The world of the equine foot is a complex one. Far more complex than the foot itself. For centuries, it was the farrier that attended to the horse's feet - a name that has become synonymous with shoeing horses whereas, in fact, it is merely the anglicised form of ferrier which is Old French for Blacksmith. This principally military connection with the horse has given the farrier a position of control and is used to justify the 'centuries of knowledge' claimed. Despite this amassed knowledge, the farrier's art has essentially not developed beyond the adoption of new materials when they have become available –lightweight alloys, plastics etc.– and the farrier is still practising an activity rooted in the Middle Ages.

More recently, there has been an upsurge of interest in 'natural hoof care' - a somewhat ambiguous phrase which engenders much criticism albeit through a misinterpretation of the word natural. Certainly a praiseworthy development but one which also has its roots in the world of the farrier (the majority of the early proponents, and thus too the founders of many natural hoof care establishments, were trained as farriers).

Both the farriers and their modern-day 'natural hoof care' counterparts make great claims regarding the complexity of the equine foot and the care thereof. Many traditional owners will cite the fact that the farriers' training is three years although this is very inaccurate. The advantage the farriers have, is their united approach to shoeing. Natural hoof care has obviously seen a niche in the market and developed training schemes, quite naturally, along the lines of farriers' training. Here, however, there is something of a problem; the approach of the natural hoof carers is not unified. What is fairly universal, is the theories which are still based upon the traditional farrier's vision of the hoof.

What is also very universal, among farriers and natural hoof carers alike, is the mystification of the art. Obfuscation means that most people will consider hoof care too complex to do themselves; it also means that high prices can be commanded for courses which propose very dubious science and, certainly in the case of natural hoof care, provide no recognized qualification.

The concept of Nature Conscious Hoof Care is still alien to a large proportion of the horse-owning and horse-riding world. It is often a contradiction of the edicts that have been the mainstay of equine activities for several centuries - no wonder, therefore, that for many it is a concept that is hard to accept.

Through the International Academy of Horse and Hoof, Sabots Libres offers a variety of lectures, workshops, clinics and demonstrations that depend upon demonstrable scientific evidence rather than on perceptions –and misconceptions– derived from the practices of the farrier. We do not make a mystery of the science and we do not make a secret of the art. It can be studied and practiced by almost anyone. All that is needed is an open mind, common sense and, for the practical side, a little muscle! Our cumulative knowledge spans more than sixty years - more than sixty years of unbiased scientific study and experience, without the preconceptions that stem from a farrier's background nor from the traditional veterinary approach that is almost always based initially on the shod horse.

The material presented includes that developed in association with Pierre Enoff from EQUILibre® and the Institut du Sabot in Porta, France where the IAHH, in association with Pierre Enoff, provides courses in the English and Dutch languages.

These courses can be tailored to the audience, they can be as short and straightforward or as long and involved as appropriate. If you are interested in more information, send an email to info@sabots-libres.eu

There are currently two formatted courses on offer. They differ principally on entry level with the Level 1 course being aimed at both the private owner and professional with basic knowledge of the daily requirements of the horse and the role that barefoot has to play.
Level 2 is aimed at those owners and professionals with the knowledge provided by the Level 1 course, who have a clear understanding of the daily requirements of the horse and are reasonably proficient - or at least practiced - in trimming live hooves.
Level 1 is a pre-requisite for attending Level 2.

Level 1 course:

Day 1 - Theory
The daily life of the horse
Elementary locomotion
The role of the hoof
Hoof hygiene and maintenance
Legal status

Day 2 - Theory/Practical
Review of tools needed for effective trimming (theory) and evaluation of students' trimming equipment
Trimming - we only use live horses since this is the only way to appreciate and learn about the dynamics of the hoof and how the horse behaves during a trim!

Level 2 course:

Day 1 - Theory
The daily life of the horse expanded
Further locomotion
Detailed mechanics of the hoof
Review of hoof hygiene and maintenance
Study of case histories presented by students

Day 2 - Practical
Trimming - evaluation of students development trimming