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More from Dr. Cook (VERY LONG)

karen standefer hrschk
Since the RC archives are not showing anything past Sept 29 and I don't
subscribe, forgive the redundancy if this has already been posted.

Following is another letter from Dr. Cook after he had audited 2 of the 3
days of a Strasser Seminar:

EDUCATED OWNERS AND BAREFOOT HORSES: An open letter to veterinarians

August 2001

Dear Colleagues,

Dr. Hiltrud Strasser of Tuebingen, Germany has studied the horse's hoof
the last twenty years. Through her clinical work and publications she has
demonstrated that the horseshoe is an unnecessary evil. Prior to July of
year, I had known of this research through her two remarkable books,
in English (Strasser and Kells, 1998, Strasser, 1999). These alone were
sufficient to convince me that her work represented a major contribution
equine welfare and veterinary medicine. Accordingly, I had no hesitation
nominating her, last year, to the American Farrier's Journal,
Veterinarian's Hall of Fame.'

However, as Ernst Mach observed in 1897, "no one disturbs his fellow men
with a
new view unpunished." By and large, the veterinary profession appears not
have noticed her work, judging by the lack of citations in podiatric
Nevertheless, this very paucity of comment actually tells us something
important. Had her revolutionary findings been false, there is little
that one or more authors would by now have published a refutation. Yet no
publication has appeared. An inability to falsify a hypothesis constitutes
powerful evidence in favor of its validity.

During July 2001, Strasser gave a series of seminars in North America, at
sites from Ontario to Florida. Having now had an opportunity to meet
Strasser and audit one day of her three-day seminar in Pennsylvania, I am
more convinced than ever that her outstanding research merits the most
careful attention by all equine veterinarians. As there is considerable
misunderstanding of her work and objectives, I would like to provide a
description of the seminar I witnessed.

The seminar was fully subscribed and attended by one veterinarian, several
farriers and about 30 horse owners. The participants were well-informed,
intelligent, caring people and their open-mindedness was refreshing. The
day of the three-day seminar comprised a lecture format. In this time,
covered the anatomical fundamentals and physiological requirements of the
horse's hoof. She also explained why these requirements were transgressed
shoeing and by traditional styles of horse management. I did not hear
lectures but, having studied her books, I am sure that she emphasized the
of a horse for the herd, and the needs of its feet for movement, moisture
and a
terrain appropriate to the breed.

The second day, which was the day I audited, consisted of lectures,
demonstrations and a practical session. The morning session was a lecture
format, in which Strasser covered the basics of a physiological hoof trim.
approach followed an anatomical progression and differed from that which
taught in conventional farrier's courses. In addition she outlined what
during the transitional and rehabilitation period of the lame or shod
that is to become a high-performance barefoot horse. The lectures were
followed, after a short lunch break, by a commentary on some videotapes.

Using a cadaver specimen, Strasser then gave a practical demonstration of
trimming. Her preference during these introductory-level seminars is to
demonstrate on a normal hoof. However, this was not possible and the
provided a stark reminder of the currently unacceptable standard of hoof
In preparation for the course, 140 cadaver legs (from 35 horses) had been
collected from a slaughterhouse. From this extensive collection, Strasser
unable to find a normal hoof! As a result she had to start by giving a
of the deformed hoof she was about to work on. I found this to be quite
fascinating and, for me, a particularly interesting part of the
Finally, the participants gained hands-on practice,
trimming cadaver hooves under supervision.

The third day consisted of continued practice in the trimming of cadaver
hooves, together with a trimming demonstration on a live horse (the horse
was owned by the attending veterinarian and volunteered by her for this
purpose). It was explained in the course brochure "Horse owners who have
made the necessary prior arrangements may trim their own horses in the
afternoon under the supervision of a Certified Strasser Hoof Care
Specialist." However, Strasser did not undertake to diagnose or treat lame
horses and, throughout the clinic, she constantly referred participants to
their veterinarians over such matters.

In spite of some unfamiliarity with the language, Strasser was an
credible, and confident lecturer. She spoke quietly and handled probing
questions with ease and pleasantness. There was no defensiveness in her
answers. She simply explained the basic science that supported her
and drew effectively on her extensive knowledge and practical experience.

I came away with a much better understanding of Strasser's logical
to trimming and of the sound criteria on which this approach was based. It
was a red-letter day for me and I only wished that I had had access to
information 50 years ago. The spirit of Bracy Clark, a veterinarian who
tried to tell his colleagues some of these same truths 200 years ago, was
and well in Hiltrud Strasser! I was proud to claim Clark as an alumnus of
own school, the Royal Veterinary College, London. But I was also rather
that my school had failed to give him the support he deserved and had even
tried to suppress his findings. As human nature has not changed in the
last two
centuries, I fear that the veterinary profession may fail, once again, to
advantage of the second chance that Strasser is now offering. In fact, her
does not threaten anyone. It provides equine practitioners with valuable
solutions to previously intractable problems and it actually increases the
amount of work for farriers.

