After ten years of being the owner of barefoot horses it seems very obvious to me why body work goes hand in hand with looking after my horses’ feet but I realise that it may not be so obvious to everyone. Because it is so obvious to me it’s not the easiest topic to blog about.
When a horse has issues such as a tight pectoral (chest) muscle, and is without shoes then this will be reflected in the gait and also front feet with the corresponding hoof being worn unevenly. Equally if the horse does not have balanced feet this can set up muscle imbalances. When a horse has hind limb issues then this can be reflected in dragging toes or heel balance or lateral and/or medial flare. Hind foot imbalances can also contribute towards muscular issues.
The body and foot conditions are inseparable so that when I massage and trim a horse on the same occasion I am constantly surprised at the great results that I see with horses moving much straighter and evenly post session.
Horses are so honest and clear about bodywork too, they immediately tell me where they like to be massaged, where they do not need massage and areas that need great care. When trimming they also clearly say when they have difficulty in holding their leg up and having the patience to return their foot for 30 seconds reaps great rewards in terms of ease of handling.
Nutrition is vitally important to the condition of the feet as we all know, but bodywork can also give a good idea as to whether the horse has issues such as ulcers and having had my own horse diagnosed by Dr Kerry Ridgway, and later confirmed by traditional gastroscopy, I am familiar with the acupressure points that signify ulcers (for more information here)
Other influential factors include saddle fit and rider position and technique. There is never an end to our learning and looking at every horse from a holistic perspective is essential.