Hoof Work

I have been working very hard on Billy’s feet since I got him in may of 2011. He was a yearling when I brought him home and had never had his feet done. They didn’t look too bad, in fact they looked great considering they hadn’t been trimmed before. I knew that his heels were a bit long and so put in a lot of time to help him become confident about me handling his feet so I could start working on them.

It was after I was able to do some trimming and could pick them up and clean them every day that I realized he had very interesting soles. They were thick. So thick that I couldn’t even see the bars at all. His frogs were also incredibly thick and very spongy. They were healthy there just seemed to be TOO MUCH of everything.

Hoof Work - There seemed to be too much of everything.
Those scratches you see on the sole were from me trying to use my hoof knife. Then I tried to use my nippers and kind of grab that hard, dead top layer of sole. They just slid over the surface of the sole…


This is a shot from the side of his front feet taken last fall. I have managed to get those heels down quite a bit! I can’t take them any lower as this is all live tissue now.
On the left is his hoof in the fall, when it was very dry around here. You can see how that sole wants to stick to his hoof. At the point of the frog it was thinking about shedding, but if I don’t encourage that with my concave rasp then it will just stay and build up. The photo on the right is a hoof when it’s nice and wet. That sole looks super healthy and is all live. His succulous is a bit tight. I trimmed it down, level and open, on the 21st, this his how much it has grown in 10 days!
In the photo on the left you can see the amount of heel I started with on his hinds. The photo on the right was taken Jan. 31, 2014 and I’ve managed to get that foot nearly normal! This is all live tissue as well so I’m not sure I’ll be able to get much more of his heels down. But he can stand square now, so things are balanced and feeling much better.

I continued to trim and trim every couple of weeks to get those heels down. Then I realized that in order to get them any where close to where they needed to be I was going to have to dig out some of that sole. Many people told me not to touch it, but it was rapidly becoming a problem. As the weather got warm and we were able to head out for walks, that added sole was causing Billy to go lame. Finally he couldn’t walk on hard ground at all. Once I hobbled him into the sandy arena he could really tear it up, but to walk on the hard ground was impossible. When I would pick up his feet they were HEAVY. I have never felt such a heavy hoof on a yearling regular horse. They felt more like draft horse feet.

Something else I had noticed is that whenever Billy came to a full stop he would always put one of his hind feet up under his body. He would NOT stand with his hind feet side by side.  If I posed him that way for pictures he could only hold it for a second or two and then would step one foot under himself. This was a sign that things were off balance in his feet which was causing him to be off balance in his hips, back and shoulders!

Standing with his hind foot well under his body.
Now he can stand more squarely. The photo on the left was taken late winter 2013 and the other two were taken summer 2013.

I ended up enlisting the help of a barefoot farrier that just does it on the side and for friends. He talked to me about Billy’s feet and then just had to see them for himself. After much sweating and digging and more sweating, he was able to carve out some of that impacted sole. That sole was as hard as marble. It took all his hand strength to get it out. I wasn’t able to even put a scratch in the sole with my hoof knife OR my nippers. It was the most interesting thing I’ve seen in horse hooves!

This set Billy on the long road to having concave hooves. I ended up purchasing a concave rasp that is for the rasping of the sole so I can better manage the extra amount of callus that he develops. Now that I have a handle on it I only have to rasp lightly now and then, mostly around the edge of his sole to help keep them concave.


I do have to trim off a large amount of frog every time I trim him as his frogs grow very quickly. In just a few weeks the frogs will have outgrown the sole by more than a 1/4 of an inch, sometimes even 1/2 an inch, which means that Billy is walking only on his frogs.  This is very uncomfortable for him so I keep up on it.

I took this picture on Jan. 31, 2014. I last trimmed this foot on Jan. 21, 2014. On that day I trimmed off quite a lot of frog and rasped down the hoof wall. I also used the concave rasp to take out some excess sole.

This goes to show that trimming every horse the same way sometimes doesn’t work. I had been taught when keeping a horse barefoot one must never touch the sole or the frog, but to allow the sole to develop a nice callus and the frog to grow nice and spongy to act as the pump for the foot. But in Billy’s case if I don’t trim both of these often, he is dead lame and unable to play. Even though I have to trim these for him, he is sound as can be, even on the rocks.

This is another way that we must look at the horse in front of us and then adapt to what it is they need from us.


    1. i’m not sure emily. they are so weird for sure! i’m guessing that because they weren’t trimmed when he was young and he was on relatively soft ground, that baby sole never flaked off and that started the packing in of the sole. the mustang mare i had when i was in high school did not have this problem so i find it very interesting!

      i used to trim other people’s horses for them, a few years ago. i did this for about 5 years, mostly minis and donkeys and sometimes a big horse tossed in, plus my own minis and big horses and only saw this amount of sole in a hoof a few times in the minis. almost always i found it in a mini that hadn’t had a lot of hoof care and lived on very soft ground. they showed up lame when the owners tried to use them out on the hard ground… until i pulled out some of that hard, dead sole. so i had a tiny amount of experience with this. the hooves were A LOT smaller however! LOL

      i remember going to trim at a friends house. she had just bought two miniature mares, barely handled, never had their feet trimmed, hadn’t been wormed or cared for at all. they were basically wild little broodmares (because if it has a vagina you better breed it!) and their feet were in terrible condition. i took a long look at them and we decided it would be best to just go ahead and take all the excess off. they were hobbling around totally sore and miserable. they were terrified and so we figured it would best to just get it done. the one mare was fairly quiet through the whole thing and her feet trimmed up beautifully. she immediately felt better and trotted off, totally sound. amazing. the second mare had this weird twisted hoof. i picked it up and the hoof wall had grown UNDER her foot. she was actually walking the SIDE of her hoof. i took a deep breath and began working on it with my nippers. after about the 5th cut the ENTIRE HOOF FELL OFF!!! it came off in my hand! i froze and my friend said, “what happened?” she could tell something had. i said, “i think her foot just fell off.” i moved the part that had come off and underneath was the most perfect little hoof i’ve ever seen!!! i still don’t know what the heck was on the outside of that little mare’s foot, but we were both relieved that she wasn’t deformed. LOL

      things are not always what they seem… sometimes rules are made to be broken 😉

  1. Great progress already! 🙂

    When I was starting out with barefoot I faced the issue of trimming the frogs frequently as they grew and grew and grew like little monsters. If you have the chance to read more into Pete Ramey he brings this topic up and says that if some feature of the hoof is growing very rapidly chances are very good that you are over-trimming it in the first place and to back off of it.

    This was a hard habit for me to overcome once it was ingrained (omg, the bars are growing by the inch!! better knock them back..) but I’ve seen in my two boys huge leaps and bounds in their hoof health and overall demeanor since applying this.

    Kudos to you for taking charge of his feet! 🙂

    1. i have several of pete’s books and really enjoy them 🙂 i have tried just leaving them, thinking along those lines, there must be a reason they are growing right? but then he becomes so very lame and can’t walk out on the hard ground at all. so i go back to trimming them back and immediately he is sound again. weird right? this is where the idea that not all rule apply to every single situation. i’m hoping that the environment that he is living in now will really help with this issue this summer. he was living here last year and moved around A LOT but we have years of issues to overcome so i suppose i can’t expect his feet to be fixed in just a few months 😉 i’m so happy with the improvement i’ve been seeing though! thank you so much for your comment erica! i really appreciate it!

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