A r t i c l e s A n d C a s e
S t u d i e s
Dr Hiltrud Strasser's Basic Hoof Care
Clinic - Part One
New Zealand, January, 2002
By Teresa Maxwell
In this Article:
Introduction, Natural Living Conditions, Movement,
We've all heard the age-old saying "No Hoof,
No Horse". Well, after a hoof course with German
veterinarian and hoofcare specialist Dr Hiltrud
Strasser, that saying takes on a whole new
Over the three day course held north of Auckland
in January, 2002, Dr Strasser told us many strange
and fascinating things that challenged conventional
long-held beliefs about hoof and horse care.
Using her techniques, Dr Strasser has cured all
manner of equine ailments, including laminitis,
hoof cracks, hoof contraction, club foot,
conformational misalignments, white line problems
and contraction. She loves treating horses with
navicular, she told the class: "Two, three trims,
"As has been proven countless times, a return to
natural lifestyle (which includes removing the
cause) and proper, physiologically correct trimming
can bring about the healing of virtually every hoof
problem and lameness, even the conventionally
considered "incurable" ones," Dr Strasser says.
Dr Strasser told us about a woman who took her
barefoot horse on a 176km endurance ride over three
days on steep and rocky terrain, and how the horse
was completely sound and even needed a hoof trim
afterwards as the hooves had grown 3mm in three
days due to the increased movement.
We learned how we could expect such barefoot high
performance with our horses, irrespective of breed
or background, as long as our horse's hooves were
healthy, functioned properly and we conditioned the
horse's hooves correctly for the terrain.
Dr Strasser said most of the common health
problems and lameness afflicting domestic horses
are a direct result of man-made violations of their
natural lifestyle. These problems, we learnt, can
be prevented or cured through a removal of the
cause and a return to a natural lifestyle.
Those on the course discovered that most domestic
horse's hooves are deformed through either shoeing,
incorrect trimming and/or unnatural living
conditions. This often leads to health problems
such as navicular, laminitis, contraction, hoof
cracks, poor conformation and other unsavoury
problems. We also discovered how to correct these
deformities by doing two things: restoring the
horse's natural living conditions and applying a
correct hoof trim.
Natural Living Conditions
Throughout the three-day course, there were two
things that were drummed into us: "Movement,
movement, movement" and "Water, water, water".
Through constant repetition of these concepts over
the three days (in a thick German accent), I don't
think any of us will forget these two important
In nature, horses are in virtually constant motion.
On average, wild horses move 10-15 miles per day
over various terrain to graze and travel to
"Since the horse has led this kind of
continuous-motion lifestyle for millions of years,
its entire physiological makeup has evolved to
become perfectly suited for it (and, as such,
dependent upon it)," Dr Strasser says in her book,
A Lifetime of Soundness.
"The heart is relatively small compared to its
body, and the muscles, joints, and hooves, through
constant motion, continually support the heart in
moving the blood through the body."
We heard that domestic horses kept in stables or
without a herd, stand still for long periods,
resulting in loss of bone density, deformation of
the hooves and conformational flaws, such as
bow-leggedness, from the horse resting one leg.
Hooves also need daily exposure to water, which
prevents the hooves from drying out and keeps them
elastic and supple. In the wild, horses spend some
time each day standing in a body of water, to
drink, cool off and play. Without this exposure to
water, which is often the case in domestic horses,
the hooves lose elasticity and therefore a partial
loss of hoof mechanism and shock absorption, which
may result in contraction of the hooves.
In domestic horses, hooves often dry out and
become brittle due to lack of exposure to water.
The hooves are then frequently covered in oil or
grease based substances, which not only prevent the
absorption of water, but decay into volatile fatty
acids and esters, which may damage the hoof far
more than if nothing is done.
We also learned that by rugging our horses, we are
harming them with kindness. In the horse's natural
environment, the horse's environmental temperature
fluctuates continually from day to night, as well
as in a seasonal rhythm.
The horse is able to maintain its core body
temperature at 38 degrees Celsius with its
complicated and extremely efficient
thermo-regulatory system in its skin. For this
reason, Dr Strasser recommends we don't use any
rugs, wraps or boots on our horses, as they disrupt
the horse's natural thermo-regulatory system, with
is unsafe for the horse.
"In its natural environment, it is rare that a
horse's body temperature sinks too low ("colds" are
unknown among naturally-living horses), since the
skin and hair insulate so well," Dr Strasser
"If the horse does become chilled, it can either
move to generate body heat through muscle action or
shiver, which accomplishes the same thing without
"Conventional boarding and habits such as
blanketing and clipping wreak havoc with the
horse's natural thermo-regulatory mechanisms in a
number of ways, as evidenced by the existence and
frequency of "colds" in domestic, conventionally
By Teresa Maxwell
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