Why I Built Barefoot Horse Info

Barefoot Horse Info

Barefoot Horse Info… What’s that all about then, hey?

Back in August Eddie Linehan from Thunderbrook Feeds was expressing his frustration in the Barefoot Horse Owners Group that there wasn’t a single point of contact where people could get information on trimmers.

It wasn’t by any means an original complaint. Even back when I was a student I can remember people discussing this very issue. With so many different schools and associations, some current, some now evolved into something else, some disappeared completely, it’s a bit of a minefield trying to figure out who’s who, what they’ve done and what that means.

I was in the middle of a lengthy reply, explaining all the reasons why it was so impossible to put together

• Everyone is just too busy
• Too much man power would be needed
• Requires all associations to be involved and agree
• Requires all schools to be involved and agree
• Who hosts it?
• Who updates it?
• Who verifies the data?
• Who pays for the hosting/domain/software/design?

I had probably made a few more terribly articulate, witty and valid points (honest!) when tech fail happened and I lost my comment. With a deeply wearisome sigh, I started to type my response again.

About half way through the first sentence my inner voice said ‘F*uk it!!’ (sorry but my inner voice has a potty mouth). I hit delete and typed ‘You’re right, I’ll sort something out’ (as it’s a closed group, I can’t do something fancy like embed the post for you to read, sorry)

I just got fed up with all the reasons why it couldn’t be done, and decided to see how many of them I could overcome. I have no explanation as to why building a barefoot trimming database website seemed like a less stressful option than explaining, again, why it didn’t already exist even though it was sorely needed (particularly when I had no website building skills… or a barefoot trimmer database come to think of it).

Over the next few months, I gathered details, sent lots of emails, used terms like ‘herding cats’ liberally, and taught myself how to build a website (I didn’t build this site, I had someone far cleverer do that).

Barefoot Horse Info was launched on the 3rd Jan. I’ve already updated with a second round of profiles and we now have 50 trimmers listed on the site. Wh00p Wh00p!

Why did I do all this? What did I hope to achieve?

  • A place to find information when you’re thinking of going barefoot.
  • A location specific database of trimmers
  • To help:
    • Trimmers find each other
    • Students and researchers find trimmers for their studies and dissertations
  • Clarity about the difference between schools and associations
  • A database of:
    • Trimming courses and qualifications, past and present
    • Associations and professional bodies that UK trimmer’s are members of
    • Independent trimmers
    • Barefoot friendly farriers
  • Dispel the myth that:
    • Trimmers are poorly educated
    • Independent trimmers are unethical and poorly skilled
  • Show that different schools and associations can get along
  • Help barefoot trimming to be seen as an industry rather than a fad
  • Provide trimmers with an online presence

A Place To Find Information When You’re Thinking of Going Barefoot.

When you first think of going barefoot with your horse, it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s a whole new world, full of new terminology, and everyone seems to be giving you advice, at least half of which is conflicting.

How do you know who to trust?
How do you identify who knows what they’re talking about?
How can you tell what education a trimmer has?
Who are the UK based associations?
What’s the difference between the different qualifications?
What do all those bloomin’ acronyms stand for!!!? (did someone throw up an alphabet or what!!)

I’ve included pages for schools, training providers, independent trimmers, associations and professional bodies. The pages have a list of the relevant trimmers as well as links to each organisations website, so you have all the information you need to decide which system is right for you and your horse.

A Location Specific Database of Trimmers

While there are many trimmers out there, finding them can be difficult. Many don’t have websites, or a social media presence, or a listing on an association membership register (I even found 1 who didn’t have an email address – I’ve no clue how to contact them though 🙂  I’ve heard rumours of a device called a telephone but…)

Up until now, the most comprehensive lists of UK trimmers available have been hidden on the resources page of online shops that sell hoof boots. They may, or may not have listed the area where the trimmer is based, and occasionally listed the area a trimmer covered.

