Learning the Natural Trim for Horses
“We are all capable of infinitely more than we believe. We are stronger and more resourceful than we know, and we can endure much more than we think we can.” ~David Blaine
If ten years ago, someone would have told me I’d be trimming all of my horses’ feet on a regular basis, I would have said they were nuts. I just didn’t think I was physically capable. And I sure as heck didn’t know enough to use a pair of nippers on a hoof either. But, in the last few years, I’ve learned that I am capable of a lot more than I had ever thought, hence the quote at the top of this post.
The key isn’t just focusing on a goal and putting in the hard work to achieve it (which are both surely necessary), but also believing you can do it. And sometimes, you just have to get out there and try to prove to yourself that you CAN do it!
It’s been a long and slow process, but I feel more confident every time I trim now. I’ve even trimmed a friend’s horses and helped teach another friend the basics of natural trimming. I’m not an expert in this field, by any means, but I wanted to show those of you who might be interested in learning the natural trim and trimming your own horses, that it IS possible!
Before you ever use a pair of nippers, a hoof knife, or a rasp on your horse’s hoof, you need to study the internal structures of the hoof. One wrong move could mean serious problems for your horse. I’ve found that ‘less is more’, especially when I was first learning to trim. Fortunately, my husband had attended farrier school when he younger–he gave me a few pointers at first (even though the traditional trim is different from the natural trim).
But even if you don’t have a farrier in the family, you can learn to trim. I highly recommend Pete Ramey’s book, Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You. I’ve studied this book endlessly. His website and how-to articles are also very informative. I also joined an online natural trimming group that has helped tremendously. There are quite a few knowledgable people out there willing to help some of us newbies out.
I wanted to walk you through a basic natural trim, though. Once you get your horses set up on a regular trimming schedule (mine is every four weeks), it doesn’t take long at all.
1. Clean out the hoof with a hoof pick and use a little wire brush to scrape away any debris that might be lodged in the white line area.
2. Scrape off any loose, dead sole and trim bars down, if necessary, with the hoof knife. NEVER cut into live sole! When the sole is extremely dry, like it is here, it’s a little tough. I usually don’t do much when this is the case.
3. Trim the hoof wall with nippers (or you can rasp it down). You want to trim it so it stands just barely above the sole–a little more around the quarters.
4. Trim the heels so they stand just above the sole as well. (This is where most traditional trimmers/farriers say ‘WHAT???’ Yes, you want a short heel as well as a short toe.
5. Rasp the wall and heels even. Then rasp a bevel around all but the heels–this is called a ‘Mustang Roll’.
6. Rasp down any flares on the lower 1/3 of the outer hoof. Finish off your Mustang Roll, if necessary.
7. Then, check out your job while the horse is standing on a flat surface. Touch up any areas, if needed.
And voila! You have your front two feet trimmed. You’ll notice that P.K. has two differently shaped front hooves. One of them is somewhat of a ‘club’ foot–she’s always had it. I can’t shape them exactly alike because they aren’t formed exactly alike. I just have to do the best I can with two different feet. The club foot tends to have a higher heel and shows some contraction in the heel. She also tends to get thrush in that particular frog. I treat it with ‘Pete’s Goo’– 50/50 triple antibiotic cream and anti-fungal (athlete’s foot) cream.
I don’t want anyone to think they’re completely educated on natural trimming just from reading this post, but this could be a start. If you can find a natural trimmer to study under or attend a clinic, that would probably be the best thing. Books and websites are invaluable as well. Just like anything else, it takes time and patience to learn to do anything well, but it’s worth it! My horses’ feet have never looked better (if I do say so myself!)