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Horsing Around on PetLifeRadio.comAudrey Pavia, host of Horsing Around on PetLifeRadio

Audrey Pavia
Horse Expert
Award-winning Writer

Barefoot In The Park

Marci Lambert

Marci Lambert

Today's topic is barefoot trimming with Marci Lambert. Marci's trimming style is based on the research of veterinarian Dr. Hiltrud Strasser; veterinary professor of anatomy of Michigan State University. Dr. Robert Bowker; and barefoot expert Pete Ramey. Marci has also found horses to be the best teachers of all.

Questions or Comments? Email Audrey at:

Audrey Pavia: Welcome to Horsing Around on Thanks for joining us. This week we’re going to talk about barefoot trimming. Horses have been wearing shoes for centuries, but should they? The barefoot movement is a new trend in the horse world based on the theory that horses do not need shoes. In this episode we’ll take a look at this controversial movement that uses wild horses as examples of how, with the proper type of care, horses can go barefoot. To find out all about barefoot trimming, we have with us today equine hoof specialist Marci Lambert who has a barefoot trimming practice based in Valley Center, California. We’ll talk to Marci right after these messages.

Audrey Pavia: Welcome back to Horsing Around. I’m your host, Audrey Pavia and we are here with equine hoof specialist Marci Lambert to talk about barefoot trimming. Marci welcome to the show.

Marci Lambert: Hey, how are you?

Audrey Pavia: Good, how you doing today?

Marci Lambert: I’m good.

Audrey Pavia: Okay. First off, lets talk about the philosophy behind barefoot trimming. Tell people what barefoot trimming is exactly and why it works.

Marci Lambert: Barefoot trimming is basically taking a look at the wild horses and why they don’t need any hoof care. So somebody decided to, you know, take a look at that and say, “What’s going on here?” We know that the wild horses move anywhere for 10 to 20 miles a day and so they trim their own feet in the event of moving and then our horses that are in this domestic state, they stand around more, and so they don’t self trim, if you will. So their hooves need to be addressed by a human. So, I know a lot of people say “natural hoof care”, “natural trimming”, “natural this”, “natural that”, but it is kind of funny that it’s not really a natural thing for a human to trim the feet of the horse.

Audrey Pavia: Right. Nature would do it out in the wild.

Marci Lambert: Yeah.

Audrey Pavia: How do we know that wild horses move so much? Why are they moving so much, ‘cause when you watch your own horse in a paddock, you know, they’re usually just kind of standing around.

Marci Lambert: Yeah, well they move for food. Their digestive system is designed, they’re called ‘trickle feeders’, so they eat little bits of food all day long, whereas humans and other animals like dogs or cats, you know, eat a main meal kind of thing. So horses move for food and then, of course, for water too, so that’s what keeps them going, and so they’re always on the search for food, where our horses in the domestic, we just put the hay over the fence for them and they don’t have to do anything for it, so. Then again, we’re interfering with their natural way of life again.

Audrey Pavia: Right. So, tell me what the difference is between a barefoot trim and a regular trim that you would do before you put shoes on.

Marci Lambert: Okay, yeah. You find that there is a lot of differences, and I know I used to have my horses shoed by a traditional farrier too before I found out about this type of method, and I can only go back and know what I remember from back then when I had my horses shoed by someone else is that traditionally the farriers just kind of look at the bottom of the foot and they need to make the foot flat in order to apply the shoe to, you know, ‘cause you have to have a nice flat surface to have something nailed to, and in my experience now the bare foot or the naturally trimmed foot is more of a curvier cuppier foot, so the shoe tends to want to go against what the foot wants to do, and knowing that the farrier needs something to nail to, he tends to leave the wall long in order to have the nails be able to penetrate to, you know, have the shoe stay on, so that’s one reason. There’s lot of, you know, there’s lots of variations. We let the horse, through research over the past 10, 20 years, the horse, we realize it needs to post a land heel first and sometimes with the shoe on it restricts that heel first landing with the differences, so we try to trim the foot so it lands comfortably…

Audrey Pavia: So Marci tell me why barefoot is, in your opinion, a better way to go than shoes.

Marci Lambert: It can keep the horse healthier and more sound over the years and happier and less problems, less vet calls, and truly you can’t come up with a good reason why the horse needs a shoe, and a lot of times I get that same question, what you just asked me, and it’s the same thing. I usually ask the question right back to the person, you know, for them to say, “Why would you think the horse needs a shoe?”, and most people really can’t come up with a good reason why the horse needs a shoe, and the shoe is just tradition more than it is something that we really think we need…

Audrey Pavia: Okay, now I’ve had people, ‘cause as you know because you trim my horses hooves…

Marci Lambert: Mm hmm.

