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.
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 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 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.
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.