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ILPH Warning on DIY Footcare for Horses

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

The Strasser Method, as practiced by Dr. Hiltrud Strasser, advocates that horses should not be shod and that, after a short 3-day course, owners are capable of trimming their own horse's feet. The barefoot method falls within an overall philosophy of keeping horses as close to nature as possible by not stabling, clipping or rugging them, nor feeding supplements, administering painkilling drugs or using chemical wormers. It teaches that every horse, pony, or donkey should have its feet trimmed to exactly the same pattern, irrespective of breed, size or conformation.

Says David Mountford MRCVS, Head of Operations at the ILPH (International League for the Protection of Horses), "Although some of the principles of the Strasser Method are sound, giving lay people a modicum of training and telling them to dispense with traditional veterinary and farriery methods will inevitably lead to very serious welfare problems. In our opinion it is a disaster waiting to happen."

Donald Nicol, AWCF, a UK farrier who also teaches in developing countries on care of the unshod foot, attended one of Dr. Strasserµs courses at the ILPHµs behest. Donald says, ·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 would recommend that a full investigation is undertaken before any horses are seriously injured.

Jim Dukes, BVM&S, MRCVS, who attended a Strasser Footcare Method Seminar at the ILPH's request, comments, ·Because the position of the sensitive laminae in grossly misshapen feet is often not where one would expect, it is necessary to be extremely careful when trimming such feet. If the guidelines laid down (by the Strasser Method) are followed it is not surprising that many horses become lame or develop abscesses. Any attempt to radically alter an abnormal foot shape is not, in my view, something an amateur should attempt.

Also at the request of the ILPH, Barry Johnson, DVSc MRCVS, the respected equine vet from the Oakhill Veterinary Centre in Lancashire, met recently with Jane Harbidge, the UK's only Strasser Certified Hoof Care Specialist and instructor. Barry says, ·Whilst there is some logic to the Strasser method, it is extremely irresponsible to encourage individuals to make significant changes to their horses feet without adequate supervision or training. Furthermore, where these unsupervised individuals are attempting to treat ponies with laminitis it is likely that some animals will suffer and possible that the perpetrators could be prosecuted.

When ILPH Field Officer and former Mounted Police Officer Paul Teasdale suggested to UK Strasser Instructor Jane Harbidge that a Strasser practitioner could contravene the Animals Act 1911 by causing suffering to their animal she replied that the Law must therefore be wrong.

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