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Feet First - Barefoot Performance and Hoof Rehabilitation

by Nic Barker and Sarah Braithwaite; Hale Books/JA Alen. Hardcover, 2010, 176pp, RRP £22.50. ISBN: 9780851319605.

January 11, 2010

Are you considering going barefoot with your horse? You will benefit greatly by reading this book.

The authors - who completed a 260-mile barefoot ride from North Wales to Exmoor in August - start by explaining about the horse's sole, including the difference in working on soft arenas as opposed to hard flat surfaces. Did you know that barefoot hooves grow faster than shod hooves?

Find out how shoeing restricts the natural expansion of the hoof when in work, and restricts blood flow causing strain on tendons and ligaments and in some horses, finally, lameness.

The importance of the frog is stressed. This acts as a folded spring and allows the heels to move apart when loaded and contract when the hoof is raised.

The authors also make recommendations for correction of flared hooves, and hooves that have deviated in their growth due to injury.

How conformation and injury can affect the soundness of the horse over time is looked at, as well as toe first landings through over-long toes which can cause horses to trip and stumble.

There is also a section about foals and how their hooves develop from the day they are born and the effect we can have on them by encouraging them to run on solid surfaces. Keeping your horse barefoot for its first seven years promotes healthy hooves for the rest of its life. And inner health of the hoof is essential for rehabilitation from lameness.

There's a section on Navicular syndrome which is caused mostly by soft tissue injuries, and signs to look for when there is a dietary imbalance.

The colour photographs and drawings throughout the text are enlightening and informative.

You will read about competitive horses from eventing to endurance running successfully barefoot and how diet is a big factor in the health of their hooves. There's also advice on forage, vitamins and minerals, and conditioning hooves, suggestions for toughening up your horse's hooves, drawings showing ideas for track systems of varying sizes, the approach to trimming explained, and sections on troubleshooting.

Last but not least there are photographic reports of successfully rehabilitated horses.

I had trouble setting this book down and thoroughly recommend it to the discerning horse person.

It is an excellent book to keep as a reference. It does not need to be read from cover to cover, but sections can be referred to when relevant to your situation.



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