Monday, November 11, 2013

No More Poison — Life Without De-Wormers

by Joe Camp

When we began this journey with horses, now a whopping seven years ago, we were told to de-worm our horses regularly. Some said every six weeks. Every horse. “Isn’t that stuff poison?” I would ask.
“Not really,” I would be told. Usually met with silence. And a skeptical look. “I mean, yeah, okay, it is poison. Sort of. But not that kind of poison.”
That last line was always accompanied by a sheepish little smile.
“It kills bugs doesn’t it?”
“Well, yeah. That’s its job.”
“Would you eat de-wormer?”
“I don’t have parasites.”
“Would you eat what you’re forcing your horse to eat?” I asked again.
“No,” he finally said.
“How do you know your horse has parasites,” I asked.
“I know he does not have parasites because we de-worm him every six weeks.”
“Whether he has any or not?”

Like so many other things about horse care, for me, all of this was beginning to gnaw at the edges of logic. So many times folks told me that they de-wormed all their horses on the same schedule, without a clue as to whether the horses needed it or not. With a product they wouldn’t dare put into their own bodies. There had to be a better way.

And there is. It took mere moments on Google with the prompt “How can you tell if your horse has parasites?” Click. An entire page of answers. All pretty much pointing the same way: Take a fecal sample to the vet and ask for a fecal egg count. It’s a simple, usually inexpensive process that tells you very quickly whether your horse has a problem or not. It turns out that it’s actually good for horses to have a few parasites. It’s good for their immune system. And that’s good to know. But we had six horses at that time, now eight. Eight times “usually inexpensive” can become expensive rapidly, especially if done several times a year. So I researched the process. How does one do a fecal check? I discovered it’s really not complicated. A $200 microscope and a slide kit was all it took, and I could do my own fecal checks. My birthday was coming up, so that’s what I asked for. Kathleen balked at first. “A poop tester is not very romantic,” she said. But ultimately she relented, and we were in business. Except for one thing. This process would tell me who had parasites. But not how to get rid of them without poison.

Back to Google. Google is amazing. There are a lot of things I don’t like about the internet, but I’ve grown to love Google. There is virtually no question you can ask these days that cannot be answered on Google.

And lo and behold, there is something called Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. DE for short. It’s non-toxic, and better yet, non-systemic. It never enters the body’s systems or blood stream. It just passes through the intestines and out again exactly as it came in. Except it takes the parasites with it. And yes, I would feed it to myself. In fact, I do. Two tablespoons a day.

Among other things, I discovered:
“DE is a naturally occurring siliceous sedimentary mineral compound from microscopic skeletal remains of unicellular algae-like plants called diatoms. These plants have been part of the earth’s ecology since prehistoric times. It is believed that 30 million years ago the diatoms built up into deep, chalky deposits of diatomite. The diatoms are mined and ground up to render a powder that looks and feels like talcum powder. DE is approximately 3% magnesium, 33% silicon, 19% calcium, 5% sodium, 2% iron and many other trace minerals such as titanium, boron, manganese, copper and zirconium.

“It is apparent from the research that food grade DE provides multiple health advantages for humans and animals, as well. Diatomaceous earth is not only a remedy for parasites in our bodies. It can alleviate the potentially deadly risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, ameliorate annoying and stressful issues stemming from intestinal bacteria and parasites, bronchia inflammation, kidney and urinary infections, irregular bowels, as well as assist with vertigo, headaches, tinnitus, insomnia, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Studies show diatomaceous earth can help those suffering with diabetes and with arterial disease, joint pain and may prevent or alleviate Alzheimer’s disease by preventing the absorption of aluminum. Another of the benefits of Silica is that it helps to destroy bad fats. Diatomaceous Earth is Mother Nature’s product with no harm to the environment, pets or people.”

How does it work?

“Many harmful things entering the body have a positive charge. Silica is a semi-conductive mineral which when warmed by body heat becomes negatively charged and gives off electrons. These negatively charged mineral ions and/or individual shells attract bad microbes, free radicals, positively charged waste and other harmful things. Acting as magnets, the negatively charged shells and/or ions attract and absorb positive things that are small enough to go through the holes. In addition, any larger parasites that happen to be in the stomach of digestive tract are ‘cut up’ and killed by the sharp edges of the DE (but DE does NOT kill the beneficial bacteria in the gut). Because of the strong charge, each shell can absorb a large number of positively charged substances, whether they be chemical or in the form of bacteria or viruses. They pass on through the stomach and intestine, taking these harmful substances out of the body.”

There are two links to good articles on DE at the end of this piece, but suffice to say this was the answer I was looking for. No more poison!

Does that mean I would never de-worm a horse with poison? I learned a long time ago to never say never. A couple of years ago, just before we started on our self-checks and DE program, we discovered that Pocket had gotten so infested we had no choice. So she got one big tube-in-the-tummy dose... but has been on the DE program since with no de-wormer, about two and a half years now. When we adopted our pregnant mustang Saffron she had pretty bad round worms, probably picked up in Mississippi at the BLM facility, and they were transferred to the baby, probably via poop (babies eat mom’s poop). So they each received a dose of the appropriate (if there is such a thing) de-wormer, but both have been on the DE program since. About 13 months. Now here’s an important part of the discussion. The worst thing folks do is put ALL horses on the same program (especially when poison is involved). From my very first turn at the microscope, I discovered the fallacy in doing that. At least 4 of ours test regularly at, or near, zero eggs per gram. In other words, very, very low. They get very little DE. A cup and a half a week. Two others get seven cups a week. And the remaining two get 10.5 cups a week. Pretty amazing that there is that much variance, huh?

Generally speaking, I’m told that immune systems get better with age, and our herd more or less follows that observation. Except for Pocket. She would be an exception, as there will always be. She is 16, but is one of the ones receiving 10.5 cups a week.

Our program is as follows: The fearsome foursome, as I call them, are Cash, Noelle, Mariah, and Skeeter. They have been receiving only 1/2 cup a week until recently, when I read about all the other benefits of DE besides parasites. So I upped them to a half cup on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Saffron and Stormy receive seven cups a week. Pocket and Mouse: Ten and a half cups a week.

A 50 pound bag of DE at our feed store is $18 and it lasts forever, even with eight horses.

The program is designed for each horse by trial and error. I studied, which you should do, how fecal checks are done and what to look for. Google it. There are low, moderate, and high eggs per gram conclusions. Low is, of course, the target. Anything in the low range gets no change in dosage. Anything in the moderate range might get a change of program (more diatomaceous earth) depending upon where they are in the moderate range. The new dosage is based upon best judgment. If in the low end of the high range, we’d probably just crank up the dosage of DE... in the high end of high we’d consider doing a one time poison treatment. We haven’t had to do that now since we started the DE program more than two years ago.

What’s the downside? A lot of folks want a strict set of laws to go by every time with every horse under every condition. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s where trouble starts. There is very rarely anything that we do for or with our horses that isn’t judgment-based. That’s why I impress upon you, take what I’ve said as an intro, a loose guide to get you started... but do the homework, the research, to know what you’re doing, so you can apply that “judgment” to each decision. And know that if it seems right after you’ve done all that, it most likely is right.

If you have a bunch of horses, like we do, I would definitely look into getting a microscope and kit. If you only have one or two you might want to three or four months.

Good DE article link:
Link specifically relating to animals, including horses:
Or just Google “Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.” There’s a ton of stuff out there.

About the author:
Joe Camp has written, produced and directed seven theatrical motion pictures (including all of the Benji movies) and in addition to his national best seller “The Soul of a Horse — Life Lessons from the Herd,” he has written seven other highly acclaimed books about horses, three novels from his own screenplays, the inspirational non-fiction book “Who Needs Hollywood,” and more. Visit Joe and Kathleen at and see their videos about barefoot lifestyle at “The Soul of a Horse Channel” on YouTube.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Understanding the classic homeopathy

by Natalija Aleksandrova

Homeopathy is a system of natural medicine introduced and developed by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, at the end of the 18th century. The origin of illness lies in an imbalance of the vital force; the symptoms expressed by the body, mind, and emotions are the manifestation of that imbalance. Recognizing that the whole living creature ― their spirit, mind, and body ― is affected when there is illness, homeopathy seeks to treat that whole living creature. The focus is not the diseased part or the sickness, rather the whole of the individual. Homeopathic medicines, or 'remedies', like in many other complimentary healing approaches, stimulate the body's self-regulating mechanisms to initiate the healing process.

So often professionals and patients alike (or owners in the case of animals) assume that symptoms are the actual disease and that simply treating these symptoms is the best way to cure. To treat only the symptoms is the same as unplugging a flushing emergency oil lamp in your car, which indicates something is wrong with the oil in the car ― you cannot see the annoying light anymore but the problem ― the low oil level ― remains. The same principle applies when the body manifests symptoms of illness the symptom is not the origin of the illness. Homeopathy believes, when a person becomes ill, it is the whole that is ill: spirit, mind and body. The origin of illness lies in an imbalance of the vital force — the symptoms expressed by the body, mind, and emotions are the manifestation of that imbalance.

Today, not only homeopaths, but also a growing number of physiologists are recognizing that symptoms are actually efforts of the organism to deal with stress or infection. Rather than viewing symptoms simply as signs of the body's breakdown, these medical doctors see symptoms as defenses of the body that attempt to protect and heal the self. (for example, Dr Hans Selye, "The Stress of Life")

By matching the symptoms of ones current illness with the appropriate homeopathic remedy the vital force returns to balance; the symptoms disappear as the person heals themself.

4 principles of classic homeopathy

'Similia Similbus Curentur' — The Law of Similars
In Greek homoeo means ‘similar’ and pathos means ‘suffering’. Through research and practice, homeopathic cures were verified through the use of similars. A substance that can produce disease in a healthy person is used to initiate a healing response in someone presenting with a similar disease. Each patient shows symptoms of the body/mind/spirit when they are ill. Some of these symptoms are common to that illness, others are characteristic of that patient in their illness. The homeopathic practitioner matches the symptom picture of the homeopathic remedy to the symptom picture of the patient, with particular attention paid to those symptoms which are unique to the individual.

