Thursday, October 15, 2009

No Hoof, No Horse

Those 4 words hold more truth than a lot of people wish to admit or grant them. Yet in my experiences with horse people, the hooves are often one of the most overlooked and ignored part of the horse.


*cue dramatic music*

something goes wrong with them!

Even then, unless it is causing a major head bobbing lameness- some owners, riders, trainers and otherwise people you would think know their stuff, don't catch what is really going on, let alone wrong, with their horse.

A few know, that I do and will trim our horses feet as needed and I worked on one just last night. But I leave the shoeing to the farrier and also ask him to check my work. On the right hand side you will find a link to The Natural Angle which is on the website for Farrier Products. There they have a whole host of articles, yours for the reading, to learn what to look for in a good trim or shoeing. Packed with knowledge, easy to understand and pictures for those of us who need them.

As a horse owner, you owe it to your horse to read up on it. As a consumer, you owe it to your checkbook to read up on it. Why pay for substandard work, when often, quality work costs the same? As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This same rule applies to the hooves. Probably more so than any other part of the horse.

Above a horse for sale ad C3D sent me, I recently found an ad for a new product on the market-

The RidersRasp was designed by a person claiming 'Certified Journeyman Farrier' status who promotes it as being easy to use by everyone, for rounding off the hoof edge to prevent chips and cracking.

But similar to the words of a late night infomercial, "Don't stop there..."

It goes further in the promo, to being used to round the edges of the hoof every 2-3 weeks enabling the user to extend the length of time between trims by a professional. Sounds fair enough. But they state using it every 2-3 weeks is extending the length of time between trims from 5-6 weeks to 7-8 weeks. Um, last I checked, shoeing or at the very least trims, are recommended every 6-8 weeks ANYWAYS... depending on the horse, their workload and rate of hoof growth of course.

Here's where I have issues with things they state on the website. There was plenty to choose from, so I picked just a few. I'm not sure how to change text color so I'll use Italics to highlight their statements.

A conventional farrier’s rasp is difficult to use and best left to a professional. It needs two hands to operate, requiring the user to stand with the horse’s foot between their legs, often bearing the weight of a leaning horse. Standing under the horse is not only difficult, but can be dangerous.

Steadying the hoof between your legs, does not mean the horse will or should lean on you. Ours know leaning on anyone working on them is not an option. They have 3 other legs to use, which they should. It is not the farriers job (or mine) to hold them up and I don't expect anyone to do so. This is where working with your horses feet or not, shows. You can certainly teach them not to lean on you. Standing under them is actually not all that difficult. Dangerous? Sure it can be, but working with horses puts you in a level of assumed risk anyways. We all know anything can happen at any given time.

When used by a non-professional, a conventional rasp can also remove too much hoof wall which can cause soreness, lameness and compromise the hoof’s balance.

A person claiming to be a professional can also do the same damage. We are all human after all. Next?

Rounding encourages symmetrical growth and maintains the hoof capsule’s correct balance by eliminating flares and dishes.

So rounding off the edge at the bottom of the hoof, eliminates flares and dishes further up the hoof? How? How does filing the lowest edge of the sides reinstate the balance across the bottom of the hoof, from side to side & front to back?

Typically, rounding is done by a hoof care professional, but now you can supplement your horse’s hoof care regiment with RidersRasp™ between trims for healthier hooves!

If the professionals are already doing this and doing their job right to begin with, why does anyone need to fix things between their visits? Keep an eye on things- sure, but keep rounding off the edges? Not unless you are riding in some seriously rough terrain, but then wouldn't some people consider shoeing as an option or using boots on the horse for protection?

There are several other things, that when reading the text with an open mind and considering it with common sense and logic- it just doesn't seem to have any. Makes you wonder sometimes, doesn't it? Why the condescending tone? Are all consumers that gullible? There are also a couple of other things offered on the 'products' page that will raise a few eyebrows for sure. I'll leave those for everyone to have at it over, in the comments section.

Now in all fairness, it is stated on the website that rounding the hoof edge after a horse loses a shoe, will help prevent chips and splitting until the farrier can reset the shoe. That is something where I can understand having this product or a standard rasp available and putting it to good use.


  1. It's about time! And you've only just skimmed the surface.
    Hah, get it? A fine pun, if I do say so meself.

    It's a bloody scary thought, isn't it?
    "Oh, I didn't even need the farrier, until... (fill in the blank hoof disaster) happened. I saved so much money!"
    Horse couldn't walk by the end, by hey..
    Seriously, I was just muttering to myself, "When will I read the Hoof Post??"
    You know, there is so much more...
    <") FIRST.

