Natural Barefoot Hoof Trimming
                                 Using the "wild hoof" model

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Case Study "Lady" January '07

This is a study, begun in January '07, of a neglected 20+ year old mare who's owner had recently passed away.   The mare was severely foundered in her two front hooves when I first came to know her.  She obviously had not had regular hoof care for a very long time.  When she hadn't begun to make progress after a few trims I decided she needed to be removed from grazing the large pasture where she was living.  She had continued to founder from the grass in that pasture.  In May '07 I brought her into a dry lot in my back yard where I could observe her more closely and control her diet and exercise.  My wife named her "Lady."  Lady subsequently became a rescue horse we took under our wing.

Lady could barely walk due to the pain in her hooves.  She was walking on the soles of her front feet.  .  We put hoof boots and pads on her to relieve the pressure on her thin tender soles, which were lower than her hoof walls.  Her progress had been very slow and I knew I needed to get her feet X-rayed to see just what was going on with her coffin bones.  The X-rays confirmed that she was in even more serious trouble than I had realized, and I knew what my next step had to be.

Natural barefoot hoof care is  a total  program, "treating your horse from the inside out".  It includes diet, exercise, environment, and regular routine natural barefoot trimming. 

 

 

September '07 Right Front Hoof

 

The pictures above show Lady's right front hoof at the time of the X-rays.  The view of the bottom of her hoof shows that she is walking directly on her sole.  The X-ray revealed the "rotation"  and near sole penetration of Lady's coffin bone and the very excessive length of her toe. The lines represent the direction of the trim I would perform to make her hoof parallel to the coffin bone.  New hoof wall growth takes place at the coronet band.  The delamination of the outer hoof wall and resulting stretched lamina are causing the new growth of her outer hoof wall to be pulled away from her coffin bone as it grows in.  This results in the excessive wall thickness visible in the X-ray.  Removing the excessive toe length will relieve the pressure and allow her hoof wall to grow in well attached from her coronet band to the ground.  Lowering her heel parallel to the bottom of her coffin bone with the rasp will help reduce the pressure on her sole by distributing the force over a larger area.

Knowing the position of her coffin bone from the X-ray gave me confidence that my saw would not remove anything except excessive toe growth. I would not make this type of cut without X-rays to avoid the possibility of damaging the coffin bone. I make the initial cut with the saw and finish the trim with the hoof nippers and rasp. The material into which I am sawing and trimming is dead lamina. There is no feeling or blood supply to it. Removing the excessive length will take a lot of pressure off her hoof wall and bring her relief. It is like a person having long fingernails. While fingernails themselves have no feeling, bending them backwards causes pain to the quick of the nail bed. Every time Lady took a step the excessive hoof wall would pull on whatever remaining well-attached lamina she had left, causing her pain.
 

In this view the initial cut has been made.  Next I will use the hoof nippers to remove more of the unattached hoof wall and dead lamina to help facilitate the growth of new, well attached hoof wall..

 

Here I'm using the hoof nippers to remove material and shape the hoof.

The hoof is beginning to look more normal.  The rubber pad helps to provide cushioning to her thin sole during the trim.

 

Now comes the final shaping and blending the surface of the hoof wall with the rasp.  I am supporting Lady's hoof on my knee because it exerts less pressure on her sole than the small diameter of the hoof stand.

The hoof boot on her left hoof has a comfort pad in the bottom to provide cushioning to her thin sole.  This is especially helpful during this procedure, as her left hoof is supporting all the weight of the front of her body.  I will continue to keep her in boots and pads during turnout until she begins to grow more sole thickness and becomes less tender footed.

 

Here is a view of the bottom of Lady's right front hoof.  I have applied a bevel around the toe from the widest points on the hoof, to direct the ground contact force inward as her hoof breaks over when she steps, and have lowered her heels to slightly above the live sole level to help keep the bottom of her coffin bone as close as possible to ground-parallel. Lady has been walking on thin soles for some time.

Her sole is very thin at the toe as can be seen in the X-Ray, and this thin sole is all that is supporting her weight.  My job is to make her as comfortable as possible while she grows a thicker sole and new, well-attached hoof wall.  Her stretched frog will shorten in time as she grows sole thickness and new hoof wall, and the coffin bone moves up in the hoof capsule.  This will take several months, up to a year or more.       

