Barefoot Trimming and the evil shoe conspiracy (part 1)

Is barefoot trimming for you? I recently saw this website, went for a visit – I was bored and thought it would be good for laugh.

Sarah Bell’s Barefoot Trimming website is dedicated to marketing her book on barefoot trimming.  You might hope think it would be geared towards delivering the good word of barefoot trimming, but no, it is definitely a marketing tool (no, you’re a marketing tool! -I couldn’t help myself, stuff like that always comes to mind when using the word “tool”.). She is so convinced that you will love her book and want to buy it that she offers you the opportunity to sign up and receive a free download of the first 10 pages! Wow! What an amazing offer!

What she doesn’t tell you is that these first 10 pages are largely tables of content and pictures of her. Not even kidding.

Page 1: Title and big-ass picture of a horse sniffing a kids foot (which, when you think about it makes sense seeing as the term “barefoot trimming” sounds like you’re trimming the horse in your bare feet since horses have hooves)

Page 2: Features the words “This book came about from having this single thought: – ‘There had to be a better way to ride and care for our horses than the methods most people were using.’ ” Can’t we all just get along!?  Why does it have to be one way or the other?

Page 3: An entire page dedicated to the dedication (1 sentence to her parents).

Page 4: Table of contents

Page 5: Table of contents

Page 6: Table of contents

page 7: Picture of her lying in the grass rubbing a dog’s belly (no, I don’t know what that has to do with barefoot trimming either…)

Page 8: A picture of her daughters (no, they’re not barefoot trimming in that photo)

Page 9: Finally some writing! -on why she wrote the book

Page 10 (labelled page 9): Informs you that if you want to read the rest of the ebook you need to go to her site and buy it.


Since she couldn’t be bothered to provide any information whatsoever on barefoot trimming, we decided to do some of our own research.

Warning: this research may reflect our own personal bias as both of our horses wear shoes.  Jimmy Choo’s, if you must know (HA! ya, cuz we can afford that…)

Now, I’m not a farrier and I don’t play one on TV, but from the few websites (here and here) I’ve read so far that praise the barefoot gods, it sounds like (and this is a fairly wide, but tame, generalization) they believe that shoes cause 99.9% of lameness.  If a horse is sore without shoes, it’s because they’ve had shoes on and their feet aren’t used to the hard ground.   Or, if a horse is considered to have naturally “bad” feet it’s because shoes were put on at a young age and the horse never had the opportunity to toughen up its tootsies.  -equate the whole thing to walking barefoot; the more you do it the more callouses you develop and the less it hurts.  To these people no shoe is a good shoe.  In fact, they probably think Dorothy’s rub red slippers had some evil in ’em – red is the color of the devil, you know.

My favorite quote comes from where they share these pearls of wisdom:

There are situations where shoes are used to extend the horse’s abilities beyond what nature provides. An example is stadium jumping, where the horse must have shoes with corks in order to get around sharp turns at high speed. The corks give the horse traction, but having enough traction for a tight course overstresses the ligaments and joints in the legs; no-one expects these horses to be sound and rideable to the age of 35 — or even 15.

Hands up if you’ve seen or known of grand prix show jumpers over the age of 15!

I no longer feel the need to discuss barefoot trimming vs. shoeing – this article read my mind and summed it up quite succinctly and by a real live farrier, no less!

Hmm, we may need to devote an entire post to Dr. Hiltrud Strasser…


Posted on November 17, 2011, in Conformation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the post (and the article link)! I’ve noted the increased popularity of nekid horsie feet and I haven’t bothered to take the time to look into what all the fuss is about until now.

    I’ve always taken a less is best approach with horses – whether it’s tack or hoof care. If my horse can go unshod, he goes unshod. If he’s going to be sore without shoes, he gets shoes. If he only needs then in the front, he only gets them in the front. Do what’s necessary to get the result you need.
    In high school, my arabian dressage horse had special shoes that helped him roll off his toe. I wasn’t being cruel, it was just a corrective shoe – if I had a bad gait, I’d buy Dr. Scholl’s for myself!

    I really liked his point that trimming should never make a horse lame. I’ve heard from too many farriers that it’s “ok.”

    • Definitely with ya on the “less is more” point of view. My horse has fronts only – I’ve tried a few times to go barefoot when he was on softer ground like hogs fuel or something, and he was fine

  2. I think you need to do some more research. Hop on over to my blog (it’s on your blogroll) and read all the posts that I’ve labeled with “hooves.” After that you can peruse the list of barefoot links that I’ve put up and then, once you’ve had the opportunity to understand both sides of the story, you can offer an educated opinion on this subject.

    As for Dr. Strasser- my trim is Strasser based. It is currently working very well to rehabilitate a horse that’s been lame for 6 years.

    BUT- Sarah Bell’s site is ridiculous. There is no information there.