They also tended to list trimmers who have retired; after all, who would think to inform a hoof boot shop that they’d closed their business…

With some trimmers covering large areas, (200 mile radius from their home base – or more) and other trimmers covering only their local area, it was still difficult to find out which trimmers actually covered your area.

I wanted to be able to list each county, or area and the trimmers that covered that area. I even managed to install a fancy map (it’s fancy to me, it has pretty colours!) with the help of my new hero Mark Bailey (hero = he fixed my map display issues with his keen mind and tech wizardry)

Help Trimmers Find Each Other

With so many trimming schools and associations, it’s surprisingly easy to not know other professionals in your area. With a location specific database it’s a doddle to find other trimmers now, whether you’re a new client just taking your first step, or an experienced professional, you can find who’s in your area really easily.

I mean, I’ve been in the industry for nearly 9 years now, and there’s 5 trimmers who cover my home county that I knew, but I never knew they worked in the same area as me. There’s a total of 11 trimmers I didn’t know covered the 5 counties I cover. That’s just what I’ve found so far from the trimmers I already have listed.

For collaboration, support and cohesion within in the industry, we first have to know how to find each other (ok this is feeling a little like a lonely hearts add now. Trimmer GSOH seeks similar in Wiltshire…)

Why would a trimmer want to find another trimmer in their area?  To shadow, for support, for a second opinion, to say hello, just to be informed about their business and local area, or any number of other reasons.

Help Students and Researchers Find Trimmers for Their Studies and Dissertations

The Barefoot Industry would really benefit from more barefoot specific studies and research. Equine Science and Equine Studies students are becoming increasingly interested in doing studies involving barefoot horses, or comparing barefoot and shod horses.

They often have trouble finding suitable test groups or large enough data sets. Up until now, they pretty much had to post in forums asking forum members for help, and while they got help, it was often from people long distances away.

It took me 2 full days to track down email addresses for all (or as many as I could) the trimmers in the UK. Of those, only a tiny fraction responded to my first email. That list of email addresses included defunct addresses, as well as those of trimmers who had retired or moved abroad. Some were never actually trimmers in the first place, but their details still linger on the interwebs somewhere, saying that they are.

Finding contact details for trimmers to invite to become part of Barefoot Horse Info was no small task, and I imagine students and researchers would have faced similar problems, and they probably had fewer resources than I did seeing as they may not have had 10 years worth of barefoot bookmarks in their browser.

Clarity About the Difference Between Schools and Associations

For some reasons there’s great confusion in the barefoot world about the difference between a qualification and a professional body, or association.

This confusion isn’t just among horse owners. Trimmers themselves seem a little fuzzy on the whole area.

There’s still more work to do on this on the website, I don’t think I’ve made it as clear as I can yet, updates are on the way. But really I had to start somewhere and ‘git’er done’.

It’s taken great self control to resist my perfectionist tendencies and get it out there now, I could spend forever getting everything perfect before I put the site up, but then, it would also be perfectly unseen and thus perfectly useless 🙂

Why is this section not as clear as it could be – because I’m still trying to figure it out, and if I’m struggling (and I’m directly asking the people involved) then the average horse owner searching on the internet, probably doesn’t have much hope either.

A Database of Trimming Courses and Qualifications, Past and Present

There are so many different qualifications and acronyms out there it can be thoroughly confusing. In fact there are probably some trimmers who aren’t completely sure what their qualification is called (and I might be one of them!)

As courses developed, names changed, schools rebranded and many different ways to refer to the same thing evolved. That’s somewhat confusing for horse owners trying to confirm the qualifications of a trimmer they’re thinking of working with (or already working with)

I think I’ve managed to untangle the web, and clear up what’s what, link past courses to what they are now. Unfortunately it’s not possible to show the details of what past courses covered, as the information isn’t out there anymore. Linking to the course they evolved into is going to have to suffice (unless anyone has a better solution, I’m open to it!)

Having trimmers listed by their qualification will help anyone looking for a trimmer training in a particular system. Not all schools maintain a list of who they qualified. Some only list those who are qualified and still active within their education system.

