Sunday, November 30, 2008

Barefoot Hoof Care means Diet, Hygiene, Lifestyle, AND a Good Trim!

The difference between what barefoot hoof care specialists do and what shoers do doesn't end with the trim and the absence of shoes. The new regime in hoof care has realized that diet, hygiene, lifestyle, and movement are paramount to a truly healthy hoof. We've made it our business to learn what it takes to build a robustly healthy hoof from the inside out. Keeping a barefoot horse 100% comfortable requires that the hoof is indeed robustly healthy; a nailed on shoe masks discomfort, and it's safe to say that that is likely the reason most of a traditional farrier's clients' horses are shod. But beyond comfort is the recognition of chronic issues that predispose the horse to long term unsoundness...issues that an alarming number of shoers will blythely nail a shoe over and never bring to the owner's attention. A shoer might recommend a biotin supplement, or will likely be educated on the impact of carbs and sugars on laminitis, but the truth is that an understanding of equine nutrition and its impact on the hooves has never been considered a prerequisite for farrier certification. With some of the most notable barefoot hoof care professionals -- and even hoof researchers -- enrolling in Dr. Eleanor Kellon's in-depth equine nutrition courses, it's likely that the associations certifying barefoot trimmers will eventually require and incorporate such education. But it's not just about diet, either -- the footing the horse spends most of his time on makes a huge difference too. Even different dirt can effect the hoof the horse living on it grows. And without lots and lots of movement, it doesn't matter how good diet, footing and trim are.

When you trim 100+ horses every month, and you look at hooves all day every day, you start to see trends pretty quickly. Horses in small pens at one barn with poor hygiene growing poorly attached wall, splay footed with lumpy, poor quality sole, white line separation and rotted frogs. Horses on high iron diets in stalls at another barn with chronic thrush, white line separation and shelly wall prone to chipping. And horses in large, well-maintained communal pens, on properly balanced diets, and sporting state-of-the-art bare hooves with gorgeous concavity, thick, waxy hoof wall, and wide, tough frogs. Get it all right, and see what a healthy hoof really looks like!