Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Barefoot Horse: Side-By-Side Comparison

You will feed me carrots.
 
Spring is nearly upon us.  I can see it in my horse's feet.  The wall growth was slow during the winter, allowing me to leisurely trim every three to three and a half weeks.  If I was feeling really lax, I could have pushed it to four, but I happen to like trimming Harley's feet so there was no need to procrastinate.  I could finish all four feet in one session without too much trouble and the moist ground, although bad for frogs, made my rasp slide over his feet with ease.  March has just squeezed past the starting line and I can see a small increase in the growth rate of my horse's feet.  Has it been three weeks already?  Two and a half weeks of growth is looking like three.  Pretty soon, two weeks will be all I can wait or I will be dealing with flaring quarters and forty-five minutes behind the rasp.  At the peak of the spring to summer transition I will probably touch up his feet every week.  I adopted that strategy last year to avoid marathon trimming sessions and using nippers, which I do not own anyway.

Since I nearly trimmed his left front entirely before starting the right (I often switch back and forth), I decided to take some comparison photos.  Each foot is an individual, but I thought it might be interesting to see a before and after side-by-side.

Does his right front look like it needs a trim?  The toe bevel is still noticeable from the last trim.  His right foot has what I call the "duck-bill" look.  The quarters have grown down to the ground, but the toe is still rounded.  The foot is not flared, but will begin to flare, especially on the medial edge, if I do not help him remove hoof wall soon.  The bevel has been refreshed on the left front all the way around the quarters.  I put a pretty strong roll at the toe.  I have tried less and his feet usually crack at the toe or I see a little mechanical separation at the toe.  There is not a difference in hoof height, because I trim so often, which I have observed to be best for my horse.  I am fairly certain that my original farrier would look at these feet and say "See you in four weeks."  I am sure that he would not be alone in that statement.

The untrimmed right front: He squares off the toe, which is the roll being maintained at the toe and growing out at the quarters.  There is not a lot to take off, but enough to keep me busy for fifteen minutes at least.  The photo makes the outer wall look more overgrown, but this does not make sense, since the inside usually gets less wear as the horse moves.  The lateral and medial growth seemed pretty even to me, maybe a hair extra to take off on the outside (lateral).

The trimmed left front: The outer wall is gray and the inner wall (water line) is white on Harley's feet.  I removed excess hoof wall that is above the sole and beveled the edge so that the gray outer wall does not touch the ground.  Since the bevel is very rounded, the white inner wall basically does not touch the ground either, which ensures minimal peripheral loading, sole contact with the ground, and frog stimulation.  The frogs are looking rather withered right now.  I did not touch the frogs at all.

The rasp marks from the last trim are still visible along the edge of the untrimmed foot.  From this angle, the hoof wall that is just barely above the sole is apparent.  From this angle, it really does look like there was more on the outside, so maybe there was!  I think that he has a really nice toe callus.  That stays for sure!

The hoof is not flat.  I follow the curvature of the sole when I trim and I trim almost entirely from the bottom.  There is no need to try and make the surface flat, because this foot is not being prepared for a shoe.

The trimmed foot with the bevel just about to the heels.  I strive to bring the heels back and to the level of the sole.  I also want to see a nice flat landing surface that I can balance my rasp across.  I sight across the foot from the back to ensure that the heels are of the same height in relation to each other and the rest of the foot.

Bevel, wall pigmentation, and frog apex close-up.  I am not trying to make his feet pretty, but a nice foot just IS pretty.

Until next time, enjoy the sunset and the carrots!

18 comments:

  1. He looks pretty serious in that first photo. I hope you did have carrots on you!

    His feet look great. I notice that in the warmer months everything seems to grow faster. Not just their hooves but human fingernails too.

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    1. Oh, he is very serious. He does not joke about carrots!

      I have noticed that, too. Life comes out of dormancy, trees, flowers, hooves, fingernails, the works!

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  2. Loved all of the photos and the description. I also LOVE that Harley is barefoot!

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    1. Thanks for reading, GraceEquestrian!

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  3. Wow, I think his feet are looking great, good job for doing it on your own!

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  4. I admire the fact that you take care of Harley's feet yourself. Not only are you saving a ton of money, your giving him honest to good personal service. Good stuff!
    I am sure you've mentioned it before, I was wondering if Harley wore shoes much before. I should probably search your blog. Anyway, his feet really look great, he's a lucky boy!

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    1. Hi Mary!

      He may have worn shoes at some point in his life, but I have no records to reference. I know that he was a pasture pet for several years before I bought him, so he was not wearing shoes for years already when I started riding him. I guess that it is possible that he has never worn them!

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  5. I've been reading up James Welz's trim, he advocates rolling the entire hoof wall- all the way around the heel (ie don't stop at the quarters). He says that if you completely relieve the pressure from the hoof wall to the coronet band the horse will grow thicker walls. This will translate to a larger heel purchase at the ground.

    I've only been trying that for about 4 weeks now, not long enough to see if there will be any difference. Interesting to think about though.

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    1. Thanks for the technical comment, smaz. I should read up on that trim. Is Welz's idea new? I think that I get the hypothesis, but what I am imagining is trimming off my horse's heel as I try to round the wall. That can't be good. I hope there are pictures for me to see. I am sure that you wouldn't have tried it if it were not safe, I just need visuals.

      I used to round the wall less than I do now and Harley started chipping off his hoof wall in the last third of the foot, so I extended the roll just about to the heels. Welz really wants more than this?

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    2. From Hoof Help Online (unfortunately I can't point you to a picture since it's a paid member site):

      2) The Heel Platform
      Created out of a unique combination of rolling the rear heel walls of the hoof and shaping the heels and bars to allow this natural and health-promoting feature. By utilizing a strong rolling of the heels, you can lower horses' heels WITHOUT trimming the heel sole away, and without making them sore. Rolling of the heels eliminates the pinching of the coronary horn at the heels and provides such dramatic hoof improvements in all horses that we are convinced this is one of the most important trim changes you can make! However, you MUST combine it with proper bar trimming (or you may end up with negative effects)! Rolling the heels, when combined with correct bar trimming, will NOT contract a hoof; quite the opposite, as it leads to a very nice decontraction through proper heel loading.

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    3. Oh hey, I found one: http://www.thehorseshoof.com/trimmingbasics4.html

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    4. Oh thank you! Hooray for research.

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    5. I am really enjoying the Welz philosophy. Some of the things that I am doing (the strong roll) are part of his philosophy, but I am also learning some news things (like about the heels) that I think I may be able to adopt. Thanks so much for directing me to this information!

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  6. I like that you do little trims more often. I was wondering if that would be a good way to avoid dealing with the nippers. Just rasping is very appealing to me.

    Harley's feet look great Val! :)

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    1. If you are trimming yourself, it makes the job much more manageable. Add the sweltering heat of summer or blustery cold of winter and you will be glad that you made your job a small one!

      Thanks!

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