I have a new horse that I have known for 8 years. During that the majority of that time he was barefoot and sound, although not in regular work.
He is an older TB with typical low front heel conformation. Early this year he went to a hunter barn and they put him in wedge pads. I am not a big fan of this, believing that if he was sound for many years without them, he doesn't need them.
He has only been in them about 8 months tops. Does anybody have any experience with this? I'm afraid we can't just go cold turkey off of them without doing some kind of damage. Will be consulting with my farrier ASAP, but wanting to know if any of you have been through this before?
Well, I don't know the results yet, but just took my 23 year old appendix paint out of 3 degree wedges to barefoot based on vet advise. What started as a flat pad had morphed into the 3 degree wedge in less than a year, which scared me quite a bit. It just seemed like the more the farrier did the worse it looked and the more I thought the horse seemed uncomfortable, especially on uneven ground.
I owned this horse for almost 5 years, then sold him for college. Before I sold him, he always wore plain front shoes, I think just because that's what our barn did. While he was gone (9 years), I'm told that he was barefoot for most of the time. He was barefoot when I first visited him, but his feet had not been cared for in a while. Due to poor care, he had white line disease that required a resection, which caused him to have front shoes. I had just continued with front shoes since then as the farrier had made it sound like it was necessary. Over two years later, the farrier still didn't want me to pull shoes when I told him to earlier this week. He told me the horse would not be sound. Vet disagreed obviously.
So far, I have just been doing light work with my horse (walk/trot) to give him a chance to acclimate. He seems very happy and has not been sore at all (we did leave him a bit long to avoid soreness). We are going to monitor his angles and see how he progresses.
There is still also the potential for a farrier change in the mix, but the current guy seems to be willing to do whatever the vet says and is available weekly, which is a bonus.
I went back and forth on this and didn't listen to the vet at first when she said I should try him barefoot. On her last visit when he was up another degree on his wedge she just told me to do it and reminded me that worst case I freak out and get them put back on because the horse is sore. Good luck with your decision!
My mare has only been in a wedge for 4 weeks now, will be 5 next week when the farrier returns. This is not a long term thing, and I'm planning on her going back to barefoot in the near future. I may do 1 round of regular shoes this next cycle, then to barefoot.
I always wondered how you "wean" a horse off wedge pads so to speak.
"If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."
When I bought my mare (sight unseen) she came to me with thick shoes and wedge pads cut to be flush with the shoe...supposedly to give her higher knee action. The problem was multifold;
1) Because the pads were cut out they weren't stable at the heel, so the pad collapsed inwards with concussion, so her heel started to also collapse inward.
2) The wedge encouraged her heel to grow forward rather than down, giving her a bad/low heel.
3) Her frog grew massive to fill in the gap to the ground left by the thick shoe and the wedge pad.
4) her shoes were set way too far forward as well, so her heel was actually breaking over the back of her pad/shoe.
I started with xrays so we could see exactly what was going on, then we trimmed her toe and heel back as much as possible. Then, as her frog was so massive that it would still touch the ground with normal shoes (and not allow her heel to touch anyway), we went with 1/2 shoes, so that her heel was free to grow down.
She kept the 1/2 shoes for two resets, before moving to normal shoes that are set well back to continue to support the downward growth of her heel.
This was a process that I accepted as being risky, but it presented the quickest route to her having a normal foot. She WAS sore and needed time off after each reset, but 6 months later she has a decent foot on her and her heel is growing down, not forward.
Had her frog not been so rediculously large, I likely would have been too chicken to go with the 1/2 shoe, and instead would have stuck with the normal shoe set well back to support proper heel growth. Either way, I think the change in angle deserves some respect and rest while the tendons/ligaments and muscles adjust.
I am a big fan of xraying hoof issues to give my farrier as much data as possible to work with.
The old trainer who brought me up would always have us hand walk a horse for several days after coming off a wedge pad. He said you had to let the soft tissues stretch a bit. Then the horse would go into light work for a few days with special attention being paid to the suspensories and tendons, hand rubbing, and wrapping if needed. Our wedges were typically 4 degree.
Often, what looks like a "low heel" is actually a hoof where the heel is really growing forward (rather than down), so that it's long toe and underrun heel. So you might ask your farrier about that, and if he/she doesn't give a full answer (especially if the horse's hooves have been trimmed by this same farrier for a while), then you might consider finding another farrier.
If you want to take the wedge pads off, you should ask why they were put on in the first place. Wedges won't correct a low toe-underrun heel, and may just make it worse. More information and a long talk with your farrier are your best course of action.
"The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky