Things to consider before you pull those Horseshoes and go Barefoot with your Horse.
It should be clear that going barefoot is not just about pulling the shoes, and using the "wild horse" or "natural" barefoot trim. Equally important to being successful with the shoeless horse is taking into consideration your horse's entire environment. That being said, we want to be sure that we are all on the same page as to how we define "environment". We will venture to say that when asked what environment you keep your horse, that the first picture that comes into you mind is the pasture and stable. Environment is so much more. To better appreciate environment, try utilizing your five senses in painting a picture of your horse's environment.
Your horse's nutrition: It is said that a horse can develop ulcers in a very short period of time. One way to prevent stomach ulcers is to make hay or forage available 24 hours. Special attention needs to be paid to the amount of sugars in the feed and hay, as many horses become insulin resistant over time (see www.safergrass.org.) High sugar hay, and stomach ulcers, can contribute to equine digital elastosis. (read more on EDE) Also of major importance is hydration. Your horse should be drinking between 8 and 10 gallons of water per day. Seasonal changes can result in metabolic imbalances that can trigger mild equine digital elastosis. Read "Can a Horse be Allergic to Spring?". We have developed a full line of hydrating homeopathic remedies called Hydropathics, which when used can help to improve your horse's immune system, and help to prevent EDE. Hydropathics are a logical evolution in the use of homeopathy for the horse.
Turn Out: 24 hour turnout in the ideal environment is preferred, but unfortunately many of us have less than ideal environments' for 24 hour turn out. It is true that hooves need continual movement for health and healing, but this movement must be controlled, as not to cause damage to the hoof by exceeding the foots' spectrum of usablity.
Dental Health: Timely and proper dental care, using the techniques of modern horse dentistry that balance the jaw and the TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint) is imperative. Imbalance in the jaw and TMJ results in incorrect development of the top line of your horse, asymmetrical gait movement, and imbalanced wear and improper development of the hoof. In addition to timely and proper dental care, you may wish to explore Photonic Health Red Light Therapy, for its ability to help in maintaining balance and wellness in your horse.
Exercise: Rider input, correct saddle fit, and proper exercise are imperative to correct hoof development. Horses will always move in the most comfortable way possible, and pain or rider imbalance will result in poor hoof development. At the Institute, we teach what "physiological sequencing" means, why it's important, and how to use it to improve your horse's performance overall. Read "Did Ido That?"
Correct Conformation: We have had excellent results using barefoot or "shoeless" to rehabilitate foundered horses to full soundness and usability. The HPT Method (High Performance Trim)balances the hoof to the foot within, resulting in less strain on the sensitive structures of the foot. Correct break over and heel placement (correct conformation) is achieved and soundness results. Applied Equine Podiatry is more than just a mustang roll to shorten a long toe. We focus on stimulating the foot from within by changing the foundational confirmations, thus changing the tubule orientation all together, so a new correct hoof emerges from within.
Time: Due to damage and loss of structure within the newly de-shod hoof, the dimension of time plays a vital role in transitioning to barefoot. The amount of time after you remove the shoes is dependent upon the severity of damage, and how well you can establish an environment that is conducive to healing. The health of the internal tissues, recognized as the foundations of the hoof must become healthy if you have any hope of growing out a high quality, tough hoof wall, and hoof capsule with the correct conformation need for performance. While this may seem vague, the truth is that no one can predict how long it will take for your horse to achieve peak performance after removal of its horseshoes. I will say that in my experience, taking longer than twelve months likely means we are missing something. Leaving shoes on is not the answer, the traditional horseshoe negates correct foot function and the hoof will not have a chance to heal. To repeat what good friend and renowned trainer of mine often says, "Take the time it takes, so it takes less time." Simply ignoring the facts can and often do result in the loss of many useful years of life for the horse.
Hoof Boots? Hoof boots are not recommended as a tool for the transition from shod to barefoot. Boots can be used to allow you to ride your horse, but they should not be look upon as a rehabilitation tool, or transitional tool. Boots are often ill fitting, clumsy, heavy, and do not offer the correct stimulus for the development of correct internal conformation. We recommend using Perfect Hoof Wear (Hoof Wraps) or the Perfect Hoof Wear Pro Inserts (Hoof Pads), both of which provide needed stimulus for the return of health, while allowing for use of your horse. They are truly a "No down time solution to transitioning from horseshoes". Perfect Hoof Wear Poly Hoof Wraps are not for hoof casting.
