Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The fairytale world of the internet...or questions to ask your trimmer/farrier

The internet is a marvellous way of sharing information, and I am convinced that the wealth of stories, articles and tips online has been a huge factor in making more people interested in barefoot horses.

There is one obvious snag, which is that you don't have any way of being sure, online, whether the person whose story you are reading or whose advice you are taking is really all they seem. I had a good example recently, when an owner asked if I had heard of a particular trimmer whom they'd been recommended. This person has a lovely website and comments extensively on internet forums. She writes extremely well, and to read her posts and articles you would assume that she had lots of experience and regularly worked and competed her horses.

Unfortunately, the reality is that she has lots of enthusiasm, a little experience and no training. She does not carry insurance and probably has no commitment to continuing professional development. Nothing wrong with that per se, but possibly not someone you would be wanting to pay to trim your horse.

Equally I know of another trimmer who is outstanding but has a very modest website from which you would have no idea of how good she really is(!).

Obviously if you meet someone in person, you are more likely to get a "gut feeling" about whether they are what they appear to be, but there is no getting away from the fact that trimming is a completely unregulated industry. Its not the end of the world - I used to work in an incredibly heavily regulated industry and you still got good practitioners, bad practitioners and indifferent practitioners - but it does mean that the onus is on the owner to work out whether someone is worth paying or not.

My basic checklist for any trimmer or farrier would be:
  • do they understand that barefoot is more than just taking shoes off?
  • can they effectively advise on the horse's diet, environment and exercise?
  • do they routinely assess the horse's movement, before and after it is trimmed?
  • do they have horses on their books who are working HARD without shoes and preferably competing?
  • can they provide references to back this up?
  • do they own their own horses, and do more with them than a quick hack round the block?
  • do they carry professional indemnity insurance?
  • do they undertake continuing professional development?

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