When The Barefoot Community Gets Nasty

I recently wrote two posts about the transition process from shod to barefoot and what that may look like and cost for horse owners. A related topic that must be discussed for owners who are considering the switch to barefoot is what to do when the barefoot community gets nasty. In my experience, there are bad apples in every single aspect of the horse community. No barn or discipline is immune to rude, mean, or arrogant people. Unfortunately, some of these people are the experts or the professionals you have entrusted yourself and your horse to.

I work in many barns and overhear some of the funniest and saddest things on a regular basis. I genuinely adore horses and their people. I get to witness special relationships between humans and equines that don’t exist anywhere else. I get to partner with owners on the journey towards healing and helping their horses. I get to support and encourage when the going gets tough. I get the text or phone call when a client has to put down their horse.

But I also regularly talk to owners who are completely overwhelmed, confused, and even a little depressed about the prospect of going barefoot, of pulling shoes, of committing to something new. They’ve been online, doing some research, and everyone says do this, don’t do that. But then someone else says the exact opposite. Paying your horseshoer to come out and shoe every 6-8 weeks sounds a lot more simple than joining in with the fray!

I have watched barefoot advocates and trimmers rip each other, owners, and horseshoers to shreds in their frenzy to prove themselves as the ultimate expert. This happens everywhere else in the horse community too, but since the barefoot community is now my community, I’ll be talking about them specifically.

Have you ever heard “horseshoes are evil” – “you’re a terrible owner if your horse has metal on her feet” – “you’re doing it all wrong!” – “you have to _____ or else barefoot will never work for you” – “you can only follow ____’s methodology or it will never work!” – “I wouldn’t let _____ touch my horse’s feet” – “I would never let a horseshoer trim my horse again”……and on and on it goes. When I was first introduced to barefoot trimming, I was told many of those same things, filling in the blanks with whatever the person talking to me said.

The problem with that attitude is that it is control, shame, and fear based.

“You can’t do _____ or else….” = control, shame, fear. This says “if you don’t follow the exact rules (of which everyone has their own version of), bad things will happen, and they will be your fault.”

“You will never succeed if you don’t_____” = control, shame, fear. This says “do it my way, or else you’ll fail. No room for questions or discussion.”

You may not be able to identify this when it’s happening, especially if you get overwhelmed. But when you get home from the barn and process what you’re feeling, you’ll most likely identify that you feel fear. Fear of failing your horse. Fear of criticism. Fear of doing the wrong thing. Fear of disappointing people. Fear of conflict.

THIS is not what “going barefoot” is about. It is not okay to shame people for their choices. It is not okay to try to control people in disguise of “helping.” I have walked past horses standing in their stalls, head lowered, in chronic pain, because their owners didn’t know any better. I have watched horses jumping or doing dressage, so obviously lame that I couldn’t believe no one was doing anything about it. I’ve watched horses walk past me as I trim that I KNOW I could help feel better. But those are just my personal observations. I have no control over anyone or their choices. If someone asks my opinion, I’ll offer it. But it is extremely important to talk to each other carefully, with respect.

My wish for you today is that you become allergic to manipulation in all forms. When you sense someone is speaking out of a desire to “put you in your place,” cause anxiety in you, or make you afraid of your horse’s future, may you find the strength to put it behind you and ignore it. Our horses cause strong emotions in us. We may feel fear or anxiety as we make decisions, but don’t let someone else stir up that fire. You need a supportive team, not people to tear you down. You need the freedom to make your own decisions for YOUR horse. 

*For my potential or current clients in Washington: my goal is to be an awesome barefoot trimmer and resource for you. I will advise you on what I think is best, based on my professional assessment of your horse, when you ask. But I promise to try really hard to override my own desire for control and to *empower* you to make the best choices for yourself and your horses.*

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