Happy Feet Horse Care is based in Fairfax Station, Virginia and is owned by Nicole Ciarrocca. When Nicole first became involved in natural hoof care, horse owners were expected to run to their local tack shop or find a good deal on line, then guess the size of their horse’s hooves. “When I told people I was going to start carrying hoof boots,” says Nicole of her early days as a dealer, “I routinely heard ‘hoof boots don't work. They always fall off on the trail and I'm always losing them. They are a waste of money’.
That really motivated me to make sure that the boot not only worked for the horse, but for the owner too.” Now she gets calls from people who want her to fit their horse because they come across other clients on the trail who want to have them. Nicole’s most successful marketing strategy is having horse owners out on the trail proving that not only do boots work, but also their horses are happier because of it.
When asked to analyze her success as an EasyCare dealer, Nicole says she not only makes sure the boot fits the horse, but that the owner is comfortable using them. She shows them how to apply the boots, then lets them try putting on the boots for themselves. “I can teach them all my little tricks so they are more successful from the beginning.”
Nicole’s top seller is the Easyboot Glove, but she plans to stock the Glove Back Country as well. For more challenging fits and for large horses, she carries many other styles so they can get a hands on feel for the boot. She then measures and orders what they need. “When the boot comes in, I deliver it and make sure my client is comfortable using the boot before I leave.”
Nicole’s five horses are booted with the Easyboot Glove and color coordinated Power Straps so it's easy to figure out which boot goes with each horse. They have been barefoot and booted for as long as she’s owned them, from four months to six years.
Nicole was always curious, even as a child, why we put shoes on horses. “My logical mind back then knew that wild horses didn't have shoes, so why do our horses need shoes?” She never got her answer as a little girl. But 25 years later it came time to get her own horses. “That's when I came across Pete Ramey's book, Making Natural Hoofcare Work For You. I read that book and every hoof book I could get my hands on and I was hooked. Now I'm dedicated to helping as many horses as I can, even though the biggest challenge is educating the owner.”
When asked about her most rewarding experience she has had as a trimmer, Nicole remembers the winter that two of her own horses foundered on the same day. “I couldn't understand at first because I was doing everything right: very little green grass, hay 24/7 through slow-feeding hay nets on my very own Paddock Paradise; organic grain-free low NSC feed, barefoot, constant turnout.” With the help and guidance of Dr. Frank Reilly (www.equinemedsurg.com) she learned that her horses were insulin resistant. “And although everything else was right, I couldn't control the weather. Our mild winter with temperatures in the 70's then plummeting to the 30's caused an increase in their insulin levels that caused them both to founder. It really helped open my eyes to how much the health of the horse dictates the health of the feet.” Both horses were put on HEIRO and have fully recovered.
Nicole believes that the evolution of the barefoot industry is impacting everyone, including traditional farriers. “I met one of those farriers a few weeks ago. He found out I was a barefoot trimmer and he thanked me. He said that because of what we were doing and what we were learning, he has changed the way he shoes. He has gone from traditional, long toed shoeing, to short toes and natural break-over shoes. Other than that, he encourages them to go barefoot. He said he wanted to invent a shoe that could be strapped on like a sandal so the horse could have hoof protection but not have to use any nails. I told him to follow me to my truck and I introduced him to the Easyboot Glove. He was sold.
Nicole and her family love to camp and trail ride. Their goal is to get out at least once a month for a camping and riding vacation. Their favorite place is The Big South Fork NRRA in Tennessee. They try to get down there at least once a year and stay for one or two weeks.
For more information or to contact Nicole, go to happyfeethorsecare.com.