The Alternative Therapist's Role in Recognizing the Other "Lethal Gene"

By Chrisann Ware

Most horse owners know about the lethal gene that is carried by some paint horses - Overo Lethal White Syndrome, a condition that occurs in newborn foals that is fatal. HYPP is another genetic catastrophe, as is a gray horse's genetic tendency to develop melanoma.

There is also another lethal gene that is devastating our domestic horses yet is going unrecognized by those who could play a vital role in helping horses. It is affecting all colours and breeds. It is being passed on to horses, generation after generation, and is carried in the brain of human beings. It is one so lethal that most domestic horses in the western world will eventually be sickened by it. So insidious is the onset of its symptoms that most owners are never aware of its lethal effects until they are well advanced in the horse. So stealthy is it that even when the symptoms are noticed, they are not linked to the actual cause.

So slow is its unrelenting destruction of the horses' bodies that the subtle changes, that should ring alarm bells in the minds of every veterinary professional, go continually unnoticed, or worse still, are seen, but accepted as normal "weaknesses" in the species and are written as such in veterinary texts so there is a self-perpetuating element continually at work here.

So cruel is this gene that when years of chronic pain can be no longer borne by the horse and he is reduced to a shuffling stumbling shell of what he should be - riddled with postural and gait abnormalities and pain, so that he can hardly move - we proclaim him to be lazy, sour, or difficult, and offer him more severe physical training instead of permanent help.

So deceptive is the onset of this pain, lameness, muscle wastage, and arthritis that accompany this gene that they are never linked to this "lethal gene" but are often diagnosed as "stand alone" conditions and called diseases, for which horses themselves are blamed and sent to their deaths in their millions. And then, as treatment for the "imaginary" diseases which accompany this condition, unbelievably, in our arrogance we still try to cure the deformities and associated pain, with the application of more of the same … just because it has been done that way for hundreds of years. Even though we know it didn't work then, and it doesn't work now!


X-ray showing joint compression due to hoof imbalance.


Yes, of course by now you know that the "lethal gene" I am talking about is the widely accepted practice of nailing steel into a living creature - quaintly called horse shoeing! Now that I have seen the amazing healing that comes with its removal I cannot bear to call it shoeing as this suggests that it has a protective role for the horse when in reality it is actually just a slow poison to the entire horse.

I have not yet met anyone who, when they really thought about it, felt that nailing steel into a living animal was good. I have watched horse owners mentally flinch as they see their farrier drive those nails into a hoof when they see horses shod for the first time.

All their instincts are screaming that this cannot be good … but that "lethal gene" just kicks in and takes over their minds and they are swept along by convention like the millions of modern horse owners before them, who just gave in under the weight of public opinion … never really questioning, just because the horse doesn't show instant symptoms and the veterinary fraternity follow along blindly also.

And when years later, I am called to treat their poor, sore, crippled horses, and point out to them the sad condition of their hooves as the direct cause, they don't believe that the cure could be so simple … just remove the shoes and return the hoof to full healthy function with the barefoot trim.


Bodywork will only give temporary relief if the horse has hoof issues.


The owners cannot comprehend that such amazing healing could come from this simple act. So they ask their trusted farrier or their family vet and he dismisses the trim as trivial as he lives and works and was trained in a world of deformed equine feet and has never seen a truly healthy hoof, nor the astounding ability to heal that comes with the barefoot trim. And the horse is left with deformed hooves, and the shoes that caused them, and a quality of life that would send most humans mad - constant, never ceasing, unrelenting low grade pain.



I am an equine massage therapist dealing with horses in every discipline and I am horrified at the huge numbers of horses I see constantly who have had years of treatment by chiropractors, vets, massage therapists, saddle fitters, body workers, reiki masters, aromatherapists etc. but are still left with the cause of the problems, the deformed hooves.


I do not blame these therapists as I was the same ‘til I learned the Barefoot Trim. They have not yet had the opportunity to witness the amazing healing that comes with the application of the barefoot trim nor the overwhelming sadness that comes when we realise what we are doing and have done to millions of horses. Nor felt the anger that comes when we are confronted with the stubborn refusal of some vets and farriers who will not step outside their comfort zone and investigate healing horses naturally.

To them I say, 'Stop being a "band aid" solution and take a leap of faith - learn the principles of the barefoot trim. Just by doing this you will be able to recognise the subtle signs of hooves in trouble and you will then have in your power the ability to create permanent healing, which is what we all seek to do.' Equine therapists work with horses because they love them. There is an opportunity here to be part of the most amazing change for the better and to improve the quality of life for every single horse we will see in the future.

Julie, an Equine Myofunctional Therapist, adding a new skill to her work... the barefoot trim.



This is not some "fad" or passing craze; millions of horse owners worldwide are rethinking their horses' hoof care. We have the most powerful knowledge available here now and a chance to be a link between the horse and the owner and to do something "for" the horse instead of "to" the horse. Hoof care is not some mystical thing that only farriers should ever attempt; anyone can do it. Why continue to commit our horses to miserable lives? Ask yourself one question: 'Why do you shoe your horse?' If the answer is, 'Just because I always have,' it's time to investigate the barefoot alternative.

About the author:

Chrisann Ware is an Equine Myofunctional Therapist and lecturer for the National College of Traditional Medicine in Australia, which provides courses for those who want to be professional equine massage therapists. She is also the creator of Equethy Workshops, presenting two-day equine health workshops to teach owners the basic barefoot trim, how to recognize and avoid the damaging myths about horse care, and how to offer their horse's a better quality of life. Through her massage work, Chrisann has found that the trim has a profound effect in correcting long-term musculoskeletal problems in horses and would like to help more therapists become aware of the impacts shoeing imposes on the average horse's quality of life.

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