  3. I’ve never understood this entire argument. I was at a local lesson barn last night and this couple were watching a class who knew nothing about horses. *Nothing*. And they asked me ‘Why does a horse that’s never ridden on concrete need shoes?’

    I told them ‘Some of them don’t. It depends.’ I went on to explain that whether a horse goes shod or barefoot depends on the work they are doing and the quality of their hooves as well as the shape of their feet. That some horses need shoes because their hooves are a little brittle and prone to cracking. Others might need them because their sole is close to the ground and adding a shoe increases clearance and makes them less sore (I used to own a horse who had to be shod all four all of the time for just that reason…thin soles close to the ground. He WAS sore without shoes. Yes, I suppose I could have messed around with boots every time I rode, but…). I also explained that for some equestrian activities, shoes with studs are used to help the horse with traction and that some horses need special shoes to compensate for conformation issues ‘Just like a human might need special insoles’.

    That’s my entire philosophy. If your horse does NOT need shoes, don’t shoe them – you’ll save money and they’ll be happy.

    But some horses quite simply need shoes.

    A GOOD farrier will tell you honestly whether your horse needs shoes or not, what sort of shoes they need if they do and what the best trim for that particular horse is. One of the problems I have with barefoot people is many of them insist that there is A Best Trim For All Horses.

    That’s like saying the same saddle should fit every horse in your barn.

  4. As a barefoot trimmer – all I have to say is – you do what you have to do. If you believe your horse needs shoes, then by God he needs shoes and vice versa.

    What I do have an opinion about- TRIM THE F*&KEN HOOVES CORRECTLY!!! Too many horses (shod or barefoot) are being trimmed incorrectly and this is part of the reason why they are unsound and unfortunately when it’s a shod hoof, the damage is worse because the shoe reduces circulation to the lower limb and we then notice the lameness issues later.

    As for your article, I do think you may want to consider more serious research before drawing any further conclusions. We are not God’s gift to horses, but we are a viable alternative to those equestrians who believe there are other ways to keep horses.

    those are your best resources in my opinion. Also, Equine Soundness has a free hoof health course for horse owners. Hoof Help Online is James and Yvonne Welz and they are amazing knowledgeable(sp?) people.

    p.s. it’s usually not cheaper keeping a horse barefoot, it costs about the same.

  5. I have a 25 year old TB with four un-matched feet and massive amounts of corrective shoeing, a 9 year old warmblood cross barefoot, and a 5 year old OTTB who was totally barefoot until he broke his coffin bone- he now has one bar shoe. I have heard criticisim from both sides for my horse management practices…I was schooling my warmblood over some eventing fences, and I was told that she would probably need shoes just to compete- even though we were having a flawless ride. I have been told that my old guy would probably be sound without shoes, even though he gets the shakes when the farrier has his shoes off for 20 minutes…I agree that some horses need shoes, but to portray all barefoot proponents as weepy, wishy washy, bleeding hearts is false. A horse’s hoof is designed to be a shock absorber- the softer heels allow the arc of the hoof wall to expand or contract. That’s not barefoot pedagogy, that’s just physics! I enjoy that my warmblood can go barefoot, and I hope that my OTTB can survive barefoot once the healing is done, but as a realisitic person, I know he is a product of poor breeding emphasis on foot quality, so he may need shoes. As an informed horse owner, no option should be ruled out based on the evidence provided by the wing-nuts, be they shod or unshod….

  6. Christine about that busted coffin bone, how’d that happen? How’s the horse doing? What did the vet have to say about his recovery? (if you don’t mind sharing – I’m curious, I’ve never dealt with one before).

    • Ahh my baby train wreck! He was fine, playing in turnout one second, then crippled the next. Our arena footing is not exceedingly consistent, but there was no obvious craziness that led to the bad step/trip/?? that caused the break. And what a break it is…he is now on week 13 of stall rest- he drinks Ace at every meal- I wish I was kidding. We had follow up X-rays at 8 weeks, and he looked about 50% healed, based on opacity (FYI I am not a vet, I am a chemist.) we are about to pull the shoe again and possibly do some more X-rays to satisfy my un-ending paranoia. The vets have given him a good prognosis- they think he will probably be ok to jump again, just he will never be a Grand Prix horse. He has already successfully healed from two slab fractures that ended is un-illustrious racing career, so he has this bone knitting thing down. Thank goodness he is a really sweet kid, and so worth this!

      • Somebody I know has a pony who managed to fall in the perfectly flat and nearly raked arena…while being handwalked across it. I don’t know whether they were bringing him in or turning him out, but the horses on his side are generally led across the arena.

        He broke his coffin bone AND separated muscle in his shoulder. He’s been on stall rest for…it’s approaching a year now. The vet does say he will eventually be sound again. Eventually.

        Poor little guy. They CAN handwalk him some, but that’s the only time he gets out of that stall.

