Aggressive trimming was trimming from the top

Abby Nemec

Joe Andrews wrote:
My questions:
1. Shouldn't the trim be our way of creating ideal wear so the hoof can adapt to its ideal form? And wouldn't this require a frequent interval as apposed to waiting until something needs attention and fixing it with a trim?
I guess what I'm not explaining well enough is that I DO agree with trimming frequently enough that we're not letting the foot get out of control in between trims.

My point really is, however, that the foot adapts its growth pattern to the trim you give it. Once the laminae are tight about halfway down the foot and you develop the beginnings of concavity so that the horse can be sound on the footing it lives on, you can maintain a trim at 6-8 week intervals IF you are not wimping out on the trim job.

I have clients who trim their own horses. They have me check the trims every 4-6 months or so to be sure they're doing well. THEY trim their horses ever 2 weeks or so. The reasons are -
1) they lack the strength and high-quality tools to do a really thorough, aggressive maintenance trim
2) they lack the confidence, experience, and skills to trim aggressively (they're afraid if they take something off that they shouldn't it will harm the hoof)

This is a better-safe-than-sorry approach, and is absolutely commendable for an amateur or less experienced professional. As our skills improve, we learn where/when we can & can't remove hoof safely. We learn from both our successes and our mistakes, as training & certification only gets us started in this game.

I know what pressures I want to put on a horse's foot and when. I know what I expect to see when I put those pressures on, and I know how soon I expect to see them. If the foot is not changing the way I want, I need to evaluate whether or not the horse is truly healthy and comfortable. If it is, then I reevaluate whether or not I'm being aggressive enough in the trim.

2. Wouldn't a too aggressive a trim create the need for more frequent trimming because the hoof sees it as excessive wear and responds with more rapid growth?
Nope. I'm not talking about over-aggressive trimming to the point of soring the horse - that's a worse flaw.

By putting the foot EXACTLY where I want it - as in the trim a less experienced trimmer should be using - the foot will surely need frequent corrections to keep the growth pattern from getting out of control, because the foot is only in the right place for a week or two. By trimming so that the foot GROWS INTO the trim, you get the correcting action of changing the shape of the foot, plus you have a couple weeks where the hoof is approaching the perfect shape and a couple weeks where it's starting to grow out of shape. That's about 4 weeks.

Once I get to know a horse's feet - a few months into a rehab - I like to go a little bit out even from that trim shape (so now we're talking about 6 week intervals or so), so that I can see where the growth pattern is really wrong and correct more aggressively in that way. By making these specific corrections to improve the growth pattern, I can then "train" the foot into the growth pattern I want. Many horses stay at 6 week trims for a LONG time because they have historic problems or conformation issues that require it.

Keep in mind that when I say I do an aggressive trim on a horse it might not mean that I take off a lot of foot. It depends on what I'm seeking. Did a mare the other day that I've been working on since last summer. She has had contracted heels, more so on the medial fores. 8 week interval. FINALLY she's getting some active growth in her frogs, and her digital cushions are starting to plump up. She is also showing her first hints of concavity, and the sole is starting to flake around the tip of her frogs. I had been leaving a fair amount of excess foot (esp. toe) because she needed it for sole depth. At this trim, because her hindfoot (not hind foot - I mean the back of the hoof) was starting to show signs of healthier growth and she had some sole activity going on, I was able to take off her toes. I took my nippers right around the toe to just behind the toe pillars & took off a good 1/4 to 3/8" (that is a LOT). That's it though. Picked off a couple tiny frog flaps, pulled her heels back a *whisker*, & we were done. So I made an aggressive correction to the length of her toes (for which she was grateful) but left the rest of the foot to keep doing its job as it had been.

I really appreciate the experienced people on this list who are willing to share their knowledge to help newcomers to trimming, like me.
And we appreciate your questions. I have learned as much over the years by forcing myself to explain things & put them into understandable language as I have actually working on the horses. I also clearly remember the on-list mentors who have helped me learn and smacked me upside the head from time to time so that I could really get somewhere. It's great, isn't it? My pleasure to pay it forward, as it were.


Abby Bloxsom