Innovative Thinking and Sound Reasoning in Hoof Care

003 innovation

I saw this photo on Facebook, not long ago.  You may have already seen it.  Opinions vary considerably depending on your knowledge base and system of beliefs.  Some people are horrified, others are impressed. While I’m passionate about hoof care, what really interests me here is something else.

I find myself intrigued and somewhat saddened – and not necessarily for the reasons you may think.

Firstly I’m not against shoes, though I do find myself struggling to find any good reasons to shoe a laminitic.  I am aware however that there are many shoeing interventions that proclaim to help the laminitic horse.  And they may be right…

You see here’s the real question…  Help the laminitic horse to do what?

Walk?  Heal?  Feel less pain?  Turn corners?  Grow out damaged hoof horn?  Repair damaged corium?  Improve circulation?  Improve digestion?  Address dietary issues?  Be turned out?  Reduce movement?  Reduce the stress the owner is under?

The photo above shows so much.  Clearly the vet (or team) involved in producing that solution put huge amounts of time and effort and thought into it.  It’s downright innovative.  It’s freakin’ amazing!  The ‘shoe’ is completely redesigned.  Not only in shape, height and dimensions but in materials, structure and function too.

There’s a pad in there that I can’t tell a huge amount about, but I can tell you they thought about it, and how it would produce the result they were looking for.  Then after all that they had to do away with the idea of nails, and come up with a better way of affixing this new shoeing system.

Some searches on the internet have shown examples of this kind of shoeing where the screws aren’t actually supposed to go through the hoof wall like that, rather along side it.  I’m not sure whether that means the team involved in this case re-thought things, or misinterpreted the instructions.

I’m not an expert in shoes and I’ve never seen anything like this in person yet, so I’m not best placed to comment on technique, that’s not my point here.

The person or people who came up with this are open minded, educated, experienced, confident in their ability and I’d assume have the complete trust and support of the horse owner

They’re willing to try new things and keep themselves up to date with the new developments within their field.   That doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes a lot of time, effort and dedication.

The solution they came up with was firmly based on the foundation of their current knowledge beliefs and tools.

But here’s the thing…

Give me one hour to save the world and I’ll spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only 5 minutes finding a solution.
Albert Einstein


This is why it makes me sad.  There was very little time spent on defining the problem.  I wasn’t there, but I assume it pretty much went…

(admittedly there’s a little paraphrasing going on here)

Question: What’s the problem?

Answer: The pedal bone isn’t in the right place…

Solution: Let’s correct it.


The best tool for the job or the best job with the tools you’ve got?

I truly believe that we all try to do the best we can with what we’ve got to work with.  If your knowledge is mostly mechanical, then you’ll come up with a mechanical solution.  If you’re a biologist, you’ll see the biological problems first and think of biological solutions first…  Do you get where I’m going with this.

Years ago I was working at an engineering company.  One of the software developers drove his car round to the workshop to put air in the tyres.  When he went to leave, the car wouldn’t start.  His immediate response ‘Do you think it’s because I put air in the tyres?’

About 1 second later he realised how unlikely that was.  But that’s perfect reasoning for a software developer.  You install some new software (air in the tyres) the whole system shows a fault/breakdown – it’s mostly likely to be a conflict with whatever the last piece of software installed was.

Don’t get me wrong.  The poor fella never lived it down.  The boys on the workshop floor did much pointing and laughing, and no-one really gave him credit for his impeccable software developer thinking skills.  But I’ve always loved the moment for the way it demonstrates how different people think in different ways.  One man’s genius can be another man’s dumbass remark!


Everything starts with a thought…

My point here is actually nothing to do with horse’s feet, barefoot, farriery, veterinary care or any of the practical stuff.  It’s about us.  How we think, how we behave, what we do, what we believe.  Our minds are our greatest tool, how are we going to apply that tool?

I truly believe we’re all trying to do the best we can to help horses.  We’re all using our life’s knowledge and experience to the best of our ability.  (Admittedly some people’s life’s experience has produced an ego driven perspective, but even within that world, they’re still using everything they’ve got available to improve the life of horses and their owners)


Share the knowledge, share the love!

Many of us are also trying to share our knowledge and experience with others so we can not only help the horses and people we come into direct contact with, but have a knock on effect.  I get that, I really do.  I certainly didn’t create a blog to talk to myself.  I did it to share ideas and get another view point out into the world, to stimulate conversation and thinking, and to get feedback so I can continue to grow and improve.

I really believe that’s what we’re all trying to do.  I love being a part of an industry where everyone is so passionate and committed, with the drive and openness to share their ideas and opinions.  Whenever someone is giving advice (regardless of how misguided or unwelcome it is) they’re genuinely trying to make the world a better place.

