Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Great Trim of 2011 - Part 1

Part 1 is the before, and part 2 will be the after...

If you had told me a year ago that Lilly would now be barefoot and I'd be trimming her hooves, I would have laughed hysterically! Then I would have said something silly like, "she can't go barefoot... duh!" In fact, I probably would have had a similar reaction as Lilly did today when I told her I'd be trimming her hooves this week:

Um, you can't be serious! You do know I'm a princess, right? Not just anyone can trim my hooves!
I went to the barn today to take some pictures of her hooves. I want to study them, compare them to other hoof pictures I have, decide what I need to do for her trim, and also solicit opinions from all of you, along with my trimmer. I'm not as nervous about it as I was when I first thought about doing the trimming myself, but I'm still worried a bit because her hooves aren't exactly "easy keepers." The last thing I want to do is make her sore.

She's had quite a bit of growth since her last trim. Tomorrow will be 7 weeks and she grew more hoof this time than she did in the 7 weeks prior to this trim.

Left Front Hoof:

Right Front Hoof:

When I look at her hooves as a "trimmer", I like to look at each part of the hoof and evaluate it by itself first. I ask myself how each piece looks overall, and then how does it work with the rest of her hoof? What do I need to do with each piece to make this a properly functioning hoof... I usually start with her heels (because I'm obsessed with them and I think they require the most care), then move on from there. She has a fair amount of heel that needs to come off, and I would take them down to where they're slightly lower than her frog. I try to keep in mind that the goal is to encourage her to use the structures on the back of her hoof rather than her toes, so I don't want her to be walking around on hoof wall, but I also don't want her too short because she's still in the process of transitioning and all those structures are still developing. I want to give her a nice heel buttress platform so she's bearing weight on the buttress and the frog. Think heel first, Lilly!

Looking at her bars, I would definitely trim them. From what I understand, the bar corium ends midpoint down the frog, so any bar past that area is considered overgrowth. The bars help make up the nice buttress platform I'm trying to achieve, so they need to be trimmed down to sole level too. I would also clean out the collateral groove a bit, mostly near the back of the hoof.

It's hard to see in the pictures, but she has a pretty good toe callus going on. I wouldn't touch the toe callus, nor would I touch the sole of the hoof except to level off any high spots that could cause pressure points. I wouldn't touch the frog either, unless it was flaking off as it did last time. It looks pretty good to me. 

She has some hoof wall separation going on, mostly on the medial side of her left front, so I would definitely do some rasping to remove as much of the flare as possible, and also help shape the hoof.  After rounding the toe, I'd call it a day!  My trimmer might suggest otherwise, but I'm not sure I feel comfortable backing up her toe.  I think her toes are still a bit long, but I'm not sure how much more needs to come off, and I worry about taking off too much.

The hind hooves aren't nearly as complicated. Usually all it takes back there is a rasp here and there, along with some bar trimming, so I only took a couple pictures of those to show.

Hind Hooves:

Left rear hoof...

Right rear hoof...
I only have a hoof knife and a rasp (thanks again, Spazfilly!), so those are the tools I'll be working with. I'm skeered of nippers and I ain't afraid to admit it! I should be able to do everything with my rasp and hoof knife, but maybe eventually I'll buy a pair of nippers.

Maybe I'm seeing things, but I think the casts distorted her hooves a bit. If you look at the areas I circled on her hooves in these pictures, you can see the "dent" that I think showed up after the casts came off. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but I'm curious about opinions on that as well.

Left front hoof...
Right front hoof...
I think it's most noticeable on her left hoof, but I see something similar on the right hoof as well.

And in other news, does it look like she's lost any weight since going on her diet? She's on 24/7 turnout, getting 2 flakes of hay twice per day (about 18 lbs), a vitamin supplement, MSM, and Pro Balance, which is a high potency probiotic supplement. If I'm there during the day I'll sneak her an extra flake of hay too.

Nom, nom, nom...
I'm using the hay net to hopefully help with her diarrhea. Slowing her down and allowing her to have food throughout the day seems to minimize the amount of icky that drips down her hind legs.

I'm looking forward to any and all comments!!


  1. OMG, those are super photos. You're putting my slightly off kilter sole-only shots to SHAME, woman!

    Her feet look so much better. She's got a long way to go and I know you know that, but they look so much healthier.

    I am not good at the mediolateral balance thing. Nic has one opinion, the "make the hoof symmetrical" people have another, and I honestly cannot recommend one over the other - I don't feel like I understand the hoof/leg anatomy well enough. With that said, she's got some mediolateral imbalances!

    Heels: I wouldn't go by the frog. My trim style is to take the heels down to live sole, or just a skosh above. You may need a knife or a pointy hoof pick to scrape out the dead stuff in the buttresses til you can find it, but you live in such a moist area it's probably not gonna be a thing.

    Bars: Yup, trim them. Good luck, I find they're harder (for me, physically) to deal with than the walls are!

    I trim all the walls to just above live sole. Backing up the toe to the water line is very unlikely to hurt Lilly, IMO. What I mean is trim the toe wall however short you want, then put her hoof on a stand (or hold it up, whatever) and rasp straight down toward the ground at the toe. You will get off the normal wispy bits of hoof shaving. When you get to the white line, you can tell because the shavings look different and kinda stick to the wall instead of flaking off and drifting down. Stop there. That's what I do when I say I "roll the toes back." What that does is change her breakover just a bit, so her hoof goes forward a little earlier in the step, so it has a little more time to flip all the way forward in midair and land heel-first. That's why "rolling the toe" helps encourage a heel-first landing.

