Occasionally horses are so uncomfortable that they are unable to lift one or more of their feet for trimming. Examples of scenarios I have run into include:
- Horses with musculo-skeletal problems (arthritis and muscular problems) in their back, shoulders or hips
- Horses with laminitis
- Horses with joint problems like bone chips in the knee (common in older OTTB’s and jumpers)
- Horses with hock problems or stifle problems (common in Gaited horses)
- Horses with extreme ulcers
- Some PMU mares who have never learned to lift their feet for trimming and are too big to struggle with
THIS CASE STUDY
Aries, a +17h Draft TB cross, had a very strong passion for living, strong enough that he loved life fiercely in spite of having most of these problems
He had chronic laminitis with severe coffin bone degeneration, along with many musculo-skeletal problems, stifle and joint problems.
His feet and body were so uncomfortable that he was unable to lift his feet for more than a second or two…. but if he got loose, he would canter away at full speed! He had to be walked with a muzzle on because he was so large that he would literally drag people to the nearest patch of grass…
The only reason he lived as long as he did in this state was 1) his pervasive will to live, and 2) he had excellent support from his boarding stable owner and the other horse owners at the boarding facility (who pitched in to help when needed). His owner had financial constraints. so body-workers, trimmers and the boarding facility owner, Michelle of Harvest Moon Ranch, http://harvestmoonranch.net/, volunteered to help when we could.
BEFORE YOU START
Angle Grinders have four characteristics that make them dangerous to use around horses:
- They generate a blast of air that startles horses… this usually creates the most problems
- They are loud
- They vibrate
- They revolve at a high speed and can easily get bound-up in a horses tail, trimmer hair, lead ropes etc
There are several approaches to using an angle grinder to trim. There is a lot of information online to help you choose tools; search for ” grinder hoof trim” and be prepared to read! I suggest that anyone wanting to try this do their research and practice technique ahead of time with wood, plastic and rubber to understand how the different materials affect your ability to hang on to the grinder.
MY GRINDER PREP
- I remove the grinder shield and post handle
- Always wear protective glasses
- Tie up long hair on the trimmer and the horse
- Wear gloves
TRAINING THE HORSE TO STAND FOR TRIMMING
Grinders throw off a sharp blast of air, and this is the one characteristic that has the potential to alarm horses.
I stand 4 feet from the horse and have the horse on a long loose lead.
I turn the grinder on and off several times, letting the horse watch and get used to the noise, but not showing it to the horse or making a big deal of it.
I then turn the grinder on and “fan” my face with the air, making happy “ahhh!’ types of noise. I then do this to the owner and anyone else standing by….. I blow their hair around and laugh. Sounds silly, but it works.
With the grinder off, I let the horse smell and inspect it
I stand back, turn the grinder on, I fan my face, the owners face, and the the horses face, and, from a few feet away, fan the horses body and legs.
I don’t restrain the horse forcefully, my goal is to engage the horse so that they trust me and the grinder.
THE TRIMMING PROCESS
TOOLS – I use a heavy duty Makita angle grinder with a paddle switch. My preferred disc is a 40 or 24 grit flap disc, but I have used an abrasive stone disc also. There is a lot of information online to help you choose tools.. search for ” grinder hoof trim” and be prepared to read!
ENVIRONMENT – I stand horses on a piece of plywood to trim. The grinder flap disc has to go to the ground to get a clean edge on the bevel, and most other surfaces create problems or present hazards. Rubber mats catch the edge of the flap disc and can jerk it out of your hand, metal makes a loud noise when the disc is pressed against it, dirt and sand get thrown up and can get in your eyes or spook the horse. Concrete or asphalt can be used, but a pattern of the horses foot will be left on the surface.
HORSE HANDLING – I also like to work in an open area so the the horse can move away from me if it startles or spooks. I ask the handler to stay alert and stay by me, on the same side of the horse that I’m on. If the horse is the least bit active, I have any observers stand on my side of the horse, behind me and at least 3 feet away.
TRIM OBJECTIVE – The objective is to use the edge of the flap disc to etch a bevel around the edge of the hoof from the lateral (outside) heel wall to the medial (inside) heel wall. Depending on the angle of the hoof wall and the wall thickness, the bevel will be from 1/4 to 1/2 inc high.
The angle of the bevel is roughly perpendicular to the ground.
The top edge of this bevel should parallel the coronet band or growth ring around the front half of the hoof.
If the horse has high heels and is able to life his heel, I get the horses foot at edge of the plywood so the the heels are hanging off the edge, and try to bevel the heels down with the grinder… this sometimes works ok, sometimes doesn’t work at all! Each case is different.
When the training and desensitization goes well, I run through a mental check list, then have the horse holder stand on the same side of the horse as I am on, and I turn the grinder on and, working on a front foot, I lightly touch it to the lower edge of the wall, where the bevel will be. By this time the horse is usually alert but relaxed, and I can continue around the front feet, and then the back.