NO HOOF, NO HORSE, NO RIDE

soon to be published with photographs and on the newsagent shelves: The Australian Endurance Manual….

NO HOOF, NO HORSE – NO ENDURANCE RIDE!

Commiserations to those who have had to postpone their goals and dreams because of a hoof related issue on their endurance horse.

 

Some horse people have a gift for recognizing that something is not right in their horse. Some can pick lameness, some are really talented at identifying those tiny issues in a horse’s giddy-up that most of us don’t even notice — until they develop into something more serious.

 

Not everybody is blessed with special powers so this article is aimed to highlight some common hoof issues that hinder the kilometer crunching success of the ENDURANCE HORSE.

 

 

The hoof is a window to a horse’s health; like a barometer to gauge what’s going on. It’s a handy skill to be able to learn to read the hoof and pinpoint problems yourself and deal with them before you call your hoof care provider and your vet and hand over your hard won money.

 

DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS YOU CAN USE

 

If you head out to the paddock with your saddle and uh oh your horse is lame, don’t jump straight onto facebook.

Take the time to study your equine friend. Your powers of observation and intuition are valuable.

 

 

  1. Observation – Look for signs of pain. Look at your horse’s eye. This can tell you a lot about his attitude. Watch your horse from a distance. How does it stand? Watch it move. Horses that trip, land toe first, take short strides, forge or display any number of gait abnormalities may be moving this way because of pain. If something is hard to pick up video the horse with the slow motion feature in your phone. Get down at ground level, in this way you can pick up any inconsistencies in foot balance. You may find the horse is landing toe first on one hoof, which could be indicating caudal heel pain. Examples of this are from Thrush or Navicular.

The key to picking up abnormal issues is to know what is “normal” for your horse. Then abnormal really jumps out at you.

 

2 Hoof Assessment – pick up the hooves and examine them carefully. The aim is to evaluate balance, look for symmetry and any abnormalities or pathologies.

 

So how do you access balance in a hoof? There is so much controversy regarding how a healthy hoof is supposed to look but balance is one secret to lifelong soundness and maximum performance.

  • Look for symmetry of the hairline along the coronary band and symmetry of the heel bulbs.
    In a healthy hoof the hairline slopes in a straight line from the dorsal wall to the heel when viewed from the side.
  • Frog alignment – a healthy frog is broad, level with the heels and usually has a leathery appearance. The frog should be approx. 2/3 length of the hoof.
  • The hoof pastern axis – assess the axis of the hoof in relation to the pastern. Draw an imaginary line through the foot and the pastern parallel to the front of the hoof wall. It should be roughly straight. This “superman vision” method can give you a general idea of bone alignment in the lower limb. Good alignment is important for biomechanical efficiency in the endurance horse.
  • Straight hoof wall is a good indicator of balance and health. A hoof wall should not show flaring or bulging nor be decorated with rings. In a healthy hoof the wall is smooth and often shiny.
  • Medial lateral balance gives you an estimate of how level the pedal bone sits with in the hoof capsule. To assess this stand in front of the horse and look at hoof straight on. Second, look at the hoof from behind. Crouch down to look for balance of the heel bulbs. On a horses with great conformation and balanced hooves this will look symmetrical from both angles.
  • Look at the white line in the hoof? Ideally you want to see a tight white line. Note: its never white but honey coloured. A white line that is stretched, or stained with blood, has cavities or black spots should set off your “alarm bells” that there is a problem.
  • Look at the sole – good quality sole should be hard and shiny and if you palpate or press on it, it shouldn’t flex. Horses who suffer with thin soles and are tender footed, will have very shallow collateral grooves at the apex of the frog, very little concavity in the hoof and you may be able to flex the sole at the apex of the frog when you press with your thumbs.
  • A plump digital cushion can be a great indicator of a strong, well-developed caudal hoof. Get hands on and feel it. Is it plump like a squash ball or does your horse’s digital cushion feel like a soggy sponge that creates frog movement when you squish it?

