Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Barefoot Horse: Hoof Wall Effects

The hoof wall on my horse's feet, particularly the front feet, has changed a bit since his last trim.  I decided to roll the hoof wall less aggressively and see if this allowed his foot to begin widening at the back.  I also wondered if it might make him more comfortable, if that is possible, as he moves along wonderfully without a hitch.  I do not know if the back of his foot wants or needs to widen, but I do not want to inhibit this just in case he is trying to grow his foot differently than I am trimming it.  I am always hoping that my horse will be able to self-trim.  I do not want to deny him the opportunity to try.

The lighting and shadows made taking clear photos challenging that day.  Here goes nothing.

Right front, three weeks of growth

Left front, three weeks of growth

Blurry right hind, three weeks of growth

Left hind, three weeks of growth

I noticed that the hoofwall of the front feet is spreading at the quarters.  I hate to use the word "separation", but that is what it is.  I am not really surprised to see this, because a while back, I tried backing off trimming the hoof wall and this was exactly what happened.  I considered it unacceptable and immediately went back to beveling the hoof as I had been before.  But now I am wondering if I should wait a little longer.  If his foot were to widen, wouldn't the sole need somewhere to go?  Maybe this is the horse's way of making room for a wider palmar foot?

Check out the fronts post-trim.

Blurry right front: Unfortunately, this photo is not very clear, but I do like the outline of his bars.  I trimmed them after this photo and again a week or so later.  They look more defined than they have in the past and I swear this foot looks wider.  Am I seeing things?

Left front: The space between the wall and the sole is noticeable at both quarters even after I relieved mechanical pressure on the wall with my bevel.  The central sulcus looks nice and open.

I found this crack in his right front, medial heel.  Um, not cool.

The hinds look good, even if the photos are subpar.

I am trying not to overreact and bevel his walls like crazy, but I do not like the hoof wall changes that I am seeing in his front feet.  If this continues, I am going to return to my previous technique.  At least now I have documentation to show the effects of backing off the bevel in a barefoot horse.  Despite the lack of perfection, he is sound and wonderful, especially since we have been working on new stuff from our last lesson.  His canter has been so fluid and free and he seems to be hinting at a cadenced trot.  Is this a coincidence or does it mean keep letting his feet change?

Super treat-face


  1. Hmmmmm.

    The beauty of trimming your own is you are able to experiment and see the changes.

    Maybe go one more trim (i.e three trims all up) without the big bevel then if it really isn't working for him return to normal.

    As for self trimming, will the BO let you put pea gravel in his turnout?

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lisa. That is what I will do.

      I could ask about the pea gravel (that would be awesome!), but I would definitely have to pay for the rock and delivery. I might lose all of it, too, since the gravel that was dumped near the water trough and gate has mostly been pressed into the mud and disappeared. Pea gravel would be way too expensive to allow that to happen!

    2. Yeah, pea gravel is not cheap! It's about $100 a tonne here. To gravel my lane way (which is what I really want to do) I need about 40 tonnes.

      Yeah, not happening!

  2. I would consider this an experiment failed. Go back to rolling the walls like you were.

    Here's how you decontract a hoof: roll the heel walls to increase the comfort of landing heel first. Then shorten the bars to at least the midpoint of the frog, making sure they keep well out of frogland. Between these two forces- the weight of the heel first landing and the room to move- the frog corium will spread and widen. That is how hooves decontract. Disconnected lamina have nothing to do with it and are never a good thing.

    Would you like to know what I think of his bars or is that enough for one comment? ;)

    1. Thanks for your straight forward response, smaz.
      I agree. I guess I was wondering if I had been doing too much or trimming too often, but now I know that my horse's feet did need that much attention. This makes me feel confirmed in my practice, but also a little disappointed that he is not in a situation to self-trim. Wishful thinking, I guess.

      I have been rolling the hoof wall all the way to the heels, which was your recommendation (I read James Welz), it was just that on this occasion I did not roll all the way through the water line at the quarters.

      Yes, I would like to hear what you think of his bars, especially since you always give helpful feedback.

      I trimmed the bars after these photos, but did not take pictures. I removed the material next to the frogs, too (lateral hind bars and fronts). You might be surprised how much I have gotten in there and trimmed away in previous trims, given these photos.

    2. This might be a moot point now that you've gone back and worked on them- but in the pictures his bars almost reached all the way to the apex of the frog. You really don't want them to be any further forward than the midpoint of the frog or they start to put pressure on the DDFT/navicular area.

    3. Thank for coming back and following up. I cannot believe how overgrown they look only three weeks out. Is that typical?

      Just one more thing that I cannot allow to wait.

    4. Just to complicate things further - have you read Pete Ramey's bar article?

      I was reminded of this part when you said the bars are so overgrown at 3 weeks (highlighted in red in his article):

      "A basic guideline I'm starting to embrace is this: If more than 1/4 inch of any part of the foot 'needs' to be removed at a four week maintenance trim, that spot was over-trimmed at the last visit. Not by any expert's standard, but by the horse's standard in its given terrain and given the current health of the internal structures (the horse will work overtime to replace needed material if it is removed). This is a strong statement, I know, but I'm learning to trust it more every day. How do you apply this? Not by just leaving all of the excess, but by always leaving anything that 'pops back' an 1/8th inch longer than you did at the last trim. You'll be amazed as you watch the excess growth immediately slow down; the hooves will move towards self-maintenance."

      This has always stuck with me.

    5. Thanks for adding this, Lisa.

      I have read the article you referenced many, many times. Actually, I have read most of his articles, and use his white line strategy for rolling the walls. I used to not touch Harley's bars at all, because of what I read in that article. Maybe that was the opposite extreme and not the right interpretation on my part. I started giving his bars attention when I read about the pressure that the bars can put on the internal structures of the foot. This concerned me greatly, so I changed my strategy. Don't worry. Except for the actual bar, the material that I removed was chalky, like sole or bar that "needs" to be exfoliated but the environment can't satisfy this. Not the same kind of "need" that I have heard farriers say when being asked about removing the toe callous.

      I completely agree with you on reading the hoof and allowing the horse to grow what helps his foot. That is what motivates me to experiment with a little trial and error on my horse's feet. I am always hoping that I can do a little better, but I do not want to blindly trim for what I think a perfect foot should look like. I can tell that you do the same. It definitely complicates things!

  3. Oh, if you do get pea gravel, you can try to build a container by his water trough (assuming he has one at turnout) so at least a little goes a long way and stays put for a while. I did this at Laz's last place (not current) and it was awesome and he LOVED it. I agree with Lisa, being able to do this on your horse horse and observe is awesome-use him as a guideline for what works for him. I try this w/ Laz ALL the time. It sometimes is immediate, other times it takes a while for me to understand. If he self chips off some of that hoof wall, where it's spreading wider, then is seems he is widening..right? PS hind frog envy! ;)

    1. That sounds great, but I do not have the man power or finances to do that with the pea gravel.

      This change happened very quickly and I kind of expected it, which sounds like a "duh" now. At least I have proven to myself that the roll is super important!


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