Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Why Barefoot?"

Howdy Folks,

I had a catchier title in mind, but by golly "Why Barefoot" seems to ask the most important question. The answer is of course, it's best for the horse. There you go. That's it. I could stop there and have my shortest blog-post ever, but you know me so I'll go on a bit. First I need to thank my mentor, Diane Sept for opening my mind to the health benefits and well being of allowing horses to go barefoot. The health benefits you might ask? How can a hoof, unprotected by a steel or aluminum shoe be healthy for a horse? I'll give a few thoughts as I've learned them over the years.
narrow weak frog in shod foot
nice big healthy frog in barefoot horse
Nutrients and blood flow. By design the blood flow through the hoof - and leg, tendons and muscles for that matter - is aided by the natural expansion and contraction of the hoof as it contacts and raises off the ground. Contact causes expansion of the hoof, lifting allows contraction. Think of it as a syringe sucking up fresh blood loaded with oxygen and nutrients as you pull back the plunger, and then squirting out the stale blood loaded with toxins and depleted of oxygen as you depress the plunger, sending it back through the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs to be refreshed, cleansed and oxygen enriched to begin the cycle all over again ... Nailing shoes on the hoof greatly retards the ability of the hoof to perform this all necessary and vital function by preventing the hoof from expanding and contracting properly ... That's why you see hooves that look flaky and full of tiny cracks, frogs that are narrow, misshapen and weak. And soles that are hard, cracked and lifeless. These hooves are STARVED for nutrients and loaded with toxins they have no way of shedding because the hoof cannot operate as designed ... I suppose these poor starved, lifeless hooves are the reason for the huge industry out there of feed supplements for healthy hooves (which can hardly get there anyway if the hoof pump isn't working) and the products to paint and smear on the hoof to make the flakes and cracks go away, or hide them. Why not simply remove the shoes so the horse can heal its hooves without all those chemicals and save you money, too?

unhealthy shod foot, high heel, wrong angle
pretty barefoot hoof, good angle, good length
Shape of the hoof.  There is simply no way for a hoof to enjoy the healthy confirmation it was designed to have with a shoe nailed, or glued to it. For one thing, when farriers prepare a hoof for a shoe they file the bottom of the walls flat. Horses' hoof walls are not flat on the bottom by natural design; they have an arch, much like our own foot. The toe and heel of the hoof wall will touch the ground while the center of the hoof wall will be slightly raised, only touching the ground as the hoof is in motion. This natural action and flexing is greatly harmed by the restriction of the shoe, causing the foot to smack the ground more like a club than a graceful dancer's foot. 

Shape of the hoof, continued. Typically shod hooves have longer, or higher heals, and too often longer toes than is healthy for the horse. These incorrect and unhealthy conditions greatly change the angle of the pastern, ankle, leg and shoulder causing discomfort and excessive wear and tear on many other joints and muscles throughout the body ... Of course there's another entire industry out there ready to take your money and pollute your horse's bloodstream with supplements for stiff joints and achy muscles. Why not give nature a try first through healthy hooves? 

Horses see with their feet. Yes that's right. Horses have a wonderful way of seeing the ground through their hooves, which is why when you ride a barefoot horse, stumbling, missteps and over reaching are rare things indeed. With shoes nailed to the feet, and blood flow restricted, it's like tying a blindfold on their feet. They really just don't know where their own feet are and are compensating with other senses not designed to focus so heavily on foot placement. 

Shock absorption. The hoof is the primary instrument of shock absorption for the entire horse's body. Through natural flexing, expansion and contraction the hoof absorbs the shock of the hoof striking the ground. The shoe not only prohibits that natural and vital function, but it instantly sends the shock up through the body where it must be absorbed by joints, bones, muscles and tendons not designed as shock absorbers, causing excessive wear and tear, and pain ... There is though, that helpful industry out there to sell you supplements and pain medicine for your horse, caused by that shock transference. And there's even "Corrective Shoeing" available for helping with those injuries. For me, "Corrective Shoeing" feels like an oxymoron. 

Traction. A healthy hoof has a wide, long frog offering its support to both shock absorption and traction. Healthy hooves will grip the ground and snow very effectively. And you won't have those snowballs forming inside the steel shoe. I submit even on paved road the natural, healthy hoof has wonderful traction, and in years past I too believed you needed shoes with borium or studs to travel safely on paved roads. I will tell you that is not the case, barefoot horses can and do travel safely and sure footed on paved roads.

So, "Why Barefoot?" … I still think the best answer to that question is, "it's best for the horse." Please join us tomorrow for some helpful thoughts on how to make the transition from shod to barefoot.


Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 
Please also read - "How Can I Transition to Barefoot?"

17 comments:

  1. Eye-opening and thought-provoking post, Dutch. I hope this will help many "see with new eyes" the vital benefits of going barefoot.

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  2. Hi Dutch
    Thanks so much for doing this article! I went barefoot about 12 years ago. It was tricky as not all barefoot trimmers do a good job. I actually took classes to learn it myself. One thing I have seen is the thermal photos showing a horse with shoes and one without comparison. The horse with shoes just comes up dark in the feet region, so no heat, no blood flow... how could that be good? People often say, "well, I put shoes on and he went sound." But that is because the horse went numb and couldnt feel the pain. Take the shoe off you are right back where you started. Kind of what I have heard people say about prozac...LOL. Anyway, barefoot is the way to go. And there are now people doing barefoot steeple jumping, barefoot dressage and barefoot barrell racing... the endurance people have been going barefoot for years as they HAVE to have a sound horse... thanks again

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    1. Thanks Marta! You make great points here! I'll touch on a little tomorrow.

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  3. AMEN! Also, when the farrier (a dirty word IMO) nails the shoe on, the hoof is in the air and therefore at its smallest. When the hoof goes back to the ground, it can't expand. Like Joe Camp says, "No shoes, no stalls, no sugar!"

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    1. Thanks Robynne! .. Gotta love Joe Camp!

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  4. The day I bought my horse, the first thing I did was take his shoes off and went barefoot with him. Here are the before and after pictures.

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150135342635757.335295.572750756&type=1&l=62ec6f3bdd

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  5. good stuff Dutch

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    1. Thanks Diane! ... Thank you for all you taught me! Thank you for all you do to help others! Horses & Humans.

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  6. Hey Dutch,
    I don't know you but you have written the truth about hoofs. Could not have said it better myself. Just wish more would allow their horses to enjoy the feel of their feet.

    Charlie Piccione
    Natural Performance Hoof Care
    Washington NJ

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    1. Thanks For all you do to help spread the word on true horse health, Charlie!

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  7. I musta missed this blog post when I was sick. Love it! Must share with the folks I know. I couldn't agree more! Thanks for sharing this wonderful information.

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    1. Thrilled you found it, Mitzy!! .. This is so important to the horses ... Yes PLEASE share and ask all your friends to follow Coffee Clutch for more conversations! THANKS ~ Dutch

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  8. I must have missed this blog post when I was sick. Thank you for summing up all this great information in one post. :) I need to share this with my friends.

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