Well Howdy! Where to begin this journey?
Simple. At the start!
But what is the start of healthy hooves?
Some say shoes, others say barefoot, some say trimming while others say supplements. Some say movement, other say diet!
Holy toledo - so just WHERE does one start? This gets confusing! So many different answers for the same question.
What do I say?
I say ...
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Simon)
50+ years of living with horses of all ages, breeds, discipline, sizes - I can say I've learned ALOT! But then, there's always, always new 'stuff' to learn. Where's the best place to learn?
From the HORSES, themselves - so let's 'ask' them.
A horse is the wild lives rather simply day to day, minute to minute.
They graze 18 out of every 24 hour period of time.
They stand IN water to drink.
They don’t wear shoes.
They move around – A LOT! Sometimes up to 30 miles a day just in search of food and water. This keeps their hooves in good form and function.
What do they eat? – RAW FORAGE.
Scrub grasses, weeds, herbs, flowers, trees, bark, leaves, weeds, roots, cactus, sagebrush, seaweed – whatever edibles are afforded in their environment and territory. That’s what they eat.
They predominantly graze with their heads down. This allows for the lower jaw to drop down and forward affording proper chewing to keep their teeth in good shape.
The head-down position allow for the sinuses and bronchial tubes to drain all the irritants they inhale.
Head down means all is well in the world.
Head down affects the positioning of the body from the hooves right up to the shoulders, withers, back and on down to the croup and down the back legs … this affects each one of the 4 hooves.
They graze together in family groups; sub-groups of a large herd of sometimes hundreds of horses. There’s safety in numbers.
They graze out in the open so they can see and watch for predators who would like nothing more than to eat THEM while they eat!
Some of the things that horses in the wild do NOT do –
They don’t eat processed foods.
They don’t stand in one place to eat all the time where they relieve themselves on their food or near it.
They don’t eat in solitary confinement
They don’t eat out of buckets hung at wither’s height or drink water from buckets at the same height.
They don’t stay in one place for long.
No one deworms them or vaccinates them or trims their hooves or floats their teeth and no one is there to measure out supplemental vitamins and minerals or probiotics for their guts.
And so on and so forth.
How DO they manage to fare without all of man’s help?
In studying these facts and comprehensively assessing what they mean, one can only conclude that the horse is a marvel of design … created to live outside in large herds eating raw forages and moving miles and miles a day.
Again, no hoof – no horse. Their self maintenance can care of their own hooves are part of their survival system.
Without healthy hooves they don’t survive. It’s that simple.
This is all fine and dandy you say BUT … domestic horses live in stalls, barns, wear shoes, are fed processed foods and artificial supplements and they’re all fine, aren’t they?
Well, wild horses don’t seem as prone to attacks of thrush, white line disease, canker, yeast infections, thin soles, and other maladies of the domestic hoof. Horses in the wild rarely get colic or ulcers. They have a symbiotic relationship with the internal parasites that plague our domestics so they don’t generally suffer from gut issues that are commonly seen in domestic horses.
What affects the hooves comes from inside out …
So, movement, shoes, diet, husbandry? Which of these is most effective on horses’ hooves?
I say … ALL of them. With MOVEMENT of the horse being primary and diet secondary to trimming/shoeing/hoofcare from the farrier or the hoofcare practitioner.
The hooves grow inside-out and down.
So that’s where we start.
What changes do you think YOU can make to help your horse on the sole journey to healthy hooves?
Remember … K.I.S.S.
And on Friday we'll step into the Natural Horse's Diet for Healthy Hooves. Enjoy!
Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here: www.thepenzancehorse.com/2012/RESUME.pdf