Horses

Journey Into Soundness

I wish to share one little side trail that occurred along my artistic path.  Starting off as a way to share something special with my daughter and to perhaps create equine related images, my fondness for horses took an unexpected detour which now supports other horses on their path toward wellness.

I had always wanted a horse. My dad said I could have a horse when I could afford to take care of one myself. I slept on that dream for 40 years, until my daughter wanted  to take riding lessons. We both began riding instruction and within months, I had purchased Minnie and kept her at a local stable where we learned about horse management and care. A few years later we bought “Ropers-by-Dee-Bar”, a registered quarter horse with a good pedigree.

It was Roper who took me on this path. My daughter was riding in local pleasure shows and participating in 4H programs but Roper’s hoof walls could not hold a shoe. With each reset and subsequent shoe toss, larger and larger chunks of his hooves were torn away. I also noticed the angle of his “toe” didn’t match the angle of his pasterns (which was another problem). We finally were forced to remove his shoes. Poor lame Roper.

I began to research online and felt that biotin, rubber shoes, and glue-on shoes were limited and expensive suggestions.  Through a friend I began to read the writings of Hildrud Strasser, a German veterinarian whose life’s work was the exploration of equine soundness; her theories were based on correct trimming of the equine hoof.

I began to research online and felt that biotin, rubber shoes, and glue-on shoes were limited and expensive suggestions.  Through a friend I began to read the writings of Hildrud Strasser, a German veterinarian whose life’s work was the exploration of equine soundness; her theories were based on correct trimming of the equine hoof.

My study of the structure of the equine hoof became a fascination. As an artist with some sculpting experience, I immediately understood the purpose of supportive and balanced structures. Problems such as hoof wall separation, laminitis, white line disease, thrush, shoulder alignment problems, and compression of the nerve passing under the navicular bone can be attributed to improper toe, heel, and bar trimming.  Blood to the hoof is circulated into the connective laminar tissue and pumped back to the heart through the stepping action of the frog and sole.  Proper trimming was the key to maintaining hoof health.

My study of the structure of the equine hoof became a fascination. As an artist with some sculpting experience, I immediately understood the purpose of supportive and balanced structures. Problems such as hoof wall separation, laminitis, white line disease, thrush, shoulder alignment problems, and compression of the nerve passing under the navicular bone can be attributed to improper toe, heel, and bar trimming.  Blood to the hoof is circulated into the connective laminar tissue and pumped back to the heart through the stepping action of the frog and sole.  Proper trimming was the key to maintaining hoof health.

Under the inspiration and guidance of a local veterinarian, the reading of Strasser’s work including the purchase of her big blue book, taking the introductory Strasser course, participating in a Pete Ramey course,  the purchase of books by Jamie Jackson, and the search for quality hoof grooming tools,  I began to take on the process of trimming my own horses. I joined an online hoof trim discussion board and met a Strasser practitioner living in Washougal, Washington who advised and encouraged me to undertake more study. She would critique my practice via photographs. Finally she visited Nova Scotia, and gave Roper his first Strasser-style trim.

That was 15 years ago, and I now trim horses for several other people because I believe that a proper bare-hoof trim (supplemented with hoof boots for rough terrain) is the way to keep a horse sound.  When I look at horses, I see the hoof. When people say their horses need shoes, it is my hope their farrier is a well educated practitioner.