Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Barefoot Horse: Weather Reality Check

Harley pictured with his favorite room in the barn.  :)

The winter solstice passed nearly a month ago, but we have been deliriously spoiled by mild weather.  I left my barn jacket in my husband's car one day last week and it didn't even matter.  I rode in a down vest and a sweatshirt with no problem.  I marveled at the soft, forgiving footing in the riding ring and thought to myself, "Gosh, I thought this was going to be the off-season."  Harley gave me an enjoyable ride, complete with nice shoulder-in, better transitions up and down, and flying changes.  It was not cold enough to get his winter coat really sweaty, but he did have a little dampness around the girth, chest, neck, and hind legs.  He dried quickly with a nice grooming session, which included me not wearing gloves or a hat.

Fast forward to this weekend...

...Yesterday, Harley had to wear his blanket during the day.  He is wearing it today, too, because the high is below freezing.  As I am writing this post, the weather is "23 degrees Fahrenheit, feels like 8".  Yikes!  I wore my riding clothes to the barn yesterday, including my toasty Rimfrost boots, but when I walked into the riding ring to test the ground my hopes for a nice ride after a long work-week dissolved.  For the first time this winter, the ground was hard.  Not solid.  I could kick up some sand with the toe or heel of my boot, but it took some determined chipping.  If I walked normally, the hoof prints in the sand did not change or flatten.  I knew this was coming.  Mother nature almost led me to forget that winter is not a good time of year for riding, especially if you are without an indoor.

Since riding in the ring was out of the question and I did not really feel like going out for a trail ride in the cold, yesterday became a trimming day.  I brushed off Harley's blanket before removing it, cleaned up his coat, detangled and brushed his mane and tail, and got to work on his feet.  Harley settled right into the doting and special treatment.  He may have been a "yahoo horse" earlier in his life, but now he wears the "pampered prince" role very well.  Spending time with my horse always makes me feel good, even if we do not get to ride together.

Time for some hoof photos.  I trimmed his feet at two and a half weeks, so there was not a lot to take off, but it was still an interesting trim session.

Right front: Concavity just about up to the white line.  A little bit of exfoliation next to the frog, which is slightly ratty but wider at the central sulcus.  And straighter bars.  :)

Right hind: Lateral bar looking better, medial bar needed almost no trimming.  Kept the toe back.

Left hind: Basically the same deal as the right hind.

Left front: A little exfoliation, bars straighter, concavity to white line, kept toe back, heels looking substantial and supportive.  The central sulcus looks wider to me on all four feet as does the back of the foot.  I'm talking millimeters in difference, if that.

Driveway stones have appeared around the gate and water trough of Harley's paddock.  The mud was too deep and had not shown signs of disappearing for quite a while.  I much prefer this to dumping sand, which looks very taxing to walk through, and was the solution last time.  The rocks, however, may be a challenge for Harley's buddy, who is tender-footed from time to time and often rides in boots.  Harley marched right through them, which made me very happy and validates my efforts on his feet (and he is blessed with good genes in that area).  It will be interesting to see if those rocks reduce the amount of trimming that I need to do.  I would like that, but I also wish for something smaller and milder for his buddy, like pea gravel.

Harley, wait!  I am trying to take a picture!

No more pictures.  I found some hay and a nice lead line to sniff.

Did you know that there are right-handed and left-handed hoof knives? 
(I know some of you do!)
I am thinking about buying a left-handed knife.  I have a right-handed knife, which I am getting more confident using all the time, but I find it very awkward to trim the left bars on his feet.  I hold the knife with my palm facing the ceiling and the knife blade protruding from my grasp at my pinky.  I have a lot of control and strength with the knife, but I think that I could do a better, more professional job on the left bars if I had a left-handed knife to use in my left hand.  I am right-handed, but I have pretty good coordination with my left hand and I am sure that it would improve with practice.  Any thoughts?


  1. I have a knife that is double-sided. It is basically a right-handed knife, but the blade cuts both ways, so I can use it cutting away from me with my right hand or towards me with my left hand.
    If you're already good with your left hand, it should not take you long to train yourself to become ambi-dextrous. Practice writing your name with your left hand, you'll be amazed how much you'll improve. Also very useful is writing your name in mirror writing with both your left and right hand. Those kind of exercises forge many new connections between the left and right sides of your brain. I can trim with either hand.

  2. Thanks for the interesting comment, twohorses. I looked through your blog briefly and saw that you are a sculptor! That must be a wonderful skill to bring to horse trimming.

    About mirror writing: Do you look in the mirror and write your name so it is legible or do you write on paper and try to make the writing look backwards as if it were viewed in a mirror? I hope it is not the latter, because that sounds really challenging. Writing in the mirror sounds like a cool idea. I just might have to try it!

    I do trim with both hands, switching the rasp back and forth, which is why I feel kind of silly trying to use the knife with only my right hand. As you know, I would need a special knife or a second knife in order to use my left hand. Did you order your double-sided knife on Pete Ramey's site?

  3. Beautiful soles!!

    The rocks should help. I have some pea gravel in my paddocks along a track they walk on every day and I noticed it is helping their toes stay a bit shorter and exfoliating the sole nicely. It was barely a bucket of gravel too!! I should buy a couple of tonnes of it and spread it around.

  4. Great! Thanks!

    Oh cool. I thought that they would need tons of it to make a difference. You should definitely get more if you can.

  5. Harley's feet look great. We have to get some pea gravel for the perimeters where the hay nets get a lot of use on the fences. Hired a contractor last summer and haven't heard from him since, needless to say, we're looking for someone else.

    It was 0 degrees this morning and 15 a little while ago. Knew the beautiful weather couldn't last. Then again, there's no snow, so I'm okay with the cold.

  6. Thanks, Grey Horse Matters!

    Yes. Very happy that there is no snow. Very, very happy.

  7. Wow! Harley's feet look beautiful. You're doing a great job, Val!
    We don't get frozen ground here, but we are battling some serious dust! AND ... our footing is getting deeper and deeper. We need some rain. It is an incredibly odd 71 degrees right now. Normal temperatures for us would be in the 50s. We've had nearly 60 consecutive days with no precipitation and record breaking highs. Sheesh!

  8. That is a long time to go without rain. I hope you get some soon. Dust and deep footing are no fun. Thanks for your kind words, Karen!

  9. I usually use my left hand knife with my right hand, my left simply isn't strong enough (new years resolution- get more ambidextrous). Sometimes I can hold it with my left and use my right thumb to help push the blade.

    My herd hasn't been very happy with this frozen mud, there are deep pits all over the place that aren't very fun to walk in. They've been doing a bit more standing around than usual.

  10. Hi smaz- I use the opposite thumb to help the blade get started sometimes. It used to not be a big deal, because his bars were just flaky and weak. Now that they actually resemble hoof wall, it is a challenge to trim them! That is why I also feel that I need the right tool for the left side of his feet.

    Is it normal for a trimmer to have both right and left handed tools?

    Frozen mud is a big pain and worrisome. The divots can last clear through to spring, as you know. :(

  11. Wow, his hooves look awesome!! You're doing a great job with them. :D


Leave a comment or add to my memoirs with some of your own.