Barefoot Horses now there's an interesting topic with so much controversy , and what do you do about it ?
First off i should say i'm all for barefoot horses , i really don't have anything against a horse having good feet and being able to go shoeless. Where i'm starting to have issue though is when i hear proponents of " The Barefoot Horse " touting , the reason for lameness and horses with foot/leg problems is due to wearing shoes. There are pros and cons on both sides of this debate , but i think a more accurate statement to Shoes being the problem should be " Incorrect Shoeing " can be a problem.
Having been a Farrier for the past almost 18 years now and seeing alot of different feet and styles of riding/shoeing i've been able to experience quite a few nuances when it comes to horses feet. The shoeing method i use was not taught me in horseshoeing school and i've not seen it mentioned in textbooks but it's produced for me 17 years of not one single lame horse due to the method. 17 years of not one lame horse is a record i think that should be looked at seriously , something is obviously being done correct. There are also some barefoot horses that are on my client list.
The other day i was sent a link from someone i shoe for directing me to one of the barefoot horse websites - my client thought i would find the site interesting , well i did find it interesting as the site had a video and it went on and on - and on - about their perspectives , really it was enough to make the head spin. You know sometimes i think the overload of information being talked about is aimed at just that "To make the head spin" as if it's part of the Hook to catch you with. I'm not going to disclose the link here because i'm not looking to be inflamatory or spread gossip, what i really want to do is just talk about how this website made me feel so you can expand your own thought processes . There was alot i couldn't fully agree with .
The very first part of their discussion of the barefoot horse had to do with where and what part of the foot should bear weight and how much weight should it bear even. This barefoot facility claims the horse should stand on it's sole more than it's hoof wall and that the hoof wall should only bear 15 % of the weight where the sole should then bear 85 %. They went on to say that by the foot bearing weight on the sole that the pressure on the sole then" challenges " / makes stronger the lamina and inside of the foot . They went on to quote some Veterinarian to back their claims . Right off the bat i had to disagree with this method . The explanation follows.
The horse can "Challenge" it's foot by just supporting it's own weight naturally without having to stand on the sole at all. If your horse is standing with 100 % weight bearing on the hoof wall / no sole contact with the ground , the foot is being challenged virtually by supporting the "Bone Column" all the way down to the coffin bone in the foot , something is holding that foot together - well it's the inside of the foot doing al the supporting of the horses weight - very challenging to the foot - very strengthening to the lamina , very promotive of blood circulation necessary for a healthy foot.
I start to get suspicious a bit when i hear barefoot horse people/proponents have to rely on quoting what someone else says - some doctor - to back their thought or ideas . As i watched this person on the video who owns the barefoot horse facility i could easily pick up the body language and the tone of voice that he himself was not sure what he was saying but merely repeating what he was taught or told, and the story went on and on from there. Personally i don't stand in the way of or disagree with challenging the foot but i just don't do it by making the horse stand on it's sole , i do it by understanding that the horse has bones and weight that are supported inside the foot challenging the foot just as much.
Interesting enough when everything was said and done this website showed their best example of a horse's foot ( photo ) and the horse was weightbearing on the hoof wall and not the sole anyway - basically contradicting themselves.
Here's where things got worse for me watching their 30 minute video. They went on to say that horses need all different types of terrain to have healthy feet so on their facility they had a road all around the facility with all different types of ground surfaces for the horse to walk on. There were logs / boulders very big boulders / sand / dirt and everything you can imagine . I found it interesting while watching the horses walking through the obstacle sourse that they weren't even walking on those strange footings but were rather walking around them . I have shod for the Saddlebred circuit where horses lived in pads on their feet their whole life and were worked only on arena soft materials and they've had some of the healthiest feet i've seen - supple - well shaped - soles and frogs that shed naturally and never a lameness.
If horses were supposto stand on their soles why do the soles shed in the first place then ? Are you following me ? Flat footed horses that stand on their soles are more prone to coffin bone fractures and stone bruising. I'm trying to keep this simple for a reason here. Shoes on horses feet are not the problem - it's INCORRECT anything when it comes to horses feet that's the problem. Having a barefoot horse sometimes is no easy task - if the horse is tender footed it's a continual process of toughening the foot then layoffs for healing and repeated conditioning and monitoring the progress , and the end result after many long months could very well be your horse is not a candate for being barefoot , if you're a serious rider or even a recreational rider that just rides several times a week you probably just don't want to spend time worrying about what the feet are doing or if the horse is going to have sore feet. Shoeing doesn't cause lameness "Incorrect" shoeing does.
Now there is a serious drawback to a horse being just barefoot as well. Most horses are pigeon toed and unless their feet line up with the knee/breakover point the horse is at risk of lameness. What can't be done with barefoot horses is have the ability to stimulate hoof growth where needed by shoe placement. Most horses that are barefoot don't have feet that are lineing up with the horses body correctly and the risk of lameness will persist. Hopefully the horse survives.
I am certainly not opposed to the proper care of horses - i have a website called www.Care4Horses.com . I believe horses should have the utmost of care and legs and feet come at the top of the list. But do i need to set up special pastures with boulders - logs - and every manner of ground surface to have a healthy horse and is the primary objective that i end up with a horse that is barefoot because that's the best for the horse ? I Think Not and my 17 years experience with not having one single lame horse to my shoeing method speaks to that.
Is the Barefoot "Movement" a Cult ? Are they leaning toward the bunny hugger type of mentality ? Was this mans Barefoot Facility of "Natural" horsemanship just another "Hook" to draw people in so he can promote and profit ? I don't really want to be the one to say - i want to show you what i know , what my experience is and i want you to have all the facts and make your own judgements , choices , and decisions for yourself.
Obviously this is a controversial subject , some horses can go barefoot some just can't . Do you want to spend months and months toughening up your horses feet probbly not . Are you lucky that you have a horse that already has tough feet and can go barefoot - i hope so . Do horses come up lame that are barefoot , of course they do. Do horse shoes ruin horses feet - not in my 18 years of experience can i say that. If you want shoes i can just say "Get them done correctly" same with Trimming only - get it done correctly.
When it's all said and done can i sit here and admit to what this Barefoot Proponent postulates that " Using horse shoes is the problem " No i cannot , i just don't find his statement to be the truth. Would i say is the Barefoot movement a cult , no but i'd be carefull who i'm following. Choices !
For more information please visit my blog at http://Farrieritis.Care4Horses.com
nearing the publishing of "Inside Horseshoeing Secrets of Lameness Prevention" ebook - i will be offering it at no cost as a download. www.Care4Horses.com
Thank you . Talk to you soon , John "The Foot Doctor" Silveira
ps. The Horse Head Hoof Pick Drawing for August - please sign up to win just leave your name and physical address at John@Care4Horses.com thank you again.