Don't worry, Tracey, I don't think you're picking on me. Once I decided to come out of that barefoot closet, I knew I'd get some hot responses. Yours seems to be luke warm (my favorite bath temperature) so I'm happy to try and explain myself, which usually takes forever, but I'll attempt to do it in less than a day, just for you.
It's become my Guide to Trimming, plus a whole lot more. I am communicating with the woman who wrote the site and put it all together, so if you have any questions about any of it, you can either email her or email me and I'll ask her. She's very interested in endurance and barefooting, and even though I did tell her I'm at the bottom of the pile as far as endurance riders go, I did get her attention by mentioning our sport.
I can tell you what motivates me more than anything, and if you go thru the site thoroughly you'll understand what I'm talking about. It's the concavity of the sole. On shod horses it's not normally there. If you shoe your horses and you have the concavity in the sole like a feral horse does, then you're doing everything right and have the best of both worlds. I have yet to see it on a horse that has been shod most of his life.
The reason you want that concavity is because of the coffin bone. This also relates to any problems that appear to be navicular in nature. If the sole is flat, the coffin bone is not sitting properly, and your horse will more than likely start to experience lameness type problems along the road. With some horses this might not show up right away, but I do believe that having that concavity is key to soundness. Anyway, that's my mantra, so to speak, and it's what I'm shooting for.
I am not saying shoes are evil; not at all. I know that rocks will tear up a horses hoof without them and I'm putting them on my guys before my next GERA ride, with pads, because that ride has more rocks than any other I go to. The little, man made kind, that love to get in there and cause a stone bruise. I won't go to that ride barefoot, and I've considered skipping it this year, but I am so dying to get out of this Central Florida heat, I must attend that ride. Plus, it's a lot of fun in spite of the generator noise (still hot even up there this time of year). But, right after that ride I'm taking everything off and keeping it off for the rest of the year and into next year (off my horses, not me).
Anyway, I'm not saying things are going perfectly. My mare still tip toes over the rocks and hard pavement. The Arabs don't seem to be as sensitive and Dance Line has incredible feet so he can travel anywhere without shoes. Even though we don't have that much variety in ground cover down here, I can feel when the mare is totally comfortable (soft sand is her favorite) and when she's tiptoeing thru the tulips. The barefoot site does say it takes at least a year for the feet to get strong enough to travel thru gravel barefoot, but, being in an area favorable to soft ground, like I am, it might take longer. I love a good challenge, so this goes right in line with my current endurance experiences. haha.
To try and answer your question about what is the best contact a horse's hoof can make with the ground is explained on the site I suggested you go to. It's also mentioned in that EQUUS article "Hooves Under Pressure," from Feb, 2001. Most of that article is from a study conducted by this man named Bowker, VMD, PHD. In the article he says, "the horse was intended to carry most of his weight on the rear portion of the sole, not on his toes or hoof walls." I do believe when you throw on those shoes, the horse is traveling more on the toe and hoof wall than the heel, like they should be.
The problem with shod horses is you take this natural contact with the ground away from them. They start using their toe more than their heel, and it gets worse as the shod hoof grows. So, even if you use the Natural Shoes, set back on a cut down toe, after a month or so, because of how the shod hoof grows, the horse will start hitting the ground toe first. It's the nature of the beast.
Next time your farrier takes off your shoes, or even before he/she does, take a good look at the shoe itself; the ones on the front hooves especially. My bet is you will notice much more wear in the toe area than the rest of the shoe. It's what I noticed on my guys when I had shoes on them. Anyway, give it a shot. If it doesn't go the way you want, you can always put back on the shoes.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, August 08, 2002 3:38 AM
To: Howard Bramhall
Subject: Re: [RC] natural balance shoe
I'm back after a brief absence, and quite distressed that my first post is going to be in response to something Howard said. I'm not picking on you, Howard, really I'm not!!
I have some questions, though, and hope that they can be answered with reference to THIS horse. As I said, I'm happy that my other horse is in shoes, and he'll remain so, I'm not looking to be converted to "barefoot" for all or any horses.
>>I do believe that when you put shoes on a horse, you mess up the proper action the hoof is supposed to make with the ground. The way of thinking goes that the heel and the sole need to make contact (firm contact) with the ground while the horse is traveling. With a shoe, that contact isn't what it should be.
Can you explain to me what it should be, Howard? This isn't a facetious question, my knowledge of farriery is not as it should be, and I'm genuinely interested.
The other problems with shoes are with the alignment of the coffin and short and long pastern bones. The shoes throw off this alignment because a normal shoe creates a "long toe" which forces the joints within to bend, overloading the tendons in the heel.
I'm not convinced that this is the case with all shoeing, but it could certainly be the case with BAD shoeing. But then, I also think it is probably more the fault of the way the horse is trimmed rather than the way it is shod. Which leads me to believe that there could very well be barefoot horses with similar problems.