|Natural Hoof Care of Colorado
|My name is Keith Jacobson
I am first and foremost a horseman,
I ride a LOT, and have horses that
are comfortable living on rough
ground without shoes.
My horses seem to run and play
more since becoming permanently
barefoot, a sign of comfort and
good overall health.
I am also a certified Natural Hoof
Care Practitioner. I live west of
Berthoud Colorado, and my primary
practice area is along the Front
Range from Boulder to north of
Fort Collins. I am in Loveland and
Longmont twice in a typical week.
|WHAT IS NATURAL HOOF CARE?
Natural Hoof Care is hoof trimming to permit the entire hoof mechanism to function completely. For example, the hoof is
capable of flexing as needed depending on the terrain. The frog and heel bulbs perform an important role in absorbing shock.
The lateral cartilages and digital cushion move blood through the foot and actually upward into the heart. All these functions
are compromised to some degree when a horse is shod. Natural Hoof Care is also,a lifestyle for you and your horse. Ideally,
24/7 turnout on pasture or in paddocks will provide for the most healthy conditions, but I don't have that luxury and my horses
are doing GREAT with day turn out and night paddocks. Feeding the right grass hay is important. As a rule, grass that is a
little more mature has less sugar that the "Easter Basket" looking hay. Many horses suffer from mild chronic laminitis caused
by the fructan (sugar) in lush grass hay and the owner doesn't even know. Reducing the alfalfa in the horse diet can also
contribute to the overall improvement of the horses health and the quality of the hoof. There is a lot of information on hay at
the Safer Grass website in the Goodlinks section. Eliminating sweetened feeds is important as well, molasses does have
nutrition, but it can contribute to health problems such as Cushings Disease and Equine Diabetes which can cause laminitis! If
you like to feed grain, a little oats can't be beat. It is important to keep your horse at a proper weight if you want to be
successful barefooted. Just going barefoot doesn't mean a horse will be healthier than a shod horse. A fat, neglected or
improperly trimmed barefoot horse may not be as sound and healthy as a well kept shod horse.
Naturally, the best situation for EVERY horse is to be properly cared for.
BAREFOOT through Natural Hoof Care can add years of improved health!
Farrier Trim Compared to A Natural Hoof Care Trim
What is a farrier trim?
Farriers are very good people, I have known many over the years and they have the best interest of the horse in mind. And I
must state that many shoers trim as well as a Natural Hoof Care provider. But trimming as done by some farriers results
removal of the necessary protective sole and overtrims the frog, vital to good hoof health. This is how hooves are usually
trimmed to accept a shoe, and some (not all!) farriers don't modify the trimming method for barefoot customers. Even recently
a farrier school was teaching removal of the sole until it is soft under thumb pressure! Using this trimming method on a
barefoot horse won't permit the natural protective development of the hoof to form and often places the coffin bone too
close to the ground. When this happens the horse becomes uncomfortable, usually walking around on eggs for a few days. In
addition, repeated trimming in this manner actually distorts the hoof length. Most farriers do not recommend a trimming
schedule that will permit the hoof to remain healthy. Subtle trims are necessary to keep the hoof at an optimum health.
What is a Natural Hoof Care trim?
Natural Hoof Care is trimming to fully utilize the design of the hoof. A barefoot trimmer will help your horse develop a
durable healthy hoof which will optimize the blood flow throughout. A natural trim will; develop a tough sole to protect the
coffin bone, provide optimized frog and heel bulb contact with the ground, strengthen the digital cushion and lateral
cartilages which will ensure your horse will have a long, healthy, lameness free career. The hoof wall will be slightly rounded
into a "Mustang Roll" to reduce chipping. The quarters will likely be slightly farther from the ground than the toe and heels
to prevent flaring and breaking. Some horses which have formed an elongated hoof through long time shoeing may require a
"rocker" to be rasped behind the toe hoof wall to facilitate break over just forward of the tip of the coffin bone. With time
this rocker will help the horse to form a more correct shaped hoof. The "natural" hoof might have a slightly different
appearance to you at first, but it looks good and it will carry a healthy horse.
