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Book Review: ‘The Essential Hoof Book’

By Susan Kauffman & Christina Cline.

I’ve always had plenty of faith in my farriers and my vets — if they tell me that a particular horse needed this or that done with his feet, or such a structure or shape affected this or that about the way he moved or performed, I generally accept their word as fact. After all, they’re professionals, with plenty of education and experience, and they spend eight or more hours a day looking at hooves, mechanics and equine health.

That said, there’s absolutely no reason as a horse owner that I shouldn’t be educating myself further, especially about the equine hoof — the foundation on which the entire horse stands and moves. How else will I know what questions to ask or how to express my concerns? Without learning more about how the equine hoof grows and performs, or how it can become unhealthy or poorly-shaped, how will I be able to converse with my farrier or veterinarian in a productive way that ultimately lets my horses live to their healthiest potential?

Short of going to farrier school just to learn the basics, I had resigned myself to believing that the ability to pick up a hoof and “read” the horse’s recent history and see where the hoof needed to be shaped would forever just be beyond my grasp. Then I found The Essential Hoof Book.

This work, by co-authors Susan Kauffmann (trainer, educator and writer) and Christina Cline (certified trimmer and educator), could easily serve as a textbook for a class in anatomy, equine science or equine management, but reads so easily that you could find yourself working steadily from cover to cover. The text spells out everything the reader needs to know, beginning with the anatomy of the equine hoof and covering qualities of the healthy and unhealthy hoof, hoof disease, how to build a healthy hoof and the various options for shoeing, trimming, booting and more.

The book is loaded with high-quality photographs illustrating essentially every facet of the text, from anatomical structures to examples of healthy or unhealthy hooves with particular shapes or conditions. Diagrams help point out key features to readers, guiding the eye towards seeing the differences in a variety of cases. With chapters and sections easily broken down, this book can serve both as a text to educate the horse owner and a shelf reference that’s easily navigated to find a specific issue or concern.

What I particularly love about this book is that it does not preach one “right” way to treat hooves — instead, The Essential Hoof Book teaches readers how hooves can be managed rather than “corrected.” The book takes a neutral stance towards the hot debate between shoeing or going barefoot, presenting the thesis that a hoof can be healthy or unhealthy either in traditional shoes or going barefoot and there’s much more going into the healthiest decision than fashion and belief.

Since reading The Essential Hoof Book, I’ve found myself, almost without realizing it, looking closer at my horses’ hooves and noticing the more subtle details I used to overlook. With the wealth of knowledge easily accessible in The Essential Hoof Book, I’m able to learn more about what each detail means and take better ownership of my horses’ health.

The Essential Hoof Book needs to be on every horse owner’s bookshelf. Learn more about this title from Trafalgar Square Books.

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