25 Mar 2018

Test Reveals Training Issues Linked Directly to Shoes

    We got a new little filly in two weeks ago. She's adorable and although geared high from a very rushed rider, showed valuable barrel racing traits and that's why we purchased her. First day of training, we introduced a baby friendly snaffle bit. No issues. She was a love. (before you blame the bit. I don't use hands as primary. I use voice as primary. Seat as secondary. Reins as support, only.  I also use 3 piece snaffle with pressure relief, highly mechanical and with much give) Trained right up. Yet, whenever I asked for forward movement, she raced and took off and was extremely rushed... This meant no WHOA, no BACK and no GO for barrel training. Even with doing circles, circles, circles. For those not in the know, circles calm a horse down and show a rushed horse they can go fast, but get no where. Dash didn't respond to this. I was a bit puzzled, so I tried a different tactic. Even more ground work. This (always a miracle cure for a rushed horse) seemed to help, but Dash would still have flashbacks to Yeeehaw, and want to take off and rush through her drills.

    Now,  the norm would be for a trainer to do more ground work, confidence building, round penning, and start over again. I would have wasted weeks on this. Thankfully I knew exactly what the problem was, as I am also a Farrier. Best education I ever received, by the way. Those damn shoes. I honestly hate shoes in any form. You see, I was going to leave her shoes on, as I originally thought it wouldn't be fair to her to pull the shoes giving her relief and comfort, sell her once she's trained, only to have someone slap the damn steel contraptions back on her baby feet. Just one week into training, as always, the horse told me exactly what it desired. "Pull the shoes, please!"

    We must listen to our horses. Some say they require shoes, (in very rare cases) for added support and therapuetic benefits. 98% beg me to pull their shoes. How do I know they are saying this? It's really easy, if you listen. Horse speak is said every day. Emotions and feelings are voiced as soon as you enter your stables or pasture to the very moment you leave. Dash told me as soon as she was taken from her stable and she skidded out on the concrete floor, slipped on the damn steel contraptions and all through out her training sessions- stumbling, slipping, skidding and behaving in a naughty sort of way. That's just it. She's not naughty. There is not an ounce of nastiness or naughtiness in this little filly. From her doe eye, honest as the day is long, to her honest time with me in saddle. She's sweet, honest, obedient and it's not in her DNA to be such a problem horse.

    I normally pull all 4 and give the horses immediate relief. It's like we women, removing high heels after an all night, standing party. Ahhhhh! This time, in the name of science, I did not. I did a controlled test. I pulled the fronts and observed. She went immediately out to arena and we did our very same drills. I had been asking for a nice, calm loose rein at the walk. Nothing big. Not hard. Almost every horse could do it. She adamantly refused. This time, she was willing, although she still backslid a bit, breaking into a trot. She however did not do her tuck her tail and take-off 2 yard dash this time. Interesting! I put her in her circles. She actually trotted, did not prance. She was willing. All through out this testing period of 4 days, I noticed a much more willing and relaxed attitude. Her head came down. She was no longer broken at the pull, grabbing at the bit and nosing the air.  As a trainer, I noticed an immediate change in attitude. As a Farrier, I noticed what I have seen for the past 6 years, since I stopped shoeing. Relief. Gratitude. More elasticity in the hocks. Return of proprioception and a once again confident and balanced mount.

    If you are a believer in shoes, read on...  So now my scientific mind is churning... I am conducting a test with absolutely amazing results. Let's pull the hinds! Completely different horse! No more rushing. No more running away. No more lack of confidence. No more fancy prancy dancy back to the stables. Dash turned into the horse that I strive to create through my training. A calm, easy going, willing, obedient and very hindquarter driven mount. Forehand jack hammering was immediately taken out of the equation. Trot/canter four beat hybrid gait was turned back into a trot and a canter. This makes sense to me as a Farrier, due to lack of proprioception. The horse simply is incapable of feeling their foot falls. Shoes deaden the circulation, take away sensation and feeling where they place their feet. Dash walked on a very loose rein, calm as any horse I have been training for years and seasoned show horse. Full stop to all that silliness and rushed bits she had before.

    This is not news to me. I knew this. I didn't however know just how immediate the training problems were resolved, simply by pulling shoes, as it's SOP, buy horse, pull shoes. No exceptions. This is my first horse to train and sell in relatively fast time, here in Panama. I did this all the time in N.A. starting as a kid to earn money, then on to an actual business. Eurkea moment revealed to me, thanks to this little filly. All the horseshoe believer are asking about chips and breaks and the hooves not holding up. Of course they chip! She had ungodly steel contraptions set on her feet, which essentially bound her ability to use her very own limbs correctly. Of course there are minor chips... what do I care? The hoof is not peripherally loaded, so it simply doesn't even matter. Let them chip. The frog loads the hoof and a perfectly manicured hoof , sans le chips is nice.. but if a horse does have chipping, that is life. Get out the rasp. Rasp it, blend it, buff it out and away she goes again.