The Single Remedy
Only one homeopathic remedy is given at any one time. It would be difficult, to judge the action of multiple homeopathic remedies given at one time. The response of the vital force would be unpredictable and unclear. Though Dr Hahnemann experimented with this approach, he abandoned it as unsatisfactory.

The Small Dose
This refers to the infinitesimal doses of medicine given and to the repetition of dose only when necessary. Drugs that are given to individuals in material doses frequently cause side effects or adverse reactions. To reduce this problem, a homeopath administers the smallest possible dose so as to maximize beneficial effects and minimize side effects. In higher potency homeopathic remedies (with higher dilution), there no even a single molecule of a particular substance may be detected, yet the remedies still have the healing effect attributed to the water’s ability to ‘remember’. Repetition of dose is determined by the individual's response to the remedy. Unnecessary repetition may lessen the response, even to the correct remedy. In homoeopathy, less is better and we have to learn to observe much more closely to judge “when” is enough, or when more is needed because it is not like giving conventional drug doses.

The Potentized Remedy
Homeopathic remedies, though made from natural substances such as plants, minerals, animals, etc., are manufactured unlike any other medicine. Through a process of serial dilution a very dilute extract is made. With every step of dilution the remedy is shaken or succussed. The process of succussion is designed to arouse the dynamic nature of the medicine. The succussion process originally occurred whilst riding on horseback to patients, the succussion rhythm was more gentle, today however mechanized succussion is faster and harder than the horse’s rhythm and life itself is lived to a faster harder pace. To affect the vital force, a similarly energetic, homoeopathic remedy must be employed. At this level of medicine each frequency has a note and the drug remedy must match the frequency of the patient.

The importance of individualization

In classic homeopathy it is only possible and therefore essential that the medicine be individually prescribed for every patient.

People commonly assume that, for example, their headache, stomachache, or depression or pain is just like everyone else's. They then assume that they need to take the same drug as others to achieve relief. But when one talks in depth with several people who, for example, have headaches, it appears that there are very obvious differences between them. One person hurts in the front part of the head, another hurts in the back part; one has pulsating pain, another has dull constant pain; one person says it worsens when moving, another says when laying down, so we observe that the pain is actually different among several people.

Upon further investigation, one discovers that some patients with headaches have other accompanying health problems, such as digestive problems, or have dizziness, or have sore throat, and still others skin problems.

Even though that there are some homeopathic medicines which are more commonly given for certain conditions than others, and some homeopathic medicines are given so often for certain conditions that some people come to believe them to be ‘for’ that problem, however, it is always possible that a sick individual doesn’t have the all the necessary symptoms that fit a commonly given medicine, and then another medicine is required. Therefore it is required to take a patient’s case in great detail in order to be able to give not just an approximate medicine, but, an individually accurate one.

In the process of finding the only appropriate medicine, a homeopathic practitioner asks many questions to collect idiosyncratic characteristics of a patient. Besides the questions about the patient’s chief complaints and minor complaints, there’re various questions about patient’s physical and psychological symptoms, feelings, present and past life, facts from the parents’ life, and much more. Common questions may include: Is there time of the day when a patient feels best or worse, or that any specific symptoms occurs? How does weather affect the symptoms? How does different surroundings affect the patient? Is there any food that the patient craves or to which they feel adverse?

And it is now also accepted in modern science that virtually every organ and enzyme of the body has its own daily rhythm and time of day when it becomes active or inactive. It is also known that geothermal changes can affect brain chemistry and affect physical and psychological states, and that physical health is impossible without psychological health. And it is recognized that food cravings or aversions may signal metabolic states.

Understanding the healing process in homoeopathy

Any living body is a remarkable organism that will go to great extremes to protect itself and survive. Various symptoms observed by illnesses are evidence of this process. Different symptoms represent different levels of defense that the body deploys in an effort to survive.

Homeopathy basically assumes that every living being lives on three levels of experience: the physical, emotional, and mental. Generally, mental symptoms are regarded as the deepest core of an individual's health, emotional problems are of secondary importance, and physical symptoms are third place. Symptoms inside each category also create a kind of a hierarchy. Depending on their intensities, some symptoms represent more serious stresses to the defense system than others.

Most conventional physicians and even many "alternative" practitioners evaluate a patient’s state of health by the patient’s main symptom. If this symptom goes away, they generally assume that their therapy "worked," even though some new symptom must now be treated. They haven’t been taught to see the connections between different symptoms and patient’s states.

In homeopathy it is known that a healing process follows certain hierarchical patterns. Constantine Hering, M.D. (1800–1880), was one of the first to make note of specific ways that healing progresses. According to the ‘Hering’s Law of Cure’, first it was observed that the body seeks to externalize disease ― to dislodge it from more serious, internal levels to more superficial, external levels. Someone with asthma may develop an external skin rash as a part of the curative process. Or someone with a headache may undergo a day or two of fever and sweating as a part of their cure.

Sadly, most conventional medical and veterinary doctors treat each symptom as a unique and unconnected phenomenon. A skin rash in humans generally would be treated with cortisone, thus suppressing it, and possibly, reactivating the person's asthma.

The second observation was that healing progresses from the top of the body to the bottom. Thus, someone with arthritis in many joints will generally notice relief in the upper part of the body before the lower part. An understanding of this aspect of healing helps homeopaths to differentiate true cures from temporary relief or placebo response.

The third observation was that healing proceeds in reverse order of the appearance of symptoms. Thus, the most recent symptoms one has experienced generally will be the first to be healed. For this reason, in the process of healing a patient may sometimes re-experience symptoms that were suffered previously. Generally these may be those symptoms, which were suppressed or never really healed. Although these old symptoms may be irritating, homeopaths will avoid suppressing them. Usually these symptoms return not for a long time, and when they are gone, the patient experiences a significantly higher level of health.

Homeopaths are not the only ones to have recognized these principles of cure. Acupuncturists have witnessed aspects of them for thousands of years. Also naturopaths and psychotherapists commonly have noted that their patients re-experience old physical or psychological symptoms in the process of healing and once healed these are no longer present.

(English Edit Courtesy of Tamlyn Labuschagne Ennor)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shimmering Light

by Berenika Bratny
Wolne Konie, alHHHC Partner Research and Education Center, Poland

Nobody knew that one day, within my community of horses, there would be an unexpected pregnancy. A mom’s first foal whose name would be Shimmering Light. From the very first moment he was full of innocence and trust. This event serendipitously happened a few hours before I began a workshop for children. A program where we would together explore and experience horses who live in open pastures and free to roam and move as they choose. The tiny newborn's arrival created much excitement and everyone’s curiosity. I wasn't sure and was pleasantly surprised that his mom, who is usually quite suspicious when it comes to new people, let these children be close and even touch her little one. She had no problems with humans being close to her baby — but the horses were driven away by one fierce look and her bared teeth. All members of the herd dreamt of sniffing and greeting the new member but there was no chance. Only after a few days did the youngest mare in the herd manage to sneak through the bushes and, when the mother was busy, take a closer look at this precious treasure hidden in the tall grass.

A year has passed. Shimmering Light is a proud member of the herd enjoying time with his beloved aunts and grandmas (the mares) and having fun with his merry uncles (the geldings). I see him so happy meeting any human guest invited to visit the herd. One day an interesting thought came to my mind — that he came to our world in a symbolic moment and was the first one to welcome the children. The children learnt about the real nature of free horses and he, as a horse, experienced human beings as safe and kind. Shimmering Light doesn’t know the world of humans that was known to his mother and most of the horses in the herd. I often watch him galloping in the meadows I think with curiosity about the world of horse — human relations — how will it look like in the future?

The children, from the workshop, will be adults someday and Shimmering Light will be a big, mature and beautiful horse — will our world change? Will they be able to communicate with each other and all beings, offering respect and building a relationships based on harmony and love? I have this dream and it is not only mine. There are more and more people joining this vision. Maybe a day will come when every foal born into this world will be safe, just as Shimmering Light is. They will not know abuse or fear — they will be born free and stay that way — always.

Photos Berenika Bratny, Milka Jung

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Correct hoof care — a book with seven seals? Interview

An interview with Natalija Aleksandrova, al Holistic Horse & Hoof Care 
by Nico Welp, Pferdehilfe Sonnenhof, Germany
(English edition courtesy Tamlyn Labuschagne Ennor)

First published by Pferdehilfe Pro Equine >

Foreword by Nico Welp
(translated by André Oude Wolbers)

Hoof Health — a book with seven seals? No! Not if one deals comprehensively with the horse and their peculiar hoof organs. We have seen any number of hoof professionals, farriers and experts coming and going, just as we’ve observed their methods and their implementation and with a few exceptions, often had to deal with real defeats for the horses.

Despite all it's hot discussions about the right way to treat a horse and their hoof organs in order to be sound — the topic ‘hoof care’ is still a subject that raises interest in the world of horse owners. Who doesn´t know of all these questions, uncertainties, the changes and problems? In the end, one should not lose perspective — nobody has invented the hoof anew, it is as it has always been — perfected from nature.

Unfortunately, nevertheless, most horses under our conventional horse management must still accept more or less treatment mistakes. Why does this happen? Treatment mistakes happen because even in our society the usage of horses and their continuous performance stands before their recovery and their health preservation. The horse has to function and in many cases nothing more is wished than to maintain superficial functionality by any means, at any cost. This is a main focus problem of our horse owners nowadays. This is a route of symptomatic treatment, masking real causes and sometimes, applying incredibly brutal methods of cutting and nailing that which would just naturally fall apart with pain. More and more horse owners who wish to free themselves and their horses from this vicious cycle quickly find themselves in a boiling pot of lobbyists, vets, farriers, hoof professionals, horse trainers and homeopaths — and some horse owners just give up disenchanted and unsure after being swamped by the plethora of conflicting advice.

But in the end it is a responsibility of every single horse owner to find a right way to protect the horse and their hooves, the unsoundness of the hoof — this their peculiar organ — causes suffering to the animal until a too early and painful death results. It is the responsibility of every horse owner to alleviate suffering where it exists and to prevent it from occurring where it does not yet exist. Prevention is always preferable to cure.

