My Name is Brittany Flinn and I am an equine horsemanship specialist, and for fun I do a bit of showjumping.
I have been trimming since about the age of 12 when mum attended a few clinics, and she showed me how to start off. I'm now 19 and trim horses all over the region for many people and love to learn everyday by coming across new hooves that I haven't seen before. The feedback from the clients has always been positive and I am excited to see the barefoot movement grow more and more.
My main horse, Demo, is my showjumper that taught me a lot about "sticking to it". I acquired this 16.2hh gelding whilst doing some problem horse help at a showjumping friend's place. They said to me - "Britt, here is the perfect horse for you, he is nuts! and lame!" I thought... "uh uh no way". But, fate had its hand in my journey and so I ended up with a very lame thoroughbred - extremely club footed on one foot, and pigeon toed on the other. The fact that it took him 3 hours to hobble from one end of the 1/2 acre yard to the other was just excruciating to watch and I often questioned wether I was being cruel or kind. The land that we live on is rocky and rough - perfect for hoof conditioning, but hell for poor Demo. I took him to an Equethy clinic, where the instructor suggested that I might have bitten off more than I could chew... but I wasn't about to give up.
A year later the same instructor saw me at the Buck Brannaman Clinic and couldn't believe I was riding the same crippled horse he had seen a year earlier... now fit, healthy and sound. I got him some Old Macs and slowly but surely, step-by-step, he improved. I got funny looks for turning up to competitions with "joggers" on my horse, but it has definitely paid off. I don't need the hoof boots anymore and showjumping or cross-country my boy is as sound as ever. His old owners were amazed that he was jumping and said he is jumping better than ever.
It was a long road of two years but definitely worthwhile, and taught me never to give up, and taught me so much about hooves and the way they change and condition. I now enjoy sharing these experiences with others and helping whenever I can, and happy to see that more people are finally seeing the benefits of a natural hoof.
I became interested in barefoot after one of our horses (Archie) was always tripping. I was advised that he needed more toe removed and that would prevent his problem. His shod hooves were so upright he was actually falling off the front of his feet and his hairline was almost ground parallel. I couldn't see how you could take any more toe away from him without him having clubfeet. He was a cranky horse who never stood still. A chance meeting, with a lady at a Parelli clinic in April 2004 gave me a new train of thought into that thing stuck on the end of my horse's leg. You know that thing that you let the farrier look after, or in my case gave it a quick pasture type trim to stop it flaring. But I never touched my daughter's horse because he was competing and needed a professional (hence the upright shod feet).
Getting the concepts of how a hoof works and how alive and dynamic it is was amazing to me, as I underestimated its abilities for so long. I had never really considered the major effect the hoof has on the overall physiology of the horse. This lady corrected major deformations in my horse's front feet. His front feet looked like four different feet, the inside heel was radically different to the outside heel and his left and right had no relation to each other. We later noticed while checking photos that he had two completely different shoulders as well, after a month or so he began changing leads naturally and started using his right shoulder properly. The physical and emotional change in Archie (the tripper) was amazing, he became happier (more comfortable) and he stretched out about 7 inches in length. He enjoys his jumping now and is an eager little X country machine. People are still asking if it is really Archie, I think they believe we have pulled a fast one on them as he is a completely different horse.
Unfortunately after many months of trimming, this lady and I had a disagreement on the methods being used and sadly we parted company. I began doing my own trimming and research and found Equethy. Attending a clinic I found reassurance that I was doing the right thing for my horses with the methods my husband and I were following. We have sound horses all moving beautifully, with our previously tripping horse scoring very well in dressage tests for his elasticity, rhythm and gaits. I love watching our horses as the kids ride away and seeing that beautiful clean sole and wide frog/heel. I get great joy out of the squelchy noise they make on the wet roads as the hooves suck onto the surface. I love how the dirt just flies out of their hooves on every stride. I enjoy being asked what I feed our horses to get a hoof like that - GRASS!
My greatest joy is to take in a lame or 'poorly conformed' horse and change them completely. Turning them into woolly winter coated barefoot freaks of nature that are happy and healthy. My children collect the hoof patties from around the property and compare the sizes from QH foal to Belgian Draft mare. They see this as normal and they are the future generation of barefooters and natural horseman.
