Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Hoof Trimming- Simple Stupid

It'd be just plain delusional of me to think I had gained enough knowledge or experience on hoof trimming to start divvying out advice here. However, what I can share are a few of my ideas on how to navigate a learning curve that is slick with stubborn traditionalists and new-age fanatics.

Oh, and folks like me that fall somewhere in between.

Here is my simple stupid theory:

Understand how the hoof works, understand all the parts and how they fit together and you will ultimately be able to decide, using simple stupid common sense, what techniques or theories make sense to you.
The best way I found to learn about the internal structure of the horses foot is to watch gruesome and gory youtube videos. I'm actually not kidding. Cadaver hooves are a wealth of knowledge, animated cadaver hooves are ever cooler, though not for the faint of heart.

Here are a just a few of the videos I watched that show the internal workings of a hoof. Also there is a link here to a British program called "Inside Natures Giants- The Racehorse" that is beyond awesome. One of the coolest shows I've ever seen. They dissect a racehorse. Inflate its lungs. Snap its tendons. It's a must see.

Inside Natures Giants- The Racehorse

This set of videos is made by a guy who sounds like the evil genius in some action movie but he has some wicked cool video demonstrating hoof mechanism. He believes that to peripherally load a hoof (which is what horse shoes do) is animal abuse. Maybe one day we will come to the point where we look back at the way it was once done and see nothing but brutality... but for now this guy is a wee bit too fervent in his ideas for my taste. However, his video of a laminitic horse's degraded laminae is too cool for school. (Is there anything as uncool as that expression?)

Check out his youtube videos at: Swedish Hoof School

I have added a page under my header called "Handy Horse Links". Here you will find a few more websites that I used while trying to better understand hoof anatomy.

Now, last post a comment was made by a friend who said she would not want to do her own horses feet and that she would rather trust the experience and knowledge of her farrier. (thanks for the comment Crystal:) The very reason why I am learning this is today is because I do not have such a farrier and one is not available to me. Trust me, I looked. My search was so epic it became worthy of  capital letters (see "The Hunt for the Good Farrier" in my last post). However, I would still want to learn what I've learned and I would still want to be able to do some maintainance between trims because...

It just makes plain ol'practical sense to me that the hoof is meant to be consistently worn and kept in shape through natural wear and tear.  It doesnt seem to me that it is ideal for a horse to be allowed to grow it's foot out then have it cut off, then grow it out, then have it cut off, then grow it out etc. etc. etc.. Unfortunately I cant ride enough or keep my horses on a large enough property to allow this to happen naturally. Therefor, I think, it would be ideal if I could (depending on the rate of growth (which for Ella would be once a week, for Hola every two, for Marm every three)) file off the small amount of extra length on the outer wall and just ever so slightly file down the overall length of the hoof to keep the foot in a consistent and ideal shape. I am not experienced enough to create a sound and balanced foot out of a bad foot. But I think that most owners would and should be capable enough to maintain their horses feet between trims. My goal is to have Hola done by a professional very three months even if it means hauling her an hour from home to make it happen. I think, or hope, that I am now capable of maintaining a hoof that an experienced professional has already made balanced and sound. Also, sometimes when things get out of whack it is hard for a farrier to get things straight again in one trim. Being able to progressively work at getting things right by taking a small amount every week (rather than a large amount ever six) is something that even professional farriers are advocating. I have two friends with farriers that have taught them how to maintain their horses between trims for this reason alone. Besides gradually correcting a problem we can also maintain a foot that naturally wants to fall out of balance. The perfect example of that is Ella.

Ella is not correct in her front end. She walks on the extreme outside of her foot and this pressure creates a flare on the inside (think of sitting on one side of a balloon). Two of my old "traditional farriers" would take down a pretty extreme flare every trim even though we shortened her to a four week schedule. They both told me that is just the way it is. Within a week of a trim you could see that flare coming back. Ella's feet grow REALLY fast. Then I had a natural hoof trimmer come out. The problem with her was that she wanted to change the overall angles of Ella's feet to create a proper "balanced" foot. My issue with this was simple- Ella is sound. And has always been sound. She travels beautifully. Again, simple stupid common sense dictates, if it aint broke, dont fix it! Now, for the past month and half that I've been trimming Ella's feet she has not had a flare. This is not because I am the most amazing beginner hoof trimmer of all time! *takes a bow anyways* It is because every ten days I take down that little bit of excess. The other thing I do, that is different than all three of the farriers Ella has seen in the past two years, is I use a Mustang Roll. My favorite new old invention.

More on that... next post.


  1. I definitly think it is important to have a good farrier and I am lucky I know of 3 close by here (well within an hour) that I would trust. But again I hear you cause I have a horse with a weird foot too and I would like her done more often, but she is coming along with the farrier it would just be faster if could trim it between times too, so maybe I will learn something more (in my spare time, lol)

    1. Warning: trimming is addictive!! :) It took me a long time to work up the nerve to try and now I cant imagine not being able to do those little things. My biggest worry is becoming cocky and trying to do too much. The farrier I talked to said that so long as I am scared doing too much I should be fine... it is when you get cocky that things go wrong;)

  2. Oh and i totally agree that if something works dont mess with it, all horses are not the same so the same thing wont work with them. And I am excited to watch these videos you posted.

  3. You seen to have the right mind frame! You will do go by your horses!!

  4. I dont know where the letters went!!! LOL

    I meant to say "good" LOL

    My two old mares, 23 and 27 need special care when I do their feet. I have created a special low stand now so they dont have to hold there arthritic legs up so high. It also takes a lot longer because they can not hold there legs up as long as they used to.

    1. Thank you! It warms my heart to think of you trimming your girls with a low stand and plenty of breaks. We should all be so kind.

  5. I finally watched that Thoroughbred video!! OMG so amazing!!!!

  6. So glad you are addressing this subject. I have wanted to do just what you are doing (keep the excess filed off between trims) I have found it a little daunting and HARD WORK. I'm very interested in the mustang roll, will be continuing to follow along and hope you inspire me to get out there and try again! Thank you!