So, What's Next? We talked about the nutrition for the horse and his hooves last week, last blog.
Is that THE most important thing to keep horses' hooves healthy?
Well, really ... while nutrition, of course, plays a HUGE role in the health of the hooves the MOST important thing is that "M" word, as I tell my students.
Every system in the horse's body is created to work optimally as the horse moves. This includes the HOOVES ... yep, MOVEMENT is paramount to hoof health.
Why is that? Well, let's take a look ...
What HAPPENS, physiologically, when a horse moves, to the hoof?
This is a great video that shows, in slow, slow motion just what happens when a hoof is stepping down onto the ground: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPipjsRep9U
Watch it carefully. Watch it again and take note of what you see. A hoof that lands a bit on the lateral (outside) of the hoof heel then balances itself to flat. The heel expands so the frog (the major shock absorber of the foot) is totally engaged with the ground and the concussive shock moves into the digital cushion (also shock absorption) from the lateral heel up to the to the pastern then over to the medial side of the hoof and up the leg. As this happens, the circulatory system inside the hoof is closed as the hoof lands/loads in order to provide even more shock absorption than the frog and digital cushion inside the foot allows. Fluid/blood is trapped in the hoof for maximum protection. As the foot lifts, the circulatory system in the hoof is then opened to allow the blood to return up the leg along with the concussive shock.
It really is an amazing engineering for shock absorption of a small unit being loaded with thousands of pound per square inch upon loading. When a hoof is not healthy, this whole shock system is not able to function correctly. One then will see a breakdown of the hoof in general; the frog will become unhealthy and susceptible to various maladies such as Thrush and Yeast infections, the digital cushion, inside the hoof, will become fatty and incapable of absorbing any concussive shock thus setting up a 'Navicular' syndrome among other negative conditions. Even White Line Disease and other nasty hoof conditions. When the hooves are not healthy then horse is not capable of 'performing' to his ultimate levels. Some will become so uncomfortable that compensatory muscle spasms will occur all along the topline to the croup which then can cause "behavioral problems".
The hooves are intricately connected to the WHOLE horse ... and that is simply why it's important to look at ALL factions of the hooves as they relate to the rest of the horse. And, visa versa.
Are you facing challenges with the performance of your horse? Or, perhaps, with his or her behavior? You might want to have a good look at the hooves to see if, perhaps, there is something there that needs tending. You may find you have a different horse when the hooves are 100% healthy!
This is a healthy hoof on a 4 year old Warmblood mare owned by Yvonne and James Welz. Great form (round for front hoof) with a strong frog, strong bars and nice beveled heels with a thick, effective sole. The heel bulbs are of uniform size indicating the hoof is being loaded in balance; there is no excess wall that it separated from the white line and there's a great toe callus.
Once I tweaked my trimming to more of what Yvonne and Jim Welz show for examples I no longer had tender footed horses in the wintertime in New England ... the horses would move freely and comfortably over all terrain. As long as the horses were being ridden in balanced form the hooves maintained their own balance and maintenance trimming became a quick and easy job.
If you are transitioning your horses from shoes to barefoot you may want to use hoofboots (Scoot Boots!) to help any discomfort while the hooves grow into their healthy state. That will help ensure the MOVEMENT that is so necessary for rehabbing and maintaining healthy hooves.
If you're interested in learning more about healthy hooves, please visit my website at: http://www.barefoottrim.com You'll have to view on a PC - I am working fast and furiously to upgrade for mobile access but for now, be sure to bookmark and get it pulled up on your computer.
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