Skip to content

Transforming a hoof

December 19, 2013

I have a small handful of clients that allow me to trim their barefoot horses.  For the most part, I’m just following basic practices for good hoof trims.  I research natural hooves often and I am constantly growing my knowledge and understanding of the equine hoof. About 18 months ago, I took on a horse with significantly deformed hooves.  This horse, a 16.2hh Thoroughbred mare, had been shod most of her life.  Her hinds had been left barefoot some of the time, but her fores were always shod.  Her owner was struggling with lameness constantly.  She also dealt with a sore-backed horse, even when the horse was very infrequently ridden.  She had reached her highest point of frustration and I decided to step in and ask that she let me help take the horse barefoot.  The owner was not a strong believer in barefoot practices, but she was desperate and ready to see what bare hooves would mean for her horse. During this 18 month period, I regret that I did not do a much better job of tracking the hoof changes.  Still, the pictures will give some idea of where the horse was and where the hoof progression is going.  Consider this article to be for general information.  For more scientific rehabilition info, I enjoy http://www.hoofrehab.com.

NOTE:  This horse owner loves and cares for her horses!  One of the challenges with horse-ownership, as most of us know, is that we trust our horse care to the professionals.  Sometimes, however, the people we trust don’t have the knowledge or skills to do right by our horses. She started with severely underrun heels, a long stretched and flared toe.  She often buckled over at the knee and I suspected it may have been due to living on her incorrectly angled hooves for so long.  I wondered if her coffin bone was distorted, but we didn’t have x-rays.

The mare's front right after 4-5 trims done on a 5-6 week basis.  Notice that the new hoof growing out from the coronary band is looking more correct.  The toe flare has to grow down to the ground before the hoof will look correct.

The mare’s front right after 4-5 trims done on a 5-6 week basis. Notice that the new hoof growing out from the coronary band looks more correct. The toe flare has to grow down to the ground before the hoof will look correct.

Her hinds had such sever quarter flares that she would often cut her own legs.  Part of the challenge with her hinds was that she was not a willing partner in hind foot care.  She was extremely uncomfortable with having a hind foot held and would kick in defense. I decided to just get to work and see how the hoof would change, while also trying to help her overcome her defensive nature with the hinds.

I learned many things along the way.  For example, she had flat-feet and fairly thin soles.  Her collateral groove was quite shallow compared to other horses I cared for.  (Again, I did not record the measurements along the way.  Shameful, I know.  Another lesson learned.)  Over time, she begin to develop slight concavity and her heel was moving further and further back.  Her toe flare improved, albeit slowly.  I was fairly conservative with my trims for fear of soaring this mare, but I could tell that the slow changes were getting the job done.

Her back soreness was slowly improving over the months that her feet were transofrming.  Her buckling over at the knee seemed to be less frequent, as well.  She was quite comfortable barefoot from the beginning.  She has large hooves and they flared very easily.  As her hoof changed, I noticed she was able to hold the shape for longer and longer periods.  In the beginning, we needed a 3-4 week trim but over time we were able to get to a 5-6 week trim.   

She is now ridden barefoot unless the terrain will be too rocky.  She has boots fitted that she happily wears when needed.  In the beginning she needed an extremely large boot – size 4-5, depending on the boot style and brand.  Now, she is wearing size 2.5 – 3.  I imagine as her hoof shape continues to round and angles continue to find normal, her hoof may get slightly more compacted and strong and maybe need an even smaller size.

1 year later.  This mare is sound, less back sore, and riding on the trail completely barefoot.

1 year later. This mare is sound, less back sore, and riding on the trail completely barefoot.

This has been a very rewarding journey!  I enjoyed helping this mare find more comfort and helping the owner see the value of allowing horses to be barefoot.  Barefoot may not make sense for every single horse, but I certainly believe most horses can do their jobs quite well without metal shoes applied.

2 Comments
  1. Alice permalink

    Wow that is fantastic! Very validating and satisfying for you, and I’m sure the horse approves wholeheartedly of the change. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Alice! This has been such a cool experience for me. I’ve learned a ton which will help me to help others. Such good stuff. Happiest of holidays to you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: