Why Barefoot Doesn’t Work For Horses

Wait… what did I just say? I’m a natural trimmer, right? And I love keeping horses barefoot… right??

Before you run away… read on.

It’s not about the fact that “barefoot doesn’t work” its about the fact that it doesn’t work the way we sometimes want it to work. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve received calls from clients who want their horse to be transitioned to barefoot. BUT they don’t want to change anything about the horses diet, lifestyle, footing, work environment.. or trim frequency. If I expected to lose 50 pounds just by going to a different doctor BUT wasn’t willing to change what I ate, how I ate, how often I worked out, what I did for workouts, what I drank, or take any supplements people would think I was insane. For some reason though, people sometimes expect to pull horseshoes off, trim the hoof, and ride off into the sunset (on a gravel road) as if nothing ever happened. It takes time, patience, willingness to change, and a good working relationship between trimmer and owner.

“Horses are meant to be barefoot.  It’s the unnatural ways in which we manage them that make them unable to do so.  If we provide the most natural lifestyle we can for our horses, they can develop and maintain naturally healthy hooves.  But it’s also going to take some effort on our part.

We have to look at the whole horse if we want barefoot to work–especially his diet and lifestyle.  There are many pieces that need to be in place in order for the hooves to be healthy.  Take just one piece out, and the more likely that barefoot just won’t seem to ‘work’ for your horse.

Here are a few reasons why (it) doesn’t work for horses: ….. ” Intrigued? Follow the link and read on!


Barefoot Doesn’t Work

Deworming and Natural herdsmanship… Dare they mix?


I get a lot of questions about deworming, in addition to other topics. I think a lot of people are curious about finding alternatives to the old school methods but still want to keep their horses healthy. There is so much conflicting advice on this topic… and so so many different opinions. As it is often said of the horse industry “Ask ten people the question and you’ll get 12 different opinions!”

I think if we step back and look at a few facts, though, things become much clearer. There are still decisions that you’ll have to make for your own herd, but lets just clear the waters a bit, shall we?

We know these things FOR SURE:

  • Overcrowding is a HUGE source of parasite reinfection–too many horses on too small a property is a recipe for continual worm infestation.
  • Manure piles are another huge source of parasites… do you regularly pick up poop out in the pasture? If not, its time to start. Yesterday. There are so many reasons, but worms definitely hit the top of the list.
  • Horses that are under stress, in competition, have regular exposure to new/different  horses, heavy demand/training schedules, pregnancy, and young growing horses are all more susceptible to parasite infestation.
  • If you are deworming ONE horse at a time, or even 10 out of 11 horses, you might be throwing away money and dumping chemicals into your horse for no reason. ALL horses on a property need to be on the same schedule (ideally with the same exact deworming product)
  • Deworming a horse with a HEAVY load can be deadly if done too rapidly and must be done with care and under veterinary supervision
  • Fecal tests can be done to determine the amount of worms a horse has. Remember that there ARE worms that do NOT show up on fecal exam and there are horses that are “heavy shedders” that are otherwise healthy. Basically, don’t use fecal exams as your one and only source of information about your horses worm load.

Okay. So now that we’ve cleared all that up, what to do? Some recommend traditional routine deworming twice a year, regardless of the horse. Other recommendations vary from daily deworming done via pelleted feed to never deworming at all. This is where I believe we need to use our judgement.

Horses that are new to us, unsure of the previous care they’ve had, or otherwise unhealthy appearance probably need a dewormer, in my opinion. I personally would use a natural dewormer whenever possible. I do think the chemicals in traditional dewormers can cause harm and have unwanted side effects, but obviously for some circumstances the benefit outweighs the risks.

There are tons of options out there for natural dewormers. Things like diatomaceous earth can be fed daily as a natural dewormer* (MUST be pure and free of additives!) and many herbal products are safe and effective choices. There’s a great article here if you want more information about specific products.

If you have a consistent herd (same 4 horses), with no introduction to outside animals, manure picked up daily, and a spacious pasture, obviously the concern and need for deworming is much less than horses exposed to others frequently, living in muck and manure in a small cramped pasture. My personal goal is to never need to use a traditional chemical dewormer.

In the end, it is your choice. Be informed. Ask questions. Do research. Don’t be afraid to balk the system a little. Take good care of your animals, to the best of your knowledge and ability. And don’t let someone else tell you that you are wrong just because you are willing to do things differently.


*NOTICE: I am NOT A VETERINARIAN and in no way does anything in this article constitute or replace veterinary advice. Before changing anything in your horses routine it is your duty to gather information from respected sources, including your primary veterinarian.

