Martha Olivo and United Horsemanship - Helping Horsemen Become Better Horsemen

Martha Olivo and friends Finesse and Jewel

By Elizabeth Harris

"Horses and I just 'find' each other…we always have. They have been my best teachers, and at many important levels, we keep each other whole."
~ Martha Olivo

Martha Olivo has been trimming horses since she was 14 years old. Her family, all 12 of them, lived in North Carolina then, and every day she walked past Topsy, a foundered pony who lived in a neighboring pasture. They made a deal. Martha would trim Topsy's feet, and Topsy would eventually let her ride. It was the beginning of a romance…and a commitment to horses that became Martha's life's work.

Fast forward thirty-four years and you'll see Martha Olivo, Hoof Care Specialist, ex-farrier and passionate advocate of natural horse care, traveling the country giving the Whole Horse Trim™ to hundreds of animals while conducting educational clinics for horse owners, farriers and veterinarians. The Whole Horse Trim™ is a technique of hoof trimming that duplicates the parameters found in feral equine hooves. It is a physiologically correct trim. As a proponent of The Whole Horse Trim™ Martha advocates that the horses' natural, unshod hoof provides traction, protection, shock absorption and heart-supporting circulation when maintained in conjunction with natural horse keeping. She is devoting her life to helping others understand that connection.

The years between Martha's relationship with Topsy and her current work as co-owner of United Horsemanship Inc. were full and vigorous. She fulfilled many roles as wife, mother, farmer, horse handler, trimmer, trainer and groom. In 1993, she became a certified farrier and shortly afterward became familiar with Gene Ovnicek's Four Point Trim. As her experience and knowledge expanded, Martha was influenced by a number of non-traditional trimmers such as Dave Ellis, Jaime Jackson and eventually, Dr. Hiltrud Strasser. In May of 2000, Martha signed up for one of Dr. Strasser's seminars in Austin, Texas. "I couldn't get enough of what she was teaching," says Olivo, "so I followed her." It was at Strasser's clinic in Chattanooga, Tennessee where she met Cindy 'Hawk' Sullivan (www.tribeequus.com). Shortly thereafter, she met Gretchen Fathauer.

"There was tremendous excitement at that time. Strasser's clinics are excellent for bringing the barefoot community together and building enthusiasm." Fathauer, whose informational website (www.members.screenz.com/gretchenfathauer/) is an outstanding resource for barefoot horse enthusiasts, posted Martha's name on the site as a 'barefoot emissary' and someone who was available and able to do The Natural Trim. Once her name appeared on Fathauer's site, demand escalated.

In the fall of that year Martha met Tara Felder while enroute to a clinic in Canada. Tara's horse "Ganny" had foot troubles and Tara had tried everything. Felder had been to a Strasser clinic and knew the value of bare feet. She contacted Martha with a request to stop in Bellingham, Washington on her way to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The two women sat up all night talking about Olivo's vision for United Horsemanship and on the return trip, Tara presented Martha with a plan for carrying out the vision. Says Olivo, "I was flabbergasted that she'd taken the time to lay this all out and to commit herself to the movement and vision of UH…and with that we became partners!"

As owners of United Horsemanship Inc., a growing, international company dedicated to "helping horsemen become better horsemen, " Martha and Tara are developing a vast network committed to supporting and educating people involved in the natural horse movement. Although United Horsemanship focuses on caring for horses' feet (because feet are literally the foundation of the horse), it isn't just about trimming feet. It's also a solidarity movement and a nationwide, for-profit membership organization that was born out of love and dedication to horses.

Committed to their company's vision - "to form a commonwealth of support, education, advocacy and information among those individuals and organizations who regard natural horse care as a sensible, humane and preferable way to initiate and sustain optimal health and well being in horses," Martha, Tara and a team of enthusiastic helpers work tirelessly to make United Horsemanship a self supporting organization. Their plans for the future include an educational program and certification, the United Horse Kid's Program and affiliated rehab centers with stables so horses can be helped in a controlled situation with trained staff that understand and practice natural healing.

"Folks come to us (to the barefoot movement) because they intuitively know that horses were meant to have their feet," declares Felder. "Others come because they have had, or presently have, horse(s) that have met with a tragic end or that are in desperate trouble. Many of those drawn to the Whole Horse Trim™ also seek out holistic medicine for themselves and other pets."

While Tara runs the business, fields the questions and orchestrates a myriad of tasks from Washington State, Martha travels the country giving private trims and teaching clinics almost every weekend. You can find out more information about United Horsemanship, Martha's clinic schedule, how to become a member or how to get involved by logging on to their website at www.unitedhorsemanship.com. To schedule a clinic, contact Paige Poss at 540-473-1880 or drop an email clinics@unitedhorsemanship.com.
United Horsemanship and its members are committed to all aspects of horse advocacy. Membership in United Horsemanship helps assure the development and continuation of education, support and advocacy on behalf of horses and those who care for them. To join United Horsemanship, call 360-647-7503 and ask for a membership brochure or follow the membership link on the website and choose the package that's right for you.

When asked how it came to be that she was so passionately drawn to work with horses, Martha tells this story: "When I was a child, one night as I drifted off to sleep, I heard a noise outside my window. I looked out and there was Pegasus with a whole herd of winged horses rattling at my window. I climbed on his back and he flew me all over the world! It the most beautiful dreamscape I've ever been a part of. So you see, I know I'm doing exactly what I was meant to do. I feel very, very privileged to know that. I've been called to follow an important path and do important work. I'm humbled by all of this and so very thankful to each and every individual who has enough appreciation and respect for the horse to give him back his feet. My gratitude goes out to anyone who endeavors to put the wings back on the horse."

About the author:
Elizabeth Harris is a writer, marketing specialist and business development consultant. Her three-year-old company, Beyond Consulting, is located in Bellingham, Washington, and she currently works with United Horsemanship in all phases of their marketing. She can be reached at egharris@nas.com.