The Hoof Trimmer’s Perspective

Trimming Lily's Hooves

Last week I was trimming my Fell Pony mare Lily’s hooves in very difficult circumstances.  It was extremely muddy, and the insects were horrid.  We went through a lot of fly spray, and my brush was constantly in use to clean as much debris off Lily’s hooves as possible before touching my tools to them.  I switched to a less aggressive rasp for filing because the moisture made Lily’s hooves soft and I knew I could take too much too quickly if I wasn’t careful.  The whole session reminded me of something I’ve wondered about:  how much impact does a hoof trimmer’s perspective have on the quality of the trim?

I know from experience that beliefs about proper trimming impact a hoof trimmer’s work.  A farrier once lamed my work ponies by trimming according to his beliefs about proper hoof angle rather than considering the animal in front of him.  But I’ve also wondered whether our physical attributes as trimmers, such as eyesight, could have an impact.  An experience with my husband and his chainsaw put this question in my mind.  He had gotten a new pair of prescription safety glasses, and suddenly he couldn’t cut the end of a log straight.  It is a matter of professional pride for him as a logger to have log ends that look nice, and it quickly became apparent that there was something wrong with his new eyeglasses that was making him cut incorrectly. 

While a recent article in Equus magazine didn’t addressed my question about eyesight, it did confirm that a hoof trimmer’s perspective does impact the quality of the trim.  A study at the Royal Veterinary College in England found that handed-ness, whether right or left, affected the trim.  “…right-handed farriers tended to overtrim the inner wall of the left front hoof and the outer wall of the right front hoof.” (1)  The study found that the difference wasn’t due to strength of one hand versus the other but instead it was due to brain neurology, “…specifically each farrier’s visuospatial awareness, which is used to judge the midpoint of an object.”  The study’s author stressed that farriers are taught to self-correct potential imbalances, and the study didn’t assess long term impacts of the effects of handedness on trimming.  The author did acknowledge that further study is needed.

I hope someone follows up this study and explores other aspects of the hoof trimmer’s perspective and its impact on trim quality.  In the mean time, I will remain humble when it comes to trimming and try to assess proper balance in as many ways as I can to overcome any bias I might have that I’m not even aware of.

(1)    Barakat, Christine, and Mick McCluskey.  “How handedness affects farriery work,” Equus, Volume 405, June 2011, p. 14.

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011

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About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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