        As for eventing barefoot – personally I think you might want to invest in some suitable boots for the cross-country phase just to give him a bit more grip/traction. I would…eventing falls can be nasty, after all.

  7. I should clarified the terrain we were jumping on- California summer foothill red dirt. In grass or more slippery terrain, I would invest in some easyboot gloves/glueOns or something speed rated. The comment made about my horse’s lack of shoes was more in reference to her staying sound, not grip, and that is a prejudice that is common in the sport horse world.

    when we got the diagnosis on my baby OTTB’s fracture, I was thrilled that it wasn’t a soft tissue injury…we are well versed in the fracture rehab plan 😛

  8. If she has good hoof quality, then sure, she should be able to do it barefoot. A LOT boils down to hoof quality, which seems to be neglected in far too many breeding programs. Especially in America.

    Heck, I grew up riding at a hunter barn in England and half the barn was barefoot…hacking out on asphalt barefoot, jumping barefoot, showing barefoot, I think one pony followed the Quorn hounds barefoot. Okay, it WAS mostly ponies, who tend to have better hoof quality, and anything that needed shoes got them. Anything that didn’t, didn’t. I seriously know animals that would do two-three miles on asphalt, barefoot, and never go lame.

    Good hoof quality is something we need to focus more on in breeding, IMO.

  9. I am a huge advocate for trimming barefoot. I do agree that first website is a scam, almost as bad as Parelli. However if you take a scientific approach to how a horse’s hoof works, putting a metal shoe on will seem completely ridiculous. Now I do want to say that no, not all horses can handle being barefoot. The solution? Remove them from the gene pool. If more people bred for conformation and soundness, we wouldn’t have this debate.
    Here is a website that puts key points in layman’s terms:
    Other interesting things to look at is this high speed video comparing the touchdown of a shod horse versus a bare hoof:
    This is also interesting:
    My horse has been barefoot for most of the three years I have owned him, and he is incredibly sound, and people are amazed at his movement. I do pay for professional trims. I use a trimmer that follows Pete Ramey’s style of trimmer rather than Strasser’s.

  10. As a gaited horse owner the bad information and just plain cruelty among my breed led me to try a barefoot trimmer. I have never been happier with my horses feet and have learned way more about horse keeping since going with a barefoot trimmer. It’s more than the trim. A good barefoot trimmer should also be educated on the whole horse. Nutrition is a big part of the barefoot movement(I cringe at calling it a movement, sounds like a cult, LOL)

    Some horses can’t go barefoot because of the way they are kept. Stalled horses in particular have trouble going barefoot. The barefoot horse does best on 24/7 turn out.

    There are endurance riders doing 50’s and 100’s barefoot. Boots are a great option for those horses that need more protection. I know people that use glue on type rubber shoes. We are lucky that we have so many options today to keep our horses sound and happy.

    I think most horse owners want the best for their horses. Why the shoes/barefoot issue causes so much fighting is a mystery to me. People that shoe their horses get very defensive and pissy while some barefoot people go overboard and try to push their beliefs on every horse owner they meet. If your horse is happy and healthy it really doesn’t matter to me what you put on your horse.

  11. There was a study done some years ago that found a correlation between speed on the track and hoof quality. It was found that the faster the TB, the poorer the hoof overall. Very sad considering horses need a hoof to survive.
    I was very fortunate that my TB had very nice hooves and she went unshod most of them time. My gelding will be 30 in a couple months and has been barefoot for many years. He has great feet and my farrier always mentions that.
    It is nice to see some of the barefoot trimmers on here who understand that not all horses can be barefoot. So often I hear that no horse should wear shoes regardless of the discomfort that it is causing the horse. We can’t really tell them to just suck it up for 6 months and they’ll be fine, all they know is that they are in pain.

  12. Yes, there are so many sites that want to hook you in to buying their product.
    I am a fan of the barefoot horse but also recognise that shoes are sometimes necessary.
    My horses are all barefoot including my AQHA show horses. And that is not to say that I would not have them shod if needed.
    Yes, my farrier is “trained” (many that call themselves “farrier” are not) but wasn’t trained in the art of keeping horses barefoot. And it truly is both an art and a trade. He now knows and is a fan of barefoot technique.
    The two websites following give their information for free and are great for seeing how it’s done. So, save your money.
    1., click on the link which does take you to the Product Page,
    click on “EDSS Home” then scroll down and click on “Natural Balance Tutorial”. And, believe it or not, this includes a tutorial on preparing for shoes.
    2. – Good tutorial for beginners and those of us a little longer in the tooth.
    All we really want is to keep our horses happy, comfortable and sound and barefoot trimming or keeping it natural stupid educates us on how this is done for the vast majority of horses.

  1. Pingback: How to lose friends and alienate potential barefoot book clients (part 2) « snarkyrider

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