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Hoof sensitivity - there's nothing normal about it.

Hoof sensitivity isn't normal.

Awareness centred around species appropriate living is growing daily amongst the equine world, and with that, the importance of our horse's diet is becoming more and more talked about.

We've transitioned or rehabilitated many horses that vary largely in size, breed, medical histories and age. Some of those horses have transitioned with us to go back into work whilst others have been rehabilitated to soundness and then retired. At the beginning of each rehabilitation case we take on, we ask the owner what they would like out of their horse's stay at PB.

Upon arrival, diet is one of the very first things we look at. Did the horse previously have any access to grass? Is this horse on hard feed and if so, what type of hard feed? Is salt included in their diet? Is this horse on a species specific type of hay? The diet of our residents is an essential part of improving or maintaining their health.

Whilst we often harp on about the benefits on offer keeping horses barefoot, it's important to remember that providing our horses with a species appropriate diet is crucial to the success of taking them barefoot. Unfortunately, some owners get caught out on this aspect of the transition which is when we see start to hear a lot of 'my horse can't go barefoot because...'.

If you look at your horse's diet as the foundation of their health, we can see that should that diet not be optimal to the equine, other areas become affected because the foundation is somewhat vulnerable and unstable. If the foundation of the horse isn't right, nothing else will be either.

The great thing is, there are signs, although sometimes subtle, that indicate that our current feed, hay or environment is causing issues for our horses. One of the ways it does this is through the hooves, causing sensitivity and soreness over different terrain and surfaces. A large percentage of the time, a horse that is tender or sore over anything but grass is showing signs of inflammation, also known as sub-clinical Laminitis - the no.1 reason horses fail barefoot and your warning sign to change their diet or management before things escalate.

Some owners who own more than one horse may be temped to start comparing their sore horse to their other horses on a similar diet. It's important to recognise that some equines are more sensitive than others and that they may show their sensitivity to an inappropriate diet in different ways. For example, a grass affected horse may show their sensitivity by head shaking or excessive spooking, whilst others may show it through various skin-related conditions such as mud fever or sun burn. Of course, the most well known signs are Laminitis and EMS.

Hoof sensitivity isn't normal and it shouldn't be accepted as so. Whilst each individual horse may differ, inflammation is inflammation regardless and it's important to find the underlying cause of the symptoms and address them.

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