"How Flex Boots are helping with our barefoot transition" by Minja and Nim
First, a bit of background. Nim is a 9yo thoroughbred gelding who I bought in the UK at the start of 2017, and have since relocated to Finland. Nim is an ex-racehorse, and throughout the years of owning him we’ve battled countless foot-related lameness issues from caudal foot pain to laminitis, to poor leg positions, bruised feet, abscesses - you name it, he’s had it! Nim has been through multiple cycles of remedial shoeing, where we’ve tried to support his poorly functioning feet with pads, wedge pads and even 3D printed wedges. Apart from heart bar shoes, Nim’s had it all - and whatever he hasn’t had has surely been suggested by either a vet or a farrier at some point. I’ve always done my best to use the best possible qualified and professional hoof care specialists to care for his feet. For many farriers Nim has been an interesting case study to see if they manage to make the horse as comfortable as possible, and, well, to stay sound. Whatever we’ve tried has always worked at first, but at the end of it I’ve always ended up with a lame and unhappy horse. After weeks and weeks of reading about horses’ feet, I realized no external support can fix what should be repaired internally. If the structures on the inside are damaged, poorly balanced, or even inflated (laminitis), anything applied to the surface will only provide temporary relief - just as we’ve noticed through years of remedial shoeing only resulting in an unhappy horse. So I spent even more time reading about the importance of the correct environment, carefully planned feeding, good trimming, the right exercise (movement is the best medicine for hooves!), and how all this can help the horse to get well-functioning and healthy feet. Nim is just the kind of horse that most professionals - including vets and farriers - will say can never go without shoes. He’s long-toed, has had collapsed underrun heels, very low, thin and soft soles, and history of ongoing feet-related lameness issues. He used to go hopping lame whenever he lost a shoe in the field. Surely, if the horse immediately goes lame even on a good surface after losing a shoe, the shoes are only giving the impression of soundness. We removed Nim’s shoes in July 2020, and sure enough, he was not happy at all. He was pottering around, unwilling to move, and looked like he was constantly standing on shattered glass. This made me think that if the years of remedial shoeing had done the job it was meant to, I wouldn’t be looking at a very sore horse unable to move properly without them. As his owner, during the first couple of weeks of transitioning my job was to keep him as comfortable as possible. A horse that is too sore to move won’t do himself any favors in terms of growing healthy feet. As mentioned, hooves need movement for the hoof mechanism to start working again and blood to start flowing back to the damaged feet - without this, the hoof can never achieve its optimal functions. Nim was wearing DIY padded boots that I put on him twice a day. Roughly two weeks later, I was able to take them off him as Nim was comfortable enough without them. He was living out at the time on a field with varied terrain and hills, and it made me incredibly happy to see him leading the herd in full gallop, not taking one hesitant step! After about a month, we were able to have our first ride on Nim. He was wearing Flex Hoof boots with pads, and - I’m not exaggerating here - the difference in his gaits compared to the last time he was ridden in shoes and wedge bars was unbelievable. He was able to use his whole body in a way he wasn’t able to before and was very eager, forward, and supple. Flex Hoof boots are soft enough not to limit his movement and offer enough support to help him achieve his athletic capability without restrictions. Nim’s wearing his Flexes with Kevlar pads on the inside for extra comfort. We’ve even taken him hacking, and just 2 months after going barefoot we’ve been able to see how he’s much more comfortable going up and down hills, and his movement doesn’t seem so restricted anymore. Even though with the help of going barefoot and wearing Flexes Nim has been happy and sound to ride, we’re taking it easy. The hooves are still far from healthy, and it’s important not to ask the horse to do anything his feet aren’t physically capable of. Transitioning a horse like Nim to barefoot is never a straight uphill path either, and we’ve had our ups and downs along our still very short barefoot journey. It’s still very early days in Nim’s barefoot transition, and I’m confident it will take him longer than your average barefooter to be fully transitioned. He may always need the support of hoof boots and pads on rockier terrains, but we’re incredibly lucky to have found Flex Hoof boots to support us along the way! Flex hoof boots offer support and protection all whilst still allowing the hoof to work as nature intended - with Flexes you truly get the best of both worlds.