We therefore asked a lady, for an interview, who not only works responsibly in this very extensive area, but also spends a large part of her life exploring it, to learn and to teach. Her studies led her — to different countries, even to the wild relatives of our domestic horses to get a full understanding of horses and the nature of their hooves. Today she gives workshops on the topic ‘horse and hoof health’ for al Holistic Horse & Hoof Care and trims horses in different countries.

I personally heard about her and read a lot and from her in advance, and I was happy to listen to some of her thoughts on my horses here at my place. Natalija Aleksandrova — from Riga — took time to visit us here in Germany before she got on her plane again.

Photos: Natalija during her Holistic Horse & Hoof Care seminar.

In addition to her profound knowledge, her education and her own practical experience, I met a woman, who wanted with so much passion, boundless love and high concentration on her work to help horses of this world to step out on sound hooves. She appears reticent, unobtrusive, very attached emotionally to an animal, and pays attention to every detail, scanning the whole environment and the whole anatomy (remark: this is what is very close to my heart, because I know very poor examples of hoof professionals who are not able to do this). She also leads the conversation in a helpful direction, she offers solutions — step by step, she analyzes and explains, and she confronts people with truth about future opportunities. But at no time does she lose the view of the whole horse and their physical and mental needs. The gentle way to soundness is her highest aim.

Photos: With horses during her work.
(Author Ruth Roberts)

Frankly spoken, Natalija enlightened me with her personality with the horse much more than she did with every explanation she gave to me. I never before had the chance to participate at such a high level of knowledge at the same time that I created trust in her. Trust in the human that not only stands with sense and skills before my beloved horse but with the honest heart — she shines… into the horse’s soul. For this I would like to say “thank you!” in advance to Natalija because this makes the difference I personally need. Trust… in the human AND her work.

I decided to publish the interview and the talk in its full length.

Photo: At work.
(Author Krszysztof Jarczewski)

The Interview

Nico Welp ("Pferdehilfe") in conversation with Natalija Aleksandrova (N.A.)

Pferdehilfe: The hoof and its functions, what is important for maintaining the health of the hoof?

N.A.: The hoof is an important and complicated circulatory, metabolic and sensory organ of the horse body. All 4 hooves are closely linked into the entire organism in several ways:
mechanically via the skeleton;
via metabolism and the circulatory system;
through nerve pathways;
and via energy pathways (meridians).

As a circulatory organ, the hooves function individually and as a group performing auxiliary blood pumping mechanisms in the horse’s body — not all the blood is pumped by the heart in the horse's body, partially it is done by the hooves.

As a metabolic organ, the hooves are responsible for the work of excreting spent proteins from the blood, by using those spent proteins for producing hoof horn. Thus, we can imagine, how much the organism is affected when only these two functions (circulation and metabolism) of the hooves are impaired — the heart, the kidneys and the skin are the first to be damaged via overloading from excess waste proteins. These 3 organs are all organs of excretion. If the spent protein cannot be ejected safely via hoof horn the spent protein returns into the body cavity and over-loads the internal excretion organs.

Amongst their other important functions, the hooves are also responsible for the proper absorption of the impact of shock, which happens automatically as a horse moves over terrain. When this shock-absorbing function is blocked, the shock impact travels up the legs into the skeleton, damaging joints and tissues, resulting in such common problems as arthritis, for example.

These and other vitally important functions of the hooves become possible via the natural in-built mechanism of the hoof known as hoof mechanism. Hoof mechanism is the expansion of the hoof capsule and temporary deformation of its inner structures in a specific way under load. Shoeing and incorrect hoof form either fully block or impair hoof mechanism to a great extent, by not fully allowing the hoof capsule to expand and deform in the proper way. Additionally, shoes dramatically increase the impact of shock causing mechanical damage and wounds to the inner and outer hoof structures.

Photo: Natalija during her seminar.

Besides the damage a horse receives via the impaired functions of her hooves, when they are shod and/or have a physiologically incorrect shape they bring the horse discomfort and pain, which again affects the whole body. When hooves are shod and/or have an incorrect shape it is usual to find the heel area is painful. In trying to avoid pain, via putting less weight on the painful areas, the horse changes their whole body posture and begins using muscles which are not supposed to be used for certain actions as, for example, standing. The muscles quickly become fatigued and chronically cramped. To relieve these muscles, the horse starts over-straining the next set muscles, which also get chronically cramped with time, and so on. A chain reaction starts changing normal posture and normal weight distribution in the body, which results in pain and problems in the whole body such as back pain, muscle atrophy, etc.

Through the hoofs intimate connection into the body, the entire organism can be influenced by the state and condition of the hooves. And vice versa, the hooves can also be affected in their form and ability to function properly by the body. Thus, we cannot look only into the hooves without looking into the whole horse and her living conditions.

Correct hoof care isn’t only concerned with correct trimming. It is very important to understand that the correct hoof care starts from correct horse management, based on us ensuring living conditions are meeting this species’ essential needs as they were supposed to have by nature: herd life, unrestricted day/night movement, unrestricted day/night access to food. For example, you cannot lock a horse in a stable and expect she will have healthy hooves, because in this case one of the most important needs of horse’s is restricted — the need for the constant freedom of movement. Or, you cannot allow a horse to move freely day and night, but at the same time separate her from a herd, and expect the hooves to remain healthy, because you restrict another most important need of the horse — the need for equine companions. All horses are herd animals — their cerebral cortex only is able to function properly giving correct signals to the body, when a horse is in company with other horses.

Pferdehilfe: There're now a true 'war of experts' what leaves horse owners very insecure. Different camps have formed. Concerning the Strasser's knowledge: Your opinion, what is a difference between her and other methods?

N.A.: One fundamental difference between Dr Strasser’s Method and other techniques is that she demands from one an extensive knowledge of the whole horse’s body and the hoof as an organ of the body. Apart from having hoof knife skills, one has to be educated in equine biology, anatomy, physiology, and histology, along with knowing how to apply this knowledge in practice in order to be called a Strasser Hoofcare Professional (SHP). It is more than academic knowledge. At the moment there’s not a single veterinary school in the world, which would offer their students this extensive knowledge on the hoof as one of the horses body organs such as an SHP student receives during their 2 years long studying with Dr Strasser.

Photo: At work.
(Author Krszysztof Jarczewski)

Pferdehilfe: Why in your opinion the Strasser's method practice (not the theory) is criticized so much?

N.A.: First, Dr Strasser’s Knowledge challenges and goes against the old traditions, against the industry, against vets/farriers lobby. It states that hoof health is impossible without the natural keeping conditions, and it proves conclusively that domestic horses and their hooves can stay naturally healthy, if the horses are kept the species appropriate living conditions, when their essential biological needs are fulfilled. Moreover, the Knowledge proves that the traditional practices of horse care and hoof care are harmful for a horse’s health. The whole army of vets and farriers and horse keeping establishments find themselves in sudden danger of losing their income. The Knowledge is inconvenient for many horse owners because it doesn’t fix a horse quickly for being usable again, instead it follows the horse’s nature, allowing the body to heal and stay sound at its own natural pace.

Secondly, what makes the method so widely criticized, is the many insufficiently educated people who try to apply the method, and what severs it even more, is that they try to apply it to horses which are not kept natural living conditions, and when it fails these people blame the method rather than take ownership of their mistakes.

Then we often can see the result — badly lame horses. Dr Strasser herself doesn’t stop repeating: she only acknowledges a method as ‘hers’, if it is applied by a professional, who went through and passed the oral, theoretical and practical examinations of the 2 year long course in holistic hoof care and lameness rehabilitation; the method cannot in any circumstances be applied to stabled horses.

Photo: At work.

Pferdehilfe: Less is more? Some hoof care practices are very schematic, no individual approach, too much into getting perfect angles what causes problems to horses and their owners – sometimes even severe pathologically changes (in tendons, ligaments, joints and muscles). What should be paid attention to in general?

N.A.: First, it is important to know whether these dramatic changes were physiologically correct for the hoof or not. If they weren’t physiologically correct, there is nothing to speak about — damage was done to the horse’s body...

In order to not harm a horse, a hoof care professional has to be deeply educated about hoof anatomy, physiology and hoof functions, as well as on the whole horse anatomy and physiology and their biological requirements for living. Unfortunately very few professionals actually have such knowledge. Including veterinary professionals, who often have very little knowledge on the hoof as an organ of the body and its connection to the whole organism.

But sometimes, serious damage can be done when a professional tries to rehabilitate ill hooves after the horse was trimmed incorrectly or shod for many years — when the horse’s whole body (joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, bones) have long adapted to the incorrect hoof form. A process of re-adaptation to the physiologically correct hoof form is necessary in such cases and the horse can go through the discomfort and pain associated with rehabilitation, sometimes severe, in different parts of the body. Because, in all cases every change in tissues (bones, cartilages, muscles, tendons etc.), both correct and incorrect, goes through processes of inflammation. Inflammation, even when healing, is painful. The tissues and whole body also go through metabolic changes, which in some cases can cause serious toxicity in the organism. So, before starting a hoof rehabilitation case, it is extremely important for a hoof care professional to have a proper understanding how her every single manipulation with a hoof will affect the inner structure and consequently what effect it will have in the whole body. It is important to have knowledge on tissue behavior in the horse’s body (bones remodel faster, ligaments need longer times for healing, tissues remodel and heal at a higher rate in younger animals, etc. etc. etc.) Having all this fundamental knowledge and taking into consideration many individual details about a horse such as age, a degree of damage, etc., a professional has to be able to estimate abilities of healing of every individual animal and to find a suitable pace and extent of rehabilitation, which will not bring unnecessary pain to this animal. In general, we know, for example, young still growing, animals are more responsive to rehab and are faster to rehab. While for a 25 year old animal, who was shod or incorrectly trimmed her whole life, we have to consider if the rehab might lower her quality of life due to dramatic adaptive changes in her body.

This is where the controversy of even the physiologically correct trim may appear — a professional may be over-enthusiastic about helping a horse, not stopping and considering these individual details of how much change is enough correction.

Photo: From Natalija's practice — purebred arabian gelding's hoof health improvement over 2 years. The hooves healed on a comfortable for the horse pace, without the horse being lame or sensitive for a single day.

Pferdehilfe: Now to shoeing… From vets and farriers we learn there're many different reasons to shoe a horse. Mostly for sport purposes (usage of horses) or for health care (therapy). What is your opinion about horse shoes?

