Leaning over is not my friend right now, but squatting is fine and an excellent exercise for my body. I squatted as much as possible while trimming Harley's feet and this protected my back and made my job a lot easier. I switched from the left foot to the right foot periodically, to give both of us a rest. I like to work each of my horse's feet in stages back and forth until both front feet are finished. Then I move on to the hinds or trim them on a different day.
The Stages of My Hoof Trimming Process
(Please see the Disclaimer at the bottom of this webpage.):
Pre-Inspection: Look at all of my horse's feet and legs while he is standing in the aisle. His limbs should be straight above each foot. Note any flare at ground level or bulging hairlines at the coronet, if present. In my experience with my own horse, a balanced foot that is trimmed often enough should not have flare or a bulging hairline.
Stage one: Take down excess hoof wall that is standing "proud" of the sole. This includes the heels.
Stage two: Bring the toe back to the white line with a strong bevel*. I use the foot as a guide rather than measure angles, but the rasp is at about forty-five degrees, if you are curious.
Stage three: Continue beveling the hoof wall from the toe to the quarters. The bevel should be strong enough that no outer hoof wall (dark pigmentation in Harley) will touch the ground and most of the inner hoof wall (unpigmented hoof wall, also called the "water line") is also off the ground*.
Stage four: Address the height of the heels in relation to the entire foot. Carefully rasp away more hoof wall if the heels are standing above the live sole in the buttresses. This used to also require that I scrape chalky, dead sole out of the buttresses, but I have not had to the that for quite some time now. Bring the heels back so that there is a large surface area to distribute weight upon landing. Bevel the dark, outer hoof wall at the heels and join this continuous bevel with the bevel at the quarters. This is the newest addition to my trimming process.
Stage five: Inspect each foot and touch up any missed areas. Smooth and round the edge of the bevel all the way around the hoof. This can be down while viewing the bottom of the foot or by bringing the foot forward on a stand. Excess flare at the quarters can also be removed in this way, but that has not been required in Harley's trims since I have started continuing the bevel all the way around the foot.
Stage six: Double or triple check the heels for balance in relation to the entire foot. In general, the heels of the same foot should both have been brought back to the same point and the height of the heels should be the same as viewed from the back of the foot, looking across the entire foot as if you were viewing the lip of a drinking glass.
Stage seven: Trim the bars flush with the sole and any excess bar material next to the frog. Treat the frogs, if necessary. The constant wet and mud is not kind to frogs this time of year.
Post-Inspection: Repeat the pre-inspection. My horse should be weighting his entire foot, back to front, and no outer hoof wall should be touching the ground. Ideally, he is standing square and dispersing his weight evenly laterally and from back to front. I take a step back and inspect the entire foot, limb, and horse periodically throughout the trimming process. It only takes a second and keeps the whole horse in my mind, because each foot does not exist as an entity in and of itself!
*If there is any separation of the hoof wall from the laminae (white line), then I bevel to the white line. This happens at the quarters in periods of fast growth when I am not trimming often enough to keep up with his need to weather hoof wall. I try my best to avoid this by trimming more often in the spring and summer than I do in the fall or winter.
I did not take many pictures this time around, because I wanted to limit the number of times that I had to lean over. I would have left my camera in the bag completely, but the heels on his front feet made me cheer with glee so I had to snap a picture.
|Right front: Large weight-bearing surface at each heel. This and the next photo were taken after "stage one".|
|Left front: The heel surfaces appear to have become larger since I started continuing the bevel all the way to the heels.|
|Left front, post-trim (oops! blurry)|
|Right front, post-trim|
Buddy Update: Harley and his paddock mate are back together again. The mud has persisted, but the separation of friends has not. I am very happy for both of them, even if they are making a terrible mess slopping around together in the mud. Apparently, they were running and playing quite a lot.