Why my horses are barefoot

It goes back to that sports model jackass-my first horse.

He was a bright boy-and I was either naive as heck, stupid beyond belief, ignorant as all get out, or some combination of all of them. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight-I’d say all of them. It should have cost me the horse.

That horse could get into the feed bins. Unless you padlocked the door with a combination lock, he’d be in there. (He also opened all the water faucets-that caused major malfunctions with my grandmother since it made the well pump run too much. For those of you who have never been on a water well-the last thing you want is for the pump to run dry.)  When he did, he’d happily eat 25 pounds or so of sweet feed. Oh, yeah-guaranteed founder and laminitis.

That-combined with his alarming ability to find and step on nails-virtually insured that he had big pancake feet that turned brittle. Trying to keep steel shoes on him became a nightmare. I had a really good blacksmith-not just a farrier-a real blacksmith. He ‘hot’ shod him, used toe clips, side clips, no heels, heels, you name it, he tried it. This horse was coming out of shoes in 10 days. It was maddening.

Along came a new product among several-a totally synthetic shoe that could be nailed on and trimmed to fit with a rasp. Blacksmith wasn’t happy, but he agreed to try it since nothing else was working. The funny looking things worked. We called them his ‘sneakers’. What was even better-they could be reset.

From then on, until his death in 1982, he wore his synthetic shoes. He was walking lame without them. Yes, I did shoe other horses after him, but only because of definite issues. My husband’s TWH was flat-footed-he couldn’t go barefoot. My foxtrotter developed navicular and needed help. An appaloosa mare had thin soles-if you wanted to ride her, it was shoe or boot her.

I developed a sincere and abiding appreciation for good hooves. Now I have a pasture of nothing but barefoot horses. One does need boots in front for riding, but that’s it. I know now why the old sheiks didn’t look at horses in the open. They started from in the tents. The prospects were led past the tent flaps which were raised about 5 inches or so. The sheiks looked at the feet FIRST.  Then slowly the flaps were raised-pastern, cannons, knees and hocks, forearms and gaskins, shoulders, barrel, and hip, then back and croup, then finally, neck and head. Conformation matters more than beauty. Temperament matters more than pedigree.

Could we possibly return to this?

‘I will never shoe another horse’ – Nick Hill

One of the best thought out and written pieces I’ve seen in a long, long time about what horses actually NEED v what the commercial industry touts and tries to sell to horse owners as ‘essential to your horse’s health.’ Well worth the read.


by Linda Chamberlain

I want you to meet a trained farrier – one that says he will never shoe again because of the harm it causes. He turned his back on the trade because separating the horse from the ground was the beginning of a destructive process. He became a barefoot trimmer because he was forever fighting against nature, causing the hoof to distort and break from constant renailing. With all our wisdom and technology, there had to be a better way…

Nick Hill 1

His name is Nick Hill and he has a list of changes needed for the domestic horse that is shopping-list long. If anyone can make a few of these demands happen it is this quietly, committed man who travels the world educating owners about a new way of caring for the species.

There is more to looking after a horse’s hoof than the style or frequency of its…

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Backyard Breeders

Before anybody gets their undies in a twist, let me be clear. Yes, I have owned both stallions and mares. Yes, I have done some breeding. Not a lot, but some. I have raised foals-and I have re-trained horses that other people raised in their backyards who turned out to be dangerous hellions. Seriously dangerous. So yes, I do have some very real knowledge to back up my thoughts. Whether or not you agree-totally different thing.

Of the foals born here, only two left. I have always regretted that. One filly I have no idea where she went. I traded her to a friend for a TWH filly that I still own 19 years later. The other one, also a filly, was part of a deal to get my Arabian broodmare. She was given back to the girl who sold me the mare. If I had known she would turn around and sell her, I never would have let her go. She went to a woman who was a known horse hoarder in FL. I have often worried about what happened to that filly. Hoarders are notorious for not being able to feed their horses.

The others? The two colts grew up and died here. I still have their half sisters. I have the daughters of one of the colts. They’ll be fine mares in their own right soon.

Why am I writing about backyard breeders? Because I’m a rarity. I only bred for those who I thought would keep and use the foals for their entire lives. That meant that my stallions didn’t see many outside mares or get much around here.

My rationale? Well, if you go to the sale barns, you’ll see weanlings, yearlings, and 2 year old-REGISTERED horses-not plugs and these are healthy, sane, lovely animals-being sold for $50-150 each because they didn’t sell for the breeders. Gorgeous babies-not a thing in the world wrong with them. They just bred too many of them so they dump them.

