A Day At The Rescue
By Walt Friedrich

Back in early May I received an email from Cate Stoltzfus inviting me to join her and a few others in a trim-a-thon at a horse rescue facility. Now, this is an opportunity I could not pass up. So Patricia, my bride of some decades now, and I signed up, right on the spot.

Friday, May 10th was the day. To build up a head of steam, we met at Cate’s for coffee while we discussed the plans for the day. Cate, Pat and I were fortunate to be joined by Mo Banner, Sharon Sheetz, and Vicki Kline. We were a small but most intrepid group, and woe to any hoof with excess horn or bars, that day.

The Rescue was just a 30-minute drive. Each of us brought our own trimming gear, and someone was foresighted enough to bring along some doughnuts, making us totally prepared.

The Rescue is run by a deeply dedicated young woman by the name of Debbie Polasek. She keeps her eyes open for horses in need, and couldn’t say “no” to any of them even if she wanted to. We found ten rescues plus two donkeys and a burro waiting for us. They were pretty blasé, however – none came running up to see us, holding overgrown feet out for our prompt attention.

In general, despite some foot conditions that had to be less than comfortable, these guys all turned out to be pretty good about allowing us to work on them. All had been done just six weeks earlier by Vicki and Cate, along with Sharon, Marjorie Smith and Randi Peters, so their feet were actually much better than they had been when Debbie brought them home for rehabilitation.

What is rather significant about the day’s efforts is that none of us are professional farriers. We are horse-owning people who, from a variety of motivations, have become dedicated to the concept of barefoot and natural hooves. Two of my equine family members, for example, foundered two years ago. When the advice of my vet sounded as though I ought to get an alternate opinion before I took steps, Dr. Hiltrud Strasser’s teachings burst upon my personal scene and I knew immediately that I’d found the right path to help them recover. And recover they did, after the typical year of their working through the abscesses and my learning the do-it-yourself trim because there were no farriers nearby who knew how.

Mine have been sound again for a year, now – in fact, they’re better than they had been at founder time because their diet is now a proper horse diet, their weights are proper sound horse weights, they are turned out all the time, and their feet have proper horse trims. And I now understand the vital importance of proper and continuous attention to their feet when they’re not able to keep them in trim themselves through constant movement over varied terrain.

But there are so many, many horses out there that don’t enjoy natural and happy feet. Although we can’t, personally, help the vast majority of them, we certainly can help those few would-be discards who are fortunate enough to find themselves in a Rescue situation. We are needed, we self-trimmers, to make those few lives more comfortable by donating a few hours of our time and fixing their feet. That’s what our trim-a-thon was all about.

So we tackled them, one at a time, nipping and rasping and cutting away and making those feet better than they were before we got there. Sometimes we trimmed, sometimes we held heads and spoke comforting words to the horses, and sometimes we actually did a little behavioral training so we could get to the feet to do our jobs.

These guys were living in a vast sea of mud, thanks to recent rains in the area. There are also large, beautiful grassy areas at the Rescue, and Debbie makes sure to rotate so each of them gets time on the green. The mud made it easy on us, however, because there wasn’t a hard foot in the bunch. Even a dull knife would have worked, though there were none of those, either.

We ran out of horses by late afternoon, so we capped off the day with coffee and a bite at a nearby restaurant, where we expressed mutual admiration for everyone’s work – well-deserved, I might add – and arranged to do it all again in a few weeks.

Of course we all do our own horses’ feet. But this was an opportunity to make a real contribution, and for a change it wasn’t just money that we could drop into the pot and walk away from: we helped some needy horses, and each of us will do it again when the opportunity arises.

About the author:
Walt Friedrich has been trimming his own herd of four Paso Finos ever since founder struck several years ago. He learned how from Hiltrud Strasser through Martha Olivo's clinics, augmented by clinics by KC LaPierre and
Marjorie Smith, and the herd itself has taught him volumes. The opportunity to "give something back to the horses" came with the trim-a-thons. Walt says, "It's a non-cash-pay job, but the reward in knowing the good done for the rescue horses is priceless."