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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Thursday, 20 January 2011


Often overlooked, frequently misunderstood; movement is very important to building good, sound hooves.*  Ideally that movement should be as natural as possible, and when the hoof is healthy enough, as much as possible.  Endless circles on the lunge or around the menage in isolation won't cut it.

Hooves have evolved to support a heavy animal; at speed, over long distances, and in the performance of a variety of balletic and/or warring manoeuvres, every day .  It's a two way street, the movement builds the capability of the hooves and the hooves with healthy robustness, permit that movement to take place.

Lose one and you can lose the other; grow one with TLC and you will be rewarded by growing the other too.

In the good old days of Yore :-) the rule was always 6 weeks of road walking before anything else happened.  This wouldn't be a bad place to start with a transitional hoof, but your horse may need to wear boots while her hooves get into gear growth wise, build sole and generally develop.

More importantly the carer/exerciser needs to learn to listen to, observe and respect the feedback they are getting from their horse.  If she needs to go on softer ground, let her, if she says 'actually those stones are really ouchy' then use boots until she has the foot to cope without.

I can't give you a 'prescription' even though I know that is what many of us would love.  Every horse and her hooves are individual and so require their own movement plan. What I can say is that consistency is pretty important.  The hooves I see struggling are often short on consistency of movement.

Often there is a flurry of activity for a week or two and the hooves gear themselves up for more, only to be let down with a month or two of not very much, followed by another flurry.  This, sadly is not helpful.  Unless the horse is really really lucky, her hooves won't respond terribly well to this regime.  They need to work, they need to have an idea of what work is coming so they can grow sufficient quality and quantity of horn to cope.

If you can't provide consistency, then make sure you provide boots, just in case.

I've gone over my books (other people watch telly, play with the kids, have a life, I look at hoof porn), and time after time, it is the hardest working hooves that survive and thrive.

In the UK we have an expression 'on your bike', well for barefoot maybe it should be 'get that hoof moving!'
* In conversation with farrier this week, we were on the same page with this; very interesting discussion.


Deb said...

So, in the light of this post, is it better for my pony with laminitis to have access to a mud patch, maybe with boots, because movement will help blood supply and blood supply will help healing? I love your blog by the way.

Lucy Priory said...

Hi Deb, best thing to do is to read Jamie Jackson's Founder Prevention and Cure - you can get it online from Amazon.

Then, esp if in UK - get your vet to read it!

Yes movement improves blood supply and this plus the stimulation the hoof receives encourages the healing process.

The movement needs to be within comfort zone of individual horse and obviously without access to any such edibles which will worsen the condition!

The surface is generally recommended to be conformable, but test what your horse is happy with, some like pea gravel. Some find the rubber school surface to be really uncomfortable.

Being able to move, maybe with a 'safe' buddy too, is also vital to the horse's mental health and will help stop the rest of their body falling apart.

Jenny said...

I have presented you with the Stylish Blogger Award! Go to for more info!

Emily said...

Hi Lucy,

On a loosely related subject, my mare has started to get contracted frogs this winter. We had a really wet spell over the new year and the horses were all stood in gloopy mud. Because of this I was never able to get her legs or hooves dried out and some thrush has set in. She is out in pasture 24/7 with no grass and fed hay twice daily, ridden 6 days a week. I've noticed over the last month or so that she's not landing consistently heel first and has got slightly pottery downhill. There is some frog sensitivity if I poke it with a hoof pick - I'm such a nice owner! Do you think it is thrush causing this reluctance to land heel first? Is thrush that painful or is it just smelly? I'm trying to get her moving as much as comfortably possible to improve things but the frogs just keep shrinking. Some advice would be greatly appreciated!

Anonymous said...

I have left you an award over at my blog - there's no obligation to pass it around unless you'd like to.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading through and find your work fascinating. All of my horses are barefoot and I try to keep them as happy as possible, but who knows! Are there any books you could recommend/links that are beginner-hoof friendly?

Lucy Priory said...

Sorry guys - I haven't abandoned you, just been playing catch up.

Emily - thrush can be very painful, especially if the central sulcus is deeply erroded. But don't expect your horse to land heel first all the time either. It is a specific test that is only relevant in a very narrow set of circumstances.

DressageinJeans - anything by Jamie Jackson perhaps start with The Natural Horse and Paddock Paradise. You can either buy direct or they are also available from Star Ridge or Amazon.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the nudge in the right direction, it's just what I needed. :)

Ade said...

Hi Lucy,

first of all - i'm sorry for hijacking your comments section! but i'm based in suffolk and am in need of a trimmer - i heard you trim around here? Could you let me know how to contact you if you have any spaces for new clients?

ps. really interesting blog!

Lucy Priory said...

Hi Ade

Thank you for contacting me. I have sent you an email to the address you provided (not published).

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful blog. I just found it, and the information is amazing. I had no idea horses could even go barefoot! Thanks!

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