 

 

UNDERSTANDING BALANCE

 

 

There is no question that strong balanced hooves are one of the most important features of the longevity in an endurance athlete.

These horse’s hooves must be able to withstand the continual concussion and pounding sustained during years of training and competition.

Hooves that are compromised are not going to cope with the punishment of endurance competition.

As outlined above hoof balance is a multidimensional concept and there are many more ways to assess it. The ultimate challenge of good hoof care and maintaining healthy, functional balanced hooves is working with each horse as an individual and recognizing what is balance and soundness for your horse.

 

 

 

Back to diagnostic tools we can use….

 

  1. Palpation: one of the handiest things we have, excuse the pun, are our hands. Feel, poke and prod your horse’s hooves. Feel for heat and swelling. Run your hands down your horses legs to feel the tendons, lateral cartilages and squeeze the digital cushion, palpate along the coronary band. Your horse should not be reactive to this unless you find something out of the ordinary.

 

  1. Feeling the Digital Pulse – This is the best diagnostic tool you can use. It rates highly with your stethoscope and thermometer for monitoring your horse’s vital signs. It’s important to learn where it is and how to feel it.

A strong bounding digital pulse is always indicative of inflammation and pain. The most common causes of this are abscessing and laminitis.

 

  1. Use your nose – Pathologies in the hoof usually emit a bad smell. Don’t be scared to take a whiff to identify when something is not normal. Thrush, seedy toe, abscesses and infections tend to have a foul stench.

 

 

 

RECOGNISING AND TREATING COMMON HOOF PATHOLOGIES

Some of the common hoof pathologies an endurance horse suffers:

 

 

UNBALANCED HOOVES – This happens because most people don’t get their horses shod or trimmed regularly enough. The hoof is continually growing – approximately a 1cm a month. Often on an endurance horse the rate of growth is a lot faster because they are in work. Movement stimulates growth.

Ideally a horse should be shod every 3 to 4 weeks.

So the negatives with unbalanced hooves is they begin to distort. Long toes, under run heels, upright hooves, contracted heels, flaring hoof walls, medial lateral imbalances. These can progress to biomechanical changes and body issues.

Carl ODwyer, one of Australia’s renowned farriers and shoe manufacturers offers strong advice to owners to give horses some time out of shoes, “Horses need time without shoes to heal from the damage that metal shoes can cause.”

 

 

 

 

HOOF RINGS

In a well managed horse with its work load, nutrition, minerals and lifestyle all in harmony, the hoof wall should be smooth with no distortions. A common warning sign of internal dysfunction is wavy growth rings. These ridges offer important clues. Based on hoof growth of approximately 1 cm a month from the coronary band, you can estimate when the stress occurred.

Any rings in the face of the hoof wall is an indication of change. This could represent a change in the horses lifestyle, workload, environment, diet, travel, seasonal and weather changes and even the result of the last endurance ride.

If the rings are coupled with a stretched white line is a sign it has suffered from laminitis.

 

HORIZONTAL CRACKS in the hoof wall – These rings indicate an inflammation from too much concussion. This is a big issue that faces endurance horse and in severe cases will grow down with a yawning cavity. These changes warrant radiographs to determine if there is underlying problems in the pedal bone. It highlights the hoof needs more shock absorption properties to withstand concussive rides so consider riding with pads or hoof boots.

 

 

SEEDY TOE – WHITE LINE DISEASE (different name, same thing)

This bacteria or fungi looks for a little cavity or separation in the white line or laminae and then proceeds to party and proliferate.

Initially this does not cause lameness because it involves the insensitive tissues. But lameness can occur when muck packs into the crevice and results in an infection. Lameness also occurs when the ground forces cause the disconnected wall to flare out and tear the sensitive tissues. In bad cases it can spread from the toe to the coronary band.

