Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Natural Trimmer vs My Farrier?

My farrier came out today to reset Lilly's shoes... he hasn't been out since the last time he was scheduled to come. That makes two appointments in a row where he didn't have to come out in between appointments to put shoes back on! He commented how he likes this barn a lot better than the last one for just that reason.

Waiting on her farrier.
Lilly was a good girl as always and my farrier commented on how good her feet look these days. He always has to clarify that because these are Lilly's hooves, they look amazing. I guess on someone else's horse they wouldn't be such great looking hooves. But for Lilly, they look really good! They've hardly grown at all since the last time he came out, though, so thankfully we're not trying to grow out anymore holes.

I asked him if he thought she could ever be barefoot up front and he pretty much said no way. If I wasn't riding her at all she might be able to be barefoot, but otherwise he doesn't think her hooves would hold up to any amount of work.

Then he asked me if I was thinking about going "all natural on him". After a brief conversation I got the impression that he doesn't think much about the natural hoof crowd...

But now I'm a little confused... is there a difference in a "natural barefoot trim" and a regular old farrier trim? Lilly is not wearing shoes on her hind feet, so would someone calling themselves a natural trimmer trim her hind feet differently than my current farrier? I didn't want to press him on the issue because I wasn't sure I'd get the correct information considering his initial response.

AJ was barefoot all the way around and my farrier never commented about AJ's feet... he just trimmed him, pointed out any issues, and that was it. No accusations of being "all natural" where AJ was concerned, so his reaction about Lilly being barefoot has peaked my interest.

I don't disagree with him about Lilly's hooves... at least not right now. They've made a lot of progress since she was a weanling (which is when all this first started) but I don't know that she'd do well out of shoes. The transition period would be really difficult and I tend to leave well enough alone where Lilly is concerned for obvious reasons. You know, "if it ain't broke don't fix it"... she breaks enough on her own without me helping.

Anyway, if anyone has comments about natural barefoot trims vs farrier barefoot trims, I'd love to hear them.


  1. I truly think that if you have a horse that works well without shoes, and has great feet, great, do it. However some horses (like Lilly and Lucas) do better with shoes.

    The "natural" people around here talk about toughing up a horses feet (by throwing a load of gravel in the pasture) and no shoes no matter what. Its led to alot of horses with lameness issues localy.

    I think the difference is that pleople who would like there horses to go shoeless are ok if the horse needs to be in shoes for showing, or trail riding, of if an issue comes up (like you would have with AJ if anything had happened) while the 'natural' people seem to think that the horse will work out of it as its feet toughen up...

    Anyways thats my own personal oppenion!

  2. Do I ever!

    First farrier I had did a lot of show quarter horses and a LOT of shoeing. Key was always dead dead lame afterwards. This was a farrier that went to clinics often, etc.--always learning, but not about barefoot.

    Second farrier did a lot of corrective work and a lot of six-figure dressage horses--he left the toes too long, wouldn't put their heels on the ground, and rasped the outside of the hoof WAY too much to get rid of the flare he was creating by not taking off enough hoof. Clyde's hooves, which never crack, are cracked this year.

    The new farrier I had come out was AMAZING. He could tell everything about my horses' feet without me telling him. He put their heels back on the ground, and since they've been off them so long they've lost the thick soles and frogs and have weak digital cushions. But they are ALL landing heel first--previously, I had a lot of toe-first landing because of the previous farrier. After he trimmed them he had me walk them out to make sure that the heel was taking the weight the way it's supposed to.

    For me, there was SUCH a difference between a real trimmer and a 'farrier'. My horses' need to build up their digital cushions and frogs--from toe walking they've gotten soft--but that's just a healthy hoof that's been eluding me for a long time. If you haven't checked out the barefoot horse blog, do so. It's from a trimmer in the UK, I think, and she rehabs all kinds of terrible feet without shoes. I don't know if all horses can go without shoes, but she does some amazing work that led me to getting the right trimmer for my boys.

    /On the flip side, I'm happy to hear her feet look good--Key used to be shod all the way around and he was a nightmare with throwing shoes. I feel your pain!

  3. My mare has pretty crappy feet by most people's standards. Always has and probably always will. With front shoes she's able to remain comfortable and sound, unless there's a lot of gravel, in which case we just take our time and go over it (or around it) at her own pace. In my opinion (and several expert's) she'd never be able to be a sound riding horse if she was barefoot.

    A lot of people these days are all for lecturing about why "barefoot is better," but if my horse is comfortable, why change something that works? I think it depends on the individual horse, not some group of people's ideas on what I should or shouldn't do in terms of MY horse's feet.

    But that's just me.

  4. I just do what works for my horses. And barefoot does not work for my Paint either. She has to have shoes during riding season. I can leave her barefoot in the winter when I am not riding her. My half Arab can go barefoot, I only put shoes on her in the really dry months because her hooves have a tendency to crack really bad.
    I don't know any specifics on the "all natural" barefoot trimmers. I don't really follow along with it all since I do what is best for my ponies!
    That's great that Lilly's hooves are doing well!!

