A Testimonial for Barefooted Horses and Old Macs hoof boots

Rev. C. Scott Kroeger, now sold on barefooted horses and Old Macs boots,
and organizer of the Strasser DownUnder clinics in January, 2002.

Scott Kroeger, an Australian, posted about some of his experiences on the naturalhorsetrim list on a really challenging ride.   Despite the initial scepticism of the professional cowboys on this ride, his barefooted horse actually out-performed their shod horses. 

He occasionally used Old Macs boots, and also loaned them to another rider whose horse threw a shoe.   They performed well in rugged terrain.  Just about everyone I have heard from agrees with Scott that these boots stay on well.

If barefootedness and Old Macs can work in such hardcore applications, surely we can hope to  condition our horses for shorter rides without resorting to iron horseshoes!

Unfortunately, Scott was kicked in the head by another horse near the end of the ride, but I am glad to report that he is recovering well.  The latter part of the post (re the accident) has been shortened somewhat.

Rev. C. Scott Kroeger  skroeger@bigpond.net.au
Date:  Mon Oct 29, 2001  9:12 pm
Subject:  My Adventures

Thanks to all of you who sent me cards and emails after my accident. Let me fill you in on my adventures...

For the past 12 years I have the privilege to go on an annual week's ride in the high country of Australia's Snowy Mountains. Some 8-10 blokes go up where people never go, and camp out, fish and chase wild horses (we call them brumbies down here). It is a week that I live all year for.

This is the first year that my horse Gunman went up there barefoot. Now you have to understand that these blokes up there are professional cattlemen who live and work in the saddle. They have forgotten more about horses than I'll ever know. But to a man, they said my horse would not last even a day. I took along some Old Mac boots (borrowed from Ysabelle Hobson-with many thanks) just as a backup, but I didn't think he would need them as we had trained hard over the past year on gravel, rocks and bitumen road.

A few years back they started a contest for "The Horse of the Year" given to the horse that goes the best over the whole week. A day's ride would be anywhere from 6-10 hours depending on the weather and terrain. Massive climbs and descents have left many with grey hair or loss of it completely. Saddle cruppers and breastplates are needed just to keep the saddle on your horse. The rules for the contest are simple: You have to ride every day and complete every ride, or you are out. If you are thrown or fall from your horse, you are out. If your horse fails to perform or go where and when asked, you're out. The sole judge is our host and professional cattleman and horse trainer, Glen Symons (who has trained polo ponies for Prince Charles). The goal is not to have an impossible trip for a horse...but to have a lot of fun and reward the best horse over the week.

Here is how the week went:

Day 1
On the road by 6:00 am for 6 and a half hour journey...last three hours really rugged. But Gunman was going home and his excitement knew no bounds. Two hours after landing, we saddled up and took our horses on an easy "stretch-out" to loosen them up get them relaxed. It was a 3-hour ride that saw kangaroos and cockatoos, but no wild horses. Gunman did fine. But that night I heard the groans of disapproval. I assured them I had the back-up boots if they were needed. But as these were new-fangled thingy-be-dabs, there was not a whole lot of confidence in them, either.

Day 2
Big day with an 8 hour ride that included lunch overlooking the Snowy River in all its glory. Came across a palomino stallion we had seen last year on his own. This time he had a roan mare and a bay mare with him. There was one instance in the chase where he was gliding through the bush when the sun cut through the canopy and caught him broadside with his golden mane and tail straight out. What a sight...the memory of it is forever etched in my mind.

On the way back, one of my mates had a shoe come off her front foot. They were going to walk back...so I pulled out the Old Macs and said, "Here, try these!" I fitted them to the mare and told him to walk the mare around to get her used to them. He led her in a small circle and then hopped in the saddle. It was as if she had worn them all her life. These grizzled old men shook their heads in disbelief. My mate has committed himself to buying a set of Old Macs (Dave M.--you owe me on this one, buddy). Gunman did great...but they said he wouldn't last the week.

Day 3
A shorter 6 hour trip. Fresh horse signs everywhere, but we just missed the first bunch we came across. One rider drops out and goes back. Great scenery and conversation at lunch turned to discussing the principles of proper hoof mechanism. I had sent Jackson's and Strasser's books to these guys prior to the trip, so they had lots of questions and some of them were starting to rethink their attitudes. Gunman had a great day. We only saw one lone brumby mare on her own on the way back to camp.

Day 4
The longest and hardest day. We descended the "Jacob's Ladder" from the top of the Snowy River Canyon to the bottom of the Jacob's River that empties into the Snowy. Shod horses doing this descent do not feel as much as they go straight down, but Gunman felt every step. He quickly figured out that going down in a zigzag manner was much easier on his feet. I let him have his head and he quit taking the lead and was content to drop back on the zigzag.

