When we think of doing things religiously, we think of doing things consistently or regularly.

The good side of that shows we can hang in there over the long haul and be responsible (which is part of a good work ethic). This is also the time-tested way we strengthen our mind and bodies genuinely in the midst of all the quick-fix substitute fads that come and go. The bad side of doing things religiously might tend toward being a boring robot. Instead of living as though we are worshiping a creative creator in our day-to-day activities, we might be observed acting more like a robot in a cookie-cutter lifestyle.

True religion should always question whether we are naturally climbing into our own little robotic ivory tower, or fighting to stay where the rubber meets the road. Of course with horses, it’s where “the hoof meets the ground.”
When we barefoot a horse, we’re quite literally fighting to stay where the hoof meets the ground. Instead of slapping shoes on horses without thinking (while operating cookie cutter style 24/7), we monitor when to protect the feet and when not to. Barefooting is less convenient than shoeing, because we need to be ready to put boots on or take them off.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

If we ride regularly, we can gradually toughen feet so that boots are needed less and less. We need to engage our minds so we can sense how sensitive our horses’ feet are in order to toughen them slowly rather than cause them to become sore. For example, if we’re riding three hours on rough ground, we might pull the boots to expose a horse’s feet for 15 to 20 minutes of rough ground to start out. Some horses can take more and others less. This is a matter of being aware of the current real situation and is something that we cannot get by reading, talking or contemplating. We just have to get out and experiment with it.

The inconvenience of barefooting is much like eating healthy. In the beginning, cutting up fresh fruit and vegetables is not as easy as fast food. But just like barefooting, it gives us wings like eagles in the long run, because in the long run, things flip flop. Healthier choices cut dependencies on things, whereas unhealthy lifestyles increase them. With regard to horses’ feet, boots can be temporary training wheels, whereas shoes are permanent dependencies.
The most unhealthy thing we can do to a horse’s feet – barefoot or shod – is allow the outside wall of the hoof to get too long. This stresses the foot structure and is the fundamental cause of flaring and cracking.
Since the outside wall is the dam that helps build calloused sole behind it, it must not be weakened. Calloused sole is what drives sensitive tissues further up the foot, and is the most important thing a bare footer wants to build. The walls should not be more than an eighth-inch higher than the sole behind it to keep mechanical forces from flaring and cracking it outward.

The extremely toughened feet of wild horses have walls that are exactly even with their soles. These walls are so well connected that it’s difficult to tell where the wall ends and the sole begins. To try to mimic the structure of wild horses’ hooves and further alleviate stress on the wall, we will bevel (or well round) the wall, so that the ground does not try to pry the wall outward. Shoeing a horse suspends a horse by the walls of its hooves, whereas barefooting allows a horse to load its entire foot (frog, sole and wall) for the greatest flexion and shock absorption.
Dry ground toughens feet so we should try not to have horses stand in moisture very long. Pea gravel in loafing areas helps.

With regard to food, don’t overfeed and make sure fiber and structural carbohydrates are valued over sugars. This way, our battle to stay where the hoof meets the ground will have a better chance of being successful.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.