Barefoot Trimming-what it's all about
I was asked to start a thread just covering the concept of barefoot trimming vs. regular trims. So here 'tis!
First, a regular trim is one that generally preps the foot for a shoe. The sole is pared out to the live horn, the frog trimmed away so it's nice and tidy. The walls are nipped flat and maybe rasped a little to even out the nipper marks. This is all done from the bottom, or ground surface of the hoof. About the only modification I see from farriers for their "pasture trim" where they don't plan to shoe, is some guys will leave the sole more intact, or will leave a taller wall so the sole won't contact the ground, essentially making a shoe out of the wall. Their goal is to keep the sole from touching the ground to avoid tenderness. Usually the hoof is trimmed to a pre-determined angle of 45-55 degrees, depending on the horse's career. Most of these trims start to flare, chip and crack pretty quickly and the soles bruise quite easily. Some horses are never bothered at all by this trim.
Most farriers are driven to "straighten" out the legs if they aren't perfectly straight and attempt to make the leg appear perfect. This can strain tendons and bones and cause lameness over time.
For a barefoot, natural trim (whatever you choose to call it), the hoof is trimmed in an effort to mimic the way hooves wear naturally if the horse gets enough exercise to balance wear with growth. Domestic horses don't get that much exercise, so the trimming becomes necessary.
The trim is basically leaving the sole intact to cushion the coffin bone. The dead material either gets abraded away with exercise, naturally or is packed down into a callous, toughening the foot. The frog is barely trimmed, if at all, just to remove flaps that can harbor bacteria and breed thrush. The wall is trimmed to just above sole level (about 1/8- 1/4 inch high) to allow the sole to contact the ground some. The walls are also beveled, or rolled at about a 45 degree (average, depends on the horse) to ease breakover. This is usually finished from the top, with the hoof on the stand.The hoof is NOT trimmed to a specific angle, but trimmed to what the foot indicates it needs. (it would take a long time to explain how to determine what the foot is indicating, so I'll skip that), but they usually fall into the "ideal" angles naturally..
The trim is considered balanced when the horse lands comfortably flat footed or heel first, with no extreme deviations of the limb in flight, and no effort is made to force the leg into perfect straightness if the animal is mature. A crooked leg shouldn't be trimmed straight, just as a straight leg shouldn't be trimmed crooked. Barefoot trims can elimintate chipping, flaring and cracking, if kept on the same 6-8 week schedule. Tenderness is not there ( but a transition period may be in order if the horse has been shod for a long time-all the sole that's been pared out has to grow back to eliminate tenderness).
I was asked to post pics to show the differences, but I have a website up for that purpose already. I don't have any of my own pics of "pasture" trims because I don't do those anymore. Feel free to look on my website for pics of natural trims. There is a links page as well to find other barefoot sites. If anyone wants to ask specific questions, don't hesitate.
I hope this satisfies the request for this thread.
So why do white hooves seem to crack and chip easier then black hooves. My little mare Chloe has two white hooves (one on front, on eon back) and the front one seems to chip and crack really easy unless we throw shoes on the front. I use hoof cream but it doesnt seem to matter. I heard of the natual way about a month or two ago from some one and it always interested me.
Actually, there is no difference in the quality of white vs dark hooves. The white just shows the damage much more vividly.
Trust me, in the summer, all the hooves get hard as nails around here, white or black and in the winter, they all soften up as it stays damp.
The only difference is genetics in each horse, not hoof. There can be soft black hooves and hard white ones.
I think a good example of this is hooves that are multi colored. Appaloosas esp. since they have striped hooves. They don't just chip where the light stripes are, and they don't split where the black meets white. Im pretty sure if there was a difference in the quality from color, the striped/multicolored hooves would split right at the juncture of the two colors. It would be like sewing heavy leather onto soft cloth. The soft cloth would rip at the stitches, while the leather remained intact. Yet, I don't ever see a hoof do this.
I DO see a difference from horse to horse, kept at the same barn, same feed program, same hoof color. It also can depend on the shoe factor. I've seen horses have different quality of horn in fronts vs hinds, and the only difference being that the fronts were always shod from an early age, and the hinds weren't. I have noticed a difference in hoof quality, overall in horses that were shod consistently from an early age (2yrs-3yrs old) vs ones that didn't have the first set of shoes until after maturity. Not only do they tend to have thinner walls, but narrower feet in general. My advice on that is if you feel that shoes are necessary, please wait as long as you can to start on a young horse.
From an earlier conversation we had I know that you are familiar with the terrain in my neck of the woods. I am the only person that I know of that barefoot trims our horses (besides our farrier :P )
Since we are all gravel roads and rocky soil here I was wondering if barefoot was really the best way to go. The 6 acre pasture the horses are in has knee high grass and a whole heard of baseball size rocks... we clean out rocks out all the time it would be impossible to get them all. Dumas has gotten a stone bruise and is doing really well now. Would shoes have prevented this? The horses seem to have just wonderful feet and they haven't had shoes on for over 2 years. I am scheduled for my 2nd barefoot trim the 3rd of july. Should I just keep at it? Will their feet improve with time?
