Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Teaching People the Barefoot Way: An Uphill Battle...But WHY???

Every day I am further astounded by the resistance horse people have to the barefoot revolution. Again and again, I hear the same objections...but none of the objections hold up. Doesn't matter; the general horsey public is as stubborn as the mule persuasion on the topic.

They say, "where's the research?"...you show them the research that proves this is right...you even show them the research that refutes conventional therapeutic shoeing techniques, and they still aren't convinced. They say, "show me the horses that have been rehabilitated"...you show them the horses: horses with horrendous laminitis, crippling navicular, "under run" heels, poor quality wall, solar abcessing, now with beautiful, healthy feet and amazingly sound, and they still don't believe. They say, "what's wrong with shoeing?"...you explain, patiently, and they sneer at you like you have two heads. They quip, "We've bred the feet out of our horses"...you respond that while we have not bred specifically for "good" feet, neither have we bred for "bad" feet...so simple logic dictates that our domestic horses should be somewhere in the average between the two. I look around the boarding stable where I work, and I count the horses that have had some hoof issue or other since I arrived there 3 years ago...guess what? With the exception of my herd, and 2 or 3 others, out of some 40 horses, ALL of them have had some type of hoof-related lameness. Could we, by any stretch of the imagination, have that thoroughly bred the feet out of our domestic horses?? I highly doubt it. Is there another common denominator that could explain the soaring rate of problematic hooves? What do you think?

You explain that wild horses have none of the same hoof issues that our domestic horses suffer; you explain that what we're doing is emulating the feral horse foot as it is naturally worn. They argue: the mustangs have evolved healthier feet; the mustangs don't carry our weight on their backs. You explain that exactly 6 weeks after they are captured and forced to live like our domestic horses, long before they are asked to carry the weight of a human, but just shortly after we have changed EVERYTHING else, they start to have ALL OF THE SAME PROBLEMS. This is documented. As Pete Ramey puts it, "the spell is broken". You explain how over that past 200 years, the feral herds were not purely feral...ranchers frequently let well bred stallions loose to run with the herds to improve the foals. You point out that the herds were often comprised not of descendants of the conquistadors, but of strays and escapees. You go on to explain that every foal is born with the EXACT same feet...but as soon as the foal stands up, environment shapes those feet differently. This, also, has been documented, and Bowker has done extensive research on the subject. Then you extrapolate: if you believe that mustangs have healthier feet, which apparently you do if you say they have EVOLVED healthier feet, wouldn't it make sense to emulate this foot, especially if the horse was going to be expected to carry additional weight, and perform extreme athletic feats??

Believe me, for every compelling argument I have, there is an argument against it. Not a good one, but people will still cling to them. It is nothing short of astounding. I'm starting to believe that the ONLY way to make this mainstream is to call it something completely different, something high-tech sounding, and manufacture a very expensive, but completely useless, and completely harmless hoof apparatus, then barefoot trim the horse, slip on the placebo hoof apparatus, collect a cool million, and save the domestic horse from endless mutilation...hmmmmm...might be on to something there!!