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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Do horse shoes hurt horses?

The answer has to be yes.

Both in the short term because of badly fitted shoes and in the long term because of damage to structure. 

We have looked at the cadaver photo before.  It shows a nail which has been placed under veterinary supervision into a hoof.  You can see how it is slipped between the inner (water line) and outer walls.

Often when hoof is not healthy and is not maintaining the healing angle to the ground, the toe starts to become more sloping and creeps forward.  Farriers are taught that hooves need to be maintained within certain angles. And they do this using largely by thinning the hoof wall and jacking up the heels.

Again looking at the cadaver hoof, you can see how if the outer wall is thinned, this precludes the 'ideal' nail placement.  So where does the nail then go?  We can see this from the second photo.

Nail placement

In the second photo the hoof wall has been thinned and the farrier has been left with no wall to nail into.  As a consequence the nails have gone through the white line (ouch) or worse through the body of the foot (double ouch).  Look again at the cadaver nail - you can see for yourself what this means.

Note also on the second photo how the white line is stretched and there is evidence of blood.

This has happened in at least half of the horses I deshoe.

Has it happened to a horse near you?

A quick anecdote. Had my last horse from 19 months of age. At two the farrier said I should take her back because she had terrible feet. We had a lengthy conversation and one of the things that I remember was the farrier telling me that 'All horses feet creep forwards and the only way to deal with them is to rasp the toes back.' and that 'All wild horses are dead by about 5 because there is no one to take care of their feet.'. He also told me that 'We had bred the feet off horses.' and that 'Modern horses feet were too small.'.

I am happy to report the horse didn't have terrible feet, at least not genetically. Upto that point we had been making a complete hash of looking after them. But we got better and in later years she was happy to cover all sorts of terrain for many miles completely barefoot.

But boy did I have a lot to learn to get them that way.  (mostly cut the sugar and expensive bagged rubbish and let her move naturally and a lot)


Jenny said...

YIKES.... that photo of nail placement makes my skin crawl. All I can think about is every time I've ever gotten a splinter under my fingernail.

The Farrier said...

As a hoofcare professional I see a lot of things. If you took the amount of barefoot horses I have been asked to place a shoe on because they were uncomfortable barefoot one could make the deduction that keeping horses barefoot is to the detriment of the horse. You and I know this is not the truth. I am also asked to shoe horses that are shod, and shod quite terribly. I re-shoe them or barefoot them, whatever they need and there is much improvement. The horses you receive that are shod and the owners are looking for new approach are primarily due to poor shoeing, not due to shoeing. Poor shoeing.

In your article you ask where one would place a nail if the hoofwall were thinned too much? The answer is somewhere else, or not nailed at all. There is more than one way to protect a hoof.

Horseshoes For Horses said...

We had a lengthy conversation and one of the things that I remember was the farrier telling me that 'All horses feet creep forwards and the only ...

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