Questions

1. Is barefoot for all breeds of horses and for all situations?

2. Can horses go barefoot all year round?

3. Why do some horses become sore immediately after removing the shoes?

4. What is a transition period, why do horses need it and how long is it?

5. When do you know when the transition period is over?

6. How does the natural trim help Navicular?

7. Why is it that only domesticated horses suffer from hoof ailments?

8. Do horse boots interfere with movement or shorten the stride?

9. Do horse boots twist or fall of easily?

10. Are the parts for the boots replaceable?

11. In what ways does a natural diet help horses and their feet?

12. What is Flare?

13. How do horseshoes cause damage to hooves?

14. How often does the natural trim have to be applied?

15. How is Thrush treated?

16. How long does it take for flare or wall separation to be corrected?


Answers

1. Is barefoot for all breeds of horses and for all situations?
Yes absolutely, there are no breeds of horses with weaker hooves than others and all horses can and do live out their lives well while being barefoot. There is no difference genetically between our domesticated horses and the wild horses roaming the world.

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2. Can horses go barefoot all year round?
Yes, horses were intended to go barefoot everywhere including in snow and on ice. In fact barefoot horses have more traction and feel on their barefeet than they would if they were in shoes and corks. Their frogs and bars are intended to provide natural traction.

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3. Why do some horses become sore immediately after removing the shoes?
Horses become sore for a number of different reasons. The reasons range from having unbalanced feet, thin or soft soles, flares and internal damage due to the constricting effects of shoes or peripheral loading devices. Flares can be part of the cause for soles to stretch out thin, incorrect trimming and the removal of sole callous also plays a big role in sole thinning. Horses can also be sore if they were shod for a long period of time or from a young age which inhibits the lateral and fibro-cartilages from being sufficiently grown and strengthened. It is known that shoeing impedes natural blood circulation of the hoof and once the shoes are removed, circulation is restored and so is "feeling". This is why some horses seem sound with their shoes on but are not feeling so sound with the shoes off. The horse will need to endure a transition periods to rid himself of the soundness issues created by diet, poor hoof care practices and other factors. Boots help aid this transition period immensely. You can help your horse stay comfortable when transitioning out of shoes by keeping him/her on soft terrain, booting with pads and lots of movement until the horse begins to feel comfortable on varied footing.

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4. What is a transition period, why do horses need it and how long is it?
The transition period is the period of time that a horse needs to adapt to either not being shod or to recover from lengthy periods of unbalanced trimming and poor hoof form. Horses need to slowly adapt at their own pace and heal any damaged tissues that may be present inside the hooves through natural diet (to help minimize inflammation), movement and the correct trim. The transition period varies from horse to horse, by their current hoof conditions and whether they were shod for long periods or not. The use of horse boots during the transition period makes it much easier for the horse and rider and in most cases there will not be an interruption in riding. Transitioning a horse to barefoot does not mean you have to give your horse a break for any specified amount of time. To the contrary actually, the more the horse moves the faster he/she will recuperate!

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5. When do you know when the transition period is over?
Generally, once a horse is comfortable on all types of terrain including rocky gravel roads etc. The horse has completed his transition period. This can take anywhere from 6-8 months to a couple of years. However, horses even with severe navicular symptoms can be quite comfortable and rideable almost immediately with boots on and pasture sound within 6-8 weeks this timeframe does vary again.

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6. How does the natural trim help Navicular?
The natural trim always strives to bring the hoof back to its ideal shape and form that is intended for any given horse. Traditional methods of helping navicular include but are not limited to raising the heels, corrective shoeing with the use of egg and heart bar shoes. The problem with shoeing is that it causes peripheral loading meaning it takes the weight bearing off the soles and places all the weight only on the walls. While hooves are peripherally loaded they are forced into a locked broken forward axis between the 2nd and 3rd phalanxes. This broken forward axis causes the navicular bone to be sandwiched between p2 and p3 and this becomes under constant stress. When the horse feels pain in the back of the foot he tries to relieve it by landing toe first while moving but this incorrect locomotion exacerbates the conditon. As well, longterm peripheral loading causes tension on the bones which contributes to bone loss and a reduction in bone density. See a link to Dr. Robert Bowker's studies on my relevant links page. When these "corrective" methods fail, the horse’s nerves may be cut to numb the pain and that usually does not last long, as the nerves will grow back. Sometimes the tendons are cut to release the pull on the navicular bone this is called a tenotomy, and this doesn't have much success either. Eventually after futile attempts with these various traditional methods have failed, the horse is retired to the pasture, or even euthanized.

