Natural Hoof
Natural Hoof

Natural Hoof

Join Our Newsletter

Send This Page To A Friend

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 Two
New Zealand, January, 2002

By Teresa Maxwell
In this Article: The Effects of Shoeing, The Correct Trim, The Transition Period.
(Click on the images for a larger view)
Partial Trim
The Effects of Shoeing
Dr Strasser lectured in detail about the adverse effects of shoeing, and how a healthy natural hoof without shoes provides better health for the horse, superior traction and shock absorption and higher performance if conditioned correctly in combination with natural living conditions.
"The fact that the horse, when given proper living conditions and treated correctly, is capable of the greatest feats without hoof protection has been known for thousands of years," Dr Strasser says.
"Neither Alexander the Great's cavalry nor the horses of the present-day nomadic tribes of the Asian steppes, which cover tremendous distances, require any kind of hoof wear."
Shoes impair the hoof mechanism, and reduce shock absorption with the fixation of the wall, causing the impact to travel up the leg and stress the joints, etc. It also causes ossifications, stresses the heart, and reduces circulation.
The vibration of shoes is 800Hz, which destroys hoof wall and tissue, causes structural abnormalities in the laminar corium, causes irritation of ligament and tendon attachments to the periosteum of bones and joint cartilage.
Dr Strasser told us that studies show there is many times more shock impact on joints in a shod horse walking on concrete than an unshod horse with a correct trim trotting on concrete.
Shoes prevent the hoof wall from wearing properly, which causes unnatural stresses, and an incorrect trim cannot wear away. Shoes also cause physical trauma (bruising, etc), unnatural strains on joints and ligaments, deformation and contraction of the hoof, causing navicular syndrome, thrush, skeletal and muscular stresses, and prevents proper development of young horses' feet and coffin bone. (Dr Strasser says many New Zealand thoroughbreds have terrible feet because they are shod too young - before the bones in the hoof have developed.) Nails cause physical damage to the hoof wall, dehydration of the white line horn, vibrations and breaches insulation of the foot.
Complete Trim
The Correct Trim:
However, simply taking the shoes off may not be enough to fix problems caused by shoeing if the horse doesn't have optimal natural living conditions - and few domestic horses do. For this reason, it is important to apply the correct hoof trim.
For those of us who had never picked up a hoof knife, learning how to trim a horse's hoof was fascinating - and hard work! Putting it into practise meant getting the right techniques with the tools - chiefly a hoof knife - know where to cut, how to cut and how far you can go without damaging the hoof. The class practiced the hoof trim using cadaver hooves, pretty disgusting but at least the horse didn't care if you got it wrong.
Dr Strasser's trim involves getting the coffin bone parallel to the ground, which means the weight is distributed evenly on the hoof capsule, the hoof wears evenly and functions correctly with maximum hoof mechanism.
In other words, when the horse puts weight on its hoof, the hoof expands. If the horse is shod or has an incorrect trim, the hoof will not expand when the horse puts weight on it, which is unnatural and causes deformity in the hoof and health problems for the horse.
The main cause of this lack of expansion or correct hoof mechanism is excessive bars or sole, which puts pressure on the bones inside the hoof (causing such things as navicular and laminitis) and puts pressure on the outside of the hoof (causing such things as hoof cracks).
The cure is to remove excess bars and sole, and get the coffin bone parallel to the ground. As we cannot see the coffin bone without an xray, Dr Strasser says an outward indication that the coffin bone is parallel to the ground is if the coronet band is on a 30 degree angle to the ground looking at the hoof from the side.
To achieve this, the heels must be 3.5cm from the ground to the tip of the lateral cartilage, which can be felt as a ridge above the heel bulbs. The sole should be concave, with the midway point of the bars 1cm higher than the ground when the horse has its foot on the ground. This is so the bars and excessive sole don't put incorrect pressures on the hoof.
The widest part of the frog should be wider than the heel bulbs - ie; if two imaginary lines were drawn from the tip of the frog along the edges of the frog to out past the heels, these lines should pass outside the curves of the heel bulbs. If they don't, the hoof is deformed, ie; contracted.
The front hooves from the coronet band to the tip of the toe should be on a 45 degree angle to the ground, and the back hooves approximately 55 degrees, when the coffin bone is ground parallel.
The Transition Period
"After many years of shoeing, it is not possible to simply remove the shoe and expect the horse to be immediately and fully sound and usable," Dr Strasser says.
When the shoes are removed and a correct trim is applied, circulation immediately returns to the hoof enabling the horse to feel the damage caused by the shoes. This means the horse can all of a sudden feel its hooves and needs time for the hoof to toughen and adjust.
Once the horse's hooves have been trimmed correctly, the horse must be given optimal circulation to promote the quickest healing. This means freedom of movement 24 hours a day - "movement, movement, movement".
Over the three-day course, we learnt that all horses, irrespective of breed, background or current status of health, can be restored to a healthy condition, with the horse able to be used for whatever you want to use the hrse for - dressage, jumping, endurance, pleasure riding, etc. This transition period to healthy hooves can take anything from a few weeks for reasonably sound horses to 10 months or more, for horses with severly deformed hooves.
"The statement 'I can't ride my horse without shoes' is not a reason to shoe, but rather a reason to investigate and remove the causes which have brought the hooves into such poor condition that the horse can no longer exist without the crutch of the shoe," Dr Strasser says.
"When, as a young horse, before it was ever shod, it was perfectly able to move, and run, and play."
By Teresa Ramsey
More Photos - see a full set of photos from both the Chapman and Strasser clinics.

Submit an Article or Case Study
The more we share information, the better off our horses are going to be. If you'd like to share your story, please email the editor.
Disclaimer: Natural Hoof reserves the right to change or edit any part of all articles and case studies submitted to this website. Natural Hoof does not take any responsibility for the content of any articles and/or case studies and/or any misapplication of the information presented in any articles. Natural Hoof presumes readers consult a professional for more information about any topic covered in any Natural Hoof article.
Home | Articles | Study Groups | Clinics-Events | Brag | Classifieds | Order | Links

Componic Webdesign