Ignoring Pathology


When we, Natural Hoof Care Practitioners want to adhere to the 4th prinicple of the Natural Trim – ignoring all pathology – we need to be able to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy.

The Natural Trim is a term used these days by many to define their trim. After taking a class on hoofcare, reading one or multiple books, some people become professional trimmers. With all good intentions, I’m sure. But in many cases without having learned what is truly natural (healthy) or unnatural (unhealthy).

The sensible next question therefore would be, what is healthy and what is not? I will try and clarify using the following example;

a)    A healthy horsefoot will display a form that is characteristic for health. For example:

  • Straight toe wall growth
  • A tight white line
  • Uniform soles
  • Hoofwalls touching the ground

b)    A pathologic (unhealthy) foot will in most cases display something different. For example:

  • Multiple angles in the toe wall
  • A widened white line
  • Soles unable to maintain uniformity throughout the foot(pits and craters)
  • Hoofwalls nót touching the ground

When someone is incapable of seperating a) from b), this will have serious consequences in making an assesment about the foot. Worst case scenario will lead them to:

c)    A situation where one tries to control the foot without really knowing where the journey is taking them. Because.. when is a hoof short enough and what is the correct thickness for the hoofwall? And when is a foot truly recovered from its pathology? As I’m sure you can imagine, the latter is impossible to judge when you do not know what is truly healthy.

A horse exposed to an unnatural diet will – espescially in the hoof – at one point or another send out signals. These signals are visible, measurable and palbable for the horse.

When we try to control these signals and their possible consequences by cutting, rasping, nippering or glueing them away, we ditance ourselves from the holistic approach that is imbedded in our craft. Which is, to remove causality. An unnatural diet for example is such a causality. By applying a more natural, healthy diet, correct boarding, training and hoofcare you can remove this ‘cause’ and battle pathology from the inside out.

The Natural Trim is a simulation of natural wear. But when we do something different, when this ‘wear’ does not represent natural wear, the effect will also be different.

  • Natural wearpatterns lead to natural growthpatterns
  • Natural growth patterns lead to natural hoofshapes
  • Natural hoofshapes facilitate natural gaits
  • And the natural gaits facilitate natural weightbearing forces that will enhance the natural trim.

When we force the foot into a form, rather than cultivate it, we deny the horse, its feet and the undelying receptors acces to the ongoing proces that natural wear is.

Controlling the foot through force is something that is part of the traditional views of hoofcare. The exact opposite of what genuine natural hoof care practitioners are advocating to do.

So what are some of these consequenses and what causes them? Below you find a few examples of Cause and Effect.

Do you recognize something in your own horse?


  • Shortening the toewall to a length shorter than the natural length of the individual horse (‘mustang-roll’ going into the white line!)
  • Hoofwall thickness reduced to an unnatural thickness in an attempt to decrease pathology int the capsule
  • Inefficient removal of acces sole material (for example by using a hoof knife)
  • Shortening or gauging the bars, thus removing parts of the (hard) sole.


  • Hypersensitivity
  • Deformity of the foot (‘mustang-roll’into the white line…)
  • Obstruction of the natural gaits
  • Instabillity of the hoofcapsule due to diminished protection by the outer wall

The 7 photo’s attached show you different hooves, and animals, formed by different circumstances and environments.


Photo 1 was taken by me during an excursion in the Oostvaardersplassen, a nature preserve in The Netherlands. Can you see the rings on the hoof? The different toe angles perhaps? Not visible and hidden in the grass are the crumbling hooves. Yet another side effect of an unnatural grassdiet.


Photo 2 shows you how incredibly fat these horses can get during the Summer. The reason for this? An abundance of lush, green grass for them to eat.


Photos 3 and 4 show hooves that were trimmed ‘naturally’ by standards other than that of the AANHCP. The hoofwall thickness is reduced to near nothing by going into the waterline (unpigmented hoof wall) leaing the hoof primarily supported by the sole.

A method often used, but the reasoning behind it varies. One is to limit the mechanical forces on the hoof wall. Another is that the Laminitic horse would be in pain when it is supported by the hoof wall.

All reasoning comes from traditional methods of hoofcare. Understandable reasoning, but completely unnecessary and even harmful in trimming and treating the (laminitic) horse.


Photos 5 and 6, hooves coming from a Great Basin mare. A hoof that was conserved immediately after the horse died and has remained unchanged since


Photos 7 and 8 show examples of naturally trimmed feet. Not identical to the Great Basin hoof, but with similar characteristics. Nothing in this foot resembles the foot in the 3rd and 4th photo.


Photos 9 and 10 come from Onagers and their feet. Captured by both myself and Prof. Amos Bouskila in the Negev desert of Israel. Prof. Bouskila is head of a team researching the Onagers, also known as the Asian wild ass.

As you can see, there is more to the Natural Trim than first meets the eye!

Would you like to lear more about me, the work of jaime Jackson and the authentic Natural Trim? Perhaps you would be interested in attending one of our workshops. On May 23rd two workshops are scheduled to start at the Manege Zonder Drempels in Bennekom. Celebrating Whitesunday that weekend? In July and if possible June, we’ll be delivering a couple of more workshops!

You can register through our contactform, or calling/emailing 0031(0)6 412 40 410 and info@paddockparadise.eu.

With kind regards,

Björn Rhebergen
Natural Hoof Care Practitioner