How Do Wild Horses Trim Their Hooves?

With the BLM Mustangs gaining more media presence and celebratory events held on the east coast for island ponies, many people wonder about equine maintenance in the wild. Horses are sensitive creatures requiring lots of hands-on care. However, the very nature of how we keep them is why horses require so much from us. For example, how do wild horses trim their hooves when our farriers come out every 6 weeks like clockwork?

Unlike other animals which will intentionally maintain or file down their nails, horse naturally take care of hoof growth. Wild horses always have the ability to move to higher ground, and will never be trapped in a stall that may be uncleaned or covered in urine-soaked shavings.

In nature, horses are not hauling heavy loads, made to ride on hard roads or cement, and do not suffer unnatural workloads brought on by human riding/working. Weak hooves, imbalances, or other issues that would require shoeing for the correct function would typically result in a horse unable to keep up with the herd.

Why do wild horses not need shoes?

Wild horses don’t need shoes; the main reason is that they move a lot, running long distances, and the running wears down their hooves. Plus, they don’t have the need to walk on roads or concrete-like domestic horses.

Why don t wild horses have overgrown hooves?

Why don’t wild horse need humans for maintenance of their hooves? In short, wild horses don’t need their hooves trimmed by humans because their wild lifestyle does it for them. … Horses that live in comfortable stables, and that don’t roam for food, won’t wear down their hooves the same way as their wild cousins.

Does it hurt horses to trim their hooves?

However, this is a completely pain-free process as the tough part of a horses’ hoof doesn’t contain any nerve endings. The animals don’t show any signs of pain or aggression as the horse will feel a similar sensation to the feeling that we get when our fingernails trimmed!

Who cuts hooves of wild horses?

Hooves are trimmed.. Every four to eight weeks, a horse owner or farrier must trim a horse’s hooves. Trimming removes excess growth and keeps the horse’s feet in the optimal position.

Natural hoof care is the practice of keeping horses so that their hooves are worn down naturally and so do not suffer overgrowth, splitting and other disorders.[1] Horseshoes are not used, but domesticated horses may still require trimming, exercise and other measures to maintain a natural shape and degree of wear.[2]

To secure the best type of stable-yard, and with a view to strengthening the horse’s feet, I would suggest to take and throw down loosely four or five waggon loads of pebbles, each as large as can be grasped in the hand, and about a pound in weight; the whole to be fenced round with a skirting of iron to prevent scattering. The mere standing on these will come to precisely the same thing as if for a certain portion of the day the horse were, off and on, stepping along a stony road; whilst being curried or when fidgeted by flies he will be forced to use his hoofs just as much as if he were walking.

As the health and movement benefits of barefooting have become more apparent in horses that have completed transition, horses are being competed barefoot in various sports (including dressage , show jumping , flat racing , steeplechase racing, trail riding and endurance riding ). There is some research, but no scientific double blind studies, which indicates that removing horseshoes and using barefoot trimming techniques can reduce or in some cases eliminate founder (laminitis) in horses and navicular syndrome . It is generally agreed upon by most natural hoof care practitioners that the management of the animal (diet and boarding conditions) are the most important components for the success of the horse to be barefoot.

The terrain should be varied, including gravel or hard surfaces and a water feature where the hooves can be wet occasionally. Diet is very important too, as changes in feed can directly affect hoof health, most notably seen in cases of laminitis . A healthy diet for horses currently with or prone to laminitis is based on free access to hay that has been tested for carbohydrate content and found to be less than 10% WSC + starch, some mineral supplementation, and no grain.

Feeds and forage with high levels of sugar (carbohydrates) correlate with higher risk of clinical or subclinical laminitis and with other hoof ailments. Modern research by individuals such as Jaime Jackson and Tia Nelson have studied feral horses to observe the way in which their natural foraging and roaming affects their hooves. Opponents of the barefoot movement argue that domesticated horses are routinely put through abnormal levels of activity, stress, and strain, and their hooves undergo excessive wear and shock.

