Monday, October 31, 2011

Impacted bars lead to toe-first landings?

I think I've mentioned before that I sort of stumbled upon my first client last spring. This was the first horse I've ever trimmed that wasn't my own; wouldn't you know that he's proven the most difficult. He's been on and off lame for the past 6-7 years, with frequent bouts of hoof wall separation, thrush, and, when I first saw him, ridiculously long toes that I've had to back up at every trim.

His case has been daunting for me as a new trimmer, he became much sounder after my first trim, then not so sound after the second, improved again after the third and then went totally lame. I was a bit flabbergasted and, to be honest, scared. So I made plans with the owner to get photos and ask for help online. When I got there I found out the owner hadn't told me about the massive separation that had popped out since his last trim which explained the increased soreness, but I took the photos anyway because I wasn't sure exactly how to tackle that separation.

Long story slightly shortened: I got the help I was looking for with the wall separation. BUT I found out something else interesting as well. Looking at the photos (note, these are pre-trim) it looked like his bars had grown faster than his hoof walls, something I don't think is physically possible. I wondered if what I was seeing was something Cheryl had talked about while I was in Oregon, that his bars had been left untrimmed for so long that they'd impacted inside his hooves.

This would explain quite a bit, for instance why this horse continually lands toe first (follow this link to Rockley Farm to read a good post about why this is bad). If the bars had impacted into the back of the foot then landing heel first would become incredibly painful as he would have been stabbing himself with the bars at every step.
Left fore pre-trim

right fore pre-trim

Here's a picture from Ove Lind at the Swedish Hoof School that should help you visualize what I'm talking about. The impacted bar is on the left, shoving into the hoof and skewing the whole thing right. Can you see it? Now imagine how that must feel to the horse. Remember that the bar material is similar to hoof wall material, it is strong and stiff. If the bars are left to grow long enough they will begin to reach the hard, unyielding ground- forcing them upwards into the soft, yielding hoof of the horse where they pinch the bejeebers out of the inner structures of the hoof. Not to mention throw a wrench in the hoof mechanism.
Photo from the Swedish Hoof School
When I trimmed his bars down the impacted material finally had room to migrate back outside the hoof to where they belong- explaining why it looked like they were growing so fast. (If any of you have spent time on Pete Ramey's site you can probably guess by now that I've got some issues with this article.)

So here's what I did when I trimmed him- took those bars right back down and recessed the separated wall 1/4 inch off the ground. The horse was immensely relieved, he'd been shearing his heels trying to get off that outside hoof wall, poor guy. He's now getting No Thrush treatment every day and soaks twice a week- gotta keep the baddies at bay!

I know- medial bar needs to be straightened. This horse needs to stop yanking so I can do that.

I'm very interested to see how he feels after my next trim. If the bars stop popping out faster than the walls can grow I'll know I've gotten all the impacted material out. If, after that, I don't have to keep lopping excess toe off at each trim I'll know he's landing heel first and will finally be on the road to soundness.

Once again: If the walls aren't self-trimming, the bars aren't either.


  1. The whole trimming business is so complicated! And I really don't think many farriers are as educated as they need to be, or even put that much thought into what they are doing. I admire your efforts to learn everything you can. It's certainly been educational on this end, too. I'm anxious to hear how this horse progresses.

  2. My family think I'm crazy to be out there trimming but I really enjoy it. Every hoof is like a puzzle just waiting for the pieces to be put in place.

  3. I'm impressed. You're brave to take on a client like that as your first. It sounds complicated, but I could follow what you were saying. I'm very interested to see if the bars keep coming out. Poor horse!

  4. I find that photo of the impacted bar quite shocking. Minnie's bars used to grow faster than her hoofwall for ages after the shoes came off. Very interesting and enlightening post!

  5. Very interesting. I have read that Pete Ramey article more than once!

    As you may remember, my new sense of purpose in attending to Harley's bars was fueled by my concern that his bars could be doing exactly what the gruesome image above depicts.

  6. Linda I had no idea he would turn out like this when I took him on. If I can get this horse sound and keep him that way it would be a very satisfying success.

    twohorses- they don't still, do they? Because that would be interesting to me.

    Val I too read that article when I started out, and I didn't trim the bars for months. It was my first hoof consultant that pointed out that I should do it, then I found Cheryl and learned that I NEEDED to do it. If we aren't learning, we aren't growing, right?

  7. I should add that once I started trimming the bars back correctly Coriander got more and more comfortable walking on the rocky driveway. For me, that's all the evidence I need that I'm doing the right thing.

  8. I still find that picture frightening!

    I've seen a lot of pictures with hooves with folded over bars, and some even grow completely over the sole of the hoof. I'm curious what would make some bars fold over and other bars impact into the inside of the hoof..?

  9. I'd like to know that too ;) Cheryl says that cutting the bars at an angle encourages them to spread and fold, while if they're left completely flat they'll grow straight. I haven't done enough trimming to deny or confirm that yet.

  10. Yes yes yes....we (my trimmer actually lol) are removing Laz's bars and he seems to really luv it.
    I do believe what I'm dealing with in his Rear Right is a bar that was left unattended to a 1.5 yr ago that was hiding and hurting him. We are slowly digging out and hopeful that it will help him. He is still SO tender and ouchy on that foot so there must still be damage, etc. I love foot stuff so much! It's hard to get then scraped flat, so glad that I have Michelle!!! I watch over her like a hawk trying to learn as much as possible..shes such a patient teacher!

  11. Oh..and that picture of the dissected hoof...ugh, I think that is Laz. :( Hopefully he'll recover my poor BOO!

  12. I remember her saying something about that- how he wouldn't stand on that foot until she took those bars off. Sounds like he's doing tons better now :) Tell her I said hi!

  13. Interesting post! My friend from All Horse Stuff pointed me to your blog. My horse is barefoot and I have an excellent barefoot trimmer, studied under Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey. My horse has really good strong feet, has never had a shoe on and never will.
    Hope you get the problem worked out for this horse.
    I'll keep checking back.

  14. Minnie's bars are still growing quite fast after I've trimmed them, they seem to accelerate then, but then settle to keep pace with the hoofwall. Only her front feet though, I rarely have to touch the bars on her hind feet.On RF the outside bar grows faster than inside bar. The RF is the leg that is breaking my heart, 2 years and still not sound...

  15. Hi Jane, thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear about your horse's wonderful feet :)

    twohorses- I'm intrigued. Have you kept track of when the growth seems to be faster or slower? I'm wondering about stuff now... I'm pretty sure that I'm right about Zippy, his bars were horribly overgrown when I first saw him.

  16. I have a clydesdale cross that has always been trimmed the way Peter Ramey teaches. So I've never worried much about bars. When he was nearly 5 his feet started to get bad, quarter flares, abcess, sensitive, white line seperation. I've started trimming the bars, they were hard to find, but laid over with bruising underneath, pushing the quarters out. They are very hard and difficult to trim, and they keep on popping up, also besides the frog. They are slowing down, slowly I can see the whole hoof relaxing. I will keep at it, I'm sure it's the answer to this boys issues. Once the bars are sorted the quarter flare will get better.

    1. You'll see that good things happen once you start getting those impacted bars out. Not only does your horse get sounder, they get happier. The horse in this post sure has.