Does One Trim Fit All Horses?

Which Barefoot Trim is Right for my Horse?

Does one trim fit all horses? No, no, no, no, no!


A collage of barefoot trims performed on horses


Warning; this may end up being a bit of a rant! Not too long ago, I was in a discussion with a barefoot trimmer where he stated that he trims every (healthy) barefoot hoof the same way.




I, of course, bowed out of that discussion very quickly and quietly as my mantra has always been to trim the 'Hoof-In-Hand' on the 'Horse-In-Hand'. The hoof (singular) in your hand on the horse (singular) in your hand; it's that simple.


When you order hoof boots, such as Scoot Boots, do you order the same size for your Cob, that is mostly trail ridden on soft ground, as your friend's horse that is a Warmblood and mostly ridden in a sand arena?


No, of course not. At least I hope that was your answer!


Horses wearing red, pink, purple and blue Scoot Boots on a trail ride


Is your left foot the same as your right foot? Are your feet the same as your sister's/brother's/husband's/kids'? 


No, of course not.


We are each individuals with our own individual peculiarities. The same applies to horses, each and every single one is individual. With their own individual peculiarities in body, mind and spirit!


So why would we even think to trim every hoof the same way?


Granted, I may have misunderstood but I don't think so, because I quote, "every foot is the same for me".


In my humble opinion, that is a very dangerous statement to make...


The internal foot and hoof anatomy of a horse


Perhaps the anatomy of the foot inside the hoof capsule is basically the same, however, there are small differences between each horse's hoof that will be affected by the barefoot trim, and may or may not cause detrimental consequences if every barefoot trim is done the same way. 


A wild horse's hoof has become the poster hoof, it is clear that the hoof came from a horse that lived on dry, arid ground. It is well-rolled in the toe and smoothed out from abrasion from that hard, dry, arid ground and terrain.


A herd of wild horses in the desert


Listen (or read) carefully; the same, original hoof that belongs to a horse that lives and is ridden in the moors or over soft, boggy, wet, grassy ground. That hoof would be a danger to the horse as well as to the rider as it lacks the necessary sharp capsule edges and bars and ridges of wall that are so necessary for traction!


For example, years ago, our youngest son was on a Champion Football team. They had not lost one game all season! They were expecting to clean house during the Thanksgiving Rivalry game. However, the day's weather was almost like a blizzard. There was wet, cold snow on top of the grass field and its was getting more and more slushy as the team played on. Yeah, they don't cancel Thanksgiving Football games around here for anything! Well, the team my son was playing again was fortunate to have had metal cleats that were provided just for this game. Our son's team did not. They had rubber cleats. Soft, smooth, slippery rubber cleats. The short of the long is, they lost that game 50 - 0! Their cleats were just not up to the conditions of the field and many of the players were slipping and falling, oh, my! It was just a huge mess!


Now, think of a horse that would try to canter, gallop or even jump on wet, slippery ground with hooves such as that wild mustang hoof. What do you suppose would happen? That's right. It would be a huge mess!


There would not be enough traction to hold the horse steady and secure in his movements. That would, also, in turn, affect the way the horse moved, the muscle holding patterns that would take place, as well as the horse's mental stress as he struggled to maintain he's footing safely.


A farrier performing a barefoot trim on a horse's hoof

So, that's just one example. Another might be a horse that has muscle spasms or imbalanced jaw (TMJ) or subluxate Hyoid and the such. Yes, these conditions are all too common in our domestic horses. All these conditions may affect the movement of the horse, so the horse cannot be ridden in balance. The hooves will wear according to the movement of the horse. Imbalanced, strained movement will equal to imbalanced wear and growth of the hooves.


See? It's that simple!


I could go on... thinking of all the horses that have had injuries and have recovered, perhaps with soft tissue scarring inside the pastern, or fetlock or shoulder or pelvis? Those horse will not move in a 'natural balanced' way and, thus, will not be able to maintain balanced hooves! Not enough people recognise the importance of the whole horse vs. 'the hooves'. 


They just cannot be separated, nor, can every hoof be seen the same!


There are so many different variables that affect the wear and growth of the horses' hooves; that's why it is so important to keep up with good, balanced, barefoot trimming for the individual horse and its individual hooves on a regular basis in order to help the horse perform' to its full capability. 


So there's my 'rant' for today, I hope that many will have the 'ears to hear' this or, at least, start thinking about it. Because, 'I see every hoof the same', in my opinion, is dead wrong.


The difference may be minuet, but the most minuet tweaking of a hoof can make or break the horse and their hoof's well-being and balance.


There is no one trim that fits all!


Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the world-renown author of "10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves" and "Natural Hoof Anthology" as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 18 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in NE Connecticut and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:

If you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact

Gwenyth is available for freelance assignments, contract work and consulting.


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