Over the years of trimming & rehabbing horses, there is one thing that stands out as one of the most important factors and one that EVERY HORSE & OWNER BENEFITS from. That is EDUCATION. Whether or not you plan to employ 'experts' for every possible facet of horse care, or whether you plan to do whatever you can yourself, it is in your horse's best interests that you do your homework and learn at least the principles & factors of hoof function and health, if not the practice.
Why should you learn yourself and not just 'trust the experts'? Because there are 'experts' and 'experts' - just because someone does something for a job, or has done some form of course, or claims experience, or asserts something in a way that sounds like a 'fact' doesn't mean to say it is, or they are really as good as they think they are. Of course, there are many great professionals out there, but there are also many incompetent, ignorant people with big opinions, so you need to firstly learn enough to have a good idea of the opinions and help that you receive. *The 'good' or the 'bad' are not just exclusive to certain 'disciplines' such as farriery, 'natural hoof-sperts', vets, pleasure riders, people who are new to horses or those who have had decades of experience. There are 'good' and 'bad' to be found in all walks!
Even among the well studied, experienced 'experts' there are differences of opinion too So it's important to learn of the principles behind, and pros & cons of various approaches, treatments, etc, so that you can come to an objective opinion on what you think best for your horses. There is also a lot of recent research that has changed people's attitudes about certain factors, and more being done all the time. The fact is, until reasonably recently, the world at large - including vets & farriers - have had lots of 'holes' in their understanding about hoof function and the factors that effect health & soundness. Through good scientific studies, these holes are gradually being filled, but there is still a lot of ignorance and misinformation, and we're still far from understanding everything, so regardless of what you may already have learned, there's always more to learn.... so by all means make your own informed opinions, based on what you feel is best at the time, but STAY OPENMINDED to alternatives and KEEP LEARNING!
Lastly, but by no means least, why it's important for horse owners to educate themselves is that there are many factors that effect hooves & soundness, of which an occasional farrier's or vet's visit is but one small part. The vast majority is down to the owner to understand and attend to. These factors include diet, nutrition, environment, lifestyle, diet, work, hoof trimming/management and diet.
Just because your horse is lame doesn't mean to say it's the fault of the current farrier or the last week's occurences. Many problems may not cause noticable or obvious 'lameness' until they have been ongoing for some time or reached an 'acute' phase. So just because your horse isn't lame now doesn't mean to say his hooves and standard of care is obviously good. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" may be a reasonable general principle, but with so many holes in our knowledge, many people consider horses not to need 'fixing' purely because they don't recognise the 'signs' they're seeing - this unfortunately can include 'experts' such as farriers & vets. So learn the principles and be pro-active in order to avoid or at least minimise potential for lameness.
Providing information to forums & others for advice & opinions.
When asking for advice about a horse, it is in your best interest to understand the basic principles & factors, and to provide as much information as possible on the situation, including diet, management, specific symptoms, treatments and of course hoof/confo pictures. Regarding best pics for critique, see Good Hoof Photos - How to take Good Hoof Photos
It must be remembered that the opinions & advice that you get from forum members - or anyone else for that matter - is subject to the above. On top of that, we only have what you convey to us, in word &/or pictures. This can be incomplete &/or misleading. Therefore it is important to always take any opinions as 'food for thought' not definite answers! I think it's also important for people to give advice/opinions with this in mind too, so remember you don't have the whole picture, be respectful and read & reply to posts in a charitable way, being mindful that it could also just be the way *you perceive* something. (Tho we're all human & have moods & different experiences too, so try not to 'bite' at those who aren't respectful...)
So below you will find some sources that will help begin or further your education. They are by no means all there is, or even perhaps the best, they are just a handful of the ones I consider helpful and have good, well researched information. Obviously this is also just my opinion, and these sources are mostly ones that support my point of view. As said above, in order to be objective it's also important to look into alternative view points and theories and examine their pros & cons too.
Hoofrehab.com - Pete Ramey's site. Very comprehensive and also has DVDs available which are extremely informative and well worth it IMO for anyone wanting to learn to trim.
barehoofcare.com - site of Andrew Bowe, Master Farrier, Equine Podiotherapist, 'Barefoot Blacksmith', rehab specialist.
E-hoofcare.com - home of the Equine Lameness Prevention Organisation. Research and information on hoof balance, Gene Ovnicek's research and information on 'Natural Balance' shoeing. Has detailed information about reading 'landmarks' on a horse's hoof.
ironfreehoof.com & barefoothorse.com another couple of good sites explaining the theory and practice of hoof care.
safergrass.org - a good resource for learning about diet as it relates to feet
feedxl.com - a great diet & nutritional resource consisting of a program that you can input horse specifics and diet ingredients in order to assess and create a well balanced diet. Also nutritional/diet related information given and qualified equine nutritionists at hand to answer any questions.
Books & other resources to Google or buy...
The Lame Horse by James Rooney, DVM.
Horse Owner's Guide to Natural Hoofcare and The Natural Horse: Foundations For Natural Horsemanship by Jaime Jackson
Making Natural Hoofcare Work For You by Pete Ramey
Dr Robert Bowker
Dr Chris Pollitt