In my almost-six-years of life, I’ve learned that shoes can be a very important part of a horse’s life. Now, I know that there are a lot of horses out there who don’t wear shoes, and for many horses that’s probably the right choice. Horses in the wild never had shoes, and they survived just fine. Their feet were naturally trimmed by walking and running on all sorts of different surfaces every day, and because they never knew a shoe in their lives, their feet became much harder and tougher. Being that I was never a wild horse, and that my feet are small and not rock-solid (something to which many Thoroughbreds can probably relate), I’m very happy to have shoes on. They did take a little while to get used to, though.
After my racing days were over, when I stayed at the barn where my Mommy eventually adopted me, I didn’t have shoes. I lived outside in a big field with a lot of other baby horses who also didn’t have shoes. This wasn’t too bad, for the most part, because I wasn’t really doing much work. But in the winter, when the ground was frozen, I did sometimes get sore feet. That’s actually why my Mommy decided to put shoes on my front feet when she adopted me – because my feet were sore when she came to meet me, and she wanted to make sure that never happened again. I didn’t get back shoes until a little later down the line. During the times when I didn’t have shoes on my feet, I was in a lot more pain more often. When I had front shoes, but not back shoes, my back hooves began to crack and break and fall apart after a while, which was when my Mommy knew that it was time for me to get shoes on all four of my feet. There have even been times when my feet cracked or broke with shoes on, because my feet were so dried out from the wet weather turning into dry weather (and then back into wet weather again). I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I hadn’t had shoes on at all! You know what? I’ve actually known horses who got abscesses pretty often because they never wore shoes, and they were always doing work on hard, packed ground. It’s incredibly tough on a horse to do work on hard ground without shoes. I’m not saying I’m spoiled or anything, but my humans would never let that happen to me.
Well, actually, I did get an abscess one time… and it was because of my shoes. It actually wasn’t that long ago. You see, when a farrier gets ready to put shoes on your hooves, he has to be careful of a lot of things. He has to know how much of your hoof to trim off, what angle you’re supposed to stand at, and most importantly, he also has to know exactly where to put the nails into your foot so that he doesn’t hurt you. My farrier is the best. He’s nice to me and he doesn’t mind that I try to unbuckle his belt while he’s working. He would never smack me on the nose with his rasp (that’s that big, metal file that they use… and yes, a farrier did smack me with his rasp once. That was the first and last time he ever got to come near me, because my Mommy gave him the “what for” and fired him on the spot!) and he definitely knows what he’s doing. But accidents can still happen sometimes. So, anyway, the reason I got an abscess was because one of the nails was just a little bit too close the the lamina inside my hoof (that’s the sensitive tissue just inside of the hard hoof wall), and because of that, it became infected about two weeks later. It was painful, but the vet came out and pulled off my shoe, cleaned out the abscess, wrapped my foot and gave me antibiotics. He told my Mommy to keep changing the bandage on my foot and giving me antibiotics until I was no longer in pain, and then my farrier came back to put my shoe back on so I could get back to work. As it turns out, that sort of ting happens more commonly than you’d think… I just hope it never happens to me again, because I hate it when I can’t work.
So, today, I got to see my friend the farrier. He came around lunchtime and took me out of my paddock. I wasn’t nervous when he came to get me because I know him pretty well by now. I’ve met him a handful of times, and he has always been very nice to me. (He calls me the “Icchy Shuffle” because I like to dance a little bit now and then. I think that name has something to do with sports, but I don’t have a TV in my stall, so I wouldn’t really know…) He took off my shoes, trimmed my feet, rasped them down until they were nice and even, shaped my shoes to make sure they were perfect, burnt the imprints onto my hooves to make sure they were in the exact right place, and then tacked them onto my feet one-by-one.
When he was done, I got to go back out into the paddock to eat more hay. It feels good to have new shoes again. I can’t wait until my Mommy feels well enough to come see them! I know she’ll be pleased with how well my farrier did. I heard it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, though… which probably means I’ll have to have another day off, and I won’t get to really test out my new shoes yet. Either way, I just hope that I get to see my Mommy.
Alright, friends, I’m off for the night. Catch y’all later!