Sunday, June 22, 2008

I'm often asked if every horse can go barefoot...

The answer is physiologically, yes, every horse can go barefoot.

Unfortunately, barefoot requires a level of commitment from the horse's owner that not all owners are willing to accommodate. To grow and maintain a truly healthy hoof requires:

1. Adequate, proper movement, preferably over the same type of terrain upon which the horse will be required to work. That means as many heel-first landings as you can possibly encourage in any 24 hour period. Lots of steps that are NOT heel first won't cut it. Stimulation of the proprioceptors that generate healthy digital cushion and lateral cartilage in the horse's hoof requires pressure and release to the back of the hoof. If your horse lacks well-developed digital cushion or lateral cartilage, we CANNOT create them without hundreds of heel first landings. Hoof boots and pads are the only tool we currently have to help facilitate heel-first landings. They take a few minutes to put on, and they cost about as much as one shoeing, but they last indefinitely. You might break a nail putting them on. Your horse might need to get used to them. But they may very well be an absolutely critical element for your horse's rehablitation. Not willing to learn how to use hoof boots, and commit to getting your horse moving as much as possible? Then you are probably not a barefoot horse owner.

2. The right diet. Dietary imbalances and metabolic issues are always dramatically reflected in the health of the hoof. Obesity is very dangerous for hoof health. Not willing to cut the molasses, alfalfa, non-structural carbs, sweet feeds, oats, and green grass grazing from your horse's diet? Then you are flirting with laminitis, and you are probably not a barefoot horse owner.

3. Good, balanced physiological hoof trimming performed on at least a four week schedule. Trying to save some money by stretching trims to 8, 10 or 12 weeks? Then you are probably not a barefoot horse owner, unless you are willing to learn how to maintain the trim between your hoofcare professional's visits.

My goal is to build healthy bare hooves and promote the benefits of natural hoofcare, and expose the dangers of nailed on shoes and traditional farriery techniques. Trimming alone will help grow a healthier hoof, but if all of the factors are not addressed, the process is not only slower, but sometimes impossible.

So, yes, every horse can positively thrive barefoot. Just as long as his/her owner commits to the lifestyle required to make it successful. As your barefoot hoofcare specialist, I will prescribe diet changes, booting, and horsekeeping changes based upon the most recent research. I will also provide you with literature supporting my recommendations. Whether or not to follow my guidance is entirely up to you. But remember that my ultimate goal is the healthiest bare hoof I can create, and I consider my reputation, as well as the credibility of the barefoot movement, at stake with each and every horse. Your willingness to educate yourself on the topic, and/or follow my guidance, is critical, and I reserve the right to refuse my services to owners not willing to make the commitment.

"A bare, unprotected hoof that cannot function comfortably and properly in the terrain the horse normally lives and works in is no less “sick” than any other part of the body that is not capable of doing its intended job. When any other part of the body is not functioning correctly, we immediately try to fix it. When the hooves aren’t functioning correctly, tradition demands that we just try to cover them up. The problem is that it only works for a little while and actually brings the hooves farther out of normal function. "

-- Pete Ramey, Laminitis Update 3-20-05

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Still Think Horses Can't Go Barefoot? Check Out The Houston Mounted Patrol

As of April 2008, all thirty six horses of the Houston Mounted Patrol are barefoot, working on asphalt and concrete daily. Read the whole story here:

And check out some photos of the horses here: