Is natural hoof care more or less expensive?
The answer to this question depends on how your horses' feet are currently being addressed. If your horse is wearing shoes, then most likely going to a natural hoof trim will be less expensive. However, it may not be as much of a reduction as you expect. For instance, most farriers shoe (or even trim!) on a 6-7 week schedule, while the natural trim is most beneficial with trimming every 4-5 weeks.
If a farrier is currently trimming your horse barefoot, natural hoof care may well be slightly more expensive. Traditional farriers often charge a low fee to trim, but it is important to take into account that for the most part, farriers simply trim a foot as if they were going to put a shoe on it. This can entail removing toe height (and the all-important toe callus) and leaving the heels too high.
Why does trimming this way take more time?
Documentation. Measurements are taken and recorded to establish a baseline and to monitor your horses� progress.
Individualized Care. A natural hoof trim is geared specifically to each individual horse and is done with deliberation and care. A pasture trim involves simply slicing off the bottom of the foot, without concern for maintaining the toe callus or for respecting the natural (and all-important) concavity of the sole. The first trim will take longer than subsequent trims: during the first trim I am learning about your horse's feet as much as I am trimming them, and there is always more "work" to do in terms of balancing the feet. Once the trim is balanced, and as long as we stay on a 4-schedule, subsequent trims will go faster.
Positive Reinforcement. It is important to work WITH the horse, donkey, or mule, rather than against them. This means using well-timed positive reinforcement, giving the animal frequent breaks, and making concessions to any special needs they may have.
Why do you ask about my horse's turnout, diet, etc? What does all that have to do with hoof care?
Turnout: Horses are animals of almost constant movement, and their entire physiology is set up that way. Healthy adult horses lie down to sleep only 60 minutes or so in a 24-hour period; they nap on their feet (during the day as well as at night) and they are on the move most of the rest of the time (night as well as day). Horses' feet are also set up for being on hard, supportive ground. When they are stalled on soft bedding, their feet fail to get the stimulation they need and their posture is actually altered when their toes "bury" in the deep shavings. So stabling, even for a few hours a day, is quite damaging to feet. In fact, the advent of horse shoes coincided closely with the beginning of keeping horses stalled for human convenience; when horses started spending time in stalls, their formerly strong feet began to fall apart (thereby "necessitating" shoes). As long as horses are allowed to live and they were meant to live, their own hooves are more than capable of taking care of them. It's when human beings began interfering that horses suddenly "needed" shoes.
Diet: It is important to look at the physiology of the horse in order to understand how diet affects hoof care. Horses are foragers, whose long, winding digestive tract is set up for almost constant grazing on relatively low-quality grass. They are not set up for large meals of starch and protein-rich grains, which they would encounter only rarely and in very small amounts in nature. In horses, too much nutrition, especially in the form of starches, can cause stretching or separation in the white line, and laminitis, as well as colic. Laminitis, like navicular, is an almost entirely human-caused "disease"--it is not found in the cadaver feet of wild horses, nor does it occur in naturally kept horses. I work with each client to make recommendations on nutrition that supports healthy hoof development and horse health.