Serving Western New York & the Southern Tier to help horses live a more natural life
Joe Lyford's Natural Hoof Care
Q. I've always wanted to go barefoot with my horse, but my farrier says he needs shoes.
A. Most metal farriers will tell you that. Usually the horse is sore after the trim and has trouble without shoes. This causes fear by the owner and the metal shoe is nailed back on shortly thereafter. What most guys want to do in the end is shape and nail metal so that is the ultimate goal. My job is to produce a sound, barefoot horse and that is what I work very hard to do.
Q. I can't bring myself to let my farrier go and hire a barefoot trimmer.
A. It was very hard for me to do that in the beginning. Once I educated myself about the process it all became clear. My wife and I wanted the best for our horses and so we made the change.
Q. What makes the barefoot trim different from a regular pasture trim that my farrier can provide?
A. A traditional farrier has been trained to correctly apply an iron shoe to a horse hoof and trims the hoof accordingly--to fit the shoe. Even though a pasture trim may look similar to a barefoot trim, the approach, philosophy and techniques between the two are actually quite different. A barefoot professional has been trained to trim the hoof for physiological and functional correctness without a shoe. They have been schooled to specifically recognize and enhance all the many features of the hoof to obtain optimal function, mobility, balance and alignment. They are able to alter trims as necessary and prioritize areas of the hoof that need building to promote superior mobility and comfort of the horse. A healthy hoof that moves naturally enhances the overall soundness of the horse because it effectively stimulates hoof and leg circulation while promoting effective metabolic function. When trimming in preparation for a shoe, there is plenty of room for mistakes. When trimming for a horse that is barefoot, much more is at stake. Metal shoes are very good at masking problems, but poor at healing them. Barefoot is poor at masking problems but can be excellent at healing.
Q. What makes barefoot better than shod?
A. The equine has survived for 55 million years without help from man. Today's unnatural methods of horsekeeping have caused the need for trimming and protection. As a result, we must trick the hoof into thinking that it gets the 10 to 20 miles per day of wear that it would have gotten in the wild. The mission of the barefoot trimmer is to align the bones in the lower leg and provide good balance to allow the rest of the horses's body to function properly. Have you ever spent a day in shoes that didn't feel good? At the end of the day you are tired, sore and grumpy. The difference is that we can kick our shoes off and relax on the couch. The horse stands on his feet nearly 24 hours a day--comfortable or not. Most of the time, a shod horse has toes that are too long and heels that are unnaturally high. Horses are such willing partners, they fill in for their owners, moving the best they can despite what has been done to them. Mind over matter can only go on for so long. Eventually, their physiologically unsound body gets the best of them.
A. We have not bred the feet off the horse, but rather FED the feet off!! According to barefoot expert Pete Ramey, "the dairy people are 30 years ahead of the horse people when it comes to nutrition. A dairy farmer would never think of buying hay without a nutritional analysis. But how do we horse people buy hay? By how it looks and feels. If it's soft, we buy it. The dairy guys ride a fine line between milk production and foundering their cows. Horse owners? We just want our horses to be happy and fat. And then we grain them just in case. The excess sugar in our horse's diet and lack of fiber and exercise causes cellular upset and the toxins go right to their feet."
Q. I've heard that people with barefoot horses use hoof boots. I tried those once and they didn't work.
A. The best hoof boots have been come out in the last five years. Hoof boots were developed to help transition a horse from metal shoes to barefoot, or for those horses that are in need of rehabilitation. Chances are if you tried hoof boots several years ago and they didn't work, they probably didn't fit very well. There are many different boots on the market now for all types of situations, disciplines and horse owners. It is a little tricky to find the right boot and get the correct size. As a trimmer and a boot fitter, I have an advantage. I have been very successful at finding the right boot and fitting it to the horse.
Q. Isn't putting hoof boots on my horse the same as putting metal shoes on him?
A. No! Metal shoes stay on while boots come off after the ride. Although most horses can go barefoot right after their shoes are pulled off, some are not able to, depending on the condition of their hoof. Hoof boots offer protection that the horse owner can put on before the ride and take off after. The problem with metal shoes is that they deny the hoof capsule of it's flexibility. Needless to say, metal shoes also also reduce traction.
Q. There are a lot of opinions and nay-sayers in my barn making it hard to go against traditional methods.
A. Everyone has an opinion and it's hard not to listen. Educate yourself and put the care of your horse first. If your hoof care provider is not 100 percent supportive or is hard to schedule an appointment with, then question that. If he is "stand-offish" when you ask questions, that is a red flag. If he gets mad at the recommendation of a veterinarian, then that is a red flag. Find someone else. Remember--no hoof, no horse. Hoof care providers and veterinary professionals must work together to help the horse. Keep an open mind and to always try to learn something. If we think we know it all then our minds are closed. Stay positive and don't listen to negative people
And hang up those horse shoes...your horse will love you for it!