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Gene Ovnicek

RMF (Registered Master Farrier - Guild of Professional Farriers)

CLS (Certified Lameness Specialist - E.L.P.O.)

American Farrier's Association Member

American Association of Professional Farriers Member


       Gene Ovnicek is nationally and internationally recognized as a farrier, clinician and researcher.  A pioneer in the study of wild horse hoof form and function, Gene has combined his over 50 years of farrier experience with the information from other scientific research as a foundation for treating and preventing equine lameness.  Gene has been involved in research projects with Dr. Robert Bowker of Michigan State University and Dr. Barbara Page of the Equine Wellness Foundation, and currently works with the research studies conducted by the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization.  His ever evolving information packed presentations have been featured at some of the most prestigious farrier and veterinarian conferences in the world.  In addition to the research projects, teaching and his position with Equine Digit Support System, Inc., Gene still operates a complete farrier practice ranging from performance horses to lameness management and consultation.
        Gene grew up in eastern Washington on a family ranch.  He began shoeing horses at the age of 13 out of necessity.  By the age of 16, Gene had accumulated a large number of local clients and had a busy part time farrier business.  With the exception of a few years in the military, Gene has spent just over 50 years as a full time farrier.  Over those 50+ years, Gene has worked with numerous respected farriers, horsemen, and equine veterinarians to learn as much as he could about his trade and the animals that he cares for.  For most of the first 30 years of his career, Gene was highly sought after in his community in Montana and considered to be one the best farriers in the area.  He worked on high level Arabian and gaited show horses, as well as competition quarter horses, thoroughbreds and anything else that needed hoof care.  For all practical purposes, Gene was considered a very successful farrier and could have continued to do the work that he had done for the better part of his life.  However, in all the horses that he had seemed to be having success with, there was always a portion of his clients that had lameness issues that never got resolved or horses in his care that developed performance issues or just weren't quite as sound as he felt they should be.  He talked to other farriers when he had the chance and it seemed like everyone had horses in their practice that seemed to fit that same description.  He had even heard from some highly respected farriers and clinicians that there are always going to be a certain number of horses that are going to be lame and you just have to accept that as in inevitability of the job.  For Gene however, this just never felt right, and in the mid 1980's, he had started to feel like there was more to understanding the foot than what he had been exposed to.  In 1986 Gene was given an opportunity to conduct a hoof imprint study of wild horses at a gathering station in Wyoming, in hopes that he might find some of the answers he was looking for.  He went back to the wild horse gathering again in 1987 to look at a third group of horses to complete his project.  After several years of evaluating and compiling the information, and experimenting with what he had learned from that project.  That was the start of what later became known as Natural Balance® hoof care.  Since that time, Gene has continued to think outside of the box and seek out answers to all the questions that never seemed to be fully developed from conventional teachings.  Although he and the information and products that he as contributed to over the year have endured criticism from many of his peers, his approach to hoof care has led to a noticeable shift in focus within the hoof care industry over the last 20 years.  There are many more farriers in the industry that have started to ask similar questions about why we what do and really want to find clear answers and better information about hoof health and horse soundness.  After more than 50 years of caring for horse's feet, Gene is more excited about going to work each day now than he has ever been.  Working with so many other caring farriers and his fellow members of the Equine Lameness Prevention Organization gives  him great satisfaction.  Although there is a feeling of accomplishment for the work he has contributed over the last 20 years, he stills a great deal more work to be done to make sure that horses get the best foot care possible.  As he states at the end of many of his lectures, "Our understanding of the foot and where we are today is better than it was a year ago, but it will be better still a year down the road.... I don't know where we are going, but I know we're not lost!"  


Contributions & Accolades


           Gene Ovnicek and the Natural Balance® information have been published in the American Farrier’s Journal (AFJ), Anvil Magazine, TrailBlazer magazine, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman, the European Farrier’s Journal, EQUUS and several associated press articles.  He has published and co-published chapters in major hoof care text books such as “Adams Lameness in Horses”, “Diagnosis and Management of Lameness in the Horse”, “The Veterinary Clinics of North America”, the “Natural Balance Hoof Care” Education Set, as well as several self published works and video projects.

As a clinician, Gene has been invited to share this information with a wide range of groups and activities including:



  • 1994 & 2003 Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium 

  • 1995 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention

  • 1997 Guild of Professional Farriers Convention

  • 1998 Colorado Veterinary Medical Association Conference

  • 1999 Wyoming Veterinary Medical Association Conference

  • Annual Colorado State University C.E. Courses for Veterinarians and Farriers

  • Annual University of California at Davis C.E. Courses for Veterinarians and Farriers

  • 1998 Heumphreus Memorial Conference at University of California at Davis

  • Regular TFP Sponsored Farrier/Vet Conferences in England

  • 1998 & 2002 Ashbrook Farrier/Vet Conference in the UK

  • 1999 - 11th Congress for Farriers & Vets of France

  • 1999 – Various Sponsored Farrier/Vet Conferences in Australia

  • 1999 & 2000 – Venezuela Laminitis Symposium

  • 1997 & 2000 – Annual Rochester Lameness Conference

  • 2001 Meeting of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

  • 2001 Meeting of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons

  • 2002 American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Conference

  • 1998-2006 Annual Soundness Festival Clinician

  • 2004 “Shoeing for Balance” Conference in the UK

  • 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 - Annual International Hoof Care Summit

  • 2005 – 9th Congress of Equine Medicine & Surgery, Geneva, Switzerland

  • 2007 – Montana Veterinary Medical Association Conference

  • 2007 – American Farrier’s Association Convention Speaker

  • 2007 – North Carolina Veterinary Conference

  • 2008 – Annual Myhre Equine - Farrier/Vet Conference

  • 2010 – British Equine Veterinary Association Conference

  • 2011 - International Lameness Prevention Conference

  • 2013 - International Laminitis Conference

  • 2013 - International Lameness Prevention Conference


Awards & Accomplishments



  • Guild of Professional Farrier Award of Achievement – 2000

  • Southeastern Horseshoers on Education – Farrier of the Year Award - 2001

  • Hoof Registry of Germany – Recognition Award for Contributions in Hoof Health for the Natural Balance Shoe – 2004

  • Outstanding Presentation Award for “Optimizing Laminitis Treatment” – Intl. Hoof Care Summit 2006

  • Excellence in Farriery Award - International Lameness Prevention Organization Lifetime Achievement Award - 2011

  • Lifetime Achievement Award - International Laminitis Conference 2013



  • Registered Master Farrier – Guild of Professional Farriers

  • Certified Lameness Specialist - Equine Lameness Prevention Organization

  • Certified Instructor - Equine Lameness Prevention Organization

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