I’m sure you’ll all agree, there’s definitely no shortage of people giving advice in the horse world.

What I struggle to understand though, is the methods many people are using to achieve this.  How do people who have spent years studying natural horsemanship, passive leadership, positive reinforcement and the like, get onto the internet and suddenly all hell breaks loose? (and occasionally in real life too)

Suddenly there is only room for 1 opinion and it’s the opinion of whoever shouts the loudest and longest with the most aggression.  When someone writes ‘OMG! That’s disgusting; whoever did that should be shot!!!’ (or other less polite and more imaginative versions thereof)  I know they are actually trying to help, not threaten someone they’ve never met.

Somewhere in there is a ‘please listen to me, I may know a better, easier, less harmful way for you to achieve your objective’.  There really is, it’s in there somewhere, I’m sure.  At the very least, messages like that mean ‘I’m not sure I understand your reasoning, and it’s left me confused and frustrated about the situation I’m looking at here’

Here’s the thing.  If we’re really trying to change things for the better, change opinions, even change the whole thought process someone is using to approach a problem, how effective are we being by berating, screaming, shouting and insulting?


Do unto others…

How would you respond if you came up against that kind of aggression, hate, closed mindedness and disgust, aimed directly at you in response to your best efforts?  What would you think of the people who were behind the attack?

How likely would you be to listen to them, or even want any kind of contact with them ever again?  How would you feel about the whole ‘group’ they were a part of?  How likely is it you’ll view everyone from the same discipline as having a similar mindset?

If you’re in a place where you’re looking for answers or advice or even support, do you go to the person who’s behaving like a screaming raving lunatic?  Or do you listen to someone who’s quietly and calmly asking you about your situation, taking interest in your problem, respecting you as a person and offering help when it’s asked for and when they actually understand the whole picture?

It’s easier than you think to be misinformed even when your intentions are good.

The world is drowning in information yet thirsting for knowledge.
Dax Moy


This really is the information age.  No matter what subject you’re interested in; with the power of the internet you can find support for pretty much any opinion or method no matter how strange.  So how do you tell if the information you’re being exposed to is sound knowledge based on successful experience, or a load of old tripe, if you don’t already know the answer?

If you already knew the answer you wouldn’t have been looking anyway!  This is a problem, not only for horse owners, but for professionals too.  You learn something in one place, and a few years later, you’re on another course when someone tells you the exact opposite is true.  And both views have a lot of supporting evidence.

Every answer you find brings with it many more questions, and I love that!  It does however mean that we can’t all be right all the time.  We learn from mistakes and all that…  Assuming we can keep an open mind and see the results we get with clarity.


It’s so easy when you’re frustrated

I understand that if you’ve had a horse who’s very lame, and is now sound, you want to shout it from the roof tops.  You want to prevent other horses and owners suffering in the way you and your horse did.  You really want to help people avoid the struggles you endured.

But is attacking the people who were doing their best to help you when things weren’t going so well, going to help them understand and take interest in the new method you’re using?  Can you forgive them for not being right about everything?  Do you blame yourself?  If you do, can you forgive yourself? (top tip: try it, you’ll feel much better!!)

I have a somewhat lofty hope for my Hoof Geek blog.  I’d really love for it to be a place where people communicate with each other (and me!) with respect and openness.  Where questions come before accusations and knowledge comes before ego.  Where support and encouragement are offered and where people feel they can point out problems/issues/inaccuracies in a constructive way.  I’m certain that no-one gets everything right all the time.  I know I don’t.

I do however put a lot of time effort and energy into the things I do and I have good reasons (as far as my understanding goes) for doing them.  If I’m doing something that isn’t effective, and someone points it out…  Well think of all the time, effort and energy I can save by not doing it – AND it will improve my overall effectiveness.  Result!!

If I could have an even loftier hope…  I’d love it if this blog could do that for more people than just me.  Not just from my own input, but from everybody’s input.  I really have set this blog up primarily for you.  I can talk to myself in the comfort of my own home; I don’t need a blog for that!  So get involved, I’d love to hear from you, just as long as you can conduct yourself with some semblance of manners and decorum.  (I’m open to a few expletives if that’s how you best express yourself though J )

I’m not trying to further the tree hugging reputation that barefooters have in certain circles or to share my favourite quote “Barefooters?  They’re just sexually frustrated middle aged women who want to hug everything better” (makes me smile every time I hear it!).  But I do think it would be great if perhaps we could all treat each other with a little more thoughtfulness and understanding.

You know – like how we’d like everyone to treat us and all horses.

What do you think?
Put your 2 cents in and tell me in the comments below or on the Facebook or Twitter page.


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