Audrey Pavia: I have barefoot horses and I’ve had people say to me that, well, you know, yeah wild horses don’t need shoes because they’re just out foraging for food and they’re mostly walking, but when you have a horse in a domesticated situation, they’re being asked to jump, they’re being asked to dressage and do all kinds of stuff that wild horses don’t ever have to do, and that’s why we need to put shoes on them. Well what’s your answer to that?

Marci Lambert: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a big one. I usually get asked that one a lot too. You know, like for instance, you’re talking about the show jumping people saying that the horse needs shoes for traction, but if you get to see a truly healthy hoof that has its cupping, bottom and nice walls and hardened walls, then you know that the traction that the shoe provides is nothing like what the hoof can do for itself if the foot is healthy. And a lot of people don’t ever get to see the healthy foot because over the years of shoeing the horse the foot deteriorates and loses its good structure and health, and so when people pull the shoes off, they kind of that, “Oh, the horse is sore on his bare feet, and oh he can’t do it”, and so automatically we find ourselves saying, “Oh, it can’t be done.” But the horse generally has to be able to heal first and then go back to his career of show jumping or if you have a horse that never wore shoes in the first place to have a healthy foot to start off with and then go to show jumping. And it’s a curious thing too because one of the groups of riders were the Endurance Riders and they were the first ones to take the barefoot movement and go run with it if you will because they were fine being that their horses were healthier and sturdier and stronger with the bare feet and they were able to checkpoint sooner because, you know, they have to pull over for the heart rate and to see how they’re doing, how the horse is doing and they were always able to move along opposed to the other horses that were shoed, so that was a pretty interesting thing. And they’re one of the, they’re hardened riders, they don’t do small projects.

Audrey Pavia: Right. How about a situation, for example, what you’re talking about, endurance riding where, you know, you’re trailering your horse to a place that’s rocky when he’s not used to that if he’s barefoot. How would that work?

Marci Lambert: Well, you know, that would almost be something that would not be fair to the horse because we haven’t prepared him for that, we haven’t prepared his feet. I mean, if the horse is going to go on that terrain, the hooves should be conditioned to go to that terrain, because if he’s stands around, and it’s depending on where you live, the soft paddock, like the soft fluffiness of his paddock, and then you expect him to go run up a rocky hill, you know, it’s not fair to him. But there are options where people do the hoof boots, which is, you know, the boot that you just put on and you go for a ride…

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: if there’s rocky terrain in that, you know, that helps a lot. But one of my biggest things in the truly barefoot horse is that the foot relies heavily on the horse moving. So, you know, it’s the metabolic system of the horse that moves along with the feet, along with the stomach and intestine, the heart, the lungs, everything, so it’s like one unit…

Audrey Pavia: So, tell me, that kind of leads me to the next question was how does one prepare the horse’s hoof? I know from having barefoot horses, there’s more to it than just pulling the shoes and doing the barefoot trim, there’s some other things you need to do as well to make sure those hooves stay healthy. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Marci Lambert: Yup. In some cases, you know, Gail and I meet a horse for the first time, we, you know, like to give an evaluation and like point of view and what’s going on and we’ll, you know, talk about it ‘cause, you know, I don’t just go and pull shoes and say, “Okay, you’re on your own”, you know. Sometimes the horses, if they’re in a dry climate like the San Diego area, sometimes the feet are really hard and dry and some hoof soaking, like soaking them, letting them have some mud will help them have the foot band and be a little more flexible so they can transition to their foot better and easier, and sometimes the horses will go and stand in the water themselves because it is sort of a soothing thing for them to, you know. And, what else. Movement, you know, if the horse is going to be a little bit reluctant to move, you might have to hand walk or encourage him to move by putting hay all over the pasture, little piles all over so he can walk around and eat, kind of like a normal, or a wild horse would do, like walk and eat at the same time, so there’s that. Generally once they get past the part of the initial couple of weeks or so, they’re much on their own. Sometimes you have to, you know, depending on the horse, if he’s got severe issues like founder or laminitis, you know, you may not be able to ride him for a good six months until he heals and then, you know, he can go back to work.

Audrey Pavia: How does barefoot help horses that have, you know, issues like Nevicular or have Founder or have laminitis?