  2. by = but = fcik.

    Sounds scottish, tho. By Hey!
    aaand second;)

  3. I had a friend turn me on to a "Natural" farrier. I LOVE her (only thing w/"Natural" is they are sooooo anti shoe). She is all about trimming horse to the way the horse is NOT pretty. She LOVES to teach owners how to rasp in between trims. I always passed b/c of my back.
    Now interesting thing about this...the person who turned me on to her is now pissed at her b/c she trimmed her gelding and he came up "ouchy". So it was farrier issue. I didn't say anything b/c I've seen a horse where it was "FARRIER issue" Like I pulled my horse out and he was walking on his EFFING FROG. HIS FROG! Had huge issues with that. This other lady...rocky ground..tender footed horse and you hadn't had a trim in over 9 wks and YOU KNOW his feet grow fast!
    Now I've looked at this product and to me this has got LAWSUIT all over it.

    I see folks using this instead of calling a farrier. I see folks using this and destroying the white line. I see (idiots like me) tearing the crap out of their horses feet b/c they are dyslexic and (I wish I was kidding) once you bend over your eye goes to shit.
    then again..I was I was the mental midget who invented this

  4. Somehow a reasonable idea gets turned to Snake oil , by the demand for the almighty buck! A hany rasp tp tidy up is one thing but...

  5. Um...that last sentence was supposed to be "I wish I was the mental midget who invented this" SIGH..long day of listening to people yell at each other.

  6. Ummm...Why would anyone spend fifty bucks on this thing when you can go down to the feed store or a farrier supply and get a real rasp for far less money?

  7. Hmmm...I just saw those the other day and thought about getting one. Thought it might be handier than heck for green horses who do not like the vibrations they can get when their foot is on the hoof stand and you are trying to round off the edge.

    Like anything, a good idea in the wrong hands(or uneducated hands) and a major F-up is sure to ensue.

  8. I lady who boards at my barn "HAD TO HAVE ONE!!!" I've never seen her use it (and it's a good thing) but I suppose it would be handy in cases where a hoof is chipped or a shoe is thrown, but not when used in place of a good farrier. People continue to surprise me though, I keep expecting her to tell me to skip her horses' trimming because she can do it herself....

  9. There was several more pages to go through for far more things to dissect, but sadly in a lot of cases, common sense does not rule. It rarely even holds a lowly position in some cases. *sigh*

    GL- I have barely buffed the tip of the iceburg with this one. They do offer sanding blocks single or a pack of 10 for enhancing the appearance of the hoof after you have done your damage. What happened to seeing a good looking hoof that displays the overall quality of care the whole horse is getting?

    Did anyone catch the hoof pick on the handle of the stainless steel wire brush? Imagine those sticking & pricking your arms, hands or the horses legs while in use? Ouch! And then expecting the horse to behave and stand still after that? Not hardly!

    What I find strange is the barefoot vs. shod war. There are those on both sides, adamant as hell and determined ALL horses benifit from their side of the fence.

    Whatever happened to whatever is best for the horse? Isn't their comfort what's most important? I have dealt with horses who never needed shoes and others who could go even a short time without them. If it works for that horse, who am I to complain?

  10. Rachel- I laughed at that too! A rasp at the feed store here is around $30. Did anyone catch free shipping on orders of $45, and this is priced just under? Hmmmmm. Interesting.

    Another thing I didn't include in the OP as I wanted to keep things on track...

    The RR is promo'd to remove flares in the hoof. My understanding is that flares are a result of where and how the hoof is bearing the weight. More weight on the outside- the flare appears there and shows the hoof is somewhat out of balance. So filing off the side of the hoof is supposed to balance the hoof back to where it belongs? That doesn't make sense to me. Instead it seems the bottom needs to be leveled. Filing off the side of the hoof isn't going to do that.

  11. Just another gadget that unknowledgable owners will buy to make themselves feel better..... alot like supplements! LOL! Hopefully when they get it, they'll become too scared of f'ing up their horse once they get to the barn!

