Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Trimming, yet again...

I have put many posts up over the years about the dangers of over-trimming and unbalanced trimming and the terrible effect it can have on hooves and soundness.
I posted one such blog last month (its here in full if you haven't seen it). 

As ever, I was amazed at the reactions it prompted from some trimmers and farriers who went immediately on the defensive. I really don't understand why because in fact what I'm posting isn't controversial. All I ever ask in these posts is that they stop leaving horses lamer following a trim than before they were trimmed
Is that really such an astonishing or unreasonable request? I don't think so - in fact if we are going to get technical we could cite the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This clearly states that: 

"a person commits an offence if an act of his causes an animal to suffer and he knew or ought to have known that the act would have that effect or be likely to do so".

My understanding would be that if you are going to trim a horse and leave it lamer you are causing unnecessary suffering because I've never seen a horse get sounder in the long term as a result of being lamed in the short term. It doesn't make sense and it doesn't happen in practice.

So if its counter-productive (not to mention unethical, illegal and unprofessional) to over-trim horses and render them less sound why do I keep banging on and on about it on the blog?
Because it keeps on happening.

I did my first posts on this topic back in 2011 (there are links here to several earlier posts) and I really expected that I wouldn't need to post about it again. However the post last month was (yet again) prompted by an email from someone whose horse had gone lame following a trim and sadly this person was not alone.

Since then (and we are talking about a timescale of less than 4 weeks) owners have reported the following to me:
  • 2 horses which were so badly lamed by a trim that they were effectively immobile;
  • a yard of multiple horses which have been repeatedly left lamer after regular trims;
  • 1 horse left bruised and sore following a trim which was done in the name of "rehabilitation";
  • 1 horse which is being repeatedly "re-balanced" by a trimmer who is (equally repeatedly) ignoring the horse's frantic attempts to replace the support he keeps trimming away*.
*Hint: If you keep having to "re-balance" a horse's foot every 4 weeks it is more likely you and not the horse who hasn't understood what a balanced hoof is...

All these trims were performed by "qualified" trimmers or farriers. So I make no apologies for yet another post and I will keep on posting while this keeps on happening.
One more time, folks - a trim is not a good, safe, effective, balanced trim if it leaves your horse less sound.
  • Its perfectly possible to trim a horse and leave it as sound, or even more sound, than it was before the trim. 
This, in my opinion, is the only acceptable trim because its the only trim which benefits the horse. This is what the good trimmers and farriers do.  
  • The REALLY good trimmers and farriers (the ones who are the most experienced and knowledgeable and have the highest numbers of performance barefoot horses on their books) will regularly monitor, but rarely trim, a working barefoot horse. 
If you are a farrier or trimmer and you can't do either of these, please leave your rasp and knife in a safe place and definitely don't take them near a horse. 

If you are an owner and your horse is less sound after a trim please make this clear to your farrier or trimmer. You have a responsibility to your horse to safeguard them from invasive and damaging trimming.


amandap said...

Nic wrote...
"All these trims were performed by "qualified" trimmers or farriers. So I make no apologies for yet another post and I will keep on posting while this keeps on happening."

Sadly I think you will have to keep posting for a good while Nic.
We humans always think we know best, aren't good horse listeners and are married to our teaching ad theories and forget to learn from the results staring us in the face!
Why we have to make things so complicated I just don't know.

Nic Barker said...

It beggars belief, though, doesn't it Amanda? What happened to putting the horse first?

BruceA said...

We should never underestimate how hard it is for the horse owner to push back against the "best" advice they are getting from their trimmers and fariers who are telling them that the hooves have to be balanced and trimmed like this. I strongly believe that the enlightened way of thinking will be driven by the owners, not the professionals.

amandap said...

It does but we buy into the thinking of the expert knows best but we have lost sight of who is the true expert!

Truly putting the horse first is a rare thing throughout horsemanship I have come to think. We are stifled under Tradition, medical model thinking and misunderstanding of horses over generations.

Nic Barker said...

Agreed Bruce - definitely owner driven and also agree with Amanda - the so-called experts are forgetting who really knows the most about hooves...

Pat v d B said...

As an owner trimmer I have sadly gone the full cycle - from invasive trimming, to non invasive but unnecessary trimming, to the stage you have brought me to (non trimming except in exceptional circumstances)by reading your book and following the incredible results you achieve as posted on your blog. THANK YOU so much! and of course my horses would echo that too - my heart cries for what I did to my horse originally, but of course all under the eye of the "qualified" trimmer. It's been a long journey, but I now have a very sound happpy-footed horse. I can't tell you how often I've recommended your blog to others, but sadly so many just don't seem to get it.

Andrea said...

There is a trimmer locally who is really into digging out bars - and that's the thing they prattle on to their clients about, how important it is to take these "impacted" bars out. Whenever I cross paths with one of these clients, it is usually because the horse is not sound and they want a second opinion. When I look at the feet and tell them that XYZ is happening and that I'd completely leave everything on the bottom of the foot totally alone (usually because the horse has been scalped and has nothing at all) and get the horse moving instead, they look at me like I have 3 heads!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this reassuring post Nic, I have taken the Barefoot roo since last September, my horse has self trimmed since then, and guess what, he has got sound all on his own, I reckon he is at the final stages of a new hoof capsule, but his hooves have suddenly started to break off which although doesn't bother him, it has alarmed me into wandering whether to contact a Podiatrist, but after reading this I'm of the opinion " if it ain't broke, why fix it "

Nic Barker said...

Andrea, the impacted bars idea really makes me mad - it seems to be used to justify all sorts of invasive trimming which isn't necessary. Infuriates me that these people feel they are entitled to inflict such pain on the horse in the name of some mythical future benefit.

Unknown said...

Hi all,

My first comment although not a very worthy one I'm afraid.
After reading this thread, I just want to share how great my farrier is, he 'trims' my 12.2 barefoot every six weeks when he comes to shoe my others (who will be barefoot one day..), what he actually does is have a look at her, and how she moves and stands, occasionally rubs a fine file round the edges to take off any ragged bits and then tells me she is self trimming and balancing herself and he does not need to touch her. She had seedy toe when I got her which has now completely gone, she has EMS and is laminitic as a result but has only very rare episodes due to the brilliant care she has from him and my wonderful vets.

She doesn't do a huge amount of work sadly, so in very soft weather he does take a little bit of excess off as it does not wear very much but she has never been anywhere close to lame after it!

He is not a barefoot specialist but a simple man with a brain and a subtle touch who knows that the best judge of a foot is the horse herself.


Pony is my profile picture with a young friend..

Nic Barker said...

"He is not a barefoot specialist but...knows that the best judge of a foot is the horse herself."

Absolutely - wish there were more like him.