Steven Leigh, owner of Natures Way Natural Hoof Care, is a fully insured hoofcare practitioner based in Northumberland and working with clients across the UK.
When I started the business I had a clear understanding of what I wanted to do and achieve:
“Work as a team with the horse at the centre to enable the horse to live and work comfortably and perform to the best of its ability without the need for shoes.”
A well balanced trim is obviously a key element to achieving this but its about so much more than just trimming hooves – I see it as looking at the horse as a whole, its conformation, way of going, diet, environment and exercise, then using and adapting these elements so that the horse produces its own ideal hoof structure not simply forcing one hoof shape upon it. Very often recognising what not to trim is key to a happy, hard working barefoot horse.
It’s important to look at what the horse is producing and make sure you understand why a hoof is growing in a specific way. It may sound complicated and difficult but its really not – it’s simply common sense.
The structure of the horse’s hoof is a natural wonder. Among many things it’s an amazingly engineered shock absorber – just take time to think about the forces that it must constantly deal with; not only the weight of the horse but also how much this is magnified when turning, jumping and working on a variety of surfaces in all types of conditions.
To do this the hoof flexes in many directions, often at the same time. Try it for yourself if you get the opportunity, pick up a barefoot hoof and squeeze it – it flexes, try the same thing on a shod horse and the only movement you will find is at the joints which can’t be beneficial. It was this very thought that stirred my interest in barefoot many years ago.
I just thought “this can’t be logical” and before I knew it almost ten years down the line I’m doing a job I love, so its been worth all the training, hard work and study and I’m very grateful to all the people who have helped me along the way.
The great thing is now barefoot is not just seen as a last resort to keeping a horse sound – When I first started the business I felt I was often perceived as the horse’s last chance, but as people are becoming more open to the idea the majority of my workload is now with young working horses across all disciplines.
Of course it’s satisfying to help a lame horse come sound, there’s no feeling quite like watching a previously written off horse being ridden again and you never forget it, but to be honest its even better to feel that your working to prevent it happening in the first place.
It’s not about egos, fads, or being different, it’s simply about keeping horses sound and extending their working lives.
© Copyright 2015 Steven Leigh