Trimming your our horse's hooves.

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Trimming your our horse's hooves.

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    05-28-2012, 10:42 PM
Trimming your our horse's hooves.

I was wondering if it is possible to learn and/or to buy tools to trim your own horses hooves itstead of have the farrier come every 6 or so weeks to do it. I know that if something was really wrong I would call the farrier, but I just mean for regular trimmings.
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    05-29-2012, 03:21 AM
Yes, of course & many do it. Many trimmers also started out that way - trimming our own. I actually think it's an important skill for owners to have, regardless of whether they want to take on the job themselves or not. Having the knowledge will give you a much better idea what's happening & what's needed with your horse's feet in any situation, including having a bit of an idea whether your 'expert' of choice is any good or not. Having the skill to do the job ensures that you can perform 'first aid' if your farrier is unavailable or such.

I advise you learn the theory & principles behind hoof care & healthy hooves first & foremost. I believe there are no hard & fast 'rules' in trimming, only principles & guidelines, so you need to understand 'what lies beneath' in order to know the whats, whens, whys & why nots.

I would also strongly advise at least a few hands on lessons &/or a workshop at least, before you attempt to do the job yourself. Understanding the theory is important, but it won't give you an 'eye' for what you're doing or help you use your tools most effectively.

After doing all that, you're ready to go.... BUT I would still keep your farrier/trimmer in your 'back pocket' and perhaps the first couple of trims you do, pay him to come supervise, & then still come regularly for a while to check on your work and keep you on the right track. I personally like to allow the owner to do the interim 'brush up' trims & keep the regular schedule to begin with, then it just becomes longer between my visits as they get good at it, until they're only calling me occasionally for a check up, or if/when something goes wrong.

Regarding 'something goes wrong', I think that takes a lot more knoweldge & experience than just maintenance trimming, so if your horse has seedy toe, regular abscesses, has foundered, cracks, etc, I think it's really best to keep regular appointments with a good farrier/trimmer, even once you're skilled at maintenance.

Check out my signature links. I think is one great & comprehensive site to learn from and I recommend Pete's DVD set 'Under The Horse' for people to get a good grounding in how to trim and the other factors that are important for hoof health, such as diet & environment.
    05-29-2012, 12:41 PM
Originally Posted by CowboyGirl    
I was wondering if it is possible to learn and/or to buy tools to trim your own horses hooves itstead of have the farrier come every 6 or so weeks to do it. I know that if something was really wrong I would call the farrier, but I just mean for regular trimmings.
Trimming a horse is certainly something that many people are capable of learning. That said, there is a downside to consider.

Professional farriers, for the most part, build their business around steady, repeat customers. Those same farriers will invest hundreds of hours in initial training and thousands of dollars in equipment and inventory. The better ones will continue investing in education, inventory and equipment as their skills, knowledge and customer base grows.

The difficulty with trimming your own is that you may find it difficult to acquire quality farrier service should your horse present needs beyond your ability. The "one-off" type customer falls to the bottom of the priority list as compared to those on a farrier's regular schedule.

Trims are the "bread & butter" for the working farrier. While laborious and less technical than shoeing, trims earn the farrier a higher hourly wage. This net average earnings keeps the total owner cost lower. Without a regular customer base and the value that trimming adds to the annual bottom line, shoeing a horse would be cost prohibitive for most owners that need that service.

Aside from the educational and startup business overhead costs, scheduling is a significant business model difference between the veterinarian and the farrier. The vet operates a bit like the McDonalds drive-thru. Customers usually call on short notice to schedule an appointment and the vet provides service on a first come, first served basis. While some vets are booked for any given day, they often have "slots" available and "sell" those slots as the calls come in. This business model means they have to charge a lot more (as compared to farriers) to sustain their business. Those higher prices offset the down time when the phone isn't ringing. It's also a reason why there are usually fewer vets in a given locale than farriers. The customer base isn't large enough to keep the "drive-thru" busy if there are too many vets. Farriers earn considerably less per hour than the vet (and justifiably so), so they need to know their day is booked well in advance.

Compare it to your own job. How might your situation change if your 8 hour work day suddenly became "ad-hoc". You never know from one day to the next if your boss is going to pay you for any part of that day or if he'll need you at all. If there are gaps in that work day, you're going to need to earn more dollars per hour (or visit) to sustain your business and your livelihood. This is, in part why independent businessmen from most trades appear to get a much higher hourly wage than those working for the private sector. Unlike the public/private employee, that 40 hour paycheck isn't always there. The hourly rate has to reflect that variation in down time.

Farriers are different than most tradesman in this respect due the repeat nature of their business. That 6 to 8 week routine schedule not only best meets the needs of the horse but also keeps professional farriers in business and able to provide service at a cost that most owners can manage. Disrupt that regular schedule and you change the business model. Costs across the board would have to rise and the number of farriers per given area would decrease. Service availability to the "Whenever I need you, I'll call you" type customers becomes sketchy at best and much more expensive.

