I have officially ended the brief experiment with my rolling technique on my horse's feet. For those of you who might just be stopping by, I decided to a try a less aggressive bevel on his hooves by rolling to the water line (unpigmented hoofwall) instead of through the water line up to the white line. The "white line strategy" (See Pete Ramey
and Marjorie Smith
for more information. My trim has also been influenced more recently by James Welz
, particularly rolling the wall all the way to the heels.), which I originally learned had served me and my horse well, but I am all in favor of allowing my horse to dictate how his feet grow and change. I decided to back off the technique a bit and see if positive changes occurred. Since I trim my own horse's feet, I could see these changes happen very quickly at three weeks. I posted about this last time and already did some corrective work by relieving mechanical pressure at the hoof wall where separation was occurring at the quarters of his front feet. Three weeks later, I can see that this change is continuing and is not beneficial: hoof wall separation compromises the connection between the wall and internal structures of the foot and makes it possible for bacteria or fungi to enter to foot. Obviously, this is not acceptable. The only reason that I would have hoped for anything different, is that I did not want to assume that I knew what the best shape of his foot for him should be.
What if he needed a wider foot and I was preventing this somehow with regular trimming? I now know that is not the case, at least as far the bevel is concerned, and I have observed the changes that can occur when the "white line strategy" is not employed. I feel that I have earned some of my own knowledge in this exercise. I am no longer limited by regurgitation of something that I have read or been told by another person. For that I am grateful for the experience, BUT I am also on a mission to help him continue to grow his foot with correctly attached hoof wall. The time to hesitate has passed!
I will continue to trim his bars short, keep the toe back, trim his heels as low as he wants them according to the live sole, and treat the frog as needed to prevent thrush. If his foot is to widen more at the back, these things should support that change, not a more conservative bevel. This experiment does not stand alone as the only evidence that the strong bevel is a beneficial technique for his feet. I have observed similar hoof wall separation when the rapid growth of his hoof walls got away from me in the spring and early summer. I have also seen this effect on one other occasion when I tried a slightly different technique (from a professional how-to DVD) for judging how much bevel to put on the foot. This also produced a more conservative bevel.
His hind feet were not affected as quickly as his fronts, but I can see some separation developing there at the quarters as well. Interestingly, the hinds are more likely to chip at the quarters or do so much sooner. I am sure that his fronts would do the same, but I am not comfortable with allowing that much time to pass knowing that a cavern is developing along the edge of his precious feet.
|Left front: This is what mechanical hoof wall separation looks like. The wall at the quarters was supporting too much weight, because the bevel was not strong enough to keep the wall off the ground. The hoofwall flares away from the sole and becomes separated from the lamina, which make up the white line and are the "velcro" holding the external and internal structures of the foot together. Please do not think this is a condition only seen in bare horse feet. Horses wearing shoes may have the same separation present, but the shoe would obstruct our view. It is also worth noting that the shoe encourages peripheral (i.e.hoofwall) loading by design, which is exactly what is causing the separation in my bare horse's feet. Consider it food for thought.|
|The crevice seen here cannot be repaired, it must be replaced with new hoof wall growing from the coronary band down toward the ground. While I wait for the new growth to reach ground level, I beveled the hoof wall so that the pressure on the wall is relieved and the mechanical separation should not worsen. I expect it to take about two trims for this to grow to out, which would be about six weeks. I am fortunate that Harley's feet put out well-connected hoof wall from the top. This is no small feat and the challenge of getting a horse to grow a nice hoof capsule can be very frustrating for the owner. Professionals recommend things like diet and turnout condition changes, but there are rarely easy answers to a challenging pair of hooves. I am well aware that I am very lucky with Harley's feet, but remember that I have "hoof problems" in other forms with my horse (his teeth, his weight, and his allergies).|
|Left front: The separation is not as wide on the inside/medial side of the foot, showing that the horse puts more pressure on the outside of his feet when he moves. This crevice may be gone as soon as the very next trim.|
|Unfinished right front: I despise how the separation has reached the medial heel on this foot. It is shallow, but I will be biting my nails until it is replaced by new growth. This effect makes me want to kick myself for even trying to alter my technique. Hindsight is twenty-twenty.|
|Right front with half the bevel complete for comparison. I thought it would be interesting to see the difference. The outer (dark) and inner (unpigmented/water line) hoof wall on the right side of the photo is no longer resting on the ground. The bevel on the left side of the photo was from my last trim and is less round, only keeping the dark, outer wall off the ground. This is the difference in technique that led to the hoof wall separation now apparent at the quarters. I want to say "less is more", but with regards to the bevel, "more is more and less is not enough". ;)|
|One done and the next to follow shortly. Depending on how accustomed you are to looking at bare feet, I could see how it might look like I didn't do much to his left front. When I look at this photo, I am amazed by the difference in the two feet. I think it looks like I took quite a lot of hoof wall off. These photos are from Sept. 9. I rode him immediately afterward and he was wonderful. In my opinion, a barefoot trim should leave a horse "ready to ride". For a sound horse, there should not be a waiting or "give him time" period between a maintenance trim and riding. In my book, those are red flags that something, which is open to interpretation, is not right. If anything, a trim should make him more sound and happy to work. |
I found a Pete Ramey article from 2005
which discusses hoof wall separation. There are some interesting points about the differences between a hoof in a hard, dry climate and a hoof in a softer, wet climate. I am sure that I have read this article before, but what caught my attention was the notion that flare and hoof wall separation are necessary side effects of overgrowth. Furthermore, the invasion of fungi or bacteria is also necessary to weaken the excess hoof wall and allow it to break away, keeping the coffin bone (P3) at ground level. This time around, that concept pretty much blew my mind, but I think I understand. Mr. Ramey is not advocating that you let your horse's feet go, just that there is a purpose served by the flare and separation seen in overgrown hooves.
