How Very Perceptive:
Thinking About Barefoot...

thinking about barefoot

“It’s not about the trim.”

Said pretty much every barefoot trimmer ever…


Sometimes with a further explanation, sometimes a hand to the forehead in frustration, sometimes with a chuckle, and sometimes with some expletives thrown in. But trust me, we’ve all said it (or at least I hope we have).

Now the problem lies in qualifying that statement. Overall the statement is about as useful as the “Do no harm” mantra that everyone spouts about like belief in it proves that what you’re doing must be good. News flash – it doesn’t.

You see, for “Do no harm” to mean anything then we have to understand fully, exactly what actions would result in harm, which in the context of trimming feet, means we’d need to know everything about the feet and hooves, everything about the environment including the future weather, everything about the horse owner and more.

Do you get the picture? We can’t possibly know everything that we need to know to be sure we won’t do harm. We can have the best intentions, and we can have a good level of knowledge, but there’s always things that are beyond our scope and perception (regardless of whether we have the clarity and courage to see and admit our limits).

And the same can be said about “It’s not about the trim”

For many people this means it’s about nutrition. And they’re right, to a point, nutrition is important.

For some people it’s about correct exercise, and conditioning. And they’re right too, that’s important

For some people it’s about basic health, are the internal systems of the horse working properly. Yep that’s also important.

But what if I were to come along and trim the hoof out of balance, maybe even take it so short, red stuff leaks out? Would health, nutrition and exercise help then? Then it would be about the trim wouldn’t it.

(don’t misunderstand me, I’m snuggled up in bed with Snap my cat reading a book called Clarity right now. Well more accurately taking a short break from reading the book, and writing an article – my point is, I’ve no intention of trimming any horses today well or badly)

And that’s the thing. Almost everyone who’s said “It’s not about the trim” will also have, at some point gone on to say that hoof balance is important, or a ‘farrier trim’ (like there’s only 1 way in which farriers trim?!?!) isn’t suitable, or some part of the hoof capsule needs… bla bla bla

So where does that leave us? Knowing that trimming, nutrition, exercise and health are important. And most of what everyone (not just trimmers – but all human beings) says is often confusing and at best incomplete.


But that’s not my point here, stick with me and it’ll all become clear (I hope!)

It’s not about the trim 🙂 (inspite of what I’ve said above)

It’s not about the nutrition 🙂 (I can feel barefoot evangelists bearing down on my house coming to murder me and my poor unsuspecting cat in our bed for that one!!! Snap might survive I suppose)

It’s not about the health!! (well ok, it’s always about the health, but for the purposes of this post, it’s not about the health)

It’s not about the shoes!!! (yikes the evangelists have sped up!!! I better get on with it and make my point!!!!)

It’s about overuse of exclamation marks!!!!!!! No – wait….

It’s about perception!

You see I’ve just got to the bit in the book where the author (Jamie Smart if you’re interested) is talking about an experiment by a psychologist called George Stratton. He made a funky pair of glasses that inverted what the wearer would see. ie, when you put them on everything is upside down.

Turns out, if you wear them for 4 days everything looks upside down for 4 days. By the 5th day wearing them, his perception had ‘corrected’ everything so it was right way up again.

What’s more when he then took the glasses off, his vision went upside down again and took a few days to correct what he was seeing back to normal.

For me, that’s what all this is about. What is it that you’re looking at, and what kind of glasses do you have on, or what vision/perception do you have.

Are you looking at a thoroughbred hoof with the perception of a wild horse hoof in your mind? Is a wild mustang hoof capsule the correct model for a stabled 15yo thoroughbred?

Are you applying farriery science to rehabilitating a hoof that’s barefoot, and will your methods work on a barehoof in the same way it would on a hoof with a metal support?

Are you looking at a balance issue and trying to find a supplement to correct it?

Are you looking at a gait issue and trying to find a trim to change it?

Are you looking at a hoof capsule without considering the internal structures of the foot inside that hoof capsule?

When you make these decisions, are you aware that your decisions are based on the model you’re following. Are you aware that a model is something that is similar to the real thing? It’s not exactly the same. There will be times the model doesn’t work.

Do you keep in mind, that no matter how good you are, no matter how many times a day you’re right, that there are gaps in all our knowledge and it’s possible you’re missing a bit that you needed for this one case? (don’t let this cripple you, but do allow it to keep your mind open and your ego in check)

Are you aware that while one way works, there might be more than just one way to climb the mountain (or heal the hoof, or whatever it is you’re doing).

If you’re not aware of these things, then we have a tendency to make what we’re seeing fit what we know. But what if we don’t know what we’re looking at? What if it’s the first time we’ve seen something?

There was a time, not too long ago when it was considered preposterous to suggest that a doctor was able to pass on infection by not washing his hands. No one could ‘see’ it was possible. It was simply beyond their perception, with the knowledge base they had.

Now it’s considered very unlikely that a doctor isn’t passing on infection. Hospitals are littered with signs asking patients to ask their doctor and nurses to sanitise their hands!

Even if you’re not the one trimming your horse, if you use a professional to trim and advise you, are you aware that all of these things affect them. Not only that, but all of these things affect which professionals you agree with!

We naturally agree with what makes sense to us, which isn’t far off from agree with people who are telling us what we want to hear.

A bit like people choosing the Atkins diet based on being able to eat what they want to. It helps them maintain their bad habits, rather than choosing a healthy diet, which is things they wouldn’t normally eat, but would get them the results they really wanted.

Please don’t take this post to mean you can’t trust anyone and none of us know what we’re saying or doing or seeing! It’s just meant to increase your awareness, which will help you make decisions that are more likely to get you the results you want.

Change is hard, keeping things the same is comfortable (even if it’s painful). Thing is, most people look into barefoot because they want something to change. Usually they want their horse to be more sound.

If you want to change your results, you have to change your actions, so you have to change your methods, and sometimes that means you’re going to have to change your perception. The great thing is – once you’ve changed your perception… the rest is much easier!

What do you think? Have I made a good point or have the pain meds gone to my head? (I haven’t had any in days btw)
What were the changes in perception that you went through before taking your horse barefoot?
Have you had to change your perception to shoe your barefoot horse?
Did you need a change in perception to take a good look at your horses diet?
Or were you right all along, and you had to look for people whose perception was similar to yours!
Tell me all about it in the comments box below


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