There are several misconceptions when it comes to the barefoot horse. First would probably be that many believe it to be just a case of removing the shoes. Of course if that were so, we would already be in the majority with our naked hooves. But there is a big difference between being barefoot, or simply unshod. Taking a horse barefoot is a lifestyle. It requires an owner, rider or trainer to become active in their horses hoof care. It requires the right diet, movement, environment and patience - whilst a horse transitions to healthy functioning hooves. Employing a trimmer knowledgable in all this and more, or becoming educated yourself (if you wish) is the way forward. Being correctly advised on hoof boots, if and where necessary, is also important. Not all horses need them, but it very much depends on the individual and what you ask of your horse.
Another misnomer is that certain breeds can never go barefoot. Thoroughbreds in particular are renowned for having poor hooves. This is not so much the believed genetics, and far more so the management of them. Shod from a very early age and fed high starch and sugar diets does their hooves no favors at all. Given the right diet, exercise and trim, TB`s can go barefoot, like any other breed.
Saying a competition horse, a performance horse, can not go barefoot is completley untrue, yet much bandied around as a reason for keeping a horse shod. You will learn just a small handful of the many hundreds of top level performance horses now enjoying barefoot health, at my presentation and on my Level 1 Whole Horse Protocol course.
A huge disbelief is that pathologies like navicular or founder can not be resolved without shoes. Not only can they be resolved without shoes, but the results are quicker and better. Again, addressing the diet, environment and the trim is the route to take. Having a feeling of deja vú now? Navicular and founder are more often symptoms of bad diet, management and erroneous hoof care.
A misconception is that farriers are more knowledgeable than barefoot trimmers continues to be given air time. No doubt there are good and bad in both camps. But most trimmers have studied not only hooves and their anatomy, but also pathologies, biomechanics, the modern options available to protect hooves in this day and age, and also nutrition, saddle fit, rider biomechanics, bodywork and more. Those that haven’t ventured so far more often than not work alongside an equine nutritionist or osteopath, for example. You will also find your trimmer will encourage you to become better informed about your horses hooves, if you haven`t already done so. As I stated earlier, this is a lifestyle, and one that very much involves the owner being on board.
On the subject of the farrier, there is also a big difference between a farrier trim, or pasture trim, and a natural balance barefoot trim. A farrier learns to prepare a hoof for a shoe, and unless they have specifically learnt a barefoot trim, even if they are not going to shoe the foot they still trim as though that is the case. This usually involves thinning the sole, removing calloused material, lowering the walls to the same height as the sole and cutting large pieces of insensitive frog.
Finally the price difference between shoeing and barefoot trimming is a big subject of conjecture. You may well find that experienced trimmers charge more than a farrier would for a trim. But the work and knowledge involved is a world apart, and it will save you money in the long term. Barefoot horses have correctly managed diets and are therefore far less likely to suffer a colic or laminitis. They are much less prone to odd lameness issues as their cartilages, tendons and ligaments develop more integrity and strength than their shod brothers. The more prevalent diseases in these modern times like Cushings and other Insulin related issues are far less likely to affect a barefoot horse.
As the title implies, this really is only the tip of the iceberg, or the apex of the frog (!), when it comes to the Whole Horse Protocol. If you would like to assist the presentation held at Agro Jardin, Estepona, Málaga, on February 7th at 5pm, please call the center or contact us here to confirm your attendance. It is free, and a great opportunity for an equestrian shopping fix, or garden supplies, as it is the most complete Garden store in the area.