N.A.: There’s no way of usage of the horse which could justify shoeing. If a horse cannot perform what they are asked for without her feet being fixed by shoes, then this is pure animal abuse that she is asked to endure. Because it is the well known fact that shoeing damage horse’s health, making a horse just ‘usable’ via masking hoof pathologies.

The results of historical research over the last few decades have confirmed that the nailed-on horse-shoe first came into use in the early Middle Ages, while the history of domestication of the horse is 5000 years long. This means that the endless cavalry warfare of early history took place by riders on un-shod horses as did the huge migrations of tribes.

By the time that castles were being built on hilltops throughout Europe in the 6th Century, horses were required to live in small and enclosed spaces, standing in their own excrement. The hooves lacking proper circulation that forms a good quality horn, further weakened by ammonia, were no longer able to do their work when horses were used on rocky terrain. Thus, the metal shoe was invented then to fix the problem and make a horse usable again.

Shoeing blocks the hoof mechanism that makes possible the most vital functions of the hoof.

Hoof mechanism is the term given to the movement of the hoof capsule, when an expanded hoof form on weight-bearing alternates with a narrowed hoof form during the lifted flight phase of the foot and all the internal changes resulting from it.

When weight-bearing, the downward force of the skeleton on the front wall of the hoof capsule forces the coronary band at its highest point to sink downward and inward. On this movement of the coronary band, the lateral walls move outward, and this assisted by the concave sole drawing flat, allows room for the descending coffin bone which is suspended by the elastic laminar corium tissues between the walls and bone surface. Thus being allowed more space the capillaries between the sole and the coffin bone (in the solar corium), and between the wall and the coffin bone (in the laminar corium) are filled with arterial blood containing oxygen and nutrients. As the hoof lifts it narrows and this action results in the venous blood being very quickly ‘squeezed out’ of the corium and up the leg, as water is from a sponge.

Nailing a shoe to a hoof, fixes the hoof in its narrowest form (the shoe is applied, when the hoof is in the air and not bearing any weight), and results in not allowing the hoof to spread correctly while it is weight-bearing. It means the hoof mechanism is blocked or reduced considerably in the shod hoof.

So, reduced hoof mechanism means reduced blood circulation, and thus reduced horn production. As I explained in the beginning, being the metabolic organ, the hooves are responsible for the work of excreting waste proteins from the blood by using them for building hoof horn.

When the blood flow in the hoof is restricted — there’s less than normal (less than 1 cm) of wall horn production per month — less waste protein is excreted here, and too much remains in the bloodstream and the organism. This excess protein must then be excreted, along with the regular metabolic waste, by the kidneys and skin. For the kidneys, this extra work is a strain that negatively affects their normal functions. As a result, regular metabolic waste that should have been excreted by the kidneys now remains in the organism, putting stress on other organs. The liver, as a metabolic organ, is one of these, and is then no longer able to function properly. The entire metabolism is disrupted because of the resultant incorrect (un-physiological) blood chemistry. We see this the best in skin metabolism (mud fever, rain scald, problems with shedding and coat changes, eczema tendencies, even Cushing Syndrome-like symptoms). Aside from the outward appearance of the horse, the disruptions in the internal metabolic processes can also be proven with blood tests, bio-resonance, and other energy modalities.

Blood tests for horses that have been shod or have had contracted hooves for some time show abnormal values for liver and kidney functions. The reduced corium circulation in horses with long-term shoeing and contracted hooves thus also sets the stage for laminitis, which can then be triggered by even a slight change in blood composition, or metabolism — such as results from eating early spring grass, or a change in feeding, or deworming, or sudden change of outside temperature, or a vaccination (none of which are the cause of laminitis, only the trigger).

If the kidneys and liver, being overstressed, are working only poorly, it results in long-term, slow poisoning of the entire organism (especially the heart).

Photo: From Natalija's practice — hoof rehab over 9 months in a warmblood gelding, shoed previously for 15 years. The hooves have been improving on a comfortable for the horse pace, without making the horse lame or uncomfortable.

Also repeating my words in the beginning, through the hoof mechanism the auxiliary pump function — the most critical vital function of the hoof — is performed. The function supports the heart and circulatory system by pumping blood back up the leg through the veins, which don’t have musculature in their walls and can’t move blood without the support of surrounding skeletal musculature. As the lower leg in the horse doesn’t have musculature, the hoof mechanism becomes the only moving power for the venous blood out of the hoof back up to the upper leg. Blocking the hoof mechanism, the auxiliary pump function is also blocked.

Hoof mechanism constitutes another important function of the hoof, the absorption of shock, transforming 60-80% of impact forces via the reversing deformation of the hoof capsule, releasing heat as a by-product. This function is vital for maintaining health of joints, tendons, bones, and the whole organism. When the hoof mechanism is blocked, the impact shock cannot be dampened and is transferred up the leg to joints and the tissues, and the needed heat by-product is not delivered to the hoof tissues for metabolic processes to continue.

Moreover, metal shoes add more impact to the natural one experienced by the hoof. Vibration coming from the metal shoes is measured around 800 Hz or higher. The constant vibration causes changes in the structure of the laminar corium (comparable to Raynold’s syndrome in humans), resulting in damage to the capilliary suspension of the coffin bone in the hoof capsule. It also causes irritation to ligaments and tendons attachment points in the periosteum of bones and of joint cartilage, leading to abnormal ossifications.

And this only a part of the harm caused by shoeing, the list is much longer.

And the most important thing to understand is that it is nonsense to speak about any ‘therapeutic’ effect of the shoes. Any healing process is possible only though intensified metabolism, what means intensified blood circulation. The blood supplies ‘building blocks’ — proteins and other nutrients — for repairing damage, and the blood removes ‘wastes’ from damaged areas. But now we know, how shoeing blocks the normal blood circulation in hooves, don’t we? Therefore we must acknowledge in the face of this new knowledge that reducing circulation thus prevents healing.

Photo: From Natalija's practice — chronic quarter crack rehab over 9 months in a warmblood gelding, shoed previously for 15 years.  The hooves have been improving on a comfortable for the horse pace, without making the horse lame or uncomfortable.

Pferdehilfe: No horse is the same as another one — is this also true for the hooves?

N.A.: Every horse is individual. Yet, representing the same species, they all have the same anatomy, physiology, and biological requirements for living. The same is valid for their hooves — they are individual, but there are the same anatomical and physiological constants, which are unchangeable for every horse. Every hoof professional has to be well enough educated in the anatomy, physiology and functions of the hoof to know these constants.

Pferdehilfe: Pressure on the frog. Concerning the newest scientific research it is not true that pressure on the frog is necessary for the hoof mechanism. Till now it was common opinion that hoof mechanism was working by movement and its pressure on the frog which is squeezing the frog like a sponge and by this the circulation will happen. Now it seems that it is more the case that compressive forces coming from the ground which will have an effect on all lower parts of the hoof and from the inside the body weight of the horse will push down the coffin bone a bit. And if now the frog won´t touch the ground, so the wall ground-contact edge, the sole and eventually the bars will direct the compressive force into the inside. Now, what is right?

N.A.: It was known for some time that the frog isn’t the only factor or even a main factor in hoof mechanism. The correct hoof mechanism I described in answering the previous question.

However, it is incorrect to say now that there’s no need for the frog to touch the ground. Ground contact of the frog is a part of the physiologically correct functioning of the hooves especially so in cold-blood horses. The frog participates in hoof mechanism, acting like a piece of folding and unfolding rubber, helping the hoof capsule to expand on weightbearing and to get back to its narrower form when the hoof is not loaded. For horses living in soft pastures, the importance of the frog and its ground contact increases dramatically in providing the correct hoof mechanism. As there’s insufficient resistance from the soft ground to expand the harder hoof capsule, this is when the frog which, unfolding its central and lateral sulci on contacting the ground, helps the hoof capsule to expand, and to return to its narrower form at the non weightbearing phase, acting like a piece of rubber.

If there’s no ground contact of the frog in hooves bearing weight it is a sure way for you to actually judge conclusively that the hoof shape is not physiologically correct, and such hooves are more likely to not be sound. Lack of frog to ground contact we most often see in contracted hooves with too long heels.

Regarding the belief that the frog is there only for shock absorption, this was never correct. The horse achieves shock absorption through several mechanisms based on the principle of energy transformation (since energy cannot be destroyed, but can only change forms) — the impact energy transforms into the energy of reversible deformation of the hoof capsule and the inner foot structures, with heat released as a by-product, through friction, thus not allowing the impact of shock to travel up the leg to be transmitted to the skeleton.
The four major forms of shock absorption working in the horse’s foot are:
stretching ligaments and tendons;
the reversible expansion of the hoof capsule (the hoof mechanism itself);
compression of the spiral wall horn tubules;
stretching of laminar horn and lamellae.

Pferdehilfe: Feral horses need no hoof trimming. Our efforts should be going in that direction — that we artificially simulate the natural wear. Domestic horses live on different grounds, eat in a different manner and don't move that much as the feral horses, or they move totally different. To which aspects does a good hoof care professional pay attention when they see a horse for the first time?

A good hoof care professional always pays attention to horse keeping conditions on the way to the horse. Whether the horse’s essential needs are met by the conditions they are kept in. We know that without correct living conditions it is impossible for a horse to have healthy hooves whatever perfect trimming it receives. First, a horse has to have a reason and a possibility to move freely 24 hours a day to provide healthy blood circulation in the hooves.

A good hoof care professional starts with an education for a horse owner on the biologically correct horse keeping conditions, how these affect hoof health and how living conditions affect the overall horse’s health.

Photos: At work.
(Author Krszysztof Jarczewski)

Pferdehilfe: In nature there were never "white" hooves. The lack of pigmentation was created – due to my knowledge only by breeding. Do white hooves actually have softer hoof horn or is this a myth?

N.A.: We can encounter white hooves in American wild mustangs, for example.

Softer horn in white hooves is an absolute myth.

If a horse is born with white hooves, it is a normal biological occurrence and cannot be called ‘lack’ of pigmentation. Then blond hair people also ‘lack’ pigmentation.