Marci Lambert: Well it basically gives the horse his proper perimeters, which means the hoof needs to be in its proper state, its proper angles, proper perimeters, to be able to function properly, and so sometimes if there’s bone alignment issues inside the hoof capsule that needs to be addressed, and generally what’s going on when you’re having Founder or Laminitis is that in the vicular is that the bone alignment is messed up in there, and due to lack of education, in the proper perimeters of the foot.

Audrey Pavia: Mm hmm.

Marci Lambert: So, and so with the barefoot you get to restore good circulation and have that bone alignment get restored and then allow for healing. So it’s pretty amazing that a lot of horses do actually fully recover from Founder or Laminitis and can continue to be in work or do whatever they need to do after they’re healed. So one of the biggest deals is that the circulation gets restored and then the good health of the foot can come back.

Audrey Pavia: You know, I wanted to go back to something you mentioned about standing in water. A lot of people work overtime trying to keep their horses stalls dry…

Marci Lambert: Yes.

Audrey Pavia: as dry as possible, so that they, the horses don’t stand in water because traditionally we’re all taught, you know, that they’ll get thrush and it’ll weaken the hoof. I’ve had some people when I tell them that I wet my horses feet or I have a mud puddle in their stall, they’re horrified because, you know, oh, they’re, it’s going to ruin their feet. So, how do you answer that?

Marci Lambert: Yeah, you know, that is a, it is a typical thing because what happens is your horse has shoes on and with nails and stuff, the hoof capsule itself is very porous like a sponge, so if there’s water, like we’ve had a lot of rain here for a while so, so the hoof wants to expand in the mud or water and it absorbs water and gets bigger, so with the shoe it tends to make the nail holes sloppy  and then the shoes want to fly off. So…

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: traditional farriers tend to say, “Oh no, never let the feet get wet because the shoes will come off”, and that is a big concern with everybody, you know, no one wants to have the shoe fly off the horse ‘cause then he wants to, you want to ride and he’s got three shoes. And so for us once we pull the shoe it’s not a concern anymore, like if, you know, if the hoof capsule swells up with water. And typically that’s what we want, we want the hoof capsule to fill up with water and be flexible and then the foot can be a shock absorbing unit like it’s meant to be. So if the shoe is on and the hoof is really hard and dry nothing can absorb shock because it’s rigid if you will…

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: hard. So yeah, I know that is a big thing when people say, “Oh you got to put the heal…”, you know, I tell them to put the feet in water or let him have some water so that he can decide, you know, and, but it helps the foot, it makes it better, you know. It’s a funny thing because it seems to contradict everything that we’ve learned over the generations of horse ownership. And what we, we realize that to because the wild horses, if they go for a drink of water they usually have their front feet submerged in the water, so sometime during every day their feet touch water, you know, and so we just took that little tidbit of information and applied it to our domestic horses and said, “Oh”, you know…

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: We’re getting it now, that they don’t get that.

Audrey Pavia: Right. So it’s basically about bringing them back to their natural state, as natural as possible.

Marci Lambert: Yes, exactly.

Audrey Pavia: Right. Okay, well we’re going to go to a little break and next up we’re going to talk about examples of some horses that have been helped by barefoot trimming and we’ll be right back after these messages.

Audrey Pavia: Welcome back to Horsing Around. I’m here with equine hoof specialist Marci Lambert and we’re talking about barefoot trimming. Marci, can you give me some examples of some horses that you know of, specific examples of horses that have had problems that have been helped with barefoot trimming?

Marci Lambert: Yeah actually, quite a few. One of the reasons I got into this was one of my own horses, he had some pretty bad feet and he got helped big time. His name is Trooper. He had some rotation where the bone was wanting to penetrate the sole, which is very painful for a horse, and that would be called Chronic Founder, and, you know, back in the day I didn’t know what to do for him and he had, you know, the traditional pads and wedges and all these things that we tried to apply to help him. But in the end it didn’t work until we found the barefoot method, so, then it did help him and it restored his foot to good health and he was fine after that. Long story for him, but he’s fine and all good and, lets see, you know, basically this method seems to help every horse it touches and I find that the people are the ones that have to be able to be patient enough to have it work and so, I mean, there’s lots of horses that have recovered from Founder and Laminitis, that, you know, we forget about it because they’re back to work and they’re back to doing what they were doing before with the shoes and the pads and stuff and, so, yeah, I’ve got lots of those stories. Lets see, right now I’m working with a lady that has a horse that used to be on four Bute a day and could not even come out of his stall and terribly, terribly foundered and most likely foundered for years, and the horse is 27 years old now and I’ve been treating him for about a year now and he’s cruising around and running and everything now and, I mean, he’s still processing, but he’s coming along.

