes were removed.

Her soles have changed as well. Her post-shoe sole was flat, and the sole in the pictures below is showing a developing concavity.

The long term payoff is that her feet will stay sound, and she will always be ready for the trail ahead. Her healthy feet will only need trimming every 6 to 8 weeks because the combination of Passive Conditioning and regular trail riding provide the elements needed for a self maintaining trim.

She'll still need regular rasping, and occasional professional trimming will ensure she's staying balanced, but a few hundred dollars invested in gravel will save a fortune in farrier and vet costs.

Linda Cowles Hoof Care
Serving the greater SF Bay Area & Northern California
Copyright 2008 Linda Cowles
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