Farrier or Trimmer? Who Should It Be?

Hmmmmm, a farrier or trimmer - who should I get to trim my horse? 

That's a GOOD question and one that I get frequently. 

My answer?  -- "It depends." 

Depends!  Depends on WHAT? 

Well, almost a year ago I wrote a series of posts having to do with trimming hooves and should it be a pasture trim or a barefoot trim.  Please feel free to click on that and read the differences. 

That being said, do trimmers trim like farriers and farriers like trimmers? 

Again -- it depends. 

Depends on the individual doing the trim and how he or she was taught and how they actually trim. 

You see, its not about the WHO but about the HOOF on the individual HORSE. 

The horse doesn't give a hoot or a holler about WHO does the trimming. He just wants to be able to walk, trot, canter, gallop and play SOUNDLY ... without pain. Without stress, without thinking about it.  

Horses are created to M.O.V.E. ... and they can't do that when they are uncomfortable in their hooves or downright lame. 

If a horse is simply a bit off, how can we tell if its the shoulder or the withers or the back or hips or legs or HOOVES if we don't know what we're looking for? 

A good farrier and a good trimmer will be able to SEE what is going on with your horse without much contemplation or detective work. 

A good farrier and a good trimmer will be able to see, in their minds' eyes, AS THE HORSE IS MOVING just what is going on IN the hoof and lower limb and that will tell them, without even picking up the hooves, to "know" what the issue might be. 




A good farrier and a good trimmer will be able to do that because they K.N.O.W. the Equine Anatomy and Physiology. They don't just 'know how to trim a hoof'. The hoof is so intricately connected to ALL parts of the body that one must really get a good grasp on what comprises the hoof and its physiological makeup -- what bone works with what tendon; what muscles control what part of the leg, etc. etc. 

A good farrier and a good trimmer will KNOW HOW to adjust the trim for EACH hoof accordingly ... and recognize how each hoof relates to the lower limb as well as the shoulder, the withers, the back etc. 

A good farrier and a good trimmer will be able to SEE if the stride is correct and full and the tracking up is straight. 

A good farrier and a good trimmer will be able to SEE the relaxation of the body or the stress of the body that will tell them the horse is 'off' AND be able to relate it to the hooves if necessary. 

A good farrier and a good trimmer are able to tell when the RIDER is imbalanced simply from the way the hooves grow in between trims. 

A good farrier and a good trimmer will take in diet and environment as well as stress factors to see what condition the horn is of the capsule and what might be the proper way to correct deficiencies. 

A more and more ... you see that now, 'it depends'. It doesn't matter if someone is called a farrier or a trimmer or a what-have-you. What matters is ... 

the person doing the trimming of the horse's hooves KNOWS HOOVES and KNOWS HORSES. 

That's the bottom line. And I don't mean just 'knowing about' them. It means an intimate knowing of the equine digit, inside and out. 

If you have such a person to tend your horse then you are blessed. 

If you don't KNOW if you have such a person trimming your horse(s) then it is imperative that you study this topic yourself so YOU know! You may not want to do the actual, physical work but you need to KNOW your horse and its hooves - inside and out! 

The first place to go to learn is to find someone who has a solid track record. Someone who has an excellent reputation that can be substantiated. Then, in the first meeting, ask questions! Don't ever be afraid to ask questions. 

Joe Camp, from  "The Soul of a Horse" has some sage advice: 

"Here are my ten questions to ask any natural hoof specialist – trimmer – before hiring him or her. The very questions we used when we moved from southern California to middle Tennessee:

One: Are you exclusively barefoot? This will not set well with some trimmers but I believe strongly that if he or she does not believe so passionately in the history, the genetics, and the scientific facts of the Wild Horse Model and lifestyle that he or she would never even think of nailing a metal shoe onto a horse, then that trimmer is not a hoof specialist I would hire.

When we moved to Tennessee I never got past this question with several prospects that I interviewed. The best natural hoof professionals I know are passionate about being exclusively barefoot because they know a barefoot horse with proper diet and lifestyle will be a healthier, happier horse. And these professionals are hugely successful at bringing horses back to full soundness that other farriers and vets have said need to be put down.

Two: Do you exclusively follow the wild horse model? Unfortunately there are a lot of folks who claim to be Natural Hoofcare Professionals who do not have a clue (or the wrong clue) why it works or what the Wild Horse Model is all about.  They might be okay, but probably not. So I wouldn’t risk my horses’ well being with one of these. I would pass them by.

Three: How important is diet, lifestyle, and movement to a successful barefoot experience? If the prospect doesn’t say (as do Eddie Drabek, Pete Ramey, Megan Hensley, Mark Taylor and so many others) that diet, lifestyle, and movement are as important as the trim, then walk away.

Four: Do you incorporate the mustang roll? Eddie and Pete and others say this is the most important part of the trim. Must be used. Follow the wild horse example.

If the answers to the above are all positive, then continue:

Five: May I have some references? Call clients of the hoof specialist and engage them in conversation. Get a sense.

Six: Where did you get your training? There are no right answers here, but very important. Still it’s a judgment call, combined with all the other answers.

Seven: How long have you been natural trimming? Important, but not the end-all. But if only a short time it makes all the other answers even more important, especially the next two.

Eight: What sort of continuing education do you do? There is no right answer, but listen and be a good judge. If they say I don’t really need any, walk away.

Nine: Who are your mentors or instructors you can go to when you need advice about a specific problem. Very important.

Ten: This one is not a question per se but very important: If the person gets irritable or defiant because of these questions, or if you feel like the answers are BS, avoid this person like the plague.

Bottom line: You must find a trimmer who knows and understands how to help the horse grow the foot his genetics know how to grow, not someone who wants to “cut” the foot the way he thinks it should look… and it must be someone both you and your horse feel comfortable with. Seriously. Listen to your horse on this. [My italics]


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen -- gwen.santagate@gmail.com or telephone in the US (239)-573-9687. For further information please click here:  www.thepenzancehorse.com

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