Seedy toe has the appearance of black paste or is sometimes crumbly grey muck. If you excavate the hole it can be tiny to huge depending on how long it has been left untreated.

 

HOW TO TREAT

  • Excavate the muck out and chase every bit of the black out.
  • Treat with antifungal applications
  • The only way to resolve the problem is to grow down a better connected hoof capsule and this will most likely mean you revisit your feed regime to include a balanced mineral plan. First step with hoof care, is to trim the wall back and apply a beveled edge. This may be enough to grow the infected wall out.
  • If it fails to improve, then it may be necessary to perform a resection and expose it to the air.
  • Treating agents are numerous. Tea-tree oil, iodine, watered down bleach or copper sulphate or apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle
  • If it’s difficult for you to treat daily, pack the crevice with a blend of copper sulfate crystals and Vaseline. Jam it in with cotton balls using your hoof pick.

 

Seedy toe should not be ignored!

 

It is also possible for stones to lodge in these holes, and contrary to popular belief these are an effect of the stretched white line not a cause.

It’s not possible for stones and debris to penetrate a healthy tight white line, because when the laminae connection is healthy, it is tightly bonded to the internal structure and there are no holes.

 

Once seedy toe has invaded the hoof, the horse will be at greater risk of suffering from abscesses. The cavities can be an easy route via which infection can attack.

 

 

 

HOOF ABSCESSING
The classic signs your horse is suffering with an abscess is lameness, pointing one hoof, unwilling to weight load the hoof, a bounding digital pulse and heat in that hoof.

 

They are extremely painful for the horse. Sometimes your horse may be mildly lame on and off for sometime before the abscess becomes acute. Sometimes the lower leg will swell severely giving the impression your horse has broken his leg.

But in any case it’s the “thumbs down -no go” for showing up at the endurance event that weekend.

Abscesses can develop from bruising and trauma to the sole, from a nail puncture, seedy toe infection or through separation at the white line.

As dirt and manure pack into the defect, infection develops. Pressure from the build up of pus beneath the wall causes the pain and lameness.

They are particularly common following periods of wet weather.

 

Abscesses can blow out at the sole, called a sub solar abscess or they follow the track of least resistance and pop out at the heel bulb or along the coronary band. Once the pressure is relieved lameness immediately subsides.

 

IDENTIFYING WHERE AN ABSCESS IS BREWING

 

It is sometimes possible to identify a smoldering abscess by palpating along the heel bulbs and coronary band to elicit a reaction from your horse. They will be certain to let you know when it’s sore to poke. Similarly, if you investigate the sole and use the end of your hoof pick to push around you may source the “spot.”

 

Identification of the exact location of a sub-solar abscess allows a veterinarian to pare it out from the bottom of the sole before the infection migrates through the soft tissues of the foot. A word of warning: trying to relieve an abscess by digging holes in the sole is effective if you can pin point exactly where it lies but it can risk opening up routes for further bacterial infection and the subsequent down time for recovery is a lot longer than if your horse releases it naturally with the help of a poultice.

 

 

HOW TO TREAT:

 

Movement is vital for an abscess to exit as quickly as possible so don’t confine your horse. Let him out with his herd buddies and the movement helps prevent swelling of the lower leg.

 

 

A brewing hoof abscess responds well to hoof soaks in Epsom Salts or with a Poultice of Epsom salts. Poultice kits can be sourced or can be made simply with a plastic shopping bag, duct tape, cotton wool or nappy and epsom salts and water. (PHOTO)

YouTube footage: to make a hoof poultice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyI_1jmaVo0

 

 

You can rely on your detective nose to recognize when the abscess has burst. It smells disgusting. Apply another poultice to protect the abscess hole from dirt and manure. It will also encourage the abscess to drain.

 

 

If an abscess bursts around the coronary band, this will grow out as a defect in the hoof wall.

Sub-solar abscess can result in the sole coming away or separating which can freak people out. Its best to leave as much of the old sole to protect the tender new sole underneath.