A Database of Independent Trimmers

While each association or professional body keep a register of its members independent trimmers have no such list as, by definition, they’re not a member of an association. This makes independent trimmers difficult to find unless they have a good website with good SEO so it comes up when you do a Google search. Without wishing to sound mean… most don’t!

Independent trimmers are by far the largest group (or not group I suppose) of trimmers in the UK. I think you should be able to find them!

A Database of Barefoot Friendly Farriers

Don’t shoot me for saying this, but there are a number of good farriers who are knowledgeable about barefoot methods (beyond what was taught as part of their apprenticeship). They’re probably even more difficult to find than independent barefoot trimmers!

Admittedly Barefoot Horse Info is a little scarce on barefoot friendly farriers at the moment, there’s one so far, so not many, but I’m working on it. Feel free to point them towards the website if you know of any.

Dispel the Myth that Trimmers are Poorly Educated

The attitude towards barefoot trimmers has greatly improved over the last 10 years (I haven’t been verbally assaulted or thrown off a yard simply for existing for many years) However, there are still many out there who think that barefoot trimmers ‘have just done a weekend course, and don’t know what they’re doing’.

Most barefoot trimmers are keen learners, with a real thirst for knowledge and attend multiple courses to further their education and understanding of horses every year. While most associations set fairly high cpd requirements, you’ll find many trimmers independent and affiliated exceed these requirements easily.

In fact for many, doing further study comes so naturally, they don’t even log it, so you have to directly ask and dig to find out all the courses they’ve done. I know I couldn’t tell you all of mine off the top of my head. I’d have to check my website (and that’s probably not a complete list either)

Of course for Barefoot Horse Info to really dispel this myth, it requires trimmers to log the courses they’re attending, and make it public on the website – but that’s another thing for me to work on 🙂

Dispel the Myth that Independent Trimmers Are Unethical and Poorly Skilled

Well I’m just going to come out and say it… Many people are under the impression that a trimmer is independent because they’re not good enough to be in an association, are totally untrained, or got kicked out of an association.

That may be true for a very rare few (I say may, because I don’t actually know anyone it is true for) but in the majority of cases independent trimmers chose to be independent because they didn’t want to get involved in politics or following anyone else’s idea of what education should look like.

They simply wanted to follow their own path, learn what was most important to them, and get on with helping their clients and as many horses as possible. End of.

While it is true that if you’re using an independent trimmer, you don’t have the security of an association maintaining standards, or a complaints procedure you’ll find most independent trimmers maintain their own standards just fine and frequently attend the same cpd courses as affiliated trimmers.

Show That Different Schools and Associations Can Get Along

There is a generally accepted idea that the different training bodies and professional associations all hate each other and don’t get along. To the best of my knowledge (and I was a council member of one of the associations for a number of years) that’s totally untrue.

I know of a number of occasions where they have worked together, it just wasn’t particularly public.

The lack of collaboration between organisations isn’t due to an inability to work together, but more from the basic desire to work on their own mission and the restriction of limited time. Most of these organisations are run by working trimmers, who have their own businesses to run, families to care for and lives to live.

Their involvement with the association is voluntary, often unpaid (not to mention somewhat under-appreciated on occasion!). Collaboration between organisations takes time and energy, often it’s far simpler to just take care of your own projects.

I think one of the things that perpetuates this myth is the lack of evidence of associations mingling with each other.

While Barefoot Horse Info isn’t a collaboration between associations, I hope that by trimmers from every school and association being included it will help to reduce the idea that we all hate each other by providing somewhere we’re seen together – even if it is only virtually.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch a trimmer hugging initiative or anything.

Help Barefoot Trimming to be Seen as An Industry Rather than A Fad

Ah yes, haven’t you heard, this barefoot thing is just a fad… Such twaddle! 🙂

The equine barefoot industry might be in it’s early stages, but it’s my (somewhat lofty) hope that by displaying just how many trimmers there are, how well educated we are, how seriously we take our industry, and to a point how many people we serve, that we can be taken more seriously.

