Beginner’s Instructions

All of us have to begin somewhere and if this is the first time you are going to hold a rasp…congratulations!

This is a journey, do not try to be a professional in a day. It takes time and you should give yourself some time to enjoy the learning process as well as the time spent with your horse. This is quality time!

Underneath is a broad outline of the routine we follow when trimming a horse. You can go through our routine below and see if that makes sense to you. There are no right or wrongs in this routine, but by us sharing our routine, it will at least give you a starting point.

Please refer to the individual pages for detailed instructions.

Taking PicturesLong Hoof Walls (Vertical)Bars
SolesLong Hoofwalls (Horizontal)Barpools
Flare - Spot, Check & CorrectArch / ScoopFrogs
Removing FlareHeels

Following is how we do all our trimming.

1.) Watch & Video

The very first thing we do is to watch and video the horse at a walk and trot to see how he/she’s going.

Is he lame/limping/little sore? Which side/leg/shoulder/foot is sore?

If he’s sound, is he toe striking, flat landing or heel striking? Watch each foot individually and make notes.

When you’re home, slow the video down (iPhones now have a slow-mo setting in video recording that makes this super easy to record and watch right away) and watch it in slow motion to make sure what you saw is actually so. If you’re not sure of what’s going on, don’t trim. Go home, study the video and pictures and try to understand what you’re looking at. Never trim because people are watching or because you feel you have to.

This obviously helps me determine how to trim, but it also helps me understand what happened in the odd event that the horse is sore after the trim. If he was sore before, is he more or less sore now after the trim.

Next is the trimming itself.

General

Great care must be taken when any part of the hoofwalls have been allowed to grow too long. When we trim parts of the hoofwall off, we change the angle in which the horse stands or moves and this can make him sore. We would rather trim little by little (every week or even two!) and keep the horse sound and working/exercising than take a lot at one time and stop the horse from moving. You set yourself (and your horse!) back much further that way than doing bit by bit each week or two.

This is especially true for the heels!!! Be warned!

When we talk about top or bottom (or higher or lower) of the underside of the hoof, we are talking about it from my point of view from above looking at the hoof lifted and the sole facing up to me.

We normally go around from Left Front, then Left Hind, Right Hind and last right Front.

We do this for each individual part of the trimming process until I’m done. In other words, we work around and around the horse limiting the time he has a leg up and lengthening the time he has it down. It keeps him comfortable.

It doesn’t matter what routine you choose, but choose one and stick to it. It helps the horse, it helps my back and it helps me when I get home to sort out my pictures too…and we take a lot of before and after pictures. You will be well advised to do the same, no matter how good a memory you have…you can’t beat the gigabytes we have in our camera!

Before you go to pick up a leg, look at the diagonal leg. Is it under the horse?

No horse will gladly lift his legs if he’s unbalanced standing on three legs. Make sure the diagonal leg is further rather than closer to you when you lift the foot. If he’s not standing right, move him back or forward until you have him standing like a (badly made) three legged pot.

TIP:  We have found that with the front legs just by touching the chestnut with the horse in the right leg position, he will lift his leg easily and quickly, so be ready to catch it as he brings it up. That way you get the habit going and no need to pull on the fetlock or tap on the hoof or whatever means you’ve seen.

Remember that a bad trim is like a bad haircut…it’ll grow out in a week or two. We know you didn’t mean it and you feel bad the horse is sore now, but you’ve learned from it and sometimes we have to go through these bad experiences to be better. Analyze, improvise, apologize and move on. Most of all, don’t be in a rush to get to where you want to be with hoof length.

Never take that from the hoof what you are not absolutely sure of.  It is not what you take, it is what you leave that makes the horse better than he was. Apart from that, there is always another day.

More about this when we talk about the heels.

2) Pick & Clean

Picking and Cleaning out the underneath of the hoof is important in more ways than one.

The most important reason (when trimming) is so you know where the live sole is. We would use a hoof pick (NOT THE KNIFE!) to scratch all dead, flaky or crumbly sole away until the underneath is smooth and waxy. That’s the live sole.

We would generally only do this on the first trim, after that we don’t touch the sole anymore…yes, we use to, but we know better now! See the Barpools page.

In hard ground areas, you might see soles that are cracked. That’s dead sole too, but we do not try to take it away. The horse will shed it when he is ready for it. As long as we trim him correctly, it’ll all work out.

Sand, stones and grit and whatever else is hiding in there will not only prevent you from seeing exactly what you’re working with, but will blunt your tools in a wink.

Make sure you clean well up into the whiteline if you have separation going on. Stones like to get packed in there one after the other. If you get one and feel more, you’ve got something more than a trim to do and we’ll get into that separately.

