FEED THE HOOF?
Yes, whether you believe it or not, food is one of the main benefactor OR malefactor in barefoot horses. Back to the previous analogy of the car: if you do not top-up brake liquid regularly (which is done via the engine bay on most models), the wheels will not behave as intended as you press the brake pedal if no brake liquid is left!
Feed the hoof! Of course, that will also be greatly beneficial for the whole horse in general. But that will be a game changer, visible in the feet.
First and foremost, horses (Equines) are herbivore (or phytophagous) animals, non-ruminants. It means that they survive on a strictly plant-based diet. Their digestive system is extra long, with a very small stomach compared to their size and the size of their intestines. Their stomach produces gastric acid almost non-stop. In a nutshell, what this means is that:
• They cannot eat large quantities at once (small stomach).
• They cannot digest grain well (small stomach not designed to process cereals, that have very high starch levels).
• They do not tolerate sugar well. Even though they love it (Polos, sugar cubes, added molasses in salt-licks, candies), that’s just not what they need 🙁 Also be careful not to overfeed very sweet natural products. Carrots, pears or apples, per example, contain high levels of sugar. Use them wisely.
• They thrive on fibres mostly – Hay or long / old grasses (stomach being small and fibres being broken down in the intestine anyway, fibres are what they’re designed to eat).
• They need to get food intake almost non-stop (gastric acid being produced almost non-stop too).
• They need diversity! Their organism is so complex that it requires many different elements to function correctly. Many wild, feral or domestic horses are often seen to not only graze! They nibble on many plants and trees. They can eat barks, roots, various plants, tree leaves, legumes, vegetables, fruits, flowers, buds, branches, soils, they lick rocks, and so on! Those are not bizarre or isolated behaviours, it’s how, given the opportunity, they access their own “diet-balancer”!
• They need movement (to move those huge intestines of theirs^^ and help move things along).
What you need to remember is that, in the best of your abilities, you should aim to provide your horse(s) with constant access to forage (ad-lib hay is best), keep your horse’s diet grain/cereal free [(various options in the premium section)], balance your horse’s diet as best as you can in vitamins, minerals and other various nutrients / pro-prebiotics, etc.. Also, add as much free movement in your horse’s day as possible.
Last, keep giving treats to your horse. Just pay closer attention to give treats that agree more with horse’s biology: carrots, cereal-/molasses-free treats. I use hay pellets for my horse (easy-keeper) or carrots / a rare bit of apple for higher-value treats.