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barefoot trim
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Joe
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 Posted: Mon Dec 15th, 2008 02:18 pm
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OK, clearly I have whacked the funny looking thing hanging on the tree branch and the hornets are now buzzing around.  Serves me right for being over broad in my earlier statements.  So, here is a shot at clarification:
  1. I happily stipulate that there are competent and well studied trimmers out there;
  2. Similarly, there are ignorant and incompetent farriers (and likely trimmers, too);
  3. Horse's feet are complicated and require study and training;
  4. An ignorant or incompetent person of either description can mess up a horse's feet;
  5. There are cases where shoes are necessary or desirable, and cases where they are not.
All that said, there is a cult of "barefoot" out there that has gone over the top.  It is similar to the "natural" riding or training cults, and the "metal- free riding" cult.  It takes something that has validity in specific well-considered applications and erroneously attempts to  make it universal.  It makes acceptance of its views a matter of morality (shoes are a form of abuse; shoes are unnatural and therefore damaging and a Bad Thing).

While it is true that shoes are "unnatural" for horses, so are life in stalls, selective breeding, training, and being ridden.  So also, are trims.  No horse in a state of nature would permit a human, however well studied and competent,  to apply edged tools to its feet.  Please note, too, that horses in a state of nature can be lamed by broken hooves.  When this happens they are eaten by other animals.  This is the natural world.  We call it "natural selection."  Protecting our horses from natural selection is unnatural.

So, in sum, I am strongly in favor of having a corps of competent,  and studied people to manage horse's feet.  Whether these are called trimmers or farriers, I care not a bit, although a trimmer who cannot fit shoes is inherently more limited than a good farrier. 

Here is a parting question along those lines:  Why wouldn't someone who really wants to provide the best possible foot care want to learn shoeing as well as trimming, and therefore be fully equipped to meet any horse's needs?

Cheers!

Joe

rifruffian
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 Posted: Mon Dec 15th, 2008 04:05 pm
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Well Joe, to address your last question first....In England, to legally shoe your own horse  it is necessary to be a registered farrier. To attain that status  requires a four year apprenticeship plus various formal study sessions and examinations. It's hardly an option for anyone other than those who plan to make a living at it.

Joe
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 Posted: Mon Dec 15th, 2008 04:22 pm
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Interesting.  That is not so here in the US.  However, I don't get why a trimmer would go through the kind of schooling that has been described for them without wanting to make a living at it.  After all, trimming is not easy work.  I know.  In my ill-spent youth I did way too much of it (and no, I was not especially well educated on it, unfortunately).

Anyway, extrapolating from what you say, it appears that the barriers to entering the farrier trade are so great that being a very good "trimmer" is an attractive alternative for many people.  Such a development is a predictable response to closed and guild-dominated trades and markets.  It makes perfect sense -- in the UK -- but does not explain the situation in the USA.

Joe

AdamTill
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 Posted: Mon Dec 15th, 2008 05:20 pm
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Hi Joe,

In a way, it does. Given that for all intents and purposes in North America anyone can hang a shingle out and call themselves a farrier (or trimmer), there are few guarantees that a horse owner will find someone who is qualified to do the job if the owner themselves is uneducated on such matters. There is simply less money involved in outfitting oneself as a trimmer, and thus even less barrier to entry.

Even for those with school credentials as a farrier, if you look at the average farrier training curriculum, 80-90% of the schooling time is spent on forgework. I find that very odd, given that the finest appliance is rendered useless if applied to a badly trimmed foot.

On average...big generalization coming up...it seems like trimmers spend more time learning about the biomechanics of the foot, and farriers more on learning how to construct different appliances. Whether that just arms the poorer examples of trimmers with enough terminology to snow owners under is another area for debate, because there's certainly enough misinformation out there. In the end, though, I've met, talked with, and worked with a number of excellent trimmers, but comparitively few excellent farriers. Honestly, I think it's just my area, but I'll admit it initially negatively coloured my outlook on the farriery profession, and I think the same is true for many others.

