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Navicular horse: barefoot in winter?

From: Ken Elsea

Jessica, Been reading the thread on pulling shoes for winter in equine-l and am totally confused and frustrated. Last shoeing Jim my farrier suggested that we pull Cowboy's shoes for two months and let his hoof nail holes grow out. Suggested that it is good for horses to go barefoot for a while. Makes sense also based on the el thread. However, Cowboy is navicular and needs the support from his heart bar shoes. Last time we tried to shoe him in just regular shoes he went ouchy not really lame but not comfortable either ( he is a real sissy when it comes to pain). Sue favors the keep the shoes on for support, Jim wants to pull them, I can see benefits and drawbacks from both sides. Last time he was barefoot on one front from a pulled shoe he was very ouchy and (unrelated or ???) got a bandage bow from stepping on bandage and pulling tight. What do you think? Pull or not? Also if I do and can not ride him barefoot I am horseless for the clinic in January :(. HELP!!! Jyl and Cowboy

Hi Jyl -- we're getting into veterinary matters here, as well as farriery. That means that your best sources of information will be your own vet and farrier, both of whom are familiar with your horse, his condition, and his shoeing.

But here are my thoughts on the matter. There is an argument to be made both ways -- time without shoes DOES help grow out enough hoof to let the farrier make new nail-holes later, and time without shoes does allow the hooves to expand. So there's the argument in favour of going barefoot!

Having said that, though, here's the opposing viewpoint: if this horse has navicular disease and is being shod in a special way to relieve the pressure on the underside of his feet, and if going barefoot would increase the pressure on the navicular bone and/or change his hoof angles for the worse, by wearing down the heel, he might be better off continuing through the winter IN front shoes.

I think that you should talk with her vet, then sit down with your farrier, tell him what you plan to do with your horse over the winter, and ask him WHY he feels that Cowboy will benefit from going barefoot this winter, and HOW the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. If he's a good farrier, which he sounds to be, he will have good reasons and be able to explain them clearly. And since he's looked after the horse well so far, he may have EXCELLENT reasons. You just need to know what they are, and what your vet thinks, so that you can make an informed decision.

Another point -- since Cowboy will still need to be trimmed regularly, the farrier will be coming around regularly, and if he pulls the shoes and it doesn't work out as well as he had hoped, he can PUT SHOES BACK ON THE HORSE. Nothing's permanent. Shoes can be removed -- and shoes can be re-set.

I would also suggest that you look into a good biotin supplement for Cowboy -- Gen-A-Hoof or Biotyme or something that provides at least 15 mg of biotin daily, plus zinc and methionine if possible. It sounds as though your farrier is running out of sound hoof wall in which to place nail holes, and that's a very real problem -- he can't keep using the same nail holes, or place holes too near the previous ones. Improving the hoof quality and rate of hoof growth could help quite a lot, and although it doesn't help in ALL cases, biotin can't hurt. By summer, Cowboy's hooves should show clear improvement. It's worth a try!


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