Alternative Therapies Made Simple, Part 3
The third in a series of articles about alternative therapies

In Part 1, we introduced you to alternative therapies, its terms and meanings, and what it is all about. In Part 2 you learned about the importance of a natural environment. This article, Part 3, is about the horse's need for proper hoof and dental care, two of the basic needs of our domesticated horses.

A knowledgeable and experienced hoof trimmer knows how to determine just what needs to be trimmed away from each hoof.

Hooves - Barefoot is best.

1. Shoes interfere with hoof flexibility and function - a shod hoof cannot properly flex, expand, or contract with every step. With shoes:
A. the circulation is impaired,
B. the nerves are affected,
C. growth is impaired,
D. the entire horse is affected.

2. Shoes prevent normal wear.
A. A shod unbalanced hoof will stay unbalanced, forcing the horse to bear weight unevenly. (The coronet hairline should be straight (instead of arched) when viewed from the side at ground level.)
B. The shod hoof cannot be worn down into proper shape.

3. Proper and timely trimming is necessary to achieve optimum hoof health.
A. Barefoot alone is not enough, unless the horse lives in varied terrain and travels 15 - 30 miles daily like in the wild. (The more you ride your barefoot horse, the less trimming he will probably need.)
B. Proper trimming considers the horse's individual hoof shape - the position of the bones inside the hoof, the frog, heels, bars and outside wall.

4. Moisture is good for hooves, bedding is not.
A. Moisture helps keep the hoof pliable and helps prevent drying out and contraction.
B. Bedding holds in urine (NOT a good source of moisture!), manure, and ammonia, and bad bacteria that thrive on them.

Teeth - Horses should have a dental check-up every year.

The horse wears a 'speculum' while dentistry on the molars is being performed.

1. The horse must be able to chew in a circular, up and down, forward and back motion to eat well.
2. Teeth that are not aligned prevent proper chewing and can cause mouth problems and digestive problems.
3. Teeth that are not aligned will develop sharp edges and points, and bumps and waves. The sharp points can cut the mouth, and bumps and waves can affect the TMJ (jaw joint). If the jaw cannot move as it should, it may cause stiffness, pain, and resistance in other parts of the body. (Chewing and tooth wear may be affected by a crooked body as well.)
4. The equine dentist helps keep the teeth in good shape and form so the horse can chew (and move) properly and comfortably.

Once the basic needs of the horse are met - a natural living environment and regular hoof and dental care - your horse will be healthier and happier. If he continues to have any problems, then it is time to ask your veterinarian about alternative therapies and medicines, which we will present in Part 4 in the next issue.

To be continued…