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”


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.


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About the author

Debs is a practicing Equine Podiatrist with over 15 years experience, author, and educator.

She’s here to show you how to simplify your horse’s management painlessly so you feel in control and have a straightforward system that works for you.

When she’s not working you can find her playing with her own horses, watching geeky sci-fi or baking epic cakes.

  • Great article! The only way we advance, in everything, is to research, experiment, and have the confidence to apply methods that are new. I saw the picture and originally cringed, but after looking at it more closely there are several things that I can see that actually do appear to have been applied with sound knowledge and innovative thinking. I noticed a “shadow” where the screws were fixed through and see that it might possibly be a filled in portion of a hoof wall that was cut away. Therefore filled in with epoxy and not the actual hoof itself.

  • Yep, horse people always pic on little things trying to complete the whole thing.
    Which is not bad, because it’s rising the awareness, of what is actually happening. Just big egos think, they know it all. The other ones are still observing and learning, putting the basic lines together and finding out, where the problem has its origin. Learning and teaching is a part of the path. We have to help each other to get better, for the sake of the horses 🙂
    Thank you always for sharing your views Debs 🙂

  • I always enjoy your blog but I really love this one. I feel exactly the way you do about people passing their judgment without trying to understand the situation.

    • it’s a favorite of mine too. I’m a bit idealistic really, but I’d much rather we all make progress, I don’t much care about who’s right and wrong or trying to drag people down for their mistakes (real or perceived)

  • Hi. Debs,
    re : barefooters
    Is that, ” sexually frustrated middle-aged women hugging everything better ” in THEIR barefeet??
    (Sorry, warped sense of humour!!)
    Seriously, I love your blog,as it makes me question and think about things I would not have previously considered.

  • Years ago I ran a trail riding business where we brought up several young horses and trained them to be ridden. As that was back before I knew about barefoot they were all shod. The thing is that hoof care started from when they were foals – a bit of picking out the feet, then some rasping and so on. We lived in a place with a cold snowy winter so their feet did grow faster than they wore away for several months. So by the time they were four and began to be ridden they were all used to having feet trimmed. We’d also get them used to hammering by tapping the hooves with a hammer whilst in for trimming. As a result the first shoeing rarely was a problem. As for what the new shoes felt like, there was some pawing at the ground and after that the young horses just got on with moving about.

    The thing, in my experience, that set a horse against shoeing was rough treatment whilst being shod. A nail misplaced into sensitive tissue would, presumably, have the same effect.

    But if a horse is treated thoughtfully and with patience I don’t see why shoeing has to be traumatic, either the first time or later.

    • It’s not the tool you use but the hands that hold them…

      Thanks Julian. I have to agree, if shoes were fundamentally a problem, I think we’d see more problems with them.

  • I don’t really know. All of my horses have been shod before so I can’t experiment on them. Anyone got any never shod horses, they want to shoe to find out? We’d need loads of them for a study. I suspect the issue of horse handling would come up too, so we need detailed history of their handling.

    There’s so many questions and research is so long and boring at times. Just doing the same thing over and over again to build up a large enough base of test subjects. It’s expensive and time consuming. When looking at what research is being done, you need to look at who’s funding it and how they’re going to make money from the results.

    I guess that’s part of why. It’s not an important question to the people with the moola to finance a study. Or it’s not a question they’ve thought of. I’ll put it on the ‘when I win the lottery’ list 🙂

  • We all know about what happens when you take a horses shoes off. The transition period whilst the hoof adjusts to the fact it can now expand and contract again and grow the way it wants too, the horses hooves being ‘tender’ during the transition period. However what about the other side of things?

    At what age is a horse normally shod for the first time? How does the horse react to this? Does it stand calmly (the traditionaly view of the horse and the farrier) or does it struggle and have to be subdued by force or drugs? How does it react after the shoes are on? After all it must feel very strange for the horse to one minute be able to feel the ground beneath its hooves and the next minute not. How does he walk after the first shoeing, is there a transition period? In all the debates about barefoot or not I have never seen this issue discussed and never seen footage of a horse being shod for the first time? Why?

