Our journey making our horses barefoot
Unlike many hardcore advocates of 'barefoot' horses who go out of their way and work hard to transition their horses from wearing shoes to going without ('barefoot'), we fell into it almost by chance.
Even barefoot, our horses are able to go on all terrains
When we got our first two horses, Luci and Libbie, they came to us wearing just two front shoes. The area where we were (very much like the area we are in now) is mostly sand and dry earth so when these shoes fell out, as they did like they always do after a few weeks, we figured we didn’t want to bother putting on new shoes since the horses didn’t need them for the time being. We thought it would be less of a hassle and - added advantage - cost less to go without. We asked our local farrier, the one who does all the other horse's shoes at the stables, just to trim our horses. He has plenty of experience trimming because he does the colts and fillies at the local stud farm.
We are lucky because, overall, Marwari have very strong feet. They are desert horses and the dry, hot conditions agree with them quite well. We did observe, however, that he trimmed the heels a lot, too much to our liking, but when we asked he said he knew what he was doing.
A few months down the line and by chance again, this time whilst chatting with a fellow natural horsemanship trainer in the south of the country, we discovered there was a properly certified barefoot trimmer we could call. Known as MD, he is, to our knowledge, the only properly certified one in the country and we got very excited about it.
This was about a year ago. Since then, we have learnt that, as we suspected, there is real science and precision behind barefoot trimming. In fact, MD has managed to re-align some of our horse’s lower legs which had become twisted from being trained in rewal and dancing at a very young age. Both are very strong traditions in the north of India and mainly done using the Marwari breed. You can see videos of rewal here and dancing here.
The damages caused haverequired quite aggressive corrective trimming which has left the horses uncomfortable for weeks after each trimming as they re-learnt to walk and move the way their body was naturally designed too.
Other horse owners around us already thought it weird that we chose to leave our horses barefoot but they thought we were completely mad to bring a trimmer in from hundreds of kilometres away, pay him MORE than a farrier who puts shoes on AND THEN have lame horses when he left. Total nutcase tree-hugging people!
There is a saying in the horse world: ‘no feet no horse.’ This just means that the feet are pretty much the most important and yet complicated and fragile part of the horse. It is little wonder that farrier studies take years, and like all other science, the knowledge keeps on expanding with time. We are very happy that we decided to let our horses barefoot and we don’t think we’ll ever put shoes on them. We adopted recently a 15-year old retired polo thoroughbred and we’ve taken out her shoes. It was a shock to see that her feet are much smaller than our Marwari’s horses. We were told that the farriers deliberately keep the feet small supposedly to make the horses more nimble. We are very curious to see how her journey transitioning goes, given that she is older and a different breed. Hopefully, with the right expertise, it will also go smoothly.