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Nora Miller

 

 

Natural Barefoot Hoof Trimmer

 

 

 Located in Monterey, TN

 

Serving the Middle and East Tennessee areas

 

Phone:   931-510-5726

 

barefoothorses@hotmail.com

 

 

What is barefoot trimming?

 I'm sure you've heard of it, but what is it?

Barefoot trimming is a completely different trim than the traditional "pasture trim" that is taught to farriers at "horseshoeing" school.  True "barefoot trims" achieve a natural, rock hard barefoot hoof.   I do not follow "traditional" farrier trimming or shoeing protocol.    There is a very special and exact way a hoof must be trimmed to achieve rock hard healthy hooves, based on studies from Dr. Hildrud Strasser, Jamie Jackson, Gene Ovniceck, Pete Ramey, Dr. Robert Bowker and Dr. James Rooney, to name just a few.

 

The trim I perform is based on the wild horse model, or the Natural Trim.   I more specifically follow the Natural Balance methods taught by Gene Ovniceck and the barefoot trimming methods of Pete Ramey.   We want our domestic horses, who have had a life time of shoes and poor trims causing serious pathologies and deformities in their feet,  to reform back to a properly shaped hoof that has proper hoof function and mechanics.   Once we start the healing process, the hoof can regrow a proper hoof capsule.   Without the proper trim and time, and hoof simply cannot recover.    Trims must be frequent, at 4 to 6 week intervals.    A hoof allowed to grow for more than 6 weeks will usually have started to flare and chip again, and will never grow a tight hoof wall and capsule.   You will always be fighting the hoof pathologies, and never maintaining a rock hard hoof.   

 

We are basically trying to make the outside of the hoof match the inside of the hoof, as nature intended it to be.    Basically, in a nutshell, we want our domestic horses, who have had a life time of shoes and poor trims causing serious pathologies and deformities in their feet,  to reform back to a properly shaped hoof that has proper hoof function and mechanics. 

 

 

 

Natural trimming respects the balance of each individual hoof.   We do not trim based of predetermined angles.   The correct hoof trim is going to based on what each individual hoof needs.   Trims are frequent intended to replicate the natural wear a hoof would receive in a more natural or wild setting.     This encourages a very strong hoof capsule to form.

So why go barefoot?  Because its healthier.   Nature never intended horses to have metal nailed to the bottoms of their feet.   Staying barefoot is healthier and happier for the horse, healthier for the hoof, healthier for the legs, limbs, muscles and tendons of the horse.   Horses have more energy, better blood circulation.    There is better shock absorption  for the legs of the horse.   Most importantly and possibly the best reason of all, is the high quality hoof that will begin to grow and form on your horse.   The result of frequent, balanced, short trims is a rock hard, thick wall and sole that does not crack or chip or go lame.     Best of all, you'll never have to cancel a ride again just because you've lost a shoe!

The natural function of a hoof

A natural hoof has relatively low heels, short toes, a well rounded and "rolled" hoof wall, and healthy frogs.  It has become fact that the frogs must touch the ground and be able to expand in order to absorb the impact of all the bones in the leg as the weight is loaded onto them.     The frog and heel touch the ground, the hoof expands, and act as a cushion.     The sole has strong thick calluses and is the actual weight bearing portion of the hoof.  Hooves land heel first, much like we do, and "roll" over the toe in movement.

 

Why are shoes so bad?

On a shod hoof, the frog usually is elevated to the point that it cannot reach the ground.   This causes all the bones in the leg to hang suspended, unsupported,  and weigh on the navicular bone and ligaments, above the digital cushion in the heel.   Shod heels, also, are forced to pull inward on landing, instead of expanding as they would on a bare hoof, and consequently contract and compress around the navicular bone.  Eventually this causes what traditionally has been termed “navicular syndrome”.   Many “navicular” horses can be cured within months of starting a proper barefoot trimming program, simply because their feet can now work as nature intended them.  