This is at least one of the problems that professional farriers have with the self-taught trimmer crowd. These folks typically have much less invested in training and business costs yet are cutting in on the higher paying, technically easier part of the total farrier business. The result is less reason for farriers to make that larger investment in the more difficult and costly aspect of providing complete service to horse owners as a reasonable cost. Trims provide the average farrier with about 40% of his annual income. Take that away and guess what happens to the price of the remaining 60% of the work provided and the number of practitioners trained to provide that service.

I once asserted on this website that the barefoot trimmer crowd is a cancer on the trade. This post better explains that phenomena. As the trimmer crowd increases, cutting into the professional farriers "bread and butter", the number of good farriers capable of providing full service must necessarily decrease and prices must rise. However, we really don't see this in most areas. Prices are generally holding steady. What we do see are people entering the field as "full service farriers" that have not made the training and equipment investment because the prices don't warrant that investment. Instead, you end up with the backyard hacks that are just hanging iron. The result is a growth in the "all natural" crowd that can't meet every horses needs and the poorly trained "bucket shoer" that can't earn enough money to make a go of a full time business that pays enough to warrant serious investment in better training. In other words, the quality offering and service availability of the entire trade is diminished.

It's the same business logic that explains why veterinarians have a problem with lay dentists. It's also why so many professional trades require licensing. It's not just to assure minimal competency. It's also to protect and assure the quality and continuing availability of a service.

Here's the best example I can give you.

Let's say your horse comes up lame and needs the services of a professional farrier. You find one, he's normally booked but fortunately has one opening for tomorrow and agrees to meet you in the afternoon. The next morning, one of his long time customers at a large account calls to share that her horse pulled a shoe. She needs that shoe put back on and the horse made ready for a show. The only time the farrier has available for the week is the afternoon slot he promised to you.

Guess who is probably going to get their horse taken care and who is going to be left waiting at the gate? While it may seem unethical and unfair to you, that farrier has to protect his business interests. He knows that you are a "drive-up" client that he may or may not ever hear from again. At best, he might call you and try to get out at the end of the day. At worst, he just won't show up or even bother calling.

While just about anyone can learn the basics of trimming their own horse, it's important to factor in long term service needs, availability, quality and cost. Should your service needs exceed your skill, finding a competent, professional farrier may prove a very frustrating and very expensive experience. That presumes you can find a competent farrier willing to come out at all.

One of the more common adages shared among farriers and vets (albeit seldom heard by customers) is... "it's not my job to subsidize your hobby". While some customers may take offense to such a notion, make no mistake, horses are a luxury, an expensive hobby and frankly, not for everyone.

It is both fair and reasonable to ask, if saving a few hundred bucks per year is financially so important to your ability to manage the needs of a horse, should you really be owning one at all?

If an owner finds themselves choosing between paying the farrier bill and buying groceries, the answer is a definitive no.

kitten_Val, NdAppy, Evansk and 4 others like this.
    05-29-2012, 07:17 PM
I love having a good vet and a good farrier for my horses. Knowing I can depend on them means a lot. However, I am thinking that I need to learn how to maintain the trim in between visits. My farrier comes every five weeks or so, but my Percheron has a HUGE crack in his hind hoof that he had when we first bought him some seven or eight years ago. His previous owner said he had had the crack as long as she owned him (four years) and her farrier told her he would always have it.

At this point, I think the crack is finally growing out, but then, it splits up again. My farrier puts a "mustang roll" on his toe to ease the pressure on the toe, but after five weeks, perhaps it just gets too long. I don't want to mess anything up, and his hooves are hard as iron, but if I got a grinder and learned how to use it, maybe we could get rid of this cursed crack.
    05-29-2012, 08:50 PM
Captain, assuming the horse is being trimmed appropriately to deal with the crack, possibly it's infection that's not being treated effectively, which can be eating away at healthy tissue as fast as your horse can grow it, perpetuating the crack.
    05-30-2012, 12:47 AM
Hmmm, so, my farrier is an advocate of Jamie Jackson and Pete Ramsey, and only does trims. I think he actually took some sort of oath not to use shoes, and if he does he gets booted out of his professional organization.

Things he has recommended for healing this crack are apple cider vinegar and water mixed 50/50 and applied to the hoof, and something called "ToDay" which is a treatment for mastitis, I think, in cows. It comes in small tubes, and I shoot it into the crack. It is pricy, but one tube does a hoof twice for two days. At one point I was also mixing Bacitracine and tea tree oil and applying it to his hoof crack.

He recently punctured the bulb of his hoof, so I've been soaking it in Epsom salts, apple cider vinegar and water twice a day and then applying the ToDay. His turnout is soft and fairly wet, and I just ordered some Keratex Hoof Hardener and a medicine boot.

