Thursday, January 8, 2009

Trimming hooves

I have been reading about trimming hooves for a few months now. Barefoot for Soundness and Ironfree Hoof are both great sites. I have had Boomer trimmed three times since I got him. He seems to do best with a bit longer trim every 6-8 weeks. He develops flares in the same places- inner heels on front and back and outer heels on front if they grow out too long. I have learned about the basic mechanics of the hoof and one thing I have learned is that flaring is caused by the hoof wall contacting the ground and bearing weight. To prevent this weight bearing contact, you should give the horse a 'mustang roll'. Esentially the process is this, or a variation of this, depending on who you ask: Start by filing the bottom most edge of the flare perpendicular ot the ground. This is done with the hoof stretched out in front, resting on my knee/hand. Do not file the whole flare off or this can weaken the hoof wall. This step keeps the flare from contacting the ground as the hoof grows out. Next, hold the (well cleaned) hoof like you are picking it out. You can put it between your knees or rest it on your knee. Now, rasp the hoof wall at a 45* angle from the sole of the hoof. Start at the toe and rasp around to the bars. Essentially, you rasp the wall down until you get to the white line, which seperates the wall from the sole. Now, rasp straight across the heels. Leave them a bit longer than the heel area on the sole. Trimming the heels too short can cause soreness when on gravel, which Boomer has had difficulty with. Now, turn the hoof back over so it is in front again and use the fine side of the rasp to round the angle you made earlier. This is the mustang roll and it prevents more flaring from occuring due to hoof wall bearing weight.

I like to do each step to each hoof before I move on to the next step so that he will be balanced should I need to quit before I am done. When I was finishing up the back feet, boy was I ready to be done! My arms were so sore! The left one especially at the tricep and forearm!

I was so proud of Boomer. I put the rope around his neck and he stood there calmly the whole time. He pulled back when I had his hoof between my knees, but was fine if I held it any other way. He was very interested in the rasp and nibbled on it a bit! He liked rubbing his lips over the fine side of the rasp!

I plan to do a check up trim every four weeks or so. I didn't take the hooves down as much as a professional would have. I also was not sure if my 45* angle was quite 45*. I did feel like I did a pretty good job, though, I wouldn't pay me to trim someone elses horse!

My hope is to keep a barefoot horse who has strong hooves and can do most trails without hoof protection. Ideally, he would not need any protection ever. But, he lives in a grass pasture and has limited access to gravel. So, the fact is that he will never develop a truely hard hoof in his current living situation where he encounters gravel twice a week in 50 foot intervals. I would like to try riding as many Oklahoma trails as possible without boots to gauge his progress in hoof hardness and learn what surfaces he can tolerate over what distances. When he does need protection I plan on using Renegade Hoof Boots. They, like Easy Boots, are expensive($169/pair) and useful. Renegades are easier to put on than EasyBoots, they attach lower than the coronary band which can keep rubs from occuring, they have open backs which allows water and debris to exit, and seem to last about 500 miles, and they come in cool colors! Though, after doing the math, they really aren't that expensive. Renegades are maybe $20 more than easyboots per pair. As for shoes, to shoe a horse for 10 rides (500 miles) it would be about $50-$70 per ride making a total cost of $500-$700! I would say that $340 over the course of a year or two would be a really worthy investment over putting metal shoes on my horse at a huge expense! Plus, I like knowing that I can be responsible for my horses feet. I don't want to depend of a farrier to care for my horses health!

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