Walk a Mile on my Shoes

Not all journeys are the same. Not all feet are the same. Not all shoes are the same.

I feel for the person who belongs to the feet in the above picture, while, at the same time, I marvel at a human spirit that is able to work with whatever is available. I also think about how uncomfortable it must be to walk on top of rigid, flattened, plastic bottles. At least for that person, those plastic shoes can be removed when they become too uncomfortable or when the ground becomes more accommodating to the soft, underside of their feet.

Now…

Walk...

A mile...

On these shoes...

I feel for the horse who belongs to the hoof in the above picture, while, at the same time, marvel at a horse’s spirit that is able to endure whatever its owner subjects it to. I also think about how uncomfortable it must be to walk on top of a hard, flattened, piece of steel nailed to the bottom of each hoof. And for the horse, those steel shoes cannot be removed when they become too uncomfortable or when the ground becomes more accommodating to the soft, underside of their hooves.

When a horse walks, as the hoof hits the ground, the leg is subjected to the shock of the horse’s weight as it bears down on the hoof. Although the leg absorbs most of the shock, some of the shock is also absorbed by the hoof, which is, to some degree, flexible. This flexibility allows the hoof to expand and spread out a little as the weight of the horse bears down. In this way, the hoof acts like a shock absorber for the leg. This system of shock distribution is how nature intended it to be. This helps keep the horse and its legs healthy.

When you nail a piece of steel, or any other rigid material, to the bottom of a horse’s hoof, the hoof becomes as rigid as the material. Since the hoof is no longer flexible, the horse looses a key component of its shock distribution system. Now, with every step, the leg has to pick up the slack and this subjects it to increased stress.

With an unshod horse, there is normal blood flow down into the hoof. This flow of blood contains oxygen and other nutrients, which helps keep the hoof, and any newly formed hoof horn, healthy. As the horse moves about, the expansion and contraction of the hoof also helps pump blood back up the leg to the heart. With a shod horse, normal blood flow to the hoof is reduced. With reduced blood flow, the hoof horn may become brittle and start to crack, and the horse may tire easily during workouts. Over time, ligaments, tendons, muscles and joints could be permanently damaged and the horse could go lame.

Like humans, the under side of a horse’s hoof is soft and it reacts to the terrain. And just as you might slow down and step softly and carefully while walking barefoot on a gravel road in an attempt to protect the bottom of your feet, a horse will do the very same thing. When rigid horse shoes are nailed to the bottom of a horse’s hooves, it lifts the hooves, helps protect the soft underside, and allows the horse to move quickly across all types of terrain without having to slow down. Although this is advantageous to humans, it is not advantageous to the horse.

So whenever a shod horse comes to the ranch, the first thing Diana does is have the farrier remove the rigid shoes — forever. There are no shod horses allowed at this ranch. Once the shoes are removed, with time, the bottom of the horse’s feet will toughen up, just as the bottom of your feet would eventually toughen up if you were to walk barefoot all the time. However, it generally takes about a year for new hoof horn to fully grow out and replace the old hoof horn. So after removing the rigid shoes, the first few months are the toughest for the horse because the underside of their hooves are especially tender and the old nail holes are still there. During this time, the hoof may chip or crack where the old nail holes are and there is always a risk of infection in the nail holes.

But, until the horse’s hooves toughen up, it gets treated to the old soft shoe routine…

Soft, rubber, removable hoof boots... or Nike's for horses! πŸ™‚

Max is a warm-blood and I just realized I do not have a picture of him. Sorry, Max… if you want to get even, you can bite me on the butt next time I turn my back to you. No, Max. No. I was just kidding. πŸ™‚

When Max came to the ranch he was shod. Although his rigid shoes were removed, he’s only been here for a few months and the underside of his feet are still a little tender. Diana puts his tennis shoes on from time-to-time to give the underside of his hooves a break.

Max is very cooperative as Diana puts on his tennis shoes...

The hoof clamp gets tightened... and the Velcro shoe lace gets tied...

The front pair of tennis shoes are on...

And the back pair of tennis shoes are on...

Sometimes Diana only puts on the front pair. It all depends on the terrain Max will be walking over. Plus, the front feet of a horse carries about 60% of its body weight, so anything the horse steps on that might be painful will be even more painful on the front feet. These rubber, hoof boots allow for the natural expansion and contraction of the hooves, too, thereby ensuring normal operation of the horse’s shock distribution system, which facilitate good horse health and helps prevent injury to the horse’s feet and legs.

And for those who claim you shouldn’t let a domesticated horse go barefoot all the time, well, domesticated horses are genetically identical to wild mustangs. So the next time you survive getting caught up inΒ  — or under — a stampede of wild mustangs, those marks all over your body were made by the bare feet of those mustangs. So if going barefoot all the time works for wild horses, it will certainly work for domesticated horses, as well… just don’t let them step all over you! πŸ˜‰

Okay, so Max is looking pretty good in his cool-looking Nikes and I think he’s ready to go dancing. I hear he’s a real hoofer, too. πŸ™‚

Hey, Max… look… I think Molly is checking you out.

That Max… he is such a stud! πŸ˜‰

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