This session will focus on the principals of both natural and traditional hoof care with a practioner of each methodology presenting. Art Gallais will present information on traditional hoof trimming and shoeing. Lane Moore on the philosophies of natural or barefoot hoof care.

altArt Gallais

Art Gallais has been involved in the farrier business since his graduation from the Olds College Farrier Program in 1973. He decided to stay in Olds and begin a practice in the area, due to its central Alberta location and large horse population. Art also began work at Olds College as a Farrier Program assistant in 1974. In 1985 he became the head instructor for the Farrier Program at Olds College and continued his career there until he retired in 1998. Since retiring from the college Art has maintained a full time shoeing practice.

What is Tradition Hoof Care?  What is Natural Hoof Care?


I’m sure that these mean different things to different people.  Natural hoof care may mean no shoeing and just trimming your horses to maintain a hoof that would be found on a horse in its natural state.  This particular foot requires nothing more than trimming maintenance to keep it similar to a foot found in the wild.  I question the state of feet found in different parts of the continent.  Do horses found in the wild in Nevada have similar feet to the ones found west of Sundre?   Would not moisture conditions and soil types play an important role in hoof conditions and shapes?  Would not the abrasiveness of the desert play a role in hoof lengths and shapes versus the abundant rain and grassy conditions that are found in Western Alberta?

How do these horses that are trimmed naturally by the barefoot trimmers differ from feet that are trimmed by a traditionalist.  I know that the feet I trim cannot be trimmed much different than a natural hoof trimmer.  Foot trims differ from farrier to farrier in traditional hoof care as well as they differ from trimmer to trimmer in a barefoot program.  What do barefoot trimmers do when their horse’s feet wash out (over exfoliate sole) when moisture conditions are in excess?  Is natural trimming a certain way of trimming feet, removing heel to a certain level, shortening the toes, leaving sole callus, or what makes it different than a traditional trim.

As a traditional farrier working in the farrier business a large percentage of my work is trimming.  A large percentage of my client’s horses are not shod.  I’m sure that the feet I trim on a regular basis look every bit as good as a barefoot trimmers horse’s feet.  I do know that these horses that are trimmed regularly maintain their shape and have very few flares.  However, there are a lot of feet that require more than just trimming and that’s where the “traditional” farrier comes in.  Horses that are used a lot in various ground conditions may need to be shod for wear or traction.  These horses don’t have a choice when or where they are ridden, hence the need for shoes.

I have rode my horses barefoot when we were in Phoenix, and after about two weeks of daily riding, I had to put shoes on as my horse had no foot left and his feet were well maintained prior to this time.

I agree that many horses are shod that could be left barefoot. However, there are times when shoes are a necessity whether you like it or not.

Hence my feelings about shoeing versus trimming.

altLane Moore

Lane Moore attended a clinic in the 90’s where one of the students had just completed a 100-mile endurance ride on a barefoot Arabian stallion. It peaked Lane’s curiosity since he and his wife were running a guest ranch with the help of about 50 horses. This initial curiosity was the beginning of a fascinating journey into natural hoof care which included his practitioner certification in Britain.

In my experience the meaning of ‘barefoot’ does not mean modern day horses going without hoof protection – it simply means they are going without shoes.

Shoeing began during medieval times, when stabling became more prevalent, as many horses spent long periods confined during the castle sieges. This confinement created a lack of movement and allowed exposure to manure and urine, all which in turn, caused these hooves to rapidly deteriorate.  Protective shoeing for these compromised hooves gradually became the norm for ALL hooves. Since shoeing began, it has been taught and written that – shoes must be removed often in order to return the hoof to normal, healthy conditions.

Here is just one example: In 1897 Captain Peter Spohr wrote in his ‘Leg and Hoof Problems of Horses’: “On the whole, going barefoot constitutes the quintessence of every correct hoof and leg conservation and will later be considered as an essential link in the healing of almost all hoof problems….”

Many barefoot horse enthusiasts believe a horse should go everywhere shoeless. We know this is possible when we observe both the domestic and of course the wild horses of Mongolia, Russia, Mexico, South America etc.   Today there are many very successful totally barefoot horse owners. These are folks who really USE their animals – check out some central Alberta Endurance and Dressage riders or ask some local Red Deer Three Day Eventers.

Except for those horses previously mentioned, or in comparison to their working ancestors, most horses today get very light use.  We all know, come spring and summer, how often are horses brought in from their pastures, shod, taken out for a weekend or two of riding excursions, then turned back out to pasture with their shoes left on - for far too long!  It would seem a healthy alternative to have hoof protection available for use only in times of ‘work’ or ‘rehabilitation’; when horses are young and developing or when hooves are compromised for any reason.  In the past twenty years, horse enthusiasts and manufacturers believed in this theory - thus began the competition to develop good alternative hoof protection in the way of ‘boots’. Today there is a plethora of products to try for those who are casual riders or those who wish to go shoeless.  Going Barefoot or shoeless is a commitment which appears to be for those willing to take the time for self education, proper fitting and usage and yes, trial and error!

Just as many of us take care of our bodies – we assume we are healthy because we try to live, eat, sleep and exercise properly; suddenly a health issue arises – and boy, then do we try and educate ourselves totally about what is going on! This is a bit like many horse people. Most of us are pretty knowledgeable on grooming, housing, tack, diet, supplements, medications, exercise and so on – but then we simply turn over hoof care and maintenance to someone else – in fact many of us have very little knowledge at all of the anatomy and the mechanics of one of the most important parts of our horses – their feet! We panic when hoof issues arise. In actuality, it doesn’t matter if we gain hands on training in hoof trimming and maintenance. It is however, important to gain knowledge and understanding of  hoof anatomy and the mechanics of just how it works. Any passionate horse enthusiast will agree – learning about all things equine is a life long pursuit!  The more we learn the more intelligent our questions and understanding will be when we discuss complete horse health with our veterinarian, farrier or hoof care practitioner.

Since man began domesticating equines, we believe no matter WHEN or WHAT kind of hoof protection is used - we ought to heed well the wisdom and recommendations of age old horsemen and hoof  experts….whenever possible, horses turned out on pasture should have exposure to companions, an adequate diet and lots of barefoot movement, preferably over varied terrain. This along with regular maintenance will always develop and promote healthy, happy hooves!

There are many web sites, books, DVD’s, videos, etc. out there on ‘Going Barefoot’.  The following are just a few names that we might recommend:

Pete Ramey                                                                                         Dr. James Rooney

Jamie Jackson                                                                                     Dr. Robert Bowker    

Dr. Hiltrud Strasser                                                                            Dr. Chris Pollitt





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