I recently caught up with a couple of friends for coffee at our favourite local café. It’s one of our most treasured guilty pleasures to get together once every couple of weeks and clear our minds from the pressures of work and family. As inevitably happens, the discussion very quickly turned to horses. We are all horse people, and as anyone with even the remotest association with the species will tell you, horse people find it something of a challenge to think, talk about or do anything non-equine related for any significant length of time.
My one friend was bemoaning the fortune she had just spent on farrier’s bills as her gorgeous palomino had recently come up lame.
“This is not the first time,” she lamented. “His dodgy hooves have been giving me trouble for ages. I get the farrier out regularly, but he’s constantly getting chips and quarterline cracks. I just don’t know what to do with him” she continued.
“How often do you trim” I inquired casually.
“About every 10-12 weeks or so” she answered, a little too nonchalantly for my liking. My jaw dropped slightly, and I stared at her speechlessly for a few moments.
“Um…” I muttered, “you don’t think that’s pushing it a bit far?”
“Well, I check his hooves regularly. If there are any minor chips, I get the rasp out and fix them myself, so there’s no point wasting more money on the farrier when there are no cracks.”
The Great Misconception
As you can probably imagine, we talk to a lot of people about hooves and hoof health. It never ceases to amaze us quite how many people sincerely believe that it is perfectly acceptable to wait until hooves are cracked or looking a little bit long. When it comes to your horse’s feet relying on your own subjective judgement, or until a serious issue arises is not doing anyone any favors. You might think that you’re saving money on farriers, but like my friend, you’re simply going to end up spending far more when serious problems arise. It really is a case of an ounce of prevention being decidedly preferable to a pound of cure.
How Long IS a Piece of String?
So, with that said, how often should you be trim horses hooves? The answer is similar to the proverbial piece of string, and therein lies the problem for many owners. With so many factors playing into the equation there is not one definitive answer. We’re all familiar with the variation in rates of growth from summer to winter. Then you need to factor in whether your horse is shod or not. If not, then what kind of terrain he or she is travelling over and how much time they are working or exercising. If you’re using hoof boots, how will this affect wear? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a horse that is spending time wandering about a soft, grassy paddock is going to require more frequent trimming than another who is working for hours a day on more abrasive terrain.
Timing is Everything
So, where does that leave us? While there is no hard and fast answer that will suit every horse, one thing is for certain; sooner rather than later is going to be best for everyone involved. Too many people are quick to dismiss their horse has fussy or sensitive hooves. While this is possible, in many cases, it is likely that a sub-optimal trimming routine may be contributing in part or in whole to persistent hoof problems. The trick is to discard the one-size-fits-all approach and tailor your schedule to your horse’s particular circumstances. Most importantly, if you think you’re saving money by pushing out farrier visits, you’re likely to be gravely mistaken. You’ll end up spending far more treating chronic issues in the long run that you would have by simply engaging in more frequent care.
Hitting the Nail on the Head
Casual misconceptions about how often you should trim your horse’s hooves do more harm than most people realise. Ensuring that you’re giving those feet the care that they need more frequently can save you time, money and stress. Most importantly, your horse will be happier and healthier, which is ultimately the highest priority for all of us.
Oh, and my friend? She’s now trimming every 4-6 weeks! Put that one in the “Win” column!