Monday, September 24, 2012

That Sticky One

My trimming business has really picked up lately (hence less posts on the blog). The more places I trim at, the more questions I am asked. I had an audience the other day and I was asked a question that keeps popping up.

"Do you do shoes?"

I used to just say "no, sorry" and be done with it. I don't want to push this down people's throats - I don't want them to feel bad about the decisions they make for their horses. Being negative can only hurt my business, not help it grow.

But I have changed my answer and I am really quite happy now where I stand on the whole shoe debate.

I now say "no, but I do alternative hoof protection". This leads to questions about boots (and now casting) that I can answer while not sounding preachy.

If people ask me why I don't shoe however, I am honest. I believe shoes are for owners. Barefoot and boots are for the horse. Same as being ridden is for the owner, being left in the paddock is for the horse. But horses need to earn their (expensive!) keep and so I ride my horses. But I am fascinated with how well the hoof functions when given the right conditions and I truly believe it is the healthiest way to care for the hoof.

Do I think you are a bad person if you shoe your horse? No. As long as you are making an educated decision about shoes, that is what matters. Your farrier should be advising you that horses should not be kept in shoes all year round. Horses should not have an 8 week (or more!!) shoeing cycle. 5-6 weeks max and even that is pushing it. I mention that their farrier should let them ask questions and should answer them freely. I encourage them to do a bit of research and I am often asked to look at a shod horse's feet to give my opinion on the shoeing job. I admit that I have never shod a horse and any opinion I give on a shoeing job should be taken with a grain of salt, but I am asked anyway.

What drives me nuts about some barefooters is the attitude that shoes are evil and that people with barefoot horses are somehow superior to those with shod horses. The air of superiority and the angry comments of photos on facebook that start flame wars about shod vs. barefoot. Ugh. We can sound like crazy hippies and it does nothing to spread the word about barefoot for long term soundness. It just makes people hate us or roll their eyes when someone says to take the shoes off.

You know how I plan to spread the barefoot movement and help as many horses as possible? I will go about my business, quietly trimming horses who will come sound, stay sound. I will compete my barefoot horse in dressage, eventing, anything she is good at. I will not shove it in people's faces that she has not got shoes on but when I have a 20 year old sound as a bell horse that can still kick but in a dressage test that will certainly turn some heads.

I will do what I do now - show what the alternative is and answer any questions the audience has. And when they decide to explore barefoot options it will be their idea, their commitment and it will stick. You wait and see.

</end rant>


  1. Great post! Open-minded but firm and informed in your beliefs ;)
    I feel that poorly maintained hooves can cause lots of damage, regardless of whether there are shoes involved. Whilst I don't like seeing bad shoeing jobs and horses way overdue for re-shoeing, I hate to see owners saying they 'do barefoot' and the truth is that the hooves are just plain neglected!

  2. You have come up with an effective and non-confrontational way to answer the tricky question. That is no small feat.

    I agree that making owners feel like bad people for shoeing their horses is not going to help anyone. Leading by example and offering information when it is requested is a much better strategy.

    That is kind of why I like to write about my horse's feet and post photos. In some ways it makes me feel very nervous and exposed, because no horse foot is perfect, but I also hope that the posts might encourage owners to look at hoof care a little differently. If I had a horse that excelled at shows (like Allie is going to!), I would definitely get her out there and show what a beautiful job the horse can do with bare feet.

  3. It's so true. I think if the owner is willing to do what it takes to go barefoot and keep them that way, then GREAT. If not, shoes are better vs bare b/c than other issues arise like total neglect of trimming, poor diet, etc.
    Choices for all :) Hooves are just one alley of that in the horse world.