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Advice for doing my own hoof care/trimming

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  • Advice for doing my own hoof care/trimming

    The short version- do any of you have good references, recommendations, tools or suggestions for trimming my own horse?

    The long sordid saga if you want background-
    I've always had farriers trim and shoe my horses and firmly believe that they have knowledge that makes it much safer for them to do it.
    However...I moved about 3 years ago, and since then have been through multiple farriers and CANNOT find one to get the job done. They either trim too short, so she's ouchy for a couple days after, or don't schedule/return phone calls, so she pulls off her shoes and makes herself lame in the process. Long story short, she was spending 3-4 days sore after a visit, and then I couldn't ride for a week or two while I played phone tag trying to get the farrier out before the pulled shoes. So- I give up!
    I had her shoes pulled last fall, and bought Cavallos for when riding weather returns. She is comfortable in her paddock bare, but still a bit tender foot on road surfaces.
    I have been using a Rider's Rasp to keep her feet looking decent (and level off nail holes as they grow out). I've been pleasantly surprised at how good they look, as she has classic, crumbly, weak TB feet.
    Part B of the saga is that, even without the shoeing issues, I really don't like how they shape her feet. She has one very upright, clubby foot, and one low slung heel. I don't want her feet to match- they don't, so no point trying- but I do expect a good farrier to not make it MORE clubby and MORE underslung. Last little tidbit- she's a twerp with the farrier and although I've done a lot, and she is much better, she's still not easy. She will stand quietly and let me do whatever I need to do, so trimming myself has appeal, there, too.
    I've considered just having the farrier out for trims, but as I stated, I'm just not thrilled with the job anyone does, so I am interested in trying to figure out how to care for her feet myself.
    I know it takes a lot of education and a good eye, so I'm hoping some of you knowledgeable COTHers can point me in a direction to get some good information.

  • #2
    Guess I can start, by suggesting you get some Farrier training. This could be attending local (within your State or area) to hear discussions given by the speakers. These are not the shoeing competitions, but true Farrier information sharing. You need to learn "how to look at a hoof" and understand what you are seeing.

    Books could be helpful, give you more information, illustrations and photos with much detail about those pictures. Newer books would be Chris Gregory's Textbook Of Farriery. Not cheap, but maybe you could locate a used copy less expensively. Great illustrations, and here is his home site.


    There are other books that are good information, just not up on all the latest.

    I would also recommend using a true rasp to smooth up your mare's hooves. The length of a rasp will bridge a hoof front-to-back, so you are not rasping low spots lower, in getting hoof leveled up. Short rasps like that Rider's Rasp can make that kind of problem worse. A real Farrier's rasp will probably be cheaper over time, than getting those replacement parts. You should get a rasp handle, to go over the pointed tang end for better rasp control.

    Getting good nippers will make your work at hoof wall removal MUCH easier. The better brands like GE stay VERY sharp, can be resharpened if needed. The difference is like slicing a board with a butter knife or a a true cutting tool. If you don't want to continue trimming her, you can resell the nippers for about what you paid if they are in good shape.

    Hoof knives need to first be of good steel to hold a cutting edge. Then the handle needs to fit your hands so you can CONTROL the cuts of sole. Sharp knives are easier to use, able to make THIN cuts to remove small amounts. You don't cut so much that sole is soft, just enough to relieve the sole from touching ground AT TRIMMING time. Clean the edges of frog so they don't hold dirt in the clefts, and then hoof knife is done for that hoof.

    But the main thing with doing your own horse, is to teach your eyes what a GOOD job looks like. You have to be willing to work on horse to get hoof to that stage. It will take some time and a fair amount of work. Do you have any friends that are skilled enough to critique your work? That you are WILLING to hear those remarks from? Having another set of skilled eyes helps you stay out of being locked into a wrong mindset. Measure both sides of the hoof, so you are trimming them equally. Get the toes measured, to what you and friend decide is acceptable on THIS horse, and you will have those measurements to keep you honest on future trims. Maybe more important with a clubby foot, to stick with what works, eyes can lie to you when tired!

