Myths that Keep Your Horse Shod
The following is a guest post, written by AANHCP Hoof Care Practitioner and co-founder of Effective Pet Wellness, Narayan Khalsa.
There is a saying in the natural horse care movement–that all horses can go barefoot, but not all horse owners. What this means is that the horse has evolved for millions of years to get along exceptionally well on its own four feet, but many horse owners often “get in their horses’ way” so to speak. In the outback of Nevada for instance, wild horses roam free of human meddling, and also free of the domestic horse issues we see so prevalent today like colic, clubfoot, navicular, and laminitis. What is it that these horses get, or don’t get, that facilitates for them a life of soundness? How can they effortlessly navigate 10 – 20 miles every day over volcanic rock with no issues?
There are seemingly endless traditions and practices in the domestic horse world today. In my opinion, most of them are harmful for horses. Many domestic horse care traditions were born out of no real understanding of the equine in its natural and sound state. They were human ideas of how to deal with things, passed on from generation to generation, often with no questions asked.
Horse people represent a culture filled with strong minds and often unshakable wills. They are tough, but they are also stubborn. Certainly no one wants to hear they are doing something harmful to their horses. This strength and rigidity in the domestic horse consciousness is a reason why so many practices still go unchecked today.
Let us examine for instance, the tradition of shoeing horses. It has not been around forever. It was born as a response to unnatural boarding situations within the royal establishment around 1000 AD or so. Once they began confining their horses to small spaces where the horses could not move much and were stuck standing in their own excrement, things starting falling apart– literally. Anyone today would agree that these conditions are a recipe for bad feet. The hoof is a biodynamic living organism, having evolved to move, move, move. Not moving, in and of itself is a recipe for bad feet, but add the “standing in your own excrement all day” factor, and we have problems.
Now why on Earth the blacksmith was summoned to come and hammer nails into the hoof to hold a steel shoe on will forever be beyond me. Certainly an already compromised structure like a bone will be further compromised once nails are hammered into it. But it’s not the first or last illogical tradition that humans have come up with!
Once the horse shoe became the norm, it also became a status symbol in the culture, and before you knew it, horses everywhere were getting their fancy shoes nailed on, whether they “needed it” or not. Hundreds of years have passed and the tradition has lived on. This tradition has gone unchecked all this time. . . up until about 40 years ago. (I am sure people have questioned it somewhere, somehow, but serious critical analysis didn’t happen until recently).
Now we know without a doubt that shoes are an antiquated technology. As long as the horse’s biological needs to move and be fed a reasonably natural diet (low in sugar), and only worked within their inherent capacity, then they can be barefoot and sound as can be.
Here are a few more myths keeping your horse shod:
White hooves- Myth- Inherently weak, prone to chipping, need shoes
White hooves lack pigment. That’s all. They are either just as strong or just as weak as any pigmented hoof given the same natural care. It all comes down to meeting their needs. If you can eliminate sweet feeds and chemical medications including vaccinations, and do not shoe them, they will have hard feet whether white or black. Add to that plenty of movement and a true natural trim, and thats a recipe for rock crushing hooves
Thoroughbred- Myth- They all have inherently weak feet
This has also been proven false. This myth was born out of the ignorant racing industry that has fed most of its horses a diet out of alignment with their needs. The feed is so important I cannot stress it enough. Sweet feeds and sweet supplements = weak feet. Plain and simple. If this one aspect of natural hoof care was adhered to, we would have much more healthy horses with strong hooves. Add to this the myriad of unhealthy things a racehorse has to go through including multiple vaccines and even steroid shots. Anything that creates a metabolic disorder in the horse can and will leave it sore. There is no way around it.
Trail Horses- Myth- Need shoes
Again, the horse has evolved to make your trail ride look like an afternoon stroll in the park. Typical trail rides have nothing on the day to day life of a horse in the Nevada Great Basin. The horses in the outback of Nevada live in harmony with their species needs, including plenty of movement, no sweet feed, and a rugged self trimming terrain. When we mimic these core needs, our horses will be able to navigate any terrain that comes their way. My horses, most with white hooves, will charge through the most rocky ground, not even thinking twice about where they step. It all comes back to creating a life in harmony with their needs.
The number one myth of all is what we call the ‘farrier principle’–that horses inherently have weak feet. It’s just how they are. How they were born. Or you will often hear that we ‘bred the hoof out of the horse’. This claim lacks a fundamental understanding of biological evolution. It would take millions of years for a species to undergo a fraction of adaptation when it comes to their base genetic expression. What this means is that science has proven that the horse in the rugged outback living the sound and healthy lifestyle we see is essentially the same horse (genetically speaking) as the one in your paddock. Sure they may look slightly different, but their biological needs are the same.
The closer you can get to bringing the truly natural elements of a horse’s life into your backyard, the happier and healthier your horse will be. For a more in depth understanding of what we call the Four Pillars of Natural Horse Care and to learn about how to eliminate infections in your horse without chemicals please visit the site below. Thanks for reading!
To the health of your horse,
Co Founder Effective Pet Wellness