Time to question horse shoes?
At Trelawne Equine we feel strongly that horses are better off without shoes, for several reasons – for example, research tells us that horse shoes focus weight upon the hoof wall, leading to abnormal loading on the edge of the hoof wall. This is called peripheral loading.
Let’s look at the facts. The introduction of road systems circa 2000 years ago by the Romans led to barefooted horses becoming sore or lame when asked to pull or carry heavy loads on unforgiving surfaces. The practice of nailing metal to a horse’s hoof began around 400 – 500 AD, but did not become widely practiced until around 1100-1200 AD, at the time of the Crusades and the development of the mounted cavalry. It would have made perfect sense that horse owners of this era would have utilized the skills of blacksmiths to create protection for their horses’ hooves. However, a practice that has remained largely unchanged for 1500 years surely warrants 21st century examination?
Blood flow actually comes to a halt with every heartbeat, when shod
Dr Robert Bowker VMD PhD is Professor of Anatomy and Director of the Equine Foot Laboratory at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine in America. Bowker is a pioneer of research into peripheral loading; a negative situation that always occurs when horse shoes are applied. Peripheral loading is dependent upon the hoof’s surface – a hard surface increases peripheral loading, while a softer surface decreases it. Peripheral loading severely interferes with blood flow inside the hoof; Bowker’s research shows that with a shod hoof, blood flow actually comes to a halt for a split second with every heartbeat, at the level of the horse’s fetlock. This situation is clearly not conducive to healthy tissue growth in the horse’s body.
And from a farriar
Mike Chawke of Ireland’s Little Farm Stud is an RF(BngC), MF(IMFA), CE-F qualified farrier and says: “Why not try leaving your animal in its natural state, and simply fit hoof boots when you want to ride? One major advantage is that your horse’s hooves will expand and contract as nature intended.”
If you are a horse owner, farrier or a barefoot hoofcare practitioner, and would like to discuss with us any of the points raised here, please find us at http://www.facebook.com/Trelawne
Equine Trimming tactics
As barefoot horse boot distributors, many people ask us what the difference is between a farrier’s ‘pasture trim’, and a barefoot trimmer’s ‘natural trim’. This can be contentious, as opinions differ.
Barefoot trimmer Angela Corner of Rockcrunchers Professional Barefoot Trimming Services says that essentially, a pasture trim tidies the hooves of a non-working horse at grass, while a natural (or performance) trim aims to produce hard-working hooves for ridden horses. “A pasture trim generally just removes excess length, and tidies chips,” says Angela, an AANHCP (Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices) qualified practitioner.
“In my experience, not all farriers performing a pasture trim will ‘dress’ the hoof’s outer edge, eg. bevel with a mustang roll, which strengthens the hoof capsule and helps prevent cracks. A farriar’s pasture trim may also not deal with what I’d consider to be compacted (dead) sole, or major hoof imbalances, such as under-run heels. “
"The natural trim I perform ensures the foot is properly balanced, flare is addressed, hoof wall trimmed to hard sole level, dead or compacted sole removed, and mustang roll applied. Barefoot practitioners also discuss diet and environment at each visit,” she states.
The farrier’s view
Mike Chawke is an RF(BngC), MF(IMFA), CE-F qualified farrier, currently based in Ireland; he has been practicing for thirty six years. Mike believes there should be no difference between the two trims.
“A farrier giving a so-called pasture trim should address all the relevant hoof balances, just the same as if the animal was being shod, with the exception of leaving a fraction more extended wall for wearing purposes, if the pasture is hard,” Mike explained. “I believe that only the flaky, non-essential equine sole should be removed when trimming, in most cases. Bevelling the bottom edge of the wall to prevent chipping of the bare foot should be normal farriary practice. “
"I’d like to add that in my opinion, any animal not requiring shoes should not be shod. Shoeing is necessary for the simple reason we wish to use these animal for purposes for which they were never intended i.e. regular enforced work on hard surfaces,” Mike added.
Opinion does differ regarding trimming techniques, so seek recommendations from several hoofcare professionals before choosing one to trim your horse’s feet.
http://www.trelawneequine.co.uk is the UK’s dedicated distributor of the Easycare range of barefoot horse boots. Contact Trelawne Equine to locate your nearest stockist.
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