You know what happens to them? They go to slaughter. Don’t like reading that? Then don’t be breeding your mare just because you think foals are cute, you like your mare, or your neighbor has a stud colt. I’m serious. Every time you do something like that-you put another horse on a truck.

Comments on WordPress are welcome. I remind the reader that this is my opinion. I’m not trying to persuade anyone-just saying what I think. Do I have a solution? Well, I have a “proposed” solution, but I have no illusions that anyone would take me up on it. I’ll save that one for later.  Enough for now. To quote Scarlett O’hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”


Mistakes I See People Making–

Don’t want to seem harsh or critical-because this is something that I’ve learned through observation and I feel it is not just tragic, but avoidable-most of the time. Sometimes it isn’t. Life can be like that-it will bite us while we are busy making other plans and I will be the first to tell you that I’ve been bitten more than a few times. I’d just like to same somebody else’s heart-and butt-from the pain.

  • When you buy/lease/loan/give away a horse-for heaven’t sake, write out a Bill of Sale and make two copies-one for each party. I don’t really care if the horse is worth $1 or $100K-take the time to do it.
  • Get somebody else to “witness” both of you signing that paperwork-and they need to sign it as well. Then make a photo of you/them/horse in ONE PHOTO and make sure the photo is automatically dated. (if you don’t know how to do that on your cell phone, either read the manual or go to your provider and they’ll show you.) Send a copy to the other person.
  • Put copies of all documentation-Bills of sale, Coggins, vet records, breed registration, photos, microchip certificate. show records, etc. into at LEAST two places-I recommend a file cabinet AND an online place such as Google Docs, OneDrive, Box, DropBox, or some other electronic archive. If you register with the NIP ™ Registry, you can stash it there.
  • If you are leasing or loaning a horse-go check on the horse. I don’t mean call. I mean go check on the horse. Get your butt out there. People have a lot harder time lying about what happened to your horse face to face.
  • Remember-just because you think the person ‘looks’ trustworthy doesn’t mean that they are. Go check them out, ask for references, check those references-and do not be shy. Your horse’s life could depend on it.  Many, many horses never make it to those ‘good’ homes.
  • Once you sell a horse-you have no way to control what happens. That ‘first right of refusal’ thing is a thing that is touted a lot. It doesn’t work. If somebody wants to turn around and sell your horse to slaughter-there is nothing to stop them. NOTHING. Legally, it is their horse to do what they want to with. How do they get by with it? Very simple-it costs a lot of money and a whole lot of time to bring a lawsuit about a broken contract. In the meantime, your horse is long gone. That’s reality.
  • Waiting and hoping the horse will come home. If your horse is missing-call NetPosse right then. Don’t wait. It takes anywhere from 3-7 days for a horse to go from your pasture to either Canada or Mexico. Much less than that in Florida-they are gone overnight. If you wait-you’re gambling with your horse’s life.

Is this some tough language? Yeah-probably for some folks. I hope it’s a wake up for some.


The Path of Horsemanship

I won’t lie-I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about horses. Downright cocky in fact. I’d owned and ridden horses for 20 years and read absolutely everything I could possibly get my hands on. Tried out a great deal of it and, in my arrogance, thought I was pretty good at it.

  • Then along came an invitation to go see a fellow do a demo on horsemanship nearby. He was from California at the time and rode a pretty little black Quarter mare. He started doing a bunch of things in that arena that I had never seen done with a horse. Then he worked with some horses some people had brought in-and problems just disappeared. Didn’t use all the whips, bits, and straps that I knew about. Instead there was a simple rope halter and a 12 foot lead.

He brought a black stallion into Ithe arena that he’d just gotten out of Canada. Said he’d been told the horse could buck-and the horse really put on a show doing exactly that. The man said that there once was a time when he would have ridden that horse bucking like that, but now he did things differently. He told the story of the horse-and why he had trust issues. Then he started working with him.

I still thought there had to be some sort of funny business going on. A year or so later, I got an invitation to another event of this man’s but up in North Carolina. The invitation was an email and I wrote back for some reason or other telling the person that I didn’t believe this stuff and that it had to be phony. She wrote back-and offered me free tickets if I’d just go. Since this was a two day all day thing, and I could take a friend, oh, heck why not?

Best thing I ever did-for several reasons.