Audrey Pavia: Now I know there’s different methods of barefoot trimming as well and I know some are more, I don’t want to say severe, but are more kind of radical than others…

Marci Lambert: Right.

Audrey Pavia: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Marci Lambert: My first introduction to barefoot trimming was through Dr. Strauther and she’s a German veterinarian, and I know there’s been some words, like what you just said about radical, and…

Audrey Pavia: Mm hmm.

Marci Lambert: I like to say she’s very thorough because she is a veterinarian and she’s been doing it for 25 years, she knows exactly what she’s doing. And in a way, people have gone to one of her two day clinics or education clinics and taken her veterinarian method and tried it on their own horses which gave it kind of a bad rap…

Audrey Pavia: Yeah.

Marci Lambert: But I use her technique quite a bit, but I’ve adapted to the environments and what the people are offering and stuff, so I feel that she is, you know, one of the most educated of all the barefoot people and she was the first one to put the wheels in motion. There’s also a fellow named Pete Ramey. He’s very popular right now it seems, and he’s doing lots of good stuff for the help and rehabilitation for horses feet. He’s very good. There’s also Dr. Bouker from Michigan State University. He’s very good too. He’s a professor of anatomy, and so he looks at the foot on a cellular basis, and apparently he’s coming out with a book next year, and he’s very, very educated too, and that’s what the horses need for their, you know, the foot, and we’ve forgotten about it for so many generations that it’s only now that we’re starting to be educated and say, “Oh, the foot needs this, oh.” And then there’s, Pete Ramey I already said. Jamie Jackson, he’s a good one too. He’s been around for a while and…

Audrey Pavia: Mm hmm.

Marci Lambert: promoting the wild horse trend. And there’s others I think.

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: Everyday it seems like there’s more and more.

Audrey Pavia: Now what would you tell someone who, after hearing this show, might go to their veterinarian and say, “I want to try barefoot trim”, and they get a negative reaction from their veterinarian who may have seen a horse or two that had a poor barefoot trim and is negative about it? I have a feeling that that’s out there quite a bit. What would you…

Marci Lambert: Yes.

Audrey Pavia: tell that person?

Marci Lambert: Well there are some vets that are on board with it, and you usually have to go online and find them, but I understand that question a hundred percent because it is, it’s, a lot of them will say, a lot of the vets will probably say, “Oh well, it’s, I heard about it, but, you know, you can try it.” What I’ve been finding is that they don’t really understand what barefoot trimmers do. So if, they need to kind of find out what we’re really doing and then they can actually help their client to say, “Yeah, this is good or bad”, or be, you know, informed on it at least. And the client, they have to be able to, you know, think for themselves too in a way. I don’t want to sound bad or off like that, but we just think that a magic pill is going to fix us.

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: And traditionally, veterinarians are taught to diagnose and then give a medication or a treatment, and that’s what they do, but we, you know, we’re a little different, we’re more for the cause and then offer healing. Just I would say look into it and look into every avenue of the barefoot, you know, and question your person that you actually do find if you find a barefoot person that you’re going to want to try. Really, you know, ask them where they got their education, how long they’ve been doing it, if there’s been any apprenticeship time, because all those are important questions. There’s so much involved than just trimming the foot that you need to be truly educated I think.

Audrey Pavia: So Marci, where can someone find a barefoot trimmer?

Marci Lambert: Yeah, that’s a good question. It is kind of hard because we are fairly few and far between. But one of the best resources right now I think, and it’s been for about 8 or 9 years, is, and they’re a quarterly magazine and a very informational website all about barefoot trimming, so that’s, and they have on their website links to areas and, like I’m on that, on one of their classified ads to, you know, say I’m out here, and so every city and state who has a barefoot trimmer is hopefully listed on there, so that’s one option. And sometimes, you know, putting in some information online will help you out, but like I said earlier, you really need to research the person you find because it is so new, you want to make sure you get someone that’s truly got it together, knowing what they’re doing, yeah.

Audrey Pavia: So how would you go about researching, would you read as much as you can about barefoot trimming or would you ask for…

Marci Lambert: Yeah.

Audrey Pavia: a referral.

Marci Lambert: Yeah, I find referrals the best, and most of my business comes from someone referring me. I try, I try not to really advertise because I find that I get better clients that really truly want something, you know, the best for their horse, by referral. But you know, you know, online is good too. Like I said earlier, just ask a lot of questions, you know, and be satisfied with the answers, and you’re allowed to ask questions and then go home and think about it and that’s what I would find, the best things people could do.

