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Farrier Focus: Mark Taylor


By Tommy Brannon

Mark Taylor has been a certified natural horse care practitioner since 2003. “Some people call us a ‘barefoot trimmer’,” Mark said. “I’m not a blacksmith because I don’t forge metal and don’t do metal shoes, but I am a farrier.” Mark does use other types of shoes, ones that don’t require nails, for horses that need them.

Mark is certified by the Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices (AANHCP), the founding organization promoting natural hoof care. “The model for natural hoof care is the wild horse,” Mark explained. “The trimming is designed to copy the horse’s hoof in the wild. There are wild horses that are 20 to 30 years old and when they round up the wild horses, they usually find nothing wrong with their feet. Why is that? They spend a lot of their time moving, traveling, foraging for food. That contrasts with our pasture kept horses, who are stuck in a small area. The wild horses eat a little, then travel 3 to 5 miles; eat a little, then travel 3 to 5 miles over varied terrain. They might travel up to 20 or 30 miles a day. It’s the traveling over varied terrain, some grass, some rock, some sand, that keeps their hooves trimmed and cleaned,” Mark explained. “Horses are amazing adaptors.”

Mark told how Jaime Jackson, President and Executive Director of AANHCP, had studied approximately 2,000 wild horses over a number of years to learn about the common hoof problems that our “pasture pets” have, such as thrush, founder, and navicular disease. He said Jackson’s research found that the Mustangs had none of these problems and he wanted to find out why. Some of his key explanatory factors were feed and terrain. Jaime Jackson believes that “shoeing causes harm to horses’ feet and that going barefoot is the superior and humane way to go.” This belief and his experiences with wild horses of the west led him to become a “natural hoof care practitioner.”

Mark got into natural hoof care because he had several horses of his own, and was unable to find a farrier to trim his horses’ feet as he wished. He discovered natural hoof trimmer Steve Johnson in Kentucky, who would periodically come to his area to trim all his horses. Steve got Mark interested in learning how to do it, so Mark contacted the AANHCP and entered their training program. As part of the learning and certification process, Mark had over 30 books to read, as well as other materials; then had to work with eight mentors in various parts of the country. To complete the program, he had to pass exams to become certified. Eventually his skills used on his own horses turned into a full time job.

A main part of natural hoof care is understanding the design and function of the horse’s hoof. “A horse’s hoof designed to be self-cleaning,” Mark said. “You want to make the horse’s hoof as self-sufficient as possible. When the horse’s hoof hits the ground, it is designed to absorb the compression. It’s a pump and it loads with blood to absorb the shock of hitting the ground. With a metal shoe on the hoof, it cannot absorb all the vibration, so it travels upward and is absorbed by the knees, shoulder, all the way up. You want maximum blood flow through the hoof. ”

In the process Mark follows up with each horse he trims, “The first step is to evaluate the horse’s hoof,” he said. “You want to find live sole, so you don’t invade and don’t sore a horse. Then evaluate the hoof needs. You want to nip out the sole and bowl it; smooth the sole around the frog. Start at the toe and work to the edges.

“The horse is not really supposed to walk on the hoof wall. The horse walks on the water line,” Mark said. He pointed out the sections of the horse’s hoof: the hoof wall, water line, and white line. “The water line follows the hoof wall all the way around. The quarters are the true thickness of the hoof wall, so you want to make the hoof wall the same thickness all the way around. When you get finished, you should have a hoof wall with no flares.”

Mark cuts at a 45-degree angle with his nippers. He also rolls or bevels the edge of the hoof wall. One of his finishing touches is to use sandpaper on the bottom outside of the hoof wall to remove any frayed horn and to stimulate the periople in the hoof wall. “You want the hoof wall edge to be thoroughly rounded with no sharp edges anywhere.” Mark likened it to a human having “no hangnails.”

All the tools Mark uses are basically the same as other farriers use. There is an additional rasp that he uses to smooth the sole and make sure it is concave. Mark is not opposed to shoeing horses nor does he want to try to change traditional horse shoeing. He does use three kinds of shoes, according to his clients’ needs. The one he uses most often is the Cavallo Simple Boot. He also uses Renegade Hoof Boots, and Easyboots, as the horses’ feet and uses require.

Mark talked about the success he has had with foundered horses. “The pain is in the toe, so I drop the heels a little further [than usual]; it doesn’t take much to get the pressure off the toe. The flexor tendon in the back will stretch.” But along with proper foot trimming, Mark says changes in feeding are most important. “Take them off the sweet feed. Many require a dry lot and just water and hay. Keep them trimmed, keep them in a dry lot for a period of time and solve the problem mainly through diet.

 Mark also has knowledge of horse nutrition and can assess a horse’s nutritional needs, in addition to trimming their hooves. “I first evaluate what the horse is taking in, and then plan from there.” He recommends finding feeds with less sugar, less cane molasses. “Feeds need some molasses to hold the grains and pellets together, and feeds with 6% molasses or less are okay.”

It is also important to trim the horse every 4 to 5 weeks to keep them in balance. “Keeping the horse in balance is very important.” This, with proper diet, “keeps the horse at peak performance,” Mark said.

Based in Ashland, Mississippi, Mark said he has customers throughout the mid-south. He travels to Arkansas, west and middle Tennessee, and Alabama, as well as Mississippi. For more information about Natural Hoof Care and theAANHCP, see To contact Mark Taylor, call (662) 224-3043.

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