Pasture vs Barefoot Trim

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OK Folks … Today we’ll start a new little series on the topic of Pasture trim vs. a natural, barefoot trim for horses’ hooves.

Not to start a war and not to disrespect anyone but to help educate and teach. Because there ARE differences. We’ll go into the individual differences in this little series.

Most commonly, a pasture trim is one that shortens the hoof all-round and does so to a flat plane.  Shortens the toes, the heels, the soles … and let’s define ‘shorten’ vs. ‘bring back’ right at the get-go here.

Hooves grow at the approximate rate of about ¼” a month. If the horse lives on a soft environment that doesn’t afford ‘self trimming’, then we have to help out the situation with interventional aid.  Naturally, given a varied, natural environment, the hoof doesn’t just ‘shorten the toes, the heels, the sole’ … nature sculpts, all around, the perfect hoof on the horse for that individual horse. The hooves will be worn and grown at a rate that best suits the individual for a healthy hoof that is both physiologically correct as well as functionally correct.

In other words, as I said, nature ‘sculpts’ the hooves.  

Above  is a photo that I copied, printed, and laminated to take with me to my jobs for years. For inspiration, and reminder of what a beautiful, functional, healthy hoof SHOULD look like! This hoof belongs to “Imaj Zamir ” who had just completed a 100 mile endurance race – BAREFOOT! In fact, he earned the Tom Quilty Endurance Ride buckle!  He exhibited no insults to the hooves or legs! Just amazing!  Look at the “sculpting” of that hoof – I see no perfectly flat planes on that hoof … That hoof has FEEL to it – curves and strength, rounding and beveling and wholeness. The toes is ‘back’ yet thick; once can see the thick sole and strong thick walls and heels … Just amazing.

Ironically, for as many years as I’ve trimmed hooves (sculpted hooves), I was, and still am, pretty good with it but when I took sculpting in high school … I was HORRIBLE with it!  I couldn’t sculpt a lump of clay or a piece of wood to save my own live.  I was horrible. The end result was just as unrecognizable as the lump with which I started! 

I guess I didn’t listen to the clay or wood closely enough. I learned to listen to hooves, though!  

But I digress here … back to the definition of shorter vs. bringing back the toes, etc.

OK .. so nature "sculpts" while shortening the toe means simply that … shortening the toe and mostly, by most farriers, this is done UNDERNEATH the hoof with a knife, nippers and rasp; the rasp being a flat-planed tool. The toes are thinned from doing this -- thus reducing the protective properties as well as the overall strength of the hoof. 

In the above photo we see that the walls have been rasped down to a flat plane with no beveling at all.  The toe has been rasped down (shortened) and the hoof is almost flat. 

In the 2nd photo heels have been lowered (shortened) so much that they’re pink – that means they are very close to the blood source. One can also see live sole (the yellowy-waxy appearance of the toe callus area) and the knife is 'digging' into the sole. There is also evidence of old bleeding in the white line that tell of separation of the white line and trauma. This is hoof that has been ‘shortened’. Now compare that to a naturally trimmed hoof:  (yes, this is a rear hoof while the top one is a front hoof. But just take a look at the differences. What do you see?) 

Using a rasp to BRING BACK the toes is doing just that. With the hoof on a stand,

the toe is brought back to an acceptable place that is just shy of the white line.  See how the rasp is held at a 90* angle to the hoof wall? The toe is then "brought back' to the point where laminae is 'sticking' to the hoof and the entire wall is done this way from heel to heel (if needed). That is 'bringing the toes back'. 


Compare this naturally trimmed hoof to Zamir's hoof above: (the identifying markers on this photo is showing the natural sole callus as well as showing the comparison to what the INSIDE of the hoof might look like) 

(Photo from PENZANCE Natural Hoofcare)


So that is one major difference between the pasture trim and the natural, barefoot trim – toes that are ‘shortened’ vs. toes that are ‘taken back’.  Granted, even on pasture trims toes are ‘taken back’ but from what I’ve seen, not nearly enough to eliminate a long-toed hoof.  And we’ve read how the pasture trim will trim a hoof flat; vs. ‘sculpting’ the hoof to mimic the wear and growth from a natural environment.

More differences coming up on Friday -- so stay tuned! 

And please remember - if you feel you'd like to arrange a consult about your horses' hooves, please do not hesitate to contact me. I work with people all across the globe. I can help you and your team of healthcare providers get your horse in optimal condition - naturally!





Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications includingThe 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 SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. For further information please click here:


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