What is not normal, when we observe non-pigmented spots appear with time in dark hooves in areas where inner tissues experience damaging pressure from hard horn levers — due to incorrect hoof forms. Sometimes, for example, the whole wall can become lighter or almost white, or we can see white marks on a sole in areas where the solar corium was pinched between the horn and the coffin bone and damaged.

Pferdehilfe: American Ovnicek has witnessed in a herd of mustangs, that the horses were carrying their bodyweight on sole, bars and frog. The outside of the ground contact edge of the wall was completely worn. Other experts have the opinion, that the ground contact edge of the wall must stay in its full extent, not removed during trimming. In your opinion, what is right?

N.A.: Here we speak about the so called ‘mustang roll’ — when the outer ground contacting edge of the wall is beveled. Not only Ovnicek, but everyone can see this hoof shape in American mustangs, also in Australian brumby’s living in the desert areas, and in other wild and domestic horses living in hard rocky terrain. The ‘mustang roll’ is a consequence of mechanical abrasion and micro-chipping as the hoof makes contact with rocks and abrasive footing from all directions as the horse moves across the terrain. The terrain specific wear process adds to shock absorption mechanism of the hoof because part of the impact energy is dissipated through this micro-chipping with every step, not being transmitted to the skeleton. Also, removing the outside layer of the hoof wall, which is more rigid through the lower water content of it, and thus putting the inner most layer of the wall, which is higher in water content and thus more elastic, into a position of more direct weight bearing, provides additional dampening of shock mechanism to further reduce the impact of the forces transmitted to the skeleton.

If we look to hooves of wild and domestic horses living in soft pastures and on the soft-floored forests of Central Europe, we never see the mustang roll in them. The wall edge remains quite sharp. The softer footing doesn’t bring a wearing effect in a form of the outer roll to the hoof wall, and it also doesn’t require additional shock absorption mechanisms because softer terrain doesn’t provide as strong an impact from ground contact with it. Different terrain produces different wear patterns. Self-trimming of the hoof happens in different ways — on soft terrain it is achieved through wall flaring, cracking and chipping off in big pieces.

So, since nature itself doesn’t provide horses living on soft footing with this excessive rolling of the wall, it is logical that we don’t need to overdo bringing unwanted features to hooves of horses, living, for example, on soft grasslands terrain of Germany. Moreover, excessive rolling of the ground contact edge of the wall all the way round to the heels may be detrimental by promoting contraction in horses living on soft pastures, because it makes that kind of hoof form sink deeper into the soft ground creating an inwards force that in time will contract the hoof. So, if there are no pathological conditions that would require extensive removal of the ground contact edge of the wall, we don’t do it to healthy hooves.

Pferdehilfe: A brief intro of yourself, Natalija. How you started your path to your current occupation?

N.A.: I started my path to horses from a dream of becoming an Olympic show jumper. :)) After some time training and competing at hobby level show jumping, I came to realize that the idea about the ‘partnership between the human and the horse’ is only a beautiful fairy tale, which has nothing in common with the reality. What I found really existed was the use of the animal by the human through the animal’s pain and blood. Also I realized that most horse people had no idea about the horse’s essential needs for life, anthropomorphizing them and keeping in conditions, which makes it most convenient for the human to use them. I quitted riding and went deeper into studying wild horses, horse’s health and natural horse management. This led me also to begin studying professional hoof care. I finished 2 years Holistic Hoof Care and Lameness Rehabilitation Course by Dr Hiltrud Strasser, Germany. Now I teach, practice and continue my researches on holistic horse’s health and management as a leading member of the al Holistic Horse & Hoof Care team.

Photos: A workshop with Natalija.

Pferdehilfe: What kind of problems and diseases are you encountering most frequently?

N.A.: The biggest problem I encounter is incorrect hoof form — hooves that are shaped without knowledge of their biological function by so called hoof care professionals. As a consequence, hoof contraction is the most encountered disease with all the connected pathologies.

Pferdehilfe: Some experts always stress that every change in the horses posture has to be corrected and every horse has to stand flat on the ground. What´s your opinion?

N.A.: Abnormalities in the posture are usually only signs of pain. The abnormalities develop, when a horse tries to compensate for pain, shifting load from one body part to another. For example, the classical sign of heel pain in front feet, which we can recognize in horse’s posture, is when the horse puts her legs far under their body. Doing this allows the horse to avoid loading their front heels, by putting more weight on the front toes, and with hind legs placed further under her body, she shifts more weight off her front legs to her hind legs to relieve the fronts.

When we see abnormalities in posture, we search for a cause — for a source of the pain. As we free the horse from the pain, it also reflects in the horses posture — the ‘abnormalities’ or even ‘conformation faults’ simply disappear as the horse’s pain disappears.

A lot of abnormalities and ‘conformation faults’ such as ‘sickle-hock’, or ‘camped-out’ hind legs, or croup being higher than withers appear as a result of hoof pain.

Photo: At work.

Pferdehilfe: Have you ever had a horse, in which your trimming did not lead to improvement, or to some certain goals? A case that was very severe? With real big problems?

N.A.: Yes, initially when I didn’t have enough experience I have had such cases both of sever pathology and of not too bad hooves that didn’t get better. It was in the beginning when I was obsessed with getting the correct hoof form — without taking into consideration whether a horse was even happy about any positive changes in her hooves. Eventually the horse’s discomfort and even pain from the changes in the hooves would grow big enough that it delayed or even stopped the whole rehab process. With experience I have learned how to judge what degree of change a horse happily can cope with and to be happy when the horse shows they are happy, not trying to reach the ideal with every hoof.

Pferdehilfe:What are your wishes for the future concerning the world of hoofcare? What kind of message is carried by your daily work? What would you like to tell to people?

N.A.: My greatest wish is that that horses are always kept in conditions which take into consideration all the biological needs of this species, such as their need for a herd, their need for free movement day and night, their need for non-stop access to food. And NEVER kept in conditions which only makes it convenient for the human to use them.

My greatest wish is that all horse people learn what damage to the horse’s body is brought about by the pleasure that the human receives from using the horse.

When my wishes come true, there will not be much work left for hoof care professionals. :)

Photos: Natalija with her beloved mare Bagra.

Pferdehilfe: Thank you, Natalia, for this very detailed look at the horse's hoof and health ... Thank you for your time that you take for your continuous passion and respect of your equine clients.

Contact Natalija
Natalija on facebook al Holistic Horse & Hoof Care

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Laminitis — The Dr Strasser Approach

By Strasser Hoofcare New Zealand

Laminitis — literally inflammation of the laminae — has reached epidemic proportions in domesticated horses. Conventional approaches tend to concentrate on the factors, which trigger the inflammation, the most common of which is rich feed e.g. spring grass. Conventional treatments for laminitis range from preventatives like food additives intended to stabilise the hind gut, to various mechanical solutions — the most damaging of which is raising the heels and nailing on so-called ‘orthopaedic’ shoes.

The Strasser Approach

Coffin bone rotation with separation (aka founder) is a long time in the making. Laminitis does not always end up in rotation of the pedal bone with separation of the bone from the hoof capsule. Inflammation may be triggered by a number of things, e.g. feed, chemicals, hormones, mechanical stress. In an otherwise healthy hoof, and if the trigger is removed, the inflammation need not cause major damage to the laminar connection. Other pre-existing conditions are necessary for this to happen. In a healthy hoof the pedal bone is ground parallel and the coronet has a 30 degree slope. In this position, force is distributed equally on all parts of the bone and the laminar horn and corium. However, when the pedal bone is forced to become steeper (e.g wedge pads) the weight comes down further forward than usual which chronically overstresses the frontal region of the laminar corium. The steeper the pedal bone, the more the tip is forced downwards and the more the corium is overstressed. This leads eventually to separation of the bone from the hoof capsule in the toe region – either through the mechanical levers of quickly growing heels or the gradual indentation of the sole by the pressure of the pedal bone pushing down upon it. A horse may have steep hooves for some time without problems if it is used on soft ground, or is shod. For a while the shoe prevents the pedal bone from visibly separating from the hoof wall because the solar vault cannot draw flat. But, shoes (as well as contraction, vibration, lack of movement etc) reduce blood supply, particularly in the toe region. Poorly nourished corium lamellae are structurally altered even within an outwardly healthy looking hoof, and cannot produce good quality laminar horn. Even without the effects of steep bone alignment, the interlocking of the sensitive and insensitive laminae is compromised. The laminar suspension is more prone to overstressing and less able to maintain the horse’s weight in the hoof capsule. Obviously a steepened bone alignment will speed up this process. As the laminar connection becomes, over time, more and more unstable any inflammatory trigger can tip the horse into full rotation and separation.

Any metabolic disturbance can trigger laminitis. The presence of a toxin in the poorly nourished and damaged laminar corium causes a severe inflammatory response. Wound secretion seeps out to mix with horn production, resulting in a horn quality that is too poor to suspend the horse’s weight (especially with unnaturally steep bone alignment) and the corium and horn lamellae separate.

As a result, the connection between the pedal bone and hoof wall is lost (most usually only at the toe) and the pedal bone sinks down onto the sole where its sharp frontal edge presses onto, and damages the solar corium. The least painful part of the foot, and the area where there is usually still a fairly solid connection, is in the lateral and heel regions. The horse shifts its weight back onto its heels and its hind quarters – into the classic founder stance. Whilst this slightly relieves the pain in the front feet it causes over-stressing of the heels of both back and front feet, and of the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons in the back and hind quarters.

What can be done?

It is important to realize that the foundered horse is a sick animal but founder need not be a death sentence. After steps to remove the cause of the inflammation and to cool the feet (standing in cold water is best) the foundered horse needs:

Restoration of Natural Hoof Form and Function
By restoring a ground parallel coffin bone and hoof mechanism the degenerative cycle of chronic founder can be broken. Once weight is evenly distributed across the pedal bone, hoof capsule, coronet and laminar corium, the damage can start to repair and a good quality connection begin to grow down from the coronet.

Movement on level, non-concussive ground is vital to ensure the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues in its feet.

Proper Nutrition
Most chronic laminitics are already nutritionally deprived and starving a sick animal is, at best, counter-productive.

Holistic Support
The horse’s heart, metabolic organs and muscular-skeletal structures are already under enormous strain. Chemicals such as antiinflammatories can interfere with natural healing processes and they have toxic side effects.

