By Carole Herder
“The same care which is given to the horse’s food and exercise, to make his body grow strong, should also be devoted to keeping his feet in condition” – Xenophon, The Art of Horsemanship, written twenty-three centuries ago. I read this quote recently in an article by Tom Teskey entitled, ‘Breaking Traditions: A Veterinary Medical and Ethical Perspective on the Modern Day Usage of Steel Horseshoes’. A fascinating read, as are all of Teskey’s literature. Here are some points from that article that I would like to reiterate.
Foals receive a pasture trim right from the beginning, so straight away, just when they are developing and growing, we are already messing with their feet incorrectly and flattening off those hooves. This leads on to their first shoes where more flattening of the solar aspect takes pace and all concavity, domes, triangles and conical shapes (which form the strongest and most perfect and dynamic shape in the world) are taken away, and then a ring of steel is nailed on to it. I don’t need to spell out how unnatural this is and how this will ultimately result in disease, deformation, stagnation and lameness.
Driving nails through a natural physical barrier opens the doors to fungus and bacteria and only encourages chipping, breaks and cracks.Steel on hooves allow concussive forces, vibrations and sudden, extreme temperatures to enter the hoof. The built-in shock absorbency cannot work when a steel shoe restricts the natural expansion of the hoof. Because the middle of the hoof is elevated, the rest of the leg must now take on the tasks of dispelling these concussive forces, a job the joints, ligaments and cartilages further up in the leg were never designed to do. Compromising the horse’s hoof by nailing a steel shoe on to it will lead to lameness and shoulder, neck and back issues.
There is so much to say here! Keep reading part 2 of this article to learn more about how we all need to help change people’s beliefs, especially in veterinarians, farriers and other horse care professionals.
By Carole Herder
When I was first trying to ride I noticed the rhythm of my horse. When I was able to connect to his rhythm the ride was easier. If you get with their cadence when you’re riding you give your horse a lot more freedom of movement and create fluidity. If you can’t or choose not to realize that rhythm then you must use equipment like bits and draw reins or more leg strength and muscle. If you can surrender to the natural rhythms of your horse and his nature, riding him is like dancing with your partner.
One year I was at a reigning competition called Super Slide. All these western riders were involved and the ride included fast spins, sliding, maneuvering horses in different patterns and showing off their abilities. While it is a more western style, it is based in Dressage – control and movement together in a certain rhythm that is trained.
The discipline called Dressage Kur is a more formal English style of riding where the rider moves together with their horse in a dance movement to music. It is stunningly beautiful. At the end of this evening, three Dressage riders wanted to show the western riders what they do. I was at the event with a booth to promote Cavallo Saddle Pads. One of the Dressage riders stopped by my booth. I told her all about my saddle pad designs. She shared with me that her horse seemed really stiff in the shoulders. She was frustrated because he was a big investment that she had paid to fly in from Holland. He was supposed to be a fluid mover. I gave her a saddle pad to try; to my shock she tried it in competition right then. Most people don’t put on a new piece of equipment in competition, but she did.
As a result, her horse discovered that he had freedom of movement in the scapula. He was a big Dutch warm blood, bred to perform and move. Saddled up and ready to go, just as this rider started her dance, the Dressage Kur, her horse moved out, realizing he felt freedom of movement for the first time. The rider wasn’t ready for it and fell off!
She came back to me at the booth afterward with her saddle pad in hand and with a stern look said, “I fell off my horse.” I felt terrible. She laughed and went on to say, “All of a sudden I realized that my horse was moving properly the way he was meant to move for the breeding and money I paid to import him. Now I know he can really move and I got what I paid for…but I wasn’t ready and fell off.” That’s the difference that a free movement can make. The scope of movement is limited for a horse that is hitched, not in cadence or if you’re not in balance with him. If you’re moving with him and he is free, you can have a lovely dance.
“Love doesn’t make the world go round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Franklin P. Jones
By Carole Herder
Be wary of the ingredients in the horse feed industry. Select feed and quantities of food based on your understanding of nutrition. Don’t be sold to. Educate yourself so you cannot be taken advantage of.
