A customer has just informed me she will be shoeing her horse because barefoot doesn´t work for him. Over the phone she told me how it´s been 10 months since he started on the barefoot road, having his shoes removed due to quarter cracks, and he still isn´t sound. I politely reminded her that he only began the barefoot road when I was called in 4 months ago, and advised her on the importance of changing the diet of her very over-weight horse, setting up her paddock so that he would move more, and also make use of the gravel track she conveniently already had situated in the middle of her barn area, and also started correctly trimming the horse to help his hooves find their natural balance and subsequently heal.
There are rules to going barefoot. They aren´t set on a whim. They are based on practice, experience, science and results.
Having been told to give the horse ad-lib hay, the client stuck to this for one week! I prepared her beforehand, explaining the horse will most likely eat far more than he previously did for the first 2 maybe 3 weeks, until he became accustomed to having ad-lib hay and the need to gorge himself, thinking each meal is "the last supper" becomes a thing of the past. I explained why horses don´t loose weight if you restrict their food. I explained all the other health reasons as to why all horses should have forage available 24/7. I didn´t just put it out there and walk away.
Even in a small paddock a track system can be set up. Fortunately this lady already had lots of hot tape and posts and I explained, even did a drawing, how, with a few simple moves the paddock could be set up with a small circuit, hay placed at various points - furthest from water, and the horse WOULD travel around this. Thus serving the purpose to a, loose weight, b, assist in the transition of his hooves, and c, provide him with something to do all day. When that wasn´t forthcoming - because the ground was too hard to set the posts in new positions (nothing a bucket of water wouldn´t resolve!) I said ´ride´. He has boots. Put them on and ride. But as time goes by start removing the boots after x number of minutes and then continue so that he builds up callous, sole depth etc. This, apparently, was too much of a kerfuffle! So lunge him! Just anything to get him moving. I was promised, 4 weeks ago, this would happen. He would be lunged 5 days a week. Now, I loathe lunging - free lunging at least gives the horse some feeling that he has a say in the matter - but needs must. I was getting desperate to help this boy - A very lovely young boy, who has already had a bad bout of laminitis a couple of years earlier and had sub-clinical laminitis when I first saw him, as well as the quarter cracks and extremely contracted heels.
Maybe you don´t agree with the rules, or you don´t understand them, or you think they don´t apply to you or your horse. But if you don´t follow them, don´t come crying to me that barefoot doesn´t work. It IS NOT the barefoot protocol that is not working.
It´s not long since that I wrote on this subject, but having spent all day in mourning for that poor horse I had to bleat. He will have to continue to suffer in silence - all for the sake of a few easy changes! My frustration levels are on overload, off the scale. The lady is not stupid, she is very gentle and kind and has a big heart, but is clearly stone deaf when it comes to the needs of her horse. Just as you would attend physiotherapy after muscle or bone damage, your horse needs his physio to recover from hoof (And for sure body) ailments. Just as you would heed the medics dietary advise and exercise regime and take the time it takes to recover from an "illness", your horse also needs to be granted this time to heal.