Horses Sans Shoes: The Facts on Bare Feet
What researchers know about the biomechanics of the barefoot hoof
It looks like an ultra-resistant all-weather block, with a shiny, marblelike surface that can trick us into thinking it’s indestructible. Its sharply defined edges give us the impression that it’s as solid as stone—especially when they land with full force on one of our own feet. And its “clip clop” sound striking against hard surfaces betray it as a dense support structure that works like a steel foundation under massive forces.
In reality, though, the equine foot isn’t like this at all.
The foot—or, essentially, the one long toe—is a complex structure filled with bones, tendons, ligaments, arteries, veins, nerves, cartilage, joint fluid, and more. Far from being inert, it’s alive and very active, communicating sensory information, pumping blood, and articulating, contracting, and flexing over ground. And if it’s unshod, it’s constantly changing shape as the horse uses it, instantaneously as well as over time.
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