Natural Hoof Trimming?
By Don Blazer
The arguments for horses being barefoot or having shoes are just a lot of noise.
Neither side is right! Both sides are wrong!
A natural trim isn't a magic bullet…in fact, it isn't even a fact because horses in "nature" aren't trimmed, they're "worn." And your horse isn't in nature…he's in a stall, a pen, or a pasture.
Putting on "nature shoes", using clips, wedges, or hot shoeing is just a lot of rhetoric…it means nothing, unless the most important question is answered first.
What's best for the horse?
There's only one correct answer, so pay attention!
Now how do you find hoof balance?
You look at the conformation-leg and hoof structure-of the individual horse. Look at the bottom of the hoof and determine from the center point of the frog if there is medial/lateral balance. (That means equal distances to the inside and outside hoof walls.) If not, it's got to be brought into balance.
To find dorsal/palmar balance run your fingers down the center of the cannon bone. When you get to the center of the fetlock joint, drop a line straight to the ground. The heel of the hoof should extend back to that line.
Now run your fingers down the center of the pastern to the coronet band, and then drop a line straight to the ground. Distances from that point to the toe and to the heel should be the same. If they aren't, they've got to be brought into balance.
Can you get hoof balance by trimming the horse and leaving him barefoot? Sometimes, yes, sometimes no.
What advocates of horses going barefoot don't mention is that horses with balanced feet run and live on hard ground. (They get their evidence to support their claims by looking at the feet of mustangs or horses living in rugged, rocky terrain.) The horse's foot is dynamic, and if it is going to assume the correct shape and balance, it must be subjected to somewhat hard concussions.
If your horse lives in a stall, in a pen or in a soft pasture, he isn't going to have the balanced hoof he needs. You can "natural trim" him all you want and he still isn't going to get the miles and miles of solid concussions his hoof needs to be worn and shaped into balance.
If you can't trim the horse into balance, then you need to add a shoe….not a shoe with clips or wedged or pads. Hot shoeing won't make a tad of difference. You need a shoe that is wide enough to allow for "extension" of the medial or lateral hoof walls if that is what is out of balance. You need a shoe that will extend at least to the bulbs of the heel if dorsal/palmar balance is needed, which is most often the case.
There are myriad of problems with the horse's hoof…they aren't all brought on by domestication and they aren't all solved by shoeing or barefoot trims.
The more we know, the more complicated it gets. There aren't any simple answers, so don't buy the "one true way" snake oil.
Knowledge means we have more questions; it means consider more options. But before any decisions are made, you've got to understand the individual horse and ask, "What's best for this horse?"
It might be the hoof problem is a "nutrition" problem. There are more horses with poor feet due to poor nutrition than trimmers and shoers can fix; and supplements aren't going to do the job. But that's another story.