 

October'07

 

After the corrective trim in September, Lady has been walking better, in and out of her hoof boots.  I am continuing to gradually reduce the thickness of the remaining dead lamina as she grows new hoof wall from her coronet band.


 

December'07
 

I have continued to reduce the thickness of the remaining dead lamina on Lady's right front hoof using the hoof rasp.  Having the dead lamina exposed requires regular  soaking of her hooves to reduce the likelihood of bacterial contamination.  Her sole is still lower than any part of her hoof wall except for the small area at the heels from the arrows around her seats of corn. 

 

Even though Lady still has a long way to go before her new hoof walls grow in,  she is beginning to walk more comfortably in the pasture without her boots.  This being December, she does not have lush green grass to graze on (which would trigger a new bout of laminitis) and the exercise she gets will help stimulate the growth of healthy, well attached hooves.  Over the next several months she will be alternately in and out of her boots as she continues to make progress.  The growing of new hoof walls takes time,  and requires patience and dedication on the part of the caregiver.  Lady is worth it. 

SOAKING

Soaking foundered horses' hooves in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water (one part ACV to four parts water) for 30 minutes three times a week is a very important step in their rehabilitation.  The soaking helps prevent bacteria and fungi from attacking the exposed dead lamina and causing infection in the hoof.  Soaker boots are excellent for this process, but other methods can be used, including simply using a pan if the horse will stand still for it.  This soak will also often bring some relief of discomfort and can aid in bringing abscesses to the surface.. 

     

September '07 Left Front.

 

The X-ray of Lady's left front hoof also revealed coffin bone rotation and near sole penetration.  The trim has given her a tremendous amount of relief.  I will continue to update this page as she progresses in her rehabilitation.

 

 

 

As of December '07 Lady is walking comfortably in the pasture without her boots.  However, she will likely continue to have her good days and bad days and will be in and out of her hoof boots as she continues on her journey to soundness.  As stated above, this can take up to a year or more.  Natural barefoot hoof care is a total program, "treating your horse from the inside out". It includes diet, exercise, environment, and regular routine natural barefoot trimming.
 

 

     

Check back for future updates on Lady's progress

 

 

   Case Study "Rant" July '07

The Dutch Warmblood averages 16.2 hands but can reach up to 18 hands at the withers. An eager, reliable, and intelligent breed, these horses were bred to be first class dressage and show jumping horses, but do well in pleasure and almost any kind of riding. Its coat can be pinto, chestnut, bay, black, or grey with white markings. Dutch Warmbloods are known for their enormous scope for jumping. Many Dutch Warmbloods are seen at Class A hunter shows all across the United States. Many champion hunters in the United States are Dutch Warmbloods.

 

Rant is a Dutch Warmblood .  He is a powerful
and  very well-mannered horse 


 

 




These hooves belong to "Rant" a Dutch Warmblood jumping horse imported from the Netherlands.  His owner was advised by a friend to remove Rant's shoes and try a natural barefoot hoof trim, because his hooves were in poor condition from several years of being shod.  Note the height of the hoof capsule.  In a natural wild hoof the hoof capsule is lower in height and shorter in length. 

Rant's right front hoof was overgrown, chipped and flared.  The shoe was missing because the nails had broken through his hoof walls on the outside of the hoof, causing the shoe to come loose and fall off. Note the flaring and separation of the outer hoof wall, especially at the toe.

I lowered Rant's heels to the level of the frog and beveled the outer hoof walls to the white line to redirect the stress of ground contact from a force tearing at his lamina to a compressive inward force.  Note the contracted heels giving the hoof a long, narrow shape.  The depth of the concavity of the hoof is also quite shallow at the point of the frog.  With proper trim, diet and exercise the hoof will develop over time into a shape that is shorter, wider, less upright, and with greater concavity and sole thickness.  In other words, a more natural shape.  This will give him healthier hooves and improve his performance. 

These are Rant's front hooves, pre-trim.  Note the shoe and nails on the left hoof.

