Yep, we got a pile of DIRT today. We're building a barn and have to build up the ground underneath so we got a HUGE load of "Crush and Run" for the base. Now, this stuff has rocks in it. Yes -- ROCKS! Rocks that will crush and get hardened like cement. The man delivering it asked what we were using it for and I told him. He replied, "Oh! For the horses? Won't that hurt their hooves!?" and then went on to describe other places where they've dumped clean, screened, soft sand footing for the horses so their feet won't be damaged. He also mentioned, "They're all in shoes. Is that to protect their hooves?" Of course I took the opportunity to praise barefooted horses! And that's what I'm doing today, here, too ... for those of you who wonder about sharp rocks, hard-as-cement ground and how the bare hooves stand up to it all.
First, let me explain. I know not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to allow 24/7 turnout for their horses. Right now my guys don't even have a barn ... yet ... this is the start of their barn.
Half of it. So they have Live Oak trees for their shelter with a tarp among the branches. They've done well with this .. In the mornings when I wake up they are usually all laid out flat in the middle of the paddock in the open. They love it. Their paddock is a combination of crushed shell, rock, sand, grass and silt from leaves.
So they don't have the perfect, screened sand footing that so many think their horses HAVE to have! But, as I said, I consider myself fortunate to be able to allow 24/7 turnout on all different types of ground!
Because THEY get to choose where they wanna be and THEY get to trim their own hooves! That's a huge bonus for me. I'm gittin' old -- and my guys have always been the cobbler's kids. While I've spent upwards of 60 hours a week trimming and taking care of others' horses my guys have had to fend for themselves for much of the time.
BUT ... that's where the big pile of dirt and rocks comes in.
We already dumped a load of shells and rocks into the paddock to help with the mud when it rains .. and rains ... and rains ... and rains. Everyday, in the summer, it rains. And I'm not talking just a sprinkle or two. I'm talking tropical, torrential downpours!
So we do get mud and lots of it! But we got the fill and that has helped tremendously! The horses are happy, too!
With the shells and rocks, and the sand and the grass, these guys have kept pretty near perfect hooves since their last trim 5, almost 6 months ago ... Here's a little sampling of them: (and yes, I DID say 5, almost 6 MONTHS ago! *Grin*)
You can see that they are not 'textbook' in form but they are surely textbook in function!
And functioning is more important than looks ... however, form to function, right? You know I've harped on 'individual hooves' and you can see in the differences, here, in these hooves that its absolutely true! These guys have 'formed' their own, perfect balance to allow for their own, perfect functioning! No cracks, no thrush, no chips ... solid and tough.
What you can't see is what I FEEL when trying to trim these cement-hard hooves! I can't even get my nippers to cut through them. They are solid and HARD and SOUND!
We also have a crushed shell driveway that leads out to a tarred road and then we can go down hard packed gravel roads, too. And we do -- all without one mis-step. Sound on grass. Sound on sand. Sound on rocks. Sound on tar. Sound on gravel.
Way to go!
If you're in the middle of transitioning your horse, or are just at the beginning or even an old hand at it and your horse tends to be a tad ouchie -- no worries. Get him out on the tarred road at least 10 mins a day in a hand-walk, get some boots if he needs them for riding the trails and get that horse MOVING!
I can't stress that enough.
And if you can, see to it that he has alot of variation in the ground surface upon which he moves. Get a load of pea gravel to put down in the paddock. Best thing ever for helping to condition hooves. AND to help your horse self-trim. Have some sand, some grass, some woodsy silt ... vary the ground as much as you can.
Your horses' hooves will be amazing!