Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Turning Point at the Pace

On Friday, Brego and I had a jumping lesson in the neighbor's jump field. He was a bit naughty, running and bucking, but he has an excuse. For the last week, we've been stumping and grading his pasture, so he's been in a tiny pen. One thing I have learned over the years is that Brego needs his turnout to play and the way he plays is by kicking up his heels and running. If he doesn't get his turnout, he plays under saddle, which is a lot less fun for Daun.

Anyway, he jumped very well, very strong, even overjumping the smaller fences. He was perky to the fences, forward, ears forward and then would blast off the ground. I've said it before, but I really think he enjoys jumping. I got some good instruction on my leg and my balance and riding from a safer position, but mainly the lesson was to get him out and jumping before....

Today we went to our second hunter pace. The course was over 10 miles long and very rocky, as in mind-blowing rocks everywhere. I put the epoxy shoes on Brego plus some sole guard to cover his soles from all the rocks. When your foot is 8" wide, there's still plenty of exposed sole to get poked by a protruding rock, even with protective "shoes" around the perimeter. The whole epoxy and sole guard application took about three hours to apply and cost $90 in materials (I did the labor myself). Ouch.

Brego started strong, but halfway through, he lost the sole guard from his right foot. Then he lost half of the epoxy border from his left hoof. And then it all went downhill from there. We were five miles from home, in the deep woods, and we were suddenly barefoot in the worst terrain we have ever ridden at speed over. Brego was a soldier and we got home safely and he even jumped gamely two hours into the ride, but I could tell he was foot sore and I was really upset. We finished with the slowest time and dropped our team to dead last. That is unfortunate, but the worst part is how bad I felt asking Brego to work. He was never three-legged lame or gimpy, but I can feel him and he was uncomfortable.

Riding a foot sore horse is NO fun, and it's unfair to ask him to work under those conditions. So I have resolved to put steel shoes plus a sole pack on him for the hunting season. I have a good farrier, whom I trust, that works with Hobby and she's never looked or moved better. Three months of not worrying about Brego's feet during the hardest work of the year is worth the money to me (and shoeing a draft is twice as much money as my Thoroughbred).

The plan is to get him shod this week and see how he likes shoes. This will be the first time he has worn them his entire life. Then we will pull them for the winter and reevaluate in the spring. Maybe it was the record rainfall and less than ideal pasturing situation. Maybe he really can't stay barefoot in the North East. Maybe he can't stay barefoot with the increased workload. I don't know, but I do know that he is too good a horse to keep gambling with solutions that can come off at any time. Boots don't fit him and I have tried the synthetic epoxy route, so now it's time for shoes. It's not a decision I make lightly, but I think it's a good one for what he needs to be comfortable as he works.

On Monday, I start my new job. I will be out of state for four weeks for training before I start working out of my house. I will be back on the weekends to hunt and tend to the farm, but I will miss riding during the week. And I will miss Brego.


SunnySD said...

Darn - sorry to hear the epoxies didn't work out. It's been wet out this way (SD) this year, too, and I know my farrier has commented several times how bad this year has been for shoes coming off even on horses she's always done with no problems. Their hooves just aren't hardening up the way they usually do by June or so when the heat hits and everything's dry.

Hope the steels work out for Brego!

Anonymous said...

I tried my mare barefoot over the winter and into the spring - and it just didn't work - she needed front shoes and recovered from her concussion laminitis as soon as we put them on. If you're on stony, rocky soil and traveling at speed and jumping, and you decide for Brego's sake that he needs shoes - that's OK - I expect he will be fine with them.

Helen said...

Long time follower. . first time comment-er ;P

I kept most of my horses in the northeast (fl horse person now) I kept most of my NY horse guys in front foot shoes with pads in the front and regular shoes in the back most of the time (especially in the winter). There always seemed to be too many random rocks to get away with it any other way. . .here in FL I have yet to shoe a horse, but I live in sand now ;)

julieog said...

Hi Daun -- I eventually had my Percheron X shod because of increased work, some hoof splitting and the New England rocks. He didn't notice at all. I expected shon foot shaking or tripping - but there was nothing. Some time later, when I had moved barns, we took off his shoes for the winter (they made him slide like crazy this past winter on all the nasty ice)and he made the transiton just fine... Good luck with the new job and with Brego's shoes! Eli's did cost 2x those of a "normal" horse!... Julie & Eli

Albigears said...

I was on the barefoot track with my young TB until recently. I decided to take him on a 4-day camping trip, out on trails for hours that are very rocky in some places. Maybe he would have been OK, but what if he hadn't? The last thing I want him to do is be hurting and unhappy out on trails, and this is his first time. I went ahead and put shoes on him for this event, but will leave him barefoot the rest of the year.

Andrea said...

Don't worry. Someday my incredible genius will decide to finally show itself (I know it's in there, somewhere!) and I will create the perfect alternative to shoes, boots, epoxy, and hoodoo.

Even Gogo's rock hard dandies are wearing faster than I'd like. So far, no issues, but I'm trying to be careful about how much riding we do on pavement. I have to say, the amount of foot she's putting out is astonomical (it's scaring me) but it's just been so wet... feet just aren't drying out enough in time. It's a damn good thing her feet are growing at freakish rates, or else I would be in a LOT of trouble.

jcy said...

Daun - I've been following you and Brego for some time. I too have a darling Percheron who I am discovering has all kinds of hidden talents. He has always been barefoot as well but I have been really intrigued by these horse "sneakers". They look like a great alternative to steel shoes. Maybe worth a look:

Jean said...

Ouchers. Poor Brego. I keep front shoes on my two Thorougbreds, but am trying to keep my little warmblood unshod. Fortunately we do not have a lot of rocks around here in the footing.

My farrier says people have mixed results with barefoot here in NJ. This year, I agree, though that all the wet weather did nothing to let those feet harden up.

Anonymous said...

I put front shoes on my Perch to help her with the breakover. This has worked like a charm. No more stumbling, even now when they need a re-set.

After searching for the first two in a 20 acre field, and losing another one the day after re-set, I had the farrier put on toe clips. For whatever reason,they just wont stay on those enormous feet without clips.

My farrier makes the shoes out of a piece of iron. Costs about half again the price of an off-the-rack shoe. Worth every penny to get to watch the master farrier at work!


Hey I found your blog through eventing a gogo, and have been reading for some time.
I too have a heavier horse used for eventing, a Cleveland Bay.. not quite a percheron but still heavy! He has been barefoot all his life but will have to have shoes on this season as he progresses up to Open/Pre Novice level eventing; the NZ summer makes the ground far too hard to be jumping without shoes and pads!
It would be interesting to see how Brego goes in shoes, as your situation is pretty similar to mine, shoeing after bng barefoot
He sounds like such a lovely horse, hope he likes the new shoes :)

J.D. SOSA said...

Hi, I know it is a bit late to leave a comment to you here, however, I just wanted to say hi and mention that I identify a lot with your stories about great Brego. I live with two spotted percherons now 5 and 6 respectevely. They are great and I do eventing with them. You can see them on Youtube at:

thank you for writing your experiences with Brego.