  12. Oh don't get me started. Some of these farriers want to be treated like the major charities.
    Can't you just mail me the check and do the work yourself?
    I think I could do a damn fine routine channeling Larry The Cable Guy when it comes to the farriers.
    "Just Get Er Done!"
    Ya think? Isn't that what I am paying you for?
    Job security isn't notches in the right hinds and just to throw me off occasionally the right fronts.
    And no I do not consider it more for my money to have 4 different angles on the same horse.
    Assholes. Unemployed by me assholes.
    They used to do a good job.*sigh*
    At this stage I just want the stands. Screw the piece of junk displayed.
    My nippers were $130 and the file about $30 the Dremel was $50 the one I need a little more.
    Money well spent in my book. Oh and my knife was in that $10 range.
    I am telling you I am going to be out of control by December
    Off to order one of those angle measury thingys.
    I figure between the money I will save on trims and Christmas cards I can afford one.
    And imagine selling a horse with the description of Don't know about standing for the farrier but he/she sure stands for me.

  13. For those interested in trying your hand at trimming, I used a marker when I first stated out. I could draw lines, measure things, wipe the line off, redraw, remeasure- all I needed without doing anything to injure the horse or change the way they stood or traveled.

  14. "There are those on both sides, adamant as hell and determined ALL horses benefit from their side of the fence. Whatever happened to whatever is best for the horse?"

    What happens is that advocacy turns into ideology. Once there, "it" MUST be good for everyone across the board! No exceptions!


    Ruthie, committed to usin' my noggin

  15. well.. the old adage. a fool and his money are easily parted. this tool has a myriad of fail uses in the wrong hands. not that the tool is necessarily bad, but the product advertising is.

    personally, i think every horse owner should know how to handle a rasp. i do not personally believe in shoeing, but even owners of shod horses need to know how to take at least a bit of hoof off if necessary. the farrier can't always make it out in an emergency if a horse throws a shoe and does enough damage to the hoof wall to make his foot wonky. and i'm speaking to myself here - i could be far handier with a rasp than i am, but my trimmer is the same person who keeps my horses so i guess having hoofcare handy is something i take for granted.

    that said - this promotional material for this product is completely irresponsible, because you know some goofball out there is going to buy it and think it's a substitute for quality professional hoofcare. i mean, aren't we in a horse care crisis right now anyway? why add fuel to the fire. it shouldn't be stating it can stretch out the time between trims - it's unhealthy for horses to go that long without a hoof trim because as the hooves grow, their angles can change and the bars grow, beginning to pinch the frog. 4 weeks is about tops for horses on soft grown. if they're on hard ground, well, it depends on how much movement. i had a filly who maintained her own trim on hard ground and didn't need anything but to be looked at by the trimmer every few weeks to make sure she was still ok. but she was a bossy filly on a large lot of very hard ground. most horses don't have that luxury when it comes to naturally maintaining terrain. there's a lot more to hoof trimming than just rounding off the edges of the wall, you've got the sole and frog to look after too and bars that are too long sore up a horse real quick, especially if he's bigger and has small feet. stupid stupid stupid. good product, handy to have in one's grooming box, but a great example of irresponsible marketing.

  16. GL - for barefooters, it *is* about the welfare of the horse. most of us have done the reading and research behind if it we make a conscious choice to take our horses barefoot (not just having one that 'goes barefoot naturally') and understand all that it entails. now, i know a good farrier who understands hoof angle can keep a horse 'sound' for a long period of time, often over the course of decades (proper hoof angle is critically important) but after looking at all the available information out there, what brought me to the decision was the science behind natural hoofcare. particularly when it comes to the hoof's function as an auxiliary blood pump to assist the horse's heart as well as the shock absorbing qualities of a properly maintained and angled hoof capsule itself.

    i thought my old mare, whom my trimmer brought back to soundness after ten years and one nerving from navicular syndrome, could never go barefoot. the one time her original farrier took her 'barefoot' she wound up with pads on her feet for a year at least (she was wearing them when i got her). i struggled with her lameness off and on until i hired my trimmer. it took learning about not only proper hoof care (my mare's toes were always too long, her feet were contracted from years of wearing shoes and her heels were so underslung they were also contracting and could not do the job of support for the foot) but also learning about proper horse management. her feed was too hot, and she had no room to get out and move. this, coupled with the fact that the shoes simply were 'numbing' the feet by restricting circulation motivated me to move her out to my trimmer's place where, within 3 months of being out there, and having been trimmed the proper way for 9 months, i was riding her sound on pavement (and i was pregnant at the time, so not exactly a light load!)

