Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My Barefoot Horse: Hoof Stand Progress

I am getting better with the hoof stand.

Taking pictures while using the hoof stand is another story.

After my initial frustrations with trying to use the Hoof Jack, I sought out professional help.  Even though I trim Harley's feet, our barn still has a regular farrier that takes care of most of the other horses.  He happened to be around shortly after I last wrote about my failed attempts to use the stand for trimming.  Although, he was not familiar with using the cradle, he did give me some very helpful pointers:
  1. Raise the post so that you have to lift the horse's foot onto the post.  I had set the post too low.  After practicing with his stand, which is a standard metal farrier stand with no height adjustment, I set my post to the same height as his stand.  This is about at the level of my knee.
  2. Use your knee to lift the horse's hoof onto the post.  This was a simple, but very helpful tidbit.  I watched him lift my horse's foot using his knee and hands.  This also leaves one hand free if you need to move the stand a little bit for the best placement of the hoof.  After watching, I was able to imitate his technique.  What a difference!
  3. Always keep at least one foot on the stand, so that the horse cannot topple the stand or knock it onto you.  Enough said.  Good advice.
The farrier also showed me how to hold the horse's feet with my legs, so that I can use both hands to trim.  I have tried this many times, but I just cannot do it.  The hoof slips off my thigh like it's been greased.  I just can't seem to find a placement that keeps the foot on my lap and the weight of the hoof hurts my legs.  This is not a muscular fatigue hurt; it's a crushing, "I am going to get a bruise on my thighs" kind of hurt.  I have Princess and the Pea issues, so it is probably my wimpy skin complaining.  Anyway, it was nice of him to show me just the same.  And he gave me an old pair of farrier chaps, so that I do not have to worry about ruining my breeches anymore.  That was a major bonus! 

Thank you for all of your help and advice, Mr. Farrier!

Once I had used the stand to finish the top of Harley's feet, I got more comfortable with the idea of trying the cradle again.  My friend said that she tried it and her horse stood very nicely.  She said that it was much easier to trim his feet using the cradle, so I decided to give it another shot.

And you know what?  It worked.

I tried keeping the stand a little higher, even with the cradle, and Harley was much better about keeping his foot in the stand.  I tried using my knee to steady his foot as I trimmed the bottom and that worked, too.  The trim was completed in a little more timely fashion and I did not have to keep putting my horse's foot down to take breaks.  I definitely felt less tired when his front feet were finished.  By the time I got to his hind feet, I had found a way to steady his foot in the cradle so that I could use TWO hands (that's right, I said two hands) to work the rasp.  In over two years of trimming, that was a first.  YES!

Harley is usually a good boy, but he was super good for his hind feet.  I think that he actually got to liking the stand.  He stayed relaxed and did not mind keeping his foot in the stand for much longer than he lets me hold it on my own.  I was pretty amazed.

Harley and his new friend.

Three weeks of growth has proven, once again, to be bordering on too much time between trims in the summer months.  Harley's outer walls started to crack a little bit and the white line at the toe became wonky.  Thankfully, this is a minor hiccup that does not affect his soundness.

Just needs to be finished from the top with my new stand!

Right front wonkiness.

Left front to match.  The hinds had something similar going on.

I just rasp up to the white line to relieve the pressure at the hoof wall and keep the toe short.  The issue should resolve itself by the next trim as long as I do not wait too long to pick up the rasp.  This sort of thing tends to happen in the summer and confirms to me that I cannot leave him to self-trim.  Despite 24/7 turnout, we just do not have the variety of terrain to take off enough hoof without my help.  Even riding him almost every day (which I have not been able to do this year do to severe weather and heat, but I have done in previous summers) does not make much of a dent.  He just grows even more hoof!


  1. Well, that trim sounds a lot easier than the past ones. Mr. Farrier was very nice to show you a few little tricks of the trade. Everyone to his own profession I guess.

    By the way is wonkiness a technical term? ;)

  2. Oh man, Harley's feet look almost as dry as my horses'. We've had only a half inch of rain in the past month and we've got desert hooves up here! Hard as rocks.

    I tried the farrier hold when I first started trimming but gave it up almost immediately. My horses started fighting as soon as their leg went between mine, they hated that feeling of confinement.

    1. Makes trimming even more work, doesn't it? Thank goodness a water spray bottle helps somewhat.

      Harley also seems less comfortable with the farrier holds I was taught, even the pretty benign one where I put my near leg to the inside of his front hoof and just rest it against my leg.

      It is actually raining now!

