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Re: Barefoot

About road founder...Shoes certainly do NOT protect a horse against
concussion to the feet.  In fact, they take away the natural
shock-absorbing abilities of the hoof.  I'm not saying that you could take
any barefoot horse and go 10 miles down pavement and expect no problems,
you would certainly have to condition for it, but a barefoot horse has
better shock absorption than a shod one.  Further, the frequency at which
shoes vibrate when struck is just right to cause the breakage of protein
bonds in the hoof.

Another thing to think about, especially when rocky ground is concerned,
is that a horse without shoes can feel where he is stepping and avoid
putting his full weight on a foot that is on a rock.  (Or in the case of
my horse, he could simply care less if his foot is on a rock, his feet are
so hard)  He generally has better traction in mud and on pavement.  

About genetic differences between hooves:  The only thing to watch out for
when reading this type of study is that the author considered the shoeing
history of the cadaver hooves he dissected.  It has been my observaton
that TBs and QHs are MUCH more likely to be shod on all 4 from an early
age than Morgans or Arabs.  Any horse off the track has been shod since 18
months of age, usually with underrun heels and long toes.  They then
remain shod in their subsequent careers because they have "weak hooves".
I agree that different breeds may have different horn quality in their
hooves, however shoeing history has as much or more of a role to play in a
horse's hoof soundness as genetics.

I trim my horse myself, so I know his hooves pretty well, and I would
agree with a previous poster who said that most riders are the least
familiar with their horses' hooves compared to other body parts.  I only
realized when I started trimming how little I had looked at my horse's
feet, even though I would clean them every day.  While I would appreciate
information about the trail conditions on a ride (not that I've ever been
on a ride or anything, just for in the future...), I would NOT appreciate
being told I could not compete unless my horse was shod, because the
people making this decision do not know me or my horse.  I understand that
these rules are made in the attempt to protect horses from injury, but in
all other aspects the rider is allowed to make the initial decision about
whether the horse is ready to go or not.  

Finally, about hoof protection:  There are readily accessible hoof boots
out there made specifically for long rides and all types of terrain.  The
Horsneaker and the Old Mac's boots are made to stay on the horse's feet
and protect from excessive wear and bruises.  They really are the best of
both worlds, because they protect the feet without damaging the hoof, 
while still allowing hoof mechanism to occur.  With a proper trim and
judicious use of hoof boots, a barefoot horse should be able to go just as
far as a shod one.  But correct maintenance and hoof care is ESSENTIAL for
success.  The time it takes to do this maintenance (and the responsibility
for the maintenance) may not be something that every horse owner is ready
to give.

Abby (off the soapbox least for the moment...)
& R.C. Cola (Rocks?  What rocks?)

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