By: Lisa Morris, Team Easyboot 2012 Member
I am a Barefoot Hoofcare Practitioner in the San Antonio Hill Country area of Texas. In my spare time, I am pulled in many directions. I have a busy family with three lovely kids. We live and work a ranch that has been in my husband’s family since 1867. I am active with my children’s school. My time is precious and in short supply.
My daughter Mary Alice has inherited the horse crazy gene.
I enjoy recreational trail riding and I have begun training my naturally gaited, barefoot, Tennessee walking horse, Gator for ACTHA Competitive Trail Challenges. He is my steady riding companion who had a previous life as a Field Trial horse in Mississippi. Gator graciously agreed to model grinder trimming for this blog.
Gator rocks his Easyboot Epic hoof boots with 12 mm medium comfort pads. Rack on.
I board a few horses, include the occasional soundness rehab project. So, in addition to trimming 15-20 outside horses on average per week, I maintain the horses at home. Last summer was brutal; the temperatures in Texas during the drought were record-setting. I was in survival mode to try to get everything done without getting heat stroke. To add injury to insult, the hooves were rock hard from several months of drought. I got serious about using an angle grinder to trim horses. The result is that my own personal horses, and the client horses that I have introduced to the grinder are fine with the process. Grinder trimming is very fast and effective. It’s easier on me physically than wielding traditional tools. A nice quality, new rasp and sharp GE nippers are hard to beat, but it is nice to have alternatives. Even when I lug my traditional tools around to work at the local barns on customer horses, I enjoy the change of using a grinder to trim our own horses.
Gator has his tail tied in a knot and secured with a hair band for grinder trimming.
Here are some observations that may be helpful if you have considered stepping away from your rasp.
1. Consider the temperament and training of the horse.
If your horse is well trained and desensitized to body clippers, more than likely it would accept the noise of the grinder without any due regard. If the horses panics with clippers touch him, don’t even think about using a grinder until that is resolved. Even if your horse is a sleeper, introduce it to the grinder in a very logical approach and retreat manner; train it to accept the machine. I find that it is easier for the horse to accept the noise if it is constantly running, rather than off and on. Keep it running steady when possible. Start by having a helper hold your horse and touch your horse with your right hand, with your left hand holding the running angle grinder. Touch him in the safe zone of his shoulder and wither area. Your horse will feel the vibration of the machine in your free hand. When he relaxes, and accepts the grinder, back away and turn off the machine as a reward. Rinse and Repeat, both sides of the horse until it could care less. Don’t force the issue, look for acceptance and retreat. This is a nice situation to give your friend a cookie as a reward for accepting the noisy machine.
Start the trimming process with the back hooves. As odd as it sounds, the horse accepts it more readily. I think the air from the grinder blowing on the belly is harder to accept for most horses. Some people also desensitize their horses with a blow dryer before they trim with the grinder. I usually start by trimming from the top, keeping the bevel low on the hoof wall. I then put the hoof in the hoof stand cradle and balance the bottom of the hoof. If the hoof is rather long, I usually just use my nippers and give a rough trim first.
Working on the bottom of the hoof, trim in progress. HIs hooves were overdue.
2. Consider your own training and expertise.
Are you already experienced with trimming horses with conventional tools? Can you map out the strengths and weaknesses of the horses hooves and objectively balance them correctly? If you are a beginner trimmer, it is best to continue practicing with quality conventional tools. If you are frustrated with your tools, perhaps it is because they are cheap and ineffective. Invest in quality tools. The angle grinder is a great tool, but it is easy to over due things quickly. If you are not experienced at handling horses in spooky situations, I would skip the grinder. You and/or your horse could get hurt.
Angle Grinder with trigger switch, hair bands, safety glasses, 60 grit flap disks.
3. Invest and use the right equipment.
Even if you are just experimenting with grinder trimming it is best to have the correct things you will need. The lighter the grinder is to hold, the better off you will be. Compare the weights and hold them when shopping for a grinder. I like an angle grinder with a paddle switch or a trigger. A grinder that has a constant on/off switch only is much more dangerous when things go wrong. With horses, things will eventually go wrong. If you are working anywhere around water, like a wash rack, use an extension cord with a circuit breaker GFI plug. Cordless angle grinders are great, but much heavier due to the battery packs.
I use 60 grit flap disks and I only trim a couple of horses before replacing the disk. They get dull rather quickly. I am also one who is quick to change out a rasp if they are somewhat dull. Use a quality hoof stand with a cradle; do not use a tripod type stand. Do not attempt to hold the horses’ hooves in between your legs or in the traditional farrier stance. If the horse spooks you do not want him tangled in your legs, extension cord.
Keeping the bevel low on the hoof wall. I can release the trigger in the event of a spook and my grinder stops.
4. Obtain and use safety equipment.
The trimmer should use gloves, I like the latex gardening gloves, ear protection and eye protection. I have longish hair, and I always wear it pulled back and in a hat. You do npy want your hair or your horse’s tail wrapped in a grinder. Don’t wear loose or flapping clothing.
Tie up your horse’s tail in a knot and secure it with bands. Have a horse savvy helper hold your horse. If you must tie him, only use a quick release ring like the famous clinicians promote. Make sure the area you are working in is safe and free from anything that could injure your horse if it decides to spook or otherwise have a tantrum. Have your horse treated with fly spray so it isn’t stomping flies.
Gator with a safety tie ring and tools, we are ready to trim.
Be conservative when trimming. Always stop before you think you need to and check your work from different angles. Give your horse mental breaks when he needs it. Summer is coming and I will probably start using my grinder a bit more again. I am glad I have an easier way for trimming when needed.
Have you tried using a grinder to trim your horse? What was your experience? Do you have any tips that I missed here? What equipment works for you?