Work has been ridiculous the last couple of months and I’ve been struggling to keep up with the day-to-day care of my six, let alone get much riding in. For this reason, several of the pones’ feet got longer than they should have. I’m usually pretty good at keeping the workers’ feet in line, but due to Real Life the non-workers only get done when I can manage it – which, given the current state of affairs, means they haven’t.
The Thanksgiving break gave me a chance to not only catch up on some of my trimming, but also get my head in a better place. Both Roop and Long-Term-Project-Horse Hopi got their trims – Roo was "a little" overdue, while Hopi was "a lot" overdue. I’m not even going to publicly admit how much the "a lot" was. Suffice to say, Hopi’s a hard horse to deal with, so trimming him is never my favorite and he gets moved to the back of the line more than is good for him. Luckily, he has the best feet of all my horses: they grow nice and evenly and don’t tend to chip much, so even when he’s horrendously long his feet usually aren’t bad.
While Roo is usually classed as a "worker", he has been moved into the "non-workers" category while I get pony Jackit started and bring Uno back to fitness. My guess is that he’ll get the winter off and maybe start being ridden again in early March.
…On to his front foot trim.
Roo has two problems going on with his front feet – neither of which actually cause him much trouble but both of which mean he’s better off if I don’t let his feet go longer than about four weeks of growth. Here he’s at six weeks making it clearer to see (uh, that’s it – that’s why I let him get so long – for "educational purposes"!).
1) His first problem is that he’s toed-in:
Better toed-in than toed-out, they told me and I have to say it has never seemed to make any difference to him – he travels cleanly, doesn’t need splint boots, doesn’t seem to wear his feet strangely – but he can get trippy when left too long. In moments of paranoia (such as when we were getting ready for Tevis), I’ve been known to dremel more bevel into his boots all the way around, since the default breakover in the front of the Glove isn’t necessarily where his breakover is.
2) His second problem is a classic case of high-low:
He has a bean-can foot (right front) and a spatula-foot (left). The spatula foot is also a size bigger than the bean-can foot – he wears an 0 Glove on the right foot and a 0.5 on the left. This problem is obviously exacerbated when he’s long – as here – so this is another reason to keep his feet nice and short.
The main reason for his mismatched feet (as it is for many, many other horses) is probably his tendency to do this:
I can try and mitigate it by feeding him up high, but as you see they still prefer to eat off the ground – even if it means grabbing hold of the hay bag and shaking it violently to make the tiny wisps fall out. In the winter all the horses eat out of small-mesh hay bags to slow them down and keep them busy – and minimise precious hay being trampled into the mud.
3) Starting with the bean-can, right front foot:
Looking from the underside, this foot appears better than the spatula foot – it has more concavity and is generally "tighter". Considering he’s on six weeks, there actually isn’t too much growth – something to do with standing around in wet mud, no doubt? Most of the growth on this foot is concentrated in his high heels. I was pleased that he had no thrush at all (his frogs were packed solid with red clay). He has a little flare on the outside (distal) quarter, but nothing major.
4) Getting a non-fuzzy photo from the back of the foot when juggling camera and foot in low light has proved almost impossible, so apologies for the quality, but this (sort of) shows the tendency of this right foot to grow lots of heel and not much toe:
5) First pass-through with nippers and hoof knife. I’ve removed some of the excess bar, and chomped off all the extra hoof, but haven’t done too much with the heels:
6) Once the first pass-through is done, I work from the top with the foot on the hoof stand. Here we see the before and after.
Before – still quite a bit of toe:
After – toe rasped away; small bit of distal flare removed; it is starting to look like a desirable foot.
7) The foot after being worked from the top. The toe is dubbed down and any sharp edges that could get caught and chip have been bevelled away:
8) Roo’s feet were a prime example of how forgiving horses’ feet are if you mess up on the trimming. The second (and last – honest) time I got over-enthusiastic with my nippers and chopped off too much heel, Roo was the unhappy recipient and the resulting ouchiness on his part was not a surprise. Talk about Operator Error.
So given my new self-imposed rule about not nipping the heel too short, I now limit myself to minimal heel-nipping and finish the heels with the rasp to give me better control. Even working the heels with the more abrasive side of the rasp can result in taking too much off, too quickly (especially at this time of year when their feet are softer), so I tend to use the less-abrasive side of the rasp and check often to see where I’m at. This photo is "pre-heel-rasping" – I can still take some off and bring the heels down and back.
9) The finished pristine foot (before he yanked it away and covered it in red dirt).
10) After working the left foot in the same way, the resulting front hooves look much more like a pair of feet instead of two randomly selected items stuck on the ends of his legs. Compare with Photo 2) above. The heel on the right foot is still higher, but that’s just how that foot grows. Trying to make it match would be a mistake – I can only rasp down as far as the good-live sole in the seat of the corn will allow me. But if I work his feet often and don’t let them get out of control, the mismatch has a lot less impact.
11) The toed-in-ness is much less "ack"-like. Compare with photo 1 above:
Roo’s a good boy for trimming and I work with him loose in the stall – installing him in front of a hay bag which means he usually stays where I need him to be, but can wander around in between each foot while I’m decricking my back.
And that concludes Roo’s front foot manicure.