Currently I have a TB mare with behavioral problems and back problems. She is now 7 months barefoot, shining, healthy, moving effectively, able to sleep standing, in foal and living naturally with our other horses. I have photos of her the day she arrived, I enjoy comparing them with new photos of her, I will keep you informed of her progress. She was heartbreaking to look at and nobody could recognize her now if it wasn't for her huge star (splodge).
This is my beautiful barefoot Irish Sport horse 'Celtic Kate' and I winning the Silver Jubilee level 4 horse trials this year.
I thought I’d send you a member profile so you know a little about me but firstly I’d like to say that I am very impressed with this organization, anything to promote the health and wellbeing of our equine friends is a winner with me.
I am a qualified Animal Technician and Equine & Canine Myofuntional Therapist and an absolute advocate for barefoot horses. As a massage therapist I get to see first hand just how crippling metal shoes can be for a horse, not only effecting their hooves but gradual and dramatic changes to their posture, musculature and behaviour.
The most challenging part of my job is explaining to an owner exactly what several years of continually wearing shoes has done to their horse and that there is no ‘quick fix’. I can only hope that these owners take my advice and have the patience to do one of the nicest things they could do for their horse and that is remove it’s shoes. I am pleased to say however there are several of my client’s horses out there that are now a part of the barefoot club and haven’t looked back.
I have 2 horses, a 13yr old Irish Sport Horse mare ‘Kate’ and an 11yr old Thoroughbred gelding ‘Doulton’ who have been barefoot for over 2 years now. I compete regularly on Kate in Dressage, Combined training, Navigation Rides and Horse trials with the Bulla Adult Riding Club based in Greenvale. That’s a picture of Kate and I winning the Horse Trials at the Silver Jubilee this year. Doulton also does a bit of everything. He loves the Nav rides. I only use boots if I’m doing a 10km + ride and I don’t know the terrain. Barefoot has never stopped me from doing anything I want to do on my horses.
Thanks Lezley for your very warm welcome and I hope to gain lots of up to date information from the AEBM so I can do my bit to educate people in the equine community about the benefits of barefoot.
Cheers, Julie Scott
Muscles For Motion
Shan Daw - South Australia
Princess is a seven year old Arab mare who has been barefoot all her life. She was born at Quorn in the Southern Flinders Ranges and came to me as my share of a three horse swap enacted at the end of a 10 day ride from Hawker to Quorn (200 Km). three of us realized that we all needed a different type of horse. My Welsh Mountain pony went to friends who had a jinker horse that was suitable for the owner of Princess. I needed a second horse because my boy was chronically lame. Everyone was and remains very happy with the swap.
Princess was "very Arab" although kind but young, uneducated and strong willed. Fortunately I had just started becoming interested in Natural Horsemanship so had lessons for months. I learnt to work with her - but it was a slow process for me. Fortunately I stuck with it - probably because I was too scared not to and rode in a headstall for 12 months. That taught me to respect her. Then I heard about bitless bridles and bought one. We have never looked back although we have had two spills both of which I consider to be my fault.
Just before this I had spent long hours trying to work out why I had ruined two really good horses over the years. Both were chronically lame; both of course had been shod most of their 10 years with me. I realised that it was something to do with their feet and me. Then I came across Rob Thomas from Eyre Peninsula and he was a wonderful and passionate teacher for the next two years. Carolla entered into my life too. Now I am as passionate as both of them. BUT I'm working full time and am 63 years old and wish that I knew 30 years ago what I know now.
Still, I love to trim, and with my own horses it is more like a manicure each week. I find it so rewarding and love to crawl around on my hands and knees among my horses feet. My vision of the perfect hoof is taken from Jaimie Jacksons book "Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care". I have developed over the last four years from a hoof trimmer to a manicurist and find it hard to keep my rasp off other people's horse hoofs.
It is a challenge, particularly on these 10 day rides (which I and my barefoot friends do every year) to keep my eyes above the knees of every horse there - sometimes 150 horses present. So few of them are happy because their feet hurt or their shoulders hurt or their backs hurt. BUT things are changing and within three days at the last ride, eight of us had identified each other and talked passionately about feet around the campfire most nights.
