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Hoof Care: Barefoot?

 

Hoof Care

 

Well not to sound flippant, but God didn’t create these beautiful animals with chunks of metal nailed to their hoofs. The more we learn about the form and function of a hoof, the more we understand why, in most cases, barefoot is preferred. The hoof by design has several functions. The two primary functions are to dissipate concussion at the ground surface, and to provide circulation to the lower leg and hoof capsule. It is the expansion and contraction of the hoof capsule or hoof mechanism that performs these duties. If the hoof is shod, it will impair proper hoof mechanism and most likely cause hoof and lower leg issues.

Should all horses be barefoot?

Let’s just say I believe most horses should be barefoot although I understand not all horses can be. A dear friend has a working cattle ranch, their horses get ridden everyday thru awful terrain. Now, this is not the norm. Most of us use our horses for pleasure; many never see the outside of an arena.

Will my horse get sore-footed?

Best answer is maybe - there can be a transition time. However, in most horses, it is short.

What are my options?

Boots! There are several makers of hoof boots that are designed for the barefoot horse. The two brands I am most familiar with are Easycare and Renagade. Most of the time my horse is barefoot, but if I’m headed out on a trail rides that has rough terrain, I will bring my boots along.

If you’d like additional support with your hoof care needs, please contact me.

Natural Hoof Care Web Resources:

• Pete Ramey ~ www.hoofrehab.com

• Star Ridge Publishing (Home of Jaime Jackson’s work) ~ www.star-ridge.com

 

Nutrition

 

Nutrition and supplementation not only for us, but our horses, dogs, and the like can be confusing. There is so much information and mis-information out there that finding what works can seem daunting. I can only share what I have learned over the years and hope that you find it helpful.

Many times I have been asked what hay I feed. Now, out here in Arizona, we essentially only have two choices, alfalfa or bermuda. So, my answer is grass hay. Some of you may be going "huh", but you see alfalfa is not a grass, it is a legume. So if bermuda is my only other choice, I feed it since it is a grass. When I can find it, I will feed orchard or timothy grass, but these can be difficult to find and can be cost-prohibitive.

Let me further explain why I choose not to feed my horses alfalfa. As I mentioned, it is not a grass but a legume which is high in protein / low in fiber when what we want is high in fiber / low in protein. Alfalfa is fine for cattle because we want the cattle to gain lots of weight for when it is time to make steaks. I don't want that for my horse - the high protein can cause liver and kidney issues. This is why you find many horses on strictly alfalfa diets drink and urinate constantly. Horses that are stalled and fed alfalfa two times a day are more prone to colic and behavioral issues. Horses by design are grazers - their digestive tract should have peristalsis (the undulation of the intestine) essentially 24/7.  This movement helps prevent sand colic and other issues by not allowing the sand to settle within the gut and cause sand pockets. However, when we feed a flake of alfalfa, the horse will eat it like candy and be done in thirty minutes. The alternative is to feed a grass which is higher in fiber, so the horse will eat slower and feeding three or four times if your horse doesn't have access to a pasture. I have provided additional links with an in-depth look at alfalfa.

http://www.equisearch.com/horses_care/nutrition/hay/eqalfalfa432/

http://theintentionalhorse.com/why-i-dont-feed-alfalfa/

Now that we have had a brief discussion on hay, we need to address supplementation. The facts are that most if not all hay is severely lacking in a lot of the essential minerals and vitamins our horses require. Years of over-farming, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers have not only stripped our human food of taste and nutritional value, the same has happened to many hay fields. Now, you can have your hay analyzed for nutritional content or you can choose to supplement. My choice is to supplement. Your next question is what supplements should I use. For me, I have a few criteria I look at. First is "Intent" - this may seem vague but, to me, it’s very important. If a company wants me to purchase their product, what is their intention? Is it providing and supporting health or something else? Does the company's parent or subsidiary also sell poisons like chemical fertilizers, etc.? So that is “intent”. Second, I look at history. There are so many fly-by-night companies offering the next best thing. Third, I look at the product. What’s in it? How is it made? Most supplements out there are what are called "Non-bio-available" which means you or your horse’s body can only absorb 10-20%. If you were anemic and needed iron, I could do as many companies do and offer you iron oxide or iron sulfate. You would do just as well to go out a lick an iron pole as to spending money on a supplement like that.  Now, if I were to offer you an amino acid chelate of iron, you would take less because it’s bio-available. Chelation is what happens when a plant absorbs a mineral - it bonds the mineral to two amino acids. One ionic, one covalent and the mineral bonded in a trinity. Here is a brief video about chelated minerals. Personally, I use Dynamite products and have for twelve plus years not only for my horse, but for me. Dynamite meets all my criteria and more. This is not to say that there are not other companies that provide quality supplements. Follow the link below to a good friend’s website for more information.

http://www.allofgodscreatures.com/

If you’d like additional support with nutrition, please contact me.