A Healthy, Normal Hoof and Sole

Wise words about the hoof and sole. Copied from Pete Ramey, www.hoofrehab.com

“These days I have traded in my metal shoes for state of the art hoof boots, and I have learned the awesome power in allowing the “off season barefoot healing period” to extend throughout the horse’s life. I have gone full circle and become one of the loudest voices to “trust the sole”. I’m not alone; thankfully the whole farrier world is shifting in that direction. Is this the “fad” for the 2000’s? No, it is an important, basic fundamental of hoof care that the scientific farrier community just forgot for a while.

Let’s take it all a step further. In my book (Making Natural Hoof Care Work For You) I taught the typical hoof balancing methods practiced by most farriers with a footnote added that said I felt that this “cosmetic” balancing was wrong, but wasn’t quite ready to talk about it. After four years of constant experimentation since writing that, I am ready now. I now am convinced that the “little bit of sole” I would have had you to remove to achieve balance, is a direct violation of everything the horse is trying to do to protect himself and optimize performance.

The problem with traditional thoughts on hoof balance is that we are programmed to set horses up to be in balance while standing square on concrete. Few horses are asked to perform while standing square on concrete and I have never seen a horse limp or get injured while standing square on concrete either. If left to its own devices on, a horse will not stand square at all, but cock to one side and rest one foot at a time, just as you would. So what is the significance of balancing horses this way? I say none.

Like with most things, I came to this backwards. I started deeply studying the way horses move and wondering how I could make things better for each horse in my care. One of the most dramatic “for instances” is a horse that is worked extensively at the trot on a hard track or road. When a horse trots the hooves fly inward and land under his center of gravity. The footprints look like a tightrope walker. This is normal, natural, and efficient. As I observed this movement, I also noticed that the outside heel on a “cosmetically balanced” hoof lands first and that after this impact the hoof slams inward as the other heel is driven to the ground, snapping the fetlock and pastern joints. Knowing how destructive this could be, I decided I should experiment with lowering the outside of the hoof so that it could land in a more balanced way while the horse was performing the hardest work asked of it. Very quickly, in case after case, I found that the live sole plane was already begging for it. I didn’t have to invade the sole or leave anything higher than the sole to achieve this “balance for work”. In fact, these were the very hooves I would have previously had to invade the sole a bit to achieve cosmetic balance. I noticed this in case after case and it slowly became obvious that the sole could usually be trusted for optimum heel balance and toe balance as well.”

Navicular Disease by Steve Hebrock

Much of what we learn about navicular disease has changed over the past few years. Do nerve blocks actually work? Is heel pain always navicular? What about frog infections? Are x-rays really the gold standard for diagnosis? What is the best treatment–medication, egg bar shoes with pads, stall rest, surgical denerving…? Lots of questions and seemingly new and different answers every week. Some of the best information I have found thus far has come from Steve Hebrock over at Enlightened Equine.

“Navicular disease is damage to tendon, cartilage, and bone at the interface of the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT or DFT) and the navicular bone as the consequence of heat generated from friction. The friction is the product of slow and/or fast vibration from improper (non-zero-coffin-joint-acceleration) landings, and the disease is the cumulative effect of the heat over a long period of time rather than the result of a singular incident.

As anyone who’s been around the horse world for any length of time undoubtedly knows, a diagnosis of “navicular” is incredibly common. Many veterinarians diagnose navicular syndrome or just plain “navicular” in situations where they see pain in the caudal (rearmost) portion of the hoof they can’t otherwise explain, and diagnose navicular disease whenever they see caudal hoof pain coupled with any sort of radiographic anomaly with the navicular bone.

In my experience, these diagnoses are wrong far more frequently than they’re right. Over the past 20-something years, I’ve examined many horses that have been diagnosed with some sort of “navicular” problem; yet, only 2 or 3 of those horses have had any evidence of what Dr. Rooney would’ve called “genuine” navicular disease. The rest have, in reality, been suffering from other issues – and, I might add, recovered from their lamenesses once the real causes of their problems were identified and properly treated. Just a few examples…”

Please hop on over to Enlightened Equine and read this whole series if you want to learn more about Navicular disease!



You Can’t CURE Laminitis.

*Note: If you are currently working with a horse that has acute or chronic laminitis, don’t give up! Read the entire article to understand the point we are making.

If you find today’s FACT provocative, it is meant to be. Lately, we’ve noticed sloppy reporting on the part of the lay press when it comes to laminitis research. For example, this recent headline: “A CURE for the second-biggest killer of horses.” The headline implies that researchers have discovered a cure for laminitis. However, the article goes on to describe a blood test for insulin (nothing new here) and that exercise and controlling sugar and starch in the diet improves insulin sensitivity (nothing new here, either). Diagnosis, Diet, Trim and Exercise (DDT/E) is the philosophy of the ECIR Group and has been since the 1990’s.