 

 

 

THRUSH (photo)

 

If your horse is sensitive in the central sulcus of the frog and you can smell or see a stinking black discharge, it may well have a thrush infection.

Your nose can also confirm a thrush infection. It stinks!

Equine thrush is caused by anaerobic bacteria (living without oxygen) that, when trapped in moisture, can create an infection that slowly eats away at the horse’s hoof tissue, particularly the frog area. Most of the time this will create some mild discomfort, but as long as it is addressed quickly it rarely does anything more. If thrush is untreated, it can eventually make its way into the sensitive areas of the frog invading and even bi-focating the digital cushion deep inside.

 

Thrush has the potential to cause a change in the horse’s biomechanics

Pain from the back of the hoof causes the horse to land on its toes and if this continues it can have a devastating impact on the Navicular region within the hoof capsule.

 

Thrush results from moist and unhygienic conditions. A horse standing in manure, rotten hay or mud encourages it to thrive.

 

HOW TO TREAT

  • Thrush is preventable with good hygiene. Pick out the hooves daily.Medicate the bottom of hoof with something that kills bacteria- this needs to be done daily. Iodine, copper sulphate products or do a daily soak of Lysol concentrate (mix as per directions) or an Apple cider vinegar soak

 

(The picture to the right is the left fore hoof of a horse showing central sulcus thrush evidenced by the deep crevice between the heel bulbs, and also along one of the collateral grooves. PHOTO)

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  • For Thrush in the deep central sulcus of the frog, use an antibacterial hand wipe and clean out the crevice using the same action as you would using dental floss.

You can then pour iodine and plug the crevice with cotton wool. Check out footage on the Wild about Hooves Facebook page on treating thrush. It’s easy. But you must be diligent.

  • Other successful strategies include This is a 50/50 combination of Triple Antibiotic Ointment and Athletes Foot Cream in a catheter tip syringe squeezed into the central sulcus.

Warning: Do not tolerate deep crevices in the frog sulcus! If you lose sight of your hoof pick up there – this is a concern.                                                              Battling thrush is a two pronged approach. Antifungal treatments are important but the second essential is to improve hoof health. Provide you horse stimulating well drained environments to live. If your horse lives in wet climates they need time on dry ground. Providing the correct diet and mineral balance will encourage healthy hoof growth and immunity.

 

NOTE TO YOURSELF:

 

Horse owners rarely give themselves enough credit for their own intuition. The time you spend with your horse clocking up the kilometres, you know better than anyone when your horse doesn’t feel right.

LISTEN TO YOUR HORSE

Take responsibility for educating yourself on good hoof care. The more you learn the better equipped you are to make decisions for your horse.

Hoof issues can be avoided by being in tune and getting onto problems before they become a serious set back.

After all, no hoof, no horse, no ride.

 

Wild About Hooves – Wild Adventures

Our role as hoof care educators and horse lovers certainly takes us to far away locations.

Our aim is to inspire education, and create a world wide ripple effect of hoof care and horse keeping awesomeness. Inevitably we are always on the move responding to demand Australia wide for workshops in hoof care.

Business has also seen us travel abroad, teaching hoof care workshops around New Zealand, lecturing to Vets & Farriers in Japan at Tokyo University, pulling shoes & fitting out a tourism team in hoof boots in Bali and teaching workshops to the local Indonesian Vets.

Travel is an Adventure.

Real adventure – to us, is a willingness to jump out of our comfort zone, to be self-motivated, but self less, to test our endurance and be adaptable and ever ready to embrace the moment. There is no doubt its often risky – travelling forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world.

The world the way it is, not the way we imagine it.

We are pinching ourselves about our latest adventure in hoof care, just to see if it really happened.   We went to the remote Indonesian island of Sumba.

A place we couldn’t even locate on our world globe.

A place that seemed to have missed time.

