Equine Podiatry and Jeet Kun Do

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In part, I have Bruce Lee and Jeet Kun Do to thank for my philosophy of equine footcare! Now I know some of you are scratching your heads but hang in there, I promise you’ll get it. When I was a kid, I used to rush home to watch Chinese Kung Fu theater. If there were a Shaolin temple nearby, I would have joined to become a butt kicking monk in a heartbeat.

As a fan of KungFu, I became acquainted with Bruce Lee and his philosophy of Martial Arts, which was called Jeet Kun Do. What Bruce Lee realized, was that his traditional training in Wing Chun was not enough to be the best martial artist in the world — that was his goal.

He knew that Wing Chun was great, but it wasn’t the end all, be all he was seeking. Understanding this, caused him to embark on a learning journey. He then started spending time with various martial artists to learn from them. The compilation of his learnings became Jeet Kun Do. Jeet Kun Do wasn’t a martial art per se; it was more a philosophy of martial arts.

Jeet Kun Do is different for every practitioner; because each practitioner has unique strengths and weaknesses. Now what does that have to do with horses you ask — Plenty!

There lots of styles of shoeing horses. Moreover, many clinicians claim their philosophy or method is the best. This can be confusing because some clinicians contradict others. So how is one to know what’s valid? This question started me on a learning journey of my own; I began spending time with other farriers and going to clinics.

After spending much time at many clinics. I realized that they had great things to offer but, there were limitations to what they were putting forth. What I mean is, there would be some instances that what they were teaching wasn’t workable. So, I filed away what I learned for another time. Eventually, a situation would present itself where what I learned, would be just what I needed to make a difference.

What I’ve learned over the years is that every horse and every foot is unique; which means there is no one size fits all methodology for equine footcare. Moreover, there was something else I learned… As good as these clinicians were at teaching me, the best teachers are the horses themselves! Horses don’t lie! If a method or philosophy is sound, you can see the difference it makes for a horse.

Getting back to the beginning, traditional farrier science early on taught us; try to get feet to match, this has led many footcare practitioners to emphasize esthetic values over proper limb/foot function.
Esthetic values might make a horse owner happy because it’s pretty, but in the long run, that could set the horse up for failure. Current research regards every limb as having its own center of gravity, which means we shouldn’t let form get ahead of function.

Instead of emphasizing esthetics, I think a good hoofcare practitioner approaches the horse holistically… While protecting the hoof; the goal of the practitioner should be to facilitate fluid movement, with proper landing and loading. There are so many ways to accomplish these objectives today.

Moreover, we have different methods of trimming, with lots of different types of shoes. Some shoes are made of composites, we have acrylics, hoof casts, wooden clogs, and boots, just to name a few options out there now. Technology and research are continuing to give us more options. Because of the vast resources at our disposal, I am compelled to upgrade continually. That is why I embrace a philosophy of shoeing, rather than a fixed method.
I’d like to sum all this up with the words of Bruce Lee and I quote:

“Absorb what is useful.
Discard what is useless.
Add what is essentially your own.”

I think Bruce Lee’s philosophy can be applied to equine footcare — Bye for now!

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