Low heels encourage a wide frog that has
joined the heel bulbs. This provides a
cushioning affect on the foot and permits the
digital cushion and lateral cartilage to
perform properly. This is a healthy foot that
will provide the horse and rider with years of
lameness free travel. Not every horse
develops a REALLY concave hoof, but they
can still be sound and comfortable when
Frequent Questions regarding Natural Hoof Care
Q. Will my horse be sore after a Natural Hoof Care trim?
A. Not typically. Most horses walk off comfortably from their first barefoot trim. But neglected horses or who have been
in shoes for a very long time will need a couple days to adjust to the new feel coming up through their feet. If you ever ran
barefoot as a kid, you might recall the first few days of summer, when you tiptoed around barefoot, but in a few days you
were pretty comfortable and by end of summer you could run all over and never feel discomfort! Your horse will react
exactly the same way. If possible, provide your horse with LOTS of exercise right away. This will really speed up the
adaptation process. I encourage ALL my customers who plan to ride on rough terrain to purchase hoof boots during the
period when the horses are adapting. See my Equine Boot section for more info. Also, I believe horses that have been in
shoes for a long time might feel an ache, as the bare foot can now flex, something they have not experienced for a long time.
Q. Isn't the ground in Colorado too hard and rocky for a horse to go barefoot?
A. No, actually our environment is among the BEST in the country. Our dry, hard ground creates a very healthy hoof. Our
rocky ground actually stimulates the improvement and development of important hoof structures. A leading Natural Hoof
Care researcher, Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD, director of the Equine Foot Laboratory at the College of Veterinary Medicine
at Michigan State University actually has this to say on the subject. "We found more cartilaginous digital cushions
consistently, regardless of breed, in domestic horses from the Rocky Mountains, where harder ground surfaces and higher
altitudes may contribute to their formation". (You can find more Dr. Bowker research on the Goodlinks button.) Don't
expect your horse to handle a really rocky trail or gravel road barefoot if he is kept in knee deep straw or shavings! The
foot will adapt to whatever conditions the horse lives in or spends time on. If you give your horse a rough surface in his
paddock or pasture, or ride him on gravel roads he will develop feet that handle that environment readily.
Q. I keep my horse in a stall, can I use natural hoof care?
A. Yes, but.... you will not see all the benefits of a horse that is in turn out or on rough ground 24/7. Even so, your
horse WILL be more healthy than when shod, as shoes trap more of the manure and urine soaked bedding than a
bare foot. Using boots to trail ride will most likely be necessary, but a minor inconvenience for the improved health
of your horse. To see or hear what Clinton Anderson has to say about using boots, click on this link for a short video.
A few basics about natural trimming.
- A Natural Hoof Care trimmer does not create the shape you see in the hoof above. The horse shapes the hoof to best use the entire
hoof mechanism. We trim the hoof in response to the growth and wear we see. The bottom of the hoof gives the trimmer the
information regarding what needs to be removed and what needs to be left alone and we respond to those needs. The horse does the
rest when regular Natural Hoof Care is provided.
- If your horse is shod now, don't expect to take the shoes off and start riding rocky trails right away without equine boots. The
steel shoe has been protecting the hoof from the environment, and most often the hoof sole will need to be protected from the
environment DURING RIDING for some period of time. With time the bottom of the hoof will become tough and will no longer need
protection. You will drastically increase the toughness of your horses feet by keeping him on turnout and riding him regularly.
- I recommend using hoof boots during riding on rocky ground for the first few months. New model hoof boots are convenient and well
designed for protecting the hoof during the transition and toughening period.
- Nearly all horses are capable of making the transition to going barefoot. Age or breed are usually not a factor.
- Some horses (like people) are more sensitive than others when shoes are first removed, but most horses do toughen up.