A place that seemed like it was straight out of the movie set of Tarzan

We ventured forth with www.globetrotting.com.au to road-test a horse ride at the “worlds best” resort, Nihiwatu and we were keen to meet the tropical, tough-nut Sumba ponies who are at the core of Sumba culture.

SUMBA is as pure, basic and original as you can get. We got to experience the ancient culture, primitive villages and mind boggling traditions edged by the stunning beaches, sprawling rainforest and “knock you dead” resort comforts.

A real juxtaposition for our senses.

The locals live a simple lifestyle that is hard for us to comprehend.

Let me tell you about our draw card to the island, the Sumbanese Pony. These hard little ponies have a “bring it on” attitude, descended from Mongolia who are revered on the island and a sign of wealth to their villagers. They are still a main mode of transport, a dowry for weddings, and a sympathy gift to grieving families at funerals.

These horses were so prized by early colonial powers in fighting their wars that the Navy had special ships built to buy and transport Sumba horses. They were paid for in gold sovereigns, which were melted down and fashioned into jewelry and ritual ornaments, which are still about today.

I wonder what my Dad would have considered my worth in Sumba ponies on the eve of my wedding to Jeremy. I trust he would have requested a herd.

Anyways, the Sumba pony HOOVES that we saw, were a sight to behold. Hoof porn for the hoof enthusiast or as the Indonesians say, “Bagus” meaning good, beautiful, dandy, or exemplary.

We were not surprised to see they are naturally worn, tough and compact and capable of tackling all terrain. They even sounded like coconuts on the pavement, concaved, balanced and rhythmic. Just as you would imagine on a hardy wild horse.

On our adventure exploring Sumba, our fine Niwiwatu based steeds charged us through rice paddies, slippery mud slopes of rainforest, past mud wallowing buffalos, busy chickens, barking dog packs, grunting pigs, through villages of laughing children and betel nut chewing adults. They marched through the surf with not a care in the world as waves crashed on them.    They endured my squeals of delight and my screams of terror.

They showcased their extraordinary island and the islands culture from their sturdy backs.

“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” – Freya Stark

Their relaxed island mentality was contagious. As we sipped on cocktails at the bar at sunset we gained a greater appreciation of just what a world they wanted us to slip into. A grand life of simplicity, with no complication of rules, law, technology, time pressures, but ever ready to slip into colorful costumes and take their place on the battlefield.

On the topic of warfare, the most spectacular ritual of the Sumba culture is the PASOLA. It is a contest where hundreds of warriors on horseback fight opposing tribes with wooden spears. These horsemen are highly skilled at riding fast and hurling a spear at the same time. They can throw a spear with the greatest of accuracy and cause not only injury but also death to each other.

The primary purpose of the Pasola is blood shed.

I know, I know, this is pure madness in our western society.

According to ancient beliefs, the spilled blood, will fertilize the land and result in a bountiful harvest. Any bloodshed including animal sacrifices or men wounded or killed during the Pasola is considered to be a symbol of future prosperity

What’s crazy about the date of the Pasola Festival is that it is not set in concrete calendar terms. The date differs each year according to the moon and the arrival of worms! When the Nyale worms spawn on the beaches, this is the sign for the Marupu Priests to announce the time of the Passola – that is, seven nights after the full moon.

So folks keen to be amongst this festival, you need to be slightly impulsive in the month of February. www.globetrotting.com.au will bring international awareness to Sumba. Riding on horse back breaks down all cultural barriers and the world can be viewed so very differently from between the ears of a horse.

The Sumba pony will show and share its island culture to anyone with a mind open enough.

Its time to get there now, places like this are fast vanishing from the world.

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Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

 

 

 

 

A question for you.

Are we becoming Farriers?

The extraordinary relationship between humans and the horse has been running since well before the birth of Christ. Indeed there is evidence our domestication of horses goes as far back as 3500 BC. And ever since we recognised the utilitarian value of the horse; there has been the horseshoe.