I am not about to allow Harley to go down that "natural" a road, because he is NOT a wild horse and if flare and separation are indications that he wants to relieve himself of that hoofwall then that is precisely where me and my rasp come in. As a domestic counterpart, I want to help him to trim MORE efficiently than a wild horse, especially because I expect things from him that a wild horse would not be required to do, like power trotting up the diagonal while carrying his petite friend around on his back. I seek clues from his feet to tell me where to help and where I can rasp
away what he would break away himself many weeks later. The wild/natural horse model only goes so far, in my opinion, whether it be for training or care and management. For example, a horse in the wild must be on high alert all the time to avoid predation. I do not want my riding horse to behave that way. I want him relaxed and free to think about my attempts to communicate riding exercises to him. And let's face it, Harley probably would not have made it past age 10 in the wild, because his overbite is so severe. I do not just want to give him what a wild horse would have, I want him to have it much, much better.
Cosmetically, his feet will look very nice with the strong bevel, but I am thinking more about preventing the invading fungi or bacteria. Even if they serve a purpose in nature, those microbes can easily get out of control and I am just not willing to roll those dice. I'll stick to rolling the hoof wall instead!
|Ready when you are!|
i'm so impressed you're able to do all of that yourself. i can do the very basics when the need arises, but i'm not sure i'd feel confident enough to take on full care of my horses' feet, though i'd love to learn! it must be fascinating (and frustrating ;-) working out all the quirks of a horse's feet and how they change with time and the seasons, work, nutrition, etc. but it sounds like you've got a good handle on it. good luck!ReplyDelete
Thank you very much, jme!Delete
I know next to nothing about this so it's hard to comment. Except to say that whatever you do I'm sure Harley will be fine and thank you for it.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the encouragement.
With my trims I bevel from the laminae line when there is separation (easily 90% of my new clients). If there is little to no separation I bevel from the inner wall. Each horse is different.ReplyDelete
I love how much thought you put into your trimming. :)
As always, thanks for sharing your expertise, Lisa. :)Delete
BTW- I totally agree, if the horse is sound (and I mean really healthy and sound, not just sound because they can't feel their feet)you should be able to get straight on and ride after the trim is finished.
Thanks so much for your support and technical help. :)Delete
BRAVO and so well written!! This is what is SO great about wanting to know, and being hands on with your own horse's feet. Even though I promised my trimmer, for the new few trims, to NOT touch Laz's hooves so we can see what growth/changes he's doing and come up with his personal plan, I look at his feet daily making notes. Like you, it's smart to test out and see 'did it work or fail' How awesome that we can do that! :) I DO think it's under discussed that many of these trimmers have their horses on drier, year round, terrain based on their location. That plays such an important role in the self trimming, and the diet. Dry desert like locations will have a much different hoof vs wet grassy areas and that will determine how we trim as well and how fast our horse responds to changes. I do enjoy your hoof posts!!! :)ReplyDelete
You make a lot of good points. It is very captivating to look at your own horse's feet and see changes occur. I never imagined that I would be this into horse feet, but I am hooked now. I feel like it makes me appreciate our saddle time more, too.Delete
This is very interesting and there has been a lot of drama at our barn lately concerning horses feet. For now I have a traditional farrier who trims my horses bare feet, some use a "barefoot" trimmer who does the mustang trim (I think that is what she does. I have been trying to educate myself so I can at least spot things about Oberon's feet... My trimmer is coming Friday and I plan on taking photos of before and after and ask a few questions. Perhaps I will post his feet on my blog and see what people think... They did get long this past five weeks... but I think that is due to all the wet and rain we have had. Does that make sense?ReplyDelete
Thanks for posting about this topic... I need to go back and read some of your back issues. You're awesome!
I totally get the barn drama about bare feet and trimmers. A barefoot trim is different than a pasture trim, which is usually associated with a traditional farrier. It is quite possible that your farrier has learned about a bare trim for performance, not just pasture puffing. I love looking at hoof photos.Delete
Thanks for your kind words.
... HOW do I go about questioning him? Or should I be able to tell by the job he does. I will take photos and post them tomorrow. I'd love your thoughts. I am pretty sure the bare foot trimmer most use at my barn does the mustang roll... but I will double check on that.ReplyDelete
Some people respond well to questions, some do not. Although I think you should be able to ask any question you want of the person trimming your horse, some homework might help. Look at photos of trimmed feet on the websites of reputable trimmers. This should at least give you an idea of what a performance trim looks like. The roll is a good clue.Delete
Oh this answered my question on your recent post. I missed this one lol. It makes sense now. :DReplyDelete