Huego–A Barefoot Dressage Horse
One thing I love about doing my ‘Horse of the Month’ series is getting to learn about so many different horses–of various breeds, backgrounds, and disciplines–but who are all tied together by the fact that their guardians want to provide them with most natural lifestyle that they can.
For the month of May, I am featuring Huego, an 16.2 hand Andalusian gelding who just turned 13 this month. Not only is Huego the first Andalusion I’ve ever featured on the blog, he’s also the first dressage horse–and a barefoot dressage horse at that! I’d love to tell you more about him.
FEI dressage trainer, Angelika Gruber came across Huego four years ago when he was offered for sale by his previous owner. She wasn’t really in the market for a horse at that time, but something about Huego caught her eye. A pre-purchase exam revealed reduced spacing in Huego’s vertebrae and it was apparent that he had some back pain, but Angelika was willing to take a risk. She had rehabbed horses like this before and thought Huego might just be a diamond in the rough.
Angelika began Huego’s rehab work with a lunging and caveletti program in order to stretch and lengthen his back, and after two weeks, she began to see a difference in him. She also noticed a new problem though–this time, with his feet. His toes were too long (which caused stumbling), but when his shoes were removed, it was evident that Huego had white line disease.
Angelika did not feel comfortable with a hoof wall resection which was recommended by a local farrier. She instead decided to treat with Clean Trax and take over Huego’s hoof care herself. She began trimming him with a natural trim and within three months, his hooves made a remarkable improvement. She mentioned how nearly everyone comments on how beautiful his hooves are now!
Subsequent spinal x-rays revealed that the spacing in Huego’s vertebrae had widened and his hooves were now looking great, but Angelika still felt like something wasn’t quite right.
“I have trained hundreds of horses and have certain expectations as to what they should learn in a certain time period and how they should feel. Huego didn’t meet those requirements but is extremely intelligent and I always felt there was just a little something missing. He was just so inconsistent,” said Angelika.
Huego also had difficulties going downhill, which made Angelika suspect EPM (Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis). After visiting three different vets over a two-year period, EPM was finally confirmed through IFAT and Western Blot testing at UC Davis in California.
Angelika treated Huego with the standard EPM treatment–a drug called Marquis– and he has completely recovered since then.
Huego and Angelika are now back to their dressage training and this time, Huego is moving much better.
“His training has improved a lot since then and we are working on FEI movements, tempi changes, piaffe, and passage now,” she said.
“Huego’s been a real challenge mostly because of his health issues, but it’s just amazing how far he’s made it despite all that,” said Angelika. “We have been riding in clinics and lessons with Katherine Bateson and Laura Graves this year and he’s presented himself very well and everybody really likes him.”
Angelika also mentioned that Huego improved significantly after she purchased a new saddle for him– a Pegasus Butterfly– which has hinges that allow him to freely move his big shoulders and back and also adjusts automatically to his muscle development.
Huego is fed half a scoop of Coolstance Copra twice per day, along with free choice grass and hay. His supplements include Dynamite multivitamins and free choice minerals, Himalayan salt, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and flaxseed. Huego lives outside 24/7 with Angelika’s OTTB rescue mare, Becky.
Angelika and Huego will be moving from Florida to Virginia next month and she is looking forward to continuing his training there.
“I was lucky enough to find a wonderful farm where he will continue to live in a large pasture with a run in shed, but where I have a professional arena to train in. He will also gain strength by doing hill work and more conditioning on trails.”
Angelika plans to begin showing Huego in dressage this summer as well. We certainly wish them both the best of luck!