Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Q & A Transitioning to Barefeet

Here is an email question from Bill Petry. Eighty-Three years young, retired farrier.

Pat,

In 1970 I went to Oregon State Shoeing School for 16 weeks - the longest at the time. We were taught that the hoof wall was the box. We thought the box was to carry the weight of the horse and no weight was supported by the sole. We used the Army instruction book. The box [hoof capsule] was meant to hold all the internal parts together, like the skin is over the knee, no weight on the wall. See how long you can hold pressure on your finger nail. Then on the end of the finger, pressure can be held there forever. Explain your practice from shoes to barefoot. I'm 83 wont be doing any. How much do you charge for a trim? Bill Petry

Hello Bill,

Thank you for emailing me. I love hearing from very experienced farriers. In my area, I charge $50 per trim for at least 2 horses. That's more than the cost of a farrier trim, but we trim to replace the horseshoes, not the farrier’s trims. It takes longer and involves a bit more skill. As you know things have changed so much in many fields, not just the care of the horse's hoof. But they are still teaching the methods you're referring to in your email, and many veterinarians still believe that line of thinking. But it's wrong. The study of horses in the wild has proven that horses use all the elements of their hoof to function properly. Shoes or extremely long hoof walls take the frog and sole out of function causing the horse to become tender-footed without shoes, or with a proper trim. That's why we hear a common comment that only some horses can go barefoot. What they mean is “only horses who have never worn shoes and have always been trimmed correctly can manage going barefoot. Once we’ve damaged the hoof with shoes, or with poor trimming methods, some horses find the transition phase of returning to barefoot, very uncomfortable. So I have to ask then, why do we shoe horses in the first place? When a horse comes out of shoes, after some transitioning time to get used to feeling the ground again, they toughen up. What we humans need to learn to recognize when we see horses flinching over rocks is that we aren’t always seeing extreme pain, but what we are seeing is a discomfort. The same discomfort I would feel if I kicked off my boots and took off running over rocks. Well, it would not look like “running” that’s for sure. If we lost our shoes suddenly when we were out hiking in the deep woods and say we were only out there for a day, our feet would surely hurt like hell after a few hours. But if we were lost in the woods for a few weeks, we’d be doing pretty good with our unprotected feet by the time we found our way out of the woods, or until were eaten by another predator!:0) Your finger nail analogy is a good one that I use a lot. If I were to stand on my fingernails, the reason it hurts is because I'm really suspending my weight on the tissue that connects the nail to the interior of the finger. It doesn't hurt our nails, it hurts our nail beds. On a horse, that would be the dermal and epidermal laminae - the tissue that connects the hoofwall to the coffin bone. When we put all the horse's weight on its walls, it would be like us doing push ups on our finger nails. Ouch! But when we use our whole finger tip, well, that's how we usually do it, if we were to do push ups, which I don't! One experiment I have students try is using the finger the is most similar to the anatomy of the horse’s foreleg, their middle finger, and move your remaining fingers back, like you’re giving someone…..well, the finger. Now pointing toward a table top, but both fingertips on the table and put as much pressure as you can stand on just the finger NAIL. Hold that for a few seconds or as long as you can. Now roll the finger forward toward the nail, like a horse would breakover their toe to take a step. THAT HURTS! Now if you do that same thing using your entire finger tip, it’s not so painful. Can you imagine that kind of pain, times 1,000 pounds or better? I can’t. But that’s the kind of pain, I imagine foundered horses live with daily. Can you imagine in the days of the Cavalry, how long horses lasted back then in their horseshoes going for miles every day. Not very long. That's why they needed so many horses. Mostly to replace the ones they lamed up. Yet, wild horses, if left alone have been known to live much longer than domestic horses and hoof issues are the last thing they die of. For domestic horses, hoof issues are the second leading cause of death. Colic is first, but hoof problems are gaining on colic to become the first. For some horses, you can pull their shoes and they are off and running barefoot right after you trim them. In fact, that's usually the case. Because the trim isn't a farrier pasture trim, it's a trim that emulates the wild horse hoof and how it functions, not the domestic horse's typical foot. But if a horse has been getting trimmed incorrectly, has been neglected or has been in shoes for a long time, it may take some time to bring that horse back to sound hooves again. Often there will be abscesses harbored up inside the hoof that will expose themselves and cause pain when the hoof begins to function normally again. Abscess are often misdiagnosed as founder. So I've heard vets say natural trims cause founder, or cause abscesses. Still All those issues pass and the horse heals and is once again sound in barefeet, just like it was as a youngster, before we started putting shoes on it. When I get the opportunity, which is rare these days, I ride my horses barefoot and they walk as if they have shoes on. So it can be done. It's good for them. It's the healthiest way they can live. But for those horses who just can't quite become riding horses barefoot, there are many types of boots on the market (none that are perfect - yet) that can help keep the horses out of shoes. I like using boots because with boots we can take them off at the end of the day, unlike shoes that the horse has to wear even during his time off, which realistically for most horses is most of the time. I sure wouldn't like sleeping in my boots. Well, this is sure a long answer to a short question, but if you have any other questions, feel free to email again or call. I'm happy to help.

Pat

6 comments:

Ernie said...

What a great answer Doc. I guess thats why our wild horses on Canada`s Sable Island are doing so great! e.

Pat Wagner said...
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Ernie said...
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Pat Wagner said...
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Hannah said...

I have a question. yESTERDAY MY FARRIER WAS OVER TRIMING MY HORSE BRANDY, SHE HAS NEVER HAD GOOD FEET SO I ASKED HIM ABOUT THEM AND HE SAID THAT SINCE THEY ARE GROWING IN FROM THE OUTSIDE IT IS PUTTING STRESS ON HER KNEES AND HER KNEES WILL BE SHOT BY THE TIME SHE IS 15 OR 16. i LOVE MY HORSE SOO MUCH AND I DONT WANT TO HAVE TO PUT HER DOWN IN A FEW YEARS. SHE IS 7 RIGHT NOW WITH A BABY ON THE WAY. i WAS JUST WONDERING IF THERE IS ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP HER OUT SO SHE WILL LIVE LONGER. SHE MEANS SOO MUCH TO ME AND I WANT TO KNOW IF THERE IS ANYTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT. THANKS, HANNAH

Pat Wagner said...

Hi Brandy,

Your farrier, not surprisingly is right and wrong. If you're having her shod, then it's likely shoes that are what is deforming her hooves. If she continues down the path she's on then yes, it will in all likelihood affect other parts of her body. I recommend that you find You need to find someone in your area who is a natural hoofcare practitioner. Email me at patslark@fairpoint.net and I'll try to help you.

Pat