  Other problems that lead to navicular syndrome are toe first landings, which are caused by pain in the back of the hoof.    Thankfully, we can develop the back of the hoof (the digital cushion and lateral cartilages) at any age with proper hoof stimulation, which includes the heel first landing.  The toe first landing actually pulls the coffin bone and navicular bone apart with each step.   Heel first landings keep the bones tightly pressed together, as they should be.   The tearing apart of the bones damages the blood vessels to both bones, and causes the bone deterioration we see in true cases of navicular syndrome.  When we try to fix navicular syndrome with shoes, we elevate the heels.   You can now see why this treatment will never fix the problem.

 Shoes also cause the walls of the hoof to become weight bearing structures.    Walls are not designed to bear weight, but rather, the sole should hold the weight of the horse.  When we load the walls, we cause unnatural pressure and force the walls apart and away from the inner structures, potentially inducing a mechanical laminitic state.   Be leaving the hoof barefoot and providing a mustang roll, we allow the walls to actually push together, thus maintaining tight healthy laminea.    This also aids in the blood pumping nature of the hoof.   Since the soles are designed to actually bear the weight of the hoof, we do a great disservice to our horses when we lift the soles 1/4”-1/2” off the ground with metal shoes.

Metal horseshoes are remnants of medieval times.    I believe the only reason we even see metal shoes today in the 21st century is because:  a) old habits die hard, and b) all the hoof mechanics that we now know about are fairly new discoveries.    Mostly, horses just seemed to hurt without shoes, so we kept using them. 

Unfortunately, the shoes cause much more harm than good.     Believe it or not, hooves move.   Hooves contain a tangled web of arteries and blood vessels.   Every time a natural bare hoof lands, it expands and fills up with blood.   This blood not only absorbs the shock of the landing, but the hoof then acts as a pump when it is again lifted and compresses the blood back up the leg.    A shod hoof simply cannot expand, and therefore both blood supply and shock absorption are compromised.    

 It is believed the hoof also goes numb due to the decreased blood flow from wearing shoes.   This is the only logical reason shoes make an otherwise sore horse comfortable.    Thermographic photos show a significantly lower temperature in shod hooves and legs vs. bare hooves and legs.    If you just stop and think about it, there’s no logical explanation for a ¼” thick piece of metal that surrounds the outside of the hoof wall to protect your horse from sole bruises or rock pain.    Many rocks, after all, are at least 1” in diameter if not bigger.    And shoes offer no protection to the sole.

 

 

 

We may as well be putting high heels on atheletes when we nail metal shoes to horse hooves!   Doesn't it look silly when we put it into perspective?

 

When horses are young, it is imperative they receive proper hoof care.    When foals don’t receive hoof trimming at a young age, the hooves instantly start to deform.    As the heels grow on a young foal the damage first begins.    If we allow them to grow too tall, the back of the hoof does not develop properly.   As the horse ages and we start to ride the horse it becomes hoof sore.    This is when the shoeing process begins.   And the damage gets worse.   The horse remains sore due to poor hoof form and function, and we continue to shoe because the horse is now dead lame without them.  It’s the snowball effect of shoes.

 

We CAN stop it, though!

 

 

How I got started

 

From early on in my horse ownership life, around age 11, I didn’t see the need for horseshoes.   Wild horses, after all, run full throttle over some of the harshest terrain in the world: the Rocky Mountains!    I wondered why on earth our domestic horses needed shoes.     I had always left my beloved gelding barefoot, but he remained unsound and ouchy over gravel.   This perplexed me.    He had been barefoot for at least 15 years at the time I started on my learning quest… by all means this should have been enough time to toughen up his feet, right?    I started searching for more information.    

 

What I found out is that I was not alone!     There was an entire barefoot movement out there.      I began to read more and learn.   It turns out, even though my horses’ feet were barefoot, they were full of flares, out of balance, too long, and they were a far cry from the wild mustang model.   I printed pictures and asked my farrier if he could "do that"; a true barefoot trim.   "Sure", was the answer, but the hooves never looked any better after he was done.    Three more farriers later, I still had not found one who understood a true barefoot trim.    My horses were suffering.      I decided to learn myself.     Many books, seminars and hooves later, I found I truly enjoy taking a "bad" hoof and rehabbing it into a sound, barefoot and happy hoof.    And in the process making a happy horse.

Read on to learn more!

 

 

 

 

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