© Copyright of Strasser Hoofcare New Zealand. All Rights Reserved.

Dr Hiltrud Strasser and Her Holistic Hoof Care Method

Natalija Aleksandrova

Humans have invented all manner of metal horse shoes and their alternatives in their collective never-ending search for ways of prolonging the useful working life of horses, and, still no total success. Problems in the hooves and legs are still the most widespread cause for lameness and death of horses. But... what if a bare horse hoof is able to take care of itself? What if a bare hoof could protect itself even better than any artificial means invented by Man? Is it possible that the bare hoof is able to keep the locomotor functions of the horses' body functioning in health? Not only that but is it possible that a healthy bare hoof plays a very important role in general horse health? Dr Hiltrud Strasser, a German veterinarian and researcher came to exactly such a conclusion some decades ago. By following certain conditions regarding horse keeping and care, the hoof is allowed to function as it was designed to by nature. In allowing the horse a correct lifestyle the hoof stops being in need of artificial mechanical protection. The hoof's pathologies heal, and moreover, healed itself, the hoof becomes a key to the health of the whole body.

We know, that the hooves, amongst their other functions, also function as an auxillary blood pump in the horses' body. Besides this, they are responsible for the work of excreting spent proteins from the blood, using them for the building of hoof horn. Thus, we can imagine, how much the organism is affected when only these two functions of the hooves are impaired — the heart, the liver, the kidneys and the skin are the first to be damaged. These organs are all organs of excretion, if the spent protein cannot be ejected safely via hoof horn it returns to the body cavity and over-loads the internal excretion organs.

Dr. Strasser obtained her degrees in horse husbandry before study and the degree in veterinary medicine from both the Humboldt and Freien Universities in Berlin. She subsequently earned and obtained her Ph. D. from the Freien University. Dr Strasser has been researching horse lameness connected to problems in the hooves, the rehabilitation and the prevention of this, for over 30 years. More than 17 of those years in her own specialist Hoof Clinic in Tübingen, Germany.

In the beginning of her career, she was shocked to learn how many horses were actually euthanized at a very young age. She discovered that most of these horses were put down due to 'incurable' problems in their hooves, such as laminitis, founder, and navicular syndrome. During her years of observing and researching, she discovered that wild horses mostly live much longer than those domestic ones, kept in conditions considered 'common' for them. Her researches led her to an unexpected conclusion: we, ourselves, slowly kill our precious animals by what we consider our 'kindness' to them! The result of her researches, comparisons of life style and hoof shape between domestic and wild horses has become what is commonly is called the 'Strasser Method' across the world. And, what is more correctly called 'Strasser Knowledge', as it is not limited by mere trimming instructions only. Strasser knowledge instructs on proper biologically correct horse living conditions, the living environments influence on the whole body and on the hooves, the functions of the hooves as an important body organ, and the hooves connection to and their effect in the whole horse organism.

1. Dr Strasser during World Holistic Hoof Care Conference, Tübingen, Germany.
2. Dr Strasser teaching her students at the Hoof Clinic.

Dr Strasser says: “The hoof form which we see in equines today has developed over many millions of years and has obviously proven itself. We must thus assume that there is no better possible shape for this organ. Once we accept this, we must try to understand this organ in all its details, since it (like all components of an organism) is in turn connected to the other organs and functions. Therefore, if something changes in the hoof, this change influences and affects the entire organism. Unfortunately, this fact is often forgotten. Organ problems are considered isolated from the rest of the organism, which leads to inadequate diagnoses and even more unsatisfactory treatment results.”

Strasser Method works perfectly in keeping healthy bare hooves healthy through the horse's entire life. As well as working wonders in rehabilitating complicated hoof pathologies when traditional approaches fail. Dr Strasser discovered that when you remove obstacles, often created by the human themself (too long heels, shoes, stabling, etc.), you allow that amazing ability of the hooves to activate self-healing. During her years in her clinic, Dr Strasser watched many cases of complete rehabilitation in horses with serious problems of the locomotor apparatus. Horses who came to the clinic after they were 'prescribed' but not given the last 'medicine' — euthanasia... horses who left sound.

Some horse professionals still might find the Method controversial or even radical. This is usually because Dr Strasser's approach is very different from classic belief — different from what is considered as 'generally accepted standards' and different from what is suggested by many veterinarians and farriers. For example, in a case of chronic laminitis (rotation of 3d phalanx with or without separation), the classic traditional approach is raising the heels. Which is based on the belief that the procedure relieves stress on the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) and laminae, caused by rotation of the coffin bone. As Dr Strasser explains, raising the heels only makes the rotation worse through overloading the dorsal part of the laminar corium and reducing the blood circulation in a hoof. Dr Strasser discovered, that when the coffin bone is ground parallel and the hoof is fully loaded, the pulling forces affecting the DDFT, are directed more backwards than upwards. (A recent study led by Glenn Ramsey, a PhD candidate at New Zealand's University of Auckland proved Strasser's observation. The study, "The effect of hoof angle variations on dorsal lamellar load in the equine hoof," was published in the September 2011 issue of the Equine Veterinary Journal). Trimmed in accordance with the Strasser Method, the coffin bone is brought back to the ground parallel position under load. This allows optimal blood circulation to return to a hoof, the load to spread evenly through the coffin bone and the hoof and this in turn, allows hoof horn to be produced at a higher rate and better quality.

It is important to know, that the trimming techniques developed by Dr Strasser could only be applied successfully (or in some cases, its application could be supervised successfully) by a Strasser Hoofcare Professional (SHP). Strasser Hoofcare Professionals are specialists who go through a 2 year long course in holistic hoof care and lameness rehabilitation by Dr Strasser and who receive an appropriate certificate. There are cases known, where trimmers, who tried to use the Strasser Method, without the proper education made horses lame and ill. Applied correctly to healthy hooves by an educated specialist, the Method itself never makes a horse feel pain. But, when proper circulation is restored in a damaged and numbed hoof, and as a result the nerves perceptiveness is restored it is reasonably logical to expect a lameness to appear or to worsen upon application of the Method. A hoof is numbed through shoeing or incorrect hoof care, when blood returns the nerves effectively wake up and report all that they could not when they were numbed. Applied correctly, the Method only reveals the pain from the inner hoof damage and pathologies (different types of contraction, stretched lamina, corium bruising, etc.). Abscesses are not rare during the process of rehabilitating damaged, pathological hooves, as this is the way the body removes big fragments of dead tissue. But most horses, treated by the Strasser Method, receive and show great relief at their first trimming, and their condition steadily improves upon subsequent trimmings.

The horse with acute laminitis just brought for treatment to the Hoof Clinic in Tübingen.

The horse is sound after treatment at the Clinic by Dr Strasser.

Application of the Method is impossible without a deeper understanding of the knowledge and deep involvement in the process of rehabilitation by a horse owner. Those who decide to follow the Strasser Method must comprehend that hooves are part of the whole organism, and cannot be treated without taking into consideration the whole organism. Often a problem with classic western medicine — is suppressing pain symptoms while not finding the real cause of a disease and not considering the whole body. Dr Strasser understood that many health problems seen in stabled and shod horses are often just consequences of an incorrect hoof form and impaired hoof functions. Amongst such problems-consequences are, for example, skin disorders, allergies, chronic respiratory disorders, repeated colics, and more. Dr Strasser discovered that almost always these problems disappear as soon as a horses' living conditions are adapted to be as close to the natural model as possible and a hoof form is brought to a physiologically correct one. Strasser Hoofcare Professionals are educated in finding and removing real causes of pain in the hooves, as well as recognizing how much time a horse will need afterwards for full healing. Some horse owners find it difficult to understand that a horse could feel some discomfort during the healing process, and refuse to allow the horse enough time for healing. In some serious cases it can be a really long time that a horse needs to complete the healing process. Usually, misunderstandings regarding the Strasser Method disappear as soon as a person starts comprehending the principles of the form and functions of the healthy bare hoof, which developed in a process of millions years of its evolution.

A heavy founder with coffin bone protrusion case. The horse is fully sound after 18 months, treated at the Hoof Clinic by Dr Strasser.

The Strasser Method is based on scientifically recognized knowledge in the areas of:

Living tissue
• requires regular circulation
• requires a certain metabolic temperature
• Nerves can only function in an environment with active metabolism
• The coffin bone of an equine must be ground-parallel
• The coffin joint must be over the center of the coffin bone base
• In a horse at rest, the tendons of the extensor and flexor apparatus are in an energy neutral balance
• Tendons are shortened via muscle contractions to produce movement. Continuous muscle contraction (muscle tonus) when standing results in the muscles cramping
• In the leg, blood is pumped upward by the hooves and the joints. This is only possible with movement
• Excretion of hoof horn is linked to the amount of circulation, which is dependent on the amount of movement
• Production of hoof horn at a certain order of magnitude is necessary to relieve blood and body metabolism
• Over 70% of the natural behavior of the horse consists of movement
• There is no day/night rhythm
• Horn production and wear are in physiological harmony
Physics and Mathematics
• Lever forces on a slanted, truncated cone lead to expansion with physiologically correct hoof form, and to contraction with unphysiological hoof form
• The pumping action is only possible with the alternating flattening and concaving of the hoof sole. It is not possible with fixation of the solar vault

For horse owners it is recommendable to read the books of Dr. Strasser on horse's hooves and health:
"A Life Time of Soundness"
"Shoeing — A Necessary Evil?"
"Metal in the Mouth"
"Who is afraid of Founder?"
"Navicular Diseas — No More!"
The books are available in German, English, French, Russian, Norwegian, Polish and Checz languages.

The english editing courtesy by Tamlyn Labuschagne Ennor

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Thermoregulation in horses in a cold time of year. Revised

by ©Natalija Aleksandrova
(Updated, presented at the 10th International EAHAE Conference, Poland, 2014)

Most horse owners are aware of the damage and crisis inherent with fever states. Few horse owners realize how well adapted horses are to deal with cold when certain aspects of their lifestyle are in place for them.

In order for a mammal to survive, internal body temperature is kept within a very narrow range. If the temperature exceeds these limits either above or below, the chemical reactions in the body function improperly, or they stop functioning at all. Fluctuations outside of the normal temperature range result in health problems or death of the animal.

