Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Article on Website

     I am adding an articles section to my website, to hopefully answer some of the really common questions I get.

     One of the most common questions I get asked is, "What is the best way to trim a horse?" The answer to this is a book, and there are many books on the subject. So I wrote an article recently basically on why this is a book-length subject and how to understand it better.

Why Can’t We All Agree?

            Why does one farrier say to rarely trim bars, another says always trim bars, and another says dig our bars aggressively? Why does one say your horse has no thrush, the next say he has touch of it, and the third have a hysterical fit over the horror that is your horses thrush eaten frog? One says a mild roll, one says a bevel, and one says a wicked full-wall roll. To trim sole? Frogs? Proper heel height? What about founder? Navicular? And which boots are the best?

            For a beginner wading through the massive amounts of information available, it is enough to give a major headache. It is no wonder people often read one website or book, and react as though it is the bible and refuse to look farther. Looking farther is confusing! All the contradictions make no sense, they make your brain want to run for cover.

            So in this article I’d like to try and explain why there are 101 Ways to Trim (or Not Trim) a Hoof. I’m not going into the theories behind each, or why they are done, or to which horse, but simply explain why there are 101 of them and why your farrier is using #65 when you’ve read a great magazine article about #31.

            First off, hooves are forged by the terrain they live on. A horse on sand has a different hoof with different needs then a horse on rocks. They both have different needs then a horse on clay, or hard dry dirt. A horse in the desert has vastly different needs then one living in a swamp. A horse in a stall, worked in an arena, is going to need a completely different trim then a horse living on 100 acres and working on rocks. Even horses living on the same style terrain, but one of 2 acres, another on 20, and yet other on 200 will have very different needs.  

            Next, most horse breeds have different feet. Drafts, ponies, Quarter horses, Arabs, Thoroughbreds, all have an anatomical consistency but tend to have basic differences in shape and need. None are better or worse then the others, but often different. What you watch for and work to support in teacup Quarter horse feet, you likely don’t worry about in a Percheron. But what you aggressively work on with the Percheron, you many not worry a bit about in an Arabian.

            To add even more possibilities there are conformational issues, diet, health, age, body condition, and even rider abilities and preferences. 

            So a farrier from Arizona who specializes in endurance Arabians can tell you exactly how to trim endurance Arabians in Arizona with great success, but the same trim is probably not going to help your foundering pony in Kentucky. All the farriers who say, “This is the only trim in the world that works” tend to simply mean their world.

            It’s all confusing and takes a lot of practice and learning to get it straight. Being a farrier means being fully prepared to discover that this horse in this situation has just proven you completely and utterly wrong. Especially once you know you have seen it all and know everything, that horse is going to come along and make you say, “Who’d of ever thought that” and away you go realizing you actually know so little and that’s maddeningly irritating. There is really only one rule in this work, “The horse is always right.” If that horse says he’s happiest with a method you don’t agree with, it is time to change your beliefs, not bang on them harder to make them fit that horse, and certainly not time to make the horse sore to fit your ideas.           

            Everyone wants one trim standard. It would be wonderful, and so easy, to have one trim, one method, that worked for every horse everywhere. That is what everyone is working for, trying to find, is that one magic trim, or shoe, or boot (and then patent it, write the book, start the school, and become a millionaire). But in reality there are 101 methods for a reason, and we actually need many more then that. Each horse, each situation, each problem, is likely going to require something different.

            So reading the website from the farrier in Arizona who does brilliant work with Arabian endurance horses is great, but take it as method #68, not “The One”, no matter who claims what. Understand that asking suggestions from a group of farriers is always educational, and usually very entertaining, but it’s not that 14 are wrong and 1 is right. They are all, from their viewpoint, right; and they are usually arguing so venomously because they have seen great success with their methods and want what is best for the horse, which to them means their method.

            So your farrier is using method #43 and you read in “The Best Guide to Horsey Everything” that trim method #51 was the one and only true way to trim hooves. Before you go beating your idiot farrier with the magazine, think about it a second. Where does trim method #51 come from? What horses are responding so well? Why is it supposed to be the best? Understand your farrier has likely put good thought into how he works your horses hooves, thinking of your terrain, your horse, your uses, your problems. You are getting a specialized custom job, not just a ‘this works the highest percentage of the time’ style trim. Would you rather have a custom made saddle to fit you and your horse, or one that fits the majority of horses and people the majority of the time? Ask your farrier, but do it with the understanding that they are trying to do what is best for your horse. Ask them for education, don’t ask them to defend themselves.

            In the end, deciding who to listen to and who to work with is complicated. It does take a lot of research and understanding. But do it all with an open mind and listing ideas as possibilities, not absolutes. Above all, listen to your horse. He should be, after all, the most important voice in the matter. 

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