What do you guys think of this? Any suggestions or advice?
    05-30-2012, 01:12 AM
Green Broke
I'm one of those people who trims her own horses. I think it's a good thing to learn, but honestly I think most folks would find it too much work. It's well worth the money you pay a trimmer to do it for you.
I started trimming my own, because I couldn't find a decent trimmer after my normal trimmer was hurt and retired.
I now have a new regular barefoot trimmer. One of the few who have actually been to school for it. I'm fortunate because there are 2 or 3 horses in our area he does, and he will usually work me in when he's out here. He is really knows his stuff, and I just feel more comfortable having him look at my horses every few months.
    05-30-2012, 03:49 AM
Originally Posted by Captain Evil    
Things he has recommended for healing this crack are apple cider vinegar and water mixed 50/50 and applied to the hoof, and something called "ToDay" which is a treatment for mastitis, I think, in cows. It comes in small tubes, and I shoot it into the crack. It is pricy, but one tube does a hoof twice for two days. At one point I was also mixing Bacitracine and tea tree oil and applying it to his hoof crack.
Yeah, it seems there are a wide range of bugs that cause 'seedy toe' and thrush, and there doesn't appear to be anything short of strong chemicals that is an across the board effective treatment. ACV & such can be very effective sometimes & useless at others IME. I've heard good reports about the effectiveness of the mastitis ointment, but haven't tried it, having found cheaper options effective generally. Don't know what the Bacitracine is but t-tree is one thing I've found to be pretty broad spectrum. IMO heavy chemicals can be OK when necessary too, so long as they're not getting onto live tissue.

Without seeing & exploring the crack though, it's impossible to say whether topical applications of anything would be effective enough, as the infection can be deep & enclosed. But I'd guess if you've been treating this way for more than a few months without obvious improvement, (tho wet environs don't help matters either) I'm guessing it's not effective enough. I would be soaking the foot regularly, in something like strong salt & copper, and then applying the topical, and it may also need resecting(IMO often does). If the crack/resect goes up high, I'd also consider bracing across the crack.

His turnout is soft and fairly wet, and I just ordered some Keratex Hoof Hardener and a medicine boot.
I presume the 'medecine boot' is a soaking boot? That should help you treat it more effectively. I don't do the Keratex, but if possible, try to give him a bit of dry ground at least, such as putting gravel down in his hangout areas or such.
    05-30-2012, 10:24 AM
I will try and get some pictures of his hooves using the techniques outlines in the link you guys provided.

Ahab has some dry areas, and two dry 12x12 stalls that are always open. His turnout is pretty crappy - mostly woods - but now I see posts about Pasture Paradise, and I think I could make a pretty good area for him using those ideas. I'm pretty excited about it, but I will need to gather some $$$$ for footing and a bit of drainage.

I'm not sure, but I think I see some solid hoof wall behind part of his crack. I need to get some close ups posted to see what people can make of it.

Oh, and yes, the boot is a soaking boot.
    05-30-2012, 12:47 PM
Originally Posted by Captain Evil    
What do you guys think of this? Any suggestions or advice?
What do I think?

I think your "farrier" isn't a farrier at all. He's a "trimmer" with the training equivalent of a farrier that dropped out of school in the first month.

You can apply tea tree oil, mastitis ointment and apple cider til the proverbial cows come home. The best you'll get is a nice clean, bug free, healthy... crack.

Vertical cracks in the equine hoof wall are almost always caused by mechanical imbalance and subsequent distortion of the hoof capsule. Exceptions may include chronic abscess and trauma.

You can "mustang roll" the hoof every day and, as you've already learned, it probably won't help.

The 'mustang roll' is "trimmer speak" for a simple radius at the distal margin of the hoof wall. That bevel serves to reduce minor damage to the distal wall of a barefoot horse through the trim cycle. Trimmers like to talk as though it's some mystical skill that only they possess.

"Rolling" the wall does reduce mechanical breakover which can reduce stress on the dorsal wall of the front feet which, in turn, can sometimes help to manage a toe crack. In many cases, it simply isn't enough.

Here's the "gotcha" in what you're trimmer is doing and telling you.

Horses don't really "break-over" on the hind feet! They break over at the fronts.

It is more correct to describe the final stage of the hind landing phase as unloading versus breakover. The "mustang roll" has little effect on a hind hoof presenting serious toe or quarter cracks.

Suggestions or advice?

Yes. Find a full service, professional farrier to examine your horse and determine a practical methodology for managing the problem. That may mean the installation of a properly fit set of shoes.

You'll be pleased to learn that professional farriers aren't bound to some silly barefoot marketing "oath" that would limit their ability to meet your horse's needs.

We're flexible that way.

TimberRidgeRanch likes this.

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