Many horse owners have obviously experienced the long term effects of inadequate advice with regards to shoeing. Every horse must be allowed to go barefoot at regular intervals, especially young horses, so it is little wonder that many horses ended up unsound after having been shod constantly for years.

Imagine if you were made to wear your shoes twenty four hours a day every day until they wear out, and then put on a new pair and repeat this for four years – how would you feel? Shoeing is not the problem, it is the application and management and ignorance by people that causes our horses to suffer.

There is nothing better than the natural hoof. As a young stockman in the bush I worked with unshod bush horses, and most of them had developed a perfect hoof capsule to suit their terrain, which was vast and unfenced, so Mother Nature provided a hoof to suit all occasions.

However the reality of today is that we now expect the horse to sleep in a soft stable and live within a fenced off area, which effectively destroys nature’s ability to condition the hoof and make it tough, yet we still want the horse to be competitive and sound over all terrain.

Shoes provide hoof wall protection; shoes also grip far better than the bare foot. Fitting a shoe which is as light as is possible to allow the horse to complete the task, and enhance his performance is a sensible alternative to barefoot trimming if we expect to win in competition.

The chosen equestrian discipline, the comparison between the terrain of the competition and the stabling at home all need to be seriously considered. The breed of horse, the condition of the hoof, the health of the horse and the environment in which the horse is paddocked will all contribute to the ability to leave the horse barefoot or the need to be shod.

Balancing the hoof is the primary objective in shoeing or trimming a hoof. Understanding if this balance has been achieved, regardless of whether the horse is shod or barefoot, is critical for all horse owners.

The question: ‘Can I leave my horse barefoot’ depends on what you as an owner or rider want to achieve. What is your horse used for? Do you want to participate or do you want to win? If you compete to win, your horse should be shod. The average horse needs all the competitive edge that it can get.

Barefoot trimming is the latest fashion. Ask yourself why?

How many horse owners do you know who are totally happy with their farrier’s performance? I know from the number of questions I receive from all over the world that too many horse owners have farrier problems. Again – why?

I believe that the simple, basic principles of hoof balance are being lost. I see it myself everywhere, and not just in Australia. So when owners hear and read about barefoot trimming they decide that will solve their problems.

They won’t need a farrier to put the shoes on, only to trim the hooves, so they assume they will save lots of money and by doing a course they can even learn to do it themselves.

There is just one problem – If a horse isn’t properly trimmed barefoot, then no-one has any business putting shoes on it.

So where are all these farriers who are going to correctly trim the horse if they can’t shoe the horse correctly?

Many owners then find the horse still has problems without shoes, so then they decide to do a course and learn to barefoot trim the horse themselves.

That’s great in theory! But who are the people teaching at these courses?

Ask the person teaching at the course how many horses he or she has trimmed.

Ask them what their qualifications are, and if you can sight the documents.

Ask then how long they have been trimming horses

The same applies in choosing a farrier.

But hopefully he is not charging you several hundred dollars for a day for knowledge he has learned from someone else in a few weeks.

I had a recent email call for help from a woman who had purchased my HOOF-LINE and had a ten year old horse that had recently gone barefoot because of farrier problems. ‘Horse coped fine barefoot, then had a Strasser trim, and went three-legged lame a week later, refused to walk and had a digital pulse in off side fore. Vet was called. X-rays showed no bone movement, though did show slight pedal osteitis. Horse was put on two butes a day for week and improved significantly. Horse was Strasser trimmed again a couple of days ago and presented lame. I checked his feet with your HOOF-LINE and they measured up perfect. I have poulticed his foot. Should I put shoes back on him?’

My answer to her was “Shoeing is not necessarily the answer. After your Strasser trim, is the hoof weight- bearing on the capsule or on the sole?” It was weight bearing on the sole.

The poor horse! The horse should carry its weight evenly on the full hoof capsule with considerable frog pressure on the ground. I explained to her how to rasp back across the toe so that it had an even line of hoof wall. This gave immediate relief. As a guide, when you have trimmed your horse’s hoof, allow it to stand on a level dirt area and then pick the hoof up – you should see an imprint on the ground of the whole hoof capsule and the shape of the frog.

I am not blaming Strasser per se; or any other barefoot proponents. I run my ABC Hoof Care Courses myself and charge a lot for them. I offer money back now or later if participants feel they haven’t had their money’s worth. I have never been asked to pay out.

But I am not foolish enough to sell my principles of shoeing to disciples who can then go out and run courses on David Farmilo’s ABC trimming and shoeing – there is only one me and I don’t say that arrogantly. I just don’t want anyone teaching my principles inaccurately or incorrectly. I run my own courses on my own principles – I have been shoeing horses for 50 years, and I do not believe someone can learn my principles or anyone else’s and become a ‘certified David Farmilo instructor’ in 10 weeks, two weeks or whatever. I am a mentor to many farriers, and I believe this is how knowledge should be handed on professionally.