Twice a week Princess join's her barefoot friends and travels 10 to 12 km, and on the weekend 25 to 30 km. She is at present in a paddock situation but when at home she is "on track" . I have built part of it over gravel, so her feet are in sound working condition. Occasionally we do a council trim - slow trot or amble on bitumen roads just to identify her weight carrying points and rasp off some extra hoof wall so I don't have to do it.
She has done four 200 Km rides (one each year) and I find that I have to trim along the way because, rather than wear her hoof walls down, her feet are stimulated by the 20 to 30 km a day, receive a greater blood supply to the corium and hence a faster hoof growth. Nature's way of compensating I guess.
The drought has been tough on feet with separation occurring occasionally but I have dug out a hollow in front of her "bath feeder" and once a week I flood the area and she has to stand in the water or starve. She hates water with a passion so it is quite amusing to see how she can avoid getting her feet wet. I have her beaten now, but it took quite a few adaptions.
I was brought up in an environment where although I loved horses my parent's had little or no idea about them. My Mum used to ride but, her experience was limited to riding other peoples horses never owning her own. Despite the lack of knowledge I was 13 when I first got my own horse and free board for him from one of my parents friends. All the knowledge I had was gained from going to the Local (for want of a better word) Riding school and, grooming and tacking up their horses for other people to ride. I did get some extra lessons for doing this and often I got lessons for birthdays and Christmas as well. At 13 my idea of keeping horses involved shoes- absolutely, feed - only skinny horses, and rugs all winter.
In the last 5 years a couple of people have made a huge impact on what I thought I knew. Ysabelle Hobson was resting her horses at the agistment farm where I kept Ned and between her and Marg I have been introduced to the world of the barefoot horse. Ysabelle and Marg were working regularly on Ysabelles horses each Saturday and I was a bit cynical to begin with but the horses were healthy and moving nicely although both Ysabelle and Marg would have told you that all of them still had a way to go.
Ned my quarter horse gelding has always been an active little devil. Every winter I had trouble keeping shoes on him. The farrier would come and shoe Ned and he would play till they fell off. Now don't get me wrong here Ned was sliding and spinning in his paddock and the mud would just suck those shoes right off his feet in anything from 2 days to 2 weeks later, he never kept a set of shoes for a full 6 weeks. His poor feet were what I would call a bit of a mess. I remember Marg looking at one of his shod feet one day after he had pulled a hind shoe and saying something along the lines of "I'm not putting my knife in there."
Marg and Ysabelle directed me to some excellent sites and told me to read up and then talk to them again about whether or not I really wanted to make the commitment to go barefoot. Believe me this is a commitment. I have even had people call me obsessive about it and I still have a lot to learn and I still need to train my eye to pick up the detail and the variances in balance that can occur if you don't pay attention to detail. Make no mistake this transition to barefoot is not for the faint hearted.
About 2.5 years ago the agistment farm Ned called home sold up and I had to find a new home for my horse. What a blessing that has turned out to be. Lezley Golding runs a Barefoot agistment farm in Nar Nar Goon and Ned now lives there. The facilities are wonderful with a concrete hoof soak and large paddocks stocked with like minded individuals (other horses) for Ned to play with and to help keep him moving. Not to Mention having been lucky enough to have Julie as my SHP to help me learn about my horse's feet.
I have attended 2 Basic Strasser hoof care clinics and one Advanced Clinic. What a learning experience that was. The last couple of years, Lezley and I have attended the Riding of the bounds in Berwick which is a 15 km trip including the Main street of Berwick. We completed this ride on Barefoot horses wearing Old Mac boots. Ned has moved from being a shod horse to being a barefoot horse “in transition” very well. We haven’t had much time where I have been unable to ride so long as I use my old mac’s and keep him trimmed properly.
Peter & Kerryn Dunlop
We are avid believers in barefoot for soundness, and especially the Strasser method. We have 5 horses, all Strasser trimmed, and all have benefited greatly. Peter's STB/TB was unsound to varying degrees for probably nearly 5 years (looking back) when he was shod. He wasn't lame as such, just gradually developed a chronic head bob. It started on the left rein, just on circles and through the short side. It gradually crept in to any work on the left rein, and eventually work on the right rein. Over time his stride length shortened (lengthened strides were his best feature!) and his leg yield deteriorated (another strong feature). The muscles either side of his wither atrophied and he developed back problems. We had the saddle checked and bought him a lovely new KN, custom-fitted, to no avail. We had regular chiropractic work done on him, the chiropractor couldn't understand why he kept having problems. We had physio done. We had him checked by our vet and he referred us to a biomechanics specialist. She said he wasn't using the muscles behind the saddle, and gave us exercises to strengthen this area, to no avail. All along all of the experts said what great feet he had ("who does your shoeing, he does a great job!).
