* Natural amount of Movement
approximately 15+ km per day spread
over 24 hours.
This includes moving within a herd and/or under a rider.
Movement facilitates Hoofmechanism.
Read here why your horse needs functioning hooves:

* Daily exposure to water
Hoof horn contains a great deal of water (we all know how the horn cut-offs quickly shrivel up after the farrier has trimmed them).
Air, dry ground (and of course, bedding like saw dust etc) dries the hoof. A dry hoof is less elastic, becomes brittle and becomes more susept to cracks and white line problems.
To protect the hoof from the damaging effects of dehydration, daily hoof soaks are essential.
(Horses in the wild expose their hooves to water daily when drinking from water holes or streams) 

* Immediate and Direct Ground Contact  (no shoes!)
Read about the effects of shoeing here

To allow the horse to feel the ground it' s walking on.

* Provide breed-appropriate ground conditions
There are hard terrain breeds and soft terrain breeds.
If you have a hard terrain breed (like an Arabian) living predominantly on soft ground, his hard hooves will not get sufficient counter pressure from the ground and may become contracted. There will not be sufficient antagonism from the ground to facilitate optimal hoofmechanism.
A soft terrain breed may be "conditioned" to harder ground conditions to a certain extend, but may have natural limitations on rocky terrain.
Hoof boots are a good solution.
(Check out Gretchen's intro page to horses' alternative footwear from all over the world!
I use OldMac boots as a very good "Australian" brand.)

Lameness Prevention & Rehabilitation

Obviously prevention is always better than cure.
Not only for your horse's wellbeing and happiness, but also for your enjoyment of your horse as well as your back pocket.

It is a sad fact that equine lameness ranks as number one cause for loss of use/early retirement or euthanasia of domestic horses.
Imagine we could prevent lameness with educated care or rehabilitate horses that have been declared uncurably lame in their teens, and return them to soundness so we could enjoy them many, many more years! Just imagine!
If you have read the articles on  The Hoof & Its Function and The Effects of Shoeing you already know a lot more than most horse owners.
If those "in charge" of looking after horses hooves (our farriers) and those we call upon when our horse is sick or injured (our veterinarians) would have build their knowledge on healthy examples and specimens, instead of studying pathological "ideals" (as printed in nearly all textbooks) as an acceptable standard of health, then we simply would change a whole industry and its economics!
This would be good for horses. It would be good for horse owners.
But would it be good for the makers of shoes, medications and those who have specialized in treating only symptoms? (instead of prescribing biological - anatomical and physiological - ideal circumstances in order to help the body to HEAL itself?)
No. Of course not.......
It is up to us, the horse owners, to change erroneous tradtions and therefore make those who want to help horses professionally want to become "SOUNDNESS EXPERTS" instead of "LAMENESS EXPERTS" : Someone who can really make a difference by maintaining soundness and heal pathologies - instead of merely following false beliefs and trying to JUST "prolong the usability" of our horses  -  for a little while......
Horses deserve better than that.
Their owners as well.
So, how can we prevent hoof problems in a domestic situation?

If you have the chance to be the owner of a newborn foal, the best gift you can give this young horse is to let it and its dam out into the field, so it can run, exercise and get strong.
Also consider your horse's breed and the terrain necessary for optimal development of hooves and limbs.
The ground must provide sufficient resistence to activate hoofmechanism.
Proper terrain for its breed, allows the hoof of the foal to expand in the sole and heel region (and at faster speed in the quarters). As the hoof grows wider at the coronet, it is also expands at sole level. This means, the hoof is never smaller in diameter at the sole than at the coronet as the horse matures. A healthy conical hoof can develop.



* Stabling (even if "just over night")
> Lack of movement, unnatural posture
Staying (standing) in a small area which is proportionally comparable to a transport cage for a small pet (or "keeping a seal in a bath tub!"), deprives the horse of the most important aspect of its existance: The freedom to move at liberty.
The horse is a prey and herd animal. Being confined in a small space without direct companionship and escape routes causes not only psychological stress, but also physiological stress:
Without going too deep into the biomechanics of a prolonged head up (tense) posture, we can say that the posture which the horse assumes in the stable is unnatural for most of the time: The head and neckcarriage is high in comparison to the horse on pasture which is grazing most of the time (head low, neck and back muscles stretched). Most of the weight is placed on the heels (not as intended more toe-wards where the horn wall is thicker).
And, of course: Without movement, there is no Hoofmechanism...... here you can read about it:

> Bedding (sawdust, straw, shavings etc.) absorbs moisture, drying out the hoof horn.
Not only has it a drying effect on the hoof, it also absorbs urine which and with the moisture absorbing properties of the bedding, forms a ammonia solution.

Ammonia destroys protein. Hoof horn is protein.
(The combination of ammonia and dust in stables is also a very common cause for respiratory problems - from "the clearing cough at the beginning of a ride" to serious pneumo-respiratory diseases)

* Grease or oils on hooves
Because nobody has ever observed a horse stomping around in the carcass of a dead animal to put oil or grease on its hooves.... or has seen one gathering nuts or kernels to extract oils by trampeling on them.
For the hoof to remain elastic (hoofmechanism and shockabsorption) the hoof needs to moisturized.
WATER is the only moisturizer that is needed.
By applying grease and oils to the hoof, we prevent the hoof horn to absorb water.
Because grease and oils can turn to vlolatile fatty acids and esters, they may do more harm than if nothing is done!

*  Shoeing and incorrect trimming
Since shoeing (and incorrect trimming) impairs hoof mechanism, it is the most common reason for problems in the hoof.
Since shoeing and incorrect trimming affects most domestic horses but is a subject of controversy, I have dedicated another page to discuss the arguments more in detail.
Go here and be amazed:
It may not only be a "square box" you will leave !
It may give you some answers to questions you haven't even asked yet..... For example: WHY DO WE PUT METAL SHOES ON OUR HORSES' HOOVES AND CONSIDER IT "GOOD" HORSEMANSHIP.......

Rusty & Zarley soaking & nibbling
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