This is Rant's left front hoof after removing the shoe, lowering the heels and applying a bevel around the outer wall from the widest part of the hoof around the toe back to the white line.  Note the nail damage in the discolored area.   Again, note the lack of concavity from the point of the frog to the hoof wall around the toe.  ("Flat footed").

These are his finished front hooves after removing the flare and lightly rounding the edge of the outer walls.  As Rant begins to grow healthy hoof wall I will be able to apply more of a "mustang roll,"  blending the outside of the outer hoof wall to the angle of the bevel with a radius to help reduce chipping.  They're not real pretty yet, but they are on their way to better hoof health.  His rear hooves looked the same after I removed the shoes and applied the natural barefoot trim.

 

The pictures below were taken in December '07, five months after the initial trim.  What a change!  Rant's hooves are less upright, with a shorter toe, and beginning to show good concavity.  I am very pleased with his progress, and so is Rant.  It is a beautiful sight to see him glide across the pasture, seeming to float above the ground with his smooth gate and magnificent carriage. 

 

   

    Case Study "Lily" July '07

Lily is a seven year old mare who was severely foundered in all four feet.  She had been on a rich diet including pasture and sweet feed, and was overweight.  I gave her her first natural barefoot trim in July of '07.  Lily's hoof walls were flared, and her right hind hoof wall had a large "chunk" missing in the front where the delaminated hoof wall had broken out.  Lily's owner was very conscientious about her treatment.  She eliminated all sweet feed, restricting  Lily's diet to grass hay.  We fitted Lily with hoof boots, and her owner began a regimen of soaking Lily's hooves every other day and packing them with medicine her vet recommended to combat a fungus that was attacking the torn lamina in her hooves.  We set her up on a schedule of regular trims at 4 week intervals.

 

 
 

July '07
right front hoof

The first four pictures capture the beginning of Lily's journey from founder to soundness.  Her hoof wall is flared and delaminated.  Frame (2) shows lamina missing between the inside of her outer hoof wall and her sole.  The arrow in frame (3) indicates the end of the well-attached hoof wall growth and the beginning of the flare and delamination. Our goal is for her to grow well connected hoof wall from the coronet band to the ground. 

 


1


2


3


4

December '07
right front hoof

The pictures below were taken December 21, 2007.  Lily's right front hoof wall is continuing to grow from the coronet band down.  The  arrow in frame (7) below indicates the progress of Lily's well-attached hoof wall growth when compared with the arrow in frame (3) above.  In frame (6) below her sole is beginning to look healthier and in frame (8) she is beginning to show a little concavity from the bottom of the collateral groove at the tip of her frog to the edge of her sole at the toe.  This concavity is not the result of carving into her sole, but rather the result of a natural growth of sole thickness.  I can visualize Lily's coffin bone assuming a more natural position higher within her hoof capsule as the hoof capsule grows down around the coffin bone.


5


6


7


8
   

right rear hoof

Below are pictures of Lily's right rear hoof.  Keep in mind that she was foundered on all four hooves.  I have chosen to show pictures of her right front and right rear hooves because they were the worst.  Her right rear wall hoof had a large chunk missing from the toe where her previous farrier had removed the area between two wall cracks, as shown in frame (1).  Frame (2) shows a hoof pick inserted between the outer wall and the remaining dead lamina attached to her coffin bone.  Removing the majority of the flare in the lower third of Lily's right rear hoof gave her hoof a more normal shape, as can be seen in frame (4), and set the stage for the gradual elimination of the missing chunk by the time of her December trim.  In frames (5) thru (8) her hoof is looking much better.  A ways to go, but she is happy and comfortable without her hoof boots.


(July '07)
1


(July '07)
2


(August '07)
3


(August '07)
4


(December '07)
5


(December '07)
6


(December '07)
7


(December '07)
8

 

 

Check back for future updates on Lily's progress

   

    One time trim - August '07 Arabian mare


This mare was suffering from a serious case of "LOF" (lack of farrier) disease.  Using the nippers and rasp, I removed her excessive toe length and the flaring on the lower third of her hoof wall, trimmed the laid over portion of her bars and beveled the bottom of her hooves back to the white line.  The mare is a horse the owners always have had to sedate before her trim.  She is flat footed, but trotted off happily into the pasture after her trim, which made me happy. 
 

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