You may not get excited over your horses hooves, especially if you and your horse have never experienced natural hoof care. But there have been so many recent advances, you owe it to yourself (and your horse!) to check it out.
Natural what? I consider a natural trim to be the hoof that would emerge naturally if the horse was walking 15 - 20 miles per day in search of food, water, and survival. You wouldn't need to see your farrier as often, if this is how you kept your horse! Of course, we have our challenges keeping our domesticated horses healthy. Movement is crucial for proper hoof development and whole body health. And the more often you can provide them with a low sugar hay to munch on, the better. Horses need a constant supply of roughage to keep their GI tract functioning properly. So, natural horse keeping is essential to an overall healthy horse. But my specialty is hooves, so let's talk about them!
natural hoof care, we strive for:
A heel first landing. When your
horse lands heel first, his stride will be longer and more comfortable.
He'll be utilizing his foot correctly and that means increased blood
flow. Many horses can't land heel first because the underlying
structures are weak, or the foot is thrushy and sore, or both. Horses
need lots of correct movement to develop optimal hoof structure. This
correct movement is often undermined by modern shoeing practices and
ill-advised horse keeping. Natural trimming can help.
Flexion and Contraction. We also want to promote correct hoof mechanism. Hooves are made to flex and contract, something that can be greatly diminished by nailing on a rigid shoe. As the foot flexes and contracts with barefoot movement, copious amounts of blood are drawn into and out of the hoof. That blood flow benefits the whole body of the horse and acts as a shock absorber.
Short break over, the point where the foot leaves the ground in a forward movement, is also crucial for good mechanics. The longer the hoof is at the toe, the longer it takes for the leg to move forward. This can stress the joints and cause "forging", striking the back of the front foot with the front of the back foot.
Thick, strong hoof walls are another goal that we strive for. A strong "mustang roll," a bevel of varying degrees applied around the hoof wall, helps promote thick, strong walls by keeping cracks and splits at bay. Proper nutrition also plays a huge part in a healthy hoof.
In the practice of natural hoof
care, we set the horse up to grow into his best, natural foot. I utilize the
lessons learned from the wild horse hoof and use it as a model, not a
goal, although it would be nice if our horses could all have feet like wild horses do. Our horses are kept differently and used differently than wild
horses. However, we can provide our horses with proper hoof maintenance, lots of movement,
correct diet and forage, and terrain that encourages a healthy hoof and a happier horse. Just like horses are individuals, so are their feet.
Please check out the variety of individuals, (and hooves!), in the photos below and on my photo gallery page. Check out the rest of my website too. Please contact me if you'd like further information about natural hoof care. I have clients throughout Northern Illinois and SE Wisconsin and I'm certified through the American Hoof Association. If you are looking for a certified trimmer in another area, please click here.