    Dash's feet are not exactly the poster of health. Shoes are very damaging. They compromise the circulation, prohibit proper hoof function, prohibit flexibility of hoof on uneven ground and, as my test revealed, they cause training and behavioural problems, which, as my controlled test revealed, when I gave relief bit by bit, attitude progressively became easier and nicer. As you can see from photo, Dash is not doing Western Pleasure or Pleasure Cruises. She's doing fast paced, rapid footed maneuvers and slides and stops and turns. Her feet are doing exactly what God designed them to do- give her 4 x 4 grip and traction with total support and shock absoption.


Test Findings:


Day 1: Had to chase down and catch. Shoes pulled, front (no trim) riden in arena. (Medial/Lateral deformities) Not  much proprioception. Immediate change in attitude and willingness to work and  train.

Day 2: Skeptically stayed looking at me at gate prior to catching. Had to go into stall to catch- no rope used this time to catch. Proprioception starting to return. Circulation improving. Distorted canter and trot has now converted into a definite gait. Footing has improved. Turns are better and tighter.

Day 3: Greeted me at stall. Didn't move when halter was put on. Hind shoes pulled. Proprioception is nearly normal. Footing is much more reliable. Circulation is 100%. Curiously so, swelling presented in stable from having door shut to paddock via strong wind, on hinds, with shoes on and compromised circulation. Fronts, no swelling, and door was shut, prior. No change in paddock use and lack of. Attitude 100%. Trainability, 100%.

Day 4: No difference between Dash and our naturally kept horses in way of going or attitude and confidence. Not stove up, all 4's (swelling) and door was shut in name of science. She walks on loose rein. Stands when I get on. Stands when I drop reins on neck. Dash greets us at stall now, eagerly. (Medial/Lateral more even from just 4 days wear in arena) Test concluded.

    Dash will now be trimmed and balanced. The only thing I did with rasp was file down some chips where nails weakened hoof wall. I didn't use a single thing for her transition perdiod. I never do. Every single horse new to BEC, with exception of Dash gets the same treatment. Pull shoes and trim- off to arena to work. If they favour their feet and head bob on rocks.. good! Sensation is coming back! (normally, not in this case) It's all in keeping chipping under control before it becomes a problem, which I did, a bit with rasp.

    If you still think shoes are protecting your horse- think again. If you still think shoes are the only answer- think again. I just took a Thoroughbred shoeless, 8 miles on all rocky terrain. Not even a chip. All our horses are shoeless. 3 went. No chipping.  If you still think my horse is happier with shoes on- think again. I have yet to meet a horse that couldn't go without shoes. The 2% horse is still not shod! Thank God it took too long to order supplies from USA with his supportive shoes, pads, etc... by that time, he had worked through his stiffness and is still, happy to announce, naturally kept and happy in his 21 yeears.

   Got a question about shoes and life without shoes, shoot us a message! I am not new to this "barefoot" craze. I've been keeping my horses (not in hard use) and client horses naturally kept since getting out of shoeing school, and cussed shoes out back when I put them on my horses, calling them "lesser of the two evils". We have been programmed into thinking our horses needed shoes. Since the ancient times and remnants of animal skins protecting the hooves. Fact is, horse feet, when kept perfectly aligned, with no angular deformities, pressure to P3 (coffin bone) or carved out frogs and heels not only can go without shoes on all terrain, with NO boots... they can thrive this way.  This is something I want all horse owners and riders to learn. Shoes are 100% damaging your horse's health and quality of life. If you have training or behavioural issues or are experiencing a new "phase" I'd blame the shoes before anything else.


Jessica Shrock


Class of 1997, TSOH, Tucson, Arizona, USA



About Dash:

2 year old AQHA cross. Arrived in only hackamore, knowing green work and in just 2 weeks she has been rated and patterned on barrels. Her peak trainability initiated as soon as I took her back to natural feet. She's just now, at 2 weeks able to cruise through barrels at medium canter and she's trained up the absolutely fastest on money barrel, of any horse I have ever trained in all my career. After this test I conducted, I attribute the gratitude and willingness to my giving her immediate relief. If I didn't do this myself, I wouldn't believe it. She's an awesome little filly and will make someone an outstanding in the money, super consistent and honest  barrel and pole horse.


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