Mature horses maintain their internal body temperature at a range of around 38℃. Foals, rapidly growing youngsters, pregnant and lactating mares have a higher than normal internal body temperature (Hines, 2004).

Heat in the horse's body is continuously generated as a by-product of metabolism, and a healthy animal has significant internal sources of heat from the metabolic processes (Bicego at al., 2007). To control internal heat loss during the cold time of year, the horse is provided by Nature with complicated and extremely efficient anatomical, physiological and behavioral thermoregulatory mechanisms.

On a genetic level, the domestic horse is the same as its wild counterpart of ancient and of modern times: it has the same abilities and needs to survive and thrive. In order for their amazing natural thermoregulatory mechanisms to be used in the most efficient way, or at all, the domestic horse requires nothing more from the human than only to provide living conditions which respect their natural needs — species appropriate living conditions. These are conditions which fulfill all the essential biological needs of the horse and allow it to exhibit its natural behaviors which have evolved over several thousands of years:
· herd life/social life (the horse is a herd animal; its brain has different capabilities which the brain of solitary animal does not have; only in a horse living in a herd, its cerebral cortex works properly, giving normal correct orders for functioning of other subordinated brain centers, only such horse is sound and psychologically balanced);
· freedom of movement 24 hours a day (movement is horse's metabolism; hoof health depends on movement);
· free access to forage 24 hours a day, grazing and/or hay (the horse stomach secretes stomach acid non-stop throughout day and night; it needs to be buffered constantly not to develop ulcers)
· free access to shelter, either built or naturally occurred, which first could serve as wind breaker;
· optimal hoof care, either natural or physiologically correct trimming.

We will see how the thermoregulatory mechanisms work in the horse, and how it can be interfered with and damaged through unnatural care and keeping practices when the animal becomes a subject for anthropomorphism. And very importantly, we will see how the horse doesn't always need to grow very long winter hair to feel comfortable during cold times. Long thick coat is just one of the thermoregulatory mechanisms of the horse, but NOT the only one.

Due to some thermoregulatory factors such as the skin and coat being very good insulators which prevent heat loss and the muscles producing heat through their movements, it is far easier for horses to warm up in cold weather than to cool down in hot weather or after intensive exercising. Cooling down is more difficult for the horse. Horses are adapted to handle cold.

Domestic horses taking bath on a spring day after snow just has melted, helping this way their winter coat to shed.


The horse's skin is responsible both for protecting the interior of the body from outside temperature changes, as well as for not allowing heat loss in cold weather. The skin is also responsible for dissipation of internal heat generated by muscle action in order to prevent the body from over-heating. The skins' thermoregulatory mechanisms consist of four major factors: skin itself, coat, arteries and sweat glands.

1. The skin itself works as an insulating layer through its relative thickness.

2. The coat.
The coat insulation depends on the depth and thickness of the hair layer, the wind speed and the temperature and humidity gradients within the coat (Ousey et al., 1992).

The horses coat changes twice a year through the mechanism called photoperiodism, adapting to different seasonal base temperatures. Sensors in the horse's skin react to the daytime light length changes. The horse is ready to grow their winter coat right after the summer solstice, when days start becoming shorter. The horse is ready to change their winter coat to a summer one right after the winter solstice, when days start becoming longer.

In addition to photoperiod, environmental temperature also affects hair growth. Colder climates produce thicker and longer coats than warmer climates do, when comparing horses who have the same body score and are fed the same amount of food.

Fetuses and newborn foals are provided with the mechanism which controls their coat growth as well. We can see that foals born in early spring are born with a longer coat than those born at the end of spring or in summer.

In addition to growing its coat, the horse can increase the insulation of the coat through the mechanism called piloerection — the raising, lowering or turning in different directions of each individual hair in the coat via hair erector muscles. In this way the horse increases or decreases the thickness of the insulation layer and efficiently varies the amount of airflow to the skin surface. Piloerection increases coat depth 10% to 30% in mature horses (Young & Coote, 1973).

Coat in an arabian breed horse on a very cold winter day (around –27˚C/–17˚F), Central Europe. The piloerection mechanism in use — the hair is raised to increase coat insulation.

The hair erector muscles must be exercised regularly in order to work properly, as with any other muscle in the body.

Hairs of the coat are covered with a greasy substance which creates a water-repelling effect that helps prevent moisture from reaching the horses skin on rainy or snowy days. Water runs down the outer hair while the deeper coat remains dry. Also body heat released via the skin helps to keep it dry inside.

Through regular coat brushing and shampooing, the greasy substance gets removed and the water-repelling effect becomes impaired.

It is not advisable either to clean off the layer of dirt that a horse gets from rolling in mud. Besides being protection against insects, the mud has a cooling effect in warmer weather.

Needless to say, that the popular practice of clipping the hair of a horse's coat completely eliminates the thermoregulatory factor of the coat.

3. Arteries in the skin.
Arteries through muscle actions, called vasoconstriction or vasodilation, can be narrowed or enlarged, regulating blood flow to the skin.

Constricting prevents internal heat loss by reducing the amount of warm blood brought to the cooler body surface. Dilation allows for a larger amount of hot blood from over-heated interiors to reach the body surface and to be cooled. The cooled blood lowers internal body temperature when it's returned back to the interior of the body.

4. Sweat glands.
When the outside temperature is too high for the air to cool the blood through the skin, the sweat glands secrete fluid. Evaporation of this fluid cools the skins surface as well as blood in the surface arteries. In this way, the internal temperature can still be lowered even when it’s hot outside.

The horse may also use sweat glands in extremely cold weather when internal body temperature is too high from exercising.

The horse stops secreting sweat as soon as the internal body temperature has reached its normal range. It then must dry quickly to avoid over-cooling. For this a sweaty horse turns its coat hairs in various directions. If given freedom, it usually seeks a windy spot to quickly, safely and effectively dry itself, contrary to human belief that a horse will catch a cold if stays wet in the wind.

Mentioning the sweat glands mechanism is important because sweat glands are also brought into function through muscle action.

When the body is hot, but not enough to secret the sweat, the horse may use rolling in snow.

Now let's look into other thermoregulatory mechanisms available to the horse.


In addition to the skin, the coat, changes in blood circulation and sweating as means of controlling internal temperature, the horse has access to a cooling mechanism involving the lungs. Air exhaled from the lungs contains moisture. In warm conditions, if the above thermo-regulatory mechanisms are not adequate to cool the body, the horse can increase the breathing so that more air is taken in to the lungs and more (warm) water vapor is expelled – taking heat from the body. Most of us are familiar with dogs panting to cool themselves.

Increased breathing can be an effective way to cool the body but unfortunately many horses already breathe more air than is good for them. This is because factors such as stabling, isolation, unnatural eating habits, blanketing, clipping, shoeing etc., impose stress on the physiology which involves increased adrenaline production which is linked to an increase in the volume of air breathed. Over breathing has a direct and damaging effect on the physiology (including for example reduced oxygen availability), and at some point, the physiology may be unable to function adequately and then symptoms arise (

Over breathing in a cold time may cause excessive loss of internal heat.

Body fat

The amount of fat in the body is another important factor of thermoregulation. In addition to being the body's energy reserve, fat is 3 times more insulating than other tissues due to its low thermal conductivity and poor blood supply (Guyton, 1991; Davenport, 1992). Thus it is important for a horse to have a good layer of fat before winter.

Wild horses and naturally kept domestic horses maintain the natural rhythm of weight change throughout the year with their weight growing up to 20% by Autumn.

Usually we can see that domestic horses with a thicker fat layer in their bodies grow a comparatively shorter winter coat than horses with less fat, when comparing the same breed and size animals. We often see an excessively long hair coat in ill or old animals who have trouble to keep weight due to pain, teeth problems, etc.; or in neglected underfed animals.

Also fat gets distributed more evenly over the body surface in cold conditions instead of being concentrated in some particular areas as it does in hot conditions.

In general, this is one of the cases where a horse seemingly 'doesn't grow enough coat' — it is a horse with a higher body score, who compensates for a longer coat with the body fat.

The horse with a thicker fat layer — we can see the excess heat escaped the body and is visible as the frost on the coat.

Size/shape of the body

Kept in the same conditions, smaller horse breeds have a longer/thicker coat compared to larger breeds. Also we typically see a thicker coat in foals. This is connected to a great effect of allometry on heat balance within animal species. (Allometry — the systematic change in body proportions with increasing body size.) Changes within species occur as animals grow and develop but exist also between breeds of species (Reiss, 1991; Langlois, 1994).

Generally, large body size is an advantage with respect to thermoregulation in the cold. Since, the ratio of heat-dissipating surface area to heat-producing/retaining body mass decreases with increasing body size (Phillips & Heath, 1995; Bligh, 1998). Therefore, large size horses have less relative surface area available for heat exchange, and thus importantly lose less heat in the cold than small size horses do. Small horses lose more body heat than large horses do.

In addition to large body size, a spherical body shape reduces the surface area to body mass ratio (Langlois, 1994). To compensate for the bigger surface/mass ratio northern-type horses, native breeds and ponies generally have evolved heavier rounder bodies with shorter limbs and extremities which are well protected by thick hair, mane and fetlock. Therefore they are more able to retain more body heat and cope with the cold.

Another possible reason your horse 'doesn't grow enough coat' — she is an 18 hand warmblood.

Digesting fiber

Increasing feed intake increases heat production in the horse's body. This is connected to the fact that the process of digesting long fibers produces heat as a by-product.

In cold weather we can observe an increase of food intake in horses. Such extra demand for feed is called climatic energy demand (MacCormak & Bruce, 1991). Horses have been observed to need up to 2.5% more energy for maintenance per 1 degree Celsius drop in outside temperature below their lower critical temperature (Young Coote, 1973; McBride et al., 1985; Cymbaluk et al., 1989a; Cymbaluk, 1990). (Lower critical temperature is individual for every horse/group of horses at different times of year and depends on many other thermoregulatory and environmental factors.)

Importantly, smaller-sized horses have greater low critical temperature values. Thus small-sized horses actually need proportionally more additional feed per kg of the body weight, than bigger-sized horses.

