It is important to understand the five primary functions of the hoof in order to understand why a horse benefits from a natural barefoot trim. I like to remember these five functions with mnemonic device She Can Trim Ponies Well !
- Shock Absorption
The hoof acts as a major shock absorption mechanism for the horse, accounting for approximately a 70% impact reduction on the horse’s limb. As pressure is applied downward on the hoof, the capsule expands reducing the stress on the inner structures of the hoof and the horse’s joints. The natural barefoot trim aids this process by creating a harmonic groove on the quarters that is not found in traditional farrier work or in a shod horse.
The horse’s heart is not powerful enough to pump blood back up the leg. The frog and navicular bone are two critical structures that aid in the circulation of blood throughout the hoof and back up the horses’ leg. These structures function best when the horse is in motion, through expansion and contraction of the hoof capsule, this is why after a horse has been locked in a stall for an extended period of time or been on a long trailer journey their legs will stock up or fill with excess fluids. The natural barefoot trim promotes this movement, encouraging proper circulation.
A healthy and properly functioning hoof has the ability to provide excellent traction for the horse on many different terrains. As the foot expands down onto the footing, there is a grabbing motion as their foot rocks from heel to toe. Horses are naturally prey animals, who depend on their ability to escape. The properly trimmed foot gives your horse the ability to feel the ground beneath them, making them feel safer, should an emergency arise.
The hoof capsule acts as a barrier between the ground and the live internal structures of the horse’s foot. A healthy hoof, provided with the correct environment and natural trim, will grow and wear evenly providing the horse comfort in between trims.
- Waste and Protein Extraction
The horn which makes up the protective hoof wall, is continually growing. The corium, various soft tissues inside the hoof capsule, filters the blood, working in a similar way to a human kidney or liver. Blood will enter the hoof capsule, any waste, such as too much sugar or medication, will be excreted from the horse’s body in the form of horn, and the remaining blood will be pumped back up the leg. Because the hoof is a major metabolic organ, the first signs of disease will often present in the hoof.
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