The Natural Hoof Care Advantage
by Dr. Tomas G. Teskey D.V.M.
Ask your veterinarian, farrier or trainer about hoof care and the majority will freely admit that all equines are most healthy if they can be kept without steel shoes. Some believe, however, that shoeing is a necessary evil, evidently important for today’s working horses, mules and donkeys.
Veterinary medicine has its roots in blacksmithing, branching directly from the iron-working profession. The two developed into their own specialties, but the hooves continued to be the “territory” of the iron men. With the ever-increasing knowledge of the hoof, farriery and veterinary medicine struggle for understanding and reason after a thousand years of tradition. As time marches on, a new paradigm for hoof care that does no harm is replacing methods that misunderstand the hoof.
Given the latest exciting hoof research, the finest in hoof care today is focusing on maintaining normal hoof form and function to achieve optimum health:
- ensuring the hoof can flex in all directions to handle the terrain
- promoting fluid movement and circulation
- protecting sensitive structures inside the feet and legs
- wearing evenly through movement and growing in evenly and strong
- helping engage and sense the environment
These are all achievable with natural hoof care and impossible using steel shoes or improper trimming. In fact, placing shoes on hooves fixes them in two dimensions, forcing the joints above to twist and torque—arthritic changes such as ringbone result. Normally shaped, healthy hooves are made of a specialized skin that can be conditioned to handle any terrain, flexing the proper amount to prevent damage to all joints in the body.
Shoes disrupt normal energy and circulation patterns body-wide, forcing the heart to work harder, stagnating energy flow and causing abnormal hoof growth. Healthy hooves pump large amounts of blood to keep themselves strong and all body systems vital and energized.
Instead of protecting the hooves, shoes cause concussive damage, promote weak growth and allow infection, heat and cold to invade the hooves, causing health problems for the entire body. Normal hooves are perfectly protective, insulate against temperature extremes and prevent injury from rough terrain.
Hooves can’t wear themselves when shod—without a little bit of normal wear, they become deformed and infected with fungus and bacteria. Exfoliation keeps hooves healthy and free from infection and stimulates strong, new growth.
Shoes prevent the horse from sensing the earth and their own hooves — stumbling, loss of traction and increased injuries result when shod. The loss of a shoe and the lameness that follows demonstrates the underlying unsoundness of the shod horse. If shod horses suffer no ill effects from their shoes, as many professionals contend, why are they so lame within minutes when walking a short distance without them? Soundness in horses has come to mean moving with animation and impulsion on unfettered feet. These horses appreciate normal sensation and feel comfortable around us, place their feet accurately, with superior soundness and traction, keeping themselves and their riders safer. When in need of protection on rough terrain or during rehabilitation, flexible, removable boots that complement hoof form and function are most appropriate, providing superior protection and doing no harm to the horse.
Just as it was a change in horsemanship practices that allowed horses’ health to deteriorate, so a change in horsemanship is required for them to regain their vitality…achieving peak performance takes more than just trimming hooves a certain way. Proper nutrition and lifestyle are critical for success.
Natural horsemanship practices today go hand in hand with natural hoof care—together they are unbeatable! These horses and their astute caregivers are leading the way in all parts of the equine industry, demonstrating the efficiency of the natural hoof care paradigm which raises horses with superior hooves and prevents all common hoof diseases. These are the priceless advantages that are bringing horses and their owners greater enjoyment all over the world.
More valuable and exciting information is available on www.easycareinc.com, www.equethy.com, www.hoofrehab.com, www.equinextion.com and in an upcoming book by Dr. Teskey which explores the details required for achieving and maintaining a sound high-performance horse.