Navicular pain begins over a period of time when shoes have caused contraction in the heel area and the horse lands toe first when moving. When a horse lands toe first all the time, unnecessary strain is placed on the deep digital flexor tendon as well as the impar ligament which attaches the navicular bone to the coffin bone. The tendon slackens while the horse reaches out and when he lands on his toe first, the heel slaps down afterward, creating a snapping effect of the tendon over the navicular bone. This slapping effect also strains the impar ligament, Repeated movement like this causes heat, friction and inflammation, eventually leading to burrs on the tendons and damage to the impar ligament and navicular bone. Once the impar ligament is damaged, the blood vessels which run through it to nourish the navicular bone also deteriorate, causing breaking down or demineralization of the navicular bone and/or the coffin bone as well as lesions.

By keeping the heels short, and encouraging a heel first landing with the help of horse boots, and allowing the hoof to decontract, the horse can once again feel comfortable moving. The tendons are being used properly and there is no strain on the navicular bone and bursa. Some severe damages may not be completely reversed, however some horses with severe damage can be ridden comfortably with the correct trim and with the help of horse boots.

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7. Why is it that only domesticated horses suffer from hoof ailments?
Horses in the wild do not suffer from hoof ailments such as navicular, and the main reasons are that they get the amount of movement that nature intended for them which happens to be about 20 miles a day. This amount of movement ensures a healthy, strong foot internally and externally and the hooves trim themselves from the wear they get from all the movement. This natural trimming in turn ensures that the horses have ideal, natural toe angles. Not to mention wild horses never see a shoe in the course of their lives either.

Our domesticated horses have it pretty easy. Even the horses that are lucky enough to be turned out 24/7 on 100+ acre pastures don’t have to go very far to find their food. It is right in front of them in the lush grass pastures they live in. When we want to ride these horses on tougher terrain, we wonder why their hooves can’t stand up to it and it’s because they most often live day in and day out on soft terrain and haven’t had the necessary movement and wear to toughen them up and to grow the necessary fibro-cartilage internally to withstand that type of terrain. They also generally have hoof walls too long from not enough wear and flares, cracks and chips begin to show.

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8. Do horse boots interfere with movement or shorten the stride?
No not at all, in fact well fitted horse boots improve the movement and lengthen the stride on ouchy and gimpy horses.

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9. Do horse boots twist or fall off easily?
No, not if sized and fitted correctly

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10. Are the parts for the boots replaceable?
Yes, all the parts and accessories for the Boa boots and the most Easycare boots are replaceable. Please inquire with me if you need replacement parts for boots that you have purchased through me.

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11. In what ways does a natural diet help horses and their feet?
In depth information regarding natural diet for horses can be found here www.safergrass.org.

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12. What is Flare?
Flare derives from excess hoof wall that has not been worn off naturally or removed during the trim manually. If excess hoof wall is routinely left on the foot, the wall begins to migrate outwards due to ground pressure on the wall. Flare is very commonly seen at the quarters and the toes and give the foot a dished shape.

Flare can also present itself in the heels where toes and the heels have routinely been left too long, so the heel flares forward with the toe as do the bars. When the entire hoof is flared forward, the bars appear overlaid and curvy as opposed to near straight or vertical underneath. Often when flare has been present for some time, chips and cracks can be seen at the toes and quarters. Flare is painful for the horse, especially on hard or rocky terrain. Flare or wall separation can also be a result of a laminitic or founder attack which occurs at the coronet band and causes the entire hoof to grow out in a flare. This type of flare is referred to as lamellar wedge and is the separation or failure between the two layers of laminae, (the dermal and epidermal) layers.

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13. How do horseshoes cause damage to hooves?
Here in a nutshell is a brief explanation. Firstly, shoeing a horse removes his natural weight bearing hoof mechanism. This happens because the shoe removes the sole, frogs and bars from weight bearing and places all the horses weight on just the hoof walls leaving no support underneath the sole and frogs either. This leaves no support for the underlying coffin bone. Secondly, when a shoe is applied to the hoof, it is applied when the hoof is in its non-loading or non weight-bearing state.

