Friday, August 9, 2013

My Barefoot Horse: A Hoof Post At Last!

August 2013: Doesn't look like much, but these hoof shavings took a lot of work to produce!

Wow!  It has been forever since I wrote a hoof trimming post.  This was not so much due to a lack of trimming as it was a lack of photos.  I continued to maintain Harley's feet while I was expecting our daughter.  Thankfully, this was not as arduous a task as one might expect.  My arms remained reliably strong throughout my pregnancy.  They were perhaps the only part of me that did not transform in some shape or form from day one to the birth day.  Trimming was actually a welcomed activity, especially as my list of activities decreased as the weeks progressed.  It wasn't easy, but it was doable and I believe "relatively" safe under the given circumstances (me trimming Harley).  How did I make the feat (hehe) of trimming my horse while pregnant possible?  Here were my strategies:

  1. Only trim a sane, reliable horse who knows me very well and respects my space and boundaries: check.  Harley was as solid as they get.  He can get fidgety, but he was saintly quiet for all of my "expectant" hoof trims.  Did he know?  
  2. Do not let Harley's feet get away from me.  I was very careful to almost never allow a scheduled trim pass.  I religiously trimmed his feet every three weeks and kept up with the bars diligently.
  3. Only trim a pair of feet on each visit.  This cut my work in half, but required two days of trimming.  Since I couldn't ride my horse in the end, I did not mind the extra time we spent together working on his feet.  In fact, I quite enjoyed it.  I kept the work spaced so that I had a week between front and hind foot trims.  I usually keep this schedule during the summer months anyway, because it is just too darn hot and buggy to trim all four!
  4.  Use the hoof stand.  Enough said.
  5. Use very new, sharp rasps...
  6. And use two rasps!  I had a standard (14"), super sharp rasp for taking down excess hoof wall quickly.  I used my usual shorter (12") Ladies' rasp for the bevel.
  7. Have a back-up plan if I am unable to continue trimming my horse.  I did not make any phone calls, but I am sure that the farrier or trimmer who frequents our barn would have helped me out in a pinch.  It was not my first choice to let someone else trim my horse, because I did not want to worry about a new person affecting my horse's feet (especially with all those worrisome hormones reeking havoc on my sentiments).
  8. Be willing to let his feet grow longer than normal "at the end".
With a little bit of luck, this strategy worked out pretty well.  When our little one arrived early, I was in between front and hind trims, so Harley's hind feet went about six weeks without a trim and his front's only went four or five.  That is not bad at all, especially considering that many shod horses are purposely trimmed at five to six weeks.

There was also an unforeseen benefit to not riding or working my horse for the last two months of my pregnancy: his hoof growth slowed down.  I was really surprised, but he did not have any flaring from excess growth and barely any mechanical separation.  I was shocked about the last part.  I thought for sure that I would have to do some damage control, but, honestly, he was no worse for the wear.  What a relief, because I had plenty to worry about during those first weeks with our daughter.  Not having to worry about the state of my beloved horse's feet was much appreciated.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to take photos of his feet when I trimmed them in June.  They looked surprisingly good, just long.  I wanted very badly to document them, but I was in whirlwind mode and nothing was stopping me long enough to snap photos.  Plus the bugs were killer that day and Harley was not a happy camper.  By July, I sort of got my photography act together.

July 2013 before his trim: This was the second trim since baby.

July 2013: Self-trimming going on here at four to five weeks (heat wave delayed our trim).  Wowsers.

July 2013: Solar view of left hind.  I tried, but I did not have the patience for nice solar shots.  This was the only one that was not totally blurry and unrecognizable.  This is about four weeks of growth; our trim was pushed back a week due to the insane heat wave.

July 2013: Post-trim hinds

July 2013: Harley looking cute, but also wanting for grass (he is not smiling in this picture).  He was not amused by photo ops on this day, because he was already feeling the effects of baby infringing on his grazing time.

