There is a growing movement in the horse world…. as more and more people are learning about the benefits of keeping horses barefoot. Not only will it save you a bundle in shoeing costs (!), it is infinitely better for the horse for many reasons.
The horse’s hooves act as an auxiliary pumps for the circulatory system, and work by expanding and contracting as the horse moves. When a shoe is nailed to the hoof, the hoof can no longer expand and contract as is normal, which results in decreased circulation in the foot. After a while, the lack of proper circulation begins to have negative effects on the physiology of the foot structure, resulting in problems such as navicular. Yep, putting shoes on your horse can cause navicular.
(Image from Dr. Hiltrud Strasser)
This thermograph image shows a horse who has three bare feet and one with a shoe. It is quite clear from this image that the circulation has been impaired by the shoe. What do you suppose will happen after many years of cutting off circulation to the hoof?
My horses have been barefoot for about 5 years now. I am currently trail riding and foxhunting my horses barefoot! Almost any horse can build up enough of a callous on the feet to do most chores without shoes. Start off slowly, and walk them on a little pea gravel or a dirt road for a few minutes a day. Gradually increase the time walking on gravel, and the speeds. Before long, your horse will be comfortable enough on gravel to do just about anything!
For a more in-depth explaination of why barefoot is better, please check out these two wonderful websites:
Both of which offer excellent advice and information about why keeping your horses barefoot is so important.
Here is another excellent article:
How to know if your horse has problem hooves?
(Hint: Look at how he stands)
By Chrisann Ware
Equine Myofunctional Therapist, UHHGM
& Co-ordinator Equethy Barefoot Workshops (Aust.)
As an Equine Myofunctional Therapist dealing daily with equine musculo-skeletal problems and through Equethy workshops (who have now delivered hundreds of workshops all over Australia in the past seven years), I have had the pleasure to meet many horse owners who turned to barefoot rehabilitation.
The comment I hear all the time after they see the dramatic changes that occur both in hooves and bodies is “I wish I had known how to spot hoof problems earlier…. I could have helped my horse years ago instead of wasting all that time while he was getting steadily worse……I feel like such an idiot!” Read the rest of this article here.
If your horse has been diagnosed with navicular disease, or navicular changes, have a look at the website of Dr. Eby, who is doing studies involving a liquid supplement that seems to be having a positive affect on “navicular” horses.