When the hoof is on the ground it is in loading or weight-bearing state, it is expanded and at its largest size. When the hoof is not on the ground holding the horse’s weight it is in its contracted or non-loading state. When a shoe is nailed onto the foot in a contracted state, then is expected to stay contracted during the period of time the shoe is affixed to the hoof. The natural hoof mechanism is for the hoof to expand and contract with movement to allow proper blood flow into and out of the hoof and back to the rest of the horse as well as to allow engergy dissipation and shock absorption on landing impact. As per Bowker's studies it is the blood perfusion into the hoof capsule that creates a gel-like energy dissipating shock absorber in the digital cushion.

This expanding and contracting not only allows proper blood circulation but also builds the proper growth of necessary fibro-cartilage internally to support the weight of the horse. The movement grows and strengthens the tissue and the blood flow feeds and nourishes the growth. When you remove or inhibit the important expanding and contracting hoof mechanism you remove the internal strength of the hoof capsule. Sort of like a use it or lose it effect, if the hoof is stuck in a contracted state the parts that aren't being stimulated my movement will become weak and atrophied and not fit to carry the weight of the horse as nature intended.

Eventually the internal tissues will be damaged and later die off. You will then begin to see hoof pathologies such as abscessing of nectrotic material, navicular changes, pedal osteitis, ringbone, sidebone and even mechanical (road) founder. Other weaknesses also result from shoeing such as thin and weak soles, frogs and bars not to mention thin, brittle hoof walls. These things contribute to sole bruising, pedal osteitis, toe first landing etc. All hoof pathologies are direct results from broken down hoof mechanism due to one or a combination of any of un-natural shoeing, un-natural diet and un-natural riding practices.

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14. How often does the natural trim have to be applied?
It really depends on the horse and it's lifestyle, what time of year it is and what the current condition is of the horse. For the horse first starting out on the natural trim the ideal trim cycle is every 4 weeks, most often they are only trimmed every 5 weeks if their hooves are in fairly good condition. A recommendation is given at the first natural trim of what the trim cycle should be for any given horse.

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15. How is Thrush treated?
Thrush affects the frog quite negatively and if left untreated may cause the horse a considerable amount of pain. Thrush is a fungal infection that will eat away at the frog, or any other tissue that is old and ratty and can lead to further damage. A frog that is badly infected with thrush will be thin, ratty and weak and the horse can display pain with movement in the heel area causing him to land toe first. Thrush can be treated with commercial preparations such as Clean Trax, but it can also be treated with regular old Lysol all purpose cleaner without phenol. Lysol (usually yellow in colour) can be used diluted in warm water in soaking the hoof to kill the bacteria/fungi that cause thrush and other superficial infections of the hoof. Other good remedies are Vinegar both white and apple cider, Pure Oxygen which is good stuff it's actually accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide which gets the necessary oxygen deep down into the infection where the anaerobic environment harbers the fungus. There is a thrush remedy article on my home page. As a preventative measure you can put apple cider vinegar full strength into a spray bottle and spray the frogs and soles routinely after picking the hooves out.

Soaking directions:
with Lysol/Warm water mixture as follows:
2 tablespoons per soaking boot, (Davis Soaking Boot or Easyboot Soaker may be used) of Lysol to ½ cup warm water for 20-30 mins 1-3 times per week depending on condition of infection, this is a general guideline. Specific recommendations can be given upon assessment of the condition. As I know that Lysol does not eat live tissue, I am aware that some clients may have used more Lysol in their preparations and it appears their horses’ hooves have cleaned up more quickly than the original expected timeframe.

Pete Ramey also has a new method that he is using which is very effective in dryer conditions and with severe thrush infections with deep central frog sulci. He mixes 1 part triple action antibiotic cream such as Polysporin and 1 part athlete's foot creams such as Tinactin in a bowl and puts that into a syringe, it is conventiently kept in the syringe and squirted into the sulcus or anywhere around the frog as needed after throughly cleaning out the hooves. I have had several of my clients try this and it has worked very quickly!

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16. How long does it take to grow out imbalances?
The amount of time the hoof wall takes to grow from the coronet down to the ground is known as a hoof growth cycle or HGC. An HCG can take a horse anywhere from about 6 months give or take to about a year give or take. This timeframe really varies from horse to horse and other environmental factors such as time of year, lifestyle, diet, amount of exercise, whether there are other bodily issues such as chiropractic, muscular, conformation or even dental issues. Common flares can take as little as 1 or two trims or up to a HCG to be removed but deformities such as a laminitic hoof with wall separation higher up on the foot, pidgeon toes, club foot and severe under-run heels could take many more than one HCG to be corrected.

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If you have not found the answer to your question(s), please don’t hesitate to e-mail or call me. I will gladly post the answers in this section.