The Importance of Regular Trimming
If you’re from California (or anywhere else experience drought lately), then you probably don’t care to hear this. . . but last month was the wettest May on record for my state of Oklahoma. We had a ton of rain. And it looks like June is going to be pretty wet, too. We’re expecting more major flooding from a tropical storm moving our way later today and tomorrow. Yay.
I don’t like to make excuses, but because it’s been so wet, I fell behind on my trimming. Every time I thought about doing it, I would look at my horses’ feet and legs covered in mud, and think, I’ll just wait until it dries up a little. Well, that didn’t happen. Then we went on vacation during the first week of June, so I got even further behind. Finally, when we returned home last week, we had a few nice, dry days, and I was able to get caught up. But I felt awful when I saw how bad Kady’s feet, in particular, had gotten.
I normally trim my horses on a four week schedule and Kady went approximately seven or eight weeks between trimmings here. It’s embarrassing, but here is a before shot of her ‘bad’ hoof which will flare in a second if I don’t keep on top of it. I’m showing this only because I think it’s a valuable lesson for us all. Trimming regularly is very important-especially for horses with issues like hers. . .
Kady has never had x-ray’s, but I’m pretty sure we’d see some P-3 rotation with this foot. The hoof was injured long ago, before she belonged to my family and I’m fairly sure she has mechanical laminitis in this particular foot.
Here’s her other front hoof, which is definitely overgrown, but not as badly flared as the other.
Kady wore shoes for nearly two decades until she came to live at my house and I took over her hoof care. It was thought that she could never go barefoot. But as long as I keep her on a four-week schedule, she does well and is sound enough for my kids to ride around here. If I take her anywhere with hard ground or rocks, we use the hoof boots.
There are likely a couple of reasons why Kady’s feet got so bad in just seven or eight weeks here. One, she’s on a new free choice mineral supplement (Big Sky) which seems to be promoting hoof growth, and two, the prolonged wet conditions prevent horses from wearing their feet down much at all.
But the good news is that I’ve got her back on track and I will work diligently to keep her on the four-week schedule from here on out (even if I have to get all muddy during a trim!)
So, I’m sure most of you have seen overgrown hooves before. It seems it’s more the norm than well-trimmed hooves actually. Not all of them look like Kady’s. Some will grow upward, some more forward and maybe without the bad flares, but they’re usually pretty easy to spot if you know much of anything about hooves.
One thing about it–an overgrown foot is a dysfunctional foot. The horse simply cannot move like he needs to once his feet get this way. Undoubtedly, this will affect the joints and the rest of the body.
I used to think that letting the hooves get a bit long was no big deal. But I know better now. To keep our horses sound and healthy, we need to mimic the natural wear that the wild horse’s hoof gets as best we can. And that means trimming before the hoof wall has a chance to get overgrown.
For some people, using a rasp on a weekly basis works well. For others, finding a good schedule and sticking with it works too. As I stated before, I trim on a four-week schedule and that usually works well.
Many horses’ hooves will chip and crack if allowed to overgrow. Hoof wall may even break off in chunks. This is nature’s way of trying to take care of the problem and get rid of the excess hoof wall. If your horse’s hooves are constantly doing this, you may need to trim more frequently (this could also be a mineral deficiency/ imbalance as well though.)
I’ve heard people say they only need to have their horse trimmed every eight weeks or so. Could this possibly be true?
Yes–actually, it can. Their horses probably live in an environment where they get lots of natural movement over varied and rough terrain. This will wear the hooves down just like it does for a wild horse. I would love to have this for my horses, but it’s just not a reality where I live.
I don’t want everyone to think that just because my horses need to be trimmed on a four-week schedule that they need to do this as well. Figure out what works best for your horse and how you can keep control of the hoof wall (to avoid flaring, cracking, chipping, ect.)–and then stick to your schedule!
One of the things I love best about trimming my horses myself now is that I don’t have to wait on anyone else to do it (and trust me, if your husband is the farrier, you often have to wait longer than you would if you were hiring an outside person!) But that also means that I, alone, am responsible for my horses’ hooves. I have no one else to blame when they get neglected as was the case with Kady.
This was definitely a learning experience for me and I’d like this post to be a lesson to all–regular trimming is extremely important!