One of the things that I have noticed horse owners to be the most negligent about is foot care.
Proper and regular care of the feet is an essential part of good horse care. Now, that does not necessarily mean shoeing. Many horses are not worked enough to need shoes, but they still need to be checked regularly by a competent, experienced farrier.
For example, my horses and my wife’s no longer need shoes. I ride maybe once a week and, even if my wife rides daily, most of it is on smooth trails or on soft arenas, so there is not a lot of foot wear from abrasion.
However, we have our farrier see them at six-week intervals, year round. Hooves keep growing, often irregularly, and need to be balanced and trimmed.
Irregular hooves often cause abnormal angulation of the foot, excessively straining the structures of the foot, or in the joints and supportive anatomy above the foot. This can cause damage ultimately leading to lameness.
So, good horse care must include regular foot care including, if necessary, trimming and balancing the hoof wall, shoeing if needed, and sometimes corrective shoeing.
As I said, Debby and I no longer ride enough that our horses need to be shod. But, they are still seen every six weeks, and trimmed and balanced. Left untrimmed, their toes elongate, imbalancing the gait and stressing the joints.
How do wild horses get by without farriers? Well, they are in constant motion on an abrasive ground surface. That’s why wild mustangs feet usually look so perfect. But domestication is not the same as living in the natural wild environment.
Domestic dogs frequently require nail trims. Wolves, in the wild, do not. Right?
Many horse owners believe that shoeing is “unnatural”. Of course it is. But excessive wear due to domestication and hard work often necessitate horseshoes to keep the horse comfortable. For the same reason we humans often wear work gloves.
Additionally, certain breeds, especially the gaited breeds, often require special shoes. Also, many horses have either conformational qualities or pathological problems that can be helped and even corrected by special shoes.
Good professional quality foot care is part of the expense of horse ownership.
But, it is worth it.
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