    anyway - i've found that many farriers don't really understand hoof angle, proper trim and what's really important to cut away. most of what i've seen out there as far as 'advances' in the shoeing industry are reverse science - trying to take science and use it to justify a tradition that started in the middle ages because nobles would use tie stalls and their horses would stand in urine all day long, effectively weakening the hooves. i could go on and on, but it really is, for barefooters, getting past all of the tradition and 'it's just what's always been done' and asking 'does this REALLY benefit the horses or are we just kidding ourselves?' asking questions, paying attention to other influences (my colt can't eat anything much higher protein than grass hay - he was on 2-way (oat and barley, i think) at the trainers and within a month's time he had inflammation in all four hooves. took him off the hotter hay, and the soreness went away. he's coming six and has never worn a shoe a day in his life) rather than just taking the sometimes quicker fix of slapping shoes on is important to us. heck, chiropractic care straightened out his front wonky pastern when all the corrective trimming in the corrective trimming in the world couldn't cause him to go fully straight on that near front. shoes are simply treatments for symptoms, not the cause in most cases.

  17. Not sure why I'm the antagonist here, but whatever.
    Boy, people sure get excited about hooves, don't they?
    "GL - for barefooters, it *is* about the welfare of the horse. "

    I never said it *ISN'T*.
    I don't like the idea of newbies merrily rasping away their horse's hoofie, and then wondering WTF happened, when the horse can't walk anymore.
    Hooves are bloody miracles.
    Don't screw them up.
    Oops, too late, we DiD.

  18. gl - gosh i didn't mean to sound like i was making an argument - sorry. tone on the web is a funny thing eh?

    nah - i know that folks who shoe their horses are honestly believing it's what's best for them.

    and yeah - this rasp is not something that should be handled by boneheads but that's exactly who it's being marketed too :(

  19. Bonnie- ya just gotta remember that not all horse owners have the option of boarding or otherwise keeping their horses at a facility where they can move about as they would in the wild like they originally evolved to doing.

    This isn't exactly a perfect world, ya know? lol

    Then taking breeders into consideration- we find the oversized, double beef patties on a 00 (double ott) sized shoe the size of a hamburger bun. But that's what WINNING! Dies anything else matter?

    Or the TB's who are bred to run and hoof be damned! Get your ass around the track and you had better come in first, cuz I want my picture taken in the winners circle!

    Keep in mind, not all owners delve into things such as the hoof, which contains their horses fate under the control of such a relatively small area. And yes, when you compare all four hooves to the rest of the horses body- there really isn't much to compare.

  20. Horses can generate such strong opinions of the 'right' way to do things, but every horse is different. What's right for one will cripple or kill another...feed programs come to mind.
    My herd does well barefoot for most of their work, but if I'm going up into the rocky trails in the wilderness areas around here shoes of some sort are an absolute, whether it's easy boots or iron. Some horses can't hack it without pads, others need minimal support. I've seen a few people try it barefoot, and had to loan them duct tape to get their horses out. The shale is brutal when the horse cannot just stop and let his feet grow out or ditch the extra weight! A very few have made it without shoes, but it's a big risk when help is days away and cell phones don't work, and a sore footed horse can stumble and fall off a 200 foot cliff. Genetics count also as CnJ pointed out. I have 6 with hooves of steel, and one that crumbles if you look at his feet wrong.

  21. Kestrel- I am soooooooo glad you mentioned nutrition. I have a post coming up on that subject. Still acquiring photos. I promise it will be a shocker. But sadly- not in a good way.

  22. On feet....

    My OWN feet do really well on uneven, softish terrain, but I can't walk or stand for long on modern flat surfaces without some kind of monstrous arch support and pref. some heel cushion too.

    Shoes aren't automatically EEEBIL, and barefoot isn't automatically weird hippie shit.

    If the horse is sound, healthy and moving well, then you're doing it right, no matter if his feet are nekked, glued or nailed.

    Since I am acquiring a putter-around-with, mature horse with some managed ringbone and arthritis issues, I'll be learning A LOT about keeping such beasties comfortable.

    Please address this in your Nutrition post!!!!!!

    On arthritis: my father-in-law had severe arthritis on top of his lymphoma and leukemia. His oncologist recommended avoiding potatoes, and sure enough, his joints felt better. Whenever he ate spuds, he had noticeably worse joint pain.