We read the Strasser article 'The Harmful Effects of Shoeing' in Chaff Chat and decided to take the shoes off all of our horses (not because of this horse, mind you, as we never suspected his problem was his feet). Nothing changed for this horse and we eventually retired him to pasture (age 13). Then Julie Leitl (certified Strasser trimmer) started trimming our horses. Because Gamma was retired she was just trimming him for paddock soundness. She found lots of issues in his feet and said he was sore (lame) in all 4 feet! He had underrun heels, impacted (overlaid) bars and contraction of everything that can contract! Basically, heel pain. After about 6 months we noticed that he had become comfortable standing on 3 legs when being trimmed (this was one of the signs of his unsoundness, but we had suspected DJD), so we decided to try riding him.
Well, so far so good! He has been back in full work now for 4 months, Peter has a second chance with his wonderful horse that we have known from birth. He has a lovely STRONG top-line, no atrophy, strong back muscles. He is FLOATING over the ground, he is so light he barely touches the ground. His stride is long and free, his leg yield is back. All thanks to the Strasser trimming!
It is a wonderful feeling when you see your horse returned to full health and soundness. No more shoeing for us!
Footnote: 18 months later, Gamma's feet have stayed sound, he has never reverted to that toe-first landing, and his stride is still long and free. Unfortunately, his back still has issues and cannot withstand the pressures of high intensity dressage work. So Gamma is now semi-retired, he still does the odd trail ride and is ridden on an occasional basis by a friend doing basic flatwork.
About 10 years ago I purchased a little 17 yr old shetland mare (pictured below). She was a rescue case and had bad feet of course from years of laminitis and bad care. I just let the farrier do 'his thing' every month and never thought anything more of it. She was used as a paddock companion for my riding horse. But her feet where always bad and I just told anyone 'she has bad feet' and no one ever questioned it - after all I 'was' doing the right thing by getting the farrier.
Well a few house moves and 5 farriers later she still had bad feet - in fact in 6 or so years not one farrier could or would help her. I asked them to take the long high heels, off amongst other things, and they wouldnt!! I started looking at the job they did and even with my very untrained eye I could see they left lumpy sole, uneven wall height, long high heels and a long toe - and I have paid them for this terrible job!!! I started to think that I should have her put down as she was constantly lame. But then I thought there must be a better way.
A little later, while in an internet horse forum, someone posted a web site and said 'look at the awful things these people are doing to these horse feet'. Of course curiosity got the better of me and I looked - it was Gretchen Fathauer's site on treating founder, and after I started reading I realised that they werent doing awful things to these poor horses but they where curing them!!! I could not believe what I was reading and immediately became hooked and wanted more and more info. The more I looked, the more I found and I became this huge barefoot sponge as I just couldnt get enough info. I printed out articles and read and read and read. Not long after that I got game enough to get my hoof rasp (that I have had for at least 15 years) out and have a go. I didnt really know where to start but thought after seeing the farriers work I couldnt do much worse.
After soaking my brain with all this barefoot info I decided that my 16 yr old TB should go barefoot was well. He had been a very sound boy with no lower leg problems at all, his conformation was good so I took his shoes off and waited for the lameness, abcessing and soreness to start - I mean he was a TB after all and EVERY knows that TB's have bad shelly feet. Well it never happend. I never once stopped doing any of the riding or competing that I used to do. I did purchase a pair of Old Mac boots for use on x-country but mostly he went completely barefoot with no problems. Having no hard ground to work on I used to walk him and my pony up and down my 600m gravel driveway twice a day to toughen up their feet. He was sound and excellent to ride up until the day he was put down due to a broken leg. In fact only a week before he died he was 'power trotting' up a rocky gravel road with no stumbling or soreness at all.
