"My two cents" blog

The givens, by Maaike Boshuis 22.03.2020

You might have heard me talk about 'the givens'. What are they?

I learned it from my mentor Dan Guerreraand we refer to them if we need to list all the things we need to 'give' the horse to be healthy, and to be able to grow healthy hooves. The Givens is basically a list of first needs for horses.

It starts with the most famous ones: Friends, Forage and Freedom. But there is much more a horse needs: good drinking water, salt, different surfaces to walk on, a good wet/dry balance for their hooves, exercise, good horsemanship, dentistry, bodywork, vet care, etcetera.


Do you have all these things in place for your horse, wether your horse is shod or barefoot? Because this list really doesn't discriminate, a horse is a horse!


"So why do all these things matter to a barefoot trimmer, and why is this important for hoof health?"
We'll go over them one by one.

Simple. Horses are herd animals. Keeping them alone creates stress (i.e. separation anxiety, constant 'predator-watch', not enough deep sleep, learned helplessness, etcetera). Stress affects the gut. When the gut is compromised, the horse might not be able to grow good enough hoof horn. When the horse is able to interact, socialize and play with (an)other horse(s), he'll be a lot more at ease and will worry less.

Horses need fiber to keep their hind gut flora healthy. Growing grass in Spring, Summer and Autumn doesn't contain a lot of fiber (more fructans and water). Fructan, starch and protein doesn't reach the hind gut, because they are processed in the small intestine. Starving the hind gut means unhealthy gut flora, which has consequences for your horses health and behavior. When the gut is compromised, the horse might not be able to grow healthy hoof horn. Too much fructans (grass), starch and protein can also create health issues like EMS, Cushing's, IR and laminitis. Hay or standing hay does contain enough fiber, and should be fed year round in my opinion, even if a horse has grass available. Just a simple hay net in the field will suffice.


Horses are meant to roam, it is in their DNA. I'm not saying day and night per se, although this would be the preference of most horses if they were able to choose. But every horse should at least be turned out during day time. And no, one hour isn't enough. Turnout during day should be as long as possible.

Most horses are happy to come in at night, probably because food is waiting for them. But when the morning comes, most horses are also very keen to be turned out again. Do you know what your horse does all night and around what time it get's tired of being locked up in it's litter box? Read my article about stabled horses.

Freedom is important for their mindset, to keep their stress level low, but it is also very important for hoof health for this one other reason: ........... movement! Hooves thrive by a lot of movement! 
It stimulates the blood flow in their feet, which brings more nutrition to their feet and therefor better hoof growth. 

Other Givens are

Salt, or sodium chloride, is an essential elektrolyte. The horse needs it to survive! Some key reasons are
that salt is needed for muscle function, this includes the heart muscle. It also plays a role in hydration, because if salt levels are low, drinking is inhibited whixh can lead to dehydration. Salt also enables the nerve impulses around the body. The chloride part of salt is also essential in the digestion process, because it preserves the acid balance throughout the body. Salt if often thought to be a summer issue but it is vital to ensure enough intake year round. Horses also tend to not take enough from salt licks.

The amount to feed will vary. For a retired horse or in rest it'll be 10-15g per day. For a horse in light to moderate work it'll be around 30g per day. Horses in hard work would need 30g to 100g per day.
(Amy Mitchell - Healthy Happy Horse Connection and Equine Podiatry
Heavenly Hooves)

Please note that salt is Sodium Chloride, not to be confused with Epsom Salts which is Magnesium Sulphate.


Surfaces & wet/dry balance









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