Again, on average, I've found that far too many hoof care professionals, trainers, and owners alike just can't recognize what a sound horse looks like. Out of the hundreds of riding horses I've seen over the years, I've probably really only seen a half dozen that retained the effortless grace that you see in most horses as foals. I once had to take still from a video to show a fellow boarder how her horse was 10 degrees shorter strided (stride angle between legs) on one front leg compared to the other...and she, her farrier, and her trainer hadn't seen that! Not subtle! Consequently, bad trimmers can keep refusing to use any sort of protection in the name of "freedom from iron" all the while harping about "transition times", and bad farriers can keep chasing a distorted toe all the live long day as long as the horse doesn't stumble or interfere (too much), simply because their clients don't know any better. Not sure if either one is preferable.

To answer your question, I personally don't shoe simply due to the tooling and equipment costs, and forging skills required. For the few horses I work on (mine and those belonging to friends), it just isn't required, since I can make any protective/orthopedic corrections required using boots (and pads/wedges etc in boots). If I ever come across a case requiring more then that, then I'd call in a farrier, but I'd know enough to vet was was being applied.

While I'd love to learn to work a forge, the farrier profession in general has undervalued it's skills for such a long time that horse owners don't appreciate the time and skill required to do the job right (engineers have done the same...irritatingly). On average, most folks I know basically choose farriers off price, or are willing to live with a horse that is "okay-ish" if the farrier is inexpensive. As a farrier (or trimmer) I woudn't be able to charge enough to rationalize the damage being done to my body, and thus it's not (in my mind) worth the time. I find that a bit sad.

So, in the end, I stick with my orginal recommendation to not ignore anyone. When searching for information to decide whether I should buy a very lame school horse that was diagnosed with navicular syndrome, I had read 15 depressing books on farriery and veterninary medicine that said it was a degenerative disease that had to be managed. None, however, went into whys of how things got there, or why the management decisions were being made, or why things were expected to get worse. It was only through eventually reading Pete Ramey's work (a trimmer), who led me to Dr Rooney's research, that I got enough of a handle on the why of things to be confident about buying a rehab project that the vet gave a negative outlook to, but who I was able to bring sound again.

Case in point, that marked up photo I did earlier takes an article from an AFA Journal, adds in details from two veterinary studies, adds in a dolop of thought from an excellent trimmer, and runs everything through the filter of Dr. Deb's 2003 Inner Horseman. Works for me, and no part would be as useful without the others.

YMMV,
Adam



Joe
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 Posted: Mon Dec 15th, 2008 05:43 pm
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Adam:

I take your points (and very well made points, I might add).  However, we have all deviated from the OP's question about "barefoot," which was the basis of my original negative response.  Farriers, trimmers, education, and whether certain horses should be shod or unshod can all be reasonably discussed, just as we are doing.  I am glad to have learned much in this discussion from you and others.  Nevertheless, the concept of "barefoot," as a philosophy, carries a lot of baggage with it.  I've already covered that in prior posts. 

As a result of this baggage, I think it prudent to warn people away from "barefoot," but not from trimmers or unshod horses.  Learning about horses is complex enough, especially for a relative newcomer.  I am struggle to understand feet and biomechanics, and I am not a newcomer by any means, and have a pretty studious disposition.  You are way ahead of me, but I'll bet there are things on which you wish you had a better grasp.  Still, you and I are at least equipped to filter and scan for nonesense.  Newcomers are not.  Therefore, I stand by my original recommendation.  Anyone starting on this journy should avoid fringe groups and fads, "barefoot" zealotry included.

Cheers!

J


Last edited on Mon Dec 15th, 2008 05:44 pm by Joe

NCMtnGirl
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 Posted: Mon Dec 15th, 2008 06:16 pm
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To give you some examples of what you can see from the outside if you know what you're looking for, take this example:

Thank You So Much Adam for your wonderful example above-!  And the link to Dr. Deb's work regarding this!  I find it so fascinating! 

 

Helen
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 Posted: Tue Dec 16th, 2008 01:10 am
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I would like to chime in here with a question - a friend of a friend of mine is a barefoot trimmer, and I have seen her work and admired the results with my untrained eye. The reasoning she gave for not shoing was not that it was inherently cruel and evil, but that it by nature damaged the foot. According to her, horses in "the wild" land on their frogs as well as the hoof wall, and the material that both are made of absorb the shock nicely. In contrast, a shod horse lands entirely on the shoes, which, being metal, do not absorb shock but transfer it up the hoof wall, which can lead to long-term damage of the hoof as the shock from landing is absorbed into a smaller surface area through a more rigid medium and is thus greater.

