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. 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.
When horses arrived in this green and pleasant land, they immediately were exposed to a far richer food source, with increased sugar content. 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.
We are great believers in all things natural so having shoes nailed to our horses hooves never felt right to us.
We did a lot of research and 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.
We decided to follow on from some inspired pioneer work by others and try as best we could to provide our horses with the best simulation of their natural environment and food source that was available to us. The results have been quite spectacular.
We created a varying terrain track system and limited their food source to almost exclusively good quality hay available to them at all times. We leave willow branches and foliage around the track and a variety of herbs for them to choose and self medicate. Redmond Rock Mineral Licks which contain over 60 different minerals are always available to them. These 3.5kilo rocks are left on the ground in the yard so they help themselves as needed.
Our horses are extremely healthy and happy. They move around the track a lot and have strong healthy hooves capable of moving across stony ground with ease. They are checked regularly by a bare foot trimmer but rarely need attention due to their ability to self trim.