An alternative method of footcare for horses, originating in Germany, is causing concern for a leading horse welfare charity, farriers and vets alike.

The Strasser Method, as practised by Dr Hiltrud Strasser, advocates that horses should not be shod and that, after a three-day course, horse owners can be trained to trim their own horse’s feet themselves.

Thebarefoot method falls within an overall philosophy of keeping the horses as close to nature as possible by not stabling, clipping or rugging them, nor feeding supplements, administering painkillers painkilling drugs or using chemical wormers.

It teaches that every horse, pony, or donkey should have its feet trimmed in to exactly the same way, irrespective of breed, size or conformation.

David Mountford MRCVS, Head of Equine Operations at the ILPH (International League for the Protection of Horses said: “Although some of the principles of the Strasser Method are sound, it is extremely dangerous to give lay people a modicum of training, and tell them to dispense with the services of traditional veterinary and farriery methods.

This will inevitably lead to very serious welfare problems. In our opinion, it is a disaster waiting to happen.”

One follower who treated her laminitic pony using the Strasser approach, has published her story on the website where Dr Strasser is technical editor.

Donald Nicol, AWCF, a UK farrier who also teaches in developing countries on care of the unshod foot, attended one of Dr Strasser’s courses at the ILPH’s behest.

“Dr Strasser is, at first, a very plausible lecturer and is obviously convincing non-professionals who have no training or insufficient knowledge to question the methods put to them.

Action is required immediately to stop these courses and I wouldrecommend that a full investigation is undertaken before any horses are seriously injured.

David Mountford added: “We are reminding all our borrowers that ILPH horses must have their feet attended to by a recognised farrier, and under no circumstances should they attempt to trim them themselves.”

Yvonne Welz, who owns the publication The Horse’s Hoof, has defended the allegations about their course :”This is a bit misleading. Horseowners are capable of beginning very basic trimming on their HEALTHY horse after a three-day, 24-hour course. They are expected to stay continually supervised by a Strasser certified professional.

The situation in the UK is very different than in other countries, such as the US, where itis completely legal for any one to trim any horse.

“In the US, we hope to eventually have enough Strasser Certified Hoofcare Specialists to provide direct trimming services for horses with unhealthy hooves.

“Every horse has different trimming needs, which is why this is quite complicated to learn. What is wrong for one horse can be correct for another. This is why there needs to be Certified Hoofcare Specialists, with a very high level of training, readily available to help those interesting in undertaking this method. The hooves are trimmed to the shape of the coffin bone. Studies of healthy, natural equine hooves show a distinct pattern, which is why there can be guidelines given for the angles of most hooves. But the similaritiesstop there, and each horse is trimmed somewhat differently according to his needs.

Yvonne Welz emphasised that in her opinion there is no other approach to horse care that is more humane.

“Dr. Strasser removes the anthropomorphism thatmost humans have in their attitudes towards what a horse really needs. Strasser’s method simply places the needs of the horse over the needs of the human (and human needs are usually selfish, with the comfort and convenience of the human placed first.)”

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