    As always, I'm no expert. Do what you think is best! No hard feelings if you do something totally different. :D

  2. I'm gonna send you an email, hold on...

  3. Funder, thank you for your comment! And I'm glad you like the pictures... I've been trying to perfect the art of "hoof picture taking" but it isn't easy. Lilly cracks me up, though, because I've taken so many that now she knows exactly where to put her feet and she stands like a statue. :)

    I love looking back at her hoof pictures from August. They have changed SO much since then, and like you said, we have a ways to go, but there is definite progress being made.

    Regarding the mediolateral imbalances, I'm assuming you're referring to the heel pictures I took from behind? They always look really bad, but in the x-rays we took, everything looks good, which is weird. I think that's just the way Lilly stands, or has learned to stand, or something. I should take a farther away picture... it's definitely interesting.

    Yeah, I think my "slightly below the frog" idea was wrong. I guess the heels should be even with the frog, and not lower than the live sole. Oh, and I tried to trim the bars a bit yesterday, and WOW! They were rock hard... I was starting to wonder if my knife was dull!

    From watching my trimmer last time I know exactly what you mean about the water line and the flakes. As soon as I read that I could picture it in my mind. I don't have a hoof stand, but I think my barn owner does... it might be time for me to invest in some hoof trimming tools, though, so I can make my life as easy as possible.

    Thanks again for your comment!! The more information, the better! :)

  4. Yup, the heel pics are exactly what I'm talking about. Situations like that, where the sole level looks so different from the leg itself, they make me realize how much I still have to learn.

    Your knife probably is dull! They get dull very fast. I sharpen mine with a Spyderco ceramic sharpener and a kitchen knife steel, but I think you're supposed to use a chain saw sharpening steel thing. I just never can remember to buy one. But you're a resourceful Marine, I'm sure you'll figure something out! ;)

    If you don't have $100 to drop on a hoof stand, you can trim without one. I face forward in a crouch and pick up her right hoof with my left hand and pull it forward, then prop it on my knee. I hold it steady with my left and trim with my right. If you miss you'll rasp through your jeans - I've never hit skin but I've definitely made new holes in my worst jeans. This is FAR from ideal, but it works in a pinch, and it's actually easier than trying to roll the toe from underneath the horse.

  5. What a change. I think you are going to enjoy working on Lilly's feet. It's very liberating to know when you see a high spot or an imbalance that you can just grab a tool and fix it.

    I have the bare minimum for trimming myself. Quality tools is what makes the job easier, so when you start investing (and I know you will ;-) remember, the cost up front may be more, but pays for itself over and over in the long run.

    All nippers are not equal. Most often what you find in the local stores are the cheaper versions and can make trimming a real PITA. Talk to your trimmer about nippers and really look at the blades on hers. Avoid buying the cheaper sets that has the thick blade with a beveled edge. You will always fight with trying to complete the nip and they cannot be sharpened. Look for a thin blade that barely thickens and has heat-treated jaws. They are much easier to work with and stay sharp longer.

    If you chose not to invest in an expensive hoof stand..invest in an apron. They are made from cheap, heavy pig suede and the pockets on the sides keep your picks and knife handy. They will save many a pair of pants (as Funder indicated...you will inevitably rasp your knee), protect your knee cap a little bit and gives a firmer grip for the hoof.

    If you know anyone who welds, a hoof stand can be made very inexpensively. Mine is nothing more than a disk blade (turned upside down) with a piece of pipe welded in the center hole and another brace piece welded to the side. Just measure your farrier's stand for height of the center pole. Not as fancy as what can be bought, but effective and cheap. Your back will thank you for having one.

    As your comfort level grows with working on Lilly's feet, you will find that having the right tools will make the job a breeze.

  6. Thanks again for the email, Smaz!

    Funder, my knife is nearly brand new... maybe it wasn't sharp to begin with? Hmm... I'll have to come up with something or go buy a sharpening tool of some kind.

    I was wondering about trimming sans hoof stand too... I can definitely see rasping my knee, though! I already sliced my finger with my hoof knife, so starting out will probably be detrimental to my health!

    Cowgirl, I think I'm going to stick to the bare minimum too. I only want to have what I'm going to use, and quality tools is definitely what I'm after. There are just SO MANY different kinds of everything... it's mind boggling, so thanks for the nipper tips!

    An apron is definitely on my list. I was trying to find ones specifically made for women, but I wasn't having any luck.

  7. Oh, I forgot to mention...I have had horses get those 'dents' as well and I have never casted, so I kinda doubt that is what caused it. Maybe someone else knows exactly what does, but I have noticed them on horses whose feet I have had to do a lot of work on to get right. Particularly horses who were previously weak in the heel area. Don't quote me on this...but I think it is a sign that the heel area is strengthening and bulking up. *I* don't think they are anything to worry about at this point, but if you notice that they aren't growing out as the hoof continues to transition, you might ask your farrier.

  8. in2paints, Taran has that dent in his heel too, from when hospital plates were put on. Plus it seems like that might be too long ago to be from the hoof cast - maybe that's the line where her shoes came off?

    I think everyone has already said what I would WRT trimming her feet. I'd be careful as to how much heel you take down, 'cause it may just be more that her heel bulb needs to beef up. Maybe a week's worth of handwalking on the road and see if that helps?

    Also, for your tools. I bought a heavy-duty pair of gloves ($10 at home depot, they seem to have ladies' sizes that are not pink), and I use an 8x8 concrete block (also at home depot) for my hoof stand. It actually works pretty well, although you do have to balance the foot over a corner, and you'll have to move it a few times so you can get all around. Definitely ghetto, but heck, a lot cheaper than a hoof stand!

  9. I'm hoping the "dents" are in fact just the new hoof vs old hoof... because if it is, I'm pretty happy about that! :)

    Thanks for all the tool tips, too. I'm making myself a list and it keeps getting longer and longer.