Check it Out!
[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]
[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index] [Subject Index]

Dr. Cooks Letter


Quoting from Robyn Levash's post of Dr. Cook's letter, he says:

> Strasser's message, in essence, is disarmingly simple. First,
> keep the horse in an environment that bears a similarity to
> its natural environment(something that is within the
> capability of most horse keepers today and should be as
> obligatory as the provision of food and water).

I find this statement to be hopelessly naive.  Keeping a horse in an
environment that even marginally resembles its natural environment is
WAAAAAY beyond the capability of most horse keepers today...certainly
those here in Southern California, and definitely almost all those in
Germany :).

I am lucky enough to have a lease on hundreds of acres of undeveloped,
unirrigated savannah (of which only about 100 acres is fenced so that is
all I can use if I don't want my horses to end up on the freeway) and my
horses come very close to being kept in a natural environment for horses.
They are out for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year...and even so, I have to
supplement their feed with hay to keep a mere 5-6 horses from overgrazing
it!!  They never wear blankets (they would have them off in no time :))
... but they do get fly spray (and to not provide it would be cruel, even
though in nature horses just have to "lump it" with respect to flies).

But I fully understand that this horse keeping option is not available to
the thousands of horse owners that are just over the hill from me.  To
fatuously suggest that keeping horses in a natural environment is well
within the abilities of most horse owners is simply not true.

And he goes on to say:
> ...
> Similarly, most owners of young, unshod horses with healthy
> hooves would also much prefer that farriers carried out the
> Strasser trim for them.

Which suggests that Strasser fully understands that keeping horses in
their natural environment is actually well beyond the horsekeeping
abilities of most horse owners.  The very fact that there is such a thing
as the "Strasser trim" (or any trim) indicates that horses are not kept in
their natural environments.  Horses kept naturally NEVER need to have
their hooves trimmed (the whole idea is that the equine hoof, when kept in
its natural environment, is self-maintaining).  The reason that horses in
captivity need their hooves trimmed would be if they were kept in such an
environment that their hoof growth outpaced their hoof wear.  So for all
the people out there who are trimming their horses' KNOW that
they are not keeping their horses in an environment natural enough to
properly maintain a normal equine foot.

Since advocates of trimming (whatever method is used) of horses kept
barefoot understand the concept that hoof growth can outpace hoof wear, it
shouldn't be too difficult for the same people to understand that hoof
wear can also outpace hoof growth.

For most of my horses; I could keep them pretty much totally in their
natural environment (except that I would probably have to pony up the
~$100,000 it would cost me to fence the rest of the 800 acres if I didn't
want the 5-6 horses to overgraze it, and I would still have to
separate/confine my stallion if I didn't want the 5-6 horses to become 20
horses in just a few years).  And I could keep them barefoot 100% of the
time and their feet wouldn't require any trimming (I have three horses on
the property now, two of which who were born there, that have NEVER had
their feet trimmmed in their entire lives, they are 4, 5, and 7
respectively).  And I could watch them wander around and graze.

But if I want to do ANYTHING with them other than watch them wander around
and graze on hundreds of acres of unirrigated pasture, then I am going to
have to MAINTAIN and manage their hoof shape, growth, and wear.

The best way for any horse owner to properly maintain hoof shape, growth,
and wear is a funciton of tons of variables among which are:

1. Space available in the living conditions
2. Footing and terrain of the living conditions
3. Health of the individual animal
4. Previous hoof care (including how its feet were managed during the
first few weeks of its life) of the individual animal
5. Conformation of the individual animal
6. Genetic predisposition of the individual animal
7. How much work (i.e. anything other than walking around and grazing that
we the horse to do) the individual animal does
8. The footing and terrain of the working conditions (which may not
necessarily be the same as those of the living conditions).

I am a BIG fan of keeping a horse in as natural of conditions as possible,
not only for their physical well-being, but also for their mental
well-being.  And yes, I do think that many of the health problems that
horses suffer from today are related to the fact that none of their
systems are not particularly well adapted to confinement and many of the
other horse management practices that domesticated horses are subjected

But I am also of the opinion that the abnormal feet that are seen in many
domesticated horses are less a funciton of whether the horse has been
provided with some kind of hoof protection (including steel shoes) to
ensure that wear does not outpace growth and has more to do with the lack
of use that most horses feet are subjected to.

Endurance horses, generally (although some do), don't have a big "lack of
use" problem...which is why I suspect that if one were to evaluate the
feet of endurance horses, even those that have been shod with steel shoes
for thousands of miles, you would be likely to find a lot of healthy,
functioning feet.

So, here is my horse/hoof management suggestions to all horse owners:

Evaluate your horse's living conditions and provide them with living
conditions as close to their natural environment as you possibly can
(understanding that there is no way to get it exact) while at the same
time watching the individual horse and altering the conditions for those
that are not thriving in the conditions that you are providing.

After which, manage your horse's feet in a way that is appropriate to the
individual horse, its individual living conditions, and the individual
horse's work load.

Keep them barefoot for as long as their barefeet are self-maintaining.
Trim them if hoof growth outpaces hoof wear, and provide them with some
kind of hoof protection if hoof wear outpaces hoof growth. a not dismiss out of hand steel shoes as an option
for hoof protection.  Without doubt, steel shoes are the most tested and
proven form of hoof protection available.  There IS a reason that steel
shoes, over the centuries, became the hoof protection of choice (if you
investigate the history of horse domestication, you can see that even
centuries ago LOTS of other options were investigated).

It is also true that centuries ago, man did not have access to some of the
new materials and technologies available today, so new materials and
technologies are worth investigating, but don't assume that the people
who, centuries ago, chose iron/steel as a method of protecting their
horses feet didn't know that there are took them a long time
to settle on steel.

..but then, over the centuries, horses didn't have the "lack of use"
problems that horses today suffer from (at least, not as much :) ).

Orange County, Calif.

p.s.  In a related post, I found myself chuckling over the idea that
because of the way we keep and use horses that they are not living as long
and useful of lives as they naturally would.  It is my understanding wild
horses rarely live more than 15 or so years, because, sometime before that
point they become dinner. Domestication has substantially lengthened the
lifespan of horses.

    Check it Out!    

Home    Events    Groups    Rider Directory    Market    RideCamp    Stuff

Back to TOC