Barefoot trimming is rooted in a deep understanding of the horse; from the biomechanics of his hooves, to his digestive system and his behavior and lifestyle in the wild. Research, case studies, and good old common sense have proven that healthy hooves are dependent on:
- Consistent, Non-Invasive Trimming
- Proper Diet and Nutrition
- An Active Lifestyle
Because our domestic horses do not travel the 20 daily miles over varied terrain that their wild cousins do, we must trim their hooves for them. Most need to be trimmed every 4-6 weeks, depending on their living environment and activity level. When the hoof wall is allowed to overgrow, the hoof wall starts to separate from the internal structures of the hoof and progress toward a healthy, well-connected hoof is halted. Trimming should respect the current position of the internal structures within the hoof, thereby allowing a healthy hoof to be grown in over time rather than cut and lamed in one trim. Proper trimming also prioritizes heel-first impact, and uses boots, pads, and/or casting for hoof protection and to ensure that the horse moves comfortably. Shoes are no longer the 'necessary evil' because of the recent advances in hoof boot technology. Hoof Boots provide superior hoof protection on an as needed basis, but unlike shoes, offer shock absorption (much like the bare hoof), and also allow the hoof to flex and torque like it was designed to do. In fact, every time a bare hoof impacts the ground, it flexes, increasing blood flow and circulation throughout the horses' entire body. A steel shoe, however, does not allow the hoof to flex, thereby decreasing circulation, not to mention the increased concussion and decreased traction due to the steel.
Other negative consequences of shoes include the gradual distal descent of P3 (the dropping of the coffin bone) which results in tragically common thin soles. This distal descent is due to peripheral loading (where the weight of the horse is on the wall under the shoe, rather than the frog, sole, and wall). This peripheral loading over stresses the laminae (the laminae hold the 'horse to the hoof'- or the coffin bone to the outer hoof horn). The stressed laminae lack the integrity they are meant to have, and the coffin bone slowly drops over time. (Thankfully, this CAN be reversed through proper barefoot trimming and plenty of movement to increase hoof growth!).
Another effect of the peripheral loading is contracted and weak frogs. The frogs and the underlying digital cushions (the 'shock absorbers' of the equine foot) land first during proper movement. However, when they do not get the constant pressure and release of natural heel-first impact , the frogs become weak and contracted and the digital cushions do not develop into the thick, dense mass of fibercartilage they are meant to. This results in horses that seem comfortable on soft terrain, but when faced with rocky, varied terrain, will shorten their stride and 'toe-stab' instead of landing heel first.
Repeated toe-first landings, whether due to underdeveloped digital cushions, thrushy frogs, or incorrect trimming or shoeing, takes us into yet another host of issues, including navicular syndrome and disease. (to be elaborated on here soon).
Besides the reasons above, trimming is also more affordable than shoeing. Barefoot trimming can reverse navicular, laminitis, thin soles, stumbling, interfering, wall cracks, long toes, and distal descent of P3.
If you would like to read further into these topics that I barely breached above (complete with pictures, research citations, and in-depth discussion, please go to www.hoofrehab.com)