Provide Trimmers with An Online Presence

OK so this wasn’t so much something I wanted to achieve, but more a happy by product… Many trimmers, don’t have any kind of online presence, no website, no social media profiles or pages, nothing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing of course, and I certainly understand wanting to concentrate on the horses rather than the tech.

The url for any trimmer profile is barefoothorse.info/profile/trimmer-name so each profile, can, should they choose, act as a one page website for any trimmer not wishing to get bogged down with tech, but wanting somewhere to point people for a basic bio and info. It’s also fairly handy for students who haven’t yet developed their business presence.

How Can You Help?

I definitely can’t do this on my own. Without input from others I’ll have a trimmer list of 1 (and I already have 2 websites about hoof stuff thanks)

If you’re a trimmer, and you don’t already have a profile on the site, fill in the form here barefoothorse.info/trimmer-info-form

If you know a trimmer who isn’t on the site, please tell them all about it. As you know, a recommendation from someone they trust (ie. you) is far more effective than an unsolicited request for info from someone they don’t know (ie. me).

Bookmark the site. If someone is looking for a trimmer – you know where to send them!

Follow the facebook or google+ page. I have great plans for the future development of the site, so if you want to keep informed, follow the social media, and share it with your horsey friends so they can follow too.

Tell people about it. Enthusiasm is infectious. The more you talk about it, the more people want to be involved. The more people are involved, the more effective the site will be.

What Else Does The Site Offer?

Did you know there’s been a National Occupational Standard for the Barefoot Trimming industry since 2010? Well there has, and you can find it through the website (under Resources)

Wanting further support, advice and like minded people to chat to? There’s a list of forums and facebook groups (also under the Resources tab)

Want to know about future courses, CPD and events? Guess what – under the Resources tab! I still need to develop this section. Badgering schools to list their course dates, and tracking down all the associations CPD days is imminent (so if you’re the contact for any of these organisations…. Fair warning 🙂 )

If you know of a course that should be listed, then hit me with it!

Books! Who doesn’t love books and learning hey? There’s a book list on the website. Cunningly displayed under the books tab (where do I get these crazy ideas from!?)

The book links are all Amazon affiliate links, so you can help support the site by buying awesome books – or you can search for them the traditional way, if you’d rather not.

I don’t mind either way, I’ve just written well over 2.5k words about why I’ve done this and not one of them was ‘cos it’s gonna make me loadsa dosh!’. I’d be shocked and amazed (not to mention delighted) if the commission ever amounted to more than I’ve spent (and will spend) on software and hosting, nevermind my time and sanity!

What Are These Future Plans You’re Talking About?

It occurred to me that sections for barefoot friendly vets, nutritionists, bodyworkers , and places to buy barefoot specific stuff could also fit quite nicely into the site. I might have some tea first though… Phew!

I’ve already had requests from international trimmers who’d like to be included, so I’ll include them as soon as I can, probably next week.

Like I said, if you want to be kept up to date with developements, follow along on social media. I’m also open to suggestions if you have any…

I’m not going to be giving advice through Barefoot Horse Info though. (that’s what Hoof Geek is for) Barefoot Horse Info is essentially a database to signpost you to the information you’re looking for. Opinions aren’t part of it 🙂

What Do I Get Out of It?

Satisfaction and peace of mind that it’s done and it’s out there… This project has been an itch in my brain for months now. For years people have talked about the need for a site like this, and I’ve agreed wholeheartedly and wished for it. Turns out wishing gets you no-where. Action does! (cue Rocky music!)

I’ve really enjoyed connecting with other trimmers to put this site together. There are yet more people I’ll connect with, and I look forward to it.

I got into this industry because I wanted to help people get healthier horses. There’s more ways I can do that than just getting underneath a horse and trimming the hooves. Like by enabling someone to find the support and professional help they need…

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or over on any of the social media pages.

Debs

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