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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Saturday, 6 February 2010

A pasture trim is not a high performance barefoot trim

This has been an incredibly hard post to complete. I've wept buckets throughout because the horses to which the hooves belong are especially dear to me, even though they are not necessarily my own.

Each of these horses has suffered unnecessarily because of human ignorance (and butt headedness).

And having thought about it, and reflected on all the evidence to hand, I have come to the conclusion that when farriers complain about barefoot trimmers taking 'their' business, they have only themselves to blame. If my local farriers were able to do a good barefoot trim I would never have had to learn how to do one myself.

But maybe it's really the farrier bodies that are to blame? My own ex farrier often complained that the farrier training syllabus, exams and competitions all focus on how to make/fit shoes - not how to trim a foot. In one three day farrier competition they may only do three feet. Heck in 3 days they should be able to do close to 40 times that amount and still do a good job.

The following pictures and information are all drawn from my personal experience. It's not scientific 'hard' data, but it may be more reliable than the stuff about climate change :-) At least I know the source and I have my hands on the evidence.
I used a farrier to trim my first barefoot horse for around 10 years. It was the same farrier who supported/encouraged me to keep my horse bare when I was facing much opposition and I will always be thankful for that.

Took me a while though (years) to figure out that the farrier's enthusiasm was running ahead of ability. I did a lot of road mileage on my mare and didn't realise that it was the self trimming which was working rather than the stuff I was paying for.

It was when I became involved with another laminitic horse, with poor feet that was not self trimming, that the flaws really started to show.

Look at the pictures below - do you see what I mean? The really tiny foot was not my farriers fault - it had been made that way by the not so wonderful practice among the western pleasure community of wanting tiny feet on their big buttocked horses. They would probably support chinese foot binding too.

But the practice of taking off huge chunks of the toe underneath (solar side) to effectively put a ski tip on the foot is all down to my ex farrier.

The second picture shows how the 'raw' edge of the trimmed foot hasn't been dressed. The third shows how the contracted foot has 'sucked in' at the quarters - look for the dark shadow running the full length of the quarter from coronary band to the edge of the wall. Its not well illustrated by these pictures but the coronary band is doing weird things too.

The fourth picture is the same horse months later. The farrier is still at it - ski tipping. But almost worse is the flare which has not been addressed. Huge opportunity for mechanical leverage (where the laminae get torn) and when this happens its very painful - imagine tearing your nails off the nail bed and you get the idea.

The 'ski tip' is also shown in the same farrier's trimming of another horse (fifth picture). It's not a good picture but you can probably still see what I mean. Another error is leaving in the deeply compacted false sole - you can see its been scratched and chipped at. The frog is very thrushy and has been packed out with dressing and lint.

The sixth picture is a whole new can of worms. Another false sole - so the farrier addresses the problem by carving back the heels and to the extent that the horse goes lame. And never in all the years I've been around horses (over 35) have I ever seen a regular farrier 'dress out' the wall edge of a barefoot horse. We all know that if you don't 'dress' the wall edge (mustang roll in american) then the hoof wall may chip and/or split.

I could go on but I think if you look at these pictures and then compare them with a properly completed barefoot trim I think you will see the difference. If not - post me and we can discuss.


Wolfie said...

Most of the riders are Western where I board and I see this type of trim quite regularly. Personally, I don't like the look of it and it sure doesn't look comfortable IMO. As a new rider/owner, I appreciate you posting pictures as a reference. So far, it seems Gem's feet are pretty good. :-)

Di said...

I feel for all these horses, but the first pics are horrific. Tiny , tiny feet how horrible!!

Val said...

Worthwhile post. Thank you.

I actually became interested in the barefoot trim because after a farrier visit I could not tell that the hooves had been touched. This is definitely preferred to lots of toe shaved off, but I saw the extra growth (flare) at the sides of his feet and wondered why they were never addressed. I have learned a lot since then, but there is so much to know! Your blog is very helpful in this respect. I would appreciate any "how to" posts, which you may be willing to contribute.

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