We had morning tea at the bottom, in the river sand. Gunman seemed uncomfortable in it and started pawing the ground. It was all that was needed for the "experts" to say he was footsore and done. I took him over to the river for a drink and a stand in the flowing water and then we all mounted up. An hour later, with Gunman leading, he started trailing a mob of horses. He is like a bloodhound...nose to the ground, he headed off. The mob broke off the trail we were on and had headed up a small draw when 3 juvenile stallions come up on our  six-o'clock...following the herd. Clinton and I gave chase for five or six minutes down the river's edge, over rocks and trees, streams and boulders...letting Gunman have his head and pick his own course. Me, I'm just looking out for branches, and keeping the stallions in sight. But they are fresh and in fine condition and no match for our mounted and tuckered out ponies...so they gave us the slip. But, ohhh, what a ride. It takes several minutes for my heart to slow down. Footsore? Not my horse...as everyone of them watched him bolt out under the spur. Most everybody knows by this time who the trophy is going to. But there is some dissent, still.

Day 5
It is cold and snowing, but not sticking to the ground. One rider has the flu and another is too old and cold and there is some concern for his health, so a number of group leave camp for home, conceding the competition and admitting Gunman is sound and healthy. I ride out with my host after they break camp. He is determined to give Gunman a real test of mettle. It is a short ride, but steep and dangerous. After stopping to let our horses blow and for him to roll a cigarette, he plies me with more questions and admits that he never would have believed it if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes. While saying that as a professional, he couldn't risk not shoeing his horses, he needed to rethink this whole barefoot thing and not get so worried about a horse that throws a shoe if you have Old Macs. He declared Gunman the winner on that steep mountain side and said, "Let's get back to camp...me and my mare are both buggered!"

Well, there was a wild party that night at the camp (which I give you my word I did not overly participate in) and I slept a sound and peaceful night ready to return to Melbourne the next day. Long before the trophy was awarded, I told them all that I had come to prove something with a barefoot horse...and win, lose or draw for that trophy...I had proved that point...Gunman was barefoot and sound.

[From post on October 31, 2001]--

I woke the next morning from a contented sleep that finalized a wonderful week of horse riding in places where God only allows a few people at a time to go. The Snowy Mountains are breathtaking and we were now breathless and exhausted...but with smiles. Gunman had won the "Best Horse of the Year" Trophy and the day looked to be a leisurely departing of camp for the long drive home.

The night before two other riders came into the hut bringing their two mares with them. They were mongrel horses and started fighting with the others as soon as they landed. I suppose that's normal. I looked at Gunman's face and there was a gouge out his forehead and I knew he had not had a good night. I grabbed a bucket of feed and advanced on him. The other horses gathered behind me. I reached out to grab his halter...it was the last thing I remember!!

The feeling of coming to was awful. My whole face ached and I couldn't breath through my nose, no matter how hard I tried...and there was blood, a whole lot of it--everywhere! I picked myself up out of the pool of blood and attempting to stop the flow from my face with my hand, I stumbled some 40 meters downhill to the hut. Larry D. was sleeping on the veranda inside his swag and I woke him to tell him I was in trouble. 

In the hospital in Cooma the triage nurse took great care of me, starting with a morphine injection...everything was fine after that. They took X-rays and came back with the bad news. That stupid horse had issued a kick to my face that broke my cheek bone and eye socket in 4 places. What used to be my nose just a flat piece of skin. They were very worried about my losing my eye, but so far, I was still seeing out of both of them.

I was scheduled for the next day and the surgeon came in and talked to me about what was going to happen. He said I would be receiving a couple of plates in my head and some titanium mesh, pins and screws that would become a permanent part of the landscape that was my face. 

The Dr. came in later the next day and said that it was worse than they expected and pretty messy. More to the point--I was lucky to be alive. A little more to any side and I would either be blind or a vegetable. The pastor and an elder from the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Canberra who I knew from previous days came in to talk and pray with me. We spoke of the how difficult it must have been for my guardian angels to protect me the way that they did. But God isn't done with me yet and I have much to do in service of the King before I die. So I thank Him for the extra days He has given me.

People start phoning me, (sisters running around wondering where that noise was coming from) and communication with the outside world arranged for my son to gather my horse, float and gear to be retrieved. I even got flowers sent from the Strasser Clinics Organizing Committee. 

My family has been great in this crisis and taken good care of me...not letting me...rather forbidding me to do anything. Yesterday, a plastic surgeon took out my stitches, and took of the plaster that made me look like the Phantom of the Opera, and said the job was not bad. My wife was amazed and now she adores me even more...

I still have CT scans to go and possible other "touch-up" operations to get through...and a long recovery process, but, I have some permanent mementoes from an otherwise wonderful trip to remind me of the year my barefoot horse won "Horse of the Year".


Scott is a Chaplain at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University. Nancy works as a bookkeeper at the Ridley College bookstore.   Come see our NEW family Webpage:

[Moderator--thanks for the inspiring post!]


Old_Macs_put_on_composite.jpg (61758 bytes)

Old Macs--one of the better ready-made hoof boot options

(Available in 9 sizes, stay on well, adjustable, good traction and cushioning.), less likely to come off than most ready-made hoof boot options.  Excellent traction and concussion absorption; designed for riding.  Available in 9 sizes, somewhat adjustable.  One of the better ready-made hoof boot options available.  The Old Macs company was recently sold to Easy Care; available in many tack shops.  However, these boots run wide, and short from front to back for many horses.  They do sell shims to fill the sides for narrow-footed horses.  While this is a help, it is not the real answer to the problem.

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