One of the biggest culprits of deception is in the world of supplements and pharmaceuticals. Quality is key. It is always best to try, or at least consider, natural remedies and preventative care over chemical compounds from big pharmaceutical companies. Worming is a particularly controversial issue because let’s face it companies and (and some) veterinarians want to sell wormer products; it’s big business. I believe that many doctors overprescribe worming medication. Vets used to take a more holistic approach and really visit with the horse. This kind of care has too often gone by the wayside, much the same as physicians have done in western medicine for humans. I remember when Dr. Konradi used to visit my Oma at her house (way back when).
Let’s take care of the basics first. Keep the paddock and stall clean and ensure it is free of manure. Make sure there is fresh air circulation. Outside, you usually want to have a bare minimum of an acre for every horse. If your horse is getting overrun with worms too frequently or badly it could be his nutrition or you may need to get more diligent picking up manure. If he has a healthy immune system he will be able to ward off worms better. It is the same with our health. If we eat a lot of processed foods with little nutrition it will start to affect our health and immune system function. That makes us more susceptible to catching a cold or other illness. For your horse, over-worming with drugs can deplete the immune system of natural defenses. Good times to worm are early in the spring, after the last frost and in the fall after the first frost. If you’re concerned about worms or the health of your horse’s digestive tract, have some feces examined.
Human and horse digestive systems are similar in a way. We both need to keep a healthy balance of the right bacteria in our bowels. This is particularly important for parasite control in horses. A horse may not be consuming too many sodas or desserts like we do, but too many carrots or other fruits and veggies with high sugar content can be just as bad for him as those donuts are for you. We need to minimize the sugars we take in. While your body needs greens and fiber for health and wellness, so does your horse; although he gets his with grass, leaves and twigs. It is good practice to give your horse a cycle of probiotics after a worming to help rebalance the natural flora in the digestive tract. I have found that probiotics really should be kept refrigerated, even if the packaging doesn’t direct you to do so. Our bodies want to be in an alkaline state; that’s around a pH of 7.4. Food choices and stress can make the body more acidic, which in turn leads to disease. The same is true for horses. Bottom line, do your best to fuel your horse with quality nutrition and supplements, and keep the harsh synthetic drugs and fancy packaged food products to a minimum.
“Care, and not fine stables, makes a good horse.” — Danish Proverb
By Carole Herder
There is nothing better for your horse’s hooves than a good diet, plenty of movement and regular trims but on occasion something may still go wrong. Here are some possibilities for natural remedies:
- Apple cider vinegar mixed with water (50/50 ratio) is a mild solution that can be used as a daily treatment for fungus infections or used as a weekly soak for preventative care. I like to mix the solution in a spray bottle and spray the soles of the hoofs and inside my Cavallos whenever I put them on.
- Raw Manuka honey or calendula cream on cotton balls can be used for frog infections.
- Homeopathy treatments such as St. John’s Wort for nerve damage from puncture wounds, Arnica for bruising, Calcium Sulphide for abscesses or infected wounds and of course Silica which helps with just about everything from thrush to tendonitis to scar tissue. And for you too.
- Essential oils such as thyme and tea tree are also great for thrush, abscesses and white line disease. In fact pure Tea Tree Oil was the only thing that helped my horse with thrush. I tried almost every other innocuous treatment I could find. Be careful though some are not strong enough. I found a very powerful brand in a health food store – Tea Tree Oil straight from Australia.
- And for an amazing overall tonic, what about some seaweed? Aka ‘kelp’, this herb contains 46 minerals and is a great source of iodine. Much better than those chemically manufactured salt and mineral blocks – full of glue and binders.
And don’t forget, resolving hoof ailments takes proper management (and possibly some professional advice), not just a magic cream. You may have to get poultices, administer daily bandages, change the environment and/or diet temporarily or even permanently. There may be an occasional but unfortunately there is rarely such thing as a quick fix.