Barefoot Success: How to Help Your Horse be the Healthiest Ever!

Today is Friday. 

Well, here in the USA it is anyway. You guys in Australia, I think,-- its already Saturday. 

At any rate -- IT'S THE WEEKEND!  YAY!!! 

I, for one, am looking forward to a happy, healthy weekend. And now that I've said that, I sure hope I didn't jinx myself. 

I’m looking forward to watching healthy horses graze on healthy hooves and maybe, just maybe, takin’ a short jaunt with one of them.

That is if the Hubby hasn't made plans for us for the weekend, tho – so I’ll have to wait and see what time I can sneak in.

Yes, healthy, happy horses.  The 3 H’s.  Is there anything better?

We’ve been struggling with some horsey health issues that have transpired due to a move from New England down to Florida. It seems that I’ll need to forget almost everything about horse husbandry that I know from “up north” and revise to fit for here … “down south”.  And we live d.o.w.n. south in Florida in the tropical zone.  So the horses have had some major climate and environmental changes.

Don’t’ get me wrong, though … they still are out 24/7 with shelter, all together in a happy herd, still eating their ‘salads’ of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds with some alfalfa pellets, minerals and herbs BUT … I’m afraid that my learning curve was a bit steep and my herd took the repercussions of that.

You see, I was told that “coastal hay” was the best hay if your horses are eating hay free choice. I figured, OK … not the best but certainly not the worst hay.  However, I learned a few weeks ago, as my horses were in full shedding mode (finally!) that they’d gotten a wee bit more –ahem—“slender” than the way they were “up north”. 

That concerned me.

My horses have never been what one could call … slender. Nope, they couldn’t even have been called “slim”. On the Henneke scale, they all hovered around a solid 7/8.  Pleasingly plump, chunky, chubby.  Now the three UK Shetlands we have are SUPPOSED to be ‘as wide as they are tall’ so when I started feeling ribs?

Uh oh.  Just plain ole Uh oh.

The only one who is STILL chunky, pleasingly plump, and just as sweet as the day is long, is my Mustang girl. 


Well, the last few posts explained what the NATURAL horse eats, how it lives, socializes, moves a lot etc. etc. and she is the epitome of those descriptions. She's a real Mustang. Branded and all.

Our Mustang is as close as one gets to a ‘wild’ horse. She was a ‘wild horse’ 14 years ago in Nevada when she was captured by the BLM. Long story from then to now but suffice to say, after 6 auction houses and 5 owners before she was a long 4 year old, she came to us and here she stays – her forever, forever home. It’s been an interesting and MOST educational journey with her! 

The most interesting aspect of this journey is watching her hooves. All of the horses are now wearing the hardest hooves they’ve ever had! They’re like cement and that makes trimming them extremely difficult. They do a rather sloppy job of trimming themselves.



 But the Mustang’s hooves are near perfect!

Imagine that!

 Being the ‘cobbler’s kids’, my guys don’t get trimmed as often as they should. So I am able to watch the different effects that are caused from change in feed, weather, terrain … and while each change brings about a visual change of growth pattern in the hooves, none have been negative changes. It’s been interesting to watch them ‘trim their own hooves’ in the sand and on the coral aside from the sloppiness of "self-trimming". But, even though they might chip here and there, they do so in a balanced way!  Figure that one out. 

They all had perfectly smooth walls on their hooves UNTIL … the light bulb effect took ahold of me and I switched hay from the coastal to Timothy/Alfalfa hay. 

They were getting nutritional hay again!

And now, the tiny rings on the walls are beginning to appear telling me of the changes that took and are taking in their metabolic system.

Simply from a change in hay.  

And, now their ‘slenderness’ is slowly disappearing; their coats are brilliantly shiny and they are alert, happy, engaging, friendly, curious and even a bit cheeky. (What? Really? PENZANCE horses "cheeky"?  Oh my!) 

All from a change in hay.

See how diet DOES affect the hooves? It affects the WHOLE horse – in mind, body and spirit.

So this is, basically, just a little story to conclude the initial  ‘whys and wherefores’ of healthy horses for healthy hooves.  Of course there’s much more to it than what these short posts have shared. But hang in here with me – there will be lots more.

We’ll get specific!

Cause I want YOU to be able to help YOUR horses be the healthiest they can be. Cause when your horse is healthy in mind, body and spirit?  Then they’re gonna have healthy hooves, too.

See you next week!

Have an AWESOME weekend!   



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:



Thanks for your comments, karen. its the only thing I can think of since that was the only thing that changed was the hay. I’m glad you have good luck with your hay. guess my guys just need a bit more than what coastal has to offer. :)

Gwenyth Santagate June 19, 2016

I have fed coastal hay for 25 years with a custom vit/min mix in a little bEet pulp with flax. Many years ago i started the hay free choice in slow feed nets before it became popular. my horses look like wet seals so don’t blame the hay unless of course it was just flat out poor quality. my horses Would be too fat with an alfalfa,timothy mix. It is more important to havE the trickle feed imho and my horses agree. ?. one horse in particular had his intermit gassey colics disappear. just wanted to speak up for coastal hay. i have a wonderful supplier and my horses love it and do well on it. btw i don’t know why comments here can only be caps????

Karen June 14, 2016

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