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To Shoe or Not To Shoe

From: Donald

Dear Jessica,

I've been wondering what your opinion is on "when or if" a person should shoe their horses. I realize that a person showing a horse in shows or does a lot of riding may have the need to shoe their horse(s). On the other hand, when Nic becomes of age to start riding, he will only be ridden once or twice a week, and mostly on dirt trails. My ferrier recommended that I not shoe Nic, because of the expense and that Nic would not be ridden enough to warrant any shoes. What would you do in my "shoes"?

I also read in one of your letters that you recommended Calf-Manna as an additive to the horses feed. I've been using Calf-Manna ever since we've gotten Nic, he gets one serving with his meal at night. Is this enough, not enough or too much?

One more question. How would you go about getting a horse used to cross-ties. I've tried them a few times with Nic, and he puts up quit a fight every time. His barn isn't big enough for ties, so I attached them to two trees in his paddock, which are about 10 feet apart. There's got to be an easier way of introducing him to cross- ties. Any suggestions?

Thanks Donald


Hi Donald! Let's take the questions one at a time, okay?

First: shoeing. If Nic has good feet, gets trimmed every six weeks or so by a good farrier, and will have the kind of riding schedule you describe, I see no reason that he would EVER have to wear shoes. It's weight-bearing work on hard surfaces that wears the feet down to the point at which they need protection, and Nic has a much less demanding career ahead of him. Many horses have worked harder than that and stayed barefoot -- we had a mare who never wore shoes in her life, and who was evented and fox-hunted for years. She had wonderful hooves. Your farrier is your "resident expert" when it comes to feet and shoes. If he believes that Nic doesn't/won't need shoes, believe him! After all, if you decide to take up mounted police work later in Nic's life, and need him shod for work on pavement , you can always have him shod THEN.

Second: Calf-Manna. If you have a horse that's been ill or is a picky eater, or is considerably underweight and needs to gain appetite and weight, Calf- Manna is a nice supplement. A box or two a day can work wonders in such cases. BUT for a horse that is healthy and being fed a balanced formulated ration, it's better to offer him a handful now and then as a treat. Feed companies go to great trouble to formulate balanced feeds for horses, and if Nic gets good hay, good feed (and he probably doesn't need much!) and has constant access to a mineralized salt block and fresh, cool water, he should be a very happy horse. The thing to remember about balanced feeds is that when you add something here and something there, you generally manage to UNbalance what your horse is getting. If Nic is well fed, which I'm sure he is, the only supplement you might want to add would be -- on your vet's advice -- a vitamin/mineral supplement specifically formulated for your area. This can be especially useful if your horse is an "easy keeper" and gets hay as his primary diet. Ask your vet about this!

Third: cross-ties. Nic is still young -- is there any burning reason that he needs to be crosstied? You might just want to forget about it until he is older. If you do want to teach him now, though, here are some ideas.

Horses are usually quick to figure out that you want them to stay in one place when you tie them in an aisle, because you are tying them there for a reason -- you're going to groom them, tack them up, clip them, or whatever. If you want Nic to understand the routine, I suggest that you start tying him to ONE of those trees and grooming him while he stands between the trees. Once he understands that there is a REASON for him to stand, he'll be easier to teach to crosstie.

When he's quite used to that routine, tie him to the tree as usual, but on a longer rope, and fasten the panic snap (always have panic snaps on the ends of your crossties) to the side of his halter. Then attach another LONG rope to the panic snap on the OTHER side of his halter, and run it through a ring attached to the tree (either a big screw eye with a ring attached, or -- if you don't want to make a hole in the tree -- a large ring attached to a padded nylon cord that circles the tree. Don't use a chain or wrap the rope around the tree, or you can kill the tree!

If you have a radio, a chair, and a lot of time to spend, so much the better. Sit down and hold the end of the long rope. If Nic gets worried and pulls, let him have more rope. If he barges or sits down,let him have more rope. When he's calm, take the rope back from your end until it's adjusted about the way you would want the cross-ties adjusted -- not tight, but not drooping to Nic's knees, either. You aren't going to let him panic, because he isn't going to have anything to panic ABOUT! When he gets worried about being held on both sides of his halter, just loosen your rope so there's nothing for him to pull against. Stay calm, stay quiet, talk to him, BORE him if you can. Boring = Not Dangerous.

It may take ten minutes or two hours, and you may have to repeat this every other day for a week, but you'll get there, and nobody will get hurt. Once he's figured it out, you can hold the end of the long rope in your hand while you groom Nic. When you think he's good and ready, fasten that rope too -- and he'll be in cross-ties! After that, just remember that you NEVER leave a horse alone in cross-ties...

- Jessica

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