Friday, August 10, 2012

On Hoove Trimming- All That I Don't Know

(Video of Hola (unrelated to post))

The biggest obstacle I faced while trying to learn about hoof trimming had nothing to do with finding so-called experts willing to share their infinite wisdom via youtube, blogging, websites or DVDs. There is a copious amount of information to be had on the web. Instead the challenge was to find a common consensus on any one topic. I knew that there was a divide between the traditional blacksmith farrier's trim (called a pasture trim I believe) and the so-called "barefooters" but I didn't realize that there were such varied opinions amongst those who have embraced a "new" barefoot or natural hoof trimming ideas. Much like with natural horsemanship, I think we are experiencing a revolution in the horse world with respect to hoof trimming and care. Ideas that were once considered radical are now entering the mainstream. And, inevitable, with change comes conflict. That conflict spurs people to question commonly held practises and ideas and only time will tell which of those will become the new normal. The fact that it is difficult to find a common opinion is not a bad thing, it is simply the byproduct of evolving ideas. However, it sure makes it difficult for a beginner like myself to figure out my ass from third base. Sorry for that analogy:)

I decided to read and watch everything I could, to collect as much information as possible, fill up my proverbial tool box and and then pick and choose which ideas I wanted to put in my tool belt for immediate trial. So far I have figured out that....

1. You must always trim to create a congruent (same) angle from pastern to hoof.

That's it. One thing. What I haven't decided yet is:

-to trim the frog or never trim the frog
-to use a mustang roll or not
-to use a measurement chart or not
-to measure from the visible frog apex or to cut back to find the true apex
-to pare back the sole or never touch the sole
-to trim for a specific ratio (front to back)
-to thin the outer wall to bring the toe back or never touch it
-to trim the bars or not
-to file off flares or grow them out
-to create a break over point or hope one will develop naturally
-whether frog contact with the ground is essential to hoof mechanism
-whether a hoof should be peripherally loaded (weight carried on the wall or over the whole of the hoof surface

and then obvious:

- to shoe or not to shoe
- to shoe only when "needed"
-or to never ever ever ever shoe no matter what

And then there is the whole question of what primary "theory" one employs while trimming:

-the less is more trim is when you take off only the excess hoof wall growth leaving the shape of the foot untouched.

-the "sight"ing trim where you sight the hoof and trim to create a "balanced" foot by filing the sole until it appears visually flat

-trimming via measurement (using a chart or predetermined ratios to create specific hoof dimensions)

And that is just the tip of the "what-I-dont-know" iceberg.

The more I read the more overwhelmed I became and the less confident I was in my ability to so much as pick my own horses feet, let alone trim them. But then i remembered my own golden rule of horses:

1. I will use my sole discretion to determine what is best for my horse. I will do my best and take responsibility for the consequences of my mistakes. (read: It is my horse and if I bugger it up then it is my own damn fault and my own damn problem)

2. Employ good common sense and hope for the best.

I was going to trim dammit and that is all there was too it!

Here is what I figured...

What I absolutely had to learn before I could in good conscience pick up a rasp was to understand the basic principles of how a hoof works and how all the various parts fit together. That is the topic of my next post.


  1. A lot to think about and learn!!!

    I have been trimming my own since I was around 11 or 12 years old!!! I was one of the cobblers kids.
    LOL My dad was a farrier, but ours always got done last. Then when he went on to other work, it just never got done. He caught me one day in the barn with his tools, and taught me how to trim.
    One thing I always do is take my knife in both hands, with the hoof between your legs, and mark the inside of the wall with the knife, just where the sole and it meet. make a groove, to follow where to put the clippers as you cut. This is how dad taught me and this is the easiest way to tell, and to make a straight clip.
    Nowhere in any book or online article have I seen this. It sure has helped me! I hope you can envision what I am talking about.
    I do love Pete Rameys book.
    Funny that the way that people are trimming now, I just felt was right as I taught myself and learned from what I could find to read.
    I always role the wall.
    Good luck, I have been trimming mine for 34 years!!! LOL
    I will not nail shoes on, but I would have them shod if I had to. The ground around here is only hard enough for 2 months out of the year to get a "wild" sole on them.

  2. OH, and unless you cut the hoof off! LOL
    It will always grow back, like a bad hair cut!! LOL

  3. I'll wait for your next few posts to see where you landed before offering any 'advice'...I am thinking you have figured a good bit out since you decided you wanted to learn this. ;-)

  4. That's one thing I have never wanted to do was trim my own horses. But specially since I now have a performance horse, i am so much more picky about how they are trimmed and I have learned a lot, but still don't want to do it myself. And I cant see how I would have all the info my farrier who went to school for 4 years to learn has. Plus all the experience he has with trimming all the different horses he does.