The expression is “No hoof, no horse.” When Thunder came into my life in 1994 he was barefoot. I thought how cruel. This cowboy rode Thunder from a sheep ranch in Wyoming or Montana. What? No shoes. What did I know…obviously, not much. And so I put shoes on Thunder.
Actually, going barefoot is healthier for the horse. Just like with us humans, all our nerve endings end in our feet. ….so too with the horse…..the bottom of the horse’s hoof, called the frog….pumps blood throughout the body.
Zenophon (430-354 BC) in his treatise on horsemanship talks about strengthening the horse’s hooves and how to do it – the natural way. It would take a couple thousand years later — and Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey — to popularize “barefootedness” once again. They studied the wild horse hooves and saw how strong they were. So more and more horses are going barefoot. In fact it was only in the middle ages that horses’ shoes started to be fashioned and put on horses by the local blacksmith. How would you like a piece of metal nailed to your hoof? I didn’t think so. Besides, shoes are expensive. Average price for trimming is about $40 (kind of like a manicure)….trimming and shoeing about $95. Whether you trim or shoe….either one needs to be done every eight to 12 weeks…so you see it can get expensive. Just like your nails, a horse’s hoof grows. Too long, balance is off.
So Thunder hasn’t worn a set of shoes for about 10 years. His feet are strong…After all, he is a mustang, just like Libby. And genetically, mustangs develop hard, great feet….years of walking around on natural and varied terrain. That keeps their hooves healthy. My other horses don’t wear shoes either.
Farriers (modern term for the blacksmith) who trim the natural way use what is called a “mustang roll.” They roll the front of the hoof…so it helps with the horse’s breakover when they step out. Libby probably will never wear shoes….After all, she’s a mustang…a marvelous mustang. As with people, the health of the horse has to come from within, not slapped on from the outside with all the hoof polish and biotin products. Of course, they do make the hoof look more cosmetically pleasing….but that’s about it.
So Libby had her third trim a couple of weeks ago and she did very well. Her feet look good — thank goodness we have had rain….Rain and mud also keep hooves healthy…less brittle and not prone to chipping. So is this more than you ever wanted to know about the horse hoof? Just a side note — your nails are made of the same material that the hoof is. Bet you hadn’t thought of that! So keep your horses healthy with good hay and lots of water. And that is just about the same for people…well wait a minute…don’t know about that hay thing.
Remember earlier I made reference to the expression “No hoof, no horse?” Truly the case. The hoof is the nerve center of the body. Keep it healthy. Your horse’s overall health depends on it….so no fancy grains and such. Good hay and good water. Ironic that both are in high demand this year due to the drought.
We know that horses are herd animals. They live in families and there is a herd dynamic. A pecking order. So it is time for Libby to enter the herd. She has been over the fenceline with the herd for nearly four months. Now some people would just open the gate and turn a new horse out with the herd. I can’t do that. So I am introducing her to the others one by one in her pen. So far, Scout, Dakota, Ryah and Pockets have been in with her. They all seem to get along…a little kicking, some ears pinning. I will not put Oreo or Gus in….they will probably get very pushy…so I would like Libby to have the pasture to get away from them, if necessary…a method to my madness. I know she will be fine with Thunder.
Liberty is very excited about being in with the herd. She wants to belong. Well, don’t we all?
Alice Billings is a resident of Ridgway, Colorado, a painter, an artist, an author and friend to animals everywhere.