17 My horse’s hooves keep splitting. Can natural hoof care prevent this?
Splits can be caused by a variety of issues. The site, depth and number of splits gives a clue as to the cause. Multiple deep cracks are usually from overgrown neglected hooves, though occasionally it can be a toxic problem-incorrect diet, allergens etc. A quarter crack (a split in the side of the hoof) can be from an excess of hoof wall in this region or a postural adaptation in the horse that puts unusual stresses through the hoof. A dorsal crack (a split in the front of the hoof) is usually caused by the toe wall being too long, though sometimes it is perpetuated by the horse loading the heels unevenly. A Natural Hoof Care Practitioner will talk through each possibility with you and refer you to a veterinarian if the cause is toxin related or if it appears the horse has a gait irregularity that needs professional assessment. Generally though splits and cracks grow out as the hoof capsule regains balance on a NHC programme.
18 If I’m riding long distances, i.e. Trekking or Endurance, won’t my horses feet wear down too much without shoes on?
Again, as in question 15, you will need to condition your horse’s hooves to the amount and type of riding you want to do, just as you would condition his body. A considerate rider would not ride his/her horse until it was lame. A barefoot horse with natural feeling in all 4 limbs will soon ‘tell’ you if you have ridden further than he was capable of going at that particular time. If you are not already doing so, learn to listen to your horse! There are more barefoot horses than you can imagine throughout the world today Trekking and Endurance riding without any ill effects. The key is correct training, compassionate riding and conditioning (see question 14) if you get these right everything just falls into place. If you are unsure of the terrain and distance you will be riding, take your hoof boots with you. Most styles of hoof boot take less than a minute to put on and you will have extra protection for your horse if you need it. You are permitted to wear hoof boots in Endurance competitions in NZ.