There has been a lot of interest in Natural Hoofcare, of "Barefooting" in the last few years. Some well-publicised authors such as Jaime Jackson and Dr Hiltrud Strasser have done a lot to bring this concept back into popular thought.
Other veterinary researchers, notably Dr Chris Pollitt from the University of Queensland, in Australia and Dr Robert Bowker of the University of Michigan, in America, have contributed and enormous amount of understanding about the natural form and function of the Equine foot.
Unfortunately, many horse owners, farriers and traditional veterinarians still persist in using metal horseshoes or trimming techniques that do not conform to the best treatment for our domestic horses. Many other horses are just neglected in this area and are confined to paddocks, or even worse - to stables, where they can never get sufficient exercise and natural abrasion to allow healthy hoof form.
We believe that many of the practical hoofcare skills, that are the key to healthy sound feet on our horses, are not new, or the exclusive invention of one "expert", but were known and practiced by many horse owners years ago, when caring for horses was a normal part of daily life. We think that these skills can be relearned, by both owners and professional care providers, and that our horses will become sounder and more economical to keep, as the normal preventative maintenance will be a lot cheaper than treating the degenerative limb problems that are currently endemic.
In particular we believe that Barefooting is the only effective way to treat "Navicular Syndrome" and that the mechanical effects of Laminitis (Founder or "Pedal bone rotation") are far better treated with Barefoot Trimming than "Therapeutic Horseshoes". Although the causes of laminitis may not primarily be related to the horses' feet, we also believe that healthy, strong, correctly shaped, bare hoofs will better resist the destructive results of Laminitis events, than hoofs that are shod with metal horseshoes.
We do allow that there are times when it is not wise to suddenly remove shoes from an active horse in the course of a competition schedule and also times when external protection such as removable "Hoof boots" must be used. However, in the long term we work towards developing the strong, healthy feet that allow most horses to perform their normal work without any extra protection.
Hoofworks' aim in producing this site, and all of the Hoofworks teaching material, is to help owners and trimmers learn to provide the best hoofcare for their own horses and their own clients. We believe that knowledge should be shared willingly and openly, without restriction to individuals, groups or associations.
We strongly reject the concept that hoofcare should be restricted to a small group of individuals who have signed a contract with one authority, or sworn an oath of allegiance to another authority, or that the knowledge of good hoofcare should be restricted to "professionals". We do believe that we need many more farriers and professional trimmers to care for our current population of horses, but the owner who diligently cares for their own horses should have access to the same standard of learning and teaching material as those professionals.
Hoof capsule and geometry diagram from the Barefoot Basics CD
Although we must be paid for our time, effort, and teaching materials, we want to make sure that we give the best, and most economical, help to empower owners to care for their own horses, and professionals to care for their own clients, rather than just build our own reputation, or start yet another "Barefoot movement".
For experienced professional trimmers, farriers, equine massage therapists and veterinarians, our aim is to encourage active, healthy discussion and communication. By co-operating in this way, we can continue to learn more and encourage each other, and our clients, to understand more of the benefits of Natural Hoofcare, rather than creating exclusive groups who may miss out on the benefit of learning from as many sources of knowledge as possible.
I would encourage everyone who is interested in hoofcare to study as many different schools of thought and teaching styles as is practical and to always keep an open mind to new ideas. I have learned many very valuable lessons from people who teach some other things that I may disagree with.
I am constantly aware of how much less I would have learned if I had rejected everything that a particular teacher had said, just because they may at times have used horseshoes, or trimmed frogs differently to what I thought was best.
We have a long way to go before we can complacently think that we "know it all" and I hope we can work to increase and share knowledge, rather than restrict it.
As the Hoofworks site develops we look forward to providing much more teaching material and assistance to those people who are learning Natural Hoofcare.
Please contact us if there is any particular area of hoofcare you would like us to explain or if you have suggestions or material you think could be of benefit to us and our readers and clients. We really do appreciate the enormous assistance, and encouragement that we have received so far and hope to distribute a lot more material than just that which we can produce ourself.
Peter and Shasta doing liberty work... The Right Direction is Barefoot
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