Barefoot Hoof Care – Energizing Holistic Hoof Care


For well over a decade, I have worked at developing a scientific approach to hoof care, one that ultimately was spurred on by lateral thinking. The scientific approach that I am referring to is that of Applied Equine Podiatry (a holistic approach to hoof care). Applied Equine Podiatry has since proven itself as a viable alternative to the conventional farrier practice. It goes far beyond the natural hoof care model that has served so many over the past two decades. Applied Equine Podiatry goes beyond static mechanics (the basis of the farrier sciences), kinematics (the study of motion), and even dynamics (the study of the energies that result in motion) by utilizing the science of “Energetics.” Energetics defines how we look at the relationship physiology and biomechanics hold to one another, and how they work in concert to support and achieve health in the equine foot. The unique approach of using lateral thinking grounded in science has led to many breakthroughs, and is continuing to solidify this approach to the study of the equine foot.

“The essence of Applied Equine Podiatry is the conscientious study of the equine foot, always striving to expose it to proper environmental stimuli, making every effort to promote proper structure and function, as we progress toward achieving high performance.”

With the development of sound working theories, we have been able to create a solid model of the equine foot, one that supports the principles of AEP. To better understand the model used, and how this approach differs from that of the wild horse model, and the conventional farrier model, it is probably best to outline some of the principles and philosophies that guide the practice of AEP. After all, laws and rules govern all science, and even though science may seem far less romantic than “getting back to nature,” it is every bit as exciting. In fact, we could not get any closer to nature than by working to achieve health in the domesticated horse’s foot.

Principles of Applied Equine Podiatry:


Structure + Function = Performance

With an understanding of correct structure, and each structures individual function, we are able to determine what needs to be done (stimulus) to achieve peak performance (function of the whole).

The horse has the innate ability to heal itself.

We are confident in stating that the horse has the innate ability to heal, this must however be qualified by stating that this is only true if the environment that the horse is kept in is conducive to healing. Environment is defined not only by the turnout, but by the stimulus provided by its care giver.

Correct Pressure is the stimulus for correct growth.

This fact has served the horses we treat well. It is a scientific fact that correct pressure produces healthy tissue, while too much, or too little pressure will result in poor tissue development. This principle is one of the most important principles of AEP. By studying each individual structure of the foot, we have been able to integrate practices that promote correct stimulus for each given structure. This fact allows us to investigate new ways to aid the horse in its development, by establishing an environment that is conducive to healing.

Do no harm

This is something that we have been teaching for over a decade now, though it is mentioned last for a very good reason. If we do not have a good understanding of the above listed principles and theorems, we cannot, in good conscience, say we are doing no harm.

Applied Equine Podiatry allows us to look at the attempts made to better hoof care over the past century in a new light. I whole heartedly believe that never before has the opportunity to improve the welfare of the horse, and increase its potential for performance, been so great. There have been so many breakthroughs over the past decade that it is impossible to list them all in this article, but what I can do is highlight how this approach to hoof care is changing the face of the equine world.

Scientific research and facts support the theories that make it possible to question conventional thinking; this process again is referred to as lateral thinking. As a result of lateral thinking, the science of Applied Equine Podiatry has made huge advances in the treatment of the horse’s foot. Allow me to mention several of these advances.

For nearly two centuries, common belief has dictated that whenever the equine foot is stricken by disease or dysfunction that we must stabilize it by making it rigid. New research into foot function has shown us that this is not true. Studies support our findings and indicate that in nearly all cases the back half of the foot must be able to distort on all dimensions, not simply expanding and contracting, Studies also make it clear that the amount of distortion is an important factor in achieving health and performance. Excessive distortion can be as destructive as too little distortion. Our research into chronic founder offers evidence to support this belief.

In the case of chronic founder, it is readily accepted that the lamellae are responsible for maintaining the position of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule. Our new research is proving that this is not true. Just think about that for a moment. This misconception has resulted in an entire industry (farrier, veterinarian, manufactures) working to develop ways to support, manipulate, and stimulate the lamellae into doing a job they were not designed to do. If the lamellae were meant to maintain the position of the coffin bone in relationship to the bone column, why then does the coffin bone remain in alignment with the bone column and coffin joint when the hoof capsule is removed?

It is a fact that the position of the coffin bone in relationship to the bone column is the result of ligament, tendon, and cartilage health, and not simply lamellae attachment. Ongoing research will prove that those horses with healthy structures (Internal Arch Apparatus(TM)) within the foot, stricken with laminitis do not have to rotate.

“I believe that many of the mistakes made by conventional farriery have been the result of the industries complacency with the simplicity of conventional thinking.” Chronic founder is the result of this complacency. Chronic founder is the result of mismanagement from the very onset of laminitis. With this understanding, it becomes clear that conventional chronic founder treatments are way off base, and that this new approach to the problem is proving to be extremely effective. Chronic founder is now treated with the understanding that distortion must be controlled, not eliminated. Stability is required about the coffin bone, this helping to isolate distortions to the lateral cartilages, and back half of the foot. We can no longer look at the bar shoe, egg bar, reverse shoe, or hoof boots as viable options for the treatment of chronic founder. In most cases, the welfare of the horse also limits barefoot as an option. Examining such breakthroughs allows us to state with resounding confidence, “Where for over two centuries, the conventional farrier sciences have developed as a result of being reactive; Applied Equine Podiatry has developed as a result of being proactive.” So how do we utilize such knowledge?

We utilize this knowledge in a holistic approach to hoof care that helps in developing methods, techniques and products that can provide the correct stimulus needed to maintain or return healthy structure to the internal workings of the horse’s foot.


Applied Equine Podiatry is truly a holistic approach to modern hoof care for the domestic horse. At the Institute of Applied Equine Podiatry, we will continue our work to develop studies, methods, systems, and products that will make domestication of today’s horse less invasive and more productive. Applied Equine Podiatry is truly changing the face of the equine world.

See author’s bio for website information.



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