Humane, Barefoot, Natural Hoof Care

The Great Basin Wild and Free-Roaming Horse: Our Model for Hoof Care Excellence

Our certified practitioners (listed under "Get Help") use the hooves of the U.S. Great Basin wild and free-roaming horses as the ideal model.  The reason is simple.  This is the healthy, highly functioning hoof that nature gave the species.

As a result of the landmark studies conducted by AANHCP founding member, Jaime Jackson, over a four-year period,  we know the characteristics and wear pattterns that are present on every single horse that lives in a habitat similar to their native environment. Jackson subsequently found that the domestic horses in his farrier practice rapidly responded with healthier growth patterns as he began mimicking some of the natural wear patterns of their wild cousins.  Over time, he was able to duplicate similar results again and again on all horses as he fine-tuned the trimming method that is now called 'the natural trim.'  AANHCP practitioners are taught the same trim method that encourages those same traits of optimal form and function.  However, the trimming method only addresses one part of the process.  The health of the horse is evident in the hooves and optimal results can only be achieved if we naturalize the lives of our horses (see Paddock Paradise) and feed them a 'reasonably natural diet' in the same manner they eat in the wild.  

The natural trim encourages healthier, more natural growth patterns in the hooves through a unique response in the hooves to this humane, natural barefoot trim. Among the wear patterns of wild horse hooves consistently seen are straight hoof walls with no deviation in hoof wall angle, natural concavity, uniformity of thickness of hoof wall and a 'bevel' that Jackson called a 'mustang roll' around the bottom of the hoof wall.  

Why should horses go barefoot?

"The biology of Equus Caballus, the result of 1.4 million years of natural selection, demands that we work with its nature — not against it. The equine species is genuinely adapted to go barefoot. It is only through human ignorance of the horse's natural state that led us to the incorrect, and harmful, conclusion that shoes are necessary -- or useful. They aren’t, and, moreover, contribute significantly to the lameness we see everywhere around the world."

 2. How does a correct barefoot look like? How does it need to be trimmed? What are the differences to traditional hoof care?

 "The 'correct' look, or, more accurately, the structure of the naturally shaped hoof follows directly from the wild horse “model”. In other words, the adaptation of Equus Caballus. Wild horses of the U.S. Great Basin demonstrate exactly what this means through their life style. Natural Hoof Care (NHC) practitioners mimic the wear patterns of their feet, which, in turn, stimulate natural growth patterns. These patterns are what create the “naturally shaped hoof” — which is never “forced” on any horse as it must be cultivated according to individual conformation and temperament. Habitat is also factored.

"The Institute for the Study of Natural Horse Care Practices (ISNHCP) has created a training program and related educational materials to systemize this trim method and related natural boarding recommendations. Of extreme importance is that NHC, in contrast to “other” barefoot trim methods, does not cause harm, respects the healing powers of nature, and always follows the wild horse model."  (For more information on the natural hoof care training program. go to www.isnhcp.net.)

How should a horse's foot land? Flat or from heel to toe?

"The descent of Equus Caballus through natural selection, and as observed in its natural state, has provided us with incontrovertible evidence that there is great variation of support and flight patterns. These are based, once more, on the individual peculiarities of terrain, conformation and temperament."

 What parts are weight bearing and why? (wall,sole, bars?)

"The weight-bearing structures of the naturally shaped hoof are surprisingly different then what we see in deformed, shod, and unnatural trimmed feet. In the natural state of Equus Caballus, the hoof wall (including the bars) endures the primary weight bearing responsibility of supporting the hoof, followed by the sole and frog, respectively. What is strikingly different is that the heel-bulbs, stimulated by behavior driven movement, descend to aid in the weight-bearing mechanism. Among domestic horses, this is closely approximated through NHC trimming and natural boarding."

Is the wild horse model applicable to all breeds and riding disciplines?

"It is important to understand, above all, that the wild horse and all domestic horses everywhere are all, in fact, Equus Caballus. What applies in the wild, applies among horses in human care.  The only difference between the horse living in captivity and the one in the wild is the nature of their experiences."

What if horses live on wet grounds all the time?

"Equus Caballus descended successfully through natural selection in arid, high desert type biomes similar to the Great Basin. Related species became extinct in other, less arid environments. This is an important message to horse owners — keeping horses in wet lands clashes with the very biology of the horse and should be minimized to avoid its pernicious effects. Natural boarding concepts, such as those discussed in “Paddock Paradise” provide alternatives through its unique tracking system."

What should horse owners consider regarding their horses' hooves?

"Always to mimic the natural life style of the horse, which includes his feet. NHC provides a holistic care regimen for producing optimally healthy and durable hooves, within a context of natural boarding. This means also making hard decisions about whether or not to continue shoeing, keeping horses in close confinement, using dangerous drugs and feeds that upset his digestive system — which are directly responsible for colic and laminitis, and riding/training horses in ways that are harmful because they violate his natural gaits. NHC is a direct corridor into a healthy way to relate and care for horses."