Martha Olivo on the Barefoot Cart Horses

Q: How can a cart horse go barefoot on pavement without slipping?

A: A cart horse is actually at an advantage when its hooves are trimmed properly and no shoes are applied. One of the natural functions of the hoof is traction. A properly trimmed bare hoof has a suction action, due to the outward/ downward deformation of the sole. A similar action is seen in a common bathroom plunger. The hoof wall is able to adjust itself to the surface beneath it. Knowing the correct shape and placement of the frog, its behavior in the hoof upon impact, and trimming it for full function is instrumental in getting the hoof to perform well on pavement. Remember, the whole horse is involved, not just the hoof. Poor horse handling practices also frequently cause the horse to be in a physically compromised position for optimum balance. This can result from rigging the horse is such a manner that it cannot use its head and neck properly for balance, or demanding too much from a horse that is either not trained or not properly conditioned for the task at hand. Shoes have long covered for poor training and handling by providing artificial traction. The price the horse pays for this unnatural traction are ruined hooves and bodies when the horses true healthy lifespan is only half spent. Take the time to understand the functions of the hoof - blood circulation, shock absorption, traction, insulation and sensation - and strive to become more considerate of its noble bearer, the Horse.


Martha Olivo
United Horsemanship, Inc.
PO Box 310
Bellingham, WA 98227-0310
360-647-7503
306-319-9863

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