^ T.Teskey (2005), “The unfettered foot: A paradigm change for equine podiatry”, Journal of Equine Veterinary Science , 25 (2): 7783, doi : 10.1016/j.jevs.2005.01.011 ^ Drew Radford (23 July 2007), A load of horseshooves , ABC ^ https://horse-canada.com/magazine/hoof-care/why-go-barefoot/ ^ Xenophon, translated by H. G. Dakyns (January 1998), On Horsemanship , Project Gutenberg ^ Reviewed, ” The Natural Hoof: A Sign of the Times ,” The Horse (October 10, 2001). ^ Equine Podiatry | Dr. Stephen O’Grady, veterinarians, farriers, books, articles ^ a b Summary Notes: 1998 Heumphreus Memorial Lecture ^ Laminitis, Navicular Syndrome, Coffin Bone Penetration – Natural Hoof Care, Maple Plain, Minnesota ^ British Museum Website: hipposandal , retrieved 2007-08-23 ^ The Natural Horse: Lessons From the Wild, Jaime Jackson, Northland Publishing, 1992 ^ Safergrass.org Articles on grass carbohydrates and laminitis ^ The Horse: Laminitis: New Study on Sugar and Starch as a Cause ^ Kauffman’s Animal Health (2012), Biotin Hoof Supplement Promotes Improved Hoof Health ^ “The Perfect Horse” . Sunday, 25 April 2021 ^ Heather Smith Thomas (2006), Understanding Equine Hoof Care , pp.

Domesticated horses require constant care and attention to keep them fit and healthy. Between regular trips to the farrier and almost daily cleaning of hooves, it is difficult to imagine how horses in the wild manage to keep their hooves in good shape.

They are connected to the tendons and ligaments of the leg and function to protect horses coffin bones from the shock of impact when they walk or run . Wild horses prone to hoof problems struggle with the long distances that their herd travels each day for grazing.

By adding a thick layer of hand-sized stones and pebbles to horses enclosures , they ensured that their hooves wore down naturally and the frogs of their feet hardened. They were removable shoes, similar to the hoof boots of today, that were designed to protect horses hooves from wearing down on the long roads they traveled. To this day, many competitive and non-competitive horses are shod, but there is a growing trend of natural hoof care and barefooting.

The extra weight on their backs results in more downward force and stress on their legs, feet, and hooves . Horses, therefore, need shoes to prevent injury to the soft tissue, cartilage, bones, ligaments, tendons, and joints in their legs. When it rains, and pastures are flooded, horses must either be kept in their stall or stand in the muddy, wet field if they have no other turnout options.

For the above reasons, horses need to have their hooves cleaned and trimmed regularly to prevent overgrowing, splitting, and infection . As the angle of their legs gets more unnatural, it impedes the horses ability to walk properly and causes discomfort and pain. Keeping the hooves free of mud, mulch, and manure prevent thrush and other infections from developing.

To promote good blood circulation to the hooves, and gently wear them down, horses should be allowed to walk a minimum of 5 miles (8 km) every day. These methods keep horses hooves in a healthy condition, optimize their performance, and help to avoid injuries. Consuming a diet that is too high in sugars and carbohydrates can cause laminitis a disease that affects horses feet.

Wild horses will routinely travel for 10 to 20 miles (16 to 32 km) per day to meet their grazing and water requirements. After a long time of wearing horseshoes, the hoof soles are highly sensitive because they have not developed a thick callous . The Strasser trim is the most controversial method because it aims to widen the frog by scooping out the horses sole and bars.

Wild horses walk and run extensive distances every day over harsh, rocky terrain. Because domestic horses are generally kept in pastures and stables, their hooves are not exposed to as much abrasion from the surfaces they walk or run on. In the wild, horses that have hoof issues cannot keep up with their herd or run from predators, so they do not survive and therefore do not pass on their genes for weak hooves.

Horse hooves are made up of many layers of keratin that protect their coffin bones from the impact of running by absorbing the shock .

Horse hoof trimming is an important part of health care for domestic horses. Owners must trim the hooves into the ideal shape and length for comfort as the animals walk. Those that deal with horses regularly accept this as a normal part of horse care. It is the same as getting them shoed and any other healthcare procedure. But, what about wild horses? Why dont they need this sort of treatment?

Domestic horses may also wear shoes to stop the weight of their human riders damaging the hooves. Some owners provide additional methionine, calcium, zinc and copper to improve hoof health.

