Friday, April 20, 2012

My Barefoot Horse: So Dry

Every other spring I would be complaining about excessive rain and muddy conditions for my horse's feet.  A few years ago we had lots of snow and it lasted for months.  When the thaw finally happened, the spring rains kicked in and there was a lot of standing water and local flooding.  Forget about keeping the paddocks drained, I worried about the sump pump in my house breaking, because it was running constantly.  Water was pumped into my backyard and then soaked right back into the ground below our house, so the pump could force it above ground again.  Thankfully, our basement did not flood, but our grass sure was green!

This winter we had no snow, which I am more than happy about, but now we are also not receiving our usual spring rain.  April showers are supposed to bring spring flowers.  Some of my flowers are blooming despite the dry conditions, but where is that rain?

Really dry hoof wall "crackles" distinctly under the rasp.

When it comes to my horse's feet, I prefer dry to wet.  Wet conditions harbor fungi and bacteria and usually take their toll on the frog.  Dry conditions can make for a very tough foot, which is good, BUT can be very, very difficult to trim even with a new, shiny rasp.

Fresh rasp.

A sharp 12" Ladies Rasp with a nice, reliable handle that does not fall off

Thankfully, I have a simple, cheap solution to tough, dry hooves.

Plain water.

I spray the bottom of Harley's feet along the hoof wall and begin rasping.  It is amazing how much easier the rasp cuts threw moistened hoof wall.  I simply reapply when the rasp stops cutting so easily.  The only downside that I can see is the threat of rust.   I keep my rasp out of harms way when I spray the water and leave the rasp in the sun for a little while after the trim, so any dampness will evaporate.  I used to cover my rasp with a leather sleeve and keep it in my grooming box to "protect" it.  This rusted my rasp so quickly, that it was just about useless by the next trim.  Now I keep my rasp loosely covered by saddle pads in the trunk of my car which is free of any horse care products that may leach moisture and rust the metal.  A rusted rasp is a dull rasp and a dull rasp makes me a very unhappy girl!

More "rasp crispies" and some thick hoof wall.

The water makes the filings stick.  His sole looks like crackle paint and has been exfoliating.

The finished product made much easier to attain with water!

And a matching partner.  Not sure if it is visible in the photo, but I am smoothing and rounding the heels more than I used to and the mustang roll is extended all the way around the hoof.  I am waiting to see if this change in my trimming technique widens his foot at all.  Harley has given it two hooves up, so far.

The pair and the photographer.

A finished hind hoof with the mustang roll extended all the way to the heel.

Walking like a Egyptian...

And standing like a prince.

Now if we can just get some rain.  The riding rings are terribly dusty.  Harley was coughing.  I was coughing.  The trail wasn't much better and the ticks are out there!  Smokey the Bear is warning that the fire danger is "Extreme" in our area.  When I was a kid attending lessons, I never would have begged for rain.  A rainy day meant no riding.  Now I am changing my tune.  These dry conditions are making riding in the rings unhealthy and Harley and I really want to ride!

Please heavens!  Open up!

Thank you for NOT smoking!


  1. Very interesting photo essay, Val. I definitely admire your dedication to maintaining Harley's feet yourself. I am constantly amazed by how nice a job you do!


  2. His hooves looked great when you were done with them. We do need some rain badly. Thought I was working in a dust cloud for the last few weeks in the arenas. Hopefully, this weekend will do it.

    1. Thank you! I know what you mean about the dust cloud. I share your hopes.

  3. It rained today! Thank goodness. I got a huge blister on Thursday trying to bust through the crust on my horses' hooves- those puppies were like rocks!

    Your roll looks gorgeous :)

    1. Hooray for rain!

      And thank you for the compliment and the tip!

  4. Good tip with the spray bottle!

  5. His hooves look fantastic!! You know his heels look a lot like Chrome's, so I'm interested to see if the bevel all the way around helps widen his heels. :) I'm excited to follow along with your progress.

    Also thanks for the tip on leaving the rasp in the sun. I've been avoiding wetting the hooves because I didn't want to rust the rasp. Now I can give him his vinegar bath before I trim and the flies/gnats will leave us alone. :D Yay! You just made my life a whole lot easier!

    1. Thanks! I am excited about it, too. I think that I see some changes, but it is difficult to tell since I see his feet all the time.

      Just don't get vinegar on your steel rasp!
      It will make it more susceptible to rust.

    2. Thanks for the tip on the vinegar! I did not know that, so I'll be careful to rinse the vinegar really well before I work on his hooves.

      Yes, it is difficult to see changes when we see them all the time, but at least we can take pictures. :D You're doing a great job for him, so keep up the great work!

  6. So of course I'm stalking your barefoot trimming posts :)
    So, the rolling of the heel; are you staying with that? I've played around with that for Laz and can't quite figure if he likes or not; as clear as he can be, on this he isn't. What have you found? xo

    1. Hi Kristen! Glad you like these posts. :)

      I am staying with rolling the heel. Harley is comfortable and has been offering a new "big trot" under saddle. I do not think that he would do that if he objected to the rolled heels.

      The justification for rolling the outer wall all the way around the foot is to take all pressure off the coronary band, hopefully encouraging a wall of even thickness to grow around the foot. I am hoping this will allow my horse to grow more robust heels. I think that they look good, but it is difficult to see a difference, because I see him so often. This technique is borrowed from James Welz.

  7. Val-THANKS!!! This was something Shannon (from Quarter for me) suggested for me to try out. I may be adding this to our recipe to see how it works out again...
    Since owning Laz, he's never landed heel first. I've gone through all pictures. I owned him 10 months before he got ill/laminitis, and was shod-still never landed heel first so this will be a bit of a struggle for us-I need to try to set him up to use and extend how he was meant to be. Hope it works! I don't know how i missed your barefoot posts before-but they are great! Harley has some nice feet!

    1. Smaz suggested I read James Welz.
      She gives "sound" advice. :)


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