To ensure survival of the species, the first priority of the horse's nervous system is to keep the body upright and balanced for the best opportunity to flee from predators.
Primary neural inputs come through proprioceptors (nerves that determine balance) within the hooves, temporomandibular joints (TMJ's), and spine. For a horse to maintain an efficient posture, all of the above must be properly balanced.
In the wild, the horse may complete this "balancing act" on his own.
He will be in constant motion over all types of terrain. He will wear his feet in accordance to his conformation, never to be distorted with shoes. Thus, he maintains balance in his hooves.
He will walk and graze rough grasses throughout most of his day. He will chew with his head down, looking for the next bite. He will chew with his head up, scanning the horizon for predators. The sand and grit in the dusty grasses will wear his incisors appropriately Thus, he maintains balance in his temporomandibular joints as his teeth wear naturally.
He will walk and browse for forage and water; he will be in motion 16 hours or more per day. He will drink from a stream whose surface is lower than his feet. He will reach up to pull leaves off a tree branch, then he will reach down to graze. He will roll and stretch at liberty. He will swat flies, flinging his head to the left or right. He will scratch his ear with a hind foot. He will never have ill-fitting tack or an unbalanced rider on his back. Thus, he maintains balance in his spine.
Enter the "horsemen" who strive to maintain the beasts in domestication, who often inadvertently do more harm than good!
We put shoes on them based on our perceptions of hoof balance and "protection" their hooves need. We grind down their teeth to make them flat so they can eat well, often ignorant of the biomechanic balance required in the dentition to maintain balance in TMJ's. We buy tack for the discipline we prefer, often with the horse's comfort and ability lesser priorities. We confine the horses in stalls or small pens, feed them concentrated, processed ingredients which often contain byproducts. In addition, we take our emotional baggage to the barn with us and share it with our horses!
How can I give my horse the best advantage to maintain proper posture and therefore, efficient use of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints? How can I help him to maintain balance in body, mind, and spirit? Mimic the environment in which he evolved.
After all, it is the free spirit of the horse that draws each and every one of us closer to the Divine. Within our walls of domestication, let us respect the horses' freedom.