Wet Environments: Horses that live in wet environments and show signs of metabolic syndrome, or insulin resistance benefit from Perfect Hoof Wear (Hoof Wraps) when transitioning to harder surfaces. If your exercise your horse over harder, rocky surfaces, and are stabled in a wet environment you would do well to use the Perfect Hoof Wear ( Hoof Wraps) to not only protect the hoof, but also to stabilize the hoof capsule. Horses that work on paved roads should use the Perfect Hoof Wear Pro inserts, to prevent excess wear of their hooves and provide traction. Once again, the benefits of using hoof wraps, over boots are: dynamic stability, increased stimulus, and perfect fit. Unlike hoof casting PHW hoof wraps are flexible, offering dynamic stability when needed. The increased stimulus helps to develop the hoof wall matrix.
Soft Footing: Horses that work on soft arena footing will exhibit a foot for that environment. This type of horse is often sore when asked to work over a surface that presents increased concussion. In any transition program your horse should be exposed to a wide variety of surfaces working with its spectrum of usability. This could mean simply walking 20 minutes on a firm surface before and after your arena work. The hoof is designed flexes at every step, and it is this controlled distortion that is responsible for correct foot function. Are you aware that the back half of the foot finds its foundation in cartilage? And that cartilage does not derive its nutrition directly for the blood supply, but rather via pressure on surrounding tissue? Increased circulation without correct distortion does little to help return correct conformation and health the back half of the foot. Also you can use Silvetrasol to aid in keeping the hoof tougher.
Who do I get to trim? It is a fact that in many areas around the world there are simply too few well trained trimmers, and if you want a good barefoot trim, you will need to learn to do it yourself. You can join the thousands of other concerned horse owners that have done just that by attending a practical course at IAEP. Learning to trim to trim is rather simple, but as stated elsewhere on this site, it is not knowing "how" to trim, but rather "why" to trim.
How the typical "pasture trim" often falls short of expectations.
While some farriers are helping their clients go barefoot, others have not yet taken the time to understand the needs of the shoeless horse in domestication. Most are comfortable with the simplicity the horseshoe and the pasture trim offer. There are many different ways to approach trimming the horse's hooves. The pasture trim is the inadequate approach. At our Institute, we teach the HPT Method, (High Performance Trim) and the science of Applied Equine Podiatry which brings hoofcare to a whole new level of learning.
Sole: In the pasture trim, the sole of the hoof is often concaved, with little regard to the function of horn type in the sole.
Hoof Wall: In the "pasture trim", the bottom edge or ground surface of the wall is left flat to the ground, this being a habit develop when preparing the hoof for a shoe. A flat wall encourages wall separations, and incorrect loading of the coronary band in the barefoot horse. Flare often causes undue stress leading to changes in the conformation of the foundations of the hoof, changes that can result in lameness. At the Institute, we focus on the development of the Hoof Wall "Matrix" which surpasses the ordinary pasture and natural trim hands down. Using the Perfect Hoof Wear, a simply hoof wrap that encourages matrixing of the hoof wall.
Hoof Capsule Migration: The "pasture trim" often ignores forward migration of the hoof capsule. Farriers are taught to use the white line to determine hoof shape, and as a result following forward migration of the white line results in a long hoof. The added stress of imbalance on the dorsal to palmar plane (toe to heel) can result in any number of hoof deformities, ranging from toe cracks to navicular disease. IAEP focuses directly on the health of the "Internal Arch Apparatus" (IAA), a seperate organ, not to be confused with the so-called solar "arch" of the hoof which does not represent sensitive structures.
Heel Placement: Heels placement is critical and often in the pasture trim heels are left long. You may have heard of the saying "Long toe, Low Heel" syndrome. Well low heels are often long heels. That's right, low heels are not short heels, but rather long low heels. The ground surface of the heel has migrated forward, resulting in a long low heel. This type of conformation is devastating to the function of the foot. The hoof cannot distort correctly adding to stress about the coffin joint. Extended heel horseshoes only exacerbate the forces on the palmar processes and coffin joint. The HPT Method is a conscientious effort to avoid torque around p3, creating postive energy management within the foot and hoof by providing the stimulus to the IAA.
Frog Infections: Farriers often become frustrated and then complacent with frog infections, learning to ignore them. In the barefoot horse that lacks the protection of the horseshoe, frog and heel pain often develops mostly due to frogs that are not trimmed properly if at all, without regard to the relationship the frog has with the bars and caudal aspect of the foot.