    So.... what's the best diet in your experience for a rickety old horse? He's been definitely rideably sound since I've known him, with good farrier work and cortaflex. He currently is on pretty much straight oats and the most beautiful hay I've ever seen or smelled in my life. Dude, I was ready to stick my face into it and start munching, myself!!

  23. Haven't read the posts yet, but want to point out something really quick before I go to bed about natural balance trimming.

    I have a barefoot trimmer that does my horses. She does a great job, and it saves me a shitload of money--over $400 per year. I also like Renegade boots the best (made by people in AZ who KNOW what our terrain is like and that no one in any other state understands). I am not going to put shoes on my horses anymore unless they need it for rehabilitation or medicinal reasons. It's just because it will save me money in the long run--that's the only reason I'm doing it. I think either shoes or barefoot is fine, as long as you have a skilled farrier/trimmer who actually knows what they're doing.

    That being said, as far as natural balance trimming goes, I actually discourage it for gaited horses. This is because it was designed by studying dead mustangs' feet, which are TROTTING horses. There is no such thing as a wild horse that is gaited (at least, not anymore, and those that were wild and gaited didn't do the kinds of gaits that our current gaited horses do). Keeping the horses' toes short and changing the weight distribution is fine for a trotting horse, but for a gaited horse, it WILL ruin your horse's gait, almost guaranteed. I have seen five horses that all had natural balance trimming, and the gait had been trimmed right out of them. But, of course, if you do have a gaited horse and he's still gaiting with the natural balance trimming, then go right ahead! Just don't expect your horse to gait properly for his breed or to be a good show horse!

    For more about gaited horses and shoes, here's a link to my webpage about it:

    That is all. You my now return to your regularly scheduled rant. Great post, CNJ!

  24. Oops, sorry--my URL got cut off. Try this:

  25. gl - indeed. natural hoofcare is actually about natural HORSEcare... if horses were sound under the conditions they're normally kept (i.e., stalls, lack of movement, hot feed etc) they wouldn't 'need' shoes. personally, shoes are 'necessary' because of humans forcing certain management things on them. my mare didn't go fully sound until she was on 100% turnout. i had her getting a strasser trim for 5 months and she improved slightly, but it was getting out of the stall, off the hot feed and out moving in addition to correct angles that 'fixed' her.

    and you're right - not all people can do that with their horses, unfortunately. we've set ourselves up in our centuries-old management practices to rely on shoes to keep our horses 'sound', but honestly they're just a bandaid. a horse that can stay sound barefoot whilst standing in a stall most of his life has hardy hooves indeed. ammonia in bedding alone can rot the hooves off the toughest pony if they stand in it long enough.

    racehorses 'need' shoes because of their lifestyles, but the shoes do damage too, given the increase in concussive damage they do to joints by removing the ability of the hoof to absorb shock AND being metal as well. the racing industry is just not set up in the interest of the horse at all...

    and neither is most of the show industry. all it really comes down to is the money. and i'm sure people 'love' their show horses, but as the big lickers, the post legged halter breeders (on those size 00 feet - drives me CRAZY to see) and the arabs with their gingering... none of it is in the interest of the horse.

    and in places like los angeles where i live, it's extremely hard to find enough space to pasture-board. it's frustrating really. i feel blessed that i've found a place where my two can be on 24/7 turnout but most folks around here who keep horses can't because the land simply isn't there anymore. you're very right though - you cannot separate hoof care from horse care. they're not mutually exclusive and even dr. strasser stresses that unless a horse lives in an environment where he's free to behave similarly as he would in the wild, in a herd, with lower energy feed, moving as much as possible, then it makes taking a horse successfully, useably barefoot much more difficult if not almost impossible. that's why shoes came about - to fix the hoof problems that the change in lifestyle and management caused in the first place.

  26. I'm skeptical about Strasser; I've heard too many horror stories. I found this website, which makes better sense to me.

    Unfortunately, the only practitioner in Colorado is waaay up in the mountains.


  27. i think strasser needs a more in-depth training AND internship program - more similar to a journeyman type deal. the course is expensive, but like with many things, you get alot of people who are good at passing the tests but when it comes to practical application, they're not willing to put the practice in until they're confident they really know what they're doing. in that instance, it's not necessarily about the method itself, but about the person who claims to practice it. it also comes down to management too - if you don't manage the horse to coincide with the natural hoof trim, it's difficult to make rapid progress.

    my trimmer took a while before she felt ready to handle remedial cases. now she fixes founder, navicular, all kinds of 'terminal' hoofcare problems. she's extremely talented.