We are going against the norm here and I am qustioning it. Thanks for any info and advice!
Don't apologize for questioning anything. You are just wanting to do what's right for your horse. It's smart to question new things and find out all you can!
Being barefoot in AR- perfectly doable. In fact, I don't think I would have "bought into that barefoot thing" if I wasn't from there. First let me answer your question, then I'll babble on about the other.
Shoes are not that thick. Sometimes they are a false sense of securtiy of protection.They raise the hoof about 1/4 in off the ground, with a big open section in the middle and back (unless you are using bar shoes or pads, but I digress) . The rocks you are going over are larger than 1/4 inch gravel. It might make the rock seem 1/4in smaller, but a 1 1/2 inch rock can still jab into the sole and can cause a bruise. So if your farrier cleaned out the sole (to poperly fit and secure that shoe on the hoof) the sole doesn't even have it's own usual callous to protect it. Many horses lose some circulation in the hooves with shoes, so they feel numb to some of that, even if it 's bruised. Blessing in that they may not feel it, but curse in that they can do some damage and not know it, too. They can come down harder on a stone because they don't have the same sensitivity in the foot to feel where it's landing..
A bare hoof, when it's toughened up to not having shoes on, can still bruise, but is less likely to because it's calloused and thickened on the bottom. It heals faster, (thanks to better circulation) and most of the time they will FEEL the rock before they put all the weight onto it and adjust their step accordingly. Have you ever stepped on something in your house (ahem..kids toys) and "gimped" before you bruised your foot? You felt it, you altered your step to protect yourself, and no damage was done to your foot.
Shoes can't stop all the bruises. A lot of horses that are coming out of shoes will be more sensitive at first because they don't have the callousing to protect it, plus they can feel more sensations. The improved circulation will allow a previously constricted foot to start healing, and this is why some horses with a history of chronic problems go through a cycle of abscessing coming out of shoes but end up healthier than with their corrective shoes.
Don't give up after just one trim and one stone bruise. Your horse could have bruised with a shoe or not.
Now, for my babble. I grew up in your area. Had always shod our horses, and I wasn't allowed to ride in the spring until the farrier came (we always pulled them in winter). My second job ever was working for my farrier. I started colts for him (and apprenticed for shoeing with him). He wouldn't shoe the colts we started. Said they didn't need it unless we were going to trail ride all day every day, until they were adults (I'm not sure now why he thought they suddenly needed shoes at 5, but whatever) . The pen, arena and pastures we rode them in were rocky as heck. I was scared of falling off and busting myself on a rock, and these colts never missed a lick. These were just QH, not a notably tough footed breed.
I noticed that when we pulled shoes in the winter, our horses had no trouble running on the rocks in the pasture for fun. Mom had told me that was different than carrying a rider, and I had no reason to question that.
But, as I got my own colts, and started them out barefoot, I decided to wait until they "needed" shoes to put them on. When they wore too short or got sore, that's when I planned to shoe them. Well, they never wore off too short and never got sore. And I'm talking about putting lots of miles on them. Gravel roads, the buffalo river trails..took them on the Wagon Train from Harrsion to Springdale and made it the whole way on the same horse barefoot. Still , never needed shoes, and I wasn't doing a special "barefoot trim" either. I just barely rolled the toes to stop chipping. The point being, that they adjusted just fine in one of the rockiest places you can find. Later, I'd swap for older, shod horses, and pull them for the winter, and same theory, ride until they needed the shoes. Well, after a winter off, they never seemed to need shoes again. I think if I'd pulled them mid-riding season, that the results wouldn't have been as postitive. They would have been soft from the shoes and tender, but having a few months to toughen on their own, they were ready for riding by spring.
Later on is when I found out about a better syle of trim, and what I do now is lot better than what I did then. I still learn new things all the time. But, if a person sticks with it, and keeps their horse on a regular schedule, I've not seen a horse yet that couldn't adjust to being barefoot where they lived.
When will barefoot NOT work? Well, assuming they can go longer between trims (waiting until there's already damage is setting you up for frustration). And expecting a horse to perform outside his usual environment. You can't let a horse live in a soft bedded stall all the time and expect him to be tough enough to go 12 miles on a rocky trail. His feet, and his body, aren't in condition for it. Their feet adjust their growth to the exercise and footing they live on. You want a horse that can go anywhere?..let him live on rocks. He can ALWAYS go on softer footing. But..that' s why they make boots For that occasional ride that will be on rougher footing. It's just an extra protection and peace of mind. Not everyone has time to ride their horse 3 hours on giant rocks to condition them (or you can't find the rock in your area) every day.You can still ride barefoot on his normal terrain and condtion the rest of his body, just use boots for that exceptional terrain. (boots outlast metal shoes and you can remove them at the end of the ride, where as if you get shoes for that one ride a year, you set your horse back for six weeks and he's apt to be more tender when you pull them back off) The other time barefoot won't work? If you are only doing it to save money. That' s not any reason to pick a farrier or trimmer. Pick a qualified individual. If they charge more, but do quality work, you will spend less in vet bills and down time than if you save a buck with cheap trims. If you can't find a good, TRAINED barefoot trimmer, you are probably better off finding a top farrier and staying with shoes.
