Help! How do I choose a Trimming Method?

by Yvonne Welz ©2006

NEW! Locate a Professional Barefoot Trimmer!

A newcomer to natural trimming and barefoot horsekeeping is liable to develop information overload pretty quickly! Our best advice is to take things slowly, do lots of research, see what is available in your area, and do what you feel most comfortable. No matter what trimming method you decide to use, we advise that you read the book "A Lifetime of Soundness" for a wealth of information, and use the basic principles of 1) natural living conditions, 2) barefoot hooves, and 3) lots of exercise. These three principles alone will do fantastic things for your horse's hooves.

Here at The Horse's Hoof, we have over 7 years experience studying and successfully applying barefoot hoofcare methods. The more experience, education and training a practictioner has, the better off the horse will be. However, barefoot is only just the first step - it's really much more than that - and a whole horse-health program is utilized to create optimal hooves. We don't have first hand experience or knowledge about all styles of trimming and hoof care, but can provide a general overview of various popular methods below, with some information links to help you get started in your research. Often you will find more similarities than differences between the various methods, when you look closely.

Here are a few important questions that should affect your decision:
1)
Do you wish to trim your horse's hooves by yourself (are you seeking a do-it-yourself method), or do you prefer that a professional do all the trimming for you?
Some trimming methods are difficult for an amateur to successfully apply, and are recommended for serious practitioners only. If you choose an advanced method, but wish to trim your own horses, you should be prepared for a lengthy educational process--you may need to attend seminars and clinics just to get started, and will have to continue your education by seeking out experienced people to assist you whenever possible. This can be done successfully, but takes a great deal of owner commitment to the learning process. Some trimming methods are geared more towards the "do-it-yourself" approach, with easy to follow instructions.

If you wish to have a professional do all the trimming, your options will be limited, of course, to the methods currently represented in your area.

2) Is your horse(s) suffering from a serious hoof ailment (such as navicular, founder, severe contraction, ossifications)?
If your horse has a serious hoof problem, it would be advisable that he be trimmed by an experienced professional, for best results -- if you have availability to one. Some barefoot methods are geared towards lameness rehabilitation, but need to be skillfully applied. Note: Many seemingly "sound" horses have very serious problems that have long gone unnoticed, especially if they have been shod for many years. You may want to have an evaluation of your horse's hooves before making any decisions, so that you know the extent of the problems before you get in over your head.

3) Can you meet the minimum requirements for proper living conditions, or does your horse live in a stall?
If your horse lives full-time in a stall, we hope we can convince you to change that! However, if that's the situation, you will find that the some methods may not work well for a stalled horse. However, most trimmers will work with a horse that has at least partial turn-out. Barefoot stalled horses will always have less healthy hooves, however, due to standing in their urine and manure, no matter what trim method is used. But barefoot is still better!

Overview of Some Popular Barefoot Methods

The Strasser Method
Dr. Hiltrud Strasser, German Veterinarian
Official website: http://www.strasserhoofcare.org
The Strasser Method was developed by Dr. Hiltrud Strasser, a licensed German veterinarian who has been researching the causes and cures of equine lameness for over 20 years. She has discovered the simple truth: the overwhelming majority of our horses' problems are due to their unnatural lifestyle and unnatural hoof shape! And by restoring proper lifestyle and a natural hoof form (that is based on a mathematical model of hoof function), most lameness can be prevented and even cured. This new method was introduced into the United States in 1998 with the publication of her book, "A Lifetime of Soundness," and the graduation of the 1st Hoofcare Specialist in North America, Sabine Kells of B.C., Canada. The first full class of North American Hoofcare Specialists graduated in 2001, thus the Strasser Method in the United States has only been in existence for just a few years.

Strasser's method is carried out officially by Strasser Hoofcare Professionals (SHP) who have graduated from her one - two year Certification Course. The Strasser Method is advanced and technical, hence the extensive training required to become a professional. The trimming techniques, based on the creation of hoof mechanism and rapid change of hoof form, are very advanced and powerful -- and should not be attempted without extensive training. However, pathological hooves can be quickly restored to health in a strict, hoof clinic setting: trims are performed by an SHP weekly or twice weekly, the horse is hand-walked and soaked in water extensively every day, and kept living in a large area on rubber flooring. Horses are trimmed to have ground parallel coffin bones, 30 degree coronet slopes, very low heels and short bars.

This method is very controversial! To understand why, please read our article: The Strasser Controversy, A Guide for Newcomers to Barefoot

The most important message of this method is that we can improve our horse's health by improving their living conditions -- and so there have been many owners who, desperate to save their own horse and having no other choice, have very successfully applied the basic ideas of this method all on their own. Strasser's books and videos are all available in The Horse's Hoof Store.

Martha Olivo Standard Hoof Care
Martha Olivo, former farrier, graduate of Strasser's course 2001
Official website: http://www.marthaolivo.com
Martha Olivo was a farrier for 25 years before hanging up her hammer and committing herself to natural hoofcare. Martha currently tours the U.S. holding clinics that help horse folks understand the benefits of barefootedness. Martha graduated in 2001 from Dr. Strasser's Certification Course, and then developed her own system that is based on Strasser's basic principles of natural living conditions and trimming to create a healthy hoof. Martha's week-long "Hoof Groom Certification Courses" teach students how to correctly trim a healthy hoof, and are geared towards horseowners learning how to trim their own horses.

