Tuesday 6 September 2011

Thought for the day [RRR -3 days]

As most of you know, I became interested in celery* and started to promote its use a few months ago.  I also posted a heretical post about the [severe] limitations of trimming as way of increasing hoof health.

[*"Celery" in this context means NOT trimming hooves but allowing the horse to self-maintain with sufficient work on varied surfaces]
I know some of you have been very interested in the benefits of "celery", particularly those of you whose horses have had bad experiences of poor trims in the past.  I'm sure others think its a load of baloney and are still convinced that hooves are all the better for a damn good trim.

So I thought it might be a good idea for me to post some statistics. They are stats which have been given to me by owners - they haven't been independently verified, haven't been double blind tested, but I believe they are accurate.

Why?  Because if rehab horses have taught me anything, its that owners are the first people to spot lameness and are the most picky - owners know their own horses inside out and back to front, and there is NOTHING like riding a horse to give you a feel for that horse's lameness or soundness.
So with that in mind, have a look at this  - the top 4 relate to horses who have been trimmed, the last stat is for horses who aren't currently trimmed. Remember, these are only the horses I've been notified of recently:
  • Ex rehab horses who have been lamed or had their performance measurably impaired following a trim: 10
  • Ex rehab horses who have been regularly trimmed with no ill effects: 3
  • Other horses I am aware of who have been lamed or had their performance measurably impaired following a trim in the last 3 months: 9
  • Ex rehab horses who show a slight improvement following a trim: 1
  • Ex rehab horses who are not trimmed and are going from strength to strength: 9
I hope you can see now why I am becoming more and more enamoured of celery in place of trimming, at least for rehab horses.  To recap, the non-trimmed group are all doing well.  In the trimmed group we have, immediately post-trim:
  • a slight improvement in 1 horse; 
  • damage or lameness to 19 horses; and
  • no effect on 3 horses.
This is only a straw poll, but it mirrors my own experiences and its enough of a trend to confirm that trimming may not always even be neutral, let alone beneficial.

Bear in mind also that ALL of the horses who were lamed or damaged were trimmed by registered UK farriers or trimmers who had qualified with a recognised organisation (UKNHCP, EP or AANHCP).  They were trimmed with the best of intentions, and sometimes - I am sorry to say - by farriers or trimmers who went back and made the same mistakes at their next visit.   
This is not a post I ever wanted to make but I think the warning needs to be out there.  As owners you need to be extremely careful about who you allow near your horse's feet - and above all listen to your horse.
In my opinion you should NEVER accept that a horse should be worse after a trim and if this is ever the case with your own horse, discuss it with your trimmer or farrier and - if necessary - their professional governing body.  We all make mistakes, but (as professionals) we shouldn't keep on making them.

By all means, enrol the help and expertise of a qualified hoofcare practitioner to help you optimise your horse's hoof health.  The best of them will spend a lot of time with you and your horse, give you superb advice and will leave you with a sounder horse.  Occasionally this may involve trimming but they may also tell you that your horse will not benefit from a trim. A good hoofcare professional will undoubtedly also be someone who counts many hard-working barefoot horses on their books.   
There are some GREAT hoofcare professionals out there, but there are a lot of trimmers (and farriers) who don't know basic anatomy, don't understand biomechanics and still think that they know more about hooves than your horse.  People like this can do an awful lot of harm if they set about trying to "improve" or "re-balance" your horse's feet and ignore what your horse is trying to tell them.

Do you remember the chapter in "Black Beauty"? 

"I know he meant no harm, I never said he did; I know he is not a bad boy. But you see, I am sore myself; that horse is the pride of my heart, to say nothing of his being such a favourite with the master and mistress; and to think that his life may be flung away in this manner is more than I can bear..."

"Well, John, thank you. I knew you did not wish to be too hard, and I am glad you see it was only ignorance."

John's voice almost startled me as he answered:

"Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don't you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? -- and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, `Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,' they think it is all right. "


Jacqui said...

Great Writing

Lucie said...

Very interesting post.
Those statistics are really quite scary..

amandap said...

Wow, another fantastic post from you Nic. Very apt following a trim I witnessed recently.

