6/26/2013 7:45:00 AM Amanda Marsh trims hooves and espouses natural horse care
Heidi Dahms-Foster Former Editorial Manager
Amanda Marsh has built a successful business in horse hoof care. But this Chino Valley woman also has overcome some life traumas that have shaped her into much more than someone who trims hooves.
Marsh, who owns Mountain Top Natural Hoof Trimming Service, cares for about 120 horses on a regular basis, traveling an area from Kingman to Scottsdale. She helps people take their horses from shoes to the more natural barefoot state, using hoof boots when needed in rough terrain. She also specializes in trimming horses' hooves to compensate for injury or conformation faults.
Horses figured early in Marsh's life. Her parents and grandparents were dairy farmers, and her family lived in a southern California area known for Thoroughbred and Arabian show horses. From age five, she spent most of her time with neighbors who owned show horses, and was on track to enter the horse show world.
Two weeks before her eighth birthday, though, the dream ended. A man who had escaped prison murdered Marsh's friends and mentors. The tragedy and loss of their friends deeply affected her family.
"We were completely devastated," Marsh said.
Her parents tried to make things normal for Marsh and her older brother, Adam, but the trauma changed the course of her life.
During that time, Marsh got a pony, and continued to ride, but her horse show mentors and the future as she had planned it were gone. Nevertheless, she said, "We were blessed to have what we had."
She was privileged to attend boarding school, where she learned show jumping, and as time went on, always was involved in some way with horses.
After graduating high school, Marsh "fled California" and came to Prescott to attend Prescott College, where she pursued an interest in writing. Interestingly enough, in fourth grade, she had written a small book on trimming horse hooves, a tome she only recently found. She also guided horse rides through the Prescott National Forest.
She graduated in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in creative writing, then later returned to finish her master's degree in wildlife biology and range science. Marsh was aiming for a job as a scientist with the Forest, but the recession ended another of her dreams.
Still wanting to work with horses, Marsh started an apprenticeship with a farrier. That's when she found out she didn't want to be a blacksmith. She was uncomfortable with the way the farrier handled horses, and his business ethics. Being dyslexic, she said, also made it difficult to learn from him.
"It began to unravel, and I didn't feel safe," she said.
Veterinarian Tomas Teskey introduced Marsh to natural horse care and trimming and she struck out on her own as a trimmer. She also met a woman whose horses needed trimming and allowed Marsh to learn by experience. The woman had an Arab mare that had foundered, a condition that causes hooves to be disfigured. By then, Marsh had put a lot of study into natural trimming, and her instincts told her to trim the mare's hooves one way. So did Teskey.
"He told me exactly how to trim her," Marsh said, but she second guessed herself. She consulted another professional who gave her the opposite advice, and went with it. The mare's already damaged feet worsened, and she had to be euthanized.
Instead of letting the mare's death destroy her course, Marsh grew more determined to learn all she could about natural hoof care.
"I wanted to see what was possible, and I studied like I was back in my master's program," she said.
Today, Marsh is very successful, helping clients to look at their horses' care as a whole, including nutrition, lifestyle, turnout time, and interaction with other horses. One of her greatest successes has been taking, over a period of years, a Wickenburg ranch's horses to barefoot.
"Ranch horses live in the optimal environment," she said, citing their ability to move about and interact with other horses.
Marsh also uses natural methods to care for her own horses, including a thoroughbred gelding that has never worn shoes. "He's 4, and I trim him a couple times a year," she said.
Proper hoof care affects a horse's muscles, how they gait, and can even help gaited horses find their natural movement, Marsh said.
"You have to know all breeds - you wouldn't trim a gaited horse the way you would a quarter horse," she said.
Having experienced trauma at a young age, Marsh said she sees how people who have been through abuse or devastating events sometimes project those feelings onto their horses, which can cause a dangerous situation.
"When people project human attributes on their horses, they start to have problems. It's a tricky area. (In the natural), a horse is prey, and I'm the predator. I have to learn to keep the horse comfortable and keep myself and the owner safe," she said. "I'm science minded. My work is based on how (horses) are and who they are from a biological perspective.
Marsh gives clinics and talks, and has appeared at Prescott's Equifest and the Verde Valley Equine Festival. She is also available for private lessons and consultations. For more information, visit her website at www.barefootnaturalhooftrimming.com, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-925-2321.