Natural Trimming Series, Part 5: The Toe
For the final part of my natural trimming series, I will focus on the toe of the hoof. The toe is the front portion of the hoof wall and on many horses, it is simply too long.
When the toe is too long, it pulls the hoof wall away from the coffin bone and it also tends to pull the heels forward as well (leading to underrun heels.)
I talk about this more in this post on hoof flares.
The first thing you will want to do before trimming the toe (or just learning to understand how the natural trim of the toe is performed) is to put your horse on a hard, level surface and observe the toe angle from the side. The hoof should proceed in a straight line from the coronet down to the ground.
What you’ll often find is a toe that bends outward and does not continue in a straight line though. It appears to stretch forward.
So how is this remedied? Usually not in one trimming! When I first learned to trim the toe was one of the things I was most afraid to touch. From the bottom, I couldn’t quite tell where the sole ended and the hoof wall at the toe began. I left it alone at first. And that’s okay. I learned as I went (with a few pointers from my farrier-husband and lots of studying of the barefoot trim.)
From the Bottom of the Hoof
In his book, Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You, Pete Ramey says this:
“As a general rule, leave the sole at the toe alone unless you must lower one side to balance the hoof. Balance the toe by sighting across the already balanced heels from the back of the hoof as you rotate the hoof from you in the arc of its joints. The toe should be parallel to the plane across the heels and both should be perpendicular to the range of motion of the pastern and coffin joints.”
So from the bottom of the hoof, I usually trim the hoof wall at the toe as I trim the rest of the hoof wall–leaving about 1/16 inch above the sole.
If the horse has just had shoes pulled, there may be excess dead sole build-up in the toe area. Again, dead sole is usually flaky and whitish. If this is the case, scrape it away with your hoof knife. If the horse is already barefoot, this usually won’t be the case though.
If there is a widening of the white line at the toe or if the toe is flared when viewed from the side, then you will most likely need to back the toe up to the white line. This will prevent the toe from become stretched more (provided you keep up with consistent trimming.) It is best to use nippers in this situation as rasping the toe from the bottom may cause pain for a horse with a stretched white line.
From the Top of the Hoof
Once the trimming on the underside of the hoof is complete, you will want to place the hoof on a hoof stand to finish up the outer toe and hoof. With a rasp, complete the mustang roll all around the toe and quarters. This will create a rounded edge for the hoof.
Then examine your toe angle again. If it is flared, rasp the lower 1/3 of the hoof down to remove the flare (if it’s a severe flare, it may take several trims to remove.) The goal is to get the lower toe angle to match the upper hoof angle (extending from the coronary band.)
When doing the natural barefoot trim, you should aim for a short toe and low heels, but every horse is different–learning to read the horse’s hoof is paramount.
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.