Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Optimal hooves: Don't have long hoof walls

Disclaimer: I'm going to say some bad things about horseshoes. Despite that I don't hate farriers, I believe that most of them are doing the best they can with what they know. I'll even say that your horse is better off wearing shoes that were put there by a really good farrier than getting hacked on by a bad trimmer or having no care at all (depending on where and how they live- some lucky domesticated horses really don't need humans attending to their hooves). If your horse wears shoes I'm not going to call you names or try to "convert" you. If your horse is sound in shoes and you're both happy then you should keep him that way. But if your horse is NOT sound in shoes then it might be a good idea to give barefoot a shot. Or maybe these posts will "convert" you, who knows...

Here's where the controversy starts, the main issue that separates barefooters from traditional farriers: Farriers are taught that the hoof should load peripherally, meaning the horse's weight should hang off the hoof wall. Barefooters couldn't disagree more.

According to my research the hoof wall has one job: to serve as a hard shell that protects the internal structures of the hoof. That's it. Now think back to the last post I put up on hooves to answer this question: When you hang the horse's weight on the hoof wall what structures are you *actually* putting that weight on? 

 The laminae 

Are they meant to hold up the whole horse?  

They are there to hold the hoof wall and the corium together, they aren't designed to hold the weight of the horse. Quite frankly, they CAN'T.

Peripheral loading is a flawed hypothesis, one that is hundreds of years old. That makes it an old habit, and old habits die hard. Do you know what another name for a horseshoe is? A peripheral loading device. By their very design horseshoes force horses to hang their weight off the laminae.

Now consider this hypothesis: The horse's weight should be borne by the frog and sole. Why else would they be there - growing directly out of the bottom of the corium surrounding the coffin bone - if they weren't supposed to bear the horse's weight?

The Swedish Hoof School has done research to prove that the peripheral loading theory is wrong; this video shows some of their work. Quick warning: This video is a bit gory, if you don't want to see leaking fluids you should probably pass. If you choose not to watch it, it shows that even if the laminae break completely the coffin bone does not plummet out of the hoof, it stays on top of the sole and frog. A horse with broken laminae is still in a ton of pain but the hoof capsule remains intact, if the peripheral loading theory was correct that wouldn't happen.


  1. Interesting. I have my horses shod and it works well for them, but what you say makes sense.

  2. Your horses, your decision. Many horses do just fine in shoes. But hey, now you know why mine aren't wearing them.

  3. Both our horses are barefoot and they love it. I found a great trimmer in Maryland that knows A LOT about what she's doing and I'm so lucky to have found her...Good luck in your barefoot/shoes journey!!

  4. Lucky you finding a good trimmer, sadly they are few and far between.

  5. Isn't it though? You just have to get past the grossness.

  6. Well I don't need to eat dinner now... but it was definitely quite an interesting video.

    I have one barefoot horse and one who is shod up front. I definitely prefer barefoot, but my mare's front hooves have been so terrible I don't know how long it would take to transition her to barefoot.

    Anyone else noticed a lot of the barefoot trimmers are women?

  7. LOL, I actually thought about writing that you shouldn't watch that video if you plan on eating soon.

    Yes, quite a few barefoot trimmers are women, shoes kept many us of out simply because most of us don't have the muscle for it, but barefoot trimming doesn't need muscle... or ego :)

  8. Interesting. I wish all of our horses could go barefoot.Most of them do, some need remedial shoeing to correct what other owners with bad shoeing habits have done. As soon as they are sound we try to convert them to barefoot and see how it goes.