Audrey Pavia: What are some of the questions people should ask?

Marci Lambert: I would like to know how much experience they’ve had with horses and with this technique, the trimming, and where do they get their education, how well did they do, did they actually pass, you know. It’s kind of awkward to say, you know.

Audrey Pavia: Are they going to admit to it if they didn’t?

Marci Lambert: Well, I don’t know and that’s the thing. I mean, it’s good to be honest. I find honesty is the best policy, and it is a toughie, but the more the barefoot is out there, the more people are getting better at it and the understanding is getting better and we’re starting to go with it. And a lot of times, if a horse has never worn shoes and you’ve had, you know, pretty good outside moving and moving around, his feet should be in good condition, where he would just need, you know, basically a proper maintenance type trim to keep his feet in order and then it’s not too much, I don’t know…

Audrey Pavia: That reminds me of something…

Marci Lambert: the technology.

Audrey Pavia: That reminds me of something I neglected to ask you. How often does a horse need a barefoot trim?

Marci Lambert: Right. That’s a good question because, you know, if you’re working with a horse that has some sort of deformity or pathological feet, which means, you know, something’s wrong in the feet, we’re trying to fix it. With the trim we’re trying to convince the foot to grow correctly, so in the beginning stages you might need to trim every couple of weeks and then sometimes it’ll move to every three weeks, every four weeks, and then once the horses foot starts becoming more normalized, then the amount of trimming, you know, kind of spreads itself too. You know, I don’t think any horse should go any longer than every six weeks between trims, not unless the people are riding 20 miles a day, so. So at the beginning stages if there is things that we’re trying to correct, which is pretty much, I would say 90 percent of the horses feet out there, they have something up with them, you know, we need to have them balanced properly and, so yeah, every couple of weeks to start off with. And I know that that does sound extreme, but if we’re trying to convince the horn, or the hoof to grow correctly, then you need to convince it, ‘cause, you know, a lot of times the pathology or the deformity is there due to the fact that its been let to grow crazy, you know, with no trimming or, you know, corrective help.

Audrey Pavia: Right. And another thing that’s good to know is that barefoot trimming is a lot less expensive than shoeing typically…

Marci Lambert: Yes, yes. Yeah, and I know I get some people saying, you know, like when they first meet me and stuff, they say, “Oh, it’s going to be so much cheaper.” But in the beginning stages it might not be, you know, but it does in the end become a way cheaper thing.

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: you know, for the people. And like I said earlier too about seeing less vet bills and less blameless issues and stuff…

Audrey Pavia: Mm hmm.

Marci Lambert: so…

Audrey Pavia: And once the horse gets on maintenance and they’re being trimmed every 4 to 6 weeks it’s, you know, a lot less than what it would be if they were having their shoes changed…

Marci Lambert: For sure…

Audrey Pavia: yeah, that frequently.

Marci Lambert: For sure. That’s totally true, totally true, so…

Audrey Pavia: Right.

Marci Lambert: Yeah, I, you know, I stress it at the beginning, you know, it might not be cheaper at the beginning, but later on…

Audrey Pavia: Mm hmm.

Marci Lambert: the, you reap the rewards later on, so…

Audrey Pavia: Right, right. And I wanted to mention too that some of the folks that you referred to earlier, some of the barefoot trims that are out there, Peter Ramey and Jamie Jackson, they have books out…

Marci Lambert: Yeah.

Audrey Pavia: that are available on that people can buy…

Marci Lambert: Right.

Audrey Pavia: to learn more about their methods, and also I know Pete Ramey has a website, I’m not sure what the URL is but if you put his name in Google you will find it, and his name is spelled R-A-M-E-Y.

Marci Lambert: I think his website is

Audrey Pavia: Okay, great…

Marci Lambert: I think.

Audrey Pavia: And I hope people will take a look at this. I don’t expect people are going to run out and rip their shoes off their horses feet, but it is something to look into and consider. I personally have barefoot horses and my horses are, love it and I love it and it’s done really well for them and I use one of my horses for distance riding and he does great barefoot. But that’s all the time we have for today. Marci I want to thank you for being our guest this week and sharing your knowledge with us.

Marci Lambert: Okay.

Audrey Pavia: If anyone out there has any questions or comments about Horsing Around or any questions for Marci, please email me at Until then, happy trails.


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