Helping Your Horse Thrive™

3 Reasons Why You Should Learn to Trim Your Own Horse’s Hooves

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Natural Trim and Barefoot Horse

Stephanie Krahl trimming her horse Ransom.

Just imagine how wonderful it would be if you had the knowledge and physical ability to trim your own barefoot horse.

You think to yourself, “I’m athletic, smart, great at research, and my horse loves me, so why not?”

Now – what on earth would cause the thought of trimming your own horse to enter your mind in the first place?

I can think of several reasons.  Does this scenario sound familiar?

As a naturally minded individual, you decide to find a natural hoof care professional for your equine companion.  You’ve done your research and your expectations are high for hiring a professional.

You’ve created a reasonable wish list of qualities you’re looking for in a natural hoof care provider.

They’re as follows:

  • It’s important they understand the principles of approaching hoof care from a wholistic standpoint.
  • You want to ensure that your horse’s well-being – mentally and physically – is looked after in a heart-felt manner.  Therefore, you want someone who has respect for your horse’s noble nature.
  • They must be competent in the art and skill of natural hoof care and performing a natural trim.

Your Exhaustive Search Through Trial and Error

You start to wonder if you’ve set your standards too high, and you begin to feel exhausted trying to find a good barefoot trimmer that meets up to your expectations.  You become frustrated trying various trimmers and you’re not fully happy with your horse’s soundness.

You blame yourself, not the trimmers you’ve tried, because you have this “flaw” that most in the equine industry consider a “tree hugger” approach to horse care.  You don’t care what anyone thinks, it’s time to take another course of action.

You Decide to Take Matters into Your Own Hands

You come to realize that finding someone who’s a good fit for both you and your horse is difficult at best.  After a significant amount of consideration, the words finally come out of your mouth.

“I want to learn to trim my own horse.”

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I hear that statement often and it’s one reason why I’m writing to you today.  Those same words came out of my mouth more than 10 years ago when I decided I didn’t want anyone else to touch my horse’s hooves again, other than me.  Like many, it took a special horse in my life – who had lameness issues – to drive me to that point.

It was one of the best things I ever did and I’ll never regret my decision.

The truth – if you’re up to the task, the best barefoot trimmer for your horse is you!”

Why?

Here Are Three Reasons You Should Learn to Trim Your Own Horse

1. You know your horse better than anyone else.

Some barefoot hoof care providers are innately in tune with a horse in their care.  When the intent to help a horse and do what’s best for her is genuine, you’ll see much better results.  Especially when it comes to rehabilitating a lame horse.

However, if you’re as close with your equine companion as I suspect you are, your first mission is to do no harm and to only help.  That intent is powerful and can reap a multitude of benefits far beyond what you’ll comprehend.  It will drive you to want to become a great trimmer for your horse.

Who knows, you may decide to help other horses as well, but it starts with your horse and your desire to do what’s best for her, first and foremost.

The longer you trim your own horse, the more you’ll come to learn what works for her and what doesn’t.  Again, you know your equine partner better than someone trimming 100+ horses per month.  You’ll quickly learn to tailor the natural trim for your horse’s individual needs.

2. Your horse knows you better than anyone else.

You are your horse’s best ally.  When you care deeply for your equine companion, she feels it.  She can feel it across the pasture.  She knows you, and if you have a good relationship with her, she would much rather have you trim her than a stranger.

This became clear to me after I started trimming my own horses.  When the farrier would come, my horses were usually uptight and at times not treated well – that was before I knew what I know now.

We’ve all been there and have made decisions about our horse’s care that were not optimal.  The key is to learn from those experiences and move on, don’t dwell on them or continue to beat yourself up.  No one is perfect – remember, a mistake is when you knew better and you did it anyway.  I’d be willing to bet that you’re not the type of person who makes mistakes intentionally.

I’m now particular about who I allow around my horses and who I allow to handle them in any manner.  My protective nature is in full gear and I know the kind of damage someone can do to a horse in a short amount of time.  It doesn’t take much, especially for the more sensitive ones.

3. Becoming self-reliant is empowering and can save you money.

Every horse guardian knows in detail where each and every penny goes and a large portion of it goes to hoof care.  Learning to trim your own horse will have a financial benefit in the long run.  Once you become proficient, you’ll be able to put that money to other good equine related uses, such as horsemanship clinics, hoof care courses and better nutrition for your horse.

