Rocky is a Shetland pony who had a terrible case of
laminitis (i.e., separation of the hoof wall from the sole), when we
first bought him. He had foundered under the care
of his original owner, and his hooves had never
been the same since. He was very sensitive on even
the smallest rocks and was virtually unrideable,
except in a sandy arena. Our farrier at the time
trimmed him very aggressively and put shoes on
his front feet. This helped a little, but it was really
just a band-aid for his condition, which didn't get
worse, but it also never got better.
This is when I decided to seriously pursue trimming
him myself, so that I could monitor him proactively
and not be dependent upon a farrier for his care.
With my trimming and maintenance, his hooves
started to return to their natural state, and his white
line returned to where it should be. No longer was
he lame for days after an aggressive trimming, and
he developed a thick sole, whereby he could walk
on rocks without pain.
Natural Hoof Care
by Todd Abraham
Rocky has an easy life as a Cloverbud pony.
A common misconception is that a horse supports itself entirely on the hoof wall, but in
reality, it supports itself primarily on the sole, and that is why many horses are so sore
after a normal "pasture" trim, where the sole is completely carved out. Have you ever
ripped a callous off of your hand? It's painful to use your hand after doing so, and it's the
same way for a horse after having its sole's callous cut off.
When I first became a horse owner, I cared for my horses' hooves as those around
me did, without really giving it much thought, and from what I've observed over the
years, that's what most horse people do. The common mentality is that horses must
have shoes, and if not on all four feet, at least on the front two.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm a thinker, and this whole horseshoe thing
never quite sat right with me. On my own, I began to investigate and study all of the
information that I could find regarding hoof trimming, shoeing, and horse anatomy.
The information that I found out was oftentimes startling, but yet it held true with
common sense. Based upon my findings, along with my own personal experience, I
decided to keep my horses barefoot. I also studied different methods of natural hoof
care, and subsequently, I've been trimming my own horses' hooves ever since. It's
made a world of difference.
Talk is cheap, so I'll provide some case examples below, concerning my ten current
horses and my experiences with them.
Nikki is a Paint/Shetland pony cross. We bought
her at the same time as Rocky, when she was
about 3 years old, and she had no hoof-related
problems. She's been fortunate that she was born
with naturally sound hooves, and all that she
requires is timely maintenance to keep them that
way. I keep her well-trimmed, and she can go over
anything without skipping a beat.
over very difficult ground, and he always does very well for her. When she gets back home,
I take a look at his feet, and I'm always amazed how the natural hoof wears in its natural
environment. Another argument for intelligent design!
Registered as "QP's Montego Miss"
Diamond is an Appaloosa, and she, too, was blessed with
naturally sound hooves. In fact, she is so active, that she
nearly keeps them trimmed herself. She requires just minimal
maintenance from me, but I do monitor her for chips and
cracks, so that I can keep these from becoming serious
problems. She, too, can go over virtually any terrain without
any problems, and she doesn't require steel shoes to do so.
Sooner is an Appaloosa, and he is the picture of
health; although he went totally blind about five years
ago. Despite his stunning appearance, he was not
blessed with rock-hard hooves. When we bought him
at the age of 24, he had high heels, long toes, and a
very severe crack.
He had come from northern Minnesota, where he was
exposed to mostly sandy soils, but when he came to
us in southern Minnesota, and he stepped on rocks,
he would nearly go down in pain. It was very difficult
taking him on trail rides, because he was so
uncomfortable going over any rocky terrain.
Once I started applying my natural hoof trim to his
feet, he started to improve, and within a few months,
he was a completely different horse. Now, when we
ride him, it's almost hard to remember how things
used to be.
One thing that people need to realize, however, is
that it's not an overnight change; it does take time.
How long it takes, depends on the horse, the
environment, and the horse's level of activity.
I keep an eye on her hooves and trim them accordingly. All horses' hooves grow and
wear at different rates, so there isn't necessarily a set schedule for trimming. Some
people get a haircut every two weeks, whereas some people get a haircut every few
months--everybody is different, and so it is with horses' hooves.
When a person is dependent upon a farrier, they are not just dependent upon that
person, but they are also dependent upon that person's schedule, and when that person
has an opening, all of the horses get trimmed and/or shoed at the same time, oftentimes
whether they need it or not.
Sooner went blind the following year.
Sooner is blind in both eyes
from cataracts. I am riding him
bareback with just a halter.
Memorial Day Parade 2006
Grandpa Mert rides Sooner
every year as the
Lone Mounted Soldier.
Registered as "Mr. Paris Gold Bar"
born 3/22/84, died 6/25/09
Click here for a tribute to Dakota.
