My name is Timothy James Bolton. I am originally from Warwickshire, in the Heart of England, specifically a place called Solihull – the home of Land Rover.
I still speak reasonably fluent English despite having spent more than half of my life away from the British Isles; I also speak fluent Dutch and can get by in both French and German.
Sabots Libres began as a hobby but ended up going very serious.
After many years of riding horses both shod and unshod, the realization dawned that the disadvantages of shoeing horses far outweigh the advantages (if there are any…).
But the realization did not stop there; Sabots Libres, or barefoot, is not just about deshoeing – it is a complete package: Feet, Feed and Facilities.
More information can be found both on this site and on the sites found in the links list.
I have had contact with horses off and on for nearly forty years. As with most people, the first years are simply following the established order and horseshoes and bits were a part of it. Nevertheless, something niggled me for a long time about horseshoes in particular – partly through experience riding in Wales and partly seeing horses sliding over flat tarmac surfaces.
For various personal reasons, I had something of a time-out from horses but when I returned a few years ago, I was immediately confronted with the Welsh experience again. Quite simply that the unshod horse seemed to have a much better feeling for what he was doing when crossing rocks, than the shod horse.
Not having my own horse at that moment was something of a problem – riding schools and owners in general are not happy if you start “experimenting” with their horses – particularly if it goes against the trend! Notwithstanding this small hurdle, I started trawling the internet and came across all the well know names – Jackson, Ovnicek, Ramey, Strasser – not to mention a couple of lesser known – Leclerq, Veldman, Kooistra and Enoff. Not having the finances either to travel to the States and follow a full course there, nor to pay the even higher course price here in Europe, I had only the choice to read up and watch as much as I could (not just internet but also books and DVDs) and hope that I would be able to find some way of getting practice and experience.
The chance came in a most unexpected way – I was given the opportunity to train and maintain a draught horse. Hands on – no holds barred; to all intents and purposes, mine! I also followed a number of short courses where I got to hone my skills under the watchful eye of professional trimmers.
Meanwhile, a couple of acquaintances asked if I could trim their horses too – and that was the real beginning of everything. I got involved with the Transhumance in the Pyrenees which (by chance?) is run by Pierre Enoff and much of what I had picked up and was now touting around as knowledge was either confirmed or added to by Pierre with his thirty-plus years of observations and experience among unshod horses and a background as biomechanical engineer.
Some three years later, in 2010, I started trimming professionally. Since May 2012, full-time.
So, what technique do I follow? I do not really subscribe to the idea of a technique. A quote from Jaime Jackson’s spokeswoman – and partner – “you cannot trim like Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey – you are either one or the other” does have a certain truth in it. Although when she came up with “Jaime’s method is the only real method, others just damage the horse” I was dismayed. There is far too much hocus-pocus played around the trimming of hooves.
Ramey has excellent theories about depth of, what he calls, “the collateral groove” and the “heighth” [sic] of the heels. The height theme is carried by Strasser and Jackson too. But to my mind, Strasser lays to much stress on the “decontraction” of the hoof – both Ramey and Jackson consider this a natural process of regrouping that does not need to be forced. Strasser is also known for her far-reaching methods for obtaining decontraction – such that her technique is now banned in the UK.
Ramey makes no mention of the quarters while most other proponents do. The quarters are often passive to allow for spread during compression and Ramey’s method seems to miss this point. All have generally the same approach to levelling off and all seem to generally agree about “active trimming” to encourage a horse to walk in a particular fashion – these techniques very often (and when combined with shoes, always) have a detrimental effect on the joints and the vertebrae. Most proponents insure the frog is slightly passive to the height of the heels – in studies by the Swedish Hoof School, the frog appears to be intended to be much more active. We seem to try to avoid overtaxing the frog. And yet, as Enoff demonstrated, even after an extremely aggressive trim – right back to the white line and frog in full contact with the ground – a horse is still capable of travelling 150km+ in five days with little or no discomfort with fabulous hooves at the end of the journey.
Finally, I am known for my calm and quiet nature and almost inexhaustible patience around horses – but I am not a horse whisperer!