Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going to the bar

OK, I have a new obsession: the bar. Not just any bar, the hoof bar.

No you can't order a beer with your friends there, but the more I find out about them, the more I'm intrigued. On a farrier forum not too long ago, it was brought to my attention that Buttercup's bars were getting out of control. I will talk to my farrier about this on our May 31 trim (see the new count down clock on the blog? Isn't that neat?).

So naturally, I've been doing some research.

Here is an informative video I found:

And here is an interesting story:

Is Trimming Bars Really Necessary?
By Scott Kroeger
(Ref. A Lifetime of Soundness by Dr. Hiltrud Strasser pages 134-135)

It's a trick question...

If your horse is able to move 24 hours, 7 days a week over sufficiently hard and stony ground (covering 20+ kms a day) then you would probably never have to worry about doing anything to the bars of your horse's feet--all things being ideal. But that is seldom the case. Horse hooves grow and if not worn down naturally--become overgrown which leads to problems. That is where you come in.

The following scenarios can occur if you do not tend to the overgrowth of the bars:

  • They will grow so as to touch the ground on weight bearing, sending tiny shockwaves up into the solar corium as the bars press the corium against the navicular bone. This causes bruising of the corium and pain. The longer the bar and higher the heel, the worse the pain. This is most often the cause of "Navicular Syndrome" in horses.
  • Hoof bars naturally grow down and forward. If they are not worn down naturally, the bar grows long contacting the ground during weight bearing. Over time they will overlay themselves onto the floor of the sole and grow forward covering the sole. The problem with this (aside from a now deformed bar) is that the solar corium will quit producing sole with an overlaid bar...making the sole very thin underneath. If the bar is "chunked" out through natural or unnatural wear, there can be sole penetration.
  • Forward growing bars coupled with other forms of contraction within the foot (i.e. sole contraction and frog contraction) often show the bars jamming the frog so much as to cause a curl or semi-circle of the bars instead of nice straight bars. These type of deformed bars will continue to bunch and crowd the frog, meeting resistance that will often cause the formation of bar pools at the end of the bars on the solar floor. These bar pools can be very deep and if left alone will continue deformed growth of the bar.
  • Long overlayed bars along with high heels produces leverage forces on the hoof capsules doing damage in several places, one of which is the cracks in the bar causing pain to the horse.

What you should do...

  • Natural looking bars extend from the heel down to the middle of the frog (half-way between the apex of the frog and the heel). The level of the frog descends from the heel down to the floor of the sole.
  • Proper measurements are: mid-way on the bar a measurement of 1 cm should exist to the crown of the hoof wall level. A 1 cm measurement exists from mid-way on the bar down inside the lowest level of the collateral groove. This is you ultimate goal and may not be achievable in the first few trims.
  • Trimming the bars back to this conformation can be a delicate procedure and may have to be done in stages depending on the amount of sole underneath the bar that is NOT there.
  • With the blade of the hoof knife flat against the bottom of the hoof, use the hook of the knife to remove excess bar.
  • Seek to straighten the bar by removing the excess and forcing the line of the bar down to the floor of the sole near the collateral grove exactly half-way along the frog. No semi circle bars. You may have to descend below the normal straight line to the solar floor midway on the frog in order to achieve this.
  • The thickness of a healthy bar is 2-3 millimetres and should be a flat surface ramping down from the heel to the solar floor.
  • Trim out any cracks in the bar if possible.
  • Trim out any bar pooling as you will need to restore the proper horn tubule direction of the bar and retrain the growth pattern.

What to be careful of...

  • Turning the knife up and gouging the sole...keep it flat on the sole...and take small flakes at a time.
  • Removing too much bar so that you either draw blood or you compromise the integrity of the sole. You should never trim a bar so that you draw blood. You should never trim so that the sole is spongy. Know when to stop. Trim as much as you can and then leave it for a later trim as the sole straightens out and strengthens. Your immediate goal is to remove enough bar so that it is not weight-bearing except where it meets the heel.
  • You may have to do this in stages if there is no sole due to overlayed bars.
  • Bars that are highly impacted may fall dramatically when not weight bearing and can "regrow" as much as a full centimetre or more in the space of 24 hours. It may take several weeks before impacted bars return to a normal state and not fall down anymore. Regular trimming is essential during this time.
  • The bar triangle can also be rather thin if there is significant sole contraction. Test it by pressing down on the bar triangle to feel for movement.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to dig out the bars down to the corium in order to decontract a hoof and achieve hoof mechanism. This procedure is not recommended by any except those who are SHP trained or under their strict guidance.

Remember that trimming the bars is only one small part of the overall barefoot trim and is not to be used in isolation from the rest of a properly done barefoot trim


That story really hit home for me, whereas the video gave me a good visual of what to look for. Here is Bud's hoof now:

Her bars are clearly laid over and out of control. Her heel buttresses (yellow) are where they need to be. The red line is where her bars are laid over and the squiggly red is where they are laying down. They should be near the blue collateral groove:

We'll see what the farrier has to say, but I don't see a reason to keep them. I will do some more research in some of the books I have in the meantime.

1 comment:

  1. Very good post in your quest for hoof knowledge! I'll be interested to hear what your hoof care provider has to say about your research.

    Nice to see Bud making so much progress. Keep it up!