My name is Louise McCormack, 43 yrs old & addicted to the sport of endurance riding. I have 4 horses, all arabs.
Two are youngsters 3 & 4 yrs old. The others Ume – a Yellow Logbook endurance horse & Grace who is just starting her endurance career.
My horses & I have been on an amazing journey of learning & competing barefoot since August 2003.
It was back then,when I was given what should have been tragic news about my 8 yr old arab mare – “Duo Park Ume”.She is my favourite endurance horse & after injuring herself in training one day – I took her to an Equine Hospital facility for further investigation.On scanning her off side fore it was discovered that she had an 85% tear to her Superficial Flexor Tendon & that she would need 3 weeks stall rest then 6-12 mths paddock rest with maybe a 50% chance of full recovery. While at the clinic I requested that her front feet be x-rayed.This only delivered more bad news – the x-rays revealed arthritic spurs/changes on the extensor process of both coffin bones(P3) & that I should make her a brood mare.
Previous to this, I had a good friend that had been hounding me to remove the shoes from my horses feet & to allow them to go barefoot.I was very sceptical & laughed at her – saying that’s all well & good but you won’t be able to compete in endurance without shoes. It was only when I was presented with Ume’s news on her hooves that I thought – I didn’t need another broodmare – so I should give this barefoot thing a go.I had nothing to lose but as I now know everything to gain.
That day, Ume’s shoes were removed & a barefoot trim given by my friend who had been to a barefoot clinic.Ume, was very tender & had trouble walking.I was determined to make this work so we got to work with her rehabilitation.I never restricted her movement.She was out in the paddock with all the other horses.Everyday I would walk her 2kms up a soft sand track then 400 metres of bitumen & back.For the first 2 weeks she had trouble walking over this but after that she slowly was able to cope & then each day she would get better & better until she was able to jig jog & keep up to my shoulder.I rode her 9kms, 5 weeks after removing her shoes & she was fine.During this time I did my own research on information available about barefoot & hosted several clinics for Paul Chapman as at that time he was the only person giving clinics in Australia on the methods of barefoot trimming.
From 8th August to December I continued to ride Ume, mostly daily to every 2nd day.I have never used boot protection on her so I relied on her to indicate where she could travel & how far she could tolerate.It was short & slow at first but as the weeks went by she just got better – longer & faster.After December I worked on conditioning her feet up to a standard that I thought was good enough to compete in an 80km ride.On February 29th 2004, along with my other 2 friends who also have barefoot endurance horses, we all completed our first 80km ride, barefoot.We were all ecstatic – the horses did it.80kms – no hoof protection.We did take 8 hrs & 6 mins to complete (we also got lost & travelled an extra 7kms)but we did it & the horses were no worse for wear.
Ume went on to have quite a big year – competing in all her competitions barefoot.10 rides in total with 1 withdrawal & 1 vet out lame.Our highlights were completing an 80km ride one weekend then backing her up the following weekend to complete 120kms but the biggest highlight of all would have to be completing the Tom Quilty 160km ride held at Port Elliott in South Australia.To complete 160kms in a good riding time of 14 hrs 41 mins, without any hoof protection & not being asked to trot out twice by the vets was a huge sense of achievement.She pulled up really well after the event.The disappointing thing was that not one vet looked at her feet afterwards to see what they looked like – after covering 160kms barefoot.
2005 has been a fairly quite year as I have had to recuperate from having an operation on my arm but managed to get Ume to 2 x 80kms & 2 x 40km trainer endurance rides all completed barefoot.
I am so pleased that Ume injured herself 2 1/2 yrs ago otherwise I may never have discovered the choice of allowing my horses to be barefoot.Yes, it can be hard work initially, trimming your horses on a frequent basis but as their feet improve & evolve to how they should be it does get easier. You also need to be patient as changes can take some time to happen but if you keep working at it it does & will happen. All of the upper body issues that my horses in work used to suffer from on a regular basis have disappeared.The chiropractor who was used is now almost redundant & admits that he attributes it to the quality & balance of the horses feet. He says that he cannot believe how soft their muscles have become.I now have control over my horses hooves & there is no waiting for a farrier to come as I have learnt how to trim my horses myself.I have found that I am more in tune with my horse as it has been them showing me what, where & how to ride them without shoes.
What are the disadvantages some may ask – what I have found is that it is usually people don’t have the patience to allow their horse to become conditioned to be without shoes.It is only when something goes wrong with your horse (like myself) that you turn to other methods to try & rectify the situation & most often people want the quick fix.Barefoot isn’t the quick fix & sometimes there will be cases that are just too far gone to return to normal function.
Today’s equine community has become so desensitised as to what good hoof form should look like & hide behind the fact that we usually pay someone else to look after our horse’s hooves.In my opinion, everyone who owns a horse should at least get themselves to a barefoot clinic to obtain the knowledge to understand the principles of a correctly functioning hoof & what a natural hoof should look like so at least they can play a part in deciding what is best for their horse.
Duo Park Ume’s Endurance Career
09/03/02 Ranking Springs NSW 40kms 3hrs 45 mins
04/08/02 Garabaldi VIC 80kms 7hrs 1 mins
08/09/02 Coolamon NSW 80kms 6hrs 31mins
22/09/02 Boorooban NSW 80kms 7hrs 7 mins
12/02/03 Avoca VIC 80kms 6 hrs 6th M/W
08/03/03 Yarra Ranges VIC 80kms 5hrs 40mins 5th M/W
23/03/03 Waterloo VIC 100kms 8hrs 3 mins 8th M/W
12/04/03 Australian FEI Champs Canberra
120kms Vet Out Lame after 80kms
Total of 8 rides – 1 vet out 540kms successful
BAREFOOT (no hoof protection at all)
29/02/04 Carpenter Rocks SA 80kms 8hrs 6 mins 7th M/W
21/03/04 Waterloo VIC 80kms 7hrs 16mins
25/04/04 Gundagai NSW 80kms withdrew after 40kms track too hard underfoot for her
16/05/04 Stanley VIC 80kms 6hrs 59mins
13/06/04 NSW State Champs Harden NSW 160kms vetted out lame after 85kms
12/09/04 Coolamon NSW 80kms 6hrs 37 mins 10th M/W
19/09/04 Barmera SA 120kms 9hrs 40mins
23/10/04 Tom Quilty Port Elliott SA 160kms 14 hrs 41 mins
21/11/04 Silver Creek VIC 80kms 6hrs 31mins 4th M/W
05/12/04 Cobb & Co NSW 49kms 5hrs 1 min
12/06/05 Harden NSW 40kms 2hrs 55 mins
26/6/05 Great Western VIC 84kms 6hrs 9 mins 10th M/W
11/09/05 Coolamon NSW 80kms 6hrs 2 mins 4th M/W
25/09/05 Woodstock NSW 80kms 6hrs 14 mins 6th M/W
09/10/05 Bright VIC 40kms 3hrs 10 mins
Total of 15 rides – 1 vet out lame 1004kms 2 withdrawals