What benefits do we see in taking the horse barefoot?
Improved Performance: The horse often shows an improved quality of movement. The hoof is perfect by design and when allowed to take its proper form, will make it possible for the horse to achieve its peak performance.
Traction: I have been designing hoof wear for the better part of three decades and one thing I learned along the way is that surface area translates as increased friction. A flat surface has provides far less traction than an uneven surface. In addition to surface area, the drag coefficient of the material comes into play. The hoof of the horse when healthy will always provide greater traction than a steel horseshoe on dirt. I am not saying that traction devices don't work; I am saying they work at a cost. The sound, healthy barefoot horse is surefooted over its natural terrain while allowing for proper distortion and stimulus to the IAA.
Endurance: Proper foot function aids in achieving correct metabolic performance.
What can you do to improve the quality of life of the horses in your care?
Learn about their nutritional needs, and the importance of having a properly hydrated horse. There are several articles posted to this website that will provide you with guidance.
Find ways to exercise your horses within their given "Spectrum of Usability". KC La Pierre's book the Chosen Road explains how to use the spectrum to aid you in your hoof care program. Take the guesswork out of your rehabilitation program by understanding each structure and knowing its foundation, thus allowing for proper stimulus. Knowledge is power.
Get proper dental care; it affects the balance of the entire horse.
Develop an understanding of back motion and saddle fit. Have a Pegasus Gait Analysis done on your horses. A gait analysis will give you a base line of data that you can refer to.
Is Heel First Landing really correct?
Obvious Heel-first landing in the front feet can be a sign of lameness! Because the hoof is essentially a weight at the end of a pendulum, the speed at which the pendulum swings will determine how the weight acts. That all sounds logical, but the fact is the horse has a brain and will react to environmental stimulus. Pain is a very important nerve function, its purpose to protect the horse. Excessive heel first landing at the walk or trot often indicates toe pain. Trimming to achieve a visible heel first landing is incorrect. I have seen more horses lamed by this type of trimming than I care to record. In the sound horse at a normal trot, the hoof should appear to be landing flat (often referred to as achieving dynamic balance). Understand that heel first landing is achieved in the sound horse, but the timing is subtle. The back half of the hoof is designed to allow for distortion, with its foundations being made up of cartilage. Trimming for heel first landing is not addressing correct balance.
That being said, toe first or true flat foot landing is detrimental to the health of the foot. We use podiatry impression pads to measure impact. These pads offer an accurate, affordable, and efficient means of determining hoof load while in motion.(See Sole Mate Therapeutic Pads)
Sound Reasoning, Sound Horses is more than just a slogan. It defines our in-depth study of the hoof and foot of the horse. Our mission is to bridge the gap between the academic world and the practical world of hoof care. Our success is the result of lateral thinking, and applied science. With graduates in 11 countries, IAEP is shaping today's minds to the benefit of today's horses.
We at the Institute have long known that to effectively treat the horses' hooves, we must also be well versed in whole horse biomechanics and overall physiology. The theories developed by our founder, Keith "KC" La Pierre, are based on this fact.
From the Suspension Theory of Hoof Dynamics to advanced motion analysis, at the Institute, it is not simply about teaching "How to Trim," but rather "Why to Trim."
At our school you will learn how to trim the horse, but more importantly, you will learn why things develop the way they do. Barefoot / Natural Hoof Care has to be more than just a trim.
Join the thousands of people who have discovered the cutting edge theories of Applied Equine Podiatry and Holisitic Hoof Care. Let us empower you with the knowledge needed to achieve your goals. Learn how to achieve High Performance and Soundness in your horses. We offer full academic and practical programs that surpass all other programs. It's not just about hoof care, it is also about superior theory based products, books, DVD's, home study mentorship programs, advanced-level pathology programs, Licensed Instructorship Programs, gait analysis systems, Homeopathies, and alternative therapies. Get involved today! Save a horse tomorrow!
Sound Reasoning - Sound Horses
"The essence of Applied Equine Podiatry is the conscientious study of the equine foot, always striving to expose it to proper environmental stimuli, making every effort to promote proper structure and function, as we progress in achieving high performance. It is accepting the fact that the horse has the innate ability to heal itself, and that domestication of the horse has caused imbalance and broken the golden rule of "Do No Harm." KC La Pierre
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