In my journey through the horse world I have been increasingly alarmed at the number of horses I see with moderate to severe hoof issues that are un-diagnosed or wrongly diagnosed. When I created Ohana, I had no intention of focusing on Hoof rehab so much until it became increasing apparent that I was going to HAVE to. Over the years, I became increasingly reluctant to train horses brought to me that were so called “sound” in shoes but not sound barefoot. I also heard people tell me they had been told their horse needed shoes for the type of training they were doing? This really puzzled me as many horses I see are ridden lightly and sporadically if at all, in plush if not luxurious footing. The occasional exception is trail riding which, why your horse would have to wear shoes for an occasional trail ride when you could just put a properly fitted pair of quality boot on them is beyond me.
As for performance horses, Anyone tried doing anything athletic with a piece of metal on their feet? Think about Running, Jumping, Turning quick and stopping hard with a piece of metal between your feet and the ground. Do Track athletes, Football players, Tennis players, or Basketball players perform with metal sneakers on? Think about it. All those injuries and repetitive landing on metal. Let alone a properly shod hoof (that’s a whole other issue)
I am not arguing that sometimes horses need protection on their feet to be comfortable and get them though a healing process. But I am not deluded that the horse is sound when it is merely comfortable and the problems have not been addressed just masked. Rehabbing a hoof takes time. Just like good, sustainable training takes time. I have never been a band-aid fix person. I want to heal, correct and help a horse be as healthy and TRULY sound as he can be. The other thing is that when a horse is constantly in soft footing and pastures 99% of the time, They will build a hoof for that and for sure will be sore over rocks or hard ground. This is why we use gravel in paddocks and love rocks in our turnout to build a foot that can handle all types of terrain not just soft.
A horses’ foot adapts for it’s primary environment, Not an environment they encounter once in a while. This spring we had incredibly wet weather and the horses feet did all kinds of unusual growth changes to accommodate maneuvering wet ground. I had to resist the urge to call them wrong and interfere with them because they didn’t look the way they “normally” did. The hoof possesses such an amazing intelligence. It’s easy to become a hoof “nerd” when you get into it.
Another reason I have become a Barefoot fan is rehab and training work. A barefoot tells me a lot of information about how a horse is loading and landing bio-mechanically. The way a horse flares and wears is critical to my appraisal and program. I need to see what that foot wants to do in addition to the body, nutrition and dietary needs.
Anyway, Without further ado I am going to share the key points and useful info I think every horse person should know and can digest from the Pete Ramey clinic:
- You need to watch a horse at the walk and trot to see how they move, load and land, Look for the ever epidemic Toe First landings which gone unchecked lead to Caudal heel pain, and possible bone loss (aka Navicular syndrome) as well as contraction, underun heels and run away toes.
- This is huge, You need to look at ALL 4 of these things when deciding how to trim a horse not just any ONE of these things which is really important when people use radio-graphs alone to guide trimming, shoeing and bone alignment, This never sat right with me and now I know why. Radiographs are ONE component. The other 3 to assess are Collateral groove depth, the Sole plane and the Hairline.
- Learn how to identify Thrush and Sulcus Thrush. It is also a highly preventable epidemic that goes un-diagnosed by Farriers and Vets (yes I have personally experienced this) and can lead to remodeling left unchecked. it is not just in wet conditions but can be in confined horses as well and unless your horse lives in pure dry rock 24/7 ( and who’s do?) can be present.
- Diet, Diet, Diet-Stop feeding Carbs people! And learn to read labels. All these low carb brand name feeds are JUNK! Forage based diets and proper vitamin and mineral balance are key with emphasis on minerals appropriate for your region. Watch out for grass sugars (that’s a whole other topic we can nerd out on)
- Environment , Environment, Environment-A healthy foot lives outside 24/7 and moves a lot. Herds help horses move and variety of terrain and surfaces help the hoof develop healthy and strong again. Standing around all day does not develop hooves and can in fact cause contraction!
- ALL THE ABOVE FACTORS ARE IMPORTANT TO THE BIG PICTURE. YOUR TRIMMER OR FARRIER CANNOT FIX YOUR HORSES FEET IF ALL THESE OTHER FACTORS ARE FIGHTING AGAINST THEM!
What ultimately breaks my heart is horses suffer needlessly, endure pain and are asked to perform with painful hooves which in turn create a viscious cycle of body pain and compensation. At Ohana we know, that rehab starts with lifestyle changes, sustainable training and healthy hooves, Performance starts with a healthy hoof, and a happy horse has healthy pain free feet. I highly recommend Pete’s videos and books which are available here. Hoofrehab.com