The desire to leave the horse barefoot has been in existence for hundreds of years, since man first discovered a need for horseshoes. Horseshoes then, as today, were viewed as somewhat of a necessary evil. In today’s world,
“Shoeing is no longer the necessary evil; it is a lack of knowledge that makes shoeing a necessity, that is the true evil.”
It is important to understand that Applied Equine Podiatrists are not 'anti-shoe' but 'pro healthy feet'! When demands are placed on the horse that it is not capable of without artificial support then shoes become a necessary evil. Shoeing your horse is ALWAYS a compromise to achieve the goals of the owner/rider at the expense of the horse! Therefore whilst I will accept that without owner commitment some horses are better off in shoes, for the welfare of the horse the principles of Applied Equine Podiatry as outlined below DO NOT hold with the farrier tradition of shoeing horses.
The application of a metal horseshoe does not allow the structures of the horse’s foot to function as nature intended as it does not allow for distortion in the caudal aspect of the hoof and so cannot provide true performance.
‘The horse has the innate ability to heal itself providing the environment is conducive to healing’
In short, if the hoof is correctly placed into balance and the environment is set up to provide the correct stimulus for healing and growth the horse will do the rest! It really is that simple and is why Applied Equine Podiatry places such emphasis on providing the correct environment for your horse - this extends to diet, routine & exercise as well as the surface your horse is expected to move over. For shod horses, their 'environment' is the metal shoe and whilst many horses tolerate it well for a number of years, it is in no way beneficial to their health
‘Correct pressure is the stimulus for correct growth’
The horses hoof cannot be exposed to correct pressure whilst wearing a horseshoe. If barefoot hooves are not trimmed in balance they will also not be exposed to correct pressure and so will not achieve correct growth.
‘Do no harm’
Long-term shoeing of horses and/or unbalanced trimming can cause deterioration of the structures of the hoof over time which can in turn lead to lameness causing discomfort and pain to the horse. This breaches the most important rule of Applied Equine Podiatry. As an example, the shoeing of young horses – i.e. racehorses – permanently disables the foot as it does not allow for the development of the palmar process, proper function can never be fully restored in this case. Trimming methods such as the Strasser trim can also cause long term damage to the hoof by damaging the coronary band.
‘Utilise time as a dimension in the positive treatment of the equine foot’
Traditional hoof care does not advocate a hands-on approach by the horse owner, it is not usual for a farrier to advise any interim treatment for the hoof between visits such as hand walking or application of antimicrobial hoof dressings. This does not allow the use of time as a dimension as nothing will have improved six weeks later when the horse is shod or pasture trimmed again! In Applied Equine Podiatry the horse owner is encouraged to take responsibility for ensuring the time between trims is used to the horse’s best advantage, as this is one of the most valuable tools we have.