Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Charlie's Great Hoof Year

I went into 2021 determined to reframe my overall goals and ambitions relating to horses and riding. The objectives didn't necessarily change -- I want to enjoy my horsey experiences to the absolute fullest, while striving to be the best rider and horse person I can be. The methods, tho. My attitude and approach -- that's shifted. 

pictured: possibly the single most important puzzle piece in charlie's stellar 2021
Put simply: my intention going into this year was to be ready for tomorrow, whatever may come, but not ruled by it. 

In practice, this means avoiding situations where it seems like any given thing has to happen RIGHT NOW in order for LATER to be possible — even (and especially) if NOW is not ideal.

march 2021 -- last cycle before going into leather pads for the season
A specific example is feeling like we *need* an important schooling or lesson to be ready for a show, even if that meant working hard on bad ground. Instead, this year, I aimed to capitalize on good ground whenever possible, while avoiding heavy pounding during the driest hottest months.
flashback picture (you can tell bc there aren't stud holes drilled) -- but representative of the leather pads 
Obviously it helped sticking to all things Novice -- where we're experienced, comfortable and don't need a lot of "prep." Bc ya know.... if we really *needed* that last practice to be ready, despite bad conditions.... well, eh, maybe that meant we just weren't ready, right? 

flashback to Nov 2019 when we pulled a shoe while xc schooling with Martin Douzant -- but a good view of the leather pad side profile, and the considerable cushion it adds
Anyway, possibly as a result of this new approach - combined with other maintenance aspects I’ll get into - Charlie had his absolute BEST hoof year with me yet. 

We didn't lose a single shoe!! And Charlie was very sound all year long! Sure, we did our routine maintenance, including joint injections and a box of Adequan. But... That was it. Considering the hoof struggles we've had before (including necessitating coffin injections in 2019), this was kiiiiinda a big deal haha.

flashback to May 2019: charlie's front hoof condition by late spring with no pads. pretty hard to bounce back after this sort of chipping -- esp so early in the year
Because the hoof care reality is... The toothpaste just won't go back into the tube. Literally — inflammation and effusion are expansive forces that can compound soreness significantly when trapped within a rigid hoof capsule. 

It’s MUCH better to prevent it altogether rather than deal with resolving it once it’s begun.

compare to May 2021: charlie's front hooves at 5 weeks with pads, shoo fly boots, and near-daily keratex
Charlie has fairly normal thoroughbred feet -- they're proportionally a little small for his big body, and they tend toward being shelly and crumbly. His soles can also be thinner than is ideal.

flashback to June 2020 : still no pads, looking really shelly and crumbly, with older nail holes chipping out completely
His hooves spurt into growth nearly instantaneously at the earliest signs of spring. But they grow out soft and crumbly -- and as seen in the 'flashback' photos in this post, they usually chip and crack excessively around the shoe clips and nail holes by May or June. 

In past years, we've transitioned Charlie into full leather pads up front around June-ish. But.... ya know.... The thing with hooves, at least for me, is that by the time I'd recognize a problem, it was usually too late.  

compare to August 2021 : charlie's front hooves looking solid at 5 wks in August, despite drought 
Once the hoof wall gets so compromised, the only solution is to grow it out. Except those existing cracks and holes obviously aren't particularly stable, tending to spread and create new vulnerabilities even as the hoof grows. 

So we'd walk this fine line between 1) long enough shoeing cycles to grow more new wall between new and old nail holes; or 2) risk Charlie losing a shoe, possibly along with big chunks of hoof -- thus setting us even further back. 

Sept 2021: charlie's hind hooves at 5 wks. he doesn't wear pads behind, so you can see more advanced crumbling here -- tho near-daily keratex helped keep the walls intact
This year we got Charlie into full leather pads up front starting in March 2021 -- months earlier than normal. Which... I'm now convinced had two main advantages: the pads substantially reduced all that early spring chipping and cracking; plus we got the pads on *before* Charlie had a chance to get sore on hard ground. Yessssss!

Oct 2021: a good looking hoof growing out an old defect. leather pad is clearly visible here
My farrier also suggested applying Keratex as close to daily as possible. He said polymers in the compound accumulate with repeated applications, giving the hoof wall the strength and flexibility necessary to resist cracking or chipping.

