Saturday, 12 June 2010

Trimming horses feet

Several years ago my wife went on a barefoot course. I told her at the time, 'don't expect me to get involved, I have enough to do'. Yes, you guessed it - I now spend half my life trimming feet.

I have no doubt that if my horse can go barefoot then I should allow him to. My horse was the original reason we got into trimming because at the time the farrier had let his toes get so long he actually was struggling to walk down hills. We knew something was wrong because he started doing mini bucks to tell us, and when we took his shoes off and trimmed his toes he was immediately back to his old self.

I think I have finally worked out how to do this foot trimming thing properly. My problem in the past was that I didn't have any points of reference on the foot. Despite a few foot gurus trying their hardest to explain, for me it was all a bit vague. Now I have got it (I think). The three fixed points on the underside of the foot are the two heels and the point of the frog. If you use those points as the 'plane of the foot' then from there it is pretty easy to keep the foot in balance. The bit of information that I was missing was the point of the frog, and that was why I couldn't understand how to stop the toe running away from me. I was trimming to the visible sole of the foot and actually on a lot of horses that visible sole, isn't all true sole. And that is especially true where you haven't been taking care of the 'flare'.

So now I have the underside sorted, and I've learnt to trim the frog pretty well, and I'm pretty determined not to have any flare, I reckon my horses feet are starting to look pretty damn good. Ah well, it's only been the seven years since I started. See, this is important, because it's easy enough to have a foot that can go anywhere on any ground, but there was always this problem of the long toe and the resultant separation, not to mention what can be the pretty disasterous effects on the leg and shoulder joints.

You might not be interested in horses feet ( I wish I wasn't), but even if you pay a farrier or a trimmer, it might be handy to have a bit of a picture in your mind of what a good foot might look like. If you put a straight edge across the heel to the toe I reckon it should run parallel to the frog (that's if the frog is trimmed to the point of the frog). If the gap widens towards the toe then I reckon you have probably got false sole, a load of flare, and a long toe.

Bare in mind I have never been on a trimming course and have no qualification whatsoever, so as with everything horse related, don't take someone's word for it - work it out for yourself. I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who has any thoughts on this subject.


One Red Horse said...

It isn't hard to develop a passion for hoofs. I did. The best resource I have found is the group of folks who post at the hoof city hoof forum. Great place to get feedback and ideas on how to refine your technique.

June said...

Having watched lots of people trim horses when we host the KC courses, I've found its much easier to see the plane from a distance. They can even put the foot down and I can see if the toe is too high or too low. Whenever I trim I get the balance to where I think it should be then step back and take a reality check from a distance. And yes, the heels are my first point of reference. I don't use the tip of the frog though. If I've got the heels on the plane then the toe follows.

Tom said...

One Red Horse - I'll take a look at that site. Thank you.

June - That's interesting. So you have a picture in your mind of the angle of the foot and you trim to that? I definitely know how I want the foot to look, but I wouldn't know if it is safe to say all horses feet should look the same. The point of the frog gives me a definite reference point at the front of the foot.

June said...

I'm trimming parallel to the live sole plane. I agree, not all horses feet will look the same. For sure, my lot don't all look the same. It is reasonably easy to see if you've left the toe too high relative to the heels when the foot is on the floor or vice versa. It looks like the foot is tipping slightly in the wrong direction. Similarly, if you've left a corner too high, that's pretty easy to see when the foot is on the ground too. And if you've left one heel too high you'll get the front feet turning towards the high heel and the hind feet tending to turn away from the high heel.

Tom said...

June - I never understood how to work out 'the live sole plane'. That's why I'm relieved to have stumbled across the point of the frog. Any three points are on a flat plane so that gives me the picture to work to.

June said...

The live sole plane is pretty easy to find. You just use your knife to dig away a tiny bit of any false sole at the outside edge of both quarters. That gets you down to live sole. At that point it is easy to visualise the live sole plane. So, you start with the heels and rasp parallel to the live sole plane until you are a credit card above where a healthy frog would be. If you haven't got a healthy frog then you have to guess where it should be. Then just rasp parallel to the live sole plane keeping in line with the heels. The point of the frog isn't necessarily a good guide because it can move and drop with things like laminitis. I was looking at one today and the tip of his frog is quite proud of the sole and the grooves either side are very shallow. Another has the tip well embedded into the sole with reasonably deep grooves either side of the frog. There is too much variation in the frog to use it as a guide and it doesn't correlate to the internal structures whereas the live sole does. Or at least, according to those who have done lots of disections, it doesn't correlate to the internal structures. I've only seen a couple of disections so I'm no expert!