Louetta Plumlee of Oak Grove, Ark., went from shoeing horses to practicing natural hoof care

It happens at the worst time. Your horse has thrown another shoe right when you are packing up for a ride. Now, you have to call a farrier. What if there was another option? A barefooted option.
Louetta Plumlee is providing equine owners across the Ozarks with a more natural approach to hoof care and maintenance. “I love my horses and just like other owners – I want the best for my animals,” she explained. “Barefooted is best!” Louetta and her husband Terry are cattle farmers and own nine horses that are used for pleasure riding.
Her horses might go barefooted now, but that wasn’t always so.
Louetta had studied to be a farrier and was practicing the trade when a friend introduced her to natural hoof care or ‘barefooted’. “I was blown away when I saw her horse’s feet,” said Louetta. Her friend had just ridden her horse all week barefooted at Devil’s Den State Park.

Natural Hoof Care Certification
After researching about the natural way of trimming equine feet, Louetta was intrigued and signed-up for courses through Liberated Horsemanship to become certified in natural hoof care. “It took me one year to become certified,” she said. “I knew that I was going to come up against resistance and opposition from others, so I tried it out on my own horses before I even began talking about the method.”
The program, which models after the wild mustang, teaches participants about the bones and other structures of the lower leg and how they function, pathological conditions like navicular syndrome, laminitis and founder, how a proper natural trim is a preventative against such problems, and how it promotes optimal blood flow and facilitates recovery from such disorders. The rationale and mechanics of a natural trim are discussed in detail and demonstrated on cadaver hooves and live horses. “A lot of folks take shoes off in the winter to let the hooves heal – why go backwards and put the shoes back on,” asked Louetta.
In 2006, Louetta made the switch from shoeing horses to trimming barefooted horses and servicing clients across the Ozarks. She is a Certified Natural Hoof Care Practitioner and Field Instructor. “You have to talk to a horse, or any animal, in their language,” she explained. “It’s not just about trimming a hoof – it’s about getting on the animals level.” But, many horse owners aren’t ready for moving into the barefooted method. It takes commitment from a horse owner Louetta explained. “It will take a year for the horse’s feet to get adjusted to being shoeless, and 3 years to get the optimum hoof.”
During the year of transition, riders may need “boots” for their horse’s front feet so the animals may be ridden. “I recently rode my horse 50 miles barefooted on all types of terrain,” recalled Louetta.
Just like the wild mustang, a barefooted horse must be given the opportunity to self trim their feet by having pastures that offer a variety of terrains and allow the animal to move. Louetta says she only trims off the hoofs what is needed, every six weeks. “Most folks think it can’t be done because of how awful the hooves look right after the shoes are taken-off,” she said. “After the damage grows out (1 year) the feet look great.”

Louetta has vowed to spread the word of natural hoof care and is achieving that through serving as a field instructor for Liberated Horsemanship. “I’m able to teach others the methods now,” she said.
“We want to help others, help horses,” Louetta said. “Barefoot is the only way we will ride from now on.”


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