Wednesday, 21 February 2018

The self-trimming horse, reasons to trim and well-meaning "experts"

I am posting today some very wise words written by Steve Leigh to one of his clients. This is about a horse which was once here as a rehab and who, like many other horses, has gone home to a regular livery yard.
Steve checks in on horse and owner several times a year but this particular horse has not been trimmed for some years now. Recently an equine bodyworker worked on the horse and didn't like the fact that he is self-trimming - this is despite the fact that the horse's vet has also seen him recently and reported him sound and moving better than he has for some time. The bodyworker consulted with a trimmer (over the phone - the trimmer never saw the horse even in a video, let alone in real life) and decided to put pressure on the owner to have the horse trimmed. 

Sensibly the owner got in touch with Steve, who has known the horse for a long time and helped bring him back to soundness, rather than just caving in to the bodyworker's demands. Here is his advice to the owner and the explanation why good hoof care (and long term soundness) involves so much more than knee-jerk trimming.

"I understand that you are under pressure to have him trimmed more often but I would advise you to ask them to actually explain exactly what they would remove by trimming him; he manages to self trim very well, his toes have never appeared long and his heels maintain balance and height - if you create a cycle where he needs trimming more often then the balance he has achieved will be difficult to retain however often he is trimmed.

He spent several months down at Rockley to enable him to find a balance that suits him - I would never advise interfering with this as the risk of degrading his soundness is great and it will be difficult to regain in my opinion.

Anyone who proposes to trim him needs to both understand and be able to explain very clearly:

  • Why they are trimming the hoof: what are they trying to achieve?; 
  • What exactly do they propose would be trimmed off; and
  • How doing this will improve or (at worst) not negatively impact his foot balance (both medio-lateral and doors-palmar).  

If the answer is simply "because he hasn't been trimmed for a while",  "to make the hoof look better" or to possibly prevent something else that they perceive "may happen in the future" then these are not suitable answers to those questions and are not good reasons to trim, especially given that the risk of making him lame now by trimming is so high.

Deciding not to trim doesn't mean you have not cared for his hooves, it means a reasoned decision has been made that it is best for his soundness not to interfere at that time.  He has certainly not been ignored for 2 years which I believe is the inference."

Thanks Steve for this lovely explanation :-)


BruceA said...

Usually, the argument boils down to "I'm so steeped in the convention of doing things TO horses and not working WITH horses and this whole concept of leaving the hooves alone makes me uncomfortable. All the magazines I've read and all the trimmers who have never seen the horse say it needs to be trimmed every 6 weeks and I'm uncomfortable to actually use my own cognitive capabilities to question that for fear of the disapproval that it might bring on Facebook. So I'll go along with established convention and accept that if I do what I always done I'll get what I always got"
My vet has seen my horse moving and said that a horse with these radiographic changes should not move as well as he does. Sometimes less is more.
Well said Steve.

Nic Barker said...

My thoughts exactly Bruce :-)