10 years ago when I decided I wanted to learn to trim my horse there weren't many references or places to go to learn. There were of course traditional farrier programs, but I was looking for more a natural approach. I started with reading books by Pete Ramey, Dr. Stausser and other barefoot pioneers but there wasn't a lot available online. This was back before the evolution of Facebook how-to groups and online courses. I struggled my way through balancing what I was reading with my experiments in trimming my own horses and I found that it was an extreme learning curve. Eventually I sought out help and attended one of those traditional farrier courses. I learned a lot about what I wasn't really interested in at that course, but I also learned to use the tools and how to interact with the horses so it was definitely a valuable resource for me.
What I craved all those years ago was a course that would not only teach the theory and science behind barefoot trimming but would also have a hands on component that could help me to build my skill. After trimming for several years and with the encouragement of Cheryl Henderson of the Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care I was able to put together a program exactly as I had wished for back when I learned to trim in order to help others progress with a less steep learning curve then I had experienced. My ultimate goal has always been to help as many horses as I can in my lifetime and I quickly realized that teaching others how to help horses was the most advantageous way to do that.
The 6 day barefoot trimming course that I have developed as gone through much evolution since its initial inception. My first course in 2014 was a bit of trial and error. As I did more courses I was able to refine the process and figure out what parts needed more study time and hands on training by watching the rate at which the students progressed through the program. Now fast forward 5 years and that course is dramatically different then that first one. We have now developed an online course that covers that theory and knowledge base before students even arrive. This gives us more time hands on with the horses and more practice time for students while they can be directly supervised.
The hardest part about training people to trim is that I have no control over their practices or techniques once they leave my course. I believe that working with horses in any capacity but especially hoof care requires a constant desire to learn. You must become a perpetual student of the horse in order to continue to evolve your learning and not become overconfident or complacent. My all time favorite quote is "he who thinks he knows the most, has the most to learn" (author unknown). I can't stress enough to students when they leave here that my short introductory course to barefoot trimming is simply a starting point. They must continue to evolve their education and build their knowledge base in order to stay relevant and do their best work for horses. I also offer them access to a Facebook group where they can converse with their peers and reach out to me for support and guidance along the way. The 6 day course is not the end of the road, students can attend again in the future for no additional cost and I have seen this second week bring their skills from basic trimming to significantly more advanced.
As I am always learning and attending as many clinics and workshops as I can I am constantly adding new things into my course and changing up the content to reflect new research and theories surrounding the hoof. I make a point to attend as many clinics as possible and to study as many trimming styles as well as traditional farrier research because I believe that no time learning is wasted.
This journey to work for horses, as anyone that has horses will tell you, is not lucrative. We put our blood sweat and tears into these animals but the experience of watching them overcome lameness or to be able to rehabilitate them is what keeps me grounded and keeps me going.
Kristi Luehr is a Barefoot Trimmer, and founder of the Okanagan School of Natural Hoof Care. She is certified by the Canadian Farrier School as well as the Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care and is also trained in Equine Massage Therapy and Equine Dentistry. Her focus is to educate owners about hoof anatomy, function and proper barefoot trimming that supports and grows healthy and functional hooves specific to each horse's individual needs.