Willowtrail Farm is in a fairly out-of-the-way place. I love it that way, but it does make some things challenging. For instance, finding a decent farrier who’s willing to come this far just for trimming. Back when I could get a decent farrier to come here, I always admired how he could work through my entire herd in just over two hours. It has always taken me at least an hour per pony when I do the trimming myself. So the other day when I trimmed Willowtrail Liberty in less than an hour, I was surprised and very pleased.
I attributed my record-breaking performance to Libby being good beyond her years at standing still and to her smaller, two-year-old hooves. Today, though, I trimmed Willowtrail Wild Rose in less than an hour, too, despite her nearly mature Sleddale circumferences. Maybe I’m just getting handier with my rasp and nippers! I will admit that I came away from both trimmings giving thanks for my Belotta rasp.
In between those two Fell Ponies, I also trimmed Mya the Wonder Pony’s hooves. Mya is only 11.2hh, and her Shetland-Welsh hooves provided me with an interesting contrast to those Fell ones. Not only were they smaller, they were also noticeably softer. There is something to that blue horn that the Fell Pony Breed Description calls for. I got into Fells in part because of my experience with Mya’s hooves.
I was taught to trim hooves ten years ago by Dick Vessel, whose wife Pat Burge owns Fell Pony stallion Orton Hall Danny. I had watched Dick trim and shoe his Shagya Arabian stallion a few years before and picked up the basics then. But when it was clear I needed more instruction, Dick and Pat graciously journeyed to Willowtrail Farm.
At lunch today I was reading New Hope for Soundness: Seen Through the Window of Wild Horse Hoof Patterns by Gene Ovnicek. Ovnicek is a farrier who did things the conventional way for thirty-five years but then went in search of something that made more sense. He studied wild horses and developed the Natural Balance Trim. I know that Dick and Pat studied many natural trim advocates before they taught me, so I wasn’t surprised, but still very pleased, to find that what I do mirrors what Ovnicek advocates.
One of the things that Ovnicek says is “Little to no sole, frog and bars are ever removed” in a Natural Balance trim. (1) He basically says that the hoof knife can be retired when trimming normal hooves. While the frog is relatively easy to cut away if necessary, I have always been more than challenged by Fell Pony soles (that blue horn again). By necessity I have quit trying to pare them. Ovnicek’s work is the second in a few months that confirms this aspect of natural trimming. Not paring the sole, frog, or bars is also time-saving.
When Dick Vessel gave me instruction ten years ago, he said it would take me ten years to feel like I knew what I was doing. Given my two experiences this week with ‘less than an hour,’ he wasn’t far off!
1) Ovnicek, Gene. New Hope for Soundness: Seen Through the Window of Wild Horse Hoof Patterns. Wild Horse Publishing, www.whpublishing.com, Second edition, 2001.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012