I met with an expert on equine hoof care, and she explained all that she knew about the subject. She even brought a cadaver foot when she came to visit. We talked, and she gave me a lot of good information and raised a lot of questions in my mind.
My main question was what makes the feet of wild horses so different from domesticated horses? Wild horses don’t wear shoes, they are not trimmed every six to eight weeks, and yet they are tough enough to handle any type of terrain at any speed.
My second question was how do I get my horses’ feet that hard and healthy? Now, that was a loaded question. Come to find out, it’s not just the care you give feet that makes them healthy, but what you feed your horse and what type of terrain it is kept on. Is your feed a processed feed or a natural feed? Do your horses get their vitamins and minerals from nature or via a man-made form? Does the terrain your horse is exposed to allow his feet to wear naturally? Is it rocky or just all dirt or soft grass? All this makes a difference in making healthy feet.
There were four basic points that I took away from my own personal research. One, when natural trimmers trim a barefoot horse, their goal is to take hoof from the top and roll it in order to make a “mustang roll.” This mimics what has been found on wild horses. Two, when preparing for shoes, farriers take hoof from the bottom of the foot. This takes away protection from the coffin bone, and a lot of farriers don’t leave the horse an arch on the inside. Just like in human feet, this arch provides natural support. Three, just as processed chicken patties are not the best for our bodies, processed feed may not be the best for your horse’s body. And four, molasses does the same thing to horses’ feet that sugar does to our teeth.
I have a gelding that has never been shod. His feet are extremely hard, and I ride him barefoot. He seems to move very naturally and very comfortably that way. I also have another gelding that is shod, and I really enjoy riding him also. We have an excellent farrier, and I know my horse is well balanced in his shoes.
Everyone has an opinion and a preference as to what they think is best for their horses, and I am not saying one is right and one is wrong. I just wonder sometimes, would my horse be faster with or without his shoes? Would he feel better one way or the other? Would he be more willing? Would it make a difference between a 2D time and 1D time?
There is a lot more that I want to learn/do to make my horses the best they can be. We are going to make some changes in our feeding program and around our farm to see if we can make a difference for our horses. We have four horses that we ride on a regular basis, so I figure they will make good guinea pigs. I will let you know how it goes.