"Applied Equine Podiatry is the conscientious study of the equine foot, always striving to expose it to proper stimuli, making every effort to promote proper structure and function, as we progress in achieving high performance."
Applied Equine Podiatry - The Science of Whole Horse Hoof Care
The science of Applied Equine Podiatry is the study of the equine foot, with the application of the HPT method we aim to place the hoof into balance with the foot, by identifying and promoting proper stimulus for correct growth we strive for improved performance, taking into account the capabilities of the foot and not exceeding them.
Applied Equine Podiatry does not compromise the health of the horse’s foot for the demands of the rider, with proper attention every horse can have the best foot that it was born to have. AEP is non-invasive and all about keeping the horse comfortable and happy whilst strengthening the structures of the hoof to promote healthy growth and soundness. We see the hoof capsule as a map of the internal structures within and by placing the external hoof into balance we can influence the health of the foot which is the key to dynamic balance and healthy equilibrium for the horse. Applied Equine Podiatry can benefit every horse, by placing the foot into correct balance we create an environment for high performance and give the horse the best chance of soundness.
The HPT (High Performance Trim) Method - is it just another 'natural' barefoot trim?
What is a 'natural' trim? Natural hoof trimmers following the methods of Jaime Jackson, Pete Ramey, NHCP (Natural Hoof Care Practitioners), AANHCP etc. use the wild horse as their model and essentially will shape your horses hooves to mimic those of the wild horse. This may not be appropriate for a number of reasons depending of what sort of horse you have and what you hope to do with him/her. If your horse is small (of pony size or not much bigger) and is not required to be ridden or driven you may get away with a ‘natural trim’ but it still may not be the best option for your horse, depending on the trimmer and which method they are using, as it can vary greatly - the term 'natural trim' as with 'pasture trim' is not standardised and can often have no consistency between trimmers!
Feral horses still suffer from foot pathologies, in the wild they would probably not survive very long when lame and so we do not often notice any problems with their hooves. In addition it would probably take longer for lameness to show than in a domestic horse as there are few demands on the feral horse's foot. In reality the 'wild' horses of today have very few natural predators so will spend most of their time grazing and moving at a walk, they are also usually small and lightweight so the foot does not have excessive force derived from a large body mass and movement at high speed (Force = Mass x Acceleration) to cope with.
As an example of why it is important to exercise caution when choosing a hoof care practitioner, recent research has shown that ‘square’ or 'four-point' trimming methods favoured by some natural trimmers and farriers may be an important contributing factor to increased incidences of black hole seedy toe and HKH masses resulting from increased stress to the tip of the pedal bone. By squaring the toe we are not allowing the pressures exerted on the hoof capsule during the stride to be effectively and safely dispersed – instead they are concentrated at the tip of the pedal bone which has been shown to cause modelling of the bone (increased notch surface area) in an attempt to deal with the extra pressure, over time leading to lameness issues. Hooves should be round not square - wild horses may develop square hooves from scraping the ground all winter looking for food but this does not mean we should shape our domestic horse's feet to look like them!
The HPT method is a performance trim designed to support the correct functioning of the horse’s hoof and can be successfully applied to any horse because it uses external landmarks on each individual horse’s hoof that closely correspond to the structures within, this allows the hoof and the internal foot to be in functional equilibrium – true balance. The HPT method does not rely on pre-determined angles or on moulding the foot to what we think it should look like, when the hoof is correctly balanced to the internal foot it will always look beautiful and function as nature intended without being forced.
Whatever you decide for your horse's hoof welfare it is important to understand the theory behind your practitioner's particular method, so do your research and if it still doesn't sound like it will suit your horse, it probably wont!
Most importantly, the HPT Method is not just about the trim! The trim is a tool used in the practice of Applied Equine Podiatry and knowing when to use it and when to look to important influencing factors such as the horse's environment to achieve soundness is key. Click here to read more about the HPT Method.