lights

Old Mac's and the barefoot horse

THE BAREFOOT HORSE

Many of us are happy to allow our horses to 'go barefoot'. We see the benefits of a more natural program. We don't like pounding nails into the hoof every 6 weeks. We understand that metal may not be the best composite to secure live tissue. Shoeing is expensive and good farriers require excessive love and adoration, but what choice do we have? If we consider pulling the shoes, our horses may well be lame. Then when we put the shoes back on, he trots off happily. What is the difference? How can some horses go successfully barefoot and others have no end of trouble?

Many of us are happy to allow our horses to 'go barefoot'. We see the benefits of a more natural program. We don't like pounding nails into the hoof every 6 weeks. We understand that metal may not be the best composite to secure live tissue. Shoeing is expensive and good farriers require excessive love and adoration, but what choice do we have? If we consider pulling the shoes, our horses may well be lame. Then when we put the shoes back on, he trots off happily. What is the difference? How can some horses go successfully barefoot and others have no end of trouble?

METAL SHOES

There are many factors that contribute to the long-term success of a barefoot program. When a farrier comes to shoe your horse, he trims him flat and level, even and balanced. He removes the sloughing off dead tissue and makes the hoof look neat and tidy. He is aware of the shape of the frog, bars and sole but needs only to clean this up and get a clear picture. His job is to make sure the shoe goes on securely and will shape it to the trim he's done. The nails should not go through sensitive tissue and it all needs to look good, consistent and uniform. The only thing making contact with the ground is the metal shoe.

SIGNIFICANT STRUCTURES

Let's talk about what happens when we don't put the shoes on. What happens when the trio of significant structures, namely the frog, bars and are not lifted by the metal shoe? What happens when the bars end up level with the wall? What happens when the frog makes contact before the walls? How does it feel when the sole makes contact with the ground at the same time as the outer walls? The sole's function should be secondary, not primary, passive not active. So let's answer this simple question- it hurts!

HOOF FUNCTION

A miraculous structure, hooves support the weight of 1000 lbs. in motion. The walls expand and widen apart to draw the sole flat. With the sole's leveling downward towards the ground the bone column is invited to descend. Thank you, now we don't have to bruise the solar corium. Now we can absorb shock and concussion the way we're meant to do.

EXTRA ATTENTION

If the bars make contact at the same time as the wall, our expansion function is immobilized. The bar contact, does not allow the sole to draw out. Its position just keeps the hoof static and the pressure of making this primary contact actually exerts upward on the internal structures. Our goal is to allow the hoof to do the job. That means it must function with mobility, elasticity and as a unit. One function cannot suppress another. Simply remind your farrier to pair out the bars so that they can function together with the sole. Ask for attention so that the sole does not make contact at the same time as the walls. Simple. Yes. Under stood? Probably. Practiced? Rarely -because there is no need with a traditional metal shoe job.

FROGS AND OTHER BIG DETAILS

The third party in our trio of significant structures is the frog. Although it can be quite malleable, often compared to the consistency of an over aged dairy product, it is tough and conducts a systemic symphony with the horse's most important organ • the heart! It's all about blood, nutrients and circulation. That's the key. We really don't want to compromise this gelatinous big cheese. The frog should at least not make contact with the ground before the walls do and at best, be recessed to make secondary contact as the sole draws flat.

The most important factors in a successful barefoot program are:

o Proper hoof function and hoof mechanism

o Movement & Exercise

o Hydration

o Hard Ground

o Frequent trims tailored to the barefoot horse!

o Friends & Socialization

Where The Rubber Meets the Road

Our purpose is to discuss the application of Old Mac's as an alternative to metal shoes. The idea that horses can be barefoot is not new. Horses have a long history of barefoot performance and have carried fully armoured, full sized men into battle. They have been used for fieldwork, war and performance in their natural barefoot state.

When the horse's weight descends, the hoof is sandwiched between that load and the ground. It is meant to spread apart upon weight bearing, with the coffin bone dropping down like a trampoline. This is the natural shock-absorbing feature of the hoof. The walls spread apart (up to 10mm from side to side) and the sole draws flat. Horses with this elasticity and hoof function are most adequately prepared to absorb shock and concussion. When metal is nailed in all around • how does the hoof perform its duty? Where is the shock absorbed? Perhaps it's absorbed in the sensitive tissue of the hoof or further up the structure of the leg. Perhaps the market proliferation of products containing Glucosamines, MSM and anti inflammatories are really an indication of our inadequate understanding of the shock absorbing features of the hoof. Perhaps if we allow our horses to function naturally they would not be showing increasing symptoms of pain and discomfort.

The metal shoe is nailed on when the hoof is in the air. It is at its smallest, most contracted shape. It is not weight bearing or in movement and is held firm in this state by the metal - no expansion and no where for the coffin bone to descend. As the coffin bone pushes down under the horse's weight it is then bruising the solar corium, which cannot expand and draw flat to get out of the way.

Can Navicular Syndrome be the pain caused as a result of the bruising of the solar corium? Is it the pressure from the descending coffin bone or is it the damaged bone that is painful? Under X-rays the bone is shown to be deteriorating. These enlarged areas and lack of bone structure could be a result of congested blood, and lack of circulation causing the arteries to swell. When the arteries swell, can they then push against the bone and be the cause of deterioration to bone spongiosa? Coupled with the stress on ligaments and tendons, and the irritation of connective tissue, pain results. The horse is diagnosed Navicular. We have bar shoes applied and the horse walks off sound. We think the bar shoes are a fabulous cure for Navicular, when what is really happening may be just the opposite. Even less circulation! In a normal horseshoe shape the frog still was making some contact with the ground and blood was flowing through. Now with a bar across the heel circulation is further limited. The horse walks off sound, because he cannot feel. His hoof is numb and the damage continues.

Horses were first shod before we understood the physiology of the hoof and certainly before we had our current level of technology. Today's compounds have far greater shock absorbing features than metal. If you take a metal shoe and bang it against a rock, you will feel the reverberation all the way up your arm. Take an Old Mac's and do the same, and you will see that the specially formulated TPU (Thermo Plastic Urethane) does not transmit concussion, but rather absorbs it. Sensitive Lamellae of the hoof is not compromised but supported. The main support system of the coffin bone can remain strong and integral when the high frequency vibration of impact on metal is not constantly jarring.

Circulation is imperative to the distribution of nutrients throughout the system. Healthy blood flow aids in prevention and facilitates healing. When flow is limited degeneration takes place. Encourage the blood to circulate with ease through the proper channels; carrying a host of nutrients; and you will have a healthy hoof. Allow the hoof to expand as it's meant to and the strain to extensor tendons and lateral cartilage will be relieved. Support proper hoof function and alleviate the devastating results of ossification. Keep your horse barefoot for at least a portion of the year, using Old Mac's Boots when you ride, and you will have taken the first step in utilizing the fruits of our technology towards a better understanding of our long time servant and companion. We now have an opportunity to re examine the way we treat our horse's feet. Call your farrier in to discuss the possibilities. Your farrier should be your best friend as you will need him to trim and visit more frequently once you have a fully functioning, growing and alive foot.