Monday, April 4, 2016

The Transformation of Niko's Feet: Progress Report

 by Mary Gallagher

“My horse has bad feet and can’t be ridden without shoes.” It’s a sentence I hear too often. At Freedom Farm, hoof care and rehabilitation are part of our creed and a cornerstone of our work. This post is about sharing one horse’s story, but it is certainly not unique to him! We’ll be sharing more and offering classes in trimming and hoof care, so I hope this post will offer some inspiration on the subject. - MG

As I was trimming Niko’s feet this week I thought it would be nice to give everyone a look at what has changed in the two years he has been without shoes.

Niko moved off the rubber floor and has been living out with one of the gelding herds 24/7 for about 8 months now and doing great. His training continues with less and less need for hoof boots.

Photos of his front feet taken in 2014 and recently in 2016 tell the story:

Left front, 2014: The hoof wall is thin and susceptible to cracking. The increase in circulation from removing the shoes is making small changes in connection as growth lines showing up in the new healthier hoof growing down.

Left front, 2016: You get an idea of the increased strength and thickness of the hoof wall. The hoof is larger and is taller and better balanced, giving Niko plenty of protection from rough ground on the underside.

Right front, 2014: The hoof is shelly where he has been breaking over and crushing the outside heel under. You can also see the rings on the hoof are compressed in the front of the foot and wider in the back of the hoof. This is showing how Niko’s toe was stressed because the heel was too high and pressure was greater at the toe.

Right front, 2016: Maintaining the correct balance over time has eliminated the dishy look at the front of his hoof and shows a better connection, with stronger hoof wall. Niko’s outside heel is opening again and supporting the leg properly. Again, Niko has plenty of hoof wall to protect him from rough ground on the underside.

Niko has come a long way, and we will see further progress with flaring over time. I am looking forward to the next year and improvements yet to come.

I am so grateful for my teachers over these past 15 years I have been trimming. Especially the horses, for they tell me right away how my trimming is working for them. If I am trimming correctly, I feel it in my horse’s willingness and comfort in working, and if not, they let me know through a certain reluctance on the subject!

I encourage everyone to learn more about hoof health, balance and trimming. Here at Freedom Farm we are successfully working, showing and enjoying our barefoot horses, many of whom came to us with challenges in their feet.

Freedom Farm will be offering classes on hoof trimming so stay tuned….! -MG


  1. Great pictures. There is a very obvious increase in the health of his hoof. I really like Mary's comment about letting the horse be her teacher as well. There is no doubt she has become such a great trimmer in part because she listens carefully to her horses as she rides and is willing to make adjustments according to how they feel after a trim.

  2. Thanks, Jess! We're learning all the time. :-)