As for my shetland pony well she started getting better - even with my self educated trimming. I cant remember how I came to meet Carola Adolf but I was thrilled to find she came to east Gippsland and after she first trimmed my pony I believed that maybe my pony would get better after all. Carola has been our guide all the way through and I cannot thank her enough for being such a careing and dedicated trimmer. My pony's feet problems are also compounded as she has Cushing disease.
I still read, and talk to people, about barefoot as much as I can, as I believe you cant learn too much and I also believe that everyhorse owner should know about their horse feet - even if it is only the basics. Ive attended a few barefoot trimming courses and now Im very competent doing my own horses. My pony is now the best she has ever been and my 4 yr old ISH (pictured right) has excellent feet. I will NEVER shoe another horse of mine every again and anyone I meet who is interested (or sometimes not) in going barefoot I encourage them whole heartedly.
'Every horse can go barefoot, but some owners cant.'
Okay how did I end up being a “barefooter”. I had horses for years and always had them shod when in work. My horses also had lots of hoof problems, but I never thought it was related to shoeing – I had a good farrier, I got them shod regularly. Isn’t that what one did?
Then the horse I bred, my pride and joy, turned three, was broken in and hey – finally we are ready to ride. After a couple of months of being ridden (with shoes) – he got really bad seedy toe in his hind hoof, a lot of the hoof was dissected and it took 5 months before his hoof grew enough that I could start riding him again, then a month or so later he got seedy toe in his front foot (but could still be ridden). Why?
Then disaster struck again, it was coming into summer, the ground was hard and the horse started going intermittently lame. Why – there can’t be anything wrong with his feet – he has hardly been ridden, he is young – why is he going lame? So I did what most owners do and called the Vet and ordered x-rays. Started to follow Vet instructions to the letter – had the farrier put special round shoes on the front feet, rest the horse, flat paddock, etc., then have the situation reassessed.
Lucky for me (and the horse) that I had some “barefoot” friends and they thought it was about time they gave me a “talking to” – recommending/ordering me that I take the shoes off and get their SHP Trimmer to look at Kangabee. I was lent Dr Strasser’s book “Lifetime of soundness” and off I went to read it. Even after reading it twice I was still a bit dubious about this barefoot thing – reading it made sense but if I went down that path I’d be going against Vet and Farrier advice. Could I do that? – this is my pride and joy we are talking about here. I kept procrastinating, I’d sit with the phone too scared to dial the SHP’s number – what if I am doing the wrong thing – I should probably just follow the Vet’s advice, I always have (and yeah and look at the trouble I have had with horses feet over the years), what if he gets worse, can I really do this?
Well eventually I dialed that number and Kangabee and I haven’t looked back. After talking on the phone for at least an hour (or was it two!) the trimmer then came out for a consultation and after listening (and only half understanding what she was saying) I felt I was on the right track and couldn’t wait for her to come back and start trimming.
I was lucky with Kangabee – he didn’t suffer from abscesses or any soreness after trimming and after about 4 months I was able to start riding him lightly on the ménage, gradually building up till we could do clinics and ARC rallies and now we are jumping.
The roads around my area are stony gravel and extremely hard so I wear old mac boots when we ride out – I used to always think it would be a hassle putting them on and off – much easier if you have shoes – but you get used to it (and quicker at it as well). And it makes so much more sense now – much better to keep your horse barefoot and put the boots on when you need them than to have them shod all year round so that you can ride them once or twice a week for a couple of hours! And with the cushioning the boots provide I can trot and canter on the hard ground without worry - and the best thing of all – remember going out to catch your horse for that special ride or show only to discover he’d lost a shoe – well that can’t happen any more!
I eventually hope to have his feet conditioned so that he doesn’t need any boots but these things take time – we will get there eventually. At least I am now riding Kangabee and have been for about ten months straight now with NO problems whatsoever. Recently we went to our first dressage day. The ground was a scoria/sand mix and he coped beautifully on it and did two lovely tests for his first ever outing and even placed we’ve just completed a showjumping day – horse trials are next and this is just the start!
I wanted to share my experience with other riders who may be thinking of going barefoot. I found it hard at the beginning to go against tradition and Vet advice but if you want your horse to be sound and healthy long term I really believe barefoot is the way to go. Look out for Kangabee and I at our next event.