What is this Magnificent Structure meant for?
Let’s see: The hoof, despite its very rigid appearance, is actually quite flexible under your horse’s weight. Always keep in mind that your strength of little light-weight human is absolutely nothing compared to a 500kg or more animal.
As a consequence, the forces applied to the hoof in static (no movement) or in motion are incredible.
HOW COULD A SHOE IMPAIR HORSES PHYSIOLOGICAL MOVEMENT?
Besides depriving the hoof’s natural flexibility, there is another important fact that is often overlooked.
With shoes, the foot’s weight-bearing surface is completely different to what was intended. To use other simple analogies, when shod, the horse kind of walk on his finger/toe nails or his claws: of course, the shoes are nailed into the hoof wall and in most cases, the surface that gets ground-contact – with the shoe in-between – is the hoof wall.
So now, I’m calling to your observations of animals: Do you know any other species walking this way?
DO MY CAT & DOG WALK ON THEIR CLAWS?
If I think of the animals closer to me besides my horse, I think of my cat and my dog.
Both have claws (equivalent to human nails or horse hoof-wall) but walk on the ball of their feet, paws, cushions. Claws do have a use, but not a weight-bearing or impact management one.
DO ANIMALS CLOSER TO THE EQUINE SPECIES WALK ON THEIR NAILS OR CLAWS ?
Ok, you tell me, cats & dogs, they’re way smaller, carnivore, and so on.
Sure. Let’s talk about the biggest land mammal, which is herbivore: the Elephan. Please look at those pictures to analyse how their feet look like. We see sorts of nails / claws / walls and huge soft feet, the latter actually represents most of the surface in contact with the ground.
If you have worked with or know cows, sheep, goats, you’ll observe that we could also think they walk on their nails / claws / walls, because of the shape of their feet. It is however a wrong assumption, as they too have “paws”, soft tissues. It’s this part that is mostly weight bearing on them too.
Here’s an article about donkey’s feet. You can see that the frog is taking a lot of space in the foot, when donkeys are made to walk on very hard grounds.
What about human beings? Clearly, we are not designed to walk on our nails!
So, why would the horse be the only animal walking on his walls / claws / nails?
Because it is not the way it was actually intended. We kind of transformed it because of what we saw when looking at horses’ feet: their claws /fingernails / walls is the only apparent structure when looking from above.
Now, can you imagine what it must represent for a horse to rely on such a teeny tiny surface to stand, move or athletically perform given the weight and force they have?
WHAT ARE HORSES’ WALLS / CLAWS ATTACHED TO?
Now, another fact is that that the hoof wall is attached to the internal foot and P3 through a Velcro-Band type material (the laminae).
I’ve already hanged stuffs on my rented flat’s walls with Velcro bands, so it’s a quite efficient mechanism, but they should not be too heavy, and the weight had to be evenly spread between all the Velcro bands.
So, with most shoes, the whole horse is actually relying on Velcro bands to move around. They are so amazing!
This a cut view from a cadaver. We can very well see how the material between the walls (1&2) and the pedal bone (4) is structured. This is why we can kind of compare the laminae (3) with Velcro-Band.
WHAT ABOUT US WEARING THEIR SHOES?
I just want to appeal to you common sense here, as they are many other repercussions to shoeing horses: tendon damages, arthrosis, navicular related problems, various lameness issues, osteopathic issues further up.
Just, literally, wear your horse’s shoes for a moment. Imagine walking / trotting on tarmac, jumping a 130cm course, do piaffe, have a ride in the mountains, run barrels – and do all this with (very well fixed) metal flip-flops. I think you just stopped at walking on the tarmac, you didn’t even try to trot 2 steps on the road! ^^ The jarring up your legs is so uncomfortable already on such a surface. Then you kept slipping, because, hell! Metal is so slippery, right?
Then you tell me about different alloys being softer, more flexible, when you work in the arena it’s soft sand, etc.. Even though you no longer believe this last bit anymore (now that you wore your horse’s shoes for those few steps on the tarmac^^), it still leaves us with the too small weight bearing surface and the Velcro-Band issue.
[Composite shoes are a whole independent story, depending on the material, the form, the manufacturer and the horse they’re applied to.]
IF IT’S SO UNNATURAL, WHY DO HORSES PERFORM SO WELL IN STEEL SHOES?
Because they can 🙂
The same way human can endure wearing high heels day in and day out or perform in pointe shoes!
Don’t forget though:
Having a barefoot horse is just SO NOT like taking the shoes off and having a casual stroll in the park when cherry trees are in bloom.
Because it’s really hard-work, research, trial and error.
The owner needs to be highly pro-active and to become more knowledgeable about a ton of stuff!
The hardest part actually is that the horse’s guardian will have to learn – meaning that she / he will have to admit his / her mistakes and recognise obsolete knowledge, to correct it and make place to new elements – put the ego aside for the benefit of the horse.
You might all have different reasons to want or have your horse(s) barefoot and as many different types of equine and “use” for them.
And the bottom line is that, whatever your background or your equine’s is, the right trim is most certainly paramount. But The Rest (Rest of the horse & Rest of the husbandry) is too.