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interrupted. “We aren’t putting anything on that foot. He needs to go barefoot, so please shape his hoof the way nature wants it shaped. If he goes lame and can’t be sound barefoot, he isn’t going to be sound shod.” (I learned this 15 years ago from one of my off-the-track Thoroughbreds. Don’t try to have feet match each other. Instead have the foot match the ankle it is attached to.) Both “experts” were taken aback at my opinion and the

fact that I had voiced it. My husband didn’t take sides at first. In fact, looking back, he didn’t express his opinion either way. But at that moment, we now believe that we resolved

Talon’s lameness issue. Several weeks later our regular vet, Dr. Beth Moses, visited the farm. We explained what took place with the other vet and our farrier. After careful scrutiny of his ankle and foot, she declared, “This is not a club foot; his ankle is slightly different than the other ankle.” Consequently, any efforts to have his feet “match each other” plus the added stress of metal shoes created a lame horse! Lest any of you doubt that metal shoes can cause more

problems than they solve, I invite you to check out the “Links” page on our website and read more about this issue. Even the major farrier journals and mainstream horse care journals are finally discussing the heretofore avoided topic of barefoot versus shoes. So the first layer of Talon’s problem was solved. A horse

in pain “on his feet” can’t think straight, nor can he travel in a round pen comfortably. We like to use the round pen to work through training and psychological issues and so now Talon could focus without pain.


My husband Joe began to work with Talon in the round

pen (mind you, a round pen 62 feet in diameter). Horses, especially if they are big Warmbloods, should not be worked in anything smaller. There is magic associated with a 20-meter circle...not only in horsemanship but in mathematics. Circles are one of the best training tools but they can also be torture for a horse. In all three gaits, Talon became more comfortable.

Moving in freedom, at first he could not find where to place his head since he was so accustomed to having it “placed” for him. This characteristic was more noticeable to the right: it took him weeks to be able to carry his head where he needed it to be in order to balance his own body and maintain his balance and cadence in all 3 gaits. His canter began to look like it would be a joy to ride in either direction. We patiently wait for any horse to tell us “I am ready to

ride.” Joe is one of the few trainers I have met, to this day, who is adamant about this fact: a horse is not ready to ride until he knows he has all four feet, and each foot can be moved independently of each other. If you watch a horse and listen, he or she will tell you when they are ready. In the softest most unspoken way, the message is very clear. Talon’s first few rides were done in the round pen without a bit and bridle—just a string halter. In other words, we re-started him. We believe that improper use of bits creates horses like Talon. He may have been able to put up with the abuse of his feet, but combined with the abuse from the bit, he simply could not hold himself together. He had consequently become very dangerous to ride, as we were told this

by several sources after it became known that we had the horse at our facility. Instead of an understanding of how a bit

works properly as a communication “connection,” these unfortunate horses anticipate the pain that might come from it. One of the most educated individuals that we have had the honor to work

with concerning bits and bitting is Dr. Jessica Jahiel. Another educator named Mark Russell, author of Lessons in Lightness, is what I call a “bitmaster.” Watching him work with horses of all ages has been among the most enlightening experiences of our lifetime with horses. Now that Talon had less foot pain and knew

where and how to place his feet and could find his balance in both directions at all three gaits, it was a shock to learn that he was more comfortable going to the right! Previously the right was so unbalanced he almost looked lame! Joe worked on evening him out, by frequent changes of direction (in the round pen, no rider). Using a 45-foot line, he also

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