A Farrier's Dream Client

There's plenty of talk on the message boards about what to look for in a hoof care professional. All you farriers and trimmers out there: what do you look for in a client? Here is my list.

My dream client would...
  • Keep appointments and pay on time.
  • Brush excess mud or dirt off their horse and pick his feet prior to an appointment.
  • Keep up with hoof care between visits (especially important with rehab cases), including cleaning hooves out daily, exercise, thrush treatment, etc.
  • Trust my opinion and experience, and follow my treatment plan for at least 3 months before making any hasty decisions. If a horse's hooves are pathological, especially over an extended period of time, it will take time to rehabilitate.
  • Understand that while I do not have all the answers, I will use the resources I have available to best help your horse.
  • Have digital x-rays of their horse's hooves and a vet that is willing to discuss any radiological or lameness exam findings.
  • Tip for exceptional work, dealing with "uncooperative" horses, or a horse's first trim (training). I currently do not charge extra for these services, but probably should!
  • Call or email me with any questions, concerns or changes. I am here to help in any way I can.
I may add more as I think of them, but let me know what your dream client would be like if you are a hoof care professional.

Thin Soles: diagnosis and treatment

It is extremely common for a horse to be tender-footed simply due to thin soles. Often, these horses will be more tender following a trim than before, leaving horse owners upset and wondering if their farrier/trimmer trimmed their horse too short. But how did the horse's soles get thin to start with, and what can we do to thicken them?

Diagnosing Thin Soles
Very thin soles can be flexed with thumb pressure alone. Hoof testers can flex soles that are thin enough to cause problems (be VERY careful with hoof testers), but not readily apparent with thumb pressure. Another common symptom of thin soles is shallow collateral grooves (the indentations of the hoof on either side of the frog). Lateral radiographs are often used to confirm sole thickness, and are helpful in determining how to trim a horse.

Causes of Thin Soles
There are several reasons a horse might have (or would be predisposed to have) thin soles. While genetics certainly might play a role, I personally feel that the horse's lifestyle (present and historical), nutrition, and past and present hoof care are more likely culprits.

Genetics, or newborn environment?
The first few days of a foal's life can and will affect a horse's hooves for the rest of its life. In these first few days after birth, the hooves are soft and pliable, and are shaped by the immediate environment the foal is exposed to. Foals need to run and play on various types of terrain in order to stimulate the development of the internal structures of their hooves. They should not be confined to stalls during this important period of development.

Horses need balanced diets to be healthy. A horse's hooves can tell us a lot about a horse's overall condition. Accompanying symptoms can include weight issues, dull coat, lethargy, and lack of motivation. Worm infestation can also wreak havok on a horse's system. If a horse's body is not healthy, his hooves won't be either.

Hoof Care, Past and Present
Long toes and under-run heels will stretch the hoof capsule forward, restricting blood flow. An unhealthy or overgrown hoof will not function or grow as well as a healthy one. Do not wait until your horse looks like he "needs" a trim (i.e. is overgrown) to schedule your trims or shoeings. Overgrown hooves can cause a multitude of issues, including mechanical founder, thrush, navicular syndrome, and abscesses.

How to Get Thicker Soles
Thin soles can be improve, but it takes some time, patience, and a little common sense. If you are able, determine the cause of the thin soles. Keep the toes back and the foot balanced for even contact with the ground. The weight bearing surface in a thin-soled hoof is usually too far forward. Be conservative in trimming the sole, bars and frog and focus more on changing the growth pattern of the hoof capsule from the top. Promote movement in the form of consistent exercise in a comfortable environment.

Keeping the Thin-Soled Horse Comfortable
Trim frequently. Fewer changes at each trim mean less of an adjustment period for the horse following a trim. Fit the horse with some form of hoof protection that includes sole stimulation, and use as often as needed. I prefer hoof boots with Happy Hoof Pads. Some veterinarians and farriers prefer shoes with impression material, however, a shoeing schedule can often be counterindicative to frequent (3-4 week) trims, and keeping toes back enough to change the angle of the growth of the hoof capsule.

Timeframe for Developing Thicker Soles
The timeframe for a horse's soles to thicken will vary based on all of the above factors. One of the most significant factors in my experience is controlled exercise and proper hoof stimulation. Note the difference in only a few months in the first x-ray shown on my website of a foundered hoof. This horse was hand-walked at a brisk pace for 20 minutes a day in boots and pads.

I hope this post has been helpful and educational. Please let me know if I can answer any questions or if you have some information or case studies to contribute. You can email me at rebecca(at)naturespathhoof.com.