So why not leave these BFB´s to mother nature? Why the shoes? Why the nails?
In our experience a horse competing, and thus training, at 80km+ level in endurance, on the lunar-like harsh terrain of this countryside can not do so barefoot. The hooves need protection, as they not only wear quicker than they can grow, but they suffer severe internal bruising due to the sharp rocks and loose shale. This statement is not made lightly. We have been studying the hooves of our horses for the past 10 years. Horses with everything at optimum (diet, living conditions and exercise), who are producing the most beautiful, strong, healthy bare hooves, and can compete up to 60 km level barefoot, they can trek out for hours on end 3, 4, even 5 days per week barefoot (no protection at all), but asking more than that they definitely need protection. And who is going to push their horse further, just to see exactly how much they can endure? I most certainly am not!
We asked over 200 barefoot endurance competitors (I am talking race rides to clarify to my American friends) and not one rode at 80 km level without hoof protection. Most, 78%, are using protection from 40 km´s upwards. If there is anyone out there with information to the contrary I would love to hear it, but for now, I don´t know anyone who competes truly barefoot at that level and certainly not beyond.
We weighed the pro´s and con´s of plastic shoes over glue-ons. We had to include cost into this decision. If you go the glue-on route, you either glue-on and leave on for 3 to 4 weeks and suffer the consequence of not being able to clean the hoof for that time and have no idea what´s going on in there, along with the risk that you are using a chemical compound to thoroughly seal the entire palmar surface and some way up the walls, or you use them just for competition and train in boots. But which boots? Again, remember we have a seriously hot and humid climate here and the only boots that stand up to and stay on over this terrain are not designed for such heat and humidity, subsequently risking over-heating the capsule and the inherent problems that may bring. And again, think of cost! Glue-ons that have to be thrown once removed (and the cost of the glue) and boots for training. Hence the decision, long and hard thought, to trial the plastic shoes. Now we know how that went - no where fast!
Though again, as I mentioned previously, the same shoes, set by the same farrier, did not cause these toe problems (but the heals most definitely started to draw under him) to a horse who walks flat, to occasional toe first landing (a horse in transition), though we did have the nail shearing problem. We thought this may be due, to a degree, to the terrain. It is all hills and loose rocks and shale, so we contacted an acquaintance who has been trying the same plastic shoes and we know only walks, with the occasional trot, on same surface but far less hills, to learn she also had nails shearing on the shoes about every 10 days or so. We since learnt of more people who have found the shoes too flexible and therefore the nails do move and some are pushing the nails in further on a daily basis to keep them seated - until they run out of nail I presume!
Back to the drawing board......... but hey, watch this space, we are working with Equine Fusion, the most innovative hoof boot company, to produce something quite unique, especially for advanced barefoot endurance horses. Meanwhile, there is still the full range of Equine Fusion Jogging Shoes for horses available to riders of all other disciplines. Apt for dressage, jumping, eventing, western disciplines, trekking and so much more.
As for the naysayers - they are always going to naysay! - Here is the same hoof after competing 88 km´s free-speed endurance, and winning (and taking Best Condition trophy). The x-ray was taken 3 months prior to that. You can see bruising beginning to appear in the sole immediately after the race. Three weeks later, during a routine trim, the sole looked like it had been through a B-movie bath tub murder scene - sorry, no photos of that. That was the final straw!