So, what is HoofArmor good for? Where does it fit in? When I first designed HoofArmor around 1999, the concept was to be a replacement for horseshoes because I wanted something that wouldn’t fall off. I had a client’s horse whose hind feet were so wet from being in a tie stall that nothing I could do would keep the shoes on. Horseshoes had a habit of falling off, particularly if the horses were in muddy fields and hoof boots were struggling to stay on in any environment then. I felt bad about any of my client’s horses losing a shoe particularly if they didn’t bother to look for that shoe which was laying in the pasture, like a landmine with the nails sticking up.
HoofArmor started out as a protection for the bottom of the hoof wall, just like a horseshoe. As I observed what the horses and hooves were doing with my trimming I realized the key to improvements in hoof care had to do with not the hoof wall, but the sole. I listened to and read about researchers who studied mustangs and one thing stuck in my mind. Of all the mustangs studied at Bureau of Land Management facilities, on perhaps 90% of the hooves they looked at, the hoof wall wasn’t touching the ground at all. They were walking soundly and completely on their sole and frog. However, both sole and frog were much thicker than domestic horses. And, I realized, no one had carved their calluses off. Continue reading
I know everyone knows how to pick up a horse’s hoof. Right? But, how many have nearly thrown their back out trying to get that foot up? Similar to “bedside manner”, I hear complaints from horse owners about the way farriers handle their horses. Many object to their horse being treated as another object on the assembly line. I know around the end of a busy day patience gets short and you just want to be done, but in this case you can go faster by going slower.
The way it was explained to me was the basic premise is that horses are prey animals and people are predators. I know you’ve all heard that before, but I didn’t realize to what extent this applies. When you think about all of this, it’s no wonder that horses are fearful. I’m amazed they allow us to do these things to them at all. Let me explain a few concepts I gathered along the way.
First of all, prey animals have eyes on their side of the heads for greater visibility of danger. This also affects their depth perception. (more later). Predators have both eyes in front for better depth perception for catching prey. Coincidently, humans have both eyes in front. Many predators also pin their ears back when ready to attack…like humans. Is it a wonder that horses, after generations of conditioning have some immediate distrust? Prey animals seldom move in a straight line…better to avoid being attacked when in a zig-zag motion. Predators attack in a straight line, the shortest distance between point A and point B. How do you approach your horse in the pasture? In a straight line? So, you’re approaching the horse in a straight line, looking directly at it with both eyes forward with your ears pinned back…just like a cougar… Continue reading
I’m guilty of neglect. I have two sets of hoof testers in my toolbox and generally, too often, try to guess where the lameness is without them. When I remember to use them they work well. They sure are cheaper than x-rays or MRIs and I can do it myself. Besides the cost and portability factor, there are a few advantages of hoof testers over other diagnostic equipment.
The first advantage is that you and the horse are active partners. Horses appreciate that. When you put pressure on the hoof testers you are in touch with the horse’s response. As you move the pressure around, you must be aware of the horse’s responses (plural as it may be more than one). This adds an element of communication that x-rays and MRI can’t because the horse is expected to remain as still as possible. Then interpreting the x-rays or scans is done without any input from the horse. Sounds like guessing to me. Continue reading
Winter Hoof Care
Of course, you know what I’m going to say about winter hoof care…use HoofArmor year-round, especially in winter. I started farrier work in the New York snow belt and I remember clients having me pull shoes in October and say, “See you in the Spring.” And I thought to myself, “What do I do until then…hibernate?”. Unfortunately for farriers and horses this is too often the case. Later when I was shoeing Saddlebreds and Morgans for shows it was difficult to apply shoe packs to the busted-up hooves from a winter’s neglect.
So, how about something different? Granted, hooves don’t grow as much in winter because most of the horse’s nutrition goes toward growing hair and keeping warm. Still, there are other things to do besides regular trims. Hooves in snow or straw-filled stalls will not wear down the hoof walls and should be trimmed regularly. If the walls are left long, they can pack snow and allow less traction on ice due to less surface contact. Continue reading
Water is life. Every living cell has water in it. The human body is 60% – 70% water, so I would guess a horse’s is too. Research by David Hood shows that “The frog on an average is 34.6% water. The sole is 35.4% and the hoof wall is 23%”. Research has also shown that this doesn’t change in different environments, seasons or weather conditions. The reason is that the hoof is nourished and moisturized from inside. The cells closest to the outside are smaller, tighter and denser to preserve that moisture level.
For example, trim a hoof and leave the trimming in the sun. Does it curl like a potato chip? Because it was susceptible to drying out exposed like that. If the hoof itself was subject to those effects the entire hoof would shrink in the sun. Because it doesn’t, doesn’t that prove that the hoof needs to be kept moist? Why then do people want to rasp off the outer layers of the hoof and even dry it out with a torch? Continue reading