Before saying too much about hooves, I think it’s extremely important to give you a little information about my background. After all, how credible would this blog be if all I had to back up my assertions were more of the usual “credentials” many horse people tend to offer, like “I love horses” or “I’ve been trimming hooves for 25 years”?
I’ve always believed that a solid formal education is a great point of departure for most any undertaking, and the 7 years I spent at universities yielded undergraduate degrees in music theory & composition and sound recording technology, and a graduate degree in engineering. At various times over the past 30+ years, I’ve been employed as an electronics engineer, graduate and undergraduate university professor, recording engineer, and professional musician. I’ve worked on several Grammy-winning recordings, have a couple of patents, designed quite a few products, and educated literally thousands of students in technical subjects at four different universities. I still do a lot of both teaching and engineering – I teach full-time at one of the largest universities in the country, and own a small engineering company specializing in electronic product development.
And while none of that directly matters with respect to the horse world, what does matter is the insight this technical background gave me when I purchased my first horse in 1993 and was confronted with trying to make sense of the myriad information facing every horse owner. What immediately struck me were the half-truths surrounding hoof care and what veterinarians and hoof care professionals alike alleged could be accomplished with this or that type of trimming or shoeing. And so, reinforced by the technical expertise of other engineering and health care professionals as well as my own, I started examining these claims as I practiced hoof trimming and studied equine anatomy and biomechanics, systematically testing each assertion against what science and common sense show us to be true. And many simply didn’t measure up.
In late 1999, after more than 6 years of struggling along on my own sorting hoof fact from fiction, I found a book entitled The Natural Horse: Lessons from the Wild, by former farrier Jaime Jackson. In it, he makes an extremely compelling argument for a method of hoof care (and horse management as well) based on his observations and measurements of the feral horses of the U.S. Great Basin. And so I began communicating with Jaime to help me refine my trimming technique, and, in 2005, finally went to study with him in person. Shortly thereafter, I joined his then-newly-formed organization called the American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners (AANHCP), and became a Certified Practitioner and Field Instructor. Several years later, Jaime changed the name of the organization to the Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices. In 2009, I was asked to join, and teach in, an organization consisting largely of former AANHCP members called Liberated Horsemanship (more on that organization in a future posting), where I currently teach an Advanced Topics clinic on trimming hooves with particularly challenging pathologies like laminitis and white line disease.
And so I keep steadily increasing my knowledge base through interactions with clients and with other industry professionals, and, especially, through treating as many “abnormal” cases as I can find. I’m also conducting research in two particular areas: movement analysis, and 3D modeling of the equine digit. But I must confess, though, that after more than 17 years of intensely studying equine hooves, I feel as if I’ve got a solid handle on only about 20 – 30% of what I believe one really needs to know to be 100% successful at understanding every hoof one encounters. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think anyone has a better grasp of it than that.
But we’ve still got a long way to go…