Matty’s Barefoot Journey
With Annette Kaitinis (Co-Founder of Scoot Boot)
A few months ago, Scoot Boot put a call out to the wider Tasmanian equine community for some horses to be involved in a barefoot transition program.
For those equine owners who were hesitant about transitioning their horses to barefoot, we wanted to assist them with this leap of faith and share the transitioning journey others were taking. I had no idea, at that time, that I was to meet my forever horse and also experience the barefoot transition anxiety with my own boy!
Falling in Love with Matty
I was introduced to Wesswoods Mastercaste (Matty) in May, 2020. He was purpose bred (TB x Riding Pony) for a show galloway on mainland Australia, but grew to almost 16 hands. Nevertheless, Matty became a champion show hack and spent the first 7 years of his life being pampered and primped for the show ring. Such a striking black horse is Matty. And by chance, ended up in Tasmania.
Matty has Spent his Life in Shoes
Throughout Matty’s show career, he had always been shod on all four hooves. He even had steel shoes on when he was turned out. So apart from the first years of his life, he has always been shod (he’s now 13). When I first saw him, I was surprised at how good his hooves were. Most horses I see that have been shod for the majority of their lives, have severely underrun heels, long toes, contraction and atrophy to the bulbs with caudal heel pain and in many instances, the onset of early navicular. Matty had none of this. His hooves looked like they had been attended to by some very good farriers throughout his life, and he had clearly been shod on a regular cycle.
A Strange Feeling Riding with Shoes
After being introduced to Matty, I rode him every day for the next week. It was odd hitting the trails with a shod horse. This was something I hadn’t done for decades. I felt a bit vulnerable, as steel on the end of hooves with a horse I didn’t know made me a bit hesitant when around his back legs.
After a week of riding, it was a no brainer for me that Matty was going to become my forever horse. I couldn’t wait to take him home. We had quite a bit of rain and the ground was soft… this was going to assist in his barefoot transition. The next day, after he arrived home, his shoes came off!
Matty’s Hoof Inspection
My barefoot trimmer confirmed what I had suspected. His hooves were in good condition with a nice thick digital cushion and a strong frog. She said that he probably wasn’t shod “as a youngster”. This would have given him a good headstart with his hoof development. My trimmer didn’t take too much off the length of the hoof wall because it may have overloaded his frog, making him a bit uncomfortable. So, he was given a light rasp around the wall and the quarters were scooped out to prevent any flaring. My trimmer said that some of the areas may break out where the nail holes are, but that is to be expected, and his cracks will disappear once the hoof stops flaring. Matty will need to be barefoot trimmed again in the next 2 weeks.
Video of Matty's Shoes Coming Off!
Matty Goes Barefoot!
I thought I would have to wait a few weeks before I could ride out, but surprisingly, Matty showed no signs of being sore. I had walked him out for the first few days on some hard surfaces and I also took him out on the soft sandy trails on the lead. He was perfectly fine. So after a week of being bare, I decided to take him out for his first ride!
His Scoot Boots went on his front hooves and I left his back hooves bare. He strided out without a care in the world. He seemed very comfortable.
Our Journey Moving Forward
For the next 12 months, I’ll introduce Matty to harder, more challenging surfaces, with the objective of being able to take him out without protection. His diet will be instrumental in ensuring his hooves remain healthy, he will have access to hay 24/7 and will be fed unprocessed, low sugar feeds. I have placed gravel around his feeding and watering areas, this will condition his feet while living in his own environment. He lives on a 9 acre paddock with hills, lots of shelter and a few rocky areas where he will be able to self trim. Matty’s road to being barefoot has been an easy one so far, although I’m only 2 weeks into it. I was lucky that his feet had been in great condition but for those taking that leap of faith on their barefoot journey, there’s always lots of information and people out there who can help you. Watch this space for an update on Matty’s barefoot journey.
Building a Supportive Barefoot Community
The team at Scoot Boot believe passionately in the barefoot horse and strive to build a supportive community of barefoot horse lovers.
Find more information about using Scoot Boots here.