Horses are natural. They are still very closely tied with nature and they have specific biological needs according to their species. I believe this is true for any living plant or animal. We all have unique requirements, and having those requirements met results in a healthier and/or happier existence. Horses are no exception. Understanding the biology of the horse and his psychological makeup, and then putting effort into providing for the horse his unique needs, is the essence of "natural horsemanship". In order to fully understand and appreciate the meaning of the terms natural horsemanship, natural horse care, and natural hoof care, one must understand the true nature of the species Equus ferus caballus. The study of the true nature of Equus caballus is, in my opinion, the study of natural horsemanship. I will say, briefly- the evolutionary history of the horse is complex and should be researched and thought about in order to enrich your understanding of the species. You must understand, though, that all horses living today (feral and domesticated) are the direct descendants from the "pre-domesticated" species Equus ferus ferus, and are genetically indistinguishable from each other. This means the "wild" horse and all domestic horses everywhere are in fact, Equus caballus. Therefore, what applies in the wild applies to horses in our care. I recommend Jaime Jackson's book, "The Natural Horse: Foundations for Natural Horsemanship" for further explanation of the horse's history, as well as a great resource for understanding his extensive research of horses living as nature intended- in their ideal habitat living healthy lives free from the damaging influence of people. So, as horse lovers, shouldn't we make an effort to understand the horse's true biological and psychological needs and provide as many of those needs as we possibly can? Shouldn't we make an effort to honor the horse and his unique biology? In my opinion, not only should we make the effort, it is our obligation to do so. It is our obligation as horse owners and horse lovers to provide for our horses an interesting and active life...but you must understand his needs first. There are many people (way too many people) who deny the horse's place in nature. They exempt him from even having any unique biological needs. They assault the horse with diets, boarding conditions, training and riding practices, and health/hoof care that is inappropriate for his species. We should be working with nature, not working against it. If you believe horses are ok with confinement, isolation from other horses, restricted movement, being fed commercial processed/pelleted "feeds", trimming methods that obliterate the natural shape of the hoof, shoes that are nailed or glued to their hooves, horse clothing, training and riding practices that use force and psychological pressure, a general lack of understanding on our part about who the horse is as a species, unhealthy and unnatural living conditions and all the remedies humans have invented to "fix" the problems caused by the things listed above- well, I'd encourage you to make an effort to study the horse...not your "horsey", but study his species. The needs of the species must be met before you can meet the needs of the individual horse. Investigate what makes him a horse. Find joy in providing for him what he needs to have an interesting, happy, and fulfilled life. Appreciate the kindness and friendship he will extend to you when he realizes you are working in favor of him. Isn't that what it's all about? A few undeniable truths to think about:
Equus caballus is genetically the same as it was 1.4 million years ago- humans have altered many breed characteristics, but a few hundred years of selective breeding has no effect whatsoever on BASE GENETICS. This means (contrary to a popular myth) that we have not bred the foot off the horse. We have not weakened the genetic traits of the hoof. The hoof merely reveals and responds to the anti-holistic forces acting upon it due to human meddling. All horses can go barefoot when cared for according to the needs of their species.
Healthy horses in their ideal habitat, living their lives in accordance with the requirements of their species, do not suffer the pathologies that plague the horses in our care.
If you can keep your horse according to his biology, you may no longer have to worry about common health problems like colic, laminitis, founder, insulin resistance, etc.
The environment is the major determinant of a healthy hoof, rather than genetics. All horses are born with the genetic potential of having healthy hooves.
Resources: Jaime Jackson, "The Natural Horse: Foundations for Natural Horsemanship". Jaime Jackson, "The Natural Trim: Principles and Practice".