Monday, March 5, 2012

Mysterious Bars

Thanks to the weather we've been having lately, I wasn't able to ride my horse again today. I went out to visit her anyway and decided to work on her hooves. I haven't done much with them since the clinic on the 19th, so it's been a little over two weeks.

I've been keeping a close eye on her bars. After learning more about them at the clinic, and reading up on them on my own, I'm convinced they're trying to tell me something. Just what that is, I'm not sure yet, but I intend to find out.

Her bars were adequately trimmed at the clinic on Sunday, February 19th, and then when I finally got around to photographing them the following Tuesday, they looked as though they hadn't been trimmed. So, I trimmed them after I took pictures.

When I looked at her hooves again on that following Friday, there were those bars again! So I grabbed my hoof knives and trimmed them.

This past Thursday I looked at her hooves before I rode and guess who I saw? THE BARS! Again, I grabbed my knives and trimmed.

Today at the barn, this is what I found:

More bars!!
By now I'm sure you know what I did. I grabbed my knives and went to town. I ended up trimming the bars on both hooves, as well as brought the heels back a bit and shaped up the hoof wall. These pictures are of her right hoof, but this is what I had when I was done.

Bye bye bars... at least for now.
I have trimmed the bars four times in two weeks... so, what the heck is going on here?! Is the hoof trying to tell me it needs those bars, or is it trying to get rid of excess bar? Perhaps they're impacted?

The teachings of Pete Ramey tell me that "if horse puts out 'excess' growth it is trying to recover from something...", possibly a trim, but my trims are always quite conservative and I don't feel like I'm taking off too much of anything. The bars have been trimmed only slightly since her shoes came off 6 months ago, although I have noticed more bar growth since I started removing a bit more bar than I normally do.

He also states that bars cannot become impacted in a horse's hoof because dissections and monitoring of live horses have proved that theory incorrect. He also says he thought "bar pressure caused heel contraction and sensitivity, but the horses taught me otherwise years ago." He says he realized it was just a habit to trim the bars to sole height.

Then there's the other side of the argument... bars can and do become impacted. This side also has dissections and live horses to prove its theory. They say that when the bars are jammed up higher inside the hoof capsule than they should be, the result is heel pain. Heel pain leads to all kinds of things, most of which my horse exhibited, except for navicular, which I fear was the next phase for her if we left her in shoes.

This is why impacted bars often come down much faster than the rest of the hoof, so for a while the bars may need to be trimmed more often than the rest of the hoof.

So which theory is correct? Could they both correct? Maybe it depends on the horse, and maybe it depends if they're in a period of transition?

Here are a few interesting tidbits about Lilly's hooves to make this all more complicated...
  • The bars on her right hoof have been growing like crazy, while the bars on her left hoof have not changed nearly as much. This tells me something is different about that right hoof.
  • The right hoof is her "trouble hoof", the hoof that causes her the most discomfort, and the hoof we had x-rayed for just that reason.
  • I can work on her right hoof all day long without issue, but if I need to trim her left hoof, we have issues. She has to stand on her right hoof while I'm trimming her left and she becomes very uncomfortable and will walk her hind legs up underneath herself to support the weight on her right front.
For now I'm going to continue to trim the bars conservatively until they stop growing so quickly, all the while monitoring her reaction and comfort level. Once they stop growing faster than the rest of the hoof wall, I'll be able to tell if she's more comfortable or still the same. I think this is the only way to find out if the bars are impacted and if trimming them helps my horse.


  1. Very interesting, Miss Lilly!

  2. Hooves are soooo interesting... and soooo frustrating! Jog my memory on what the Xrays found about her fight foot?

    And... if you jog her on pavement, is she better or worse before or after you trim her bars? Or is there a noticeable difference?

  3. Are you keeping a feel of those lateral cartilages? If she's pushing out impacted material you should feel them becoming less and less prominent above her coronet band.

    BTW- good post!

  4. First off all, NICE pictures! I can never get such a good shot :)
    Secondly, wow, those bars are SURE growing out fast..I'm with you; why? Very interesting. I know that on Laz, his bars if left, will fold over and cause him pain, so we trim them away which he seems to like. Only once when the weather was warm and froze quickly and lumpy ground cause him discomfort. I'm with JenJ, after u trim, what is a trot like on pavement? Better or worse w/o bars... Is trimming frequently causing hoof to think it needs to grow at a faster rate? Is that a crazy thought?

  5. Terry and Emmi, never a dull moment where Lilly is concerned! :)

    Jen, I commented more on the pavement question on my new post, but her x-rays didn't really show anything other than thin sole. We were afraid she might have something else going on because of how much more uncomfortable she was on her right front compared to her left.

    Smaz, I made sure to feel them today, but I regret that I haven't been doing that all along. I'm not really sure what to feel for, but now that I've started, I'm hoping I'll start to feel a difference. It's time to look at some more anatomy pictures!

  6. Kristen, looks like I was commenting at the same time you were!

    I shudder to think about the money I've spent getting all the equipment I need to take hoof pictures. I may have gone a bit overboard. I was just so excited! :)

    Trotting on the pavement doesn't seem to change with bar trims. When I had the vet out for Lilly's stifle issue we trotted her and she seemed fine (and that was pre-bar trimming), and now when I trot her on the pavement she seems fine too (post bar trimming). I really only notice a big difference when we're on rocky ground or if her hooves are packed with sand from the arena. I think the sandy hooves will be the real tell as to whether this is making her feel better or not.

    And that's definitely not a crazy thought! I have so many thoughts it drives me crazy, and there are so many other thoughts out there as to why that I feel like I'll never know unless I try some of the different trimming methods with my horse. So many variables can change the outcome and every horse is so different... it doesn't seem like one universal trim will work for all of them.