“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” -Albert Einstein
What is NHC? NHC stands for Natural Horse Care, and it also stands for Natural Hoof Care. These terms are synonymous and interchangeable- you can't have one without the other! NHC is a very misunderstood concept- even though the definition seems fairly straightforward. You would think it would be easily understood and readily embraced by everyone. If only that were true!
Here are a few ways to explain or define what NHC is:
NHC is the holistic approach to hoof care/horse care based on the wild horse model, which includes natural boarding, natural horsemanship, a reasonably natural diet, and the natural trim itself (the four pillars of NHC).
NHC is a true holistic approach to horse care- each "pillar" is defined by the natural horse paradigm.
NHC is the holistic care of horses modeled after the lifestyle of the U.S. Great Basin wild, healthy, free-roaming horse.
NHC means providing for the horse his basic, biological needs.
The foundations of NHC and the natural state of the hoof are defined by the sound, healthy feet of the horses living in the Great Basin of the U.S.
NHC is the care, training, and riding of the horse not in conflict with his natural gaits, behavior, diet and feet.
NHC is the science and holistic practice of giving horses naturally shaped feet modeled biodynamically after the feet of "wild", free-roaming horses of the U.S. Great Basin.
From those examples, one can begin to form a general idea of the definition of NHC- which is a good start. NHC, then, is a horse care paradigm based on healthy, sound, horses living as nature intended in the ideal habitat for their species...in other words, species appropriate care. Why should we use anything else as a model for health?
Why use horses living in the wild (specifically the U.S. Great Basin) as our model? The obvious answer is because they are the same species as horses in our care, but more importantly, they are living in their ideal adaptative habitat, free from the damaging effects of human interference. As Jaime Jackson says, "we hold up the U.S. Great Basin model because it has been investigated thoroughly and found to be relevant and valuable. These are healthy, sound hooves at their optimum...beware of any model not based on sound, healthy hooves." From his book, "The Natural Trim: Principles and Practice", Jaime writes, "In all other environments to which the horse did not adapt 1.4 million years ago, his feet will reflect the deleterious influences of those environments." The point is, the horse's hooves are indicators of the health of the horse. You may have heard the expression, "no hoof, no horse"- I say, "no health, no hoof, no horse." I think most people can agree that in order for any living thing to have the best shot at a healthy life, its basic biological needs must be met- or at least some of those needs should be met. For some reason, though, when it comes to horses, conventional horse-keeping practices deny the horse his basic needs. The horse "industry", as a whole, not only denies horses their basic needs, but promotes practices that actually oppose those needs! (click on "Soapbox" above!) So, horses that are managed in ways that go against their biological needs will show signs of pathology, i.e., hoof sensitivity, laminitis, colic, ulcers, and other common health problems.
The good news is, the more we can simulate as many of the lifestyle conditions we see in wild horse country, the better we can prevent those common pathologies. In order to better provide for our horses, we must understand what his species' biological needs actually are...if we don't, our horses will still suffer unnatural care and living conditions, such as living in stalls or other close confinement, little or no turn out, isolation from other horses, inappropriate feeds, inappropriate feeding practices, inappropriate riding and training practices, and of course unnatural trimming practices (again, click on "Soapbox"!).