For Love of the Horse

Going Barefoot

A healthy barefoot hoof.

I read recently, an article by Carole Herder, the President of Cavallo Horse and Rider on the subject of shoes on horses.  She brought up many good points on an issue that is very controversial, although I don’t understand the controversial part…..

When a horse’s hoof hits the ground, the shock of concussion is “diffused” against the hoof wall, not transferred into the ground as this would increase concussion.  The downward pressure flattens the concave surface of the sole, distributing weight laterally against the hoof, expanding about ¼ of an inch.  The bars play an important part here.  If the hoof wall formed a continuous ring, uninterrupted by the bars, this expansion could not happen.  The frog compresses the digital cushion, then flattens and pushes lateral cartilage outward in the opposite direction and blood is then squeezed from the coronary plexus, thus giving the hoof the proper circulation it needs.   The Navicular bone transfers the load from the digital cushion, bypassing the coffin bone and going through the pastern bone.

As weight is removed, all structures “spring back” to their original position.  This is known as contraction and the combination of the expansion and contraction is important in preventing hoof injuries as well as musculoskeletal problems.

When shoes are applied, these structures are not allowed to flex freely and compensate for uneven terrain.  The shock is no longer absorbed by the hoof because the shoe does not bend or flex.  Of course, this puts greater concussion on the legs, increasing the likelihood for arthritis, injuries and inflammation.  It will also eventually cause problems with growth and strength of the hoof since circulation is GREATLY diminished.

In Carole’s article, she tells how “tradition” of shoes are hurting our horses, how shoes restrict blood flow, and how many problems can be avoided if you leave your horse barefoot, as they are meant to be.  Every single horse CAN go barefoot.  There are numerous kinds of boots and solutions to help transition your horse from shod to barefoot.  As Carole said in her article, “there is nothing better you can do for your horse’s health”.  With a few exceptions, she isn’t that far off.