Trimming Your Own Horses
If you’ve been following The Naturally Healthy Horse for any length of time, then you know that I love to write about the benefits of allowing horses to be barefoot. But of course, as many of you know, barefoot isn’t just about taking the shoes off, but also creating a more natural lifestyle for our horses.
But today, I’m going to focus on YOU! If you’ve already decided that barefoot is best for your horse, why not learn to trim yourself?
I’ve heard many people say, I just don’t think I could do that. (Trust me, I was once one of them.) Whether you think you’re too old, too weak, not knowledgeable enough, etc, etc, I’m here to tell you that if I can do it, then so can YOU!
Taking full responsibility of my horses’ hoof care has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Yes, I’ll admit it–it was easier when I could just hand the job off to my husband or some other farrier. But now, I don’t have to wait around for someone else to do it. I know exactly what’s going on with each of my horses’ feet. And I can take pride in knowing that I can do something that I had once thought was practically impossible.
So in hopes of inspiring some of you to learn to become your own horses’ barefoot trimmer, here’s my story . . .
For years, I ran barrels and kept most of my horses shod. My husband was usually my farrier, though I occasionally employed someone else to do corrective shoeing (usually advised by a vet). At that time, I thought shoes were necessary for most horses–especially performance horses.
When I attended Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute several years ago, I met a gal about my own age who was a barefoot trimmer. I was intrigued by the idea of barefoot horses and also by the fact that a woman could do this for a living. Up until then, I’d only ever met male farriers before.
My gelding, Hershey, had pretty much always had ‘problem’ feet and since he had been injured and had become basically a pasture pet, I knew I likely wouldn’t ever need to put shoes on him again. Barefoot trimming seemed like the logical way to go. So I started looking into it more. It didn’t take too long, but I soon decided that, yes–this was definitely the way to go.
Next, I looked for a barefoot trimmer since I now knew that this barefoot trim was not quite the same as the pasture trim that my husband and other farriers did.
I found exactly two barefoot trimmers in my area. And neither one would come all the way out to the boonies where I lived. One said I could meet her at an arena or somewhere closer to where she lived, but I had 5 horses at the time and only a three-horse trailer.
And on top of that, getting a barefoot trim was a little more expensive than a pasture trim. Typically somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 a horse. For someone who was used to getting free hoof care for most of my adult life (except the cost of supplies), this wasn’t sounding like such a good deal after all. I became discouraged. Maybe this barefoot trimming thing wasn’t going to work out after all.
Enter my husband, the farrier: Why don’t you learn to trim?
Me: Me? Learn to trim? You know I can’t do that. I’m too small. I’m not strong enough. Yada, yada, yada.
Husband: Sure you can. You haven’t even tried.
Me: (laughing) Yeah, right.
Well, I don’t remember what exactly happened next, but I do know that I bought Pete Ramey’s book, How to Make Natural Horse Care Work for You, and read it cover to cover. Then I read it again, highlighting and taking notes, just like I’d learned to do in college. Then I studied my notes. I also bought and watched his video series entitled, Under the Horse. And it was finally then, that I picked up a rasp.
I had some knowledge now, but did I have the physical capability to actually trim a horse? I had to be like the little engine that could. I think I can . . . I think I can . . . I think I can.
My husband came out to watch and give me some pointers. The first time I attempted to do a mustang roll on the outer hoof wall, I accidentally rasped part of the horse’s coronary band (no blood, thank goodness!) He laughed, but he told me to try again. So I did.
I took things slowly. I knew that damage could easily be inflicted on a hoof by inexperienced hands. It took several trims before I even got close to trimming the wall as it needed to be trimmed. But that was okay. I kept at it.
I could only trim one hoof at a time at first. Then two. And now four (but I still usually only do two at a time). Even at five foot four and not much over 100 pounds, I realized that I WAS capable of trimming all of my horses.
I continued to read and study barefoot trimming. I joined an online barefoot hoof care group. And I became a full-fledged owner/ barefoot trimmer!
My confidence has grown over the years–enough for me to now occasionally trim an outside horse and also enough to write about barefoot trimming. I’m not an expert, but I hope that I can inspire other folks, like you, to become more involved in their horses’ hoof care and maybe even learn to trim yourself.
So if you’ve ever had the desire to learn to trim your own horses, and something’s been holding you back (like your self-limiting thoughts), just know that anything is possible if you really want to do it. Be it trimming your horses, running a 10-K, completing your degree, or even writing a book (that’s what I’m currently working on). You CAN do it!