Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Advice for the New Trimmers:

Recently I was contacted by someone interested in becoming a professional barefoot trimmer.  I responded with this email only slightly modified for blogging.
I applaud you for removing yourself from that shoeing course.  People are so interesting when it comes to shoes.  Yesterday, I attended a local barrel racing competition.  I was there to trim a customer’s horse who lives a ways from me so we met there for this appointment.
She had sold one of her horses to another competitor some months ago and that horse happened to be there as well.  I was introduced to her former horse’s new owner and the horse had shoes on.  That owner smiled in my face and bragged about how he fixed his horse so its feet never hurt and he could ride him anytime he wanted.    
My customer and I walked away and under my breath I muttered, continuing his line of thought, “Screw the horse, it’s about me getting to ride, right!” 
We had just been discussing how ALL farrier reference books recommend frequently allowing the horse some time out of shoes. Why would that recommendation be in those books?  Because it's well documented that shoes damage the hooves over the long term. 
I get so tired of hearing, “My horse can’t go without shoes.”  Well, could that be because the shoes have wrecked your horse’s hooves and now they are too weak to support themselves?
I often hear that the walls of hooves left unshod will wear faster than the hoof can grow it.  That's true when the hoof is trimmed incorrectly which most are, but not true if the hoof is correctly trimmed and growing at a healthy angle with healthy connective tissue (laminae).
I saw an ad recently showing 3 different hooves, all very poorly trimmed and 2 shod.  The ad was for this band that is tacked around the outside of the hoofwall to relieve pain.  But the hooves wouldn't be in pain if they weren't so poorly trimmed and shod.  And the band does nothing except mask the pain caused by the condition the hooves are in.  Why not just fix the hoof with the trim?  I never can get that logic.  Wreck the hooves and use "this product" to mask the pain so you can ride the horse which will continue causing damage to the hooves until the horse can't even support its own weight, then put it down.  Common Scenario. 
The same can be said for some shoeing systems-such as NBS.  I've heard that even the developer of that system wished he'd had never shared it because it's so unnatural for the horse.  The few farrier's who are competent at applying those shoes do okay, but there are so many out there applying that systems who really botch the hooves up horribly and leave horses in serious trouble.  I've pulled so many of those NBS shoes off dead lame horses, I get angry just catching a glimpse of one of those shoes on or off a horse!
So where you live tells me you are up against more peer pressure to go with shoes than I am in my area.  We do have quite few open-minded horse owners in this region. Unfortunately not enough compitent trimmers to care for all the owners who want to go barefoot, but that's a good problem to have in some respects.
At that barrel racing event, I ran into 4 of my customers whose horse are barefoot and all raved about how well their horses are doing without the shoes.  That’s always nice to hear.  And other’s here it as well and begin questioning their line of thought regarding hoof care.
There is a lot to learn when considering to trim professionally.  Not just because you’ll need to know and understand everything that can go wrong with transitioning hooves from shod to bare, but because you’ll have lots of questions to answer. 
My DVD shows the natural maintenance trim from start to finish on several horses and a donkey.  So it is also a good place to start.  It’s professionally filmed in High Definition and I’ve been told that it is one of the best (hoof trimming) teaching DVD’s available.  DVD's by other professional trimmers are packed with great info, but it’s difficult to see exactly what being done with the tools on more "homemade" DVD’s.
Much of what I feel I know to be right about natural hoofcare, I learned from Pete Ramey, and from my own research.  I was able to get into a trimming clinic with Pete when he visited our area back in 2004, I believe it was, and then I went to Georgia the following year to learn from him directly.  With only 2 students (one from the U.K.) we were fortunate to get one-on-one instruction.  That will not be a part of any other professional trimmer's training as he only offered a couple of those clinics that I know of.  I realize how priviledged I was to be part of one of them.
To really become the best professional trimmer you can be, I recommend avoiding any  organization that dictates your trim and threatens to toss you out if your trimming methods don't adhere exactly to what they teach.  Different hooves call for different trimming strategies.  Learning to read hooves and knowing how to approach each one with your tools is the better than a one-size fits all trim when you're rehabilitating hooves.
Apply for a membership with the AHA American Hoof Association so you can be in contact with many other experienced trimmers.  As you go, you can work on getting certified by that organization.  It’s not a school, it's a screening organization to filter the hacks and only certify the true professionals and list them on their website.
Take everything you learn from each person and toss out what doesn’t seem right and stick with what does.  Just like horse training - which you'll want to also become adept at.  In most cases, you can't trim a horse who refused to allow you access to the bottoms of their hooves.  (Although there are times when you do have to trim a horse without gaining access to the bottom of his hooves.)  Let me just say, you will have to weed through a TON of misinformation. 
You don't have to agree with every trimmer out there.  You have to do much of your research on your own.  I don't agree with some of the trimmers for whom I have the highest respect.
Take abscesses for instance.  I honestly believe I’m one of the few professional trimmers out there who really understands abscesses.  I don't believe they are caused by trauma/bruising.  And there is no such thing as white line "disease" or "infection."  Those terms imply that there may be a cure.  Laminae is either live and healthy or dead and gone and there is no cure for what is no longer viable.  So soaking in chemicals in our attempts to cure WLD is probably only going to damage the healthy laminae attachement that is trying to grow to the ground with new hoofwall.  
WL separation is that is caused by flare.  Flare walls cause stretching of the white line which can lead to separation of the white line (dead laminae) and then leaves the hoof vunerable to abscessing either in the wall or the bar.  When I trim an abscessed hoof, I see what we have come to term as WLD.  But as I said, it's not diseased, it's dead. 
When a hoof is affected by an abscess in an overgrown bar (bar is an extension of hoof wall) the abscess often invades the much of, or the entire hoof.  Abscesses can cause problems in a hoof for years if the horse is shod and even after it goes barefoot can take years to completely fester out.  Not usually, but I have seen that situation and the cause if typically flare.
Review: Flare, (not "flair" as some trimmers spell the word:0) stretches the white line to the point of separation of the white line, then abscesses get their start either in the white line of the hoofwall, and/or the white line of the bar which is an extension of the wall.
An abscess in the bar can affect the entire solar papillae, which causes the sole to separate from the hoof, but new sole develops underneath the sloughing sole - like a blister.  Simple! 
Bar abscesses are so often misdiagnosed as navicular, founder, white line disease and a myriad of other hoof disorders which then puts a horse into corrective shoeing or an early grave.  So sad.  But we are here to fix that! 
All my best in your journey into a profession that is basically not accepted by the majority of horse owners, farriers, or vets, because we humans get so stuck in what they do because it's been what they've always done.
My best advice is to try to get to the horses while they are still young.  Before the damage has been done...
...and have fun!:0)