Natalie attributes her success to her burning desire to learn. She finds she can learn something from everyone. Even if she does not agree, there is always something that might cause her to approach a problem from a different angle. She credits her reputuation to the power of word of mouth and her conscientious approach to customer service. "I do some marketing, but it is a fairly tight community around here. If you want to be successful, you need to have people talking about you in a good way."
Natalie says Easycare makes working with their dealer networks and boot users a pleasurable process. "They have a friendly, helpful, knowledgeable staff; they have favorable return policies, and when a product is shown to need improvement, they modify the product instead of sticking with the same old thing."
She uses the same philosophy in her own business: "I am very helpful and giving with my knowledge. If a client has a question, they never hesitate to call or email me with it, and I try and help them. A good trim is just the tip of a large iceberg." She studied horseshoeing first, and credits that time with learning the principles of anatomy and a balanced trim. She feels strongly that evolution is just as important in hoofcare as it is in the boots that protect those hooves.
Natalie is quick to compliment EasyCare: "I love how inovative Easycare is, always trying to come up with new solutions to existing boots, or totally new boots when the need arises. Instead of insisting that the user is at fault, or the trims are incorrect, EasyCare tries to find a solution to boot failures by either modifying the boot design, or coming up with a design that fits the activity of that user. She says she's still waiting to see a sliding plate boot, though. "It just amazes me how fast things are changing in the industry," says Natalie, "and I am loving it."
Natalie currently owns three horses: a 13 year-old Morgan/Quarter Horse mare that was her first horse and, she says, her best horse. "I tried about everything with her, and she is currently being leased to a friend's daughter. Together they won the state championship for CSHA Trail Trials in their division this year, bare and sometimes booted with Gloves. She was also her experimental horse for getting into barefooting. She always needed shoes with pads in the front, having long toe/low heel issues, and wore the outside branches of her hind shoes to nothing in six weeks. Natalie was skeptical of taking her barefoot. "Her feet became so much better that I decided to completely convert my farrier business to natural hoofcare." She has never looked back.
Natalie and Storm.
She bred the mare to the top AERC mileage and Hall of Fame stallion, DR Thunder Bask, and this year her six year-old daughter completed her first endurance season. She has been bare her entire life, and performed wonderfully in Gloves, Epics, and Glue-ons at rides throughout 2011. "She is also my 'thinking outside the box' booting horse. I have had to modify boots and how to apply them to the hoof with her, as she tends to have a lot of torque on the hind end." Having a challenging horse in booting has helped her help others.
Natalie also has a 13 year-old Kentucky Mountain stallion. "He is my 'soul horse' and I love everything about him."
Natalie & Eowyn.
As a small business owner, Natalie keeps a minimum stock for clients, and appreciates the fact that Easycare does not have a minimum order policy amount. Her best-seller is still the Easyboot Glove and Glove Wides. "Most of my cients love them as they are so simple to use. The next best-selling models are the Epic and Easyboot Trail, as both allow a greater range of fitting for clients unable or unwilling to keep the hooves trimmed as frequently as the Gloves require.
Her most rewarding experience as a trimmer was treating her first founder case. "I knew the theory, and had trimmed a few mildly laminitic horses, but not a really bad case. When I called the vet for a consult and to go in and see the radiographs, the vet had basically written the horse off and told me to expect to see the coffin bone coming through the sole." She never did get sole penetration on that horse, but there were months of abscessing. Today the horse has textbook hooves. "This case got me started on the path to working on laminitic horses and it boosted my confidence in the barefoot method."
Natalie's most memorable hoof boot success story is the 2011 XP 2,000 mile ride. "There were a good number of barefoot and booted riders already, but there were also many shod horses competing." The barefoot horses proved to be most of the highest mileage horses on this ride, with over 1,000 miles each during the two-month span. Riders with shod horses discovered the benefits of barefoot/booted protocols, and many of them solved lameness issues during the race by pulling shoes and applying boots. "So much for an extended transition from shoes," said Natalie ironically.
Natalie's prediction for the future? That a barefoot and booted lifestyle will become the norm instead of a fad. "More and more vets and long-time farriers are becoming interested in it. As boots become easy to use and effective as hoof protection, more people see barefoot and booting as a viable option for their horse's hoofcare.
For more information on Epona's Natural Hoofcare Services, visit Natalie's new Facebook page. For more information on becoming a dealer, visit the Dealer's Corner on the EasyCare website.