I'm going to try to make these blogs a weekly (or bi-weekly) practice to help myself reflect on what I'm seeing in the horses I trim and what I'm learning from my colleagues and through independant study!
This week, I find myself trying to convince many horse owners that even in the winter, 8+ weeks is just too long for most horses to go between trims. I say most horses because there are always exceptions and I also know that horses won't die if they have to wait 8 weeks due to bad weather, family emergencies or any other reason we have to put trims off. And it is true that most horse's hoof growth slows significantly in the winter.
All that said, if I have to take off a ton of hoof each time I come, I'm taking 1 step forward and at least 1 if not 2 steps back depending on the horse. Some horses do more self trimming or grow slower than others but in general, I want to do as little trimming of the height/length of hoof wall as possible so that I can focus on the balance and shaping of the hoof overall. If we allow hoof distortions to become over grown, it can effect the horse throughout it's whole body.
Over the 2 months between trims, the horse's body is compensating for the extra growth at the bottom of the hoof and they are developing new ways of moving that aren't always the kindest to their muscles, tendons, joints etc especially if they are in work. And then I come along for my 8 week appointment and "fix" all of that, now their body is totally confused and has to readjust often causing body aches and pains.
On top of the body mechanics, the hoof can't function properly if the hoof is overgrown either. The frog needs to be making ground contact, not TOO much but enough to stimulate the frog tissue and the underlying soft tissue to support the back half of the hoof encouraging the heel first landing we all strive for. If the wall and bars grow too long, for example, the frog will lack ground contact and do any number of things, either to compensate or start to atrophe. This can lead to heel pain, thrush, eventually navicular disease/syndrome especially if the horse develops a consistant toe-first landing.
And then rehab cases are a whole different ball game! I won't go too into detail for this blog about that because depending on the condition, different protocols will be necessary. I will say that you should be prepared to have your horse trimmed on a much more frequent basis if he/she is dealing with a chronic or serious hoof issue such as laminitis or navicular disease/syndrome.
I promise you, we trimmers and farriers are not trying to steal your money by coming to trim your horses more often! We want to make sure that we stay ahead of your horse's growth to keep them functioning as well as they possibly can without setbacks. I understand the thinking that since we ride less in the winter and the hooves grow slower we should trim less and that is certainly the case. Ideally, I would like to be scheduling at 6 weeks so that I can have some wiggle room when it snows here in Vermont (which is pretty often!) and I have to push appointments back a week.
That's my musing this week, stay tuned for other topics and feel free to suggest something if you want to discuss it!
*I forgot to add that if the owner is willing to touch up with a rasp and knife in between visits, we can absolutely go longer in between! I LOVE teaching owners how to trim and it really helps them to stay accountable for their horse's hoof health and they become more in tune to what goes on :)