Natural Balance Hoofcare
Gene Ovnicek, farrier
Official website: http://www.hopeforsoundness.com
Gene Ovnicek is nationally and internationally recognized as a farrier, researcher and clinician. He has been a farrier for over 35 years, and is known for his research data compiled from wild horse studies done in 1986 and 1987. He does supports shoeing, with a wide range of specialty shoeing products, including plastic shoes. Many people find his guidelines very useful for trimming barefooted horses, such as balancing the hoof by using landmarks. There are Natural Balance trained farriers across the U.S. and around the world. Healthy horses seem to do very well with this trim, although for hoof problems, shoeing is often recommended. Gene offers an excellent video/DVD, Natural Balance Hoof Trimming.

Hooftalk
Lyle "Bergy" Bergeleen, farrier
Official website: http://www.hooftalk.com
Bergeleen studied the hooves of the Pryor Mountain wild mustangs in Montana and Wyoming, and noted that the hooves naturally stay short in the heels and toes, contributing to their durability and soundness. From his findings, he developed the "natural hoof" concept detailed in his books and videos. He has developed a mathematical formula for finding the point of breakover, the "critical 1/3 measurement," that many people have found easy to implement. Bergy-trained Hooftalk Certified Technicians (farriers) are located throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. Bergy does advocate shoeing as needed.

Applied Equine Podiatry and the HPT Method
K.C. La Pierre, farrier
Official website: http://www.equinepodiatry.net
K.C. offers his method as Applied Equine Podiatry: A treatment alternative to the traditional farrier practice. HPT stands for "high performance trim," and it is based on his "Suspension Theory of Hoof Dynamics." His hoof model is not based on the wild horse's, but rather on desire to correct hoof deformities in the domestic horse. He offers workshops for horseowners, as well as a certification program for professionals. Many people have found his systematic method easy to understand and implement. KC now offers many books and DVDs on the details of his method, as well as a unique club, The Perfect Hoof Club.

Jaime Jackson & AANHCP (Wild Horse Trim)
Jaime Jackson, (former farrier) Natural Hoof Care Provider
Jaime's website: http://www.primechoice.com/jaime-jackson
The American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners http://www.aanhcp.net
Jaime Jackson is the author of the much acclaimed works on natural hoof care, "The Natural Horse," "Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care," "Paddock Paradise," and many other books and videos. He was the pioneer of our modern natural hoof care/barefoot hoof care movement in America. Through clinics and consultations, he teaches horse owners and professionals a trimming system based on the wild horse hoof model. He is the founder of the American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners (AANHCP) which provides training and certification for professionals in the wild horse model of trimming, as well as research, clinics, and support groups.

Pete Ramey, Hoof Rehabilitation Specialist (Wild Horse Trim)
Pete Ramey is the author of Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You, and an instructor for the American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners (AANHCP). He uses the wild horse model of trimming. His practical approach has appealed to countless horseowners, and he gives them knowledge that they can easily apply to their real life situations.
http://www.hoofrehab.com

Marjorie Smith, Barefoot for Soundness (Wild Horse Trim)
Marjorie incorporates some of the above methods into an online instructional format for amateurs. Excellent and safe trimming advice for the novice do-it-yourself trimmer/owner. She uses the wild horse model of trimming. A wealth of information.
http://www.barefoothorse.com

Natural Horse Trim - Treating Founder (Chronic Laminitis) without Horseshoes
Gretchen Fathauer's website. This site has huge amounts of information for anyone seeking answers about laminitis and founder, or about hooves in general. Emphasizes applying a barefoot approach to founder instead of therapeutic shoeing. The trimming techniques advocate that the outside of the hoof should be a similar shape to the internal structure. This site is based around the work Strasser and Jackson, but does include information from other sources.
http://www.naturalhorsetrim.com

Trimming Methods Comparison Chart:

Method Developer Credentials Hoof Model Barefoot only Method requires natural care*? Trained Professionals Available Videos Available Books Available
The Strasser Method Dr. Hiltrud Strasser Veterinarian (35+ years) Mathematical model + wild horse Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Martha Olivo Martha Olivo Former farrier (25 years), graduate of Strasser CSHS course 2001 Mathematical model + wild horse Yes Yes Yes No No
Natural Balance Hoofcare Gene Ovnicek Farrier (35+ years) Wild horse studies No, shoes also No Yes Yes Yes
Hooftalk Lyle "Bergy" Bergeleen Farrier (30+ years) Wild horse studies No, shoes also No Yes Yes Yes

The HPT Method

K.C. La Pierre Farrier (18+ years) Based on his "Suspension Theory" Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

AANHCP
Wild Horse Trim
Jaime Jackson, Pete Ramey

Jaime Jackson Former Farrier (25+ years) Wild horse studies Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

*Natural care means natural living conditions (minimal or no stalling) and other care procedures that will help promote hoof health (exercise, soaking, diet changes, terrain changes for living areas). Even if the method does not require natural care, following the general guidelines (as laid out in Strasser's and Jackson's books) will create better results and healthier feet.

Please read these articles:
What is Natural Hoofcare?
What is a Natural Trim?
Help! What does a Healthy Hoof look like?
Help! How do I choose a Natural Hoofcare Professional?

NEW! Locate a Professional Barefoot Trimmer!

©2006 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.


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