When looking at the heels during the trim, we need to consider a few things.
Firstly, how much heel is there to trim?
In ascertaining the “correct” heel height we need to look at the sole first and specifically in the seat of corn. We know there is false sole and true sole, so we can dig through the false (crumbly) sole in the seat of corn with a hoof pick until we find the waxy, grey-ish layer of sole which is the true sole. Note I did not say to cut out the false sole, only to use your hoof pick.
In fact, if you don’t take anything out of the seat of corn, you won’t go wrong with our instructions, so don’t worry that you won’t know how to do this. The fact is that as you bring the heels down, the false sole wil get worn off and eventually you won’t see false sole anymore.
False sole being removed as we lower the heels, is different from shedding soles and you can read up about that here.
Secondly: We need to look at the whole horse…is one wither higher than the other and is that causing steep foot/shallow foot perhaps?
Look for abnormal differences between the two front feet especially. All to often you’ll see one foot being more upright than the other. This is called Steep foot / Shallow foot. These are big differences, but you will also find that no two hooves are identical, not even two fronts or two backs on the same horse.
Before you do anything to the heels, ask yourself the following question:
How will my trim of the heels influence the comfort / moving / pain in the horse? If you think there is a remote chance of the horse being more uncomfortable after the trimming of the heels, don’t do it, or do it extremely moderately.
If you are still working on getting rid of thrush and the horse therefore won’t land heel first anyway, there is no point in taking the heels all the way down, yet, this will give you a nice amount of time to bring the heels down gradually while the thrush heals.
My standpoint has always been that the horse’s feet need to be kept in a sound, working condition to improve the hoof health and with trimming the heels it is no different.
Remember that any trimming of the heels affects the way the horse stands and walks / trots / runs. The horse might even go from toe striking to heel striking (or flat landing) in an individual session (which could be after some time of trimming correctly) which changes the way everything works all at once.
Be aware of that and go very very slowly. My rule is to never take more than a rasp thickness of heel height at any one time. Removing that amount of heel at a time will keep a sound horse sound without discomfort and give her time to adjust ALL the tendons, ligaments, etc to the new angle of the whole hoof.
Also make sure that the heels are balanced (left to right) once you’re done.
Once trimmed, trot the horse to see how it lands and moves. Take note of changes in landing but also of comfort.
It is our main ambition and goal to always keep the horse sound and willing to work.
Movement is what heals the whole hoof!
Please let us know if you have anything else you’d like us to cover.