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Natural Hoof Care – Mark Taylor


2012/07/09








By Nancy Brannon

Mark Taylor wholly subscribes to the philosophy of natural hoof care. “Natural hoof care provides a holistic care regimen for producing healthy and durable hooves, within a context of natural boarding. Look to nature; it has lessons to teach everyone,” he said.

“Hoof care seems to be based on opinion, whether one is discussing shod or barefoot. Natural equine hoof care is based on observation, experience, and common sense. We hope to inspire you to educate yourself about hoof anatomy, function, conformation, and adaptation, as well as the natural lifestyle of the wild equine,” Mark Taylor explained about natural hoof care.

What is a natural trim? “The Natural Trim is a humane, barefoot trimming method which mimics the natural wear patterns of the hooves of the wild, free-roaming horse living in the U.S. Great Basin,” defined by the Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices (AANHCP).

Mark continued: “We use the hoof of the wild horse as our model for trimming – a result of studies by AANHCP founder Jaime Jackson on more than 1,000 wild horse hooves. That research found universal traits that we encourage and mimic through our trimming methods. No deviation in hoof wall, angle, natural concavity, uniformity of thickness of hoof wall, and the ‘mustang roll’ around the bottom of the hoof wall results in a trim that is non-invasive, encourages strong, healthy hooves, and removes only what nature would remove in the wild.”

Jaime Jackson answers the question:Why Should Horses Be Allowed To Be Barefoot? “The biology of Equus caballus, the result of 60 million years of natural selection that culminated more than one million years ago, demands that we work with its nature — not against it. The equine species is genuinely adapted to go barefoot. It is only through human interference with the horse's natural state that led us to the incorrect, and harmful, conclusion that shoes are necessary -- or useful. They aren’t, and, moreover, contribute significantly to the lameness we see everywhere around the world.”

Jaime Jackson studied wild horses, the Australian Brumby, and started the Natural Trim. Pete Ramey, a student of Jackson, assembled a “dream team of equine knowledge, experience, and forward-thinnking” authors to compile a reference book: Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Foot. Brian Hampson, Ph.D. writes about the Australian Brumby Studies in Chapter 2 of Ramey’s book. His chapter “details some of the recent studies of feral horses and their feet performed in Australia and New Zealand, and focuses on the scientific research that relates to the assumptions made…concerning the natural horse foot” (p. 36). “Studies show that the feral horses traveled long distances foraging for food and had long intervals without water, e.g., some traveled up to 55 km from water and had large inter-watering intervals (p. 39). The Australian project spanned six wilderness environments and found that each environment produced a unique foot type in terms of general appearance, foot shape, and structure (p. 41). A hard, abrasive surface under foot caused a faster wear rate than a soft, less-abrasive surface. Travel distance affected foot shape and form; travel distance was determined by the separation of food and water within the habitat.”

In the section on “The relevance of the feral horse foot to foot care” (p. 53), Hampson writes about the traditional assumptions made by veterinarians and farriers about the correct conformation of the equine hoof. He then describes the assumptions made by some authors that the feral horse foot represents an ideal model on which to base foot care practices.  But then argues that “if the natural horse foot is to be used as a guide to model the morphology of the domestic horse foot, first the appropriate model should be identified. The study of feral horses from six different environments identified six different foot models.” He concludes, “The challenge facing horse owners is the creation of an environment most conducive for horse health,” and enumerates possible characteristics of this environment. He emphasizes: “While the veterinarian and hoof care provider is [sic] often blamed for the demise of the horse, it has been the industrial revolution and the changing role of the horse from a beast of burden to a recreational and companion animal, coupled with the shortage of available rural land for horse husbandry… that is [sic] the major contributor to the perceived problems of the modern horse. …Best practice in hoof care should evolve from passed on knowledge, new research, clinical practice, and practice review.” (p. 55)

Mark explains his work as a Natural Trimmer: “We always try to mimic the natural lifestyle of the horse, which includes his feet. The Natural Trimmer wants to get the maximum blood flow to the hoof. There are two important things to know about blood flow: (1) when the hoof comes up, it contracts. When it goes down, it expands. (2) With shoes, the heart has to work 10% harder to push blood to the hoof.

“In the Natural trim, the edges are beveled. The quarters are not flat, but have a rise, so they don’t touch the ground. Quarters are the true thickness of the hoof wall. We check the balance of the hoof heel to heel and heel to toe.
“In trimming, you don’t want any rough edges that can lead to ‘hangnails’ or chips. The heavier the bevel, the stronger the hoof wall. First, use the radius rasp to bevel the edges. Then smooth them with 80 grit sandpaper. With the Natural Trim, the horse goes more soundly, and has fewer tendon, ligament, and muscle problems. Horses should be trimmed about every four to six weeks.”

What about specific problems, such as navicular syndrome? “First you have to locate the source of pain,” Mark said. There are boots that can be adapted to the horse’s hooves, depending on where the pain source is located.

Easyboot has a system of “comfort pads” that include the frog support pad, the sole pad, and the frog pressure pad. (see http://www.easycareinc.com/Other_Products/Comfort_Pads.aspx) The frog support pad comes in three different densities to allow various comfort levels. Each frog support pad can be used with any of the Sole Pads. This gives the horse owner the opportunity to apply different pressure to the sole and frog areas. The Sole Pad may be used alone for frog pressure relief or in conjunction with the Frog Support or Frog Pressure pads. Each Frog Pressure Pad can be used with any of the Sole Pads.

For laminitis: “The natural trim creates more blood flow to the hoof to promote healing,” Mark explained. “The first thing to do is to figure out why the horse foundered and to change his diet. Founder may be caused by too much sugar in the horse’s diet. In the foundered horse, the heels grow faster than the toe, and there is fever in the feet.”

“I am a certified farrier and I’m not against shoeing; I just don’t do it,” Mark said. “I use boots if necessary, such as Renegades or custom fit Swiss Boots (the Swiss Army uses them), or the Easyboot glove and Easyboot trail” (see http://www.easycareinc.com/).

For more information about Mark Taylor, visit his website, Tall Oak Natural Hooves at www.barefoothorsetrimming.com.  Mark has a Natural Trimmer since 2004. He has extensively studied equine anatomy and is AANHCP and Liberated Horse certified trimmer. He went through 15 months of Jaime Jackson’s courses to become certified. “Horses are great animals and I learn something from them every day,” he said. He’s all about bonding with his horse “clients.”

The Houston Mounted Police Department’s Mounted Patrol Unit now has all 38 of their horses barefoot. Their barefoot journey began in 2004, when they began removing the shoes from some of the unit’s most seriously lame horses. By 2005, they found their way to natural hoof care. (see Barefoot Police Horses: How the Houston Police Department Became a Barefoot Herd of Hard Working Horses, by Senior Police Officer and Liberated Horsemanship certified hoof care professional Scott D. Berry at Liberated Horsemanship: www.liberatedhorsemanship.com)
There are many other sources available that can give information about natural hoof care success. Links:

www.hoofrehab.com (Hoof Rehabilitation Specialists, Pete Ramey)
www.aanhcp.com (Jaime Jackson)
www.liberatedhorsemanship.com (a company started in 2003 by Dr. Bruce Nock)
www.easycareinc.com (Boots and Newsroom)
www.renegadehoofboots.com (“Renegades win AERC 100 and 55-mile National Championships” and “Renegades Conquer Tevis 2009”)
Joe Camp’s website, www.thesoulofahorse.com Why Our Horses Are Barefoot: Everything We’ve Learned About the Health and Happiness of the Hoof.
http://hoofcareunltd.com (Emma Hindley, barefoot dressage at FEI level).

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