The post last week where I gave some indication of rehab horses who haven't benefitted from trimming caused a bit of a flurry.
|Soli, my celery poster boy, with Lucie at speed|
One of the very interesting and fair questions was what owners should do with horses whose hoof wall is getting long and who simply aren't able to give them enough work, or on tough enough surfaces, for self-trimming to be possible. Trimming - when to trim, how to assess whether a trim was necessary, and whether celery was really relevant - were also hot topics at the RRR over the weekend.
One of the comments from Wiola on the blog encapsulates what lots of people were asking:
"We would happily leave K self-trimming as it seems he copes badly with any intervention but his feet are growing too fast."
As always, achieving optimim hoof health is a based on correct nutrition and biomechanics, so lets look at 3 common situations (with the important proviso that the horse is landing heel first) and how trimming usually affects them:
- Horse A: has long, overgrown hoof wall (feet are growing too fast or are too long) and is on a good diet. This horse - if correctly trimmed - will be as sound after the trim as it was before. That's an acceptable trim, but the same effect could be achieved with a modicum of road work (and we are talking about a few short miles per week) and has the added advantage that there is little danger of the horse being worse afterwards. If roadwork isn't possible, a trim may make hooves look prettier but if the horse is not in work you may not be able to assess whether the horse's soundness is better or worse after the trim.
- Horse B: has long, overgrown hoof wall (feet are growing too fast or are too long) and is on a poor diet. This horse may well be footy after a trim due to increased sole sensitivity. This isn't a trimming problem, strictly speaking, but advising on improving nutrition should be within the remit of any competent hoofcare professional. Either way, making the horse sore doesn't help the situation so a trim isn't the answer. Enhanced nutrition and correct exercise are more likely to benefit the horse. [FWIW, as with Horse A, there is no need to trim a horse like this as a precondition to work. Once nutrition and exercise are correct, excess hoof wall will chip away but this won't trouble the horse at all.]
- Horse C: does not have long hoof wall, is in regular work, is on a good diet and appears to have a flared or asymmetric hoof which "needs to be balanced". This horse may well be less capable on hard, uneven surfaces if that "flare" is removed. It will then normally take at least 2-3 weeks before the horse is as comfortable as it was on those surfaces. In my opinion, no good is achieved by trimming in this situation as it compromises the horse's biomechanics and impairs soundness.
Some trimmers and farriers have got pretty hot under the collar at the mention of "celery" but I don't really understand this. Why would you want to trim a horse if you are likely to make it sore or less capable of performance on tough surfaces? Isn't it common sense NOT to trim in these circumstances?
I have no problem with trimming - sometimes I even do it myself - PROVIDED that the trim does not break the golden rule: the horse MUST go as well or better AFTER the trim. For me, there are no ifs and buts allowed as part of this rule. If a horse does not go better following a trim, then there was no point in doing the trim and it should not be repeated.
celery" is simply because I was seeing - and hearing about - too many horses who were worse following a trim.
I had calls and emails about horses who were lying down for days after trimming, horses who went from being rock-crunching to being footy on stones, horses who were just not as capable but bounced back a few weeks later.
I was also hearing that owners were being told that their horses "needed a trim to balance their feet" or because they were "too long" but then the horses were worse off after being trimmed. It was sometimes subtle - they may have been fine on tarmac, for example, but were less comfortable on uneven ground. But to me a drop in performance means that whatever else the horse needed, it wasn't trimming.
To my mind, its the hoofcare professional's job, not the owner's, to assess whether a trim is going to help the horse, but as owners, please don't worry simply because hooves look "too long" or "unbalanced". Before you call out a trimmer or farrier, take your horse out, do some roadwork then re-assess whether a trim is a good idea.
"Celery", like anything else, is not a panacea and there may be occasions when a trim is a useful tool (although they are less common than you might think!).
However, if as an owner you decide to have your horse trimmed there is a way to work out whether your horse "needed" a trim - and its really pretty simple:
- If the horse is moving better, more capably, more confidently, with a better stride length, over tougher surfaces after a trim, then it was the right thing to do.
- If the horse is moving better, more confidently, with a better stride length, over tougher surfaces when its left well alone, then stick to celery.
But for me, there is NO reason to trim unless to make the horse sounder, and if the best way to make the horse sounder is NOT to trim, well then, embrace your celery.
"I can't help worrying, though, about those owners who just can't do the work and how they get it right, particularly with rehabs.
The barefoot horses with caudal hoof lameness that you've had seem to suggest that peripheral loading is to blame. If you can't get the work into the horse because of dark nights and work or school, then there's no option but to trim to stop the peripheral loading ..... or am I missing something?"