Nov 2021: transitioned to leather rim pads in time for wet pre-freeze ground conditions. he'll wear the rim pads for a cycle or two, before ditching pads altogether for winter.
I also added fly boots to the mix -- tho he mostly just wore them up front. Ideally, fly boots reduce stomping on hard summer ground. Charlie's Shoo Fly boots work great -- they're easy to get on and off, loose enough to not cause restriction or harbor leg funk, and brightly colored so they're easy to find if one falls off in the field. 

flashback to June 2017, when charlie went into rim pads for the first time
It's impossible to know what made the biggest difference for Charlie this year. If I had to pick *just one* practice to carry forward, it'd be the leather pads. But the keratex and fly boots seem effective enough to justify the cost. For those curious -- we went through 5 keratex bottles this year, costing about $200 total.

Also notable -- Charlie discontinued ALL feed through supplements last year. Bc, eh, he already has a great diet, and IMO the supplements were the least effective and most expensive part of Charlie's hoof care. 

whatever it takes, buddy!
So. Long story short: We made some big changes this year. I was more selective about footing and ground conditions for our training, and Charlie got into hoof pads ~3 months earlier than past years. Plus we continued basic mitigation efforts like keratex and fly boots. 

And gosh.... It's made ALL the difference for Charlie. Not one lost shoe. A very sound horse. And *ZERO* comments from dressage judges about irregular or uneven steps. Yessssss

Obviously I'm tempting fate writing it all out like this. And lord knows Charlie could go step on a nail (or a bit of mulch, ahem) tomorrow lol (plz don't tho, buddy!). But, eh, as a first-time horse owner, it feels like we finally got it right this year with Charlie's hoof care. 

Here's hoping I can keep it up, haha, and not have to learn any more lessons the hard way -- at least on this one subject LOL. Bc damn... hooves really are the epitome of the "long game" with horses, it seems. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has taken a couple tries to figure out the secret sauce for their horse? 


  1. Thoroughbred feet are really interesting. Also super interesting about the feed through supplements. But every time I drop off a supplement, I notice a change (negative) in Nay. Coincidence or causation. No idea. But I don't know if he gets the best feed either but when your horse can't eat soy, needs calories, AND is extremely picky, there are very few (read: basically no) options. So I pump in vitamins, minerals, and gut supplements for now.

    Nay has surprisingly decent feet but we transitioned him to shoes this summer during one of the early dry spells (before those seized to ever exist again) as the hard ground just was making him a little foot sore. That said, his issue is he has really SOFT feet. They're not crumbly, but they're just soft.

    We did about a month or so of keretex: daily for a week then 2-3 times a week. Basically, I brought him in, cleaned out his feet, and hoped that by morning his feet would dry enough that I could apply the keretex (my farrier was adamant that I don't apply if his feet were damp). But, this last cycle supposedly they were better? Anyway, he wants me to be careful that I don't go from too soft of a hoof to too hard of a hoof so the keretex might be an occasional thing for us.

    I've had horses with terrible feet (Batt). Horses with mismanaged turned excellent feet (Subi). But never anyone with good but soft feet. So this is different one for me.

    1. dude for real... and not just "tb feet" but also the environmental impact on those feet --- living conditions, ground conditions, turn out patterns... it all gets so complicated lol! honestly it used to bug me that each individual farrier might have specifically opposite recommendations... but these days i'm pretty cool with just using the advice i pay for LOL!

  2. This is great to hear! You've really had to be persistent about this, and it's nice to see it pay off.

    1. ha yes, 'persistent' is definitely one word for it.... zealous and obsessive might be others too LOL -- whatever it takes tho!

  3. this is awesome. It underlines the point that there is rarely one single answer but more complicated. Irish has crappy feet. I used fly boots this year and I think they made a difference.

    1. definitely agreed -- it's taken me a long time to understand just how uniquely individual horse care can be, i always want there to be "one true way" and... there just isn't lol -- even things that worked for charlie at one point in time might not work later ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  4. Yay Charlie! I feel this, I've been noticing more crumbling in L's feet closer to farrier appointments, and while I have always suggested keratex, his owner is of the opinion it does not do much, but it clearly helps!

