Yup I’m a believer that all horses can, and should go unshod for their highest health. Not only foot health, but overall health of the horse from blood circulation to shock absorption and posture and body awareness. I acknowledge there are problem cases, that for a time may need extra effort on our part, but I maintain unshod is best. I agree boots are sometimes a great thing and there are several excellent boots out there today.
Transitioning to barefoot takes a little time, you might read my thoughts HERE. Maintaining a healthy barefoot horse is easy, but may require a few management practice alterations. Changes such as trimming, most barefoot horses should be on a 3 week schedule, you might read about that HERE. I also believe many folks can learn to trim their own horses, which is both rewarding and cost saving. Another adaptation to consider is housing, I’m a huge proponent of the “Paddock Paradise” or Track System, you can read more about it HERE. Sometimes people give up on going barefoot because they cannot, or don’t want to adopt the few easy management changes. But I promise they quickly become routine and in the end save down time, money and stress—for you and your horse.
One BIG management practice so important to barefoot horse health is giving your horse enough rocks. Yup, give ‘em rocks! To walk on.
|Kessy's rocks cover the lower half of her run-in, and to her water tub. She walks on them each time she comes and goes and drinks. Saturday thinks the rocks feel good on his feet too.|
A common catalyst to barefoot failure is, horses stay in stalls with little movement possible, or wide open grassy pastures, or pastures, paddocks and turn-outs with only soft footing—Then the rider asks the horse to carry them on trails with gravel, stones and rocks. Of course the horse will flinch, perhaps protest, but the failure lies at the hands of the caregiver, not the barefoot horse. The horse needs the opportunity to create those rock-crushing solid healthy feet, which is easily done.
Rocks must be provided for the horse to walk on. Some folks call the rocks “pea gravel,” or “river stone.” Whatever you have available in your area consider mixed “round” stone no larger than 2 inches with stone 1 inch and perhaps a bit less. Not fine screening, or crushed rocks with sharp edges. Even if your home turf is dirt, sand and grit adding rocks will improve foot health.
Walking on rocks does SO MUCH for the horse’s foot health, exfoliates dead tissue, cleans mud and manure should that be present, and even massages the foot, aiding in blood circulation and mobility far above the foot. The ancient Greek Xenophon (c. 430-354 BC) first pointed out that “naturally sound hooves get spoiled in most stalls,” and in his classic work “On Horsemanship” advised measures to strengthen horses’ feet including, “palm sized rock beds for horses to walk on.”
I maintain, for my mare Kessy, an area of rock that starts in her run-in and extends outward about 30 feet. I just refurbished it the other day, the rock do gradually drift away and sink in so maintenance is required every now and then. About 2 inches deep will do the trick. They should be placed where horses frequent such as the water supply, as Kessy’s is, and as I do directly on the route to the run-in. Many folks with track systems have several locations along the way the horses walk through.
I hope you’ll consider giving rocks to your barefoot horse.
Gitty Up, Dutch Henry
P.S. - If you've not yet purchased my book, "It's for the Horses: An advocate's musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care," find it here www.itsforthehorses.com