Dakota is a Foundation Quarter Horse. When we bought
him, he had shoes on all four feet, and his hooves were
a mess. His toes were way too long, his heels were way
too high, and his frogs were just about rotted off, due to
thrush. As soon as I got him home, I pulled his shoes,
applied my trim, and administered some medication for
He had been shod for nearly his entire life, so this was
an entirely new experience for him. When he would paw
the ground, he would slightly miss, because no shoe
was there. I worked with him every day, by walking him
over gravel and up and down the driveway, so that he
could begin to grow out his hooves in the correct way
and also to acquire the proper sense of feel and tactile
response that he had never experienced before.
I closely monitored him, and he progressed very well.
Within a few months, he had built up his sole callous to
the point where he could walk over rocky terrain with
no problems. My wife has taken him on many trail rides
Waseca County Fair 2007
My 14-year old son is riding
Sooner. Sooner completed a
flawless Trail Class using voice
commands and body cues.
My wife, Angela - on the right riding Dakota. Her
sister is riding "A Winning Sunny" - retired National
Quarter Horse Congess Champion.
Dakota is barefoot, Sunny is shod on all four hooves.
Registered AHA as "Chopin's Melody"
Melody is a Polish Arabian, with
hooves of steel. When we bought her,
she had great feet, and she still has
great feet. My oldest daughter has
used her for parades, dressage,
English, Western, and trail riding. I
have used her for Posse work, and my
wife has taken her on trails that are
not for the faint of heart.
Apollo is a Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred.
He's a big boy, and he has big feet that
support a lot of weight.
His frogs are very wide and are different
from all of my other horses' frogs, as is the
relative shape of his hooves. His feet are
sound, and don't require any special
attention, besides consistent maintenance.
He is my Posse horse, and he can be
trusted to go over and through nearly
anything with no problems. I often ride him
bareback with only a halter as he is very
responsive to body cues. He willingly
leaves the ranch for solo trail rides.
Every horse is different. Just as they each
require a different approach and response
in training, so it is with their hoof
maintenance. A horse can not be put into a
box. They all require a thoughtful mind and
slightly different trimming styles, due to
their hoof size, shape, and the size/weight
of the horse.
My primary purpose for sharing my knowledge and experience with you is
because I want to empower horse owners to be able to provide their horses with
the best hoof care possible, whether it is by a professional or by themselves.
My vision is to host clinics that provide an opportunity for people to not only
gather knowledge and new skills, but to also have the opportunity for hands-on
practice. If you are interested, please contact me at the ranch.
Sheriff's Posse Wagon Train
I am riding Apollo and my
daughter, Sarah, is riding Nikki.
This ride was a 20 mile loop on
mostly gravel roads. The
hooves on both horses showed
very little wear.
Registered ApHC as "You Can Seymore"
Seymore is a Foundation Appaloosa. He came
to us with excellent hooves, and all I've had to
do is maintain them. They are some of the
hardest hooves that I've ever encountered,
and they take some physical strength to trim.
He, too, is a very big boy with equally big feet.
I've had to teach him some ground manners to
stand quietly for me, while I trim him, but that
is the case for any horse.
I will eventually start working with Seymore as
my backup Posse horse.
No shoes - healthy hooves
Double Registered AQHA & Palomino as "Amarillo Sun"
born April 4, 2001 in Powell Butte, OR
Sky is my wife's new horse as of 8/11/09. He's a
really nice-looking cow-bred gelding, but he
definitely needed a trim. The good thing is that
he was already barefoot, but he wasn't too
excited about me messing with his feet for an
extended period of time. We worked through
that, and I gave him his first trim.
I was somewhat surprised by how soft his
hooves were, especially since it was August,
and my other horses' hooves are hard as rock
this time of year, but he had been on pasture
where he was living, and there may have been
more rain there than at our place. So, I'll be
keeping an eye on him to see how he does.
Lexie working on desensitization.
born 1987 (estimate)
Ginger is a Quarter Pony, who we obtained from a relative who wanted to get
her out of a less-than-ideal boarding situation.
I had been told that she had experienced frequent abscesses, under the care
of a previous farrier, which obviously made her unrideable for long periods of
time. In addition, upon my first inspection of her hooves, she was
experiencing a severe bout of laminitis, which is painful for any horse, no
matter how stoically they stand. Try pulling one of your fingernails off, and
that will give you an idea of what the horse is going through.
I've been trimming her for nearly two years now, and her hooves are in
fantastic shape. She is doing great and willingly walks over any terrain.
Trimming hoof wall.
born June 2007
Remington is a buckskin Paint, who we were
fortunate to rescue from a situation where the
owner was no longer able to take care of him.
When he first came to our ranch, I inspected
his feet, and I could see that he had never been
trimmed before. A horse's first year of life is
the most important period of time for proper
hoof development, along with the legs' bony
structure, so I'm thankful that I had a chance to
help this development, before it was too late.
I've consistently applied my trim to his young
hooves, and he is doing great. He's a lucky
horse, as he will never have to unnecessarily
be encumbered by steel shoes being nailed to
his hooves, which entirely prohibits the hoof's
natural functioning for which it was designed.
Backing up toe with rasp.