August 2013:  Now we're talking!

2-months old: Pink zebras are almost ponies!


  1. His feet are looking great.
    I totally agree with you about using the hoof stand. I buggered up my back badly by being all macho "shucks I can manage without the stand"
    Baby is looking adorable in her pink stripes :D

    1. The stand was a must, but now I have stopped using it. Sounds weird, but it takes longer to trim him when I have to juggle the stand and if I can shave off ten mintes, it is worth it (that's ten mintes that Harley can spend grazing :-) ). My trick is to use my knee as a stand for his front feet instead (I use the classic farrier hold for the hinds). I did this for a very long time before I had a stand. Harley actually stands longer for me when his foot rests on my knee as opposed to the stand. I can keep my back straight like this, too.

      Thank you! She smiles now and it is just the cutest.

  2. Go girl! That is awesome that you kept up on his feet!

    Your girl is SO cute! Love the outfit!

    1. Thanks! I kept wondering if I was crazy to even attempt it, but it worked out great. It is more difficult now to make time to keep up with his feet! I never would have guessed that.

      I just got another adorable horse outfit that I just might have to post here!

  3. I'm heading out to trim my two today and boy do they need it! It was easier to keep them on a schedule while I was pregnant. Geez.

    My boy has blue zebras!

    1. I COMPLETELY agree. It was also easier to find time to ride, at least in the beginning. ;-)

      Yay for blue zebras!

  4. She's just beautiful. Love her expression and her outfit.

    Sounds like you're a very organized person and stuck to a plan that worked for you and Harley. His feet look great.

    1. I try to be organized, but apparently this does not translate to neatness. I guess it is organized chaos. :-)

      Thank you! I, too, love her expression in this photo.

  5. I was quietly wondering if you were going to keep up on Harley's feet by yourself. I knew it would be hard to have someone else take over what you have so thoughtfully done with such care and diligence. I am glad you managed (I have no idea how) to continue to do it. I understand the importance of that. I can just picture you watching someone else do it. (Hovering possibly?) :-)

    And my oh my look at that little girl smile, if that isn't the cutest darn thing!...makes me smile.

  6. You are right. ;-)
    I was more comfortable allowing them to overgrow then letting someone else work on my horse's feet. I can predict at least a little how his feet would be handled by others and I just don't like it. Soundness and comfort are such precious things. Since we have a good thing going, I did not want to throw a potential wrench in the gears.

    Thank you! She is smilimg a lot now.

  7. First of all, what a darling little girl you have!

    I've tried the stand-free style as well as incorporating it for the final beveling - a hybrid version seems to work best. I've also settled on rasp only vs using the nippers. This works fine with more frequent trimmings - every two to three weeks. Still a little unsure about the lateral balance - my farrier and I will go over that this coming week.

    I have to thank you (and smazourek) for helping inspire me to work on Val's feet myself. (doing so while pregnant - even more so!)

    1. Thank you about my little sweetie and the very flattering compliment! I think it is absolutely wonderful that you work on Val's feet. I do not know if Val has any special considerations regarding his lateral balance, but my guideline is just the sole. I always trim so that no hoof wall is higher than the edges of the sole and then I bevel the foot so no hoofwall touches the ground. Besides the blood, sweat, and tears, that is it. ;-) (Oh yeah, and the bars.)

    2. Thanks for breaking down your trim so simply. Helpful. :D

      Val does have lateral issues. His fronts need to have the inside heels trimmed slightly more than the outside to counteract his tendency to toe in - almost clubby. The hinds get more off the outside heel as that's where he flares. All very subtle, but makes such a difference.

  8. That's so fantastic that you could still trim while preg!! (and ride!) I can't get enough of hoof posts. I'm just never sold on one idea and then love hearing what works for others, etc. It is amazing how they have total hoof growth spurts. I've always heard their hooves grow with the grass growth. It's true in my area at least. :)


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