You’ll become self-reliant.  You’ll no longer have to depend on someone else to trim your barefoot horse – it’s all you now!

The best part is that you can trim her on your own schedule rather than waiting for the hoof care professional to schedule you in.  Scheduling headaches go out the window.

Although trimming your own horse is not for the faint of heart, the struggles you’ll overcome to learn this skill are unimaginably rewarding.

Oh, one other thing, did I mention that trimming your own horse is a barefoot horse benefit because it’s much easier to learn to trim than it is to shoe?

Happy trimming!

P.S. I go into a significant amount of detail in my book Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care about what to consider before making the leap to trimming your own horse.  You may want to click here to pick up a copy.

For more barefoot horse benefits check out our free 7-part Barefoot Horse 101 series. This series touches on key reasons why someone should consider barefoot for their equine companion.

Keep it soulful,
Stephanie Krahl

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Picture details – Stephanie trimming Ransom

About Stephanie Krahl

Stephanie Krahl is a natural horse care specialist, co-founder and CEO of Soulful Equine® and author of the book Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care. She teaches horse guardians about natural concepts that help their horses THRIVE. When she’s not with horses Stephanie loves watching movies, reading, and going to the gun range. Join Stephanie on Google+ and if you want a thriving equine, click here to sign up for Stephanie's newsletter.

Comments

  1. Alan Gent says:

    Hi Stephanie.

    I truly enjoy your articles and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for them.

    For the past seven years I have been rescuing damaged, mistreated and abused horses and am now just in the process of setting up my own web site. I will be going under the name CALAN HORSE SANCTUARY.

    I share your thoughts about keeping the horse without steel shoes, I have been trimming for about six years now and agree with you the benefits to us and especially the horse are many. I trim some of the horses in the area which brings me much joy and also helps toward the cost of caring for the horses.

    I have just enjoyed the privilage of bringing a little pony back from possibly starving to death because he could not move with the pain in all four hooves. He is a brave little fella and is now running around my 100 acres as part of the herd. He thinks he is running the show but of course he is not.

    I will certainly keep in touch in the future. All the best

    Regards
    Alan Gent

    • Hi Alan, thank you for your kind words. It’s wonderful what you’re doing to help so many horses. I envision a world where we don’t need individuals like you who “have to” rescue animals.

      Although there are horrible people who mistreat horses, often times it’s out of plain ignorance. By addressing the root cause, which is lack of education, we can decrease the likelihood of horses who are misunderstood.

      I wish you all the best with Calan Horse Sanctuary. :-)

  2. Great article, as usual i find valuable info and interesting reading that will help me get out of the “box” of tradional concepts.
    doing it yourself hoof care…well, i wanted to do my own horses, and i read, studied and looked at all kinds of graphs, mustang rolls, pasture cuts and etc. watched videos on “how to” for months. even purchased the equipment/tools needed to do this task.

    Problem being, its alot more then clip/file, or just filing those precious hooves. trail and error is not very wise thing to do, if one is a beginner trying to learn this on their own for their horses. alot of damages can be done and sometimes worse then a farrier pasture trim would do for the horses.

    i have fired 4 farriers actually, frustrated and upset of my horses tender feet (where they once crunched gravels, now are tender to walk on varied terrains, sigh). even with all the studying and doing it myself, i faired no better on the care of hooves. the tiny little things are many on the hoof and its not all that simple to do at a glance and non-experienced trying to learn this specialized care needs of our horses. i have one horse that has a club hoof and even with reading natural hoof care, there were various solutions to resolving this problem over time also.

    was i able to do it correctly and have sound hooves? nope…even with all the study, reading and practice ..i was not able to have the correct hoof care needs for my horses.

    i still have to take my horses to someone to help me and i take them a very long distance to do this care aspect with someone that does natural hoof caring services. there dosen’t seem to be enough natural hoof care professionals available near to where i live, and to get to them i have to travel at least 2 hours one way for a service of this kind.

    its been very frustrating for me. my horses hooves are healthy and yes they have grown out to soundness again after several people, including myself attempted care of the hooves. i still hope to accomplish the ability/skills to do my own horses, but its not an over night and go do it kind of task either.

    i am considering to go to a natural hoof schooling to learn it, since i don’t seem to be able to get it right from study and reading, and viewing on my own.

