With the natural hoof care movement growing by leaps and bounds, many horse guardians are seeking out a barefoot trimmer. But just as in all professions, you need to be able to separate the good, the bad and the ugly. Far too many people latch onto the first practitioner they find without having any idea what to expect from this person. Remember, you are the client as well as your horse’s protector. It’s important to make an informed decision when picking this important member of your horse’s health care team.
A qualified trimmer:
• is an educator as well as a trimmer. Professional hoof care practitioners realize it’s important that the guardian understand the basics of how the hoof works, what common ailments might appear and why, and especially the transition process. It’s valuable to conduct an initial consultation to go over the horse’s current status and the treatment plan.
• realizes he doesn’t know it all and is always a student of the horse. A big ego has no place in natural hoof care, because there is no single answer for every horse’s needs. Successful trimmers always seek out new information, and are open to other methods even if they differ from the training they have had. Getting locked into one specific modality results in a closed mind. Besides, there are no better hoof care teachers than the horses themselves.
• has a basic working knowledge of the “whole horse”. Although you shouldn’t expect your trimmer to be an expert in all facets of horse care, he must be aware of what affects not only the hoof but the overall health of the horse. This should include, but is not limited to:
• should understand that without a proper diet, no horse can grow a healthy hoof. Can your trimmer spot potential diet issues and point you to resources where you can learn more or get advice? Does he understand the dangers of too much starch, sugar or protein? Can he read hoof health to determine if the horse is getting the nutrients he needs to grow healthy horn? Is he knowledgeable enough to link chronic laminitis to diet issues and metabolic imbalances?
• connects environment and movement. All hoof practitioners should understand the importance of proper environment and movement in relation to hoof health. They should be able to spot detrimental facility practices and offer suggestions for change.
• understands that body soreness can affect hoof wear. Is your trimmer aware of any potential muscle or joint pain in the horses he works on? Although he may not be able to pinpoint the specific problem, he should be able to discuss his concerns and point you to someone in your area who specializes in body work.
• possesses great stall-side manner and utilizes gentle horsemanship techniques. There is no excuse for rough handling or physical punishment during a trimming session. Although it’s not the practitioner’s job to train your horse, it’s not acceptable for anyone to lose their temper and retaliate in a way that the horse just doesn’t understand. Inappropriate handling is detrimental to your horse’s well being and will cause more issues in the future. There is a big difference between being assertive and aggressive. If you’re not comfortable with how your equine partner is treated during the trimming session, find another trimmer.
• looks at each horse and hoof individually. The goal of a trim is not necessarily four perfectly shaped hooves, but soundness. There are no universally exact measurements that dictate balance. Ultimately, the horse is the final judge. If you find your trimmer is forcing a certain shape or angle that causes soreness after every trim, it’s time to look elsewhere.
• is respectful of your time and strives to stay on a schedule as much as possible. When working with horses, being always on time is impossible as there are just too many variables, but proper scheduling is important. If there’s going to be a long delay or a need to reschedule, your trimmer should let you know. Conversely, it’s your responsibility to have your horse ready for the trimming session when the practitioner arrives.
Just as you should research and feel comfortable with your own health care professionals, so you should when picking a trimmer for your horse. Ultimately, the key is to listen to your intuition, and to your equine partner.
Kenny Williams is a natural hoof care provider and educator who has been trimming for a decade and utilizes natural horsemanship, essential oils, and energy work to help hasten healing. He has the ability to explain a natural hoof to everyday people while having a great eye for what the hoof is telling him. He is now offering hoof care consultations, private trimming instruction and tutoring. He is also the co-creator of Equi-Spirit Toys & Tools™. His herd of six has been his best teachers and he’s happy to pass that knowledge around. If Your Horse Could Talk, LLC www.naturalhorsetalk.com