Smaller breeds that stay indoors a lot as companion dogs tend to need regular attention because they cant wear down the nails naturally. Active breeds and working dogs that spend more time outdoors and walk on rougher surfaces may not need as much attention. We also cant forget that if we werent wearing our socks and comfortable shoes, and went around barefoot, we wouldnt need to clip our toenails quite so often

Benefits of barefooting[edit]

Horses were ridden and used for work by humans for thousands of years before horseshoes were invented. The Ancient Greeks did not shoe their horses, and Xenophon in his classic work on horsemanshipMore recently, Jaime Jackson, who studied wild and domestic horse hooves, promoted the modern variant of natural hoof care in

Barefoot trim[edit]

There are several styles of barefoot trim in use today, including the Wild Horse or “Natural Trim” (developed by Jaime Jackson) the 4-Point Trim (Dr. Rick Reddin of NANRIC), the Strasser Trim (one of the most controversial as the horse’s sole and bars are scooped out to widen the frog), the “Pete Ramey” trim where elements of the wild horse trim are the goal but the process includes removing hoof wall and forcing the horse to walk primarily on the sole. Some types, such as the 4-Point Trim can be used alone, or with shoes.Barefoot trims are marketed to the public as something different from the “pasture” or “field” trim which farriers are trained to provide, taking into consideration hoof health and bony column angles, though each branded type of barefoot trim has its individual differences and there is no standardization or agreement between various barefoot advocacy groups. In contrast to farrier trims, barefoot trims are marketed as an approach to high performance hooves without the need for shoes, or simply as a natural approach to hoof care (depending upon the individual trimming method). However, they are something different, designed by nature itself to maintain a healthy, sound hoof without the use of shoes.The barefoot trim aims to emulate the way in which hooves are maintained naturally in wild horse herds, like feral horse herds such as the American Mustang or the Australian Brumby, as well as wild zebras and other wild equine populations. Wild horses have been observed by Gene Ovnicek as having a hoof that tends to make contact with the ground on four points, and the hoof wall does not contact the ground at all.Important to the success of the barefoot trim is consideration for the domestic horse’s environment and use, and the effects these have on hoof balance, shape, and the comfort of the horse. Objectives depend upon which method is followed: 1) many other than the AANHCP suggest shortening the hoof wall and heel to the outer edge of the concave sole for best hoof conformation, and 2) applying a rounded bevel (“mustang roll”) to the bottom edge of the wall to allow for a correct breakover (the moment when the foot unloads and tips forward as it begins to lift off the ground) and to prevent chipping and flaring of the wall.There is some research, but no scientific double blind studies, which indicates that removing horseshoes and using barefoot trimming techniques can reduce or in some cases eliminate founder (laminitis) in horses and navicular syndrome.It is generally agreed upon by most natural hoof care practitioners that the management of the animal (diet and boarding conditions) are the most important components for the success of the horse to be barefoot. If the diet is unnatural, there will be inflammation and the horse cannot be comfortable.

Impact of horseshoes[edit]

Removable iron horseshoes known as “hipposandals” may have been invented by the Roman legions.Horses were shod with nailed-on horseshoes from the Middle Ages to the present, though well-trained farriers also performed barefoot trimming for horses that did not require the additional protection of shoes. It has become standard practice to shoe most horses in active competition or work. However, there is a growing movement to eliminate shoes on working horses. Advocates of barefooting point out many benefits to keeping horses barefoot and present studies showing that improper shoeing can cause or exacerbate certain hoof ailments in the horse.Damage from improperly fitted and applied horseshoes can be seen in a gradual distortion of hoof shape, along with other ailments. Hoof soles are often sensitive when going barefoot after a long period of having been shod (because they are not thick enough through callusing). It can take weeks, months, a year, or more, depending on the horse’s prior condition, before a horse is sound and usable on bare feet. During this transition period, the horse can be fitted with hoof boots which protect the soles of the feet until the horse has time to heal and build up callouses, though these boots, especially when not properly fitted and used, can cause hoof damage as well.

