Brief summary of the past two years, for those of you playing the home game:
*I can't remember the exact age she was when we first put shoes on her front hooves, but she was at least three. I think we were more into her four year old year, but once her front shoes went on, they never came off. My farriers (and I had many) all told me she couldn't be without front shoes, so she never was. In fairness to those farriers, I didn't decide to put shoes on her willy nilly. She'd had crappy feet since she was a foal and I was still having issues with her hooves chipping and they looked horrible. So the shoes went on.
*In 2011, I decided the shoes needed to come off and wanted to try her barefoot for a number of reasons. Mainly, I couldn't seem to keep shoes on her (she'd rip them off at least every other week), and her hooves looked terrible. The farrier had to put on shoes that were too small if they were going to stand any kind of chance of stayin on. She was also experiencing a lot of shoulder and back pain, and I was having saddle fitting issues like crazy. I was hoping she could go barefoot, but at the very least we needed to get her hooves back into proper shape without complicating things with steel shoes that kept coming off.
*August 13th was the day the shoes came off. Progress making the transition was slow, but with boots she was sound to ride in the sandy arena and I saw big changes in her hooves as they adjusted to life without shoes. We were seeing some soreness in her right front hoof, though, and ended up getting x-rays. They showed that she had super thin soles, so we casted her hooves to help her make the transition. She did really well in them, but they only lasted about 3 weeks and we decided not to put them back on for numerous reasons.
*Over the past two years of being barefoot, I've tried a number of supplements, I've changed her feed, her hay, her turnout, her trimmers, the number of hours she's out in wet grass, took her on walks on hard concrete, rode her as much as I could without boots, rode her a lot in the boots, tried different pads in her boots, used different sole hardeners, soaked her in all kinds of stuff, sprayed her hooves with vinegar, prayed to the hoof gods, did a rain dance in my underware, etc, etc, etc... anything that might help her along in this very extended transition period, and yet we're still here. Transitioning to life without shoes.
Life since shoes has been so-so. It hasn't been great, but it hasn't been awful either. We've definitely had our share of issues along the way, and she's still tender on a lot of surfaces. It depends on the terrain, but for the most part, if she's anywhere other than a sandy arena, and we're doing more than walking, she needs her boots. We've graduated to a pair of Renegades with poured in gel pads, which I love, but we still need them. My new barn has a fairly packed indoor arena and a grass outdoor arena. Anytime I'm working her, she needs her Renegades. Anytime we show, she needs her Renegades.
It just means that it's time to get creative. What is left that I haven't tried?
We have an appointment on the 28th with a new trimmer. She's one of the trimmers I had come out to give me her opinion before I took Lilly's shoes off, and she is approved by my current trimmer. She's closer to me and can come out every four weeks if I need her, or every five if that's all we need. I spoke with her at length today about the things I'm unhappy with, and she threw out some suggestions that we'll look into more closely when she comes out. She's a big believer in fixing issues from the inside out, so we're going to talk about nutrition options, possibly looking into some different herbs, diatomaceous earth, and maybe even trying some essential oils. She gave me quite a bit of homework to have ready for her when she comes out, and I'm looking forward to hearing a different opinion, with different ideas.
It's possible that we're doomed to suffer through this forever. She's suffered with crap hooves since she was a foal, so I could very possibly be fighting genetics. I could also be fighting my own stupidity for putting shoes on when she was four and never giving her hooves a break for the next seven years. Maybe someday I'll find that magic potion that just seems to work for her and one day all this will be a distant memory. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
If one day I have to put shoes back on her, I will. If I can get by with boots, I will. If we need to use rubber shoes, or some other kind of fancy hoof device that might come along in the meantime, then we will. Whatever it takes to make sure Lilly is happy. That's what it's all about.