Sunday, November 21, 2010

Taking the rasp into your own hands

I'm starting this special post with a strong opinion of mine: having a little bit of hoof knowledge is like a college student in a psych 101 class. Yes, you may have a good grasp on the information, but odds are you can do more harm then good. I do not advocate EVER for a laymen to pick up a hoof rasp and to just start doing his horses hooves. However, I do advocate the laymen educate himself on hoofcare by using a hoofcare professional as a mentor.

The above picture is of my tools. Surprise! I've asked Scott to show me how to maintain a trim on Buttercup so that the next time we move I won't be desperate for a hoofcare professional and end up with the wrong guy (again). We are moving sometime next year, so figured I would step on it.

Those of you wanting to do this with your hoofcare professional: please keep in mind that he or she is likely very busy (I've yet to meet a farrier or trimmer who has a lot of time to kill). Offer to pay him or her for his or her time. This will also show that you are serious.

In addition to this offer, pick up your own tools to mess up. I bought two, used hoofknifes and one very nice rasp for $38. Not a bad deal.

Now, why is it important for the horse owner to learn how to maintain a basic trim on a horse? Well, for one, you'll gain some sympathy for your hoofcare professional. You get farted on, stepped on, yanked away from, nibbled on and much more while trying to trim a horse ... and that's usually the not-so-bad ones! Secondly, it will broaden your understanding of the hoof if you know what your hoofcare professional is doing to it. And thirdly, you will be able to maintain your horse's hoof in a pinch, like in case the hoofcare professional is out of work or whatever.

Yet another disclaimer: please do not ask your hoofcare professional to show you how to trim and then go off and start up your own hoofcare business. Not only is that extremely rude, but it is also not how you gain true hoofcare knowledge. If after you learn to trim and handle the tools, you decide you want to embark on a career, there are plenty of schools available to you to suit your needs.

OK, now that is out of the way.

Yesterday was my first hoof trimming lesson with Scott! We used Jaeger, a 4-year-old Appendix. He's my leased horse and is doing lower level dressage at the moment.

Now I'm going to use the term "we" here like I have in the past, only we means that I helped out in the paring and rasping too. I felt like a monkey most of the time, and Scott said most of this is learning how to manipulate the tools. He told me to get back to him after I did 20 horses. I laughed but I don't think he was joking.

This was Jaeger's first trim with Scott. I have pictures from a few weeks ago to show his before and afters. I'm showing the before so that you can see what Scott and I saw, and what Scott gleaned from just looking at the hoof.

Now to me, there isn't much of a story to tell here besides some separation. But to Scott, this picture with the sharp curve on the sides of the coronary band meant extra pressure on the quarters, which in turn meant sloppy bars (I had a post on bars earlier this year).

We turn the hoof over and here's what we see (approximately):

The first order of business was to take the bars back to where they should be. We also worked on opening up the collateral groove (next to the frog) so that we could see the depth of that groove. That tells us how far in and how balanced the coffin bone is. If both sides of the collateral groove show the same depth, then our coffin bone is balanced. If not, then we have an imbalance.

We also opened up the frog so that flaps weren't inviting infection into the collateral groove or into that crease at the heel. Scott said this horse has a contracted heel due to the quarters taking all the weight and not letting him comfortably land on his heel. Another issue contributing to this horse's contracted heels was a beveled roll all the way around. Although the beveled roll is great at preventing separation from toe to quarter, the heel needs to have a flat rasp to it so it can properly flex.

OK so here's my first ever trim! Now I probably only did about 20% of what you see, but I'm still proud of myself.

We started from the solar view first, using the hoofknife to put the bars where they needed to be and the seatcorn where that needed to be. Then we rasped at a 180° angle the heel. I believe Scott even gave it a slight backwards bevel toward the heel bulb. He called it a "heel bevel," which is not to be confused with the bevel from quarters to toe (it allows for lateral expansion of the heel). And then we gave a 45° bevel from the quarters to the toe to about the waterline on the hoof. Scott then took the quarters down slightly so that the hoof would distribute weight equally over heel, quarters, toe.

On the first pic, you can tell he didn't take the rightside bar back completely. He said "baby steps" about that one. Experience, I guess, will tell you when to take and when to leave.

Front left:

Front right:

I'm amazed how the curve in his coronary band was nearly gone by the time we fixed up the solars. We then propped up the hooves on a hoofstand and did the fine rasp side to get rid of any hooks or crannies or anything that would go against the 45° angle we established on the bevel. We only went up about 3/4 of an inch up the hoofwall, anymore and you're just thinning the hoofwall, Scott said.

Back left:

Back right:

I learned a lot yesterday. Some of it was very over-arching of horsemanship: patience and getting out of the horse's way when they do something stupid. A lot of it though was about putting the trim to use and working with the horse's hoof. And much of it was learning that tool manipulation is a lot harder than it looks (let the rasp work for you! Use leverage on the hoofknife!).

It's a lot easier than it looks, and I never thought it was easy! My next trim lesson is Dec. 18, and it'll be with Buttercup. I can't wait.

Oh and I got the inside scoop on what Scott did to her hoof last time. He cleaned out her crack and used a new type of epoxy to fill it in to try to help strengthen that part of the hoofwall. I was hoping to get out there today but I'm going on a beach ride in a little bit and I don't think that will be in the cards.

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