In a previous Blog ( celebrating the horses birthday) I explained how science has established that nailing a steel shoe onto the hoof of a horse immediately reversed thirty million years of evolution.
Our actions were intended as an act of kindness, based on a desire to protect the horse from pain, and thanks primarily to the horse’s ability to adapt there seemed no obvious detriment, as such this approach to hoof ‘care’ became entrenched in our society.
Sadly the destructive nature of the shoe did not limit itself to merely increasing the weight to the horses limb, potentially damaging as that was.
The steel shoe ‘protected’ the hoof from wearing, however it also prevented the hoof from ‘distorting’. Expansion and contraction may be one thing but ‘distortion’ is altogether another.
The hoof wall of a horse is made of of a mixture of Intratubular horn (a type of glue always pure white in colour), and tubules (think of straws).
The ‘glue’ is excreted by the laminae surrounding the pedal bone whilst the ‘straws’ grow down from the Coronary band. They combine to form a matrix which gives the outer wall both strength and flexibility.
Since the ‘glue’ will only develop correctly if the hoof can ‘distort’ as well as ‘expand’, nailing on a horseshoe inadvertently deprives the hoof wall of glue, and without glue the hoof becomes brittle and begins to break off in chunks.
If the price of protection was merely a brittle outer wall and a weight issue, then maybe it would have been a fair price to pay, sadly the real cost is much greater….