    We see a lot of right or left-handed horse trimmer problems. That person just LAYS on the sharp rasp with their dominant hand on the open side, hooves end up unequal on both sides of hoof wall, on BOTH hooves of a pair. They can't lay on the rasp so much when dominant arm is cramped under the horse belly, so hoof side is unequal rasping from the other side.

    The Horseshoes site is interesting reading, though could be rather technical until you have more education in Farriery terms.

    Good luck with your horse.


    • #3
      I started doing my own trimming a while back.
      My mare has never been shod, and wears her feet really well on her own.
      I always kept the edges clean and cleaned up chips between trims, I use the radius rasp, similar to the riders rasp.
      I stopped having the barns farrier trim her after I watched him trim her a couple times, he never really did more than just clean things up, which I could do on my own (he didn't charge me much though)
      I started doing lots of research on trimming for barefoot, mostly on the net. Barefoot trimming sites have great resources. They all insist you learn about the internal hoof structure first, which is very helpful.
      I looked at a lot of pictures of hooves, watched a lot of you've videos etc.
      Then I went and got a long rasp and hoof knives.
      I must say her feet gave never looked better!
      If you're planning to keep her barefoot, I would strongly suggest seeking the advice/help of a barefoot trimmer, transitioning out of shoes can be very hard on a horse, and not all can go barefoot.


      • #4
        My sympathies, I have the same problem here in Haiti! Books and DVDs are good reminders, but hoof care is one of those things where nothing replaces hands on training. Too many different and subtle things happen with hooves that just can't be seen on photos, at least by greenhorns. If you can take at least a week's course, and have a teacher you trust to advise you, that would be a better start. But with a club foot, you'll still be better off getting the horse to a competent pro at least a few times a year to spot developing problems and correct your work. At minimum.
        HAS provides hospital care to 340,000 people in Haiti's Artibonite Valley 24/7/365/earthquake/cholera/whatever.
        www.hashaiti.org blog:http://hashaiti.org/blog


        • #5
          I took a week-long hoof trimming course with Patti Stiller of Hoof Care Specialties in Colorado last year. Absolutely great class and while I still have a farrier to do most of the trims I learned enough that I could do it myself (my bad back just won't allow it). Here is the link if you're interested


          • #6
            Originally posted by HickoryHill View Post
            I took a week-long hoof trimming course with Patti Stiller of Hoof Care Specialties in Colorado last year. Absolutely great class and while I still have a farrier to do most of the trims I learned enough that I could do it myself (my bad back just won't allow it). Here is the link if you're interested
            IMO, This is probably the most bang for the buck for anyone interested in DIY hoof care.


            • #7
              I third Hickory and Tom, I took Patti's course as well. And she does photo/ phone consults for a very reasonable price afterwards to help with the issues that WILL come up.

              If you are close enough sometime to trailer in and learn on your horse, that is absolute best. Make it your annual vacation.
              HAS provides hospital care to 340,000 people in Haiti's Artibonite Valley 24/7/365/earthquake/cholera/whatever.
              www.hashaiti.org blog:http://hashaiti.org/blog


              • #8
                I have no doubt Patti's course is top notch and that's a great idea.

                A good DVD series is "Under the Horse" by Pete Ramey. More of a barefooter point of view but it's very detailed with a lot of information and while it won't give you hands on training, it will help you understand the principles.


                • #9
                  Where are you located?

                  Find a GOOD farrier and learn. My super-awesome farrier has taught me a ton, and after seeing a trim I did encouraged me to do feet for pay.

                  I like reading the HorseShoes.com forum. I wouldn't take what you read as the gospel, but it's good to see different people's work and learn from it.
                  Against My Better Judgement: A blog about my new FLF OTTB
                  Do not buy a Volkswagen. I did and I regret it.
                  VW sucks.


                  • #10
                    Comparing Patty to Pete is like comparing gold to fool's gold.