What to Trim Between Trims

As a barefoot hoof care practitioner, I typically keep all of my clients on a four week trim schedule. If you are fortunate enough to have your horse in a pasture or large pen with ideal barefoot footing, or you manage to ride many miles every week, four weeks is about ideal. But for most working folks who only ride every couple of days, with horses in the typical boarding situation, four weeks allows quite a bit of growth. If you really want to maintain an ideal foot, mitigate any flaring, and mimic natural wear, trimming a little bit every week or every two weeks is absolutely the way to go. The same is true for rehabbing formerly shod feet, and especially for growing out things like wall cracks and white line separation. 

 
long toe,low heel 
Here's a foot that will absolutely benefit from bringing that
runaway toe back weekly once we pull his shoes.

 
Doing some touch up work between your trimmer's scheduled visits can really help keep things moving along in the right direction. If you trimmer agrees, he or she will probably also gladly show you how to accomplish the trim. Your trimmer will also provide guidance on what, and how much needs to be trimmed. This can depend a lot on what kind of pathology you're dealing with, but in most cases, there are some basic touch ups that are a good call for most hooves. All you really need to accomplish these interim trims is a rasp.

 
Dazzle chronic founder
Keeping the toes backed up on chronic founders like this mare
with weekly trims can greatly enhance comfort.
But don't try to eradicate the flared toe on a horse like this entirely.
Remember that the corium/vasculature still wrap around that distorted coffin bone.
The wall is simply mirroring the internal structures.
Removing that flare entirely will leave the coffin bone vulnerable.
 
Keeping breakover where it should be by maintaining the wall bevel is number one for any foot. You can do this from the bottom, or from the top. While it's physically easier to rasp a bevel from the top, it takes some practice to get the angle right, and to know how far to go. With the foot on your hoof stand, and holding the rasp with both hands, you want to rasp a 45 degree angle from the dorsal wall from 2:00 to 4:00. Continue your bevel through the quarters, but remember that the wall is probably thinner there, and the bevel won't need to be as thick. 
 
It's very common for beginners to rasp the angle too flat; doing so thins the wall, and does not produce a strong bevel.
 
 bevel from the top 2
Beveling from the top. Be mindful of the angle of your rasp. Most folks tend to rasp to flat from the top, which thins wall, but does not produce a strong bevel.

Your bevel should leave about 1/4" of wall width when viewing the foot from the bottom. Generally, if you bevel just to the beginning of the unpigmented hoof wall (called the waterline), you'll find you're just about there. Dark feet are a little easier to practice this on, because you can use this unpigmented inner wall to gauge when to stop. 
 
The bevel can be rasped from the bottom of the foot, as well, and this way, it's easier to recognize how much needs to be done. Angle your rasp at a 45 degree angle from the plane of the bottom of the foot, and bevel to the unpigmented wall, or until there is about 1/4" of flat wall width.

 
bevel from the bottom
Beveling from the bottom. Note the angel of my rasp in relation to the bottom of the foot.
 
It's not usually necessary to rasp the heels between 4 week trims. But if you have a horse that grows a lot of heel, or a horse that needs to build sole in the front of the foot, it might be helpful. Pull the rasp across the heel in line with the collateral grooves, and towards your body. Be careful to follow the existing plane, so as not to change palmar angle. And only do a few strokes on each side.
 
Don't be discouraged if you can only do one foot at first! Trimming is hard work. You'll find you do a better job if you don't try to trim all four feet in one session. It's much easier to make mistakes once you're body is tired. And keeping these sessions short will keep your horse patient with you while you get a feel for trimming! 
 


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