I do think getting round that feeling that we are neglecting horses if we don't have their hooves attended to by a professional on a regular basis is hard for owners wanting to do their best. The worry that we are not doing our best, when best = professional hoof practitioner, puts a big wall between a Natural model like 'celery' and a medical model. Degrees etc. mean knowledge, apparently, in our world but to me a degree in something that is opposed to Nature is something to be very wary of.

My liberation has come from learning to trust my instincts when 'listening' to my horses, it's so easy to believe or be persuaded that someone else knows better.
I have wavered from that 'listening' a few times but my resolve and trust in myself is growing stronger and stronger.

Blogs like yours are such an inspiration and support for me.
So a heartfelt thanks from me and my gang.

cptrayes said...

I completely agree with you Nic, that nothing beats a horse being given work to match its hoof growth and not be trimmed. Mine are shining examples, thankfully.

I can't help worrying, though, about those owners who just can't do the work and how they get it right, particularly with rehabs.

The barefoot horses with caudal hoof lameness that you've had seem to suggest that peripheral loading is to blame. If you can't get the work into the horse because of dark nights and work or school, then there's no option but to trim to stop the peripheral loading ..... or am I missing something?


Unknown said...

Those statistics are rather worrying indeed. I don't know whether you included Kingsley in them but it took him over 3 weeks to become comfortable after the trim. There could of course be many reasons for discomfort and to my amateur eye the trim made his movement much better overall but he struggled a lot over anything other than arena surface and flat concrete.

However, what about those horses that don't have the opportunity to be exercised on such varied terrain like Exmoor and that do a lot of work on soft surfaces? Or those that due to other issues can't be ridden for long enough to help with 'natural trimming'?
We would happily leave K self-trimming as it seems he copes badly with any intervention but his feet are growing too fast :(

Nic Barker said...

I agree with you all its very, very tricky. We often keep horses in environments where self-trimming isn't practical, so some human intervention is needed. Problem is that too often is not the RIGHT intervention and horses then suffer.

Ideally we need much more sensitive and educated trimming - and much more cautious and conservative trimming.

FWIW, Andy wanted me to trim Bailey a few days ago and its true that her feet looked long and wild and woolly, as he hadn't been working her as much as normal. I trimmed them and they looked nicer but in actual fact I didn't do anything that he and Bailey couldn't have done with an hour's roadwork. It would have been a little untidy BUT she would have moved just as well and her foot would have functioned just as well as if I hadn't trimmed her...

Val said...

I wish that I had a quiet, paved road to walk along from time to time. I would give up trimming for roadwork.

The only time my horse was sore after a trim was when the trimmer (years ago and not me) used nippers. My horse was sore on all four feet and was adopting the founder stance. To say that I was horrified would be an understatement. I am his trimmer now. I rasp with the sole as my guide. No complaints, two years in. :)

Nic Barker said...

Guys, you've put up some brilliant comments and I really need a whole new blog post to respond properly. C - I need a whole post just to do your query justice but I won't get the chance now till next week because of the RRR.

For now though I should make it clear that ALL the ex-rehab horses I was citing are in work.

Peripheral loading is sometimes an issue, and I agree it needs addressing but more commonly the problem seems to be that the required foot balance is mis-read.

Its not as simple as horses having bad diets and long hoof wall which, when removed, makes them footy.

These are typically horses on good diets - often owners have already fully balanced their minerals and are being very careful with grass and sugars.

The horses do often have strange-looking feet, and frequently its when attempts are made by trimmers or farriers to straighten everything up that things go wrong.

The acid test for me is this: if there are no dietary changes and horse is better before the trim, worse after, then better again after 2-3 weeks, the trim is usually the wrong one.

Lainey said...

All very interesting. Bailey has very minimal rasping around the edges to tidy up from my farrier. As usually i do a fair amount of roadwork and he is fairly self trimming. He has never been uncomfortable after a trim, but it's not really what i call a trim, but rather a tidy up of ragged edges. He has mismatched hooves and there is where the danger lies with the farrier as he would love them to all look the same! me i don't mind, he grows his feet how he wants them. He's the soundest he has ever been, so we are happy.x