It's Not Just Bare Feet!

by Yvonne Welz ©2007

One of the biggest misconceptions is that barefooting a horse simply involves removing his shoes. Often, shoes have little to do with the situation, on a whole. Horses without shoes are sometimes (or often!) in worse shape than horses with shoes! Shoes are usually just a scapegoat for the underlying problem -- owner negligence and owner ignorance.

It's hard to tell the truth. People do not like to hear honesty, when it doesn't flatter them. The truth is, out of ignorance, most owners have no realization that they are being negligent in their horse's care, and that is why their horse's feet are in such poor condition. Even worse - most owners do not even see that the hooves are in such bad shape!!! No one will point it out to them - unfortunately, vets and farriers have looked at severely pathological hooves for so long, they actually consider them to be "normal." Owners are left in the dark, thinking their horses have "good feet" until one day down the road, insidious lameness develops, even laminitis, founder and navicular. We are here to tell you that isn't normal! And the hooves you see on most horses are not healthy!

Many owners do not schedule regular, consistent trimming or shoeing appointments for their horses, and this lack of consistency only increases the hoof problems. Horses that go without shoes are often neglected even more so than the shod horses, because that is how it has been traditionally done. Even when horses are trimmed regularly, they are trimmed in a way that causes them the same problems as the shoe does. Over time, this stress on the hoof leads to poor hoof form, and then to pathology. Hooves were not made to bear weight mostly on the wall - this causes peripheral loading, and has been documented to greatly decrease the correct blood flow inside the hoof. Anytime the wall bears all or most of the weight, such as when the hoof is shod, or when trimmed so that the wall protrudes and bears the weight, or whenever the horse is on very hard ground -- peripheral loading will affect the health of that hoof in a negative way.

The barefoot trim that we recommend is one that minimizes peripheral loading, and influences the health of the hoof in a positive way. Many of the "wild horse" or "natural" style barefoot trims fit this description. Here's some very general guidelines: Trimming 1-2-3 . Here are some photos: Super Healthy Hooves!

In addition, there is often no thought given by owners to living conditions provided to their horses -- and even if farriers notice the link between the poor hooves and the poor living conditions, they are usually hesitant to say so to their customers. After all, the customer is always right, right? Wrong! The horse is always right, and he will tell you so, if you are willing to listen. Living conditions are the element of the "trim" that is entirely out of the trimmer/farrier's control, and is crucial for success. Your horse will NOT have healthy or sound hooves if you cannot provide him with a lifestyle conducive to hoof health.

Many people are unwilling to embrace "barefoot horse care" simply because they do not want to come to terms with accepting the responsibility of their care's effect upon their horses' lives - for good and for bad. We are advocates for the horse, and the horse has needs that have little to do with what most owners have provided for them. It is time to change that.

(May 2007)

©2007 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

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