Why do we care about the use of words like “cure” and “disease?” We care because, if you’ve ever owned a horse that developed laminitis, you know how devastating it is. You are desperate for any ray of hope and, in your searching, you see the word, “CURE.” If that word is associated with a product or a therapy, you may do anything to get it. You may even hero-worship those that promise a cure.

Let’s stop for a moment at look at the facts. Laminitis is not a disease, it is a symptom. You can’t vaccinate your horse for it. Laminitis is always, ALWAYS, the end result, the sequela, a by-product (call it what you will) of some other process, usually a body-wide, systemic event like infection, fever, elevated insulin, Lyme disease, retained placenta, or gut upset from starch overload. It can also occur from concussive forces, exposure to black walnut shavings, overload to one leg due to injury, and use of corticosteroids. The list is long and each cause has a different mechanism. Some can be shared. For example, using corticosteroids in a horse with PPID can trigger laminitis. There cannot be a singular cure because there is not a singular cause. Reducing the sugar and starch in the diet of a mare with a retained placenta is not going to address her laminitis, because the causal mechanism was not hyperinsulinemia.

Laminitis can be treated once it occurs but, more importantly, laminitis can be PREVENTED. Too often, the focus is only on the hoof, i.e., the laminitis, and on fixing what’s obviously broken. You can trim, shoe, boot and pad the foot many ways, but if you don’t address what caused the laminitis–or better yet, prevent it before it occurs (NO Laminitis!)–then you will always be longing for a cure.

With IR and PPID-associated IR, PREVENTION COMES IN THE FORM OF A CORRECT DIAGNOSIS, DIET, EXERCISE, AND MEDICATION FOR PPID IF NEEDED. Know the sugar and starch content of what you are feeding, the forage quality and nutrient profile, mineral excesses and deficiencies, and exercise the horse if they are able. Above all, pat yourself on the back for doing a great job. If you want to worship a hero, then look in the mirror. You’re the one in the trenches. No magic potion or promises for a cure will ever match what YOU can do.


 Source: Facebook group



“I highly recommend Julie! She has been our Farm farrier (27 horses and 2 donkeys) since 2011. She is EXCELLENT with the horses (very patient and understanding as well as doing a superb job). She works very well with owners as well as horses and is willing to listen, answer questions and work with the owner and each individual horse, no matter it’s issues. I have only ever had one other farrier as good as her and consider myself extremely fortunate for having found her when that one decided to focus on another business. You will not regret calling Julie and taking a chance on her!” ~Trudy

“I had a vet look at Apollo, and he had a ton of positive comments about your trim and he said he is sound enough to ride again. Apollo is doing so much better, not only has he stopped tiptoeing but he was even cantering in his pasture today! Before your trim I hadn’t seen him willingly trot since December. Many kudos for helping my boy feel better!” ~Linnea

“Julie has really done a great job with my horse Chase, and myself. His feet needed shaping badly-he was on his way to chronic laminitis, and in the first couple of trims I could really see the difference. A year later, his feet are looking fantastic. Also, both my horse and I were adjusted for the first time by Julie a couple days ago. We’d been having problems for a while-my back was constantly sore, and so was my horse’s. Trying to ask for any kind of lift from his back end while riding or even on the ground was near impossible. One adjustment for both of us, Chase is now moving fantastically and he’s happier, and while for me the chiropractic journey is going to be longer, the first adjustment has taken away a good chunk of my constant pain. I fully recommend her!” ~Jessy

“Julie is a fantastic farrier! My arabian mare hated all farriers and unfortunately the farriers didn’t treat her well either. But, From the first visit with Julie…..my mare stood still and was very relaxed for her trims. Julie has a patience and excellent manner that sets a horse at ease. I highly recommend her for your horses.” ~Dawn

“Julie is the best farrier!! She has done wonders with mine and my sister’s horses. Thanks Julie!!” ~Bonnie

“Julie is an awesome farrier. I trust only her with my horses feet!!!” ~Tracie

“Julie is an EXCELLENT farrier! My horse foundered several years ago and, with Julie’s help, you can’t tell he ever had issues.” ~Kelly

“Just wanted to say thanks for the excellent trim on (my horses hooves)–we were able to ride out and about with a happy pony attitude and no shortened, heel rocking strides. She was … remarkabley improved from the last ride 2 months ago.” ~Kelley

“You are an excellent Farrier and I would highly recommend you to anyone. ” ~Martha