A healthy hoof
A horse that isn't lame doesn't necessarily have healthy feet. Diet and managment have a uge say in hoof and horse health.
How do you know your horse is healthy, and healthy enough to perform barefoot? For this we need to look at the needs of the horse. When the needs of the horse are met, he will have the best chance at a healthy barefoot life.
This is another word for the needs of the horse. The givens. The things we need to give the horse for them to be able to feel healthy and happy.
So what does the horse needs?
The horse needs enough space to roam and explore, like they are meant to do. They walk 25 miles a day in the wild, on average. Horses are very curious creatures, but they are also flight animals. Having the option and room to flee gives them more comfort in their surroundings. Confinding them in small spaces can make them feel less comfortable, sad, shut down or even stressed.
Horses are herd animals, they depend on each other in order to survive. That's why they need horsey friends. Without friends to touch, they will feel less comfortable and therefor less happy and healthy. Stress, even the tiniest bit of stress, has a big impact on the body.
Horses also need forage. Preferably hay because of the lower sugar content compared to hayledge. The horse's body is build to eat small portions throughout the whole day, because they have a small stomach (compared to their body size) and they used to roam and eat at the same time. Ad lib forage also helps battling ulcers. The horse's stomach produces an acid fluid, non-stop. Eating and chewing produces saliva which helps to line the stomach and give the acid a smaller chance to set. Eating and chewing also loosens the jaw, and a loose jaw will help the horse feel more relaxed.
The other givens
The three F's, "freedom, friends and forage" are very important givens but there are a couple more givens to make the list for healthy hooves complete. This includes dental care, vet care, occassional bodywork, salt, clean water, different surfaces to walk on, wet-dry balance, exercise and horsemanship. A clean stable and a low starch/sugar & no-grain diet are also important.