Saturday, July 24, 2010


I used to not be very interested in hooves. I didn't know what the parts of the hoof were, how it worked, or even how an optimal hoof looked. I was a kid and my Stepdad was a farrier. I didn't have to worry about that stuff.

Then I got the quarters. Two horses that had lived on Florida sand their whole lives and barely, if ever, got their feet touched. For the first time ever, I was in charge of their foot care and I had a whole lot to learn.

Initially I opted against shoes for the sake of simplicity. Coriander didn't need them as he was only being ridden in a sand ring; and Gwen was terrified of having her feet handled. Other than that, I didn't really think about it much.

But after their trim in May, when Gwen's feet started self trimming and Coriander's feet starting developing holes one week after the farrier visited, I decided it was time to learn about hooves. After months of research I have decided to join the barefoot movement. My horses have never had shoes on and I'm going to try to keep it that way. It's healthier for their feet, it's better for their locomotion, and it's easier on my wallet and nerves (I don't even want to imagine what Gwen would be like getting shoes on).

There's an issue though- my horses feet are crap. Below I've put their front feet against an optimal wild horse hoof for comparison. Coriander is on the top, Gwen's are on the bottom (note that both quarters left fores are clubbed) (Oh yeah, and they need a trim. I'll get on that after they move). They look plain odd.
  • They both have very thin walls, contracted heels and overactive bar growth. Gwen's aren't as bad- due to less stall confinement during the formative years?
  • Their frogs are buried in the hoof because their heels are too long, they can't possibly function the way they should. 
  • Coriander's feet are longer than they are wide. 
  • Coriander's white line is stretched all the way around both feet, allowing lots of room for rocks to get in.
  • Gwen's flare to the outside something awful. 
  • Fortunately for Gwen, she has enough sole to protect her internal structures, Coriander is not so lucky.
Oy, there's a lot of work to be done here. I'm going to post regular updates on the state of their feet from now on. Mostly for my own benefit, but maybe it will help someone else too. Hopefully we'll be able to see their feet progress to healthy models of hoof perfection over time. In the meantime, Coriander has a pair of Easyboot Gloves coming in the mail.


  1. My guy has never been shod either and never will be. I am sure that shoes help correct problems experienced by some horses - in fact, I have seen the benefits. But, personally I would try chiropractic and message therapy before shoes to correct problems. Perhaps, once the quarters are ridden regularly on different surfaces, their heels will open up and help with the shape. It won't take long. My understanding is that the front feet are usually wider/rounder than the back feet (which are slightly elongated) because of the different jobs they do.

  2. A bad barefoot trimmer can do just as much damage as a bad farrier nailing on a pair of shoes.

    Not to be rude or blunt, but the first thing that comes to mind when I look at those pictures is that you need to find a new trimmer--and fast.

    I know you're in NY -- I know of at least one really good barefoot trimmer in NY. Don't know if she's anywhere near you, but I can put you in contact w/ her if, you want, as she might have suggestions for trimmers in your area.

    A good book that you might find worth reading is Jamie Jackson's Guide to Natural Hoof Care. Amazon sells it for about $20.
    A good introduction to hoof care.

    Pete Ramey also has a bunch of articles on his website, it's a good one to bookmark if you haven't already.

    With the right care and trimming, you should be able to get some pretty dramatic improvements. I bet you'll look back at these pics 6 months from now and be amazed at how much they have improved.

    Keep us updated!


  3. Mary, I'd be very thankful for that trimmer's contact info. My farrier was putting a "pasture trim" on them and it's obviously not cutting it. Finding someone decent is nearly impossible so I'll take all the help I can get. Feel free to send me an email at

    Wolfie, I'm hoping that the new living outside arrangement will also help with their feet. You're lucky that Gem has such good feet.

  4. What general area of NY are you in?


  5. We're between Syracuse and Binghamton AKA the Central NY/Fingerlakes Region.

  6. You might want to send your photos to Mrs Mom at Oh Horsefeathers! She's very knowledgeable, with a particular focus on good barefoot trimming - she has lots to say about the bad type! She'd probably be glad to comment on your photos, and might even do a post with your photos and questions and her answers. Good luck!

  7. Thanks Kate, I think I'll do that. Her blog is very entertaining.

  8. Sent you an e-mail with the name and e-mail address for a trimmer who I think should be close to you.

    Let me know if you don't get the e-mail.