"When I first realised there was nowhere in a horses foot you could safely drive in a nail, I did not believe my own findings, so I went back and researched it all over again - and of course, got the same results. You can imagine, as a trained engineer, I could not ignore facts."
That was 1987 in Saudi Arabia. My job was to supervise the hoof care and shoeing of all the horses in the Royal Stud, situated 70 kilometers outside Riyadh and later in Al Kobhar. As part of my research into hoof problems in horses, myself and the vet in the King's employment, removed the feet from any horses that were put to sleep (PTS) as a result of hoof problems. Our results showed that many of the hoof problems were at worst caused by, and at best exacerbated by, shoeing and nailing.
A radiographer by profession, Jeanette brings yet another technical perspective to EPI.
Jeannette has been working alongside Dermot rehabilitating horses with laminitis and navicular complications for twelve years. She enables x-ray assessment when appropriate for specific cases and routinely assists Dermot with the more specialised procedures including urethane resin sole reinforcement.
Article about Dermot in Nagtrader UK (.pdf)
ARTICLES BY AND ABOUT DERMOT
My work took on new vigour one day when in a town called Hoffuf (no pun intended), a tribe of Bedouins came to pick up supplies on their way east. None of their horses were shod. With the help of Abdullah (my right-arm man) we talked to the tribesmen who were happy to explain that the horses were ‘ahumdulilah’ (very happy) without shoes. The only lameness they knew of was strains and sprains. I looked at many feet that day; they were like blocks of wood, hard and rounded. The most noticeable thing was that the sole and hoof wall were all as one. Everything was rounded, tough and smooth, no straight lines or flat surfaces anywhere. In fact there was nowhere flat to put a shoe and no flare to nail to. Shoeing would have been impossible.
I went back to work with a new mindset. Every horse diagnosed with laminitis, navicular syndrome or any other hoof related problem was de-shod and trimmed like the desert horses. All returned to soundness in a short time, remained unshod and more importantly, remained sound. Unfortunately I was not permitted to de-shoe sound horses, even though it became obvious that this was the way to go (change happens slowly).
Back home in the UK I continued to practice my work with laminitic and navicular horses with great success. As a result of what I have learned I could never again be a party to nailing a shoe on a horse. There is nowhere on a horse's hoof that you can safely drive a nail and be sure you are not hitting the pedal bone edge or piercing the sensitive laminae. In other words the nailing of shoes onto a horse is unnecessary, cruel and medieval - and must be seen as such.
The question now is "why do we do it?" And the popular answers are ‘well we have always shod our horses’, ‘to protect the horses feet’, ‘to hold the horses feet together’, ’we need the grip’, ’the feet would wear away’ etc. In answer to these statements, "We used to do lots of things, that we don’t do any more, as they were harmful and barbaric; we must progress and move forward".
I now know that all this information is available. It is well known that shoeing is harmful. There is proof that an unshod horse will perform better, behave better and live longer than if shod. So why do people who love their horses continue to nail shoes onto their feet?
The current barefoot movement is correct in its teaching - unfortunately others with a shoeing agenda refuse to acknowledge the facts. I believe that instead of resenting these new people and criticising their work, farriers and vets should study the subject and consider it an option - not a threat. The people who meet the most horses are vets and farriers; they are the people who should be at the forefront of this new thinking. As the custodians of animal welfare it is their duty to do what they know to be best practice.
The majority of my veterinary advice comes from DR TOM TESKEY DVM USA, whose groundbreaking assessment of modern hoof care is a must read for those interested, see it here - 'The Unfettered Foot'