The use of horseshoes has become an almost unquestioned tradition. Humans have been nailing shoes onto horses’ hooves for well over a thousand years. Who can remember back to a time otherwise?

In this day and age, why do we continue to use metal shoes and now newer, higher tech composite versions nailed on horse’s hooves? Is it to the detriment or benefit of the horse or benefit to the human? Why our allegiance with traditional practices?

To fully understand this debate, we need to delve back into the history books to see why our ancestors deemed it necessary to shoe their horses.

The precise historical origins of shoeing remain unclear but current research suggests that as early as 500BC, the early Mongolians put primitive boots made of animal hide and woven plant material onto their horses. Around 100AD the Romans, inventors of the first paved roads, created the ‘hipposandal’ similar to the sandals they wore themselves, made of leather and iron and attached to the hoof by straps. These early boots would almost certainly have been used to prevent soreness and the rapid wear of the hoof due to the increased work- loads that the horses of the time would have been placed under.

Travelling to the colder and wetter climes of Europe, horses would have suffered a new problem. A combination of the natural porosity of the hoof, consistently wet ground and poor stabling in its’ own waste, would have overly softened the hoof leading to soundness disorders.

Horses had become as indispensable as the car is to us now. Owners needed them to be serviceable at all times. Strap on boots in the materials available at the time wouldn’t have lasted very long. A more secure and reliable shoe was needed.

Enter the ‘modern’ nailed horseshoe. Around 600AD the first nailed horseshoes were made of soft brass, eventually giving way to the by now, increasingly plentiful iron. By the time of the Crusades, no self-respecting Knight going into battle would be seen without them. Hot horse-shoeing became popular in Europe in the 16th century as a means of quickly bedding a shoe into the hoof. Apart from the more recent lightweight aluminum versions used in racing, the horseshoes’ design has changed very little in the last 1400 years

So if a nailed on shoe allows the hoof to last longer, provide more grip, prevent soreness and has the added bonus of helping you win the odd battle, why was there an advocate for change?

This was based on the growing evidence, backed by anecdotal and reasonable scientific fact that nailed on shoes have the potential to cause considerable harm to a horse. Horse shoes do damage. With negative physical changes to the hoof and body.

Change was based on the fact that times were different. With the advent of the internal combustion engine and mechanization, the horse has been relegated from indispensable beast of burden and essential mode of transport to one of almost purely, sporting pleasure. Probably much to the appreciation of many a horse.

Change was also based on increased knowledge, observation of wild horses and a fundamental social awareness of “animal welfare”. The horse now had “intrinsic” value rather than utilitarian. They no longer pull vast loads in carts and the last armored knights haven’t been seen since the middle-ages. Save perhaps for the odd Hollywood epic. In fact most horses are kept, destined for a life in paddocks. Their hooves barely ever getting a chance of being worn down on man made roads.

So there has been a growing movement both here and overseas to see a return to barefoot horses through the promotion of ‘natural hoof-care’.

Natural hoof care gains its’ inspiration from the wild horse. Like the Australian brumby, the American mustangs, the wild ponies of Mongolia, even the humble Zebra. All run freely and without pain over the roughest of terrains without the need for any hoof protection. Hoof disorders that plague their domestic cousins are virtually unknown to them

Jeremy Ford of Wild About Hooves has been a conventional farrier. As part of his job he had come into contact with wild brumbies in the outback of Northern Territory. What astonished him was the amazing condition of their hooves, the distances they were travelling for food and water. Not a shoe in sight.

So can our domestic horse be trimmed to emulate the natural wear of the wild? Yes it can! Ford attended a hoof care clinic run by American farrier, Pete Ramey.

“It got me thinking. Shoes seemed so unnecessary. What the old farriers in the game told me about founder, softness, wear, bruising – the information at the clinic turned it all on its head. I’m now a professional hoof trimmer and have been for the past 15 years. I have hung up my hammer, stored the anvil and have a great business specializing in natural hoof care and education”

When describing the evolution of his business, Ford notes “The bonus is – because the owner can now take responsibility of their horse’s hooves, especially with increased education, they get a much better rapport with their horse and take more responsibility for their horse’s wellbeing”.