    • Hello Dee – You’ve brought up many great points that I’ve covered in detail in my articles on Soulful Equine and in my book. No one can become proficient and competent in trimming over night – it comes with time, experience and seeking the right mentors. Every person’s situation is different and some are simply not meant to trim their own horse, and that’s okay.

      Hang in there because if you’re determined to learn, you’ll eventually get to a point where you feel confident in your abilities, and you’ll never stop learning. The best teachers are our horses – each one is an individual and must be treated as such.

      I appreciate you sharing your frustrations – I can relate as I’m sure others can too. :-)

  3. Hi there,
    very excellent timing for this article Stephanie!
    We are exactly at the point where we (my partner and I) have decided to trim our own horses as our farrier, who we all loved, including our horses, has decided to pursue other business ideas. Fortunately for us I have had some experience as, some years ago now, I was driven to learning how to trim my 22yo ex-racehorse’s feet after I couldn’t get a farrier who would come out for one horse. My neighbour, I found out, after much frustration and worry about not being able to find anyone, used to do his own horses when they had pacers, and showed me the basics. I have then been able to learn more and will have to get some practice in before I feel confident again, but I have no doubts we can do it between us for our herd!

    There is some great information out there, and the more you read the more you find out what methods suit you, or what combination. I have invested in a hoofjack as I no longer feel I have the strength and stamina to hold my horses feet to where is comfortable for them, let alone rasp at the same time!

    Thanks for the articles Stephanie, it helps to cement my thoughts that we are heading the right way!

    Kind regards, and happy trimming!

    Kelli (and Dave, and Joey, Mary, Belle, Misty, Harry, Scorcher, Ande, Eddie and Plaukey when he gets here!)

    • Hi Kelli,

      Most often the situation you described is common in the horse industry where a farrier will not come out for one horse. Another common scenario is the lack of competent natural hoof care providers and, if there is one somewhat close to you, often times they’re too far away to do regular trims. Those are two situations where horse guardians may be forced to do something on their own. This may result in them learning to trim their own horse, as you did.

      I like what you said about finding a combination of methods that will suite you. I agree with this and it’s a key element, but can also be intimidating for most. I believe that strictly adhering to one school of thought is not in your horse’s best interest because every horse and situation is different.

      Regarding the hoofjack, it’s best to use it when you can because it’s less wear and tear on your body in the long run. :-)

      Keep up the great work – I’d love to hear of your progress as you move forward.

  4. Kelsey Whittaker says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I’ll start by saying, I really enjoy your articles and find them very informative.

    I find it very interesting how you (and many other natural hoof care professionals) suggest horse guardians learn to trim their own horses. So many professionals in the traditional horse industry regularly recommend you don’t try most anything yourself…
    I started trimming my own horses about 3 years ago. When I first started, I was employing the Farrier’s pasture trim. After a while I started thinking about making sure the trim was natural for each of my horses. I don’t remember how but one day I stumbled upon a website about Natural Hoof Care. That was a major turning point for me. Since then I’ve studied everything I could get my hands on. Currently I am studying a free course offered by equinesoundness.com and am planning on enrolling at Equine Sciences Academy to get a diploma in Equine Science and become a certified Natural Hoof Care Practitioner. I have developed a passion for it. Now I trim my horses based on the Wild Model (with great results) and am trimming for a small client base.
    And through studying natural hoof care, that introduced me to true natural horse care and I am always working to provide my horses with a naturally healthy life. I’ve started to think of conventional horse keeping as an Artificial Lifestyle.

    Learning to trim my own horses CORRECTLY certainly has been very rewarding. And since I have 7 horses, it really saves me a lot of money.

    • Hi Kelsey,

      There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to learning to trim your own horse but there are certain guidelines that I wish I had known 10 years ago that should be considered. Again, every situation and horse is different. The evolution of natural hoof care in the past 10 years has caused a shift in how you’d approach learning to trim your own horse – it’s different now than it was then.

