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If Your Horse Could Talk has been educating horse owners to a more natural approach to their horses since 1999.  We accomplish this through our extensive website, the If Your Horse Could Talk show, clinics, consultations, a variety of articles and our natural product on-line store.
 

 

 

 

Natural Hoof Care

                      

                                            

                                              Balanced                 vs           Unbalanced

Natural horse care is the wave of the future and the barefoot approach is one of the main principles. Mother Nature has given these magnificent creatures all they need to be happy, healthy horses. It’s up to the humans to support them by becoming knowledgeable and empowered about what is truly best for their equine partners.

Below is some basic information and photos to help educate about natural hoof care. There are also awesome interviews with hoof care experts on the If Your Horse Could Talk show & Archives page, hoof articles on the Writings page, great links, and great informational resources in our store.

Article:

Healthy Hooves, the Natural Way

By Lisa Ross-Williams

A loud rustling in the bushes alerted the colorful herd to possible danger. Led by the ghostly gray, this herd of many colors, breeds, and ages tore through the natural terrain at breakneck speed, nimbly navigating the uneven rocky ground. Even when crossing the wet river bank, not one horse, even the 18 hand gangly draft colt lost their footing on the slippery clay. Mother Nature had indeed given this herd a gift for survival—strong, healthy, natural hooves.”

“This band’s hooves were very different from the normal shod horses often seen today; compact, short, hard-as-rock hooves with large frogs, these feet give maximum traction, protection, and shock absorption to these horses. Never had they been weakened by a farrier’s hammer & nails, the restricting nature of steel hooves, or have been afflicted with the common hoof diseases such as laminitis, navicular, thrush, and white line disease.”

Although the norm in horse care has been to shoe horses in the past without a second thought, a new enlightenment toward natural hoof care is growing strong. More and more horse guardians and even some open-minded farriers and veterinarians are starting to question this practice and through educating themselves, are turning to the barefoot approach.

However, simply removing the shoes will not produce a high performance barefoot horse. By understanding why horseshoeing began, what a natural hoof is, the adverse affects of shoeing, and what other care factors are involved, horse guardians are able to break this long standing belief that horses need shoes and more toward a natural, healthy hoof.

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Food for Thought....

Why Not Shoes?

Most people shoe their horse because they believe it protects the hoof, but are often unaware of the negative effects of this practice. Although a metal shoe may protect the hoof wall from chipping, it impedes other natural functions and causes adverse consequences. Some of these include:

Decreased Shock Absorption: Shoes decrease the hoof’s ability to absorb shock by 70-80% by not allowing the hoof to expand properly upon weight bearing. In 1983, a study at the University of Zurich found “a shod horse walking on pavement receives three times the impact force as an unshod horse trotting on that surface.” The excess force must then be taken up by the legs damaging joints, tendons, and even the lungs which were not designed to deal with this force.

Metal Vibration Damages Tissue : A doctorial thesis at the University of Zurich found that metal horseshoes vibrate at about 800 Hz, a frequency damaging to living tissue. This type of circulation and neural conditions in humans is called Raynaud’s Syndrome. We must realize that every step a shod horse takes is damaging tissues throughout the body, setting him up for chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Decreased Blood Circulation: Each hoof is actually a secondary circulatory pump which supports the heart in circulating blood throughout the body. When the natural expansion and contraction of the hoof is diminished by shoes or unbalanced hooves, this important blood flow is hindered, putting the horse at a disadvantage not only in his hooves but his whole body.

Decreased Traction: Metal shoes do not give the amount of traction on slippery ground, pavement, or rocks as an unshod hoof. A natural barefoot uses the skid-break action of the bars, suction-cup effect upon weight bearing, and the ability to “feel” the ground as an all-terrain tool.

Damage by Nails: Nails weaken the hoofwall in addition to contributing to tissue damage from the vibrational frequency. Since old nail holes do not close-up, they leave the hoof vulnerable to bacteria as well as temperature extremes.

Hoof Contraction: When a hoof grows, it does so not only in length but also in diameter. Since the metal shoe doesn’t become wider, it contracts the growing hoof in a squeezed position. Proper hoof function (contracting and expanding) is hindered and the hoof is forced into the all too narrow hoof shape. Contracted hooves are oval rather than round and have very narrow frogs and heel bulbs.

Prevents Development of Young Horse’s Feet: A horse’s coffin bone grows and develops until they are about five years old. If a horse is shod before that age, the constricting influence of the shoe prevents normal growth of this all important bone, predisposing the horse to lifetime hoof problems.