  • Loved the article. It’s true we all need to listen to each other rather than shout at each other. I am relatively new to the horse world as I have only owned horses for 5 years and before that, although I loved watching horse shows on tv I didn’t know very much about them. So basically I came into horse ownership with a completely open mind and decided to follow the ‘natural’ path and try my best to keep my horses in a way that is best for them and not convenient for me. So they live out 24/7, are barefoot and have hay or grass all the time.

    My experience with horses so far is that anything to do with them always takes time. It takes time to teach them new things and it takes time for them heal when they are injured, it takes time for their hooves to change and heal when damaged. Unfortunately, in the ‘traditional’ horse world time is not an option. Horses must be ‘fit’ for the next competition or race and any changes that involve the horse being ‘out of action’ for any amount of time is not really welcome. The modern horse world is all about making money out of horses and so anything that means ‘loss’ of money is not liked. I don’t want to sound doom and gloom but just to say that because of the money side of things any significant change in the way horses are treated is going to take time. Things are changing as more and more people see that there is another way to live with horses and eventually I do believe that horses will be barefoot, the farriers will become the new barefoot trimmers – I hope so anyway.

    • My Dad always says ‘How do you make a small fortune out of horses? Start with a large fortune’ 🙂

      I’ve always found the people who are new to the horse world see things far more clearly than those who grew up in it. When you get things drummed into your head as a kid it’s so easy to believe the rules are gospel without ever questioning them.

      Thanks for your comments and sharing the article.

  • You’re right Debs- constructive debate is a much more effective way of progressing understanding. I think the shod barefoot debate is unfortunately designed to get argumentative tho because the horse can’t tell us what it thinks… both the owners & the hoofcare professionals invest a lot into the treatments, so of course we defend them vigorously- if we’re wrong then we’ve been doing harm to our beloved steeds…. & that’s really hard to accept. And is perhaps the reason why a lot of folk first turn to barefoot when other methods have failed. So until reputable comparative trials are run of the different methods I think we are stuck in a world where case studies make the most eloquent argument for both the barefoot & the shod solutions & the owner should be given the space to make their own decisions about which route to follow…

    • Thanks Helen, well put. When you’ve got the space to make your own decision, you also have the space to see whether or not what you’re doing is working…

  • Great read debs, though I’m not sure at all what the folk are trying to achieve with the shoes and screws….I dread to think of the damage inside from the screw….nop not sure on that one!!!!

    Totally agree with the fact of we all need to try and stay open minded, and we all need to continue to study and keep up to date for our horses sake weather it be husbandry, feet, food, tack, biomechanics it doesn’t matter learning is gaining experiences even if they aren’t always the best. Its in our /horses best interest to gain a better understanding of why stuff happens and more importantly how we can sort it….life is trial and error and we all make mistakes….but only the open minded will start to learn from the mistakes and start to change things.

    🙂 SJ

  • Yep. It’s all about education, but not just for owners. For professionals and researchers too. Research is how we learn, and research, is a fancy term for trial and error. How come we never say trial and success?

    We’re all trying and learning 🙂

  • I’m against anything that is permanently fixed to the hoof that will inhibit the normal function of the hoof. I am a big barefoot advocate as I have seen first hand on 2 of my own horses (one laminitic, one foundered) how it has greatly improved their mobility and taken them from being completely immobile to being ridden again. Sometimes the improvement is noticed immediately, sometimes within a week, sometimes longer. I think the problem is, many horse owners are looking for quick fixes instead of giving the horse time to heal itself through proper hoof care, lifestyle, nutrition and owner EDUCATION. Too much of a hurry to get back in the saddle leads to what some may call ‘innovative’ and others call cruel methods to try and fix the problem. As horse owners, we should be continually educating ourselves on the care of our animals as we will never know it all. In most cases horse owners are the problem and usually stems to lack of education in what they are trying to ‘fix’ which can lead to making the problem worse.

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