Submitted by Deb Jayne, owner of Mark, her barefoot Percheron Draft stallion.

I am 5 ft 2 in, 130 lbs and 46 years old. My equine partner is Mark, a black Percheron draft stallion who is 17 years old, 17 hh and weighs 1,578 pounds. We train and compete in Dressage. Our favorite pastime and training tool is trail riding. I have found we can accomplish correct dressage training within the relaxed environment of the trail. Our rhythm and forward from the seat and leg have improved dramatically on the open trail.

The hours together have strengthened our partnership and provided us with muscle tone and stamina that is needed for the horse and rider to stay in harmony during the rigorous and exacting dressage work. We work once a week with my wonderful trainer/mentor, Maggy McHugh (Hebron, KY), to stay focused and on the training scale. She is often surprised at how much we have accomplished in a week: this is largely due to Mark’s willing nature and intelligence, and also him being comfortable in his work.

I bought Mark as a 7 year old who had been trained by the Amish to work equipment and do logging. He had not been ridden and was afraid to canter (cantering is not allowed when hooked to equipment!) I have never had him shod, as once his feet were trimmed, they seemed in good shape and healthy. I did have a problem with his farriers, as they always left him too long, and did very little trimming up of the sole and frog area. When I would clean his feet, I could see that there was a lot of thrushy black material left behind and he would soon have chipped, cracked feet and quarters. I did not want shoes , but needed sound feet.

That is why I started experimenting with my own trimming on Mark. My husband Charlie and I went to an Equine Affaire, and watched a seminar on “mustang” or natural trimming and it made so much sense! As time moved on, I became more sure of my trimming skills, as I have worked with my horses’ feet since I had a foundered pony as a child. I also always gleaned all I could from the farriers, and have even reset a few shoes that have been loose. The more I studied and applied the natural trim to Mark’s and our other horses’ feet, the sounder and better they became. No more split hooves  a week or two after paying to have them done, of worrying that I have a show or lesson planned, and he is already forging because of long back toes.

My biggest help in trimming came when I began to use power tools to trim. I have very small hands, and using the hoof nippers was difficult, and rasping hurt my shoulders. At my husband’s suggestion, I tried a grinder and “flap disc ” or sanding wheel and it worked well. Mark was not at all worried about it. Shortly after, I watched James Welz doing power tool trimming on his website, and knew I was on the right track.

After this winter of 2009-10, I was amazed at all of my horses’ feet! In September, I began feeding Nutrena Safe Choice again, instead of sweet feed, as I have read several articles on starchy feeds leading to thrushy conditions of the hoof. After super wet and soggy, terribly rough and frozen/wet again conditions,  my horses’s hooves were perfect! With solid walls, no chips or cracks, and evenly worn toes. I found this quite exciting as I had not even touched their feet for most of the winter. Mark’s feet showed no signs of thrush and had no chips at all.

Deb also has sucessfully transitioned her Quarter Horse to barefoot. Her husband’s Quarter horse Doc was purchased in Tennessee in 2008 and had underrun contracted heels, long toes and scaly chipping outer horn. He has shown the most improvement of all. Along with the constant attention to trimming, she used Easyboot Epics to begin the transition and his hoof size has increased by one size. She has purchased the Easyboot Edge boots and just loves them.

Remember, if you decide to take this journey, the results will be profound. Ask questions from natural hoof care advocates, don’t get discouraged and most of all believe in yourself and your horse. Deb says “If I can master this, anyone can! Happy hooves and trails!”

Nancy Fredrick