Our barefoot horses at Horse Haven Uk live on a horse track system.
We are great believers in all things natural so having shoes nailed to our horses hooves never felt right to us.
Having barefoot horses at Horse Haven Uk, for us was the only way to go. It’s our personal choice and we understand that not everyone will agree.
We did a lot of research and decided to follow on from some inspired pioneer work by others to do the best we could in order to provide our barefoot horses with the closest simulation of their natural environment and food source that was available to us at the time.
The results have been quite spectacular.
We have a concrete yard where there are open shelters so they have choices as to whether or not they want to be in, none of our barefoot horses are stabled. The shelters are open at the front so they are free to use them as they please. A large round bale is always available to them on the yard. Water is freely available at several places at the other end of the track so they have to move around and travel in order to fulfill their needs.
We created a varying terrain track system leading off the yard, partly road planings with some gravel on top. This leads down to a wooded area where we have quite deep pea gravel and interestingly the pea gravel seems to polish their hooves. The track continues around leading to an area where we created a watering hole. The watering hole is approx. 4.5 feet deep in the centre and has a gentle slope in one side and out the other.
The watering hole is a reasonable size and has large stone on one side and a sandy area the other, this is where they like to bask in the sunshine after a dip in the pond. We have air stones in the pond running from a pump which keeps the water moving so it doesn’t become stagnant. I guess it’s become their chill out area and the pond is used by them a lot in hot weather.
This is their area and we do not encroach, no work is expected of them in this space. Work takes place in the arena so the pond area is their space and we visit and are accepted or not. Respect works both ways.
Their food source is limited to almost exclusively good quality hay which is available to them at all times.
From here the track continues around to our woodlands and we scatter willow branches, foliage and a variety of herbs along the track for them to select, forage and self medicate. This ensures they keep moving as they know they are going to find some goodies along the way. At this end the track then leads back to the yard.
Redmond Rock Mineral Licks are always available to them. These 3.5kilo rocks are left on the ground in the yard so they can help themselves as and when required. Unlike the commercial salt licks “Redmond Rock Mineral Licks” contain over 60 different minerals and are mined in America, they last a long time and don’t disintegrate in the rain. There is a video on our store page under supplements all about Redmond Rock and the mine they come from. We no longer sell many products on our store but continue to stock Redmond Rock as it is quite hard to find and is an extremely good supplement to horses diets.
Our horses are extremely healthy and happy. They move around the track and have strong healthy hooves capable of moving across stony ground with ease. Their hooves are checked regularly by a trimmer but rarely need much attention, just a minimal trim due to their ability to self trim because of the terrain.
We have a herd of 6 barefoot horses and 4 of them drive. We do many miles of roadwork every week and being barefoot has never been an issue.
Through our research we discovered that hooves need to flex in order to create good blood flow and healthy circulation up through the legs and to various parts of the body thus reducing strain on their hearts. Hooves cannot flex with a metal shoe nailed to them. The hoof provides natural shock absorption to reduce strain on their legs, tendons and muscles etc. The natural hoof can feel the ground and work out the terrain thus enabling them to be sure footed and reduce any chance of slipping.
The following is based on information gleaned from various sources and may not satisfy everyones logic, but if it provides food for thought, that’s good.
It appears from historical studies that horses originated in the north american plains and evolved into the present day horse over millions of years adapting to changing times and their size, bodies and hooves adapted also. A very successful animal that has survived for around 50 million years and thrived on the sparse vegetation/scrub of the plains and largely hostile land surface.
In order to do this they had to develop highly specialised feet capable of dealing with harsh and varied terrain and a digestive system capable of supporting its growth and energy requirements on what may be considered as nutritionally poor scrub.
Because of this, terrain and nutrition have to be inextricably linked.
They had to travel long distances to find good food sources.
When horses arrived in this green and pleasant land, they immediately were exposed to a far richer food source, with increased sugar content. Put out on grass so the need to move around to find food sources was no longer there.
The land they found themselves on was soft underfoot covered with lush grass. Their evolution did not cater for this and it seemed that they had been delivered a bit of a double whammy. Absence of the environment likely to allow self trimming of the hooves and overdoses of sugars which they were not designed to cope with.
The grass at certain times of the year contains massive amounts of sugar, particularly in the spring time.
Couple this with the fact that they no longer need to travel to find food and medicine and are often fed processed food (again full of sugars and things not possibly of their choice) it has to raise a thought of the fact that we are seeing illnesses in horses these days that probably shouldn’t be happening.
Like most animals horses will seek out the herbs and minerals they need to maintain good health and sadly much of this has been taken away from them so their natural abilities for good health are being denied.
These days there seems to be an awful lot of cases of crippling laminitis in horses and it certainly makes you wonder why.
We appreciate that not everyone can do what we have, it’s taken many years of hard work and lots of hard earned cash and we truly feel blessed to have this land and have our horses living on site but maybe a walk out to browse on the hedgerows, minimise grass intake at certain times of the year might go a long way and is certainly within reach for everyone.
Zoopharmacognosy is a very interesting subject where animals get to choose the herbs or oils they want at any given time. Often, we think we will put garlic or whatever in their food without a thought that they might not need or want that but they want to eat the food so they consume it anyway.
If you would like to learn more about how we created our horse track system for barefoot horses there will be an ebook available for download on our website www.horsehavenuk.com in the next week so stay in touch with our blog, subscribe to our website and feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries you might have.
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Wishing you happiness, success and good health for you and your horses in the coming year of 2019.