The ‘Less is More’ Barefoot Trim
There’s one main problem with barefoot or natural trimming as I see it–and that’s the fact that some trimmers try to do too much in one trim. Sure, they’re well-meaning, but they have this notion of what a perfect, barefoot hoof should look like and they try to force this idea onto the hoof. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about barefoot trimming (and horses in general)–it’s that nothing can be forced.
Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect (far from it!). I’ve made mistakes as well while trimming, but I’ve come to embrace a Less is More (LIM) philosophy of barefoot trimming. Doing less to achieve more.
If you’ve studied barefoot hoof care at all, then surely you’re familiar with the wild hoof model. It’s the hoof that we all want our horses to have. But the problem is that our horses aren’t living like wild horses and trying to force this shape onto a hoof will likely make the horse lame.
I’m not saying that we can’t attain the wild hoof model on our domesticated horses–I’ve seen plenty of horses with these beautiful feet, but we have to work with what we’ve got and from where we are at the time. And of course there’s the whole diet issue that can’t be separated from feet. If the diet is out of whack (too much sugar, mineral imbalance, etc.), it will show up in the feet. Every time.
When we operate with the less is more philosophy, we still have that wild hoof model in mind, but our main priority is trimming to keep the horse comfortable. If he’s not ready to have his heels lowered down just yet, we don’t do it. We need to learn to read the hoof.
Personally, I don’t worry about hoof angles and perfect symmetry. I just want to achieve balance within the hoof and support correct and comfortable movement. And I try to make small changes over time.
Sure, I want a thick sole, a fairly short toe, low heels, and a robust frog–like the wild hoof model– but I know that I cannot make these things happen, and especially all at once. I can only provide the support to allow my horse to achieve this. This means, frequent trims, a low-sugar diet, and allowing for lots of movement (such as on a Paddock Paradise track).
Each of my horses has very different hooves–that means I have to trim them all differently. This is where the LIM barefoot trim really makes sense to me. If I tried to achieve the same thing with each set of hooves, I’d for sure have some sore horses. You have to treat each horse as an individual and trim according to his specific needs.
For the latter half of this post, I’d like to focus now on the newest member of my little herd–McCoy, (Yes, I got a new horse–yay!!!) and tell you how I recently used the LIM trim with her.
McCoy’s hooves were pretty overgrown but she was sound–even on gravel. I definitely didn’t want to make her unsound just by trimming her. So I didn’t take an aggressive approach with her feet.
So here’s what I did with McCoy’s hooves, in a nutshell:
- Cleaned out the packed-in dirt and rocks.
- Scraped away the dead and chalky sole with my hoof knife.
- Trimmed the overgrown bars down with my hoof knife.
- Trimmed the hoof wall so that it was standing just above sole level.
- Evened the heels up.
- Rounded the hoof wall slightly with my rasp.
I did not trim the frog. I did not cut into live sole. I did not overly rasp the outer hoof wall. And guess what? She’s still sound on gravel! That’s the LIM trim in practice.
Do her feet look absolutely perfect? No. But perfect isn’t a reasonable goal right now. She’s comfortable and that’s what’s most important.
Will her hooves change over time with continued barefoot trimming? Yes! The heels should move back and the whole hoof should widen up. The frog should also become more robust with time. But that’s another key here–time. Give your horse time to develop strong, beautiful hooves!