This all seemed perfectly logical to me and a good reason to avoid shoing altogether, but now I hear many people whose views I respect immensely saying otherwise. Am I missing something?

Joe
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 Posted: Tue Dec 16th, 2008 02:09 am
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I'd like to hear Dr. Deb on this point.  However, in as much as I am already all over this thread:
  1. No doubt that horses in nature and unshod horses do bear weight just as your friend says;
  2. Frog pressure is important for other reasons, too (helps pump blood and so on);
  3. No point in shoeing without a reason to shoe;
  4. Still, for most well shod horses, there does not seem to be damage from shoes, and there is the protection that shoes offer.
I myself have known horses who lived happily with shoes for +- 30 years without pain or apparent ill effects.  I have also known horses with big chips or cracked hooves who weren't living happily because they had not been shod and were used for work that called for shoes.

It is a matter of prudential judgment.  It is not something about which you can be rigidly doctrinaire.  My reservations about the "barefoot" crowd stem in part from its dogmatic approach, and in part from its penchant to ignore empirical evidence in favor of the prudent use of shoes.

Joe

Tutora
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 Posted: Tue Dec 16th, 2008 12:36 pm
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EQUUS magazine recently featured a good article on the idea of trying to help horses with navicular syndrome by trimming without shoes. I personally know horses whose heel pain was improved by getting frequent, skillful trimming...as both Helen and Joe said, my understanding is that the frog and (to a lesser extent) bars need to contact the ground. That contact can take place with or without shoes--but in my admittedly limited experience of looking at the frogs of shod horses, I don't see that happening too often. Maybe I'm just not looking at enough shod horses...

Thank you to everyone for being polite to each other!

 

Last edited on Tue Dec 16th, 2008 12:38 pm by Tutora

sunnyriot
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 Posted: Tue Dec 16th, 2008 03:37 pm
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"Anyone starting on this journy should avoid fringe groups and fads, "barefoot" zealotry included."
Avoid zealotry by all means, but don't dismiss new research, some of which may sound "fringe" at first. Hopefully, whichever professional a horse owner consults will have looked into it even if they disagree. I would recommend anyone interested in the science check out the research by Dr. Robert Bowker, Gene Ovnicek and Dr. Barbara Page at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University.

One thing to add to any evaluation of the "natural" trim method is that it usually goes along with "natural" horse keeping. The less "natural" the horse's management (stalls, arena footing, high grain diets etc) the more intervention a horse is likely to need. That MAY mean shoes or boots with appliances. "Natural" horsekeeping allows the horse to toughen the feet and self-trim to suit his way of going. I put "natural" in quotes of course because no manner of horse-keeping is entirely natural, but some methods are more imitative of wild horse habits which is what has developed the current equine physiology (for the most part -- quite a bit of unnatural/human selection has taken place too though as Dr Deb has made clear!).

I suspect that in Texas, (and Australia?) many horses are kept outdoors on large not-very-lush pastures (correct me if I'm wrong). This would definitely set them up for a life of barefootedness presuming that they are constructed in a basically sound manner. In other areas horses are routinely stalled most of a 24 hour period and fed grain and hay 2 or 3 times per day. This likely has more effect on the horse's health and feet than whether the animal has been trimmed by a skilled "farrier" or a "trimmer".

Finally, to answer the original question way back when :), according to Bowker (and the barefoot trimmer that I use who is speaking through me right now LOL), the live sole plane will determine the trim for the rest of the hoof. In a "normal" hoof x-rays might be helpful but not necessary. Adam's excellent photos should show that much can be determined from the outside and by observing the horse.

Joe
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 Posted: Tue Dec 16th, 2008 04:12 pm
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Well, right about research.

Many Texas horses are kept in urban areas with little pasture.  No idea the percentages, but the big concentrations are around cities like Houston and Dallas with multi-million populations.  Even some of these are kept on farms outside of town, but the soil differs a lot, and especially in the eastern part of the state, there is much moisture and lush grass.  My own animals are out every day, but due to pasture size and production, they require about six months a year of hay.  They are grained daily. 

Joe

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 Posted: Tue Dec 16th, 2008 08:19 pm
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Coincidentally the following was just posted at TheHorse.com. The main article is a point/counterpoint between the two opposing poles of thought on shoeing. Both make good points but are too hidebound to consider there may be some grey area. The sidebar by Dr. Robert Bowker is, for me, the most interesting.
I hope that it is ethical to post this information here. I will post the link as well so that you can read the whole article online.