Owner’s interest in their horse’s hooves has escalated exponentially in the last 20 years.

This now means Farrier Schools and Magazines are encouraging the Farriers to embrace and work with the barefoot clientele and recognize them as a growing segment of the equine owning population. To not, means they lose a market share and missed economic opportunities. Farriers are skilled with the tools; some keen to evolve with the times and learn the technique and principles of the natural trim, and gain an understanding of the myriad of hoof boots.

But what is truly interesting, is that whilst Natural hoof care is becoming more mainstream there is a new emerging market returning to shoeing with composite shoes under various new labels within the “barefoot” realm. Composite shoes are headlining the hoof care industry for performance and rehabilitation.

Therefore, are we evolving or just going full circle? Is history repeating itself as we increase reliance on using hoof protection on horses – plastic, poly or the metal kind? The horse in our day and age has so much at their fingertips.

It begs the question – why are we returning to shoes?

Are we going back to shoes because of poor trimmers? Is the shoe just used as a band-aid?

Are the poor sedentary, obese lifestyles of our horses not unlike our own – causing poor hooves?

Are we not following through with the underlying principle of the “natural horse”?

There seems to be diametrically opposed philosophies with individual practitioners and how they view their role in the hoof care realm. Some are driven by tradition; others on instinct or gut feel following a “deep green” philosophy, and others simply by what they see as common sense.

The reliance on metal, plastic or composite shoes – is in direct contrast to the philosophies held by the “pure” natural hoof care practitioners.

If we look at the human health industry, few folks rely on alternative medical practitioners. We no longer let healing run its course, we are too impatient. We dislike having to take responsibility for our longer term health if there is an easier fix that requires less effort. If we have the flu, we shuffle to the doctor which will almost always guarantee a course of antibiotics. If we think we can take a multi vitamin versus making the effort of changing our diets, we pop a pill.

Dr Neal Valk, US Veterinary Surgeon and Natural Hoof Care Practitioner draws a parallel “We live in an age where people want a pill to treat for type 2 diabetes, not a menu or an exercise program.” Natural Hoof care is based on the premise of a holistic approach for the horse: its environment, its diet, it exercise and ability to move, the capabilities of healthy, sound bare hooves, how to recognize damage already done to the hoof and where possible, respect its natural ability to heal.

If the typical horse owner needs to rehabilitate their much loved steed, just as they would their own child, they want a quick fix, anxious for results.

Our current “instant gratification” society does not allow for Doctor Time in the paddock, for rehabilitation and healing to take place.

However, it is the horse owner, the client, that governs the hoof care industry. Decisions are made on capitalist driven marketing, the rules and regulations of equine events and most importantly, peer pressure. Humans are social creatures who need to follow others to belong.

And we now see that natural hoof care practitioners are filling their tool boxes with shoes for instant fixes, the latest gadgets and gizmos and prepped with a sales spiel whilst perhaps not looking at the long term picture.

There is growing dissension afoot. From the paddocks of the well-heeled thoroughbreds to the humblest pony club, bold voices are asking questions.

Is the natural hoof care industry becoming so large and competitive that it has lost it’s original purpose? Is it possible, in this era of fast paced lifestyles and owners with expectations to be at the next equine event, cannot allow the time it takes for natural hoof care to succeed?

Is hoof care merging or will the barefoot versus shod camp segregate further?

Are natural hoof care practitioners just becoming farriers?

If natural hoof care practitioners truly believe that nailing on horse shoes is detrimental to the long term soundness and welfare of horses then “history shows us that the only time the cycles of suffering, cycles of inherited thinking are broken – is when someone has the courage to take a stand and say in a loud clear voice, ‘we are better than this’”. Wise words quoted from Lyn White, Australia’s foremost animal activist.