Barefoot hoof care has many advantages. Being able to blissfully ignore the feet between trims isn’t one of them. Frankly, putting shoes on horses’ feet may be easier for owners, because shoes hide problems and pain, and let us get away with many hoof care sins. Barefoot hoof care works best when the caretaker is committed to the process and the horse’s health.
My ultimate goal in this endeavor is to help horses and educate owners. My trims will be most successful if:
- the horse is trimmed every six weeks or less. I cannot keep hooves healthy on longer trim cycles, and won’t schedule trims more than six weeks apart. Four weeks is healthier. Some hooves require more frequent trims, especially if there are pathologies;
- you are diligent in treating any thrush problems as directed. Many horses have some degree of thrush. This causes heel pain . . . which causes the horse to avoid landing on its heels, landing on its toes instead . . . which leads to coffin bone damage . . . which leads to a number of problems. Heel pain due to thrush may be misdiagnosed as navicular syndrome! I cannot keep hooves healthy when they have thrush;
- you can change the horse’s diet if poor hoof health warrants it. Balanced nutrition is critical to good hoof health;
- you boot the horse if its hoof condition and lifestyle require hoof protection;
- you can change the horse’s life style and environment if required for maximum hoof health;
- your horse will stand quietly for its trim. I cannot do my best trim if the horse constantly yanks its hoof away, moves away, or hurts me;
- you notify me immediately if the horse is sore after a trim, so that I can both learn from the situation and rectify the problem. A horse’s foot is complex and may occasionally become sore because of changes made during the trim, especially if there is pathology. Thinning of soles is a common cause of tenderness after a trim, and I never thin them unless there is retained sole.
As a reward for being diligent with these requirements, you’ll likely spend less money on hoof care than you would hiring a farrier to shoe your horses. Boots can be expensive, but most clients find that even when they buy boots, their hoof care bill is reduced. Add that to the great improvement in your horse’s hoof health, and then ask yourself why you’d want it any other way!