    1. ha for sure, everybody seems to have a stance on the relative efficacy of topical hoof applications... and honestly, while i'm pretty convinced this keratex formula works for charlie, it's entirely possible that *any* similar compound would work when used the way i use it (near daily from about march to october). like i have some friends who swear by farrier's fix instead. or, ya know, it's entirely possible that the keratex works for us bc of the types of ground conditions we see (dry, hard) -- but maybe it's less effective in wetter environments? i really don't know haha -- tho i'd say it's a reasonably low cost thing to try?

  5. Woohoo! Congrats on a great hoof year and therefore sound horse year! I'm hoping 2022 will be the year I can say that about Yosh.

    1. omgosh yea it's been a journey with this horse, whom i sorta-lovingly refer to as the "king of the dings".... lol. here's hoping Yoshi can keep it all together now after giving you such a bumpy start !

  6. Yay Charlie! (and Emma!)
    Keratex for our wet winters is a go to here. I've unfortunately never seen amazing results with supplements either - it's all about my farrier and good basic diet and hoof care, it seems.

    1. oooh that's interesting that you like keratex for the wet too -- i usually get much more lazy about applications once our ground turns after hurricane season... and esp once charlie's growth slows over the winter. but... maybe i shouldn't?? lol

  7. This is such a cool change to see and what worked and what didn't. After dealing with all that nonsense with Bobby's feet Opie's ppe consisted solely of sending a hundred feet pics to my farrier to get her approval, and fortunately that's paid off because I don't think I could mentally deal with the upkeep shit feet require again 😂

    1. ha seriously tho... it's easy to shrug off any concerns if you've never actually had to deal with it before. but ugh, actually having to deal with it is the worst... honestly tho i don't mind the upkeep itself -- esp if it works and the horse is sound. the hardest part with charlie was that i was constantly behind the 8-ball, constantly playing catch-up and dealing with the fallout... at least now i feel like i know what to do to prevent the problems in the first place (hopefully!)

  8. I feel like hoof stuff is just the absolute worst and hardest to tackle. It's shrouded in mystery embattled by warring opinions of farriers, veterinarians, body workers, and other farriers, and the deeply individual needs of each horse in a specific climate and work routine.

    All that to say -- it is SUPER that you've gotten Charlie's feet into a routine that works so well for both of you. Hopefully this effect compounds upon itself and you have even more improvement and better feet in 2022!

    1. ha i hope you're right!! i've been very lucky to have a lot of good advice coming from the folks on charlie's team and not too much in the way of opposing philosophies.... that still wasn't really any match for my lack of knowledge tho, like i wouldn't even realize there was a problem until my horse was walking out of shoes and sore AF.... poor horse is teaching me so much!

  9. Loooove this!! I know those feet have been on your mind for years. So glad they looked so good this year! I know for my boys, fly boots are 100% necessary up front to stay sound all summer. They'll just pound their feet to oblivion. Keratex I use way less, but I find applying to Bast after a ride where we spent a lot of time in the creek (but the other ground is hard) is really helpful for avoiding abscesses and bruising/general sore feet. The other big thing I'm learning is how short Bast likes his hind heels in order to feel comfortable in collection. Like, I can really tell a difference when he's due for a good trim. Which reminds me... He's due today. 😂

  10. Love this! Sounds like you have the right combo of products/timing/farrier schedule that works for Sir Charles.

    Fred has decent hooves (no crumbling) BUT he gets abscesses from stomping at the flies and from the frozen mud we get in shoulder seasons. Fly boots worked great for him, but he is a sensitive soul that got mud fever from the dew getting in his boots. Sigh...will adapt next year and take them off over night. And maybe think about shoes next spring. It certainly takes a while to sort these creatures out!

  11. Great use of Data and planning on your part! Now throw a party! :D

  12. So glad you seemed to have found the right recipe! My junior hunter had terrible feet, but it was so long ago, I can't remember what all we did to try and help him. I do remember there was one show season that a very significant part of his hoof was made of hoof patch.
    Charlie is so lucky to have you for a mom! Finding what works took some real work on your part!


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