  5. You knew I was going to comment on this, right?

    First of all: Ha! My old farrier told me I'd need to put shoes on my gelding if I was going to trail ride. Well guess who goes out and proves him wrong at least 4 times a week (without boots)?

    What's so different about a pasture trim? Farrier's leave hoofwall extending past the sole all the way around the foot which can cause flaring, sole softening and even mechanical laminitis. They also don't give any quarter relief- thus hindering the foot's natural expansion. They rasp off the hoof wall from the outside to address flares when what that really does is weaken the hoofwall allowing it to flare more and crack. Most of them also have no idea how to back the toe up and address underrun heels. Oh- and they trim the soles, that's a BIG no-no. That'd be like taking a layer of skin off the bottom of your foot. Try to walk around on that!

    I trim the hoofwall down to the sole level, making a little scoop for the quarters, back up the toe when necessary, and I never trim sole. The bars yes, sole never.

    Some people rush into barefoot without doing their research and their horses suffer for it. That's really sad and scares a lot of people away from going bare. Personally I think a lot of horses have issues with the transition because they have thrush (anytime there's a crack down the middle of the frog you have thrush).

  6. Sam, I do tend to agree with you that some horses just can't go barefoot. AJ was one of those horses who did fantastic barefoot. He wore shoes for a short time in his life because we were trying to help him with his arthritis, but he's been bare for the last 20 years. He has amazing feet. Lilly, on the other hand, had to have PVC feet when she was a weanling, so she started out needing help for her hooves.

    DIJ, I'm so glad you've found a great trimmer for your horses. Sounds like it was a bumpy road getting there. Are all of your boys barefoot now? I've been reading a lot of barefoot stuff online because I've been pondering barefoot for a while now. I even signed up for some Yahoo groups and I've learned a ton of information. There is definitely a lot of evidence pointing to how barefoot is so much better for them. Today just got me thinking about how my farrier might trim the hooves compared to how an actual barefoot trimmer might trim... or if they might trim exactly the same (if you have a good farrier).

    Mare, there is a big push for barefoot it seems... at least from everyone except the farriers I know! The back and forth definitely gets interesting. Missy sounds a lot like Lilly... when the shoes are off she's dead lame and they start to crumble.

    Paint Girl, sounds like you've got a good plan going for your horses. We all need to do what works best for our horses no matter what's popular at the time. There was a time when Lilly had to be shod all the way around and we've progressed to shoes only in the front.

    Smazourek, I was even HOPING you'd respond! LOL The problem with holding my horse for the farrier is I don't really see what he's doing to Lilly's feet. Since she was just trimmed/shod, I'm going to get some pictures of her feet and post them to see what you think (if you don't mind).

    Lilly started out with terrible feet and we've just been managing them for the last 10 years. They're finally looking good and healthy which is why I've been contemplating trying her barefoot. The last thing I want to do is cause her any additional pain or create some kind of problem for her, but I'd love to see her without shoes.

  7. There is a HUGE difference between a properly balanced bare foot and what most farriers do before they slap a shoe on. Shoes often create problems that make people thing their horses 'can't' go bare. You'd be SHOCKED at some of the feet I've seen come in that have made a FAST turn around once a proper balance was established. The problem is that most farriers aren't qualified to actually rehab a foot so that its structures work properly. For example, many farriers start a trim by cutting away the frog and most horse owners don't even know that the frog is supposed to absorb impact and that doing so can lead to contracted heels, which lead to long toes, which lead to chipping and cracking, which leads to people saying the horse NEEDS shoes. All of the horses at SRF are kept bare and I have a podiatrist trimming them. The only two who have required glue ons didn't have enough foot to work with because their FARRIERS ruined their hooves.

    With that said, you can get in just as much trouble with a bad trimmer as a bad farrier, and I've seen some really knowledgeable farriers who do great shoeing jobs on well trimmed feet.

    The fact that your guy says your horse can't ever go bare while in work is a HUGE red flag.

  8. DIdnt read all the comments yet but heres my opinion. There will always be the radicals, and those who stay on their side of the fence. There will always be the "feud" between opposing ideas. I dont think either one of them is right. I believe that you do as your horse requires be that all natural or shoes. The idea of just throwing gravel at them to toughen up only works to some degree. For Milo, great, He already has pretty strong feet. But people need to take into consideration that although the "mustangs and wild horses are fine" they are also mustangs with no cross breeding to take the toughness out of their hooves. With so much selective breeding, many horses dont have the feet that their ancestors did. Shoes where needed, if not than great.

    I like having my horse barefoot not because its "au natural" but because I can feel confident in going where ever on any trail for instance. But thats Milo, and thats not to say he will always be that way. Just at my last lesson we were discussing putting just rear sliders on him as he might need to start having them on.

