Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"For A Beautiful Barefoot Trim – Keep It Simple"

Howdy Friends,

Kessy's never had shoes in her twelve years. She came to me at seven with a few issues. I trim her feet every three weeks, I feel for healthy bare feet most horses are best served with a three or four week schedule. The eight or ten week schedule is far too long and can encourage flares and stretching of the lamina or white line. Yes there are some horses that can go much longer, Pete Ramey says in his book he has one who needs trimming only twice a year, but for most horses and situations I feel three weeks is best. I maintain Kessy's feet with a sharp rasp, do all the shaping from the top down, holding the rasp on a good angle so we get the good bevel, or mustang roll, as Jamie Jackson calls it. In full disclosure the photos in this story were taken after Morgan Whitmer trimmed Kessy, she has been for the past three trimmings while I heal up from heart surgery. Every thought in this story comes from what I've read, seen and experienced, and by that formed my own opinion. I share my thoughts with the hope some folks may benefit, but they are my thoughts so feel free to disregard.
Kessy's fronts after trim. Look good right? She's such a great gal ... Now look closely you'll see on both front feet a faint line running up from sole, in the center of her toe, to the hair line. Her feet, while barefoot, had not been properly maintained before she moved in with me, and back then she had flares, chips and long toes. She also had thrush right there in the center of her toe on both feet, and two of those famous cracks. I cleaned it and packed it with cotton soaked in diluted batadine, stuffing the cotton up with a nail, for months until it grew out. But see the damage it left behind.
While rasping, from the top down, I only work on the area to bevel, and angle my rasp to get that nice bevel of about ¾ of an inch. I never rasp down over the entire hoof to "clean it up," as we see so often, that removes precious live material important for sealing, growth and hoof health. I look at the sole before I start, clean it with a brush, not a hoof knife.
Kessy's hinds post trim. It took me 6 months to get her hind toes correct.
Another opinion I have is we clean our hoofs far too often and thereby strip away important live tissues put there to guard against disease and infection. If the horse has room to roam with pea gravel or other hard surface she will keep her feet clean, and healthy. I think I clean Kessy's feet twice a year with a hoof pick, some years not that often. From the bottom I judge toe length, heel growth, balance, heel bars etc. I only trim the bars if they are long enough to fold over, which is rare for me indeed.
Kessy's RH bottom post trim.Don't you love that sole and frog?! No nippers or hoof knife will touch this sole.
The view from the bottom tells me most of what I need to do. Then I set her foot down have a look at balance, position and angle, and start rasping at the toe. The toe is my guide as, if the horse is well maintained, she will always tell you where it should be by wear. No more than one third of the hoof should be in front of the apex of the frog.
Measuring Kessy's LF we see her hoof is 5 inches - her frog apex is 3 and 5/8 leaving exactly one third of her foot ahead of the frog apex. Perfect. Be sure to check this on your horse.
If the bottom inspection tells me the heels are slightly out of balance, or a flare wants to start (which is never in my case, but wanted to mention because often a flare will tip its hand on the bottom before even showing an angle change on the hoof wall.) I angle my rasp even more sharply in those areas to thin the wall more there so she can wear away the wall that needs to go, and shape her hoof naturally in a way best for her. Now it goes without saying the horse must have room to roam, not a 20 by 20 paddock or stall, but that's a story for another time.

And that’s about all I do. I do not trim the frog, or pare or scrape the sole. That again removes precious live, or dead tissue, there for a reason. It will wear away naturally when she moves about. I rasp the wall even with the sole so she walks as designed on her sole, not her hoof wall. That helps prevent that ugly black line around sole and hoof wall which can allow disease and infection into the lamina, and of course allows the suspensory tissues within the foot to remain tough, vigorous and strong and not weekend by excessive stretching ... and builds rock tough soles.
Here you can see the arch in Kessy's RH hoof wall.
One last thought about rasping only from the top down and following the hoof, in that way I can maintain the natural arch in Kessy foot. Yes the hoof wall does and must have an arch, something that cannot be maintained by rasping flat across the bottom of the foot.

Of course trimming is only one part of a healthy barefoot horse. Housing, exercise, diet and health care all are equally important. I've thought about writing this little story for a while now because there seems to be a lot of folks making barefoot trimming too complicated. It's not. Keep it simple, leave the bottom and soles alone ... And as Pete Ramey says, "Take care of the toes and the heels will take care of themselves." I recommend both Pete Ramey and Jamie Jackson's books.
Kessy says thanks and have a fun day.
 Have a wonderful barefoot time and Gitty Up, Dutch Henry


  1. Don't know what else to say besides yup!

    1. Thanks horsdoovers ... it's so important, for the horses.

  2. Good read and put in simple terms.

    1. Thanks Dale! _ I hope it encourages folks to take charge of their horse's feet ...

  3. Since last fall, I have been diligently searching for, correcting, and eliminating any possible reasons why my TWH trips, and has even fallen while I was riding him. I even succumbed to the advice of a highly regarded vet and had shoes put on his front feet, feeling like a traitor. After two sets, I couldn't do it again. He is once again barefoot, and after time off recuperating from an inflamed hip, we are beginning to hit the trails again. I will be adding more rock to his track, continuing his turmeric golden paste and regular equine massage therapist visits, and always working to become a better, more balanced rider.

    1. Thanks Susan. I don't know what turmic golden paste is, but I can tell you I've helped a lot of horses stop tripping, forging etc with proper trims.