Why we trim the HORSE and not simply the HOOF!
A truly integrative approach considers all aspects influential in well-being and resilience. As non-farriers, our choices of interventions are somewhat limited, but it also means we have become experts in what we do - but we also fully appreciate the limitations of trimming alone.
It is very important for all horse owners and professionals involved in caring or treating horses that you appreciate TRIMMING IS A REDUCTIVE PROCESS and is one of many INTERVENTIONS which can help promote or maintain soundness and resilience.
Like any intervention, it can promote health or negate it so not only does the horse owner need to choose the appropriate intervention required for their horse but also ensure it is executed properly.
In this recent first consult and trim, I illustrate the current proportions and limitations of the trim applied, which is REDUCTIVE – meaning I can only remove hoof tissue by trimming. Done correctly, both the trim applied and recommendations (if executed properly), can promote healthier tissues and structures in the future, but sometimes more than a trim is needed… as in this example.
We apply healthy hoof guidelines to assess the current balance and decide on appropriate intervention and recommendations, and these include:
• Positive palmar or plantar P3 angle of typically 5-8 degrees • Straight hoof pastern angle or HPA (when viewed on a horse standing perpendicular to the ground) • Healthy posture – where all 4 cannon bones are typically perpendicular to the ground in a resting position • Phalangeal (foot and limb bony column) and capsular (outer hoof capsule) alignment • Appropriate vertical depth of foot and hoof • 3-dimensional balance of the hoof around the centre of rotation of the foot around the axis of the limb (phalangeal/capsular alignment)
Clearly there are limitations to what we can see internally, but with knowledge and experience, one can learn to visualise the internal anatomy and appreciate the relationships between the components of the hoof and digit, the entire hoof capsule and the limb and the horse. Assessment of the hoof with assistance of hoof mapping, palpation of the hoof, limb and body and assessment of the static posture and movement of the horse are very informative and provide critical information when trimming a horse.
In the example here, there are low palmar P3 angles, broken back HPA, low vertical depth to the hoof, unhealthy heel:toe ratios and poor alignment between the phalanges and the capsules all round. There was evidence of compensatory posture before and after the trim.
Using our approach, we are able to remove influential tissue without causing harm but there is a limit to a reductive approach to hoof care. From talking to the owner, walks out in hand are important not only to their relationship but for both their well-being. They live in the Yorkshire Dales and the terrain is challenging both in the living environment and also during exercise.
With this in mind, we trimmed safely to provide optimum balance and minimal leverage and therefore torque on the joints, and recommended hoof boots to prevent wear, allow for continued walks out in hand, and also to contain an orthoses to help stimulate an accelerated return of health to the internal structures and outer hoof, and therefore support healthy posture and biomechanics needed for short term and long term well-being and resilience.
Other options include shoes with or without orthoses to positively change the proportion and prevent wear, however the pony is sound and demonstrated improved posture immediately post trim so at this time, we believe the intervention chosen (TRIM + BOOT + ORTHOSES) is sufficient to continue to improve the creation of the ideals which support balance and health.
In addition, interventions were recommended for consideration to help improve posture and therefore hoof balance were: • Dentistry • Therapy • Diet
A truly integrative approach considers all aspects influential in well-being and resilience and this is why we TRIM THE HORSE, AND NOT SIMPLY THE HOOF!