Strasser's message, in essence, is disarmingly simple. First, keep the
horse in
an environment that bears a similarity to its natural
that is within the capability of most horse keepers today and should be as
obligatory as the provision of food and water). Secondly, allow the foot
to be
the shape and consistency that nature intended. The first requirement
that a horse must not be confined to a stall for 23 hours out of 24 each
The second requires that millions of years of hoof evolution should be
to do the job it has evolved to do. At the risk of oversimplification, the
message is "no shoe, no stall, and no stagnation."

Currently, horse owners are showing a greater readiness to study and adopt
Strasser's recommendations on hoof care than either veterinarians or
Because of this, both veterinarians and farriers may soon find themselves
the embarrassing situation of being faced with owners who have a better
understanding of the truth about the hoof than they do. Unfortunately,
could lead to veterinarians becoming increasingly sidelined on the topic
hoof care. Nevertheless, the present position is that most owners would
much prefer that veterinarians advised them on the Strasser principles
relating, for example, to the treatment of navicular disease and
laminitis. But
if they are unable to find veterinarians who have made themselves familiar
these principles, they will undoubtedly seek advice from the increasing
of Strasser certified hoof care specialists.

Similarly, most owners of young, unshod horses with healthy hooves would
much prefer that farriers carried out the Strasser trim for them. But if
are unable to locate a farrier who has studied this work and can apply its
principles, responsible owners are sufficiently motivated to seek the help
Strasser-certified hoof care specialists or even to learn how to do it for

For the good of the horse it is vital that members of faculty at
schools worldwide should become familiar with this evolution of knowledge.
veterinary students currently being trained are not introduced to these
concepts they will, in my opinion, have legitimate reasons for complaining
about the quality of their instruction in this section of the curriculum.
Further information about Strasser's work and the barefoot movement in
is now available on an increasing number of websites. Before long there
will be
an official Strasser website at "" and also
comprehensive veterinary textbook authored by Hiltrud Strasser and Sabine
Kells. In the meantime, websites that present and discuss her work include
are not limited to: "",
"", "",
"", "".

If one considers the history of the horse since its domestication about
five or
six thousand years ago, the horseshoe can be classified as a relatively
invention. It is only within the last 1000 years that it has come to be
believed that shoes are necessary 'to protect the hoof.' Yet, the horses
of the
Greek and Roman armies were barefoot, as were the cavalry of the Mongolian
horsemen and all domestic horses since the 4th Century BC. Strasser has
us that shoes do not protect the hoof. On the contrary, their effect is
the reverse. Shoes are a primary cause of reduced performance, much
lameness and a shortened lifespan. It is a matter for rejoicing that we
can at
last correct this long-standing error in horse management and eliminate
suffering and wastage we have caused by nailing iron clamps on the
toenails of
our one-toed grazers.

A good hypothesis is a bold hypothesis, as the bolder it is the more
vulnerable to falsification. Strasser's hypothesis that shoes are harmful
the health of the horse is, undeniably, a bold hypothesis. She has had the
courage to question 1000 years of accepted methodology and put forward a
alternative. Furthermore, as a scientist with integrity, having advanced
such a
scandalous idea, she has been the first to try and validate it. With this
mind, she has tested the hypothesis on many types of horses, over a long
of years, and under a wide variety of conditions. The hypothesis has
her own attempts to falsify it, for the results have satisfied not only
her but
also countless numbers of horse owners. In accordance with the rules of
she has also taken pains to publish the protocols of her experiment and
even to
train others, so that they can repeat the experiment and test it for
themselves. Once again, when others carry out the experiment based on her
hypothesis it withstands the acid test of repeatability, as similar
results can
be achieved. It is my belief that Strasser's work has already met the most
stringent criteria of science and that the next step is up to us, her
colleagues in the veterinary profession. The least we can do is to study
work, to listen and learn. It is my sincere hope that Dr. Hiltrud Strasser
soon be deluged with invitations to speak at equine veterinary conferences
around the world.

W.Robert Cook FRCVS., PhD.,
Professor of Surgery Emeritus
Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine
200, Westborough Road
North Grafton, MA 01536

[Contact address: 206, Birch Run Road, Chestertown, MD 21620 USA. Tel:
(410) 778 9005 E-mail: drwrcook @]

STRASSER, H and KELLS, S (1998) A lifetime of soundness. Sabine Kells, PO
Box 44, Qualicum Beach, BC Canada V9K 1S7
STRASSER, H (1999) Shoeing: A necessary Evil? Ed S.Kells Sabine Kells, PO
Box 44, Qualicum Beach, BC Canada V9K 1S7

To purchase, contact editor@t...
"The Hoofcare Specialist's Handbook: Hoof Orthopedics and Holistic
Curriculum vitae available at

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