Updated: Apr 15
It’s no secret that Flex Hoof Boots recommend a GOOD weekly maintenance trim for horses, and for Flex Boots. Here’s some more on why this is so important for the horse.
A horse's hoof is a marvellous piece of engineering, incredibly strong and adaptable, but also so fragile in many ways.
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The aim of trimming is not "to keep the walls from cracking and growing really long and that's about it".
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The aim of trimming is to allow healing, protection and improvement of the internal structures of the foot. To extend the horse's life and consequently riding career – literally, or just straight out save their life in many cases. Think of it like putting money in the bank, because if things go wrong you won't have any left.
So when is the hoof due for a trim?
Every 6 weeks because that’s “how we always do it”? Or every 7 days when the hoof has grown a couple of millimetres?
These hooves went seven weeks between trims (normally on a four week cycle) and their problems haven't been helped at all by it. We have contracted heels, laminitis and a club foot. See the photos of a laminitic, crooked-legged pony in the middle? He can't even make a four week cycle work for his feet.
In the ideal environment, nature has designed the horse to wear their feet by just the right amount each day. This doesn’t happen (OK so there’s like one exception in literally 10 million horses – let’s not get stuck there) with our domestic horses no matter how much we breed them into better riding mounts or more athletic performers – the biology is the same, we cannot escape it! A $100,000 fancy dressage horse functions exactly the same as the $2 Shetland pony who drives his owners bonkers. If there is previous damage to the internal hoof, present metabolic issues, or crooked limbs/feet, a long trim interval massively exacerbates these problems.
This hoof is due for a trim. It was trimmed seven days ago. The second photo is the hoof in its Flex Boot, after a trim.
It still looks good, it should always look good. If you trim it before it “looks bad” remember, it’s as good as putting money in the bank. But, already the toes are creeping forward and the walls could do with a touch up (this does not mean trimming everything away!!). There is a little bit of separation from when the trims went further apart and he ate nice grass for a month. By trimming before things go far out of whack, you are keeping in front of the
pathological changes and keeping your horse on a trajectory of improvement, or maintaining the good state of hoof health you've worked hard to reach.
Sometimes people leave the trims further apart if the horse is “always sore after a trim”. This is exactly the opposite of what should be done: in these cases the trims should be smaller and closer together, so the change for the horse is minute. Look for the reason - is it the way they’re being trimmed? Is it because they have low grade laminitis and the trimmer is always in damage control mode? Is it both?
Trimming more frequently does not mean making the feet too short. It means finding the perfect height and position of the walls and heels, and maintaining them at that location all the time. You will notice the feet improve out of sight with a quick, small, frequent trim. The white lines will tighten up; you'll have straighter hoof walls; the heels won’t grow out of control or collapse like they used to. And the sole depth improves. If you’re dealing with extensive permanent damage, which is common, there is a limit, but they still ALL improve massively. (Permanent damage is caused by not doing the above and eating sugar via sweet grass/hay/pellet feeds or grain.).
Little and often
When I’m going riding and I don’t have a lot of time, I pick up the feet to put the boots on and if there’s 3-5mm of toe or wall that isn’t perfect, I run the rasp around just from the bottom. Then next ride when I have more time, I’ll do a bit on the bottom if needed and trim the top too. Trimming the feet gradually is totally fine!
It only takes me a few minutes and I always love looking at the hooves afterwards. I know that my horse is comfortable and not damaging himself with every step, and they just look really good too! If I’m really in a hurry and only using front boots, I’ll do the hind feet in a couple of days. It’s still only 14 days max from last trim.
Hooves come in many different shapes and sizes; the one above is just one version out there. It is not by any means a perfect foot – but if you look at the walls and proportions, and think that the horse needs a tiny trim now, you’ll be heading in the right direction.
Educate your eye by repeatedly looking at your horse's feet and thinking about where they're really at. Compare your own horse's feet to other hooves you see – what do they look like? Objectively look at how the walls look in comparison all the way around the hoof? Where are the toes? What are the heels doing? The horse above doesn’t grow very much heel and his sole is pretty flat. On a longer trim cycle or if he’s eating grass, his toes like to run away and his heels go splat. It’s very far from perfect! He gets laminitic easily and can’t eat sugar. He's spent most of his life in a state of low grade laminitis before I got him. And he's had inflammation even after he got here.
This is a different horse on a weekly trim schedule, showing the bare foot and and how the hoof looks in his Flex Boot. We can see that what is good for the hoof is good for the boots too.
Below is a comparison of trim schedules. They are both before trim photos of similar horses normally on a four week trim schedule but due to a Christmas break, they went seven weeks between trims. The first horse gets trimmed by the owner in-between professional visits. The second one does not.
Which horse do you think moves more comfortably? Which horse has less strain to his tendons and upper body? What happens when we ride a horse with feet like this? Even if the in-between trims are not perfect to begin with, and they need to be tidied up by a professional so you're on the right track, it's still vastly better for the horse. You will avoid the dreaded toe first landings and potential tendon injuries - did I mention it's like putting money in the bank?!
Whilst not all damage can be reversed and prevention IS the cure, we should never Not Try. Weekly trims, a low sugar diet abundant in free choice roughage, friends to live with and lots of movement is as good as a cure for a very many things.
Getting stuck at “it’s not a good foot”, “it’s a TB or a QH”, “it’s genetic” and completely giving up on the opportunity to make THOSE feet the best they can be, is a disservice to the horse. And it’s taking away your joy of seeing them improve right before your eyes.