      I went down the route of spending thousands of dollars on a natural hoof care program but that’s not for everyone. I mentioned the Equine Sciences Academy in my book but also give readers a word of caution when seeking out a program. equinesoundness.com is a good start but nothing comes close to having a great one on one mentor by your side after you’ve learned the theory.

      Learning to trim your own horse competently and cause no harm is your optimal goal, however, I’ve seen many hoof care providers over the years – well educated farriers as well as natural trimmers – who have caused a significant amount of harm, many times more so than what the owner would because the owner is more likely to be cautious and conservative in the beginning. :-)

      Trimming “correctly” is relative. What that means for one horse may be different for another – again, learning to read the situation comes with experience.

      Keep up the great work. We need more people like you out there helping horses and horse guardians with their hoof care needs. Comment back and let people know where you’re located in case there is someone looking for a natural trimmer in your area.

      • Hi Stephanie,

        Thanks for the encouraging words. I’m anxious to add you book to my collection, but like everybody else, money is tight… I agree that the correct trim is relative. When I made that comment about learning the correct trim, I was thinking of how I use to leave excess hoof wall and didn’t even know you could trim the sole. Now I listen to the hooves and treat each horse as an individual.

        I am located in Delaware Co. NY.

  5. I started trimming my Percheron & Clyde-cross mares four years ago when my farrier/trimmer was going to be moving too far away to care for them anymore. (She was a gem, too. 94% of her trimming was done by hand grinder. Trained by Rob Sigafoos.)

    I picked up the rasp at HER insistance! She said “Susan, you’ve been reading, studying and learning for 2 years. You know what a hoof should look like, you have a good eye. Now pick up that rasp and do it!!” :)

    So I did, albeit tentatively. But the more I trimmed, the easier it got and the freedom to tweak the trim anytime needed was great for both me & the mares, especially with drafties being so quick to flare at the quarters. However, in late August 2011, as I was under my Percheron for what seemed like forever, dripping with sweat and about to pass out, I said “This is stupid. I need power tools!” So I zipped out to Home Depot, found a 4″ Makita Grinder. I paid my $60 and within 15 minutes, I took a deep breath and did my first trim with it. I’ve never looked back.

    I now trim a few other horses for friends, with just gas money asked for. It helps them and me, since I get to work on smaller hooves LOL.

    Thanks for the article!

    • Hi Susan, what a great story.

      I feel your pain with trimming a draft horse – they’re not my favorite to trim. A grinder in that situation is an asset. Keep up the great work.

  6. Hi Stephanie! finally, a like minded woman who doesn’t poo-poo a natural approach to horse care (and animal care in general). my dogs are on an all raw diet and theyre the healthist girls youve ever seen! how can I go about finding a trimmer who will teach me the ropes? my gelding is 5, I just bought him in July and immediately had his shoes pulled. they’re growing out now (albeit the poor guy has cracks in areas where the nails were) grrrr. he will be due for a trim now and I want to learn! I live in the Auburn area of N. California. help!
    PS- I love, love the fact hat you share your wisdom and knowledge with us! what a gal!

    kindly,
    Jess

    • Hi Jess, thank you for your kind words.

      I answer most of your questions in my book, Guiding Principles of Natural Horse Care, and in my free articles on Soulful Equine.

      You can get the book on Amazon or here on our site. It would be good to go through it because I discuss in detail about selecting a hoof care professional and learning to trim your own horse.

      For CA, you may want to check out the Pacific Hoof Care web site for a list of hoof care practitioners. You may also want to look at the AHA web site but their list is limited.

      Hope that helps.

  7. Hi Stephanie! I’ve been trimming my mares hooves for about 4 yrs now. My barefoot trimmer told me it was about time to do it myself and so I have. At first I had him check my work every 6 weeks or so, but now he checks on me about every 6 mos or whenever I call to have him check something out. He is very particular and holds me accountable to do a good job. I really appreciate his feedback. I’ve also found that a quick weekly touch up is so much easier to do than a six week big trim. I also shadow him on his rounds so that I can see a variety of hooves and increase my knowlege base.

    • Hi Mary,

      Appreciate you sharing your experience about trimming your own horse. What an excellent way to educate yourself to become competent as well as confident in your abilities. Sounds like you have a good barefoot trimmer. Keep up the great work.