Thehorse.com - Full Article
By Natalie DeFee Mendik, MA
Jun 1, 2016
Going barefoot can benefit hoof health, but consider management realities and athletic circumstances before pulling those shoes.
With today's hectic lifestyle, it's no wonder many people pursue a return to a more natural state--from the food they eat to the products they purchase. This desire for simplicity helps account for the back-to-barefoot trend many horse owners embrace, yet a one-size-fits-all approach rarely applies to hoof care. So what are the pros and cons of barefoot? How should owners best manage their barefoot charges? Let's take a look at the ins and outs of going sans shoes.
To Shoe or Not to Shoe?
To answer this question, we'll start by looking at how structures within the hoof are impacted. When the hoof contacts nonsandy ground, the footing that packs into the hoof (known as the dirt plug) stimulates the frog and sole and helps dissipate energy produced by the hoof's impact with the ground, says Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD, a professor in Michigan State University's Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation.
"When barefoot and on a conformable surface, the dirt plug loads the solar part of the hoof," he explains, noting that biomechanics transfer the load directly to the frog, digital cushion (the soft tissue mass at the back of the foot responsible for shock absorption), and bone. In the shod hoof, on the other hand, the majority of the horse's weight often (but not always) loads the perimeter hoof walls...
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