Sunday, August 9, 2009


So, as promised, the (short) trimming blog. So, when is a horse in need of a trim? Going strictly by a specific timeline of 6-12 weeks is not really always all that accurate, because each horse is an individual in an individual environment. Trimming frequency depends upon weather, season, ground, genetics, use, ground covered daily, nutrition, etc. Hoof growth rate increases in the summer months and slows in the colder months. Wet ground versus dry ground, humid environment versus arid, good hoof genetics versus poor, 40 acres of pastureland covered daily versus stall life - all play roles in hoof growth. We have horses that, through the winter, have gone up to 4 months before they required a trim. Keep in mind all our horses are pastured. Of course if you are not knowledgeable in regards to feet, definitely go by a regular schedule and/or as per the recommendations of your farrier. In the mean time, check out photos online and talk to your farrier to educate yourself as to what your horse's feet should look like. The following is what they should not look like:

Here is what they should look like (or something similar), in terms of length:

On the hoof note, I have to profess that I am an avid fan of allowing horses to go barefoot, as nature intended. While shoes can be beneficial in some situations, for the most part, allowing a horse to go barefoot has been proven to be healthier for the hoof and thus the horse itself. A shoe can allow for contracted heels and does not allow the (albeit minute) expansion of the hoofwall as the hoof makes contact with the ground. A horse's foot acts as four "heart pumps" - the pressure upon making contact with ground pumps blood back up the leg (against gravity) and back to the core. Do your research, and you will find most horses can greatly benefit from going barefoot. The following are a few sites I have found helpful, from my favourites to the newly-discovered-but-look-promising:

Successful Natural Horsecare (check out all the info on barefootedness)
Equine Vet Journal (more input concerning the Strasser Method)
Jaimie Jackson (barefoot expert)
Another Jaimie Jackson website (?)
Pete Ramey (another barefoot prof)

I have to admit to not having read all of the info on all of these sites - there is just so much out there! Now, just to find the time to delve into it all ;) However I felt some of these sites could be helpful, hence their inclusion in this post. Hopefully they can provide others a foundation from which to bounce off of. Just for the heck of it, also check out the history of shoeing horses - it could add insight into barefootdness as well; I definitely found it interesting.

On a personal level, we have kept all of our own current three horses barefoot as long as we have had them (1, 9, and 14 years), save for the odd temporary shod episode under very particular, special, and elite circumstances. We have never had a soundness issue with any of our horses (save for the odd time a farrier trimmed too short or a rare rock bruising). Ever. Despite their various activities. Coincidence? I think not. My personal belief is that nature probably does a pretty good job of providing our horses with the feet they need to survive. Human interference (ie. shoes) is typically not required except in very particular circumstances and/or with certain horses.


quietann said...

Shoes can also be necessary in some environments, to help with conformational issues, etc. My mare was barefoot her entire life in Maryland and did eventing there, but when I brought her to New England, where it is much more rocky, her hooves got pretty chewed up especially in front. She now wears front shoes. She also toes in noticeably, and having shoes helps reduce the extremely uneven wear of her hooves. That said, if it was not for the rocks, I'd probably take her barefoot again; a trim around here is about $40 while shoes on two hooves and the other two hooves trimmed can run $80 or more. Her hooves grow quickly and even barefoot I was getting them trimmed every 6 weeks at the most.

But it's funny how people assume shoes are necessary. There is a woman at my barn who bought a young dressage horse who had never been shod, slapped shoes on him, and immediately he started having abcesses and became very lame. Only removing the shoes helped; he just cannot tolerate nails in his hooves. This horse will mostly be worked in an arena and ridden out only on good footing, but the owner is freaking out about how being barefoot might limit his ability to do dressage and she will have get him glue-on shoes at some point. (Hoof boots are not allowed in dressage competitions, but glue-on shoes that look just like regular shoes are.) I don't get it at all; he's a lovely mover when sound.

Equus said...

It's mind boggling how people think shoes are absolutely necessary for any and every horse, but I guess that is how the world turns. My hope is to compete at an international level with our OTTB Link (and/or others of course), barefoot, to provide yet another example that it can be done :)