What really shocked me when I pulled Banjo’s shoes was how his health improved. My “hot house flower” (as all the vets and farriers called him), a chestnut thoroughbred no longer had hives or rain rot. When a bug or tick bit him, he experienced normal swelling rather than something the size of my hand or larger. He no longer “blew up” at the site of a scrape or cut. It’s amazing what good circulation will do for a horse. With correct blood movement and volume in his hooves, he was truly a new horse with optimal health.
Barefoot is about Your Horse’s Health. It’s no granola trend.
But I get ahead of myself…
My name is Dawn Willoughby and I live in northern Delaware. I began trimming my thoroughbred, Banjo (Big Band Show) in 2002, two years after I bought him. He was a retired steeple chaser and was 12 when I had all four shoes pulled.
Based on my readings of Jaime Jackson, a weekend seminar with K.C. LaPierre, private tutoring with Marjorie Smith and the kind encouragement of farrier Trevor Sutherland, I began trimming Banjo. My horse was already turned out 24/7 with a small herd on a private farm in Unionville, Pa. Not knowing anything about boots, I rode Banjo in a pair of Old Macs for the first month; not the best choice. The going was typically soft pasture.
His action changed from awful (daisy cutter in front and egg beater in back) to lovely and comfortable. For two years, we had great fun transitioning those “thoroughbred feet” and rehabbing his back in a Balance Saddle. Sadly Banjo passed away suddenly in the summer of 2004 from a heart valve defect. But thanks to barefeet, a natural lifestyle and a Balance Saddle, I believe he died happy boy.
Later that year I found Sunny, another OTTB, at the Lost and Found Rescue in York, Pa. He had arrived via the slaughter pen at New Holland, Pa. His shoes were pulled in July and he arrived in Unionville in August. Look in Case Studies for the changes in Sunny.
His soles were so thin that after a few days turnout, he sat back on his hinds in “founder stance” to get the pressure of his front coffin bones off the soles. His feet looked horrible. My vet from Field Service with the University of Pennsylvania assured me he would never go barefoot with “those thoroughbred feet”. I assured my vet he would, and he did! So Dr. Alec, where ever you are, this one’s for you.
Please note: There is no “Thoroughbred Foot”! “Racehorse Feet”? Yes! The soles are flat because his coffin bones were too low, a result of shoes, wrong diet and wrong environment. The sole and walls were thin because he was in shoes at 2. If and when his feet were out of shoes, he had an “pasture trim” which is nearly as bad as shoes. I doubt he was turned out much. It was Sunny’s lifestyle that lead to his horrible feet. He now has fabulous feet, fabulous Thoroughbred feet.
April 10, 2004 Sunny 1st win. June off to slaughter pen, then rescued. We found each other in July.
Due to chronic racing injuries, I didn’t begin trail riding Sunny until July, 2006. He is now 7. In September, 2007 he began going without his padded Easyboot Bares. We could walk and trot on most of the terrain in my area. I expect him to callus or harden even further over the winter. My goal for Sunny was to become a true rock cruncher.
But now, based on new information, I have him back in boots, all around. With me aboard, he floats over any terrain at any gait. He looks just as he does in his pasture, sans Dawn and boots. A perfect system for his happiness and health.
In 2004, I began and continue studying with the American Association of Natural Hoofcare Practitioners. I continue to read books, articles and scientific journals daily. Several times a year I attend seminars to keep me abreast of the latest barefoot information. On a daily basis I interact online with other natural trimmers, discussing cases, successes, trimming techniques. This truly is my passion and avocation.
In my previous life, I was a sales and marketing exec in the pharmaceutical industry. I have a BSFS from Georgetown and an MBA from the University of Delaware. I live in northern Wilmington with my husband, Drew Knox and my rottie, Lily. Sunny is field boarded about 5 minutes away. Daughter Brie is getting her masters in linguistics in Australia and son Adam is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Delaware.
My practice is intentionally small. I like to work with clients who are open to the idea of trimming their own horses. I also offer clinics and work with each attendee on her own horse. When time allows I will do Equine Touch on the horse: put straight feet on a straight horse. I will be pursuing my interest in the equine body.