Sidebar: Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD, a professor in the department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation at Michigan State University, has been performing research on the equine foot, its biomechanics, and the effect of shoes and different management methods. Most of this work is still in progress and The Horse cannot report on it yet, but Bowker weighs in on the issue. See page 82 for commentary from an equine practitioner who works in podiatry.
Various methods and techniques may be useful to help heal certain pathologies of tissues within the foot. However, I do believe that our understanding of the functional biology of the foot in health and disease conditions is still in its infancy, as we may not be fully aware of the best treatment protocol for each condition.
We should ask ourselves what the best way is to prepare the foot of the domestic horse for its designated environment in order achieve these goals: 1) safely support the weight and stresses imposed upon it, and 2) dissipate the energies during movements/athletic activities. Depending upon the expertise of the farrier or trimmer, the shod foot or barefoot condition may provide similar degrees of foot health, but neither one may be "the best" for the foot. Such foot treatments should protect it from injury and aid the horse in negotiating through its environment. Additionally, they should improve the efficiency of energy dissipation, minimize injurious impact loading of the foot, and, we hope, enhance the neurosensory perception of the foot-ground contact so the horse can maintain its secure footing.
The foot will adapt to the horse's environment and, as a result, certain features may respond positively (become more robust, or stronger) while other parts may respond negatively or appear to atrophy, as they may not be needed in that environment for the horse to remain sound. The onlooker may conclude that the foot looks "different" and, thus, pathologic, but in that environmental situation the horse is sound and the feet healthy. However, transplanting that horse to another environmental situation will potentially place the healthy foot in harm's way, as the tissues needed for loading and dissipating energy, etc., may now not be utilized as efficiently, resulting in more strains and stresses being imposed upon the atrophied tissues, which could cause varying degrees of foot soreness and lameness, depending upon the activity.
If given sufficient time, though, the foot would begin to adapt and the internal structure of the foot would change to the new environmental conditions as the foot does "need and want" to become sound again. If the horse requires immediate use in the "new environment," then some sort of foot protection would or should be employed by riders.
While I personally believe that barefooted conditions are better, one can have the same effects of a shoe in a barefooted condition, depending upon how the foot is trimmed (if you remove lots of sole and cut the bars back and trim the frog, then you have a peripherally loaded foot similar to a shod horse).

--Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD


sunnyriot
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 Posted: Tue Dec 16th, 2008 08:23 pm
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http://www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=12778

Note that the Strasser method is an *extreme* version of the barefoot/natural trim originally designed to address severe laminitis cases. In my area it is not much in use as opposed to other more moderate practioners that basically spring from the Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey 'schools'.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Dec 17th, 2008 05:07 am
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Sunny, you have it exactly backwards. Strasser started the fad, and followed it up with her own pyramid scheme and "licensing".

Ramey and others came later, out of the general reaction to the errors and dangerous and destructive procedures advocated by Strasser.

You and everybody else need to realize that about every three years in farriery, there is another fad. This has been true since at least when I got into the industry in the 1970's.

What is necessary to stop it is for you, and every horse owner, to learn the correct principles of orthopedics as they apply to hoof care. It is orthopedic principles which dictate the trim, not this guy's or that woman's particular approach or method. For there is only ONE way to trim, and that is to trim in harmony with the horse's actual orthopedic needs.

How you learn what those are, is to study orthopedics and natural history, so that you understand what kind of an animal a horse is. This is set forth in the 2003 "Inner Horseman" back issue, which you can purchase in our bookstore for $25.

You can also learn it in many other places, i.e., in the places which I summarize and gather together for you in the 2003 disk. Crucial references would be: Willoughby's "The Empire of Equus", Hays' "Points of the Horse", Bennett's "Principles of Conformation Analysis", and Hildebrand's "Functional Anatomy".

The photos and analysis provided by Adam Till above are quite excellent. Adam has been studying the 2003 disk and it shows. You can and should do the same, Sunny, before you post on this thread again. Thanks for the courtesy -- Dr. Deb

Joe
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 Posted: Wed Dec 17th, 2008 01:29 pm
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Dr. Deb:

I don't keep up with the names, but recall people advocating some horrifying practices in "barefoot" trimming.  Would those be the Strasser crowd?

Joe


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