Keeping Hooves Maintained and Bars Aligned with Proper and Consistent Trimming
By Tab Pigg, CJF
Proper hoof trimming is vital to preventing lameness and injury in horses. Keeping the hoof bars aligned and healthy is also dependent upon trimming. Bars appear as white lines along the frog and are made up of laminae. Think of the bars like plastic straws – if you push on the straw from the end, it stays strong and holds its form. If a straw gets too long, it will likely bend when pressure is applied and become weaker. In order to keep bars aligned and healthy, hooves need to be trimmed and collected on a regular basis. Without healthy bars, a horse can develop a “stacked sole,” or worse, a bruised sole or abscess.
Symptoms of Unhealthy Bars
When horses show signs of lameness, it’s important that a hoof care professional examines the sole to make sure the bars are aligned and visible. If either of those factors is missing, then the bars are not healthy and the hoof is not being trimmed or maintained properly. The bars essentially begin growing forward and down towards the ground, and changing directions. This causes the bars to grow into the soft tissue of the sole if left untrimmed. When the overgrown bars begin to apply pressure on the soft or horny part of the sole, it causes lameness and discomfort.
Symptoms of unhealthy bars can be addressed to prevent the condition from getting worse. Below are a few examples of some potential causes and symptoms:
Stacked Sole: Bars that are too long cause a horse to distribute its weight unevenly. Thus, the heels can become bent and the sole looks like it has a stacked effect. Eventually, this causes sole bruising as the long bars bend into the soft tissue of the sole. In rare cases, the bars are not visible at all and can minimize blood circulation from the pressure applied on the soft tissue of the hoof cavity.
Pinched Heels: Heels too far forward become pinched and contracted, causing the horse to bear all of its weight on its toes. If not treated in a timely manner, this can cause injury.
Farriers have different approaches when it comes to managing hoof bars. Some suggest removing them altogether and others do not trim the bars at all. For optimal hoof care, there is a happy medium. Bars should be trimmed so that the white lines (laminae) of the sole are always visible. In addition to being visible, it’s important that there is very little bend or deviation.
A horse needs to distribute its weight evenly so it can land on its feet without putting stress on the toes and pinching the heels. Bars that are crooked and too long become uncomfortable and prevent the horse from standing evenly. A farrier should be able to look at the bars to determine if they are too long, then decide whether to trim or apply pour-in pad products as needed.
If the bars are so stacked or buried that you cannot visibly see them, soft pour-in pad products can help to keep moisture in the hoof so the bars will loosen, making them more noticeable and easier to find for trimming. Vettec Equi-Pak is soft enough that it will not irritate the sensitive area if the horse is lame. Equi-Pak is fast-setting, soft pad material that bonds directly to the sole and frog, and improves the depth of the sole. Applying pour-in pads can be used as a tool to loosen up the sole, making bars visible and the hoof more comfortable to stand on.
The feet are a major aspect of a horse’s overall health. If the bars are not maintained properly and weight is not distributed evenly, injury and lameness can result, affecting the horse’s ability to do many daily activities. With consistent and proper trimming regimens, the horse will have healthy bars, be able to stand evenly and bear weight comfortably.
Talk with your farrier or veterinarian about your horse’s bars, and how pour-in pad materials can be a helpful tool for trimming and examining the hoof cavity.
This information was contributed by Vettec Hoof Care.
For more information, please visit the Vettec Hoof Care website.