It seems like a lot of people struggle with finding the courage to pick up the rasp for the first time. And I can see how if you've only worked with top-notch highly recommended farriers, or endurance-level booting specialists, you'd be pretty intimidated. But when I first got into horses in 2007, I looked at what my farrier was doing, looked at some stuff online, and decided I could do at least as well as him. (This is a theme of my entire horse-owning career: look at something quite complicated, think briefly about it, decide I can do it too, and go do it. I mean, what the hell was I thinking getting into endurance? So much hubris.)
Anyway, so I paid $30, watched the farrier work, thought "I can do that!" and set out to teach myself to trim. Instead of paying attention in Contracts or Torts, I read every barefoot trimming site I could find. In Internet time, this was about seven thousand years ago, so most of those sites are gone or totally changed, but I've got a few links and I'll try to keep this page up to date.
Before we really start, I've got two disclaimers:
- Hoof care is, of course, a wildly polarizing topic. Shoeing fanatics think barefooters are killing their horses, and vice versa. Within the barefoot community, devotees of one trim style think the practitioners of another style are clueless butchers. Honestly, I am an agnostic - does your horse go well in shoes? Great, happy for you. Does your trim style work for you? Awesome. Is your horse stumbling or abscessing or landing toe-first? Maybe you should consider a change. Here are some resources which may or may not help you and your horse!
- Are you easily grossed out? Gird your loins. Almost all barefoot sites have tons of pictures of cadaver hooves. I am totally squicked out by pictures of laminae, but I've learned a lot by staring at them anyway.
Iron Free Hoof is one of the few sites that I remember reading back then that's still around today. If you read the whole site, you'll have a pretty good basic understanding of hoof anatomy and balance.
Barefoot for Soundness isn't being updated anymore, but it's another excellent starter resource. All the sidebar articles are good (and there aren't a lot of gross lamina pictures.)
The Horse's Hoof is a magazine, but they've got a lot of their articles collected here.
I think I learned the mechanics of using a rasp from Click and Trim - it was still up a few months ago, but it's gone now, sadly. It was a wonderful little website, written by a clicker trainer, but it wasn't "clicker required" - lots of good pictures of exactly how to hold and use a rasp, both "from the top" and "from the bottom." Here's the absolute basics:
- Get a good rasp. I don't know how much they cost in other countries, but in the US, you need to spend at least $25. I like Save-edge or Black Diamond. You can get a 12" or 14" "pony size" one to start, if it makes you more comfortable.
- Get the handle. It screws on to the rasp and keeps you from poking yourself or your horse. You only need one, ever - just unscrew it and move it to the new rasp. While you're at it, get the leather sheath, too.
- Get gloves. Rubber-dipped mesh gardening gloves give you the best combo of protection and agility. You have not truly known pain til you have rasped a knuckle off because you were too lazy to walk back in the barn to get your gloves (or, because you forgot to buy a new pair and rasped your knuckle through the hole in your old pair.) Get gloves.
Dixie's got really thick soles and a ton of wall, so my trimming strategy with her wouldn't work on a horse like Lilly. But what I do with Dixie is trim her toes as far back as I dare, trim her heels all the way down to the frog, and roll off any separation at the quarters. If her frogs look funky, I soak bits of cotton ball in pure tea tree oil and jam the cotton way up in the sides of her frogs - it's anti-microbial, and it's a physical barrier to help keep the muck out for a couple days.
One of the reasons I've been so hesitant to write anything about trimming is because I never have beautiful "after" photos. Dixie's feet still look like a hot mess to me - I picked those three shots strictly because they're fairly recent and her hooves are clean, not because this is how you want your horse's feet to look.
But they look better than they used to. This is the oldest picture I have, about 6 weeks after I got Dixie, and they were a Lindsey Lohan level of fucked up. Her frogs were tattered, blackened little things, half the size they are today, lurking a quarter inch off the ground. All I did for six months was trim as much off her toes as I could - she was extremely uncooperative - and she grew a decent hoof on her own.
One more thing - now that you've saved all this money by learning to do your own trims, invest some of it in boots. Buy some used ones. If they don't work, try to figure out why and buy a different model or brand. They're like people shoes - the right boot may change over time, and it's not a failure to switch from one manufacturer to another, or to change sizes as the hoof changes shape.