Evolution of the Bare Hoof
Over recent years the barefoot movement has gained momentum. There have been many key players that have contributed
to the improved understanding of horses hooves. Farriers and veterinarians alike have studied and experimented to develop
a new model of a healthy hoof.
Most of the theories on natural hoofcare have come directly from natural horses, mustangs. Nearly everyone who wanted
to learn more about the structure and function of healthy feet has started by studying mustangs.
Though there have been many contributions of information, many ideas and theories have been brought up and possibly
discarded, ideas that have helped improved modern hoof care dramatically. This is just a few of the many people who have
played their own part.
Lyle (Bergy) Bergeleen a farrier since late 1970's focused his study of hooves on the straightness of hairlines. In 1992 he
published “HoofTalk: The Hairline Tells It All and in 1998 “HoofTalk: The Natural Trim”. He has also put out videos
about his views of natural hoof trimming.
Gene Ovnicek is a master farrier that has developed a technique that he calls “Natural Balance®” where the front and back
proportions of the foot are measured from the widest part across the sole. The balance of these proportions allows for
proper breakover and hoof expansion. He has been featured in and written articles in many popular horse publications.
While Mr. Ovnicek is a farrier and emphasize the value of leaving horses barefooted he also does shoe. He also works with
Dr. Bowker in equine hoof research in continue our understanding of the hoof.
Jamie Jackson started studying mustangs in 1982. He has written several books including "Horse Owner's Guide to Natural
Hoof Care" (1999). He does clinics and lectures and started a natural hoof care course to certify trimmers. In addition to the
training course, Jackson formed the American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners (AANHCP). In 2005 Jackson
wrote “Pasture Paradise”, which is a way to keep horses moving even in small areas.
Pete Ramey has many years of experience with horses but only started farrier work in 1994. He published his first book in
2000 “Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You” and has been doing clinics for horse owners. He is working closely with
Dr. Robert Bowker to further research into the function of horse hooves.
Hilturd Strasser, DVM Dr. Strasser is a veterinarian from Germany who studied the anatomy and physiology of horses
hooves. She has written several books including, “Lifetime of Soundness “(1998 ) and “Shoeing: A Necessary Evil?” (2000
) which are basic overviews of the barefoot principles. She started a hoof care training course in Germany. In 2000 Jamie
Jackson sponsored her for clinics in the US. She then started a training course in the US and has now expanded to several
countries all over the world. Dr. Strasser has been widely criticized as being too invasive. Optimal rehabilitation requires
clinical settings, which includes rubber matting that is non-abrasive and non-concussive, that allows Dr. Strasser to
maximize hoof function thus speeding rehabilitation. Many miss that the seemingly drastic trim is only suitable for clinical
Dr.Robert Bowker is a veterinarian professor at Michigan State University. Although he never had a great deal of interest in
horses, his wife’s interest pulled him into the industry. He has done and continues to do extensive research into the inner
workings of hooves. He has proposed the importance of heel first landing and along with Pete Ramey has tested many
theories into the functioning of horses hooves. He has published many papers in veterinarian journals and has done lectures
in conjunction with Ramey.
Chris Pollitt is professor in the Physiology Department at The University of Queensland. He has been running ongoing
studies on the causes of lameness and has specialized in continuing research into causes and treatments of laminitis. His
department just recently published a study that supports the idea that feeds that cause high level of insulin, such as high
sugar diets, can over time can cause laminitis.
Many of the people mentioned offer clinics and extended training. There is no nationally recognized certification program
with specific requirements, and certification through any courses is strictly done through a privately run organization.
While direct information has advanced the barefoot movement the most, developments in hoof care protection such as hoof
boots have indirectly been able to give horse owners what they require to maintain their horses healthy hooves. The market
has burgeoned in the last 10 years starting from a couple companies that created custom boots specific to your horse to over
a dozen companies that can mass produce boots in a range of sized to fit the largest draft to the smallest mini. These boots
have given owners the ability to keep their horses barefoot and still allow them the luxury of protection in the harshest
Many of the ideas proposed by the different farriers and vets may seem contradictory, this has just allowed the evolution of
the information which has been leading to a general consensus of information that can become a solid foundation. Thanks
to the internet information has been readily available to everyone. This gives not only veterinarians and farriers various
research but also owners who want to educate themselves. This open form of information has allowed people to try
different techniques and decide for themselves what works best for their horses. Through shared experience and consensus
of information, the new healthy hoof model is taking a very similar general appearance no matter who is doing the trim.
This is good news not only for horses but owners trying to find help for their horses.
Ann Marie Larson has owned horses for over 20 years. Received certification from Equissage in 1997 to do equine
massage. Due to her own horse foundering and having problems finding farriers that were willing or able to help she took a
clinic with Dr. Strasser in 2000. Impressed by the progress her mare made she began the certification course in fall of 2001
and graduated in May 2002. Started trimming professionally during the course and continues to trim clients horses as well
as teach owners how to do the trim themselves. In 2007 she took two clinics with Pete Ramey and one with Dr. Robert
Bowker and has now combined that information to improve the rehabilitation process. Current travels throughout Illinois,
Iowa and Eastern Nebraska as well as competing with her horses in hunter/jumper, dressage events and trail riding with
horses she has rehabilitated keep her busy.