My journey into NHC

“Some people get so caught up in the complexity of their questions, that they can’t hear or see the simple answers right in front of them.”

This quote is so true for our line of work as it sums up both the simplicity and complexity of working as a Natural Horse Care practitioner. Being able to see the forest from the trees is crucial for having any success in this field of expertise.

Success of course is relative to the beliefs and perceptions you have of Natural Horse Care. In order to truly define your belief system, you will need a model to work and reason from. The model I use in my work has proved its worth for many decades. It’s not some fab that will go away. It’s not a sales pitch, it is a realistic model that genuinely works.

The beginning:

When I started my training with Jaime Jackson’s AANHCP in the early 2000’s, I had three distinct experiences that I believe laid the foundation for who I am as a practitioner today.

My first experience was a clinic I attended near Salt Lake City in Utah(2004). My journey getting to this clinic is a story to itself, but I’ll save that for another time. ?

The clinic was hosted by a very famous hoof care practitioner who at the time was an instructor for the AANCHP. Attendees were people from all over the U.S. – some travelling up to 20 hours by car to get there. Farriers, horse owners and wannabee trimmers were thrown into a mix of about twenty, twenty five people.

The speaker was eloquent and vibrant in the delivery of his message and the amount of information discussed was both interesting and overwhelming. And although it was interesting, I struggled to relate to some of the things that were taught during this clinic. There was little or no reference to the wild horse model or the research that drove me to sign up for this unique program. Instead, I was confronted with a lot of assumptions and a plethora of foot pathologies that were handled in a way that did not make too much sense to me.

Although I could not exactly explain why at the time, I realized that something was off in the training program that I had embarked on with great enthusiasm.

Jaime Jackson:

My second experience on this journey led to Jaime Jackson. At the, time the founding father of Natural Horse Care and the Natural Trim was living in Woodland Hills in California and the book for which he is now most famous, “Paddock Paradise”, had not yet been published.

When I arrived at his house, the first thing he did was put me in his car and take me to lunch. “You need some healthy food in you”, he said, “you’ve had a long journey and that roadside food is no good!”. During our ride out to the restaurant we talked about my trip, my plans for NHC and of course, his work.

When talking to Jaime Jackson you can be sure he has some amazing stories to share about his life. From preparing buffalo hides to acriculture, from travelling on horse back to making classical music. This guy has so much to share it is impossible to remember it all. But one sentence always stuck with me.

He said:

“Björn, remember this.. there are no shiny buckles in this business. None!”

No shiny buckles..? Okay…

Allthough I sort of understood the analogy, I could not yet fully understand what it meant in relation to natural horse care, but I learned quickly that every word of it was true.

The point he was trying to make was this:

natural horse care is not about prize money or some shiny buckle you win at the rodeo. It’s not about our ego’s or status as professional practitioners. About being the cure to all problems by simply waving our rasps like magic wand saying all will be okay.

It is about the horse and how we can help to improve their lives in a domesticated(compromised!) environment. Our job is to be a portal for information to our clients, the horseowners. They are the key to any success in dealing with the health of horses and their feet. And that’s exactly why I’ve created this platform. I want to be able to reach you, the owner of the horse!

But we did more than talk, of course. Jaime and I trimmed hooves. After all, that’s what I came here for, right?!

Jacksons no-nonsense, simple approach to trimming the foot felt like a breath of fresh air compared to the clinic I visited prior. To this day I can recall the markings he made on the hooves. The simple techniques he used, never invasive and always.. always referring to what is natural for the equine digit.

From that moment on I was hooked. But not just to the Natural Trim. No, it was the philosophy of natural horse care in relation to hoofcare which made this job so incredibly interesting. Learning to make connections. To make the distinction between cause and effect and to find solutions for typical ‘horse problems’. That is Natural Horse Care!

The ‘model’:

My third and last profound experience on that trip was with a fellow named Mark Jeldness, an instructor at the time. Mark was a good old boy in his late fifties, early sixties maybe. He lived near the U.S. Great Basin and this former trucker turned trimmer took me into the desert with his jeep to find wild horses. We had oatmeal for breakfast, ate peanuts and drank cranberry juice during the day.

Driving through the desert we came across the weirdest looking people. Not realizing that the Burning Man festival was a thing, and these people were not lost (I think..), we drove deeper into the desert near Susanville, about 90 miles North of Reno.

The vastness and stillness of that place is unbelievable and as I remember it, overwhelming. Especially when you’re just a simple hick from The Netherlands.  

A mountainous environment. The ground, a combination of a sandy, crush type bedding and sharp, solid rock. There was some grass here and there, but nothing like back home. Most of the stuff that grew here was coarse, thick and unappealing in every way. At least, from the standpoint of the traditional horse guy I still was, it looked really weird. 

Trying to approach the wild horses (and burro’s!) was near impossible. The moment we walked into their little bubble as I call it, they simply moved off and left us in the dust. They made it crystal clear that this was their world and I was just a visitor that didn’t belong..

Now, I don’t know if I was lucky, smart, or simply intuitively savvy enough to understand that there was something more to the hoof than just a trim. I learned here that trimming a hoof is only part of the solution when it comes to natural hoofcare. The (adaptive) environment of the horse in fact was what made all the parts come together.

The three instructors I mentioned here were all different and in their own way they were all trying to explain their perception of natural horse care. Together they made me understand the essence of the science of NHC.

The penny drops:

The first one showed me the importance of having a natural model. Simply because he did not use one..

The second explained this model to me in the most humble of ways and led me in safely. He taught me how to apply the model and gave further depth to our model.

The third, although just for a short moment in time, managed to show me the model in real life. Up until then something I had only read and heard about.

These three very different experiences combined made the ‘penny drop’. I never looked back, I never doubted and I tried to stay away from shiny buckle situations. I have since been riding a different kind of rodeo.

In closing:

From our perspective as practitioners – that is for those that have come to grips with it – the science of NHC is still in the very embryonic stages of development. There is so much we don’t know and there is so much left to research. But with what we do know, we are able to make a huge difference. By knowing what is healthy and natural, we can see what is not and with that comes a clear sense of direction in improving the lives of equines living under unnatural circumstances.

If there was only one bit of advice I could give to you as a horse owner, it would be to study what is natural. Do not study the result of what is not, as it will likely lead you down a path of problems with no genuine sense of direction.

Stay close to the model in everything you do with your horse, it will keep you and your animal safe.