The Farrier and Natural Hoof Care

There are approximately 300 different horse breeds and an estimated 6.9 million horses in the United States alone. Horses are used for everything from racing to simple trail rides. Their environments range from the black asphalt and concrete of large cities to the rugged mountain trails of Montana. My point is that there are thousands upon thousands of different uses and environments for horses, but some people advocate that there is only one approach to hoof care. On one side, natural hoof care advocates state that there is absolutely no use for shoeing a horse. farrierA select few might go as far as saying that shoeing a horse is abuse. On the other side, others zealously argue that natural hoof care is nothing more than a scam. The passionate debate between natural hoof care advocates and traditional farriers often drives a wedge between the two sides and makes it difficult to accept the merits on both sides.

Traditionally, the majority of farriers have been opposed to natural hoof care. There are several reasons for the opposition that can range from a simple resistance to change all the way to the misconception that natural hoof care takes money out of the farrier’s wallet. The opposition is often further ingrained when the very skills of a farrier are attacked. For example, Jaime Jackson, a noted expert on natural hoof care states, “The equine species is genuinely adapted to go barefoot. It is only through human ignorance of the horse’s natural state that led us to the incorrect, and harmful, conclusion that shoes are necessary — or useful. They aren’t, and, moreover, contribute significantly to the lameness we see everywhere around the world.” For the farrier’s point of view, this can be a harsh statement. It directly attacks the years of training, experience, and hard work required to become a professional farrier.Farriers are by no means innocent bystanders in the controversy. There are a number of farriers that absolutely refuse to consider any of the advantages of natural hoof

care and advocate for shoeing every horse. That being said, the majority of hoof care professionals and farriers fall somewhere between those two extremes, but the fact remains that the extreme points of view create the majority of the controversy.

So in the midst of the debate, what is the truth? The fact of the matter is that one size does not fit all. No one horse is the same so you cannot apply the same approach to every horse. In some cases, a horse may need shoes due to the environment or type of work. In other cases, a natural or barefoot approach may be more appropriate. It’s human nature to resist change. We fear what we do not understand. When you combine these natural tendencies with a fierce allegiance to a specific point of view, it makes it difficult to accept the value of a different approach. This article is not about advocating for one approach over the other. Nor is it about discussing the advantages of one over the other. There are hundreds of articles and knowledgeable experts that can discuss these points in great detail. The purpose is to remind you to hold your objections and skepticism for just a moment and consider the merits of the other side. Regardless, of the outcome the time you spend learning and considering the opposite point of view will help you become a better farrier or hoof care professional.

David Baker is the owner of eFarriers.com, a comprehensive directory of farriers from across the United States and Canada featuring full-page farrier profiles with biographies, photos, training and qualifications.
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2 Comments

  1. One of the better posts made on the issue that I’ve seen. I am a farrier educator and regret that too often the welfare of the horse is subordinated to a point of view. Thank you for calling everyone to task and asking for a more open mind on the subject.

    Gerard Laverty
    Instructor: Kwantlen Polytechnic University

  2. Y’all are highly confuse , with what the farriers think of y’all . I have been a farrier for over 18 years. I insure you that us farrier do not put any amount of time in trying to compare us to the barefoot trimmers , every farrier in his or her practice has about 20 percent of there horses barefoot . The different between us is that we r the expert, we have the knowledge to be able to deside if your horse can be barefoot or need shoes!! With this knowledge that only we have your horse don’t have to suffer . I would truly love it if all horses could go barefoot . Let’s do the math , I charge $150 for 4 shoes witch takes me about a hour and about $30 in materials a big truck witch drinks lots of fuel and expensive insurance , I would much rather trim a horse for around $80 like the barefoot trimmers do and it takes only about 20 minutes , and no materials , and I could drive a small car witch drinks little fuel. But that’s not the case is it? I my self kinda like the barefoot trimmers , on the average ill make another $20,00 a year fixing what they do to the horse , I do feel sorry for the horses but there are no laws against it yet . So what I’m trying to say is that we don’t shoe horses for the money clearly we r loseing money , so why do we do it ? Cause we love the horse .

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