Natural Balance

American Farrier's Journal | 2006

There is a growing fad in the horse industry that states, "Mother Nature knows best." There is the Natural Balance shoeing, Natural supplements, Natural potions, lotions and creams. The buzzword is "Natural". The assumption is, Natural is better.

But I submit to you that if you love your horse you will PROTECT it from Mother Nature. You will do everything you can to avoid the cruelty and realities of Mother Nature.

The first young horse that I bought to train from start to finish made me realize that nature was at odds with my keeping a sound, healthy horse for many years.

After I bought her I had a veterinarian give her all her shots and de- worming. Mother Nature says that intestinal parasites and tetanus are Natural. But I didn't want a sick listless horse.

When she was three years old I put her on a 1200-acre ranch in the foothills to help teach her "to find her legs", the way nature intended. Several weeks later she had fallen or slipped in a very rocky area and had severe lacerations on her legs and chest. Mother nature said she was going to die. Luckily the veterinarian had spent many years developing his skills at thwarting Mother Nature's plan.

Six years later I had my mare bred. Again the vet was involved in keeping Mother Nature at bay and giving me a healthy foal. I was not around for the foaling and my mare retained part of her after-birth. Within two days she was very sick and started to founder. Again Mother Nature said she was going to die. Once again Man and his technology intervened and she and her foal were saved.

Over my many years of horse ownership and working in the horse industry I have seen that Mother Nature is a cruel mistress. She has no personal interest in the horses that I ride and love. Mother Nature rarely knows best and in fact I spend a lot of money keeping Mother Nature in check.

As I look around I notice that I do in fact spend most of my money keeping Mother Nature away from my family and my animals. My biggest purchase is my home where I protect my family from cold, heat, wind, rain, snow - in reality, Mother Nature. I fence my property to keep wild animals that carry rabies, EPM and other natural occurring diseases away from my animals and my family.

I have a barn to keep my horses away from Nature's elements. I bed them in pine shavings, which is not the natural habitat of the horse. I use blankets to protect my horses; the veterinarian regularly inoculates and treats my animals from nature's attacks. I ride my horses, which nature never intended and I ride them in an unnatural terrain, a well-groomed arena with a solid base and washed sand.

My wife's horse doesn't even resemble the 'wild horse'. We have traced his ancestry back for many, many generations. He is bred to be a cutting horse. His sire and dam and their sires and dams were bred to cut. He has been selectively bred over many generations for a specific discipline, not indiscriminately bred to just survive in the wild and eventually become a food source for a pack of wolves.

So why after all the expenses of protecting my horses from Nature do I want trim his feet so he resembles a natural food source for wolves and coyotes?

You never see a wild horse running the Kentucky Derby. Those Thoroughbreds have been selectively bred for many generations to out perform the "Natural" or "wild" horse. You see feet trimmed and shod to outperform anything that Mother Nature has yet devised.

You never see a wild horse at Spruce Meadows. And you never see a "Natural" foot. These horses are housed, fed, trimmed and shod to maximize their jumping talents.

Man has taken the 'wild' horse and selectively bred that animal to perform amazing feats that no 'wild, natural horse' could ever hope to duplicate. We have specialized feed to help our horses reach maximum size and health. Technology has allowed man to intervene in Mother Nature's plan for our horses and we have developed vaccines, antibiotics, lameness evaluation techniques and treatments so that our animals are not low performing food sources like the 'wild horse'. So why do we want everything about our horse to be superior to the 'natural or wild' horse but insist that his feet resemble those found in nature?

In the many years that the wild horse "study" has been around advocating a foot like those found on natural horses, there has been no inroads into equine athletic activities by using the wild foot as the model. The foot found on a 'wild' horse will not allow them to run a one minute, thirty-five second mile, or a twenty second 400-yard dash. The foot found on a wild horse does not enhance the athletic ability of reining horses, cutting horses, jumping horses and so on and so forth throughout the many disciplines man has asked the horse to perform.

Take a look at a 'wild' horse's hoof. It is cracked, chipped, broken and just plain ugly. It is in such bad shape that it takes many months to trim the "wild" out of the feet so the horse can become useful to us.

Genghis Ghan quickly realized that the horses his cavalry used could not stay sound with a 'natural foot'. He had a small army of people weaving reed sandals to protect the horse's feet.

The Romans knew that the natural foot would only serve a wild horse. To be used by man, modifications had to be made. Man had to intervene.

Doesn't it make sense that, in the late 1880's the small farms and small business owners who relied on horses to distribute their products could save any money they could by not shoeing the horses if Mother Natures foot was functional for their animals? They lived in a state of poverty yet knew that their horses had to be shod to stay sound and useful.

If you love your horse you will protect it from Mother Nature. You will use every medical and husbandry technique available to help your horse live a long, healthy, pain free life. You will use the traditional trimming and shoeing techniques that have helped to bring the horse out of the 'wild, natural' state to a superior performing, domestic friend and companion that we all know and love.