The following people, books, and clinicians have helped me to not only learn about
natural hoof care, but also to become a better horseman.
"The Chosen Road"; book and DVD series by KC LaPierre, PhD, RJF, MEP.
I've learned a great deal about Equine Podiatry and KC's HPT Method through
these resources. More information can be found at www.equinepodiatry.net.
"Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care"; authored by Jaime Jackson, a
former farrier, who bases his approach to natural hoof care on the wild horse hoof.
Very interesting reading, along with practical insights. More information can be found
"Making Natural Hoof Care Work for You"; authored by Pete Ramey, who
also bases his approach to natural hoof care on the wild horse hoof. Pete is a former
farrier who had grown increasingly frustrated with the harm that shoes were doing to
the horses that he worked on. More information can be found at www.hoofrehab.com.
Dan Sumerel; clinician and author. Dan has great insight into the behavior and
body language of the horse. I attended his clinic with my horse Sooner and learned
the subtleties of communication between man and horse for leadership and respect.
My wife and two of my kids also attended. All of my children, except for the youngest,
have gained the respect and leadership of their primary horse using Dan's method. I
have read his book and watched his DVDs, in addition to the clinic, and I highly
recommend them. More information can be found at www.sumereltraining.com
Paula Colokovic; retired Gran Prix dressage and show jumping. Paula gave riding
lessons to my wife and three of my kids before retiring. The greatest thing I have
learned from Paula is how essential it is to ride with your body. If you watch dressage,
you will see the rider moves very little, yet the horse is performing these incredible
manuevers. It is the subtle shifting of weight, turning your head, and leg cues that
work on any horse and in any saddle--even bareback.
Bitless Bridle; developed by Dr. Robert Cook, FRCVS., Phd., Professor of Surgery
Emeritus of Tufts University, Massachusetts.
The bitless bridle provides a method of communication that is safer, more humane,
and more effective than the bit. I prefer the bitless bridle over a traditional bridle and
bit. My horses are better behaved, they don't toss their heads, and they let me put it
on without turning into a giraffe. More information can be found at
Applying mustang roll.
Eric, Rachel, Lexie, and Remi
the day after we brought him
home. Remi is six months old.
8/29/09 - two weeks after buying Sky.
My wife took Sky to the vet last week for a Coggins test. She was also concerned
about a lump on the outside of his right-hind leg just below the hock. The vet
recommended that we set up an appointment with the equine specialist at the
Waseca-Clarks Grove Vet Clinic.
We met with the equine specialist vet and discussed two issues. The first being the
fact that Sky was still tender on the soles of his feet two weeks after trimming down
his over-grown hoof wall. The vet tested all areas of the hoof for tenderness. The
sole is thin, but the vet did not find any indication of a rotated coffin bone. Most
likely, the poor hoof quality is due to diet and living conditions, of which we are not
familiar with. The new sole growing in from the coronet band is much healthier. See
The second issue was the lump. On visual and physical inspection, the vet
determined that is was ossification to the outside splint bone, most likely due to a
kick from another horse sometime between one and two years ago. We had it
radiographed to determine if it would interfere with the suspensory ligament, which
lies between the two splint bones close to the back of the cannon bone. The
radiograph showed that at this time it appeared the horse's body had completed its
healing process and there should be no interference. In the future, should Sky begin
exhibiting lameness from the ossification, the splint bone will need to be surgically
removed. See pictures B and C.
We also discussed a large crack on Sky's left-hind hoof. I, too, noticed this when my
wife brought this horse home. The previous owner said it had never been a problem.
It is due to an injury to the coronet band, and the hoof no longer grows correctly
from that spot. Keeping the toe short and not allowing any flare to develop will be
important to keep the crack in check.
My wife really likes Sky's personality and he is very well behaved. Sky will be
Angela's riding partner for the next 20 years. When the healthy portion of the hoof
reaches the ground, they should be ready to hit the trails. Until then, she will not be
This is a good time to remember the saying, "no hoof, no horse". Prevention is
worth a pound of cure. Keep your horse's hooves trimmed and they will remain
strong and healthy.
Notice the change in hoof
structure where the arrow
is pointing. This is flare
that developed when the
toe was too long. I will
gradually remove it, as
the hoof wall grows out.
Sound growth is coming
in above it, and it will
eventually grow all the
way out without any
Picture B shows
ossification and a small
scar above where the
initial trauma occurred.
Picture C shows what the
ossification looks like on
the inside. This injury is
one to two years old.
My wife took Apollo to the Black
Hills for a week of trailriding the first
week of September. The rides were
all day rides over incredibly rocky
and rough terrain. Apollo and
another horse that I trim were the
only barefoot horses in the group.
Both performed under extreme
conditions day after day with no
tenderness and no lameness.
At the end of September I took
Apollo on the Posse wagon train.
We traveled twenty miles on gravel
roads. Again, Apollo's hooves
performed exceptionally well. He
walked down the middle of the road
with no lamesness and no