With this thermoregulatory factor, the need of the horse to have free access to food 24 hours per day throughout a year becomes especially important. In colder weather it gives it a chance of increasing heat production through continuously consuming and digesting long fiber. Especially when some of the other thermoregulatory mechanisms aren't yet adjusted in suddenly changing weather conditions such as a rapid drop of temperature.

And here it is important to note that all kinds of slow feeders or feeders preventing a horse from having mouthful of hay whenever it wishes, are not quite natural for the horse. This way of feeding cannot be really considered as fulfilling the horse's need for free access to food as it is in the wild.

Wild mustangs in Twin Peaks HMA, California, USA. Spring in the range grasslands — lush green grass is mixed with last year dry grasses.

Przewalski horse in Mongolian steppe, summer.

Dry winter grass still can be quite high in sugars and other nutrients, it is not the same as straw.

A domestic horse refreshing his menu with old dry grass in winter.

Reducing activity in cold

Feral horses have been reported to reduce locomotor activity in winter compared to summer (Duncan, 1980; Berger et al., 1999; Arnold et al., 2006). Reduced activity in winter is an annual pattern related to decreased outside temperature and thus to a reduction in internal heat production and spending energy (Arnold et al., 2006). This adaptation mechanism of reducing activity helps horses to cope with the energetic challenge of winter.

We can observe similar reduction of activity in winter in domestic horses kept in species appropriate living conditions. Even though the domestic horses usually aren't challenged with a necessity to search for food in winter, this slowing down in their activity obviously has the same purpose as in the wild horses — the reduction of energy wasting in the cold. Thus, it is a normal seasonal rhythm in the horse to exercise less in winter, therefore it is not advisable to forcefully exercise horses in winter.

Short-term activity in cold

Along with general reduction of activity in the cold, we also can observe short sessions of restlessness and locomotor activity during sudden acute cold periods and adverse weather. Short term beneficial movement is a useful bridge until other factors of their thermoregulatory system adjust to the new temperature conditions.

Reducing heat loss and gaining body heat via body radiation

Sometimes we can observe horses standing or lying down very close to each other. This way they reduce heat loss via radiation. By such positional closeness to each other they reduce the body surface area exposed to the external environment (Bligh, 1998). At the same time, animals who for some reason don't produce enough individual internal heat can use a paddock mate's body-heat radiation via positional closeness as an extra source of heat.


Also by changing body posture and orientation, horses can increase absorbed solar radiation as another additional source of heat.

Often we can observe that horses prefer to sunbath under the direct sun instead of eating on short sunny winter days, and as soon as the sun sets they are back to eating. This way they accumulate the sun's energy. This helps them to stay warm without using own body energy.

'Sun-bathing' on a winer day.

Body position/posture

On windy, rainy, snowstorm days, we can see horses standing with their tails to the wind and their heads low. This way they effectively keep their necks, heads, ears and eyes, underbelly and sheaths out of water and wind. Their tails serve to protect their rear ends — the shorter hairs on the dock fan out deflecting both snow and wind.

Also on such days, horses can be seen standing by the walls outside shelters, or using natural windbreaks such as trees or hills to protect themselves from the elements. And sometimes using each other's body as windbreaker.

The filly uses the body of the older mare as a wind breaker.

When allowed free choice, it's been observed that horses utilize enclosed spaces, such as shelters or forests, mostly to hide from summer heat and flies.

Snow on backs

Snow which we can sometimes see lying along horses backs during winter also plays the helpful role of providing an extra protective layer against internal heat loss. The snow melted underneath and frozen on top, creates an extra protective layer in a snow storm.


Under extreme circumstances, heat in the horse body can be generated by shivering. During shivering, heat is rapidly produced by breaking down ATP* in the muscles (Langlois, 1994). Shivering is usually an acute response to sudden cold exposure. Or sometimes it occurs during extended periods of exposure to cold in rainy weather. In healthy animals, shivering is replaced by normal internal heat production as they adapt to new weather conditions.
(*Adenosine triphosphate — transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism)

Thermoregulation in the hooves

A constant temperature in the hooves is needed for proper metabolism to take place, which with the help of a few other factors, allows for normal horn production. The hard hoof capsule itself has insulating properties. Through hoof mechanism — the expansion and specific deformation of the hoof capsule and inner structures on impact — the impact energy created which deforms the hard hoof capsule and its inner structures, releases heat as a by-product thus keeping the hoof warm. For hoof mechanism to function properly, a horse needs unrestricted hooves, as well as unrestricted movement throughout the day and night. Affixed metal shoes impair the hooves ability to keep this constant temperature inside the hoof capsule by blocking the ability to expand and deform properly on impact. The nails also conduct cold deep inside the hoof capsule. We can often observe how snow builds and balls up on the soles of shoed horses, where as normally (on healthy uninhibited hooves) it would melt.

Effects of blanketing

Blanketing a horse causes a complete mess of the thermoregulation system. A horse cannot increase heat in selected areas of the body. So when trying to warm up parts of the body left exposed to the cold such as the head, neck, belly and legs, the horse in the process becomes over-heated in the parts covered by the blanket. The whole body cools or the whole body heats up. Sweating under a blanket is more of a problem metabolically to the horse than people realize.

What happens if a hot sweaty horse is placed in a stable?

Due to a lack of air circulating in enclosed spaces, cooling takes longer and the horse sweats for longer. The air surrounding the horse becomes saturated and therefore drying also takes longer than normal, because the humid air cannot absorb any more moisture. As a result, the horse remains undercooled, setting the stage for internal disorders: colic, diseases and infections by negatively affecting metabolism's safe temperature margins.

What happens if a horse is continually kept in stables and/or blanketed

Kept in stables or/and blanketed, horses lack stimuli (such as temperature fluctuations [flak…]) triggering the activity of thermoregulatory mechanisms. They don't need to exercise hair erector muscles, nor to dilate or constrict arteries, nor to activate the sweat glands, nor to prepare or deplete healthy fat reserves. All muscles atrophy without exercising after a period of time.

If an animal in this state is suddenly exposed to the cold, they will not be able to activate necessary thermoregulatory mechanisms. As a result the internal body temperature could drop too low which would lead to disruptions in metabolic processes. This can affect, for example, the production and migration rate of white blood cells and antibodies, with partial disabling of them. The result is a stressed animal with a disease or infection hosting internal environment. "The germ is nothing, the terrain is all". Consequentially germs or viruses in the body are allowed the perfect opportunity to over breed.

Stress effect

Besides the fact that the natural thermoregulatory mechanisms can only be fully utilized when a horse is kept in their species-appropriate living conditions, there is an anxiety and stress factor that horses inevitably experience when cut off from their basic needs and are kept in ways unnatural for this species (stabling, separating from equine companions, forced exercising, lack of continuous fiber intake, etc.). The stress also makes them less capable of coping with colds. We know it from human medicine that stress weakens the immune system.

Strengthen your horse immune system giving her the life she was designed for by Nature!

This writing was inspired by researches of and dedicated to one of my most important teachers — Doctor Hiltrud Strasser.


Arnold, W., Ruf, T., & Kuntz, R. (2006). Seasonal adjustment of energy budget in a large wild mammal, the Przewalski horse (Equus ferus przewalskii). The Journal of Experimental Biology, 209, 4566–4573.
Autio, E. 2008. Loose Housing of Horses in a Cold Climate. Doctoral dissertation. University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland.
Bicego, K.C., Barros, R.C.H., & Branco, L.G.S. (2007). Physiology of temperature regulation: Comparative aspects. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A, 147, 616–639.
Berger, A., Scheibe, K-M., Eichhorn, K., Scheibe, A., & Streich, J. (1999). Diurnal and ultradian rhythms of behaviour in a mare group of Przewalski horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), measured through one year under semi-reserve conditions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 64, 1–7. Press.
Bligh, J. (1998). Mammalian homeothermy: an integrative thesis. Journal of Thermal Biology, 23, 143–258.
Cymbaluk, N.F. (1990). Cold housing effects on growth and nutrient demand of young horses. Journal of Animal Science, 68, 3152–3162.
Cymbaluk, N.F., & Christison, G.I. (1989a). Effects of diet and climate on growing horses. Journal of Animal Science, 67, 48–59.
Davenport, J. (1992). Animal life at low temperature. London, UK: Chapman & Hall. Duncan, P. (1980). Time-budget of Camargue horses II. Time-budgets of adult horses and weaned subadults. Behaviour, 72, 26–49. ogy, 163 (7), 602–607.
Equine Breathing. How well does your horse breathe? (
Guyton, A.C. (1991). Textbook of medical physiology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, USA: W.B. Saunders Company.
Hines, M.T. (2004). Changes in body temperature. In S.M. Reed and W.M. Bayly (Eds.). Equine internal medicine (pp. 148–155). St. Louis, USA: Elsevier.
Langlois, B. (1994). Inter-breed variation in the horse with regard to cold adaptation: a review. Livestock Production Science, 40, 1–7.
MacCormack, J.A.D., & Bruce, J.M. (1991). The horse in winter — shelter and feeding. Farm Building Progress, 105, 10–13.
McBride, G.E., Christopherson, R.J., & Sauer, W. (1985). Metabolic rate and plasma thyroid hormone concentrations of mature horses in response to changes in ambient temperature. Canadian Journal of Animal Science, 65, 375–382. 187–194.
Ousey, J.C., McArthur, A.J., Murgatroyd, P.R., Stewart, J.H., & Rossdale, P.D. (1992). Thermoregulation and total body insulation in the neonatal foal. Journal of Thermal Biology, 17 (1), 1–10.
Phillips, P.K., & Heath, J.E. (1995). Dependency of surface temperature regulation on body size in terrestrial mammals. Journal of Thermal Biology, 20 (3), 281–289.
Reiss, M.J. (1991). The allometry of growth and reproduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Strasser, H. 2000. A Lifetime of Soundness. 3d ed. Published by S. Kells in Canada.
Young, B.A., & Coote, J. (1973). Some effects of cold on horses. Horse report at Feeders’ Day. Alberta, Canada: University of Alberta, Department of Animal Science.

English Edit Courtesy:
Jamie Joling, 2014
Tamlyn Labuschagne Ennor, 2012

For publishing permission, please send alHHHC a message on facebook: