Do What Works

payson 9-16 012Treed vs Treeless.
Barefoot vs Booted vs Shod.
Brand X vs Brand Y.
Bitted vs Bitless.
Minimalist vs Maximalist.
Training programs.
Diet choices.

Did I manage to hit just about every major hot topic button out there liable to start online riots?

Most of us probably have some sort of an opinion on any of the above topics. And since it is our opinion, there’s a good chance we’re probably pretty convinced that we’re right. (No one likes to have a wrong opinion, right?)

But when it comes down to it, who’s to say what is right or wrong? Obviously there are some hard and fast rules of the world — like I’m pretty sure running a red light is illegal in all 50 states, no matter your opinion on whether stopping for other traffic is stupid or not. But there are a wide range of subjects in which “Your Mileage May Vary” and one size definitely does not fit all.

Especially on those topics that we feel very passionate about, we (myself included!) can get somewhat…ardent in our beliefs. And that passion and enthusiasm is awesome, and usually contagious. It’s the reason for the success of word-of-mouth referrals — you’re going to be more apt to consider something that you received direct information and/or feedback about from a personal, reliable source, versus just a shiny marketing ad.

Where I begin to have a problem is the black-and-white extremism that says “This is the only way to do something and everything else is just wrong” and doesn’t consider that maybe what works for them won’t work for someone else. Very few things in this world are absolute, and while there are times that “If it’s not working, you’re doing it wrong” are applicable…more often than not, it’s better to keep an open mind, be flexible, and willing to do what works.

Naturally, me being me, of course I have an opinion on all of the above topics. ;) However, just to keep life interesting, I’ve had to re-visit some of these opinions depending on the horse in question, and learn to be very flexible.


At the last ride, Liberty tended to get behind the vertical with her s-hack, which tells me she isn’t ready for that many points of pressure and contact; back to more snaffle-basics for her. I prefer the s-hack for ease of eating/drinking/not removing headstalls…but when the training occasion calls for a bit, that is what I will use.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of treeless saddles…for me. I recognize that they work really well for a lot of people, but my experiments with them have been mostly underwhelming. I also admittedly ride off my stirrups probably a little more than I should, so pressure dissipation on a treeless has the potential to be an issue with me. After sitting in several models of them, I would dearly love to try a ReactorPanel at some point, as their specific flex-panel technology intrigues me. And in the meantime, my old faithful Duett still continues to do the job.

The barefoot vs booted vs shod debate could probably take up a post all on its own. Suffice today: I have barefoot, booted performance horses. I want them barefoot and moving around as much as possible when they’re not working; but the majority of the time when they’re being ridden, I use boots. My personal stance on that is that under saddle, I’m asking them to do things that are unnatural, such as carry and balance weight, and move at speeds that may be faster than the terrain would ideally dictate, especially in a competition setting where we’re racing against the clock and may not have the luxury of slowing down for every questionable section.

As a caveat to that, I will say that training barefoot on a young horse can be a handy training tool. Not only does it teach them to pay attention to their feet — and that landing on rocks is a bad idea — it can also help curb excessive enthusiasm on a more forward horse after they clatter through a few rock piles and realize that might not have been the best idea.


Sometimes Arizona footing can be barefoot friendly. And then sometimes it’s really not.

And it’s not going to be for everyone. It can take a lot of time, dedication, and the right set of circumstances to have a successful barefoot performance horse. And if it’s hurting the horse, it’s not worth clinging to an ideal…do what your horse needs not what you want.

Oh, and FWIW, on the running front of happy debate topics, I haven’t been able to successfully use minimalist or maximalist shoes. So there. ;) Actually, the challenge of finding appropriate running shoes for myself has been even harder than it was finding boots that worked on Mimi.

Bottom line: Do research, take a moment to think about the arguments being made for or against something, try something, and don’t be afraid to say if something doesn’t work.

3 thoughts on “Do What Works

    • Thanks, Dorothy! I thought I remembered seeing photos/hearing that you rode in an RP…loved how it felt on the sawhorse, now I’d love to try one on the horse and see how it feels.

Thanks for reading! Comments are always welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s