 

Basic Trim Principles

We really don’t believe there is some special “magical” trim technique that someone has come up with that works for every horse. What we have found is that every hoof tells you what it needs to be balanced for that horse and that there are specific roadmaps to follow which gives you clues as to what is needed. Ultimately, we strive for the wild horse hoof model.

Hairline tells the story:  Distortion in the hairline normally show areas of excessive pressure

Don’t force hoof into set angles:  Each horse will have individual angles that are best for them. There is no magical angle or length that works for all horses.

Short toes-Short heels: Horses are not meant to have excessive hoof. Keep them compact and tight.

The hoof will show you: There are roadmaps to show what the horse needs.

Active and passive areas: A properly balanced hoof is not flat, but instead has active and passive areas. The passive areas are those that make contact with the  ground upon weight bearing.

Healing angle of growth:  We follow the premise that the new hoof growth at  the coronary band shows the hoof’s natural angle. This is called the “healing angle” by Jaime Jackson.

Round over edges-Mustang Roll:  The hoof wall edges should be rounded over to prevent chipping. Same concept as rounding the edges on wood to prevent splintering.

Body work as support: We have found that body work, such as The Equine Touch is helpful for horses making the transition to a balanced hoof. Remember, the whole body must make this change including the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments.

Common Hoof Conditions

Below are some of the common hoof conditions found in horses today. These are all signs of imbalance and/or environmental & nutritional issues.

Thrush: Is an infection of the frog and/or sole, often bacterial in nature which produces a black, foul smelling substance. This is often caused by improper hoof function, insufficient cleaning, and/or nutritional imbalance. Balance the hoof and nutrition and use Tea Tree or Oregano Essential Oils topically.

White Line Disease: Infection of white line, often bacterial in nature. Often caused by a stretched white line, laminitis, and unbalanced hooves. Balance the hooves and use Tea Tree or Oregano Essential Oils.

Stretched white line: The white line which should be tight and narrow is wide and weak. Often caused by long toes and imbalanced hooves. It is occasional red in color. Keep toes short and over-all hoof balanced.

Bruising: Can be caused by exterior forces, such as rocks and bars or shoes and nails or interior from the coffin bone. Condition the horses feet properly.

Underslung heels: Although the heel looks short, it is actually long and positioned at a slant under the hoof. Caused by unbalanced hooves. Keep heel back.

Wall cracks: Can be located anywhere on hoof but normally seen at the toe or quarters. Caused from weakening from nails, injury to coronary band, and unnatural wall pressure.

Flares: Excess hoof grows outward and if this is not corrected, the new wall will continue to follow this path. Keep toes back and hoof balanced.

 

The Hoof Will Tell You

What we have found is that every hoof tells you what it needs to be balanced for that horse and that there are specific roadmaps to follow which gives you clues as to what is needed. Ultimately, we strive for the wild horse hoof model.

The hairline tells the story

    The hairline should follow a nice, gradual angle toward the back of the hoof. If there is a bump or rise in the hairline, often that points to excessive pressure. Follow that distortion down, following the direction of hoof tubules and that is where there is too much pressure.

Wall cracks mean excessive pressure.

    These are usually found in the toe or quarters area.

Follow the new or healing angle

    The new hoof growth from the coronary band is often the best angle for that horse. Keep that in mind when trimming and keep any flares under control.

The frog is a good indicator of where the height of the heel

    The point of healthy frog (after being trimmed) and the bottom of the back slits of that frog is a good indicator of proper heel height.

Cracks in the sole and flaky areas are good indicators of how much sole wants to come out

    Use these as a gauge of how much sole to remove. Do not get too aggressive and pare into live sole.

A stretched white line indicates too much pressure, often on the toe.

    An example of this would be if you pull your fingernail back which causes pressure on the soft tissue.

 

 

Hoof Photos and Descriptions

 

This is an assortment of photos including before and after shots, examples of imbalance and balanced hooves, and some common hoof issues.

 

Hoof Photos Page

 

LINKS TO SOME NATURAL HOOF CARE ARTICLES

 

Natural Hoof Care , It’s More than Just a Trim by Kenny Williams

 

Breaking Traditions : A Veterinary Medical and Ethical Perspective on the Modern Day Usage of Steel Horseshoes by Dr. Tomas G. Teskey,  D.V.M .

A Natural Approach to Laminitis

Healthy Hooves the Natural Way 

Hoof Care Consultations & Training

Kenny is offering special hoof care services which include consultations, vie email, telephone, or in person as well as tutoring and private lessons in trimming. Please visit the Clinics & Consultation page for more info.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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