Thursday, 22 March 2012

Trimming - essentials

I've put up a new blog page, called Hoofcare Essentials.  Its a collection of previous posts on feeding, hoof balance and movement.  Obviously each of these is a huge topic so the posts are just reminders of key points.
The one topic I haven't covered yet is trimming, so that's today's post - I am only covering bullet points but, as many of you know, I posted lots last year on the blog about trimming; you can find more detail on the "Key blog posts" page under the section called "Trimming and celery".  Here then are what, for me, should be the golden rules.
  • Every horse should be treated as the ultimate expert on his own hooves.  There are lots of different theories about hooves and trimming and any number of professionals who will give you their opinion on how a hoof should be trimmed.  That's absolutely fine, as long as whoever is trimming listens to the horse first, last, and everywhere in between and modifies what they do according to the feedback they get from the horse (and owner).  
  • No horse should be less comfortable after a trim than he was before. See rule 1 - improved soundness must be the objective so if a horse is less comfortable, something went wrong.  Listen to the horse - that trim should not be repeated. I must say that awareness of this seems to have improved a lot over the last year, both among trimmers and owners, which has to be a good thing. 
  • Many horses who are in regular, consistent work on varied surfaces (including roadwork) will develop hooves which are self-maintaining and will rarely, if ever, need trimming. A good farrier or trimmer should recognise and encourage this. Horses - perhaps surprisingly - can manage their feet perfectly well without us, given the right workload, environment and nutrition :-)
  • If you have a horse who is regularly trimmed and has never quite got to the stage of being perfectly happy on rough, uneven ground despite being on a good diet then it may be worth holding off trimming for a few cycles and seeing how that affects his performance.  Some sensitive horses seem to benefit from being allowed to grow asymmetric hooves and removing these  apparent "flares" at every trim can make them less capable on tough surfaces.  
  • Finally, don't forget that trimming is only beneficial where there is excess which needs to be removed from a hoof - for instance where a horse has excessive hoof wall growth  due to lack of work.  If structures of the hoof are weak and need to be strengthened or developed, trimming is unlikely to be the best means of achieving this.  

11 comments:

Clare said...

I totally agree with this post Nic. I've had problems with Paul on and off since his rehab but this is the first March I've not had issues with lameness. I think it's down to the fact he hasn't been trimmed since August and is developing his own balance as he requires it. Fingers crossed I'm not talking too soon :-)

Nic Barker said...

Its interesting, Clare, isn't it? That will be the same horse which previous trimmer said you "would be lucky to keep sound"...The same horse who at his last trim kicked the trimmer's tools across the yard? Clever Hoss - could do it on his own :-)

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Gosh, this is going to be something I re-read, I just know it. As a 'newbie' to barefoot (about 2 yrs) after my horses laminitis, it's very difficult to 'know' what is the right way, etc. This just makes sense to me, and I'm going to attempt this. We've started up our gentle mile long road work, walking with some trotting and I occasionally gently rasp at his heels. It's the darn bars that have me stumped. Remove too much, he seems to grow them back so quickly it makes me question removing them. When I leave them, they fold and impact into his frog causing a pinch. Perhaps more road work will solve this?? THANKS for sharing your thoughts!

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Oh, when seeing a horse stumble on his fronts..would you trim back toe? Or is that too much of a loaded question?

Clare said...

Kristen - My horse will grow bars when he has sore feet or when trying to re-balance, he is very sensitive to grass and road work will give you all the trimming you need so long as they a comfortable. If your horse develops bars it's normally for a reason I've discovered. Mine grows and gets rid of them all by hiself!

And yes Nic, quite, but I'm not through the spring yet so not counting my chickens but the way he shot up the hill on the road at the weekend I think his feet are fine :-)

Nic Barker said...

Clare - definitely keep everything crossed :-) But you have made fantastic progress so far - onwards and upwards!

Kristen, if you trim the bars and he is sounder, then fine but if it makes no difference or he is footy on stony ground (before or after a trim) I would leave well alone. As Clare says, bars are often laid down in hooves as a compensation and will often reduce on their own when a hoof is stronger.

Indi said...

Nic, I wanted to thank you for inspiring me to go with my gut instinct and pull my boy's shoes. It's going to be a long road to soundness & comfort for him but I'm hoping that we're now on the right track.

cptrayes said...

I do wish more people understood that the horse grows the foot he needs. I keep reading other people say that wonky feet prevent body issues from resolving themselves and I keep seeing the reverse - the horse allowed to grow a wonky foot corrects the body issue and then if the body issue was a temporary muscle/tendon one, corrects the wonky foot too. If the body issue was joints or bones, the foot stays wonky but the horse stays sound.

Great post Nic.

Nic Barker said...

Honestly, C, if I achieve on thing with this blog I hope its for more people to leave horse's feet alone and ask "why", rather than just rushing in to impose their opinions on the horse...Especially these compromised horses that we see as rehabs, who've had long term lamenesses...

I agree with you completely - asymmetry in feet is nearly always the symptom, not the cause, and often beneficial at that :-)

Indi - I am glad the blog has been useful - listen to your horse and make his soundness your number 1 objective and you won't go far wrong :-)

dreams579 said...

its interesting, cos since having Nic back, I've had quite a few people ask what the plan is trimming wise. When i say my plan is to have him self trimming (at least over the summer months), they seem to look at me slightly oddly, and then question that surely he'll need his balance correcting at the very least! they then look even more odd when i say that the plan is that he will produce whatever balance he needs!

Nic Barker said...

"they then look even more odd when i say that the plan is that he will produce whatever balance he needs!"

Love it - couldn't have put it better myself :-) Go Nic, and happy hoof balancing to him!