When you’re happy you’ve cleaned it all out, take a wire brush and brush out the loose bits completely.

If you’re just starting (or if you have a sore horse that needs to rest the other leg often) you will be well advised to work in a clean area (rubber mat is nice), so you can let the feet rest on that and not pick up dirt when you put them down. Hose/sweep off the dirt after picking and cleaning.

·Take pictures before you start trimming with the underneath of the feet clean.

3) Bars

We like to do the bars first. If they are long and touching the ground (remember it might not look like that when you have the hoof lifted, but it still can be since the hoof is spread out / flattened by the horse’s weight bearing down on it, especially with the opposite foot lifted) it will cause discomfort to the horse. If you now take the long hoofwall away as well, it just gets worse. Again I go from one foot to the other until we’re done all around.

Trimming the bars is done with your very sharp hoof knife. Now it depends if you’re left or right handed as to how you hold the knife, but turn it so the beveled edge is to the top. Put it at the front most point of the bar (apex of the frog) and pulling it toward you with your hand upside down, fingers towards you, slice the bar starting at sole level and working up all the way through until you get to the heel and the bar is now at heel level.

This will change once you rasp the heel so it’s ok if you don’t do all that well to begin with.

It’s also ok if you slice thin “Almond slivers” to begin with. Rather err on the safe side than go too deep.

Absolutely DO NOT cut below the sole level!

4) Hoofwall

What we’re about to share with you now, can either set you and your horse back tremendously or help you heal his hooves faster than anything else. If I had this single paragraph of knowledge back in the day when I trimmed my extremely flat footed TB, I would’ve seen excellent results much sooner! More on that when I write his (Dane’s) Case Study page.

Please take note of the following:

Before you touch the walls or heels, we need you to take measurements. Lay your rasp on it’s side across the hoof and measure the depth of the Collateral Groove at the deepest part (next to the bars) and also at the Apex of the frog. Use a ruler like I have on the Tools page or a thin stick that can go all the way into the very bottom of the Collateral Groove.

This measurement is EXTREMELY important as it tells you how much sole there is under the Pedal Bone around the front edge of the sole and under the Lateral Cartilages in the back of the foot. You should have at least 3/4″ (or 19mm) from the bottom of the Collateral Groove to the bottom of your rasp as it lies across the foot at the front and at the back.

Let me share with you Dane’s flat foot and let’s compare that to a healthy foot in pictures so you can really get this! The first picture already shows you the frog is higher than the sole but also that the sole is higher than the walls, so absolutely no depth in the Collateral Grooves.

In his foot there is clearly very little depth of the Collateral Groove at the Apex. You can see the shallow groove I trimmed to get to the bottom where the sole meets the frog.

There is specific way to trim a hoof like this and we will discuss this later, but please note that this situation is very common, especially when a horse has been shod and more so if a horse has been shod since a young age, like Thoroughbreds for instance.

So now you know what I mean by not enough depth of the Collateral Groove and this is especially as far as the depth at the Apex of the frog.

On the inside of this foot, the Pedal Bone has sunk down in the hoof capsule and is very close to ground surface around the perimeter of the sole, so the sole is very thin where the edge of the pedal bone is.

This is very, very important knowledge I share with you…and no, I did’t come up with it myself…this is straight out of Pete Ramey’s book and in my mind, the best and easiest way to establish where the Pedal Bone is in relation to the thickness of the sole….yes, we keep learning and it is very important to never think we know enough or worse, we know it all!

Here we have two picture we found of deeply concave feet (taken from Karen Chaton’s Blog – Karen’s Musings and Endurance Ride Stuff) and you can clearly see there is good depth (at least 3/4″) from the top of the walls to the bottom of the Collateral Groove at the Apex of the frog as well as at the back. Incidently, she competes in the Tevis cup barefoot!

The Pedal Bone is drawn up high in the Hoof Capsule and the sole is thick with a proper toe callus.

Make a note of these measurements!

If you have less than 3/4″ (or 19mm), stop right there! You cannot take anything away as you will likely sore your horse!!! Please refer to Trim by Collateral Groove.

If you have more than 3/4″ (or 19mm), then proceed with the instructions, but make sure not to go lower than the 3/4″(19mm).

 

Now we are faced with decisions and the rasp!

DECISION:

1.) Are the walls already straight and with a tight whiteline, so we are just shortening?

If this is the case, shorten to 3/4″ depth from the bottom of the Collateral Groove to the top of the newly rasped walls. Use your rasp across the walls to measure. This allows the soles to thicken and meet the walls there.

After that you will put a “Mustang Roll” on the edge. It’s the rounded edge in the Concave foot picture above and we’ll talk about that more later.

Or

2.) Is the hoof flared and do we therefore have to take off all the wall to stop the flaring and give the walls a chance to grow down straight with a tight whiteline connection, keeping them well away from ground contact?

