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5 important tips for healthy strong hooves

Updated: Feb 23, 2023


'No hoof, no horse' This saying couldn't be any more literal. The hoof tells you so much about the condition of your horse’s health and without a healthy horse it’s hard to have healthy hooves.


As a Natural Horsecare Professional, I take the whole horse approach. I follow the 4 Pillars of natural horse care which are; Natural Hoofcare, Natural Horsemanship, A reasonably natural Diet (because the diet of the wild horse is still unknown) and Natural horse Boarding. If one or more of these pillars are not in place then you will begin to see issues occuring. The 4 Pillars represent the whole horse and therefore is truly a holistic approach. It’s important to look at your horse as whole – not just looking at his feet in isolation. Everything connects to everything and everything affects everything. The 4 Pillars are interwined and based on the NHC wild horse model.


Stick to these helpful tips and you will be well on your way to having healthy hooves and a healthy horse.


Tip #1 - Diet


The starting point is always nutralizing the horse's diet. A healthy gut means that there are more good bacteria than harmful bacteria and that harmful bacteria don't overtake the good. A healthy gut contributes to;

  • A strong immune system.

  • Organ health

  • Improved behaviour

  • Effective digestion.

  • Prevention of diseases.

Grass pastures are proven founder traps so the first step is to eliminate the grass from its diet. Place your horse on a paddock paradise horse track system or if you need to set one up/find one, a dry lot will do for now. Your horse's health is reliant on this, a healthy gut makes it easier to to achieve healthy hooves.


Replace the grass with safe grass hays (i.e Timothy, Teff, Bermuda and Meadow). Safe grass hays are comparably lower in non-structural carbohydrates when compared to live grasses. Let your horse eat as much hay as they wish and make it available to them 24/7. Reasons outlined in my previous blog. https://www.equinesoul.co.uk/post/the-horse-and-his-digestive-system


Allow your horse to naturally seek out minerals from rocks and other sources by providing mineral blocks, access to hedgerows and trees.


In regard to hard feed, eliminate any feeds that are not one hundred percent clean. Just like you would with your own diet and remember to mix it up providing a wide range of forage. It's healthier for our horses to be eating a wide variety. For example, I like to use a mixture of chaffs to ensure my horses are getting a variety of safe dried forage (see examples above). As well as a mixture of nuts, again consisting primarily of traditional safe dried grasses. No scientific research has been done on the wild horse diet to date but we do have safe diet recommendations from the AANHCP. Jaime Jackson (author of Paddock Paradise; A guide to natural horse boarding) and Jill Willis spent eight years researching a suitable diet at the AANHCP Field Headquarters in Lompoc, California (USA) with horses living 24/7 on a Paddock Paradise track system.


The following document explains these feeding guidlines;


Tip #2 - Movement


This may seem obvious but it's often overlooked in the domestic equine world. Wild free-roaming horses are consistantly on the move, always travelling to the next point to seek out food or water. In domestication, our horses barely have to move from a deadstandstill to eat and drink. We make life far too easy for them.


Just like humans, horses need regular physical movement. Being physically active can improve your horses overall health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles and improve their emotional wellbeing - in turn, of course strenghtening their hooves.


This absoluetly doesn't mean you have to ride your horse for hours each day. This matter is quickly solved with the new system for natural horse boarding; The Paddock Paradise horse track system. When planned correctly it encourages horses to act like their wild cousins: consistently on the move and foraging for their food.



"When a horse is stabled the circulatory system is not fully functioning and the heart can be over-stressed. This is often made worse when short but intense exercise is given"

Jenny Edwards, 2006.



Tip #3 - The Natural Trim


What is the Natural Trim?


The Natural Trim which can only be carried out by qualified ISNHCP practitioners is a humane trimming method that mimics the natural wear patterns of the wild, free-roaming horses of the U.S Great Basin. When these natural wear patterns are applied to the hoof, the trim triggers a cascade of integrated biodynamic forces that produce and reinforce naturally shaped hooves.


By all accounts, this transformation is truly a miracle of nature, but technically, it is a perfectly natural outcome - a biodynamic response - of the specie's adaptation, embedded in the DNA of every horse living today. Hence, one does not force the foot to look like a wild horse hoof, but simply facilitates its growth through the natural trim method.

Jaime Jackson, 2019.



The Natural Trim is the work of Jaime Jackson after years spent studying the wild horses in the Great Basin. Firstly from his studies at the Bureau of Land Management in the eighties and then further evolved from experiments at the AANHCP training headquarters in California.



Tip #4 - Get your horse moving over varied terrain


Varied terrain stimulates the hooves and conditions them at the same time. Compressional forces driven by the horses own natural movements on the dry firm ground will aid in shaping their hooves.


Horses in the Great Basin move with ease over the rugged arid terrain of their home ranges, but most of our domestic horses stuggle on rough terrain because they spend their lives on soft pasture or confined to deeply beded stables. I spend a lot of my time walking my horses in hand around my area. There's lots of hills and stoney tracks, we trek through forests and steams. Our Paddock Paradise track system also has a varied mix of stone, sand and dirt.


If your horse is newly barefoot or you've not really explored rugged terrain before then take it slow and build up to it. Allow your horse to find their own footing and don't do too much too soon.


Don't forget to include water. Hoof to water contact is essential for the conditioning of your horses hooves. The water will clense the volar profile and help to soften the hoof capsule.



Tip #5 - Should I buy hoof oils?


Hoof oils state that they are good for maintaining a healthy hoof as well as being good for cracks, laminitis and thrush. But, the long and short of it is if you get the diet, trim and movement right you won't need to buy additional products. Remember to look at caring for hooves as a whole horse approach. We should be addressing our horse's issues from the inside out. A hoof oil won't fix laminitis, thrush or cracks but good diet and movement will.



Have questions? Don't be shy, get in touch at equinesoulnhc@outlook.com



References


Jenny Edwards, 2006. https://www.all-natural-horse-care.com/movement.html


Jaime Jackson, 2019. The Natural Trim: Basic Guidelines. Star Ridge company, Arkansas.



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