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A r t i c l e s   A n d   C a s e   S t u d i e s
Dr Hiltrud Strasser's Basic Hoof Care Clinic - Part One
New Zealand, January, 2002

By Teresa Maxwell
In this Article: Introduction, Natural Living Conditions, Movement, Water, Temperature.
Dr Strasser demonstrates her trim
We've all heard the age-old saying "No Hoof, No Horse". Well, after a hoof course with German veterinarian and hoofcare specialist Dr Hiltrud Strasser, that saying takes on a whole new meaning.
Over the three day course held north of Auckland in January, 2002, Dr Strasser told us many strange and fascinating things that challenged conventional long-held beliefs about hoof and horse care.
Using her techniques, Dr Strasser has cured all manner of equine ailments, including laminitis, hoof cracks, hoof contraction, club foot, conformational misalignments, white line problems and contraction. She loves treating horses with navicular, she told the class: "Two, three trims, all fixed."
"As has been proven countless times, a return to natural lifestyle (which includes removing the cause) and proper, physiologically correct trimming can bring about the healing of virtually every hoof problem and lameness, even the conventionally considered "incurable" ones," Dr Strasser says.
Dr Strasser told us about a woman who took her barefoot horse on a 176km endurance ride over three days on steep and rocky terrain, and how the horse was completely sound and even needed a hoof trim afterwards as the hooves had grown 3mm in three days due to the increased movement.
We learned how we could expect such barefoot high performance with our horses, irrespective of breed or background, as long as our horse's hooves were healthy, functioned properly and we conditioned the horse's hooves correctly for the terrain.
Dr Strasser said most of the common health problems and lameness afflicting domestic horses are a direct result of man-made violations of their natural lifestyle. These problems, we learnt, can be prevented or cured through a removal of the cause and a return to a natural lifestyle.
Those on the course discovered that most domestic horse's hooves are deformed through either shoeing, incorrect trimming and/or unnatural living conditions. This often leads to health problems such as navicular, laminitis, contraction, hoof cracks, poor conformation and other unsavoury problems. We also discovered how to correct these deformities by doing two things: restoring the horse's natural living conditions and applying a correct hoof trim.
Natural Living Conditions
Throughout the three-day course, there were two things that were drummed into us: "Movement, movement, movement" and "Water, water, water". Through constant repetition of these concepts over the three days (in a thick German accent), I don't think any of us will forget these two important factors.
In nature, horses are in virtually constant motion. On average, wild horses move 10-15 miles per day over various terrain to graze and travel to water.
"Since the horse has led this kind of continuous-motion lifestyle for millions of years, its entire physiological makeup has evolved to become perfectly suited for it (and, as such, dependent upon it)," Dr Strasser says in her book, A Lifetime of Soundness.
"The heart is relatively small compared to its body, and the muscles, joints, and hooves, through constant motion, continually support the heart in moving the blood through the body."
We heard that domestic horses kept in stables or without a herd, stand still for long periods, resulting in loss of bone density, deformation of the hooves and conformational flaws, such as bow-leggedness, from the horse resting one leg.
Hooves also need daily exposure to water, which prevents the hooves from drying out and keeps them elastic and supple. In the wild, horses spend some time each day standing in a body of water, to drink, cool off and play. Without this exposure to water, which is often the case in domestic horses, the hooves lose elasticity and therefore a partial loss of hoof mechanism and shock absorption, which may result in contraction of the hooves.
In domestic horses, hooves often dry out and become brittle due to lack of exposure to water. The hooves are then frequently covered in oil or grease based substances, which not only prevent the absorption of water, but decay into volatile fatty acids and esters, which may damage the hoof far more than if nothing is done.
We also learned that by rugging our horses, we are harming them with kindness. In the horse's natural environment, the horse's environmental temperature fluctuates continually from day to night, as well as in a seasonal rhythm.
The horse is able to maintain its core body temperature at 38 degrees Celsius with its complicated and extremely efficient thermo-regulatory system in its skin. For this reason, Dr Strasser recommends we don't use any rugs, wraps or boots on our horses, as they disrupt the horse's natural thermo-regulatory system, with is unsafe for the horse.
"In its natural environment, it is rare that a horse's body temperature sinks too low ("colds" are unknown among naturally-living horses), since the skin and hair insulate so well," Dr Strasser says.
"If the horse does become chilled, it can either move to generate body heat through muscle action or shiver, which accomplishes the same thing without moving.
"Conventional boarding and habits such as blanketing and clipping wreak havoc with the horse's natural thermo-regulatory mechanisms in a number of ways, as evidenced by the existence and frequency of "colds" in domestic, conventionally kept horses."
By Teresa Maxwell

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