  • I got a huge heaping dose of humility. (The most dangerous person in the world is the one who thinks they know it all-and they know not what they don’t know. Run from them.)
  • I met Natural Horsemanship head on-and found out that my knowledge base had huge gaping holes in it.
  • I met Pat and Linda Parelli. (Didn’t make an impression on them, but they did me.)
  • I learned about Stolen Horse International from Debi Metcalfe-who is now a friend, too!
  • I learned that taking the time that it takes takes less time.
  • I learned that the horse is never wrong-you asked the wrong question.
  • and there was much more.

I’ll never learn everything-I know that now. I’m grateful for that lesson. But I will confess to one thing-now when I see the things that I bought and used on my horses hanging in my tack room, I hang my head in shame and apologize to my horses.  I will never do those things again.


Is It Being “Horse Poor” or Just Broke?

Since there is plenty of evidence of people ‘hoarding’ horses these days and not being able to adequately care for them in terms of feed, water, farrier, and vet work,  yet they seem to eat fairly well themselves. What the heck?

Now we have 7 and we are seniors living on fixed income. While ideally we would like to whittle it down some, my volunteer work has made it impossible for me to sell, lend, or lease a horse. I know far too much about what could happen to a horse once out of my possession and control. Whether anyone agrees with me or not is immaterial. The only way these horses will leave my care is I will put them down.

Fortunately, we live in the Deep South where winters are usually fairly mild and summers are-while humid-aren’t as hot as the blistering heat of the Southwest. They live pastured 24/7/365-and barefoot. I rarely feed grain. They get trimmed and vaccinated. They’re fat and healthy-and my vet complains that if all his clients were like me, he’d have no business. We’ve talked about it-it seems that my natural approach to keeping horses results in healthier, happier horses. They’re also much cheaper on the budget.

I don’t have a lot of use for stalls-there are times when you need them, but not many. Basically, stalls are for the convenience of people-not for the welfare of horses. Horses are open space animals-they need to be with their own kind, able to see all the way around them in order to properly relax, able to move and nibble at their food 10 hours a day instead of 25 minutes,  and walk up to 10 miles a day to get to water.  A 10 x 10 space in solitude is  horse solitary jail-and, in my opinion, is cruel. Oh, they’ll learn to adapt to it, but so do prisoners whose minds and spirits have been broken.

So how do I handle rough weather? Depends on what it is. Winter storms get varying responses depending on precipitation, wind, and temperature. They might get rain sheets, mid-weight turn-outs, or both. Plus they’ll get lots of hay-and they do just fine.

It’s possible to do this horse thing less expensively-I won’t say cheap-but letting them suffer should not be an option. If you can’t care for them-admit it and DO SOMETHING. Even if it means putting them down and burying them. Your pride should not result in their misery.

Romance & Horses

This was a sore point between my mom and I. You see-she had this idea that since I was the ‘spitting image of her’ (and I was), that I was going to have the identical interests and goals that she did-i.e. being an author, marrying a pilot, having a big family, being a social success, living in a big house in the city, being a force in her church, etc. She didn’t get it. I kinda was for the family thing, but the rest of it? Pfft! Not if it meant I couldn’t have my horse and I was pretty sure it meant exactly that. So we were at odds from the git-go.

Oh, I tried-I learned to sew, set a correct table, cook, bake, and even learned to walk in heels with a book on my head. I got really good at cross-stitch, crewel, counted cross stitch, and even knitted a bit. But the interest in horses never waned a bit-and if the day was sunny, chances were I was not in the house, but on the horse and gone. My mom had no idea what to do with her eldest daughter.

As I got older and did start dating in college, it became rapidly apparent that horses were going to be the deal breaker. It was very simple on my side-if you wanted me, the horse came, too. There was no negotiating going to be done.

Oh, people told me-you’ll have to sell your horse if you want to get married. One day maybe you can have a horse again after you raise your family. And they’d smile knowingly and nod their heads. Then start shaking their heads when my answer was-no, that was not acceptable. This was a package deal.  If  he wanted me, he could take all of me-and that included my horse.

It would take me until I was 35 to find that person willing to accept my terms-and he did so quite willingly-even learning to ride nearly as well as I do. We have 30 acres in the country, 2 cats, 2 bossy dachshunds and 1 timid mutt. and 7 equines of varying pedigrees. We’ve shared 26 years together. People told me I was being ‘too picky’. I call BS. They settled too soon. I waited for-and got-Mr. Wright.