Little horses and miniature horses have all the same working parts as their big cousins, including their hooves. Their tiny hooves are just as important to them as a working horse’s hoof, and it is equally important to shape and balance them correctly when trimming to avoid stress problems.
When trimming the hoof of a little horse, the farrier has to be respectful of their height, as the farrier’s normal working position is obviously way too high and is just not comfortable for them, so it is necessary to adapt a position to suit the comfort zone of the patient to begin with.
As is the case with all horses, prevention is better than cure so it is vitally important to begin a hoof care programme as early as is possible. From as early as three weeks old if those tiny hooves are left unchecked they can begin to alter a straight leg into a bent leg, so they must be trimmed to be level.
We must understand that these little horses don’t have the body weight above to wear away the hoof wall down below and if we are not vigilant with trimming, those tiny hooves become long in the toes and the heels begin to roll forward and roll under very quickly.
The same principles apply as with big horses; the end result of a correctly trimmed hoof is that it must achieve a parallel hoof pastern angle and the frog should be in ground contact.
At Melbourne Equitana some years ago, I appeared as an educator and demonstrated hoof care principles on a different horse each day. I was approached by the owners of some miniature horses who