    I think, responsible owners need to stop blabbing their opinions to others in a scolding way, but rather, take the individual horse's needs in mind.

  9. We have a mix here. Paj has crappy feet and can't go barefoot. Period. Reggie is barefoot. Boomer has shoes on for the summer - he's being driven on roads - and he goes barefoot over winter. The new guy, Ben, had his shoes pulled shortly after he got here. His farrier came today for his 1st trim, and it's looking like he can go barefoot. So to sum it up, we do what's best for the individual horse. We also have 2 farriers - 1 for the drafts and 1 for the others. I should add that our vet is our ultimate health guide, so our farriers are vet approved.

  10. I honestly think it all depends on how competant your farrier is. A barefoot trim is a barefoot trim, no matter what the letters behind the "trimmer's" name are. An excellent farrier is going to give you an excellent trim, and a crappy farrier is going to give you a crappy job.

    I tried the barefoot at all costs mantra with Jetta, and it failed miserably. I did everything Pete Ramey and others suggested and Jetta never ONCE got through the transition "period." Her transition lasted over a year and she was still unsound. I realize now it was because of my super crappy farrier....he did a HORRIBLE job. Even with shoes on she wasn't the most sound of horses. That all changed when I switched to my current farrier - he is hands down the best foot expert I've ever met. I'm happy to report, that even with all of Jetta's arthritis, she is completely sound and barefoot all around. Now, if I was riding her more or doing a lot on gravel, I'm sure she'd need shoes.

    For my OTTB, though, it's an entirely different story. He has typical OTTB feet, underrun heals and thin/shelly walls. His front feet will fall apart without the support of a properly applied shoe. I know because I tried him barefoot. We did take his hind shoes off, as his hind feet are in MUCH better condition, and he's been sound.

  11. I think smazourek explained the difference between the pasture trim and the barefoot trim well.

    When I first started trimming again, I started with the classic barefoot trim-clean the soles out as much as possible, trim up the frog, and leveled the hoofwall all the way around. I would freak if I got my quarters down a little, nor did I really understand heel length very well.

    But, when you have 20 head of horses to practice on, on a regular basis for a few years...Yea, you start to figure some things out. LOL. Plus I read a lot of information.

    I can fix quite a few things just by trimming now-flares, forward migrating heels, long-toes, slow-breakover, etc. and I have graduated to more of the natural trim vs. the pasture trim. It was a natural evolution due to being able to study a whole lot of feet and made more sense to me.

    I do sense a red flag with your farrier's response, simply due to the fact he didn't really bother to explain WHY Lilly could not go barefoot and be worked.

    I am not anti-shoe, by any means, but I am way more cautious about who I let nail a set of shoes to my horse than I ever was about letting someone trim my horse, simply because an improperly trimmed horse is still less likely to acquire an injury than a horse that is improperly balanced and then has shoes applied. If someone messes up a trim job, the horse still has the ability to wear the hoof and sort of help themselves. When the hoof is improperly trimmed and shoes are applied...the horse is forced to travel improperly and that applies an unrelenting strain on their feet and legs, resulting in probable injury.

    That being said...I love the farrier I have and he has helped every horse I have taken to him in a matter of a couple of shoeings. I thought Turk was a lost cause, but he keeps coming up with new ideas to help the horse and this last job was just phenominal. Turk is like a new horse.

  12. Dom, with Lilly, aside from being lame without shoes, her front hooves seem to crumble to pieces if she's not wearing shoes. I've heard some horror stories from some people who tried to take their horses bare and swear they'll never try it again. It sounded like the trimmer just hacked their feet to pieces. I'm terrified to test the waters, but I'd love to have Lilly barefoot.

    Milo, each side is passionate about their ideas regarding hoof care. Perhaps the good trimmers see bad farrier work, and good farriers see bad trimmer work? I think each horse should be treated as an individual, but I'd love to have Lilly barefoot. I just don't know if she can stay sound that way. I'm willing to try, but then what if we find out a year from now that she just needs to have shoes on? Something could happen during the transition period, and then what?

    Terry, vet approved farriers are definitely a good way to go! When Lilly was in the middle of her tendon issues, my farrier and vet worked closely together, but each one disagreed with the other for the most part. :(

    Jill, hopefully my farrier is competent. He seems to be, and was suggested to me by the farrier I used to use. I called him too much to put Lilly's shoes back on, so he shipped me off to my new guy. LOL

    Cowgirls, the pasture trim would be what my farrier probably does with Lilly's back feet? The barefoot trim would contain something like a 'mustang roll'?

    Perhaps next time he comes out, I'll be more specific about her hooves and ask why he thinks she couldn't go barefoot. He's never seen her barefoot, except when he had to come tack her shoes back on.

    I'm glad you have such a great farrier for Turk! :)