Farriers and Trimmers - Bridging the knowledge gap – in the interests of the horse

There has long been a divide between barefoot trimmers and farriers.  There is often a mutual mistrust. Maybe its arisen because the barefoot movement is more recent than the trade of farriery.  A johnny come lately “fad”.  Although its not a recent fad for horses in evolutionary terms. Just for domestic horses. Maybe its because most of the barefoot trimmers started out as weekend warriors whereas most of the farriers (as opposed to the horse shoers) have completed a recognized qualification such as an apprenticeship or traineeship. Perhaps its because most of the trimmers are women and most of the farriers are men.

Pic: Cornell University Farrier Program

Pic: Cornell University Farrier Program

Possibly it’s because the understanding of how the hoof works differs greatly between the farriery approach and the barefoot approach.

And one of the key differences is that the barefoot trimmers are much more likely to allow and encourage the horse to engage its sole, whereas some of the farriery approaches like to lift the sole above the ground so that its engagement is minimised.

This difference is informed by fundamentally distinct interpretations of functional anatomy.  Trimmers generally believe that the hoof wall or the toe nail is not the primary support for the horse. Shoeing – by its very nature – transfers more of the horse’s weight onto its hoof wall.

Barefoot Trim

Barefoot Trim

Some horses cope well with barefoot. Some cope well with shoes. Oftentimes farriers and trimmers have to ‘try’ different techniques to see how best to make a horse comfortable and sound…within their respective and distinctly different practices and knowledge.

However, despite different approaches, it is good to watch and listen to what the ‘other’ trade has to say. Because – as history has shown – there can be elements of truth in what may appear to be diametrically opposed ideas.

It is in this spirit that The Functional Hoof Conference seeks to  look at the techniques of three farriers and three trimmers.  We are planning to have on display cadaver legs trimmed by some of Australia’s top farriers – Craig Jones and Michael Saunders – both of whom are representing Australia at Calgary later this year, and by three distinctly different styles of barefoot trimmer – James Welz from the US who has evolved his own trim,  Julie Lietl who trained in the Strasser method and myself (Rebecca Scott) who trained in the Ramey and Jaime Jackson school.

Those who did the trims will take part in a panel discussion about their methods and technique, moderated by two vets: Australia’s Professor Chris Pollitt from Queensland, and Tennessee-based vet Dr Neal Valk.

The idea had its origins in a collection of cadaver hooves in the US, trimmed by leading farriers and trimmers, and collected by Allie Hayes of HorseScience. When the American Farriers got a hold of the idea they ran it at one of their national conferences. Their  “Table with all the Trimmings” created great interest in the farrier world. Now, with the blessings of both Allie Hayes and Frank Lessiter of the American Farriers Journal, we plan to reprise the event at The Functional Hoof Conference  being held at Daylesford, Vic, Nov 6th to 9th.

Don’t miss this wonderful chance to view and discuss the work of these recognized practitioners in an open and inquiring environment. 

-  Rebecca J Scott