Posted in  Barefoot Approach Explained  on  17 February, 2014 by  Debs Crosoer

Do you trim your own horses? How do you approach it? I’m not talking about techniques here, I’m talking about mind set… What is it that you’re thinking about and what are you trying to achieve.

Let me be clear. I’m definitely not saying in any way that people should or shouldn’t trim their own horses. Nor am I saying owner trimmers are less or more competent than professionals. I know both owners and pros who I’d be perfectly happy to let trim my horses, I also know those who I wouldn’t even let on my yard…

What I’m talking about here, or, more accurately, asking about, is what are you really doing?

I often hear an owner trimmer saying what they are doing is perfectly safe as they’re ‘only trimming a little bit – so I’m not doing any harm’. That’s fine, I guess. But here are my questions…

If the little bit you’re doing is so insignificant it’s having no effect, why are you doing it? If it’s enough to have an effect, then it has the potential to have a positive or a negative effect – thus it’s not really ‘just a little bit’

How often are you doing this ‘little bit’? In the interests of this discussion I’m going to say a little bit is 1mm. I find many people who trim 1mm once a week. That’s 6mm every 6 weeks. That’s a lot! Really! I know a few horses who get that overgrown, but they’re ‘special’

Generally speaking I’m not a fan of trimming weekly, as it makes it very difficult to really judge what’s happening with the feet. Can you tell the difference between 1mm and 2mm? Do you remember clearly all that information to be able to tell if your horse’s growth rate has increased or decrease?

If you can’t tell the difference between 1mm and 2mm where is your balance going? If you know – then that’s great – but do you know?

I’ve seen this ‘little bit’ technique result in a hoof about 13mm higher on 1 side than the other. Just the one hoof, 3 were being done beautifully with this method, but the hoof on the leg with a joint problem went all kinds of wonky.

In the words of that owner ‘oh my god how did it go that wrong that quickly. I can’t believe I didn’t see that – it’s so obvious now you’ve pointed it out’

Like I said – 3 hooves were beautiful, and she had the support of a professional. Once she’d seen how wonky the hoof could get and how much correcting it would need, she was far more confident about trimming and maintained a much more balanced hoof.

While we love our horses the most, and want the best for them, we’re not necessarily the right person to be doing the trimming ourselves.

Would you let a person who wasn’t you, trim your horse with the level of knowledge you have?

My sister for instance can’t even cut a loaf of bread straight. Seriously, it can be over 1.5cm shorter just at 1 corner and she still thinks it’s straight and don’t get me started about the time she decided she was going to cut my hair when we were kids!!! Her horse is always way cleaner than mine though 🙂 We all have our strengths and weaknesses!

(For instance – I don’t know how to post a blog post – my sister does that bit for me – I wonder if the last paragraph will make the final edit…)

I’m not suggesting you do or don’t have sufficient skills or knowledge. I’m asking you if you think so… If you know so!!

I know it seems like I’m being a bit mean, and anyone who suggests that there’s a lack of competence with owner trimmers is beasted through social media until they’re dust… But I think your horse, every horse deserves the best that they can get. I’m fairly sure you’ll agree with that.

The best might be you, it might not. It might be you, after you’ve developed your skills, knowledge or confidence, it might be your friend, or a farrier, or a trimmer, or no-one at all because your environment is in perfect equilibrium and the hoof self maintains. YAY!

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions for you. I do for me. Sometimes, we need to ask ourselves the hard questions even though we don’t like the answers. Sometimes we just need to stop being so hard on ourselves as we’re doing a great job.

Which kind of horse owner are you?
What do you think?
Am I too mean?
Should I be more mean?!

Tell me what you think in the comments below…


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About the author

Debs is a practicing Equine Podiatrist with over 15 years experience, author, and educator.

She’s here to show you how to simplify your horse’s management painlessly so you feel in control and have a straightforward system that works for you.

When she’s not working you can find her playing with her own horses, watching geeky sci-fi or baking epic cakes.

  • you are right.
    your sister doesn’t read your posts
    i trim my horses myself, shoe them with cera or epona shoes sometimes, but with a little bit of guilt ,because i want them barefoot in a very harsh abrasive environment. would use an expert once in a while if there was one that knows anything about barefoot trimming or the use of compound shoes just to check i am doing ok

  • I’m no expert, I’ve learned a huge amount from watching trims, videos and reading, and thinking, and seeing what changes occur in my horse’s hooves.
    I’ve also seen professionals who are complacent, or trim four hooves in five minutes, or make a mess of a foot, or make a horse sore. Some of them have unfortunately worked on my horses, with the only question being “how much work is he doing?” No gait assessment, no looking at the foot from the top, no mention of treating a bit of thrush, no ongoing advice, no mention of feed, or hoof/health issues, zero responsibility passed to the owner, questions avoided or half answered. “See you in six weeks”.
    So I’m happy that I have some knowledge, enough to be confident to trim, to address some issues, to be able to sort a problem as soon as I notice it, to be able to read a hoof from more than just the sole view.
    I’m no expert, I’m fallible, I try at least. I’m so grateful that I have a wonderful trimmer for back up when I need her, thankful that she discusses hoof care with me, and puts up with me asking her tons of questions and querying everything hoof so I can educate myself a little more.
    I’ve made mistakes, undoubtedly still do, I’ve also made progress better than previous people have.
    I’ve seen fabulous work and hideous work done by ‘professionals’, so in my mind I’m somewhere in the middle, trying to do the best for my horse.

  • I have gone from one extreme to the other on the “when to trim” debate.too often and you lose sight of a goal, then waiting to trim some anomaly and the hoof is misshapen.As you gain experience with an individual horse it come clearer what that horses hoof needs. Time will sometimes tell, how often and how much that hoof needs to be trimmed.

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