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Thursday, December 3, 2009

The iron free hoof Part 2

So today, as I was evaluating her feet and touching them up with the rasp, it really sunk in that her hooves are these adapting, ever changing structures that react to the environment and the work put upon them.

I mean, I knew that. But I didn't know that.

Watching her hinds develop cute little cupped soles was literally a miracle to me. I've always assumed that horses hind feet were flat.

Her fronts have lots of dead sole still, but I can see subtle changes - the white line has gotten tighter, her quarters are no longer chipping. It's a simple thing to clean up her feet and give her a nice strong mustang roll.

When I watched her walk after the trim, her LF is breaking over cleanly, right in the middle. The RF seems to be break over slightly to side. Or is it my imagination? Or the dirt? I stop, pick up the RF and evaluate the shape of the foot. What clues do I see that might hint at the cause? Is there a flare? a bulge? and uneven toe? I found none of the above, but it doesn't worry me (much) because I know if I'm patient and I wait 2 weeks, I'll be able to evaluate the growth and wear and I'll hopefully be able to see something - if there's something to see.

How does a horse's hoof change and adapt in an iron shoe? I'm still not opposed to shoeing if it comes to that this season, but I'm going to try my best to keep her barefoot. Every time I gaze at her feet and notice the little changes I'm more convinced of the "correctness" of barefoot. If I do shoe, it will be for as little time as possible.

Hooves don't lie. I'm still trying to totally convince myself of that. I'm rasping to the landmarks of her foot - the white line, the water line, the live sole. It's a different philosophy - instead of shaping the foot to conform to a certain "image" or angle, I'm instead helping the foot to maintain certain characteristics and letting it do the work of shedding the sole. I'm blessed with a horse with strong feet, bars that don't lay over, and a healthy frog. Hopefully this makes up for my shortcomings?

I'm sure one of you will come up with some concise, beautifully worded statement that expresses everything this wordy post does. If you do, I'll feature your comment on my sidebar!


  1. It sounds as if you are developing a hoof fetish!

    The best advice when going barefoot is to listen to your horse and get input from different sources. Don't let it bother you when people give you negative feedback! Most hoof problems (that I've encountered on my endurance horses) can be resolved through education and management and don't actually originate from within the hoof itself.

    Also, remember that research has shown that even master farriers can't tell by "looking". Farriery (and trimming) is as much an art as a science. I still use tools to measure toe length and hoof angles. I have measured hooves after various natural hoof trimmers and farriers have worked on horses and have been really disappointed in the results. I am too detail oriented for that kind of shoddy workmanship.

    Good luck with your new obsession! :*)

  2. These posts come at the perfect time as I try to wait out hoof growth adjusting high heels, and muscle imbalances. Are the muscle imbalances from the hoof imbalance or is it the other way around?

    Frustrating. As you do, I wait. I give up riding, and I wait. :\

  3. Karen - There's TOOLS for this sort of thing???? I. Must. Get. Tools. That. Allow. Me. To. Meausre. Seriously. I have a ruler and that's it. Must get a little angle thingy.

  4. Mel,

    Beautifully put:

    "Hooves don't lie."

    That in fact sumes it up! I too have enjoyed watching the metamorphosis of hoof with my mare. Our current goal is to correct a slight pidgeon toe stance and Doug has just about got her straightened out. He rebalances the hoof about every two or three weeks.

    The bare foot movement is alive and well and I'm hoping it stays that way. ~E.G.

  5. OK - Karen I have searched your blog and assume you are using a "hoof guage" to measure the angles? Is there any home made tool (like using a protractor) that I can use to find the angles, or must I buy a hoof guage? Whoohoo! more numbers to crunch.

  6. Yes, there are tools! lol I'm sure there is a farrier supply near you that you can stop in and look at what they have got.

    It has been really helpful for me to check angles, especially on Bo. His feet have literally and figuratively come a long way in the last year, and believe me - you could NOT tell by looking at how many degrees his angles were apart on the front feet.

    If you are also checking the toe length when you work between trims then you'll always know where you are and not take off too much.

  7. If there's any advice I can give you, it's take lots of pictures. Solar, side, and front, before and after. I have almost two full years of pictures of Champ's hooves as they changed - before and after each trim I did- and I learned so much from going back and looking at them, over and over again. (I have almost no pictures of Dixie's transformation, because she's a heifer about holding her feet up. Do as I say, not as I do!)

    I still can't see subtle breakover problems "on the move." I can tell on a hoof that's due to be trimmed, which is almost as good, but kudos to you for watching her move! Welcome to being a hoof fanatic, and don't look too closely at other horses or you'll get sad.

  8. There is a tool--a "protractor" (Karen will know the right term for it) that the hoof fits into and gives an accurate reading of the angle.

    I have *years* of records of the angles of my horses' feet, as well as other hoof data. When there is a behavior issue, a training issue, a mysterious lameness, or whatever, we go back to the farrier records to see what clues we can discern. There is often something in the data that helps.

    Also, when I worked with twelve horses instead of just my own two, written records were essential, because I couldn't keep data for 12 horses x 4 feet x many years in my head!

  9. Get a hoof gauge, I'll get a photo for you of mine. The measuring tool is much like a ruler with an indention in the end for you to put in the groove at the coronet band. That way you'll be measuring consistently.

    You can also use your rasp to help you check to see how level and balanced things are.

    It's easy to make notes on 3x5 index cards and then file them in a box each time you work on the horse. Or, at least write everything down each time you worm them. Then it's easy to track it all in one place at fairly regular intervals.

  10. Its very interesting reading your posts on hooves. I have never put shoes on a horse and hope to never have to. But I would put them on if they were really needed.
    I have never rasped or trimmed my horses hooves, I would be too scared at messing it up. However, lately Lucy's hooves have been developing longer toes. I am very worried because Lucy has always had fantastic hooves and I would hate for that too change. But even though we are still going the same langth between trimmings her toes just seem too long.

    I really hope I can work it out with my trimmer. If I put boots on her this year I will have her trimmed more often I think.

    Sorry I just went on about my own horse, but I don't have much to input as I don't know a huge amount about hooves and don't know anything about trimming them!

  11. JB - I don't mind you talking about your horse here at all! LOL. I do it to you all the time....(and to everyone else).

    OK - hoof gauge is going on the xmas list. Measurements recorded everytime I trim and pics at least once per month.

  12. Hooves and the transformation of it being barefoot. Now that isn't a subject that endurance poeple EVEr get bored of... me being one of them. A year and ahlaf ago, JB suffered a bruised heel, through correctly shod feet( I have not idea how to this day) After his initial 8 weeks in protective pads and EGSS shoes, I decided then, we would give barefoot trimmming a go and started last March with easy boots and pad inserts. Every 3-4 weeks, he got trimmed. Our goal was to improve his angle a bit and bring his heels back as far as possible. All of 2009 season I was a woman obsessed with his feet, inspecting, hoof guaging,trimming, inspecting some more.. and guess what? It paid off. By mid summer, JB was moving better than he had been for the year previous. However, I only ran him in boots in the front. I kept him in pads and shoes after several failed attempts and broken boot fasteners from his over reaching. But now , in the last couple of weeks, I realize, I am in a dilemna. I think I will post about it on my blog.. (now that you have inspired me.).. stay tuned..

  13. Jonna - can't wait for your post.... :) How dare you be suspenseful! :)

    Did you do JB's trimming yourself?


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