I often find myself saying (or even just thinking), “when I was a kid in the horse world…”

It’s generally in response to a change. To something that is not done or handled like it was 15 to 25 years ago. It could be simply a situation of style. Stock pins were a must have when I showed hunter, and are now never to be seen. Same with the “spanish tops” field boots have nowadays. To my eye, they look almost ridiculous in their height.

All of this is all well and good. Style in general doesn’t remain static, and often times the best looks and lines in clothing last the test of the years and pop culture. If I don’t like a particular hot item or colour, I don’t wear it. Simple enough.

But sometimes in the equestrian world, we’re talking about something far different than clothing. Herd management, feeding/supplementing, and even basic care is not a static thing either. It wasn’t that long ago that we dewormed on a rotational schedule, every single horse without fail. Now most owners use fecal egg count tests to determine what and when they administer a dewormer. It’s important, as worms are forming a resistance to the dewormers we’re administering. More than that, why give strong and unnecessary medication to a horse who’s worm load is negligible? This is the new normal, and who knows where we’ll be in another 5 to 10 years?

When we stop taking in new information, we become less rounded and educated horse people. Just because something was or wasn’t done when I was a kid doesn’t mean anything about it being done or not done now. Chiropractic work is as common in my barn as vaccines and farrier work. Professional saddle fitters are not a luxury, but a necessity. And when a professional working on your horse isn’t producing a result you want/need/expect, it is time to try someone else.

Star came to me with bad feet. I don’t blame her last owners. I think a lot of it was years and years of getting the bare minimum in hoofcare. She was trimmed on an assembly line, and left to go play in the field with the rest of her herd. I’d noticed her tripping more and more lately (case in point being our big fall). I saw how different the hoof capsule growing in was to the part being trimmed off. I couldn’t understand why the basic look and balance of her feet weren’t getting better.

In a weird roundabout way, I found a new farrier. She wasn’t advertising her services, but she was affiliated with a rescue I knew and had donated some trims to their auction. I found her Facebook page with photos of her work, and got really excited. She seemed to be addressing a lot of the same issues I was dealing with. I contacted her, asking if she’d mind coming out our way to see if she could do anything for Star. She happily agreed.

The first thing I noticed was she didn’t just set down and get to work. She walked around Star, looking at her feet of course, but also her stance, confirmation, coat, and eyes. She asked a lot of questions, then she got down to business. Over an hour later I wanted to cry. Finally I’d found someone who listened to my concerns, didn’t dismiss them as, “that’s just how her feet are,” and started us down a real path to beautiful, balanced feet.

Years ago I don’t know that I would have reached out to someone that purported to trim feet in a style that was based almost entirely on feral horse feet. But that just goes to show you, you can never allow yourself to stop learning and trying. You can never let your “right” way be set in stone. The right way is a river, and it changes and moves with time. What works for one horse, will fail for another. We need to be open minded and, perhaps more importantly, open hearted with our horses.

After all, the love of these animals is what got most of us this far in the first place.

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