Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"The Barefoot Paradigm"

Howdy Folks,

On Monday our Coffee Clutch was "Going Barefoot-Sometimes A Touchy Subject," and it surely can be, for the horses, their people and friends. I'm a supporter of the barefoot paradigm, not any surprise to folks who know me. But what is the barefoot Paradigm? I can only speak for myself, as I'm always ready to do. (That was supposed to make you smile.)

To me, the barefoot paradigm is about the whole horse. It's really a way of life. I believe it embraces the holistic approach to living with, loving, and enjoying horses. Do as little as possible that might upset the natural life style of the horse. Every horse caregiver has limitations; financial, geographic, time, conditions, housing, the list goes on. There are always decisions to make, some easy, some challenging. If we make those decisions from the horse's perspective those decisions can often be made less challenging. Many times decisions made by horse caregivers' are made for, and by, the human's perspective – Which can be in contradiction with the barefoot paradigm.

Much of what I consider the barefoot paradigm is really simply good horse sense. What are the most important things to keeping a horse happy, healthy and thriving? We'll not get into why I think pounding nails through a living tissue isn't healthy or happy, but to quote, Dr. Thomas Teskey, "You can't nail a shoe on without doing damage to the lamina." And the lamina is pretty important to the hoof.
Kessy loves to romp in her playground
The barefoot paradigm is not only about yanking shoes, or never putting them on, it's about a lifestyle that promotes total health, as close to the natural state that our equine friends thrive on as possible for the caregiver to provide. We don't all have large sparsely grassed acreage for them to romp free on. But we can, say no to stalls, and yes to run-ins on as large a lot as possible. And we can make that lot resemble wide open spaces by placing our, water and "slow hay feed nets," here and there encouraging movement. We can add obstacles or even allow trees and brush to add a little dimension to our horses' wanderings. Free and roaming movement is paramount to the health of a horses' hoof, and the entire horse. 

We can say no to grain, and create a healthy all forage diet. We can test our hay so we know what if any high quality supplements are needed. We can sprinkle fresh vegetables on the hay bags, for fun and nutrients. I'll not talk here about vaccinations, perhaps I never will, but it is something I consider in my barefoot paradigm for my mare, Kessy. As are all unnatural chemicals, feeds, treatments and applications. Keep in mind, toxins travel to settle in the feet, so if we don't introduce them, or greatly limit them, they can't get lodged in our horse's hooves.

So you see, for me, the barefoot paradigm is about considering the horse's health, well-being and happiness first, in our management practices. Housing that provides for uninhibited exercise, fresh air and engagement. Nutrition in line with what their bodies are designed to understand. And keeping as many toxins out of their systems as possible. Just about that simple. Of course there is also hoof care to consider. 

If a horse is being transitioned from shod to barefoot, the first thing to do is simply remove the shoes, and with a rasp take the toes back where they should be, and nothing else. Give the horse a few days or a week to begin to shape the hoof to a more natural state. Be sure select a qualified barefoot hoofcare specialist to maintain the hooves. Barefoot care should really be scheduled every 3 - 4 weeks, but that may vary some depending on riding, terrain etc.

Hoofcare and maintenance in the barefoot paradigm is really surprisingly simple. Today you can find a wealth of information out there on the barefoot paradigm, hoof maintenance, boots etc. I'll suggest Yvonne Welz's magazine, The Horse's Hoof. I highly recommend subscribing to it. I wrote a blog about Yvonne and her magazine –here-"Feature Friday Yvonne Welz - The Horse's Hoof" 

I write for, and surely recommend Natural Horse Magazine as well.

There you have it, my thoughts on the barefoot paradigm. Really nothing to it. It's just a little different in the way we do some things as humans. But it's a world of difference for the horses.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry   

I hope you'll read my other 2 posts on going barefoot -"Why Barefoot" and "How can I Transition To Barefoot?" 


  1. Dutch, this is SO brilliantly written! Thank you for promoting such a vital, yet too-often overlooked part of healthy horse care. It can be a long and frustrating transition, and operator-intensive, but there are things that we can do to expedite the process. Leading a horse with thin or soft soles and/or hoof walls on hard-packed ground, like asphalt or concrete, for a half hour a day will work miracles toward thickening and toughening their hooves. Thank you, Dutch!

    1. Thanks Robynne! - Yes it only takes a little caring and focus and it can be accomplished! Do we not take the time to allow, and help a bowed tendon heal? Well then why can't we give the time it takes to transition their hooves ...