If this is the case, keep reading and remember that these Beginner’s Instructions is actually just an overview of what is discussed in pages of their own also under Trimming.

Flares

Simply put, flares are nothing more than hoofwall that has torn away from the Pedal Bone’s attachment and grown out incorrectly. What you need to know is that flare hurts the horse. It hurts to stand on and it hurts to move on, so you want to get rid of the flares first.

See Flare – Spot, Check & Correct for pictures of how to check for flares.

We start from the top, that is with the (front foot) forward and on a hoofstand or my knee and check, rasp, check, rasp until I’m sure I have a straight line from the top third all the way down to the ground. This is not intended to be instructions for founder horses, so we are talking normal flares here like in Dane’s hoof above.

Once I’m done from the top, I will turn the foot over and trim the hoof wall level with the sole in the stretched areas (leave the heels alone for now!) Then I will roll from the edge of the sole (DO NOT touch the sole anywhere!) in a round 45degrees by going around and holding my rasp parallel with the level of the sole. DO NOT work against stretched laminae as this will hurt the horse as you are tearing the hoof wall more by doing it in that way!

So, to recap, where you see flare on the outside, you will have stretched whiteline on the inside between the hoof wall and the sole. You trim it from the top on the outside first, then turn the hoof over and take the hoofwall off to the sole level and bevel and roll it from the edge of the sole up and away without touching your rasp on the sole.

5) Heels

This is a touchy subject, both for trimmers and the horse!

Right off the bat, we don’t trim any more than a rasp thickness from the heel walls at any one time while bringing the heels down. Use your rasp on its side and rasp a line where you have to stop and no matter how tempting when you get there…STOP!

Two reasons:

One is that the tendons and ligaments aren’t used to the change of angle as you drop the heels, so this could make them sore, especially if he has very long heels and in return gives you a horse that does not want to move, so you have gained nothing, but low heels.

More importantly though is that the horse has probably not walked with the correct pressure to the back of the foot for years, so the inner structures (lateral cartilidges, digital cushion) and frog cannot withstand all that weight bearing down on them.

Our advice to you if you’re coming from a very high heel…take a rasp thickness every two weeks and work the horse as much as you can during the two week periods, keeping him sound. This will help build and strengthen the inner structures more and more as you put more force on them every two weeks (or three or four…your horse might take longer to adapt to his new feet)…makes sense?

Whatever you do, do not go into the seat of corn. That is live sole in the heel “triangle” and we do not touch the soles…remember patience!

In time the sole will push the inner structures up and move away from the ground, which will leave you to take more heel and hoof wall and in that way you will get a shorter heel than you ever thought possible.

You will see dead sole form when the heel is long and is ready to get taken down a bit more.

Float your rasp over the heels tipping the hoof so you can eye the heels to make sure they’re balanced with one another. Even if the frog is high and the rasp is resting on it, you can still see in relation to the pastern that the heels are balanced. Take your time and make sure of this! It’s important!!!

6) Frogs

By their very nature, the frogs will always seek common ground with the heels! That is why frogs grow long when hooves are shod, trying desperately to get to “heel” length or should I say ground contact.

I like to leave the frogs alone as much as possible. However, I trim any loose flaps and folds off so no thrush can get in there. Thrush likes dark, moist places, so your job is to keep the frog as dry as possible.

If, by the time you’ve trimmed the walls and heels and you see the frog is higher than the heels, you have one of two options. You can either cut it level with the heels or leave it to compact.

I prefer the latter as it makes for a denser and tougher frog, but if the horse is tender on them when they stick out above the heels, then it’s better to cut them level with the heels. Normally I would not have to cut them again after that and just leave them to compact.

I want as much frog and sole as I can possibly get to give the horse proper protection when he’s going on hard terrain.

Treat any smelly, wet or poor frog with your anti-thrush treatment of choice….mine is No-Thrush that works like a dream and is a dry powder treatment but I also use other mixes, especially in wet weather.

This is especially true if your horse’s frogs have central sulcus cracks. You need to fix those ASAP. No tonly do you have thrush in there destroying the tissue, but it is very sensitive for the horse so he/she is less likely to put pressure on the back of the foot, which means he’ll be toe striking!

After all that…

I do two things…take pictures of the hooves in all positions and make a video while watching the horse walk and trot.

I will analyze if there are differences from before the trim, then I go home and download the videos and pictures, watch it and see what I’ve missed!

I would rather do one horse in a day in this way (not that it takes a day!), than ten in a hurry, but then, I do it because I love it!

This is all a learning process…even after years, I still learn all the time. That is something you must accept, the learning never stops!

Please move on to Taking Pictures now.