If you’ve had a Thoroughbred, you’ve known the tragedy of their feet. After just a few months with Thoroughbred Number One, my poor mother, who wrote the checks, already knew the term “Crappy Thoroughbred Feet.” Not scientific, perhaps, but it has described the lots of so many owners struggling with their OTTBs. Thoroughbred Number One, incidentally, was put down due to chronic laminitis in 2009.
They try so hard, on feet so crumbly and flat. The racetrack practice of cultivating absurdly long toes and tiny, contracted heels puts a genetic skid into a practical tailspin. The blacksmiths that can amazingly do two shoes and two trims in ten minutes for forty-five bucks – there’s a reason for that bargain rate, kids. Onto all this mess, a cocktail of DNA and poor practice, a light shoe is tacked on, and the horse runs on, doing his job as best as he can.
By the time he’s gotten to you, he hurts. He is damaged. And he’ll keep going for you – that’s the astonishing part. That’s what makes a Thoroughbred a Thoroughbred.
To fix an OTTB’s sad feet, in most cases, you need patience, dry ground, a hoof angle compass, and a rasp.
Patience, because you can’t trim a new foot overnight. Dry ground, because all those nail holes and that stretched out white line are letting in every fungi and bacteria the ground has to offer up. A hoof angle compass, because matching their hoof angle to their pastern, whether it’s too upright or too slanted, is key to figuring out where to rasp. And the rasp – well, perhaps I should have mentioned gloves, and a comfortable surface to sleep on and rest your aching back after you’ve been filing down hooves.
Final Call, bless his little heart, has mis-matched hooves.
The left front is a round, tall hoof, with an angle that is just a little too upright for comfort. The culprit is those tall heels and wide quarters, which will need gradual rasping down, a little each week. The right front is the more typical flat, low-heeled look, although fortunately not too drastic!
I hadn’t wanted to trim his hooves for the first time alone. I do most of my work alone, though, and saw no way out. I didn’t want to climb underneath him until I thought we had a relationship, and I couldn’t build a relationship until we could work in the round pen together, and I wasn’t going to work him in the round pen until his hooves were in order. There was nothing for it.
He found my pony tail very intriguing through the whole process, and got quite snippy with me when I held up his right front longer than he found appropriate. But all in all he was pretty easy – as a horse who has had his feet done every few weeks for the past three years ought to be.
Thoroughbred racehorses – they come to you knowing how to wash, clip, load, hold up their hooves, have their blood taken, have their mane pulled, stand tied in a box stall for hours on end – honestly, what’s not to love? How easy can it get?
If only it were that simple. . . !