Natural Trimming Series, Part 2: The Hoof Wall

For part one of this series, I focused on the all-important sole of the hoof.  Now I will move on to the hoof wall, which will be the part of the hoof you will have to regularly trim and maintain with the natural trim.

The hoof wall is the outermost layer of the horse’s hoof and can basically be divided into three parts on the bottom of the foot: the toe, the quarters, and the heel.  I’ll discuss the toe and quarters in this post though and leave the heels for another post though.

hoof wall diagram

Once you’ve learned to read the sole and remove any loose, powdery dead sole, you will take a look at the hoof wall.  Most horses who are not trimmed regularly have overgrown walls.  This inhibits the sole from functioning as it should and helping to bear the weight of the horse.  If you don’t keep the walls trimmed, sole horn will accumulate in flakes instead of slick, hard callus.  This is similar to what happens when a horse is wearing shoes.


Trimming the Hoof Wall

Generally, you will use a pair of hoof nippers or a rasp to trim the walls.  Long walls will be easier to trim with nippers.  If you maintain your horse every 3-4 weeks, you might only need the rasp. Trim the hoof wall all the way around the hoof, leaving 1/16 inch of wall above firm, live sole.  The goal will be to maintain this height of hoof wall.



The Quarters

The quarters are on each side of the hoof –basically from the toe to the heels.  The quarters should have a slightly arched appearance when viewing the hoof from the side.  When the horse is standing on a level surface, the quarters should not quite reach the ground.  You should be able to slide a credit card under them (if you trust your horse enough to do so!)  If you trim the quarters the same as the rest of the hoof wall, the quarters should achieve this look.  Never cut into live sole to create this arch though.


The Toe

The toe is another main focus of the natural trim.  Many horses have toes that are entirely too long and stretched forward.  I will focus on the toe more in another post, but I want to mention here that you need trim the toe just as you trimmed the rest of the hoof wall–leaving it standing slightly above the sole. With the natural trim, you ultimately want a short toe and a short heel on your horse (yes, I said short heel!).  It may take a while to get to this point though.


Mustang Roll and Shaping the Outer Wall

After trimming the hoof wall, use the rasp to smooth it out and start your mustang roll, which is a rounded edge of the hoof wall that mimics the wild hoof.  The mustang roll will help start the process of sole callousing and will give the hoof a nice, finished look (plus easier break-over for the horse).



You will finish up the outer wall using a hoof stand.  Complete the mustang roll by rasping the bottom of the wall  into a rounded angle.  Then, rasp out any flares on the lower 1/3 of the hoof wall.  The hoof wall should be a straight line from the coronet down to the ground.  But again, you may not be able to achieve this in one or even a few trimmings with some horses.


rasping 2


By shaping the outer wall, removing flares, and creating the mustang roll, you are simulating the natural wear that the wild hoof would receive.



Disclaimer: I am an owner/ trimmer (who occasionally trims an outside horse).  I’ve studied Pete Ramey’s natural trimming methods extensively, but do not claim to be an expert in the field.


Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You

Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care


Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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10 Responses

  1. Robynne Catheron says:

    Good post today, Casie, thanks! I do have one question: our horses are trimmed every three to four weeks, using the Ramey/Jackson method. Two of the horses have self-sloughing soles, but my OTTB’s soles always have thick flakes of dead sole. He’s ridden just as frequently as the other two. Any thoughts?
    I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to expand on your section on hoof walls. I the hoof is allowed to grow past it’s optimum point, the hoof wall will be forced to carry most of the weight, causing the wall to grow outward, tearing it painfully away from the hoof capsule and destroying the laminae. It’s so important to maintain the integrity of the hoof at three-to-four week intervals and preventing the white line from stretching, rather than waiting until the damage is done.

    • then5925 says:

      Hi Robynne and thanks! I agree about maintaining the walls every 3-4 weeks. A while back, I did a post on hoof flares which is linked in this post. It definitely causes problems when the wall overgrows and is forced to carry the weight of the horse.

      As for your OTTB, are his feet more contracted than your other horses’ feet? Also, do you have an area of pea gravel or a rocky area where they can do some self-trimming? All four of my horses have completely different feet, but I’ve noticed that my gelding with more contracted feet can develop the thick flakes of dead sole like you mentioned. I may treat him for thrush just in case and see if that opens up his feet more.

      • Robynne Catheron says:

        His soles have been this way ever since we got him at five years old, seven years ago. They also get little round pits in them at times, something else I heard was a TB trait. But you’re probably right, I’m usually fighting mild thrush in all of them, it’s always so wet and muddy here. He had it the worst, even though it was still a light case. Btw, I finally found a product that’s safe, natural, and effective (if used daily, my downfall): Grape Balm Hoof Healer from The Natural Vet. It stays on for 24 hours, even through mud and rain. If I use it regularly and religiously, all signs of thrush are gone in a couple of days. Thank you for that tip, I really need to stay ahead of it!
        From my experience, it’s not only flares that stretch the white line and laminae, although that’s probably the most noticeable; any time the hoof wall grows too long it tears away from the capsule. Kinda like pulling your fingernails away from the quick – ouch.

        • then5925 says:

          I haven’t heard of the Grape Balm Hoof Healer–sounds like it uses essential oils? Thrush is no fun to deal with though!

  2. Robynne Catheron says:

    *If* the hoof wall…

  3. dusty says:

    The bars are a huge factor in the hoof stretching forward! I also do not agree with live sole trims as I do believe in trimming past the dirt line if able. The live waxy sole is a sensitive structure that needs some protection. I believe that you should only take what would naturally wear away on its own and that is not to live sole!!!

    • then5925 says:

      Hi Dusty–I don’t do the ‘live sole trim’ either. I only scrape out the white chalky dead sole which usually accumulates in the seats of corn and sometimes right around the frog. Just using Pete Ramey’s terminology in the post about how to trim the walls. Maybe ‘firm sole’ would be a better term to use.

  4. Susan says:

    New convert to barefoot. Love the set of trimming instructions. Looking forward to reading more

  1. October 18, 2013

    […] Part 1 of this series, I focused on the sole.  Part 2 was about the hoof wall, and now Part 3 will focus on back of the foot–the bars and […]

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