- A white hoof is just as capable of becoming tough and durable as a dark hoof. The only difference is the color.
- Most horses with conformational issues will be more comfortable and healthier barefoot. They will travel and wear their hooves the
way their bodies dictate. Minor conformational issues such as toe in or out bother the owner a lot more than the horse. Often,
shoeing to correct conformation only sends lameness up the leg into another area, compounding the "problem".
- Horses with navicular syndrome will be relieved to become barefoot. It has long been known, but not frequently enough prescribed,
that removal of bar shoes and providing plenty of exercise at liberty is the solution to the navicular syndrome horse. Most
navicular syndrome horses can be ridden in boots with foam padding during the transition period, and in time may be completely free
of the symptoms and can be ridden barefoot. Natural Trimming is often the "last hope" of navicular horses.
- Regarding expense. Going barefoot with your horses will be less expensive than shoeing. If ride your horse actively AND your
horse lives in on fairly abrasive ground it will be much less expensive, as you and your horse will create a lot of natural wear and
may need only occasional trimming. At least 90% of my customers have their horses trimmed on a six week schedule. Shoeing in our
area averages a little over $130 every six to eight weeks. Trimming is $55 every six or eight weeks.. Even factoring in the
purchase of two pairs of boots that will last several years and it is a very economical way to keep your horse sound. The long term
health of the horse will also be improved, and will result in less vet bills over the life of the horse.
- Performance horses can go barefoot. Endurance and Competitive Trail horses really shine when barefoot. The blood pumping
mechanisms of the hoof provide an edge over the shod competitors. Barefoot Endurance and CTR horse have lower pulse and
respiration rates than the shod competitors. The top endurance horse in the US is barefoot and competes in equine boots!
- Nutrition plays a big role in Natural Hoof Care. Mature grass hay is the food of choice as it is lower in fructan (a form of sugar)
If your hay looks like Easter Basket Grass it could be very high in sugar, and be a cause of laminitis and obesity. Excess alfalfa
should be discontinued. ( a flake of stemmy alfalfa on occasion won't hurt anything) No sweet feeds! Eliminate anything with
molasses. Sweet feeds are not good for your horse. If you must feed grain make it a small amount of steamed or rolled oats.
- Let your horse move around a lot. Horses standing in a stall, particularly a wet stall are going to have funky soft feet, even with
the best of Natural Hoof Care. Get your horse some turn out time and keep the stall dry. Turn your horse out on pasture if
possible, or put him in a paddock with a couple other horses. They will keep each other moving around and this will improve their
dispositions and their feet! Horses that live in stalls can go barefoot, with improved hoof health when using equine boots for trail
riding. The bare foot does not hold as much soggy material that leads to thrush and other bacterial hoof problems.
- If you are still with me and want to see my fees and services go to the Trimming & Other Services Page.
Like thousands of horse owners all over the world, I have found that most horses are comfortable and
healthier when proper barefoot trimming methods are used. I have elected to help horses and riders in our
area become more aware of the health benefits and convenience of keeping our horses barefoot through my
Natural Hoof Care practice. I don't make any all encompassing statements such as "every horse can be
barefoot and healthier and happier as a result". But most horses can, particularly if the owner believes in the
idea. Most horse owners shoe out of habit, or because they don't know there is an alternative, or because
Natural Hoof Care Practitioners have not been available. Now you and your horses CAN enjoy the convenience,
comfort and health advantages offered to barefooted horses, the way nature intended.
Example of a healthy naturally trimmed Western hoof.
A transitioned western hoof has a little different look than many textbook
photos of feet from other areas. This hoof is capable of riding over rocky
Colorado trails from dawn to dusk. This hoof has protected the coffin bone
with a dense, compacted sole material. In a Natural Trim the hoof wall is
rounded into a "mustang roll" which offers protection from most chipping by
creating a dense compacted hoof wall. However, over very tough terrain
occasional chips will occur.