  3. Yah for kind farriers! And my students all know exactly what wonky means! :0)

  4. The "wonkiness" is just a bit of separation where dirt and bacteria moved in. It makes sense that it is in all four feet. It could have been a change in diet, shots, stress (trailering horse show, colic etc) or any other million reasons why horses hooves can change. It likely happened happened months ago and has just now grown down. Don't let someone tell you it's white line disease. White line is a lot more severe than this and will continue to be recurring, often laming the horse and causing extremely poor hoof wall quality.
    Also a question: Why do you rasp to the white line? I keep seeing some barefoot people doing this and it isn't at all what I have ever, ever seen in a wild mustang, which most barefoot people want to base their practice off of.The sole and white line should not be the main weight bearing structure, even in a barefoot horse. Some horses can handle this but it also can create bruising and unnecessary pressure. I've had a lot more luck rasping to the water line/un-pigmented layer of hoof wall.

    1. Hi Sydney,

      Don't worry I know what it is. I just like writing "wonkiness". ;)

      Based on how it is localized at the toe, the wonky, waviness of the line, and the flare that was popping up at the quarters, I tend to lean toward mechanical disruption over a metabolic event. This minor separation only happens when his hooves grow very quickly and escape my attempts to prevent overgrowth (almost always during the summer). Wouldn't a metabolic event indiscriminately create a separation line around most of the hoof?

      I can see an event line on his hooves farther up (which could be due to the illness he had this winter, vaccinations, or the stress of allergies), but when these lines have grown out in the past, I have not seen any kind of separation beneath them. There is no way to know for sure, but I just thought that I would ask the question since you see far more hooves than I do.

      As for the white line, I was taught to trim this way by my friend who is a trimmer and by reading (Barefoot for Soundness was one of my early favorites by Marjorie Smith, articles by professionals whom I believe to be reliable. Your comment is interesting, for one, because it is so specific to technique and, secondly, because I once tried backing off from the white line and I did not like the results. I purchased a trimming DVD from a well known professional and followed the instructions to only rasp as much as the horse was rolling himself at the toe. I tried it for a couple trims and separation popped up all around the quarters. My horse was still sound, but I could not see the changes as an improvement in what I was doing before so I just abandoned the new (for me) technique. Maybe I will try just rasping to the water line for a few cycles and see what happens. I am always looking for ways to improve my trim.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!

    2. I forgot to mention in the previous comment when I studied some cadaver feet in school (not even farrier school, university, equine science) we took apart some mustang feet. The instructor noted that most of the ones that were rolled excessively to and even past the white line were lame before they were euthanized. Just a thought. No two horses have the same feet. I was always taught to trim how the horse was made and how it grew it's own foot :)

    3. That is very interesting and neat that you had that experience in college. Were these mustang cadaver feet "rolled" by a human or rolled by the movement of the wild horse?

      I was taught the same, although I am partially self-taught. ;)

    4. Rolled by the wild. I am guessing when they were brought in to be sorted and deemed adoptable or not the ones we were using were either long term lame or had some sort of problem. The ones that were rolled unevenly were noted with what the horses had. If you have a slaughter house someplace nearby (I know some people dont agree with this) they may give you a leg free to dissect. It's an extremely valuable learning tool, especially if you have a vet with you to explain the functions etc.

    5. Oh my goodness, Sydney. No thanks.

      I have dissected many, many preserved specimens in college and with my biology students, but I just cannot bring myself to dissect a horse hoof. The person who got me started trimming my horse showed me a cadaver once and has dissected a couple herself, but that is close enough for me.

      Even a bio girl has limits!
      I guess that one is mine.

      There could be many reasons why those horses were not sound or why they wore their feet in what appeared to be an odd manner. The state of the feet and the soundness of the wild horses was a correlation at best, not necessarily cause and effect, and it is worth noting that this occurred without human intervention. The trim (horse-made or man-made) is only part of the picture.

  5. Glad to hear that the hoof stand is working out, and it sounds like the farrier was a fantastic help! That's really awesome to find someone willing to give you tips.

    I am super-jealous of Harley's fantastic-looking feet, not to mention your mad trimming skillz!

  6. His hooves look great!! I want that hoof jack! I also want to trim Laz's hooves SOOOOOOO badly but I've been told to wait so we can have hoof to re-balance.
    Talk about chomping at the bit!

    1. At least you are enthusiastic about manual labor! I hope his feets grow extra for you. ;)

  7. I'm glad you are finally reaping the benefits of the mighty hoof stand! I couldn't live without mine, honestly.


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