Healthy Horse Philosophy
My Healthy Horse Philosophy is quite simple really. Try to look at it like this:
Imagine any other species that you are familiar with in the wild. I know, you’re a horsy person first and foremost, but for arguments sake.. let’s say your favorite animal is the koala! Or a panda. Maybe you like gorilla’s, or giraffes. Doesn’t matter, just take your pick!
Now ask yourself:
There are many questions you can both ask and answer here. And when you do, you will eventually arrive in a place that the science of biology would refer to as the natural adaptive environment of the species. Animals living in their natural habitats are healthy, sound and full of vitality. Their domesticated or captive brethren however rarely resemble that same vitality. The obvious reason for this is that the environment in which we’ve put them does not fit the species.
My Healthy Horse philosophy therefore is this:
Change the environment of an animal to where it facilitates their biological needs. By mimicking their natural habitat, the operative system of the animal will naturally respond to these characteristic aspects of life. Subsequently, the animal will become healthier and display more vitality.”
Everything we do with our horses will have an impact on the individual animal. Some of it will be good, some.. not so good. Whichever the case, the horse will tell us by giving signals. Some are obvious, others very subtle. It is important that we – as horse owners – learn to recognize these signal and respond accordingly. And that’s what’s so beautiful about NHC, it explains what is normal and healthy. And by doing so, it explains what is not!
Natural Horse Care
Natural Horse Care is the holistic approach to caring for horses based on practices and principles obtained from the wild, free roaming horses of the U.S. Great Basin.
The term holistic, which means whole, indicates that NHC practitioners view horse care from a very broad perspective. We’ve learned that everything that goes on in the life of the horse is firmly connected with one another, and that everything is of equal importance. You can’t grow a healthy foot without taking the diet into consideration, and you can’t expect results from a your training regime without taking notice of how the horse is living his day to day life.
Natural Horse Care separates natural from unnatural, and by doing so it allows you as a horse owner to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy.
A Natural Horse Lifestyle is based on the nature of any organism and how it came about through evolution. It has taken the species -Equus Ferus Caballus – millions of years of natural selection to reach its optimum form. The horse in its natural habitat therefore is a physically and mentally strong, healthy athlete. Why? Because his lifestyle demands it!
It is important for us as owners and handlers to understand the natural state of the horse. By ignoring it we would ignore the potential of their domestic brethren as they too can become strong, healthy and athletic individuals.
Nature removed what didn’t work or did not prove efficient through adaptation, and left us with what works. Todays modern horse.
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Natural hoof care is the holistic management of the horse at the hoof. In practical terms this means I applying what is called a ‘Natural Trim’.
I know, that term sounds a bit contradictive, doesn’t it? How can trimming the hoof ever be natural?!
Let me break that down for you a little bit.
A truly naturally shaped hoof has its phenomenal appearance and characteristics due to the enormous amount of traction and wear these hooves receive in the wild. The reason the hooves receive this wear and tear is because they find themselves in their natural habitat. And living in the wild means it is ‘go time’, all the time!
Because it is very difficult to replicate such an environment in a domestic situation, it is inevitable for us to help the foot by removing material the horse itself can’t remove. The techniques we use mimic the so called, natural wear patterns. These natural wear characteristics define natural shape and form. Therefore the (natural) trim is framed as ‘natural’.
Domesticated or wild, nature already decided how the individual hoof will grow. Angles, lengths, widths and overall sizes were genetically determined at conception. However, the actual outcome of a healthy, natural shape depends very much on the living conditions of the horse. Mediocre living conditions lead to mediocre hooves and optimal living conditions lead to optimal hooves. It is that simple!
The trim is nothing but an aid to help the bigger process. Together with the three other main pillars of health (Diet, Boarding and Horsemanship), the hoof will learn to find its optimum form.
You can think of the natural trim as a way to steer the hoof in its most optimal direction. A bit like keeping your car on the road while driving.
Now I don’t know about you, but I like to keep my car on the road!
Horse & Hoof Pathology
Many, if not most of the pathologies we encounter with horses today are somehow related to metabolic health. PPID, Laminitis, Colic, Ulcers and even many unidentifiable foot problems I come across are often related to internal, metabolic issues caused by unnatural feeding regimes and living conditions.
So how does that impact the trimming of the hoof? Well.. Natural Horse Care in principle is simple and because I’m a simple person, I like to keep this part of my work simple as wel.
The pathologic hoof is trimmed as it is always trimmed. By mimicking natural wear. The trim removes what naturally needs removing and leaves what needs to be left alone. The pathology of course is a concern, but it is ignored in the actual practice of the trim as it has no significant benefit in helping us cure the diseased foot.
Actually, trimming to pathology will only lead to more pathology. Especially when taking into consideration that the hoof itself is rarely the problem.
In reality of course trimming a laminitic hoof with a dropped sole or ‘P3 rotation’ is a bit more complicated than that. It requires experience and in order to prevent over- or undertrimming of the hoofcapsule I use specific measurements based on data obtained from wild, healthy horses. The essence of the trim however, remains the same.