The New Year is always an appropriate and marked point in time to take stock and make adjustments that will better yourself, your life and the world around you. It's always a time I look back at what I've accomplished throughout the year, but mostly I look ahead to what ideas I can put into action to make things better. I am not one big on resolutions, I think I've posted that before, but I do like to make goals and generally always meet them. Of course the key to meeting goals is to make them achievable and realistic, but challenging enough to be satisfying to work towards. I try to develop better habits throughout the year that will stay with me for a lifetime. I won't bore anyone with all of my goals for the year, but here are a few you can borrow that will make life with your barefoot performance horse a little nicer.
1) Four Week Maximum Trim Cycles
Stop being lazy and just do it. Seriously. I have had my competition horses on a four week cycle for the past year and haven't regretted it once. This year I plan to keep everyone on a four week cycle despite the horse being in full work or not. Yes, I know sometimes it's hot. Yes, it can be cold. Sometimes it's rainy, windy or muddy. Build a bridge and get over it! Trimming is easier when it's done frequently, boot retention becomes a non-issue with a consistent, constant hoof shape and you are able to bypass many common hoof problems such as high heels, low heels, long toes and medial-lateral imbalances.
This foot would take months and months to fix on a regular eight week trim cycle. Take three steps forward every time you trim.
2) Back Up Those Toes
This is difficult to maintain without frequent trims and goes hand-in-hand with #1. Back up those toes until you think they are short enough, and then go further. I made a point to get aggressive with Topper's toes last year and am thrilled with the results. We have more concavity, thicker soles and no flare. I used to think I had a good handle on appropriate break-over, but I didn't. If you're scared, invest in a couple digital radiographs the next time your veterinarian is out. The pictures will be invaluable and a good reference point for future changes and improvements.
3) Trim Frogs
This is something I have never put much stock into and usually quickly skimmed over during my trims. Unfortunately I have been doing a disservice to my horses by skipping this as it is also one of the easier things to do. In just the short time I have been doing this, I have noticed good things. By cleaning up the edges of the frogs, both the outside edge and the central sulcus, you prevent nasty stuff being stuck in there under various flaps and dead material. By keeping this area open, I haven't seen any thrushy-type stuff and the frogs just look healthier.
4) Ditch Your Bar
Branch out to new bars down the road. Ok, that's not really the kind of bar I was talking about, but to each his own, eh? The bars have always been one of those things for me. Do I leave 'em? Do I take 'em? Do I pretend like they aren't there and just kinda ignore them? The answer is no. So sharpen up your hoof knife, charge up your power tools, whatever, but take care of those bars. Letting them overgrow and lay over will not only create pressure and pain for your horse, but the bars can influence the hoof wall by creating flares and can trap debris if left untrimmed.
5) If It Isn't Working, Fix It and Don't Give Up, EVER.
This is a general goals that can be applied to every aspect of my life. Maybe what you're doing is working OK. Sure, you could get by. You could skate along with mediocrity like so many do, so many different ways, but you're better than that! Strive for greatness, not "meh." Stop making excuses and go for broke. Don't forget that most decisions you make aren't permanent and can be changed. But no one ever achieved greatness by laying in bed, eating junk and making excuses. Get up, get going and make good things happen. This is a permanent goal of mine and I'm a better person for it.