I have a question! *raises hand*
my guys are barefoot. I'm going to presume that the last farrier was NOT a barefoot trimmer and just trimmed them like they were getting prepped for a shoe, and no shoe was put on.
Gem is going to go back into work, but he needs a trim badly so we're using the barn owner's farrier for now. I'm not sure if Tom wants to do barefoot trimming with him, but i'll suggest it.
I would like to do barefoot trimmings with Vega. She's never had shoes (except when she accidentally got shoes on for a week) and I like to keep it that way. I only ride her for pleasure, the only trails we are going to be doing is on the property.
Now that we are at a different place and can get any farrier we want, should i go ahead and get a barefoot trimmer? Is there a list of trained barefoot trimmers (so i know i'm not going to get someone who claims they know it when they don't)
I've never had to hire a farrier before, what type of questions should i ask them? Would you know them if i gave you their names? I'm in New Jersey.
Thanks a bunch in advance!
Wow very interesting explanations, BFH! ;)
I would recommend hiring a barefoot trimmer instead of a farrier. Some farriers are open minded enough to give it a try, but just lack the training and it's really hard for them to resist a little sole paring here and there or don't bevel the walls enough. It's easy for them to resort to shoeing instead of working through any glitches, as well. They just sort of think differently. If your horses are already without shoes, the trim can only make them feel better. No transition period to worry about, so it will be super easy for you.
When hiring either a trimmer or farrier, ask them what experience (how long, where) they have. Where did they get their training? Are they certified?( Being certified can sometimes not mean much, unfortunately, and I've seen some talented ones that never went to school for it.) However, it's a rare person that can just pick up some nippers and do a quality job. If the training didn't come from a reputable school, there should be some hands on training from another farrier/trainer (apprentice) . I don't mean casual "training" where they watched their farrier once, either. A clinic here and there is helpful, but there should be some consistent guidance in there. Either way, they should be honest about their experience, or lack thereof.
I personally think the best barefoot trimmers have a background in shoeing and/or vetrinary background.They know what DOESN'T work and why, and really know anatomy.
Word of mouth will give you the best feel for the person in question. Just remember, nobody is perfect and there is likely to be SOMEONE out there that didn't like the trim or the person. But if the majority of the feedback is postitive, then procede.
Ask for references and actually check them. Find out how long the trimmer has worked on these other horses, how the owner found this individual, what they like and don't. How is the trimmer in handling the horses? Is he/she patient and gentle, but firm? Or too rough and rowdy?More than just a trim, you need someone you agree with in dealing with your horse. If you find the trimmer/farrier by referral, then they are worth checking out. People don't recommend farriers/trimmers they have lukewarm feelings about usually. I find I get LOADS more requests for business from word of mouth than any ad I ever put up.
Ask for the trim(and shoe if it's a farrier) price, of course, per horse. Find out if there is a farm fee (gas charge, trip charge, same thing, different name) and if that's affordable for you. Some will give a multi horse discount or waive the gas charge if there are enough horses to make it worth their trip. Don't be afraid to ask for a consultation. Look at is as a paid interview. Trust me. You'll be happier if you pay a gas charge to talk to this person, have them handle your horse and tell you how they would trim the horse before they ever cut anything. You can get that "gut feeling" and decide if you really want to hire them. If nothing else, you may have made a backup contact for emergencies (like when your trimmer gets pregnant *ahem* :shock: ) .
Finding a trimmer on a list is a good place to start. No, I personally don't know anybody in your area. Sorry.Ask around at shows or events if you see a barefoot horse, ask the owner who does the work. Follow the basics of checking references and background and you are set to give them a whirl.
A side note for trimmers, ask them if they are familiar with fitting boots for their clients or not. That should be part of their experience-ability to get you in boots you will be happy with,if needed or tell you it's NOT needed. It can be a frustrating process. Just be wary of someone that only sells a certain brand for everything. I personally try to use the different styles and brands and don't have contract with a company, so I'm free to recommend whatever I think is best per horse/situation.
Thanks so much Barefoothooves!
The owner of the barn has her horses barefoot right now, except for a one horse i believe.. he has bar shoes on the front.
And she is an animal cruelty agent (she had a baby so she's only working part time) I'll ask her about it, and if any of the names pop up. I'll also e-mail a few people and ask them some questions.
I like the idea of the paid interview. I'd feel much better meeting the person and getting an idea of what has to be done BEFORE anything happens.
Tom doesn't seem to like the idea, but i think if i print out some info and show it to him and when he's not at work it might work out a lot better. But it's something i definitely want to do for Vega. She just got trimmed on the 4th i believe and before we moved her, they were starting to crack! :shock:
Now that she's in the pasture and has dirt and stuff, they seem to be going away. I'll take pictures of her hooves tomorrow and keep like a picture album of them.
Thanks so much for the info! It's really reassured me! :D
Just wondering what you think about riding boots (I mean, horse boots, not human boots, of course :) )? Any brands preference?
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