Tristan saw the farrier yesterday. Originally, our plan was for him to lose the front shoes back in April: from the front, it looks like the abscess hole was all the way grown out, and he's always been a barefoot horse before. I wasn't there for that farrier appointment, but the farrier put front shoes back on. I was confused but didn't have time and energy to follow up.
I asked the barn manager to check in with the farrier specifically yesterday and ask what was up, and chatted with her this morning.
The upshot: believe it or not, he's still growing out the abscess hole/hoof damage. Remember, this is the abscess that blew on August 16, 2012. Yes, that's right: this abscess hole has been growing out for 22 months now!
It's barely detectable, but it is still there, and there's bruising in the toe area leftover from the destabilized hoof. He was missing massive quantities of hoof wall for so long it's just taking a while to grow a completely healthy hoof, top to bottom. Because the abscess blew at the coronet band, there's still a lump in the hoof starting from that scarred area.
So he's still in front shoes. He probably will be in front shoes until the end of the summer at least. Farrier thinks he'll need some serious time to adjust to going barefoot in the front again, so I have to think about what would make sense as a timeframe for that, and what combination of toughening work & time off would help him out.
(I swear, I thought I was done with the abscess tag...)