Equine Podiatry does not involve the use of metal shoes.
A healthy foot is naturally strong enough to perform without them.
Equine podiatry is the science and study of the equine foot; what factors make it unhealthy, and how to achieve the healthiest foot possible. It is a holistic approach to hoofcare, meaning the health of the whole horse is relevant to the health of the hoof. You can't get a healthy hoof on an unhealthy horse. And there are so many factors that influence the health of the horse!
Equine podiatry does not involve the use of metal shoes. The natural mechanism of a healthy foot is more than capable of doing all activities that shod horses do, without the need for shoes. However it is not always as simple as just taking the shoes off a horse. Nor is a horse without shoes that is just kept at pasture likely to have feet strong enough to perform.
Understanding the influence of nutrition, environment, movement and balance allows an objective measurement of a foots current ability, and how to improve it further.
By viewing problems in the hoof as a symptom of a problem with the whole horse, this approach also has high success rates of rehabilitating serious pathologies, such as laminitis and navicular.
Nutrition has a hugely influential effect on the horse, and therefore the foot. Changes in levels of performance can be obtained purely by adjusting the diet. Likewise an inappropriate diet can cripple an otherwise healthy foot.
A good diet complements the environment, encourages movement, and is balanced (without excesses or deficiencies)
The environment shapes and stimulates the foot, and can stimulate the foot to grow stronger or weaker, depending on the surfaces the horse encounters. Environmental management, pasture management, stabling etc. all impact upon the development of the foot.
A good environment encourages correct movement, balanced physical exercise and offers a healthy diet.
Movement is essential for a healthy foot. Wild and feral horses have been observed to walk many miles in a day, and horses that stand still for most of the day are not exercising the structures in the hoof needed for optimal locomotion. The hoof is hugely adaptable, and can change shape to compensate for incorrect movements generated higher up in the body, such as the shoulder, back or hips.
Correct movement is achieved through correct posture, physiological balance and laterality, across any surface in the environment. Diet can affect movement either positively or negatively.
Balance is a concept that applies to many areas of equine podiatry. Too much, or too little of something often causes problems, whether it's a particular vitamin, too much or too little hoof structure, too much or too little exercise. As Goldilocks found out, everything is better when it's just right.
The hoof needs to be balanced to the equines anatomy, affected by the horses movement across it's environment, supported by a balanced diet.
You may see now why the above concepts are integral for allowing a barefoot horse to perform optimally. Nothing in the horse exists in isolation.
Equine podiatry is more than just trimming.
There are many training courses on barefoot trimming, but I decided to take the EPT course because:
The Equine Podiatry Association was set up in 2006 as a professional body to represent and self-regulate it's members. The EPA also organises conferences, inviting leading experts at the forefront of hoof research to share their discoveries.
I am a Full Member of the EPA.
Membership for the EPA requires the Diploma in Equine Podiatry, and yearly continual professional development.
Training to be an EP doesn't end when you get the certificate through the post.
Full membership of the EPA requires 40 hours of CPD per year, 16 of which need to be spent on trim/dissections days or shadowing another equine professional.