Choosing a Hoof Care Professional
With this background in mind, we would like to offer consumers some guidelines to consider when choosing a hoof care professional for their animal.
1.0 Educate yourself regarding the barefoot trimming technique and its rationale.
2.0 Recognize that given the artificial environment that most horses currently living in (not grazing and walking 20 miles per day and eating grass off the ground as they were evolved to do, but rather confined to stalls or small pastures) simply removing the shoes from the horses, or providing hoof trims fashioned after wild horses may in fact do more damage than leaving a horseshoe in place.
3.0 Barefoot trimming must be accompanied by an overall management style that enforces movement rather than allowing the horses to remain motionless for long periods of time.
4.0 Ideally, the professional who trims and advises you regarding hoof care should be trained by an organization which provides education in the anatomy and physiology of the hoof, combined with intensive supervised instruction with trimming of both normal and pathologic conditions of the hoof. The education process should involve both written and practical examinations.
5.0 It has been our experience that initial x rays are essential identifying the proper diagnosis in many pathologic conditions. In addition, initial x rays provide an objective measurement of progress during the rehabilitation effort. Because hoof growth is slow and the changes are often subtle particularly to those not experienced in evaluating hoof growth, it is also important to obtain a full set of hoof and body photographs on a monthly basis for both personal education as well as to aid in directing care. In some cases, follow up x rays can be useful to monitor the hoof trim to be sure it is correct.
6.0 It has been our experience that the presence of a rubber clinic floor combined with enforced exercise is essential for the achievement of optimal results. Even when all of the other guidelines regarding hoof trimming and pasture management are followed, without the presence of a rubber floor and exercise on this rubber surface, improvement in any pathologic situation is difficult to achieve. The Fischer Equine Lameness Foundation is equipped with a 6,000 square foot rubber clinic floor, which is critical in the early stages of rehabilitation.
7.0 We also found that trimming infrequently, particularly when combined with no documentation has led to disastrous results which are not appreciated until it is too late.
8.0 Request additional information from any potential barefoot hoof care professional who you are considering for employment. This information should include references from other horse owners. References should include horses who are both being trimmed as well as those who have been returned to soundness and are being maintained by this particular professional. Horses who have completed this cycle and are fully rehabilitated should not require any appliances on the foot including hoof boots while being ridden.
9.0 Even if a hoof care professional has met all above requirements listed, remember, not all bare foot hoof providers are created equally. As in any profession, there will be the excellent and inferior hoof care professionals. Please thoroughly check out your perspective hoof care provider before you employ them. Listen to your intuition, is your horse comfortable and seem to be getting better under treatment? Any prolonged discomfort is not acceptable for any reason. If your horse is not making steadyimprovements, please reevaluate your hoof care provider. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your hoof care professional. Make sure the answers can be supported by scientific references, not answers like “the hoof wants to be this way”, or “god made the hoof this way”.