Hoof health[edit]

The two things which can directly affect the health of the hoof are diet and exercise. Observers of wild horse populations note that the equine hoof stays in notably better condition when horses are in a herd situation and are free to move around 24 hours a day, as wild horses do, permitting good circulation inside the hoof.Diet is very important too, as changes in feed can directly affect hoof health, most notably seen in cases of laminitis. Even some lots of hay may be high enough in sugar to cause laminitis. A healthy diet for horses currently with or prone to laminitis is based on free access to hay that has been tested for carbohydrate content and found to be less than 10% WSC + starch, some mineral supplementation, and no grain. Feeds and forage with high levels of sugar (carbohydrates) correlate with higher risk of clinical or subclinical laminitis and with other hoof ailments.Natural hoof supplements can be used as a boost to the immune systems of horses when concerned with laminitis or other hoof ailments. D-Biotin supplements, often including the sulfur-containing amino acid dl-Methionine, are commonly known natural supplements that are effective for managing hoof health.Modern research by individuals such as Jaime Jackson and Tia Nelson have studied feral horses to observe the way in which their natural foraging and roaming affects their hooves. They noticed that the hooves of these horses have a different configuration from domestic horses kept in soft pasture, having shorter toes and thicker, stronger hoof walls.

Controversies[edit]

Whether wearing shoes or going barefoot is better for the horse is the subject of some controversy. Opponents of the barefoot movement argue that domesticated horses are routinely put through abnormal levels of activity, stress, and strain, and their hooves undergo excessive wear and shock. Stable-kept horses are not exposed to the same environment as wild horses, which can affect their hoof quality. Additionally, humans sometimes favor certain traits over hoof quality (such as speed), and will breed horses with poor hoof quality if they are exceptional athletes. This can lead to overall decreased hoof quality within a breed and in riding horses in general. Advocates of traditional hoof care suggest that shoeing is needed to protect the hoof from unnatural destruction, and that the horseshoe and its various incarnations has been necessary to maintain the horse’s usability under extreme and unnatural conditions.

What are Horse Hooves Made Of?

Hooves are often compared to toenails, but this does not present an accurate idea of what horseshooves actually are and what function they serve.Hooves are

Survival of the Fittest Horse Hoofs

Some domestic horses require more frequent hoof trimming and special care because they areIn the wild, these horsesHorses are naturally a prey species. Wild horses prone to hoof problems struggle with theIn this way, the genes that predispose horses to hoof issues are

Selective Breeding and Hoof Issues in Horses

Domesticated horses are selectively bred for certain characteristics.Often, horses prone to hoof issues or problems due to their conformation are

A Brief History of Hoof Care

For thousands of years, humans have been riding horses and using them for work. Since theAlthough theThe first horseshoes were called “hippo sandals” and were invented by theTo this day, many competitive and non-competitive horses are shod, but there is a growing trend of natural hoof care and barefooting.

The Importance of Hoof Care

Domesticated horses are kept under very unnatural conditions. Their stalls are filled with soft bedding, and their pastures are full of green grass. They do not travel the long daily distances that wild horses do. Therefore,Working horses or horses for recreational riding carry much heavier loads than horses in the wild.When it rains, and pastures are flooded, horses must either be kept in their stall or stand in the muddy, wet field if they have no other turnout options.For the above reasons, horses need to have their hooves cleaned and trimmed regularly toAs hooves get overgrown, they begin to twist, and horses must adjust how they stand and walk. As the angle of their legs gets more unnatural, it impedes the horses’ ability to walk properly and causes discomfort and pain. The soft tissues in their legs sustain an injury, and a horse may stop moving altogether.

Diet and Hoof Health

The amount and frequency of hoof maintenance that an individual horse requires are dictated primarily by theThe following mainstream practices are used to maintain horseshooves:These methods keep horseshooves in a healthy condition, optimize their performance, and help to avoid injuries.

Transitioning to Barefooting

Internationally, there is a growing trend of keeping horses barefoot or unshod. This movement takes inspiration from the way that wild horses maintain their hooves and the horses of Mongolia and South America that are used for work but are never shod.There are a number of benefits to keeping a horse barefoot:Due to the benefits of barefooting,

Conclusion

Horses that are barefoot still require regular hoof maintenance, including hoof trimming. However, the type of trimming is different from the conventional method. It is a more natural approach to hoof care and maintenance.The aim of the barefoot trim is to