I am not a professional hoof care practitioner, but I did work with a hoof care professional to write this post about a maintenance barefoot trimming strategy.
Boot losses. We've all had them. And we hate them. The most vivid boot loss ride I can remember is during a trail ride up at the beautful Spruce Mountain trails in Prescott, Arizona two years ago. Things went fine for a few miles, but after a couple of hind boot losses, things just went to pot. The day went from embarrassment to humiliation to frustration. Today, boot losses for me are rare, or maybe I should say predictable. But more about that in a future post.
I can look you straight in the eye and tell you that 95% of boot losses are related to a compromised fit. And most of these cases can be turned around, as long as you are willing to do the work with your hoof care practitioner.
Trim the Hoof to Fit the Boot?
Absolutely not. Trim the hoof to maintain a healthy hoof. I've watched the evolution of the four horses in our herd and I've worked with hundreds of horses at endurance events. Here are my observations as they relate to maintenance barefoot trimming on the horses I use for long distance riding.
Most of our horses have toe that is too long. A long toe delays breakover and puts additional forces on the hoof wall, encouraging mild separation of the laminae. The longer the toe, the greater the forces, the longer the toe. If you don't work on breaking the cycle, you won't break the cycle. Trim often: you must remove more than will grow back before the next trim. Pete Ramey suggests trimming back into the white line and I've found this works wonderfully on my horses to bring the toe back.
Look at this fun-forward foot. The toe is long and the frog is stretched forward.
The frog can tell you lots about what's going on. Is the frog long and skinny? Then it is possible the toe needs some serious work.
Bring the toe back, and do it often. Don't wait five weeks between maintenance. As the toe comes back, the frog will likely spread, and the concavity in the sole will likely increase. It's a beautiful thing.
A Barefoot Trim, not a Pasture Trim
If your hoof care paractitioner is trimming your horse's feet to be completely flat - the way any good farrier will prepare a hoof for a steel shoe - then encourage them to scoop our the quarters. You've surely noticed the quarters break out if you don't keep them scooped. There's a message there, and you should hear it. Are there any sharp points along the base of the wall? A mustang roll is imperative for barefoot/booted success.
Easy on the Heels
Bringing down the heel height is something that should be done gradually. As the heel is lowered, more weight is placed on the heel. You also add stress to the lower leg tendons and ligaments. They need time to adjust to the added stretch. Over time, bringing down the heel will help spread the weight across the hoof wall, the sole and the frog. The heels will begin to grow more quickly as the toe is shortened due to more pressure. Pressure = growth.
Look at the high heel on this hoof. The ultimate heel height goal is shown with the hoof pick.
What Role Are Your Bars Playing?
Don't let those bars fool you! They can roll over quickly, trapping dirt and infection within the sole. And worse yet, they can push the quarters out before you know it. Look for cracks along the bar: this is where the hoof is trying to flex. Overgrown bars can restrict the flexion of the hoof and cause pain if they grow into the frog. The upper bar should remain slightly higher than the sole but lower than the wall. Keep the bars down and you'll be pleased you did.
Thrush? Not My Horse
Actually, yes. Even in arid Arizona, thrush is the quiet enemy. If you note any foot sensitivity whatsoever, think seriously about a thrush treatment or prevention program. I like White Lightning, but there are lots of choices out there.
Consistency Is Key
If you actively focus in a consistent way on all of the above, you will probably enjoy barefoot/booted success. Are you up for it?
Next week: # 4: A Good Fit, A Bad Fit - how to tell if the boot really fits.
Director of Marketing
I am responsible for the marketing and branding of the EasyCare product line. I believe there is a great deal to be gained from the strategy of using booted protection for horses, no matter what the job you have for your equine partner.