Help! How do I choose a Natural Hoofcare Professional?

by Yvonne Welz ©2006

NEW! Locate a Professional Barefoot Trimmer!

You’ve done your research, you’ve made the big decision to take your horse barefoot, and you are ready to get started. Now you need to find a natural hoofcare professional.

Whether you plan to learn to trim yourself but want someone to give you lessons or do the initial trims, or whether you want a professional to provide all trimming services, you are still looking for someone with knowledge and experience. You may or may not have decided on a certain barefoot method (see Help! How do I choose a Trimming Method?) but in the end, you will still be limited to the professionals that service your immediate area.

To get started, first begin a list of the natural hoofcare professionals in your area. If you are interested in doing most of the trimming yourself, you may be able to include any professionals that come into your area to give clinics. How do you find out who is in your neighborhood? First, turn to your local resources; area horse newspapers, magazines and newsletters. Read the bulletin boards at tack and feed stores. Talk to friends, horse trainers, farriers, and veterinarians. Search the internet for local resources (many local horse communities are represented on the internet these days).

Here are listings of certified/approved practitioners for some methods:

AANHCP/Jaime Jackson: http://www.aanhcp.net
HPT/KC La Pierre: http://www.equinepodiatry.net
Natural Balance: http://www.hopeforsoundness.com/techsupport/search/farrier/enterfsearch.html
Strasser: http://www.strasserhoofcare.org

The above websites should also include information on clinics and seminars for those methods.

Also, check out our lists:
NEW! Locate a Professional Barefoot Trimmer!
Trimmer's List: http://thehorseshoof.com/trimmers.html
Friend's List: http://www.thehorseshoof.com/friends.html

Once you’ve compiled some names, you can begin the sorting process. One of the first things to consider are credentials. You may want to inquire about past certifications, current certifications, courses completed (length and curriculum), continuing education plans, and their memberships in groups such as the AANHCP (American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners) and the AFA (American Farrier's Association).

But how important are credentials, such as certification, or diplomas? Hoofcare is an occupation that certainly requires no degree. And it goes without saying, there are definitely many talented individuals out there who may have no credentials at all, but they have experience or talent that makes up for it. However, as an amateur trying to decide what is best for your horse, it may be very worthwhile to seek out professionals who have gone through a lengthy training course or attained some certification of graduation. It can give you some reassurance that this person went through a genuine training program and has some experience.

Next, you should give the professionals a phone call (or email) and find out more about them. Some questions to ask include: how long have they been using a natural hoofcare method (if they are a farrier, you will be interested specifically in their barefoot experience, not in their shoeing experience!); what are the details of their barefoot education; how many barefoot clients have they had in the past, and how many currently; what problems have they encountered with barefoot horses particular to your area and environment, and can they provide a list of customer references. If the professional you call seems very busy - takes a long time to return your phone call, or says they have a waiting list - that could be a sign that they are very successful. Get some references and check them out, if that is possible -- but do remember that, these days, people are often very protective of their privacy with both phone numbers and email addresses. You may have to wait for their references to give you a call, instead. If you have to go on a waiting list, it may be better to do that, rather than settle for someone just because they are available.

How much experience are you looking for? Since barefooting horses in modern times has just become widespread in the past few years, there are not many people out there with decades of experience in natural hoofcare. However, for a general guideline, you should prefer someone with at least 2 years of experience trimming professionally. The reason for this: 2 years will give you plenty of background for customer references. If you can talk with a few customers who have been happy with the hoofcare they have been receiving from this person for 2 years, then you should feel very good about putting your horse in their hands.

What if the only professionals in your area represent methods that you aren’t interested in? You have a couple of choices. First, you can seek information elsewhere: attend seminars and clinics from outside your area, and learn to trim yourself. Or as an alternative, you could keep an open mind, and explore the options that are available to you. There is no right or wrong, as long as you are working towards the basic principles of natural hoof care and correct hoof form. If you investigate different approaches, you will often find that many areas overlap, and there can be much in common. Make it your goal to learn as much about hoofcare as you can, and try not to be prejudice against different methods based on hearsay.

Once you choose your hoofcare professional, how do you evaluate the service you are receiving? Plan on keeping accurate records, photos of your horse’s hooves, measurements of length and width of hooves, even a diary of his progress. Whenever you have a concern, make sure to communicate with your hoofcare professional - they won’t know unless you tell them! You want to find someone who is really willing to work with you, discuss any problems as they come up, and help you evaluate your horse’s progress. You also want someone who can help you accomplish your goals with your horse’s feet (whether it be healing a foundered or navicular horse, keeping a horse more comfortable, or just creating healthier hooves). And if this person also gets along really well with your horse, you probably have a winner!

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 Trimming Method?

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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