Please remember!

The information presented on this blog represents "learning in progress" on my part, a horse owner, who was not satisfied with professional farriers and took matters in my own hands. As far as I am aware at the time of the post, the information presented is correct, but may change with me understanding more about hooves, in which case I will edit or remove the post. In order to follow my learning and understand everything about Molly's hoof, you need to start reading at the bottom.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

one size does not fit all

I have decided that for the next couple of post, I will review the book "ABC Hoofprint Trim" by Cheryl Henderson, and in particular, detail my experiences with the trim. This endevour will be divided in 3 parts:

1) heel height
2) 30 degree angle gauge
3) treatment of bars

This will be post 1, on heel height.

UPDATE: there is a more recent post on heel height, where I show how my gelding's hoof differs between the time I trimmed him according to ABC and now, where I trim according to my accumulated 3.5 years  of studying hooves:

I bough the book in August of 2011, after I had already applied the ABC trim for 6 months, based on mark-ups and personal advice from the author of the book, members of the ABC yahoo group, and through hoofmechanics.

The ABC method was appealing for me, as it seems easy to apply, following a "manual". I am a molecular biologist, I am used to follow manuals, in the most precise way, in a laboratory. This is my daily business at work, and so I thought it was perfectly suited for me to apply to my horses hooves.

I applied that trim (I should say I started as a total beginner) for almost 1 1/2 years, on both my horses. On Molly, this trim worked reasonably well (see exception of 30 degree hairline and treatment of bars in one of my future posts), but on Gus, it did not. Over the course of 1 1/2 years Gus' feet, which initially could master any terrain and had never taken a single lame step while he was in my possession, became fragile, and he became more and more reluctant to travel over concrete or termac road. So I knew something was not right for him, as I knew from before that he did not have these problems.

Trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I read an enormous amount of books on hoof care. I think pretty much every single book out there on barefoot trimming. One day, I'll post my library of books.

To make a long story short, I finally figured out that my problems were caused by enforcing a heel height of 1 1/8th inch for Gus hooves, as the Hoofprint manual demanded for every horse. Gus is a 155 cm quarter horse, though quite big boned, with big feet and big head, the regular QH halters are rather tight on his head :-)!). It really was only after I had seen wild mustangs with my own eyes (and seeing all the variations they had in their feet!), discussing on many online forums and personally with many important people in the barefoot world, and also after having come across Maureen's HGM trim, that I realized that not all horses can tolerate such a heel height. Some can, no doubt, but some can't. And if one enforces something on a hoof that it is not meant for, it becomes weaker and weaker as time goes on. And this is what happened to me and Gus. The most important point here is, that this did not happen instantly, but took time, over many months. A slow decrease in performance, and this is also why it was so hard for me to understand what was going on. Because each individual trim did not cause so much problems but overall, his hooves just went downhill, and became more and more sensitive. In order to accommodate a low heel on Gus, and a short toe, I needed to remove significant amounts of hoof and sole along the way, and in the long run, this was rather detrimental.

The picture below shows Gus' hoof as of today, next to a Utah mustang hoof. The red line points towards the "baseline", which is the position where according to the ABC manual, the heels need to be backed to. It is quite obvious that neither the mustang, nor Gus do currently have heels down to that "baseline". I should say that Gus, with a heel height such as on this picture, is totally comfortable on any surface, be it concrete, gravel or sand. He is just like he used to be when I first got him.

If I hold the ABC heel gauge to his current hooves, it becomes clear just how much hoof (AND functional sole) I would need to remove in order for him to conform to the hoof print trim for a "horse". The horse size heel height is supposed to be 1 1/8th inch. It is, most of the time, roughly at the position where the periople skin curls up. Interestingly, that landmark seems to be at exactly at 1 1/8th inch, even on Gus (see right side of picture). However, his heels are actually high beyond that point, currently to "draft" size, or 1 1/2 inch. There is no wall above sole level that I could take off and Gus is comfortable, which he has not been with a 1 1/8th inch heel. I think 1 1/2 inch will be roughly the heel height that suits him. I am now seeing the first indications that maybe some sole will start to exfoliate and the medial heel has a small crack.

While I don't have an x ray for this exact foot, the one from May, where he already had a "draft heel" suggest that even with this draft heel height his coffin bone is barely ground parallel. Most likely, the 1 1/8th inch "horse" heel height brought him into a negative angle, and that's why he was so uncomfortable on hard ground.

So, I guess, the conclusion of this part of the series of post is that one size does definitely not fit all horses. It takes a bit more knowledge of hooves to trim a foot than applying a set of measurements.


  1. I totally agree with you! Did you try digging in to the bars until you see red dots!! Yikes

  2. thanks for your comment! Glad to know that someone is actually reading this :-)!

    1. Thank you for your blog. I am a member of PHCP. Just moved into this area from CA. I am trying to get a client base. Getting the same resistance for people who used another "barefoot trimmer" that lamed their horses. I wondered if they belonged to ABC. After looking into the YouTube and blogs, they are very strict. Angles MUST match in every trim. No wonder they lamed horses. You cannot make changes that drastic. Look into PHCP. They are a great group. All about furthering education.

  3. I agree with your opinion. Thanks to write that, because here in Spain, there are somebody than to want introduce the ABC methodology. You corroborated my thinking

  4. So good to get others opinions on this group. Thanks so much for sharing your stand point. And thanks to Diann Kuzma for the introduction to PHCP Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners.