All too often, trimmers do not pay enough attention to trimming the bars. A quick slice with the knife and it’s done.
Well, perhaps we need to think about that and look at the Purpose of the Bars and assess which is the best way for them to be to full-fill their purpose, but let’s start at the beginning.
When you turn a horse’s foot over and you see bars like this, you can clearly see there is work to be done, but how far do you go? How much do you take off?
Like with all trimming it is not what you take off, but what you leave behind, that matters. Think about that!
Pete Ramey tells a story of a customer asking “You charge (say) $50 for a trim?” and Pete’s answer was…”No Sir, I charge $5 for a trim, the other $45 is for knowing what to leave behind!” (Not his exact words, but you get the meaning.)
So, go easy but go as far as you need to. If the foot you’re working on is as bad as the one above, you can take the nippers to it, but generally, you’ll just slice it thin (like Almond slivers) until you have a nice “wedge” running from the sole height to the heel height.
Then look at the join where the bars meet the sole all along the length of the bars and clean out the join in the same way as with the frog/sole joint. You do not want to see any black lines remaining. Go VERY slowly and ONLY take what you need to have a clean join between the bars and the sole, nothing more!
As with all trimming, remember there is always tomorrow to come back and do some more…no need to rush and make mistakes!
Now, onto the purpose of the bars. We know that the bars play their part in supporting the hoof when it is weighted, but let’s go inside the hoof and see what goes on there and then relate that to how we should trim.
After all, we want to increase (or at least benefit) the inside of the foot by what we’re doing on the outside. This is not trimming your toenails that never gets walked on and doesn’t affect how you walk. Everything you do on the outside of a horse’s hoof, affects what happens inside the foot whether the horse is standing or moving.
Please go back to the Laminae page under Anatomy to refer to the pictures and descriptions of what goes on inside the foot in relation to the laminae, then come back here so we can talk about it some more.
Ok, so you understand how the laminae work and how it attaches parts together and that when the laminae fails, the foot starts falling apart. Now let’s look at the bars specifically.
The bars are extensions of the hoof wall and also have laminae.
If you turn the foot over and see cracked bars, very thin bars or bars that peter out into nothing before it even meets the sole, don’t be alarmed.
Take pictures so you have a reference!
Just do what we’ve described above, removing crumbly bar material and any black lines (which is anaerobic bacteria same as in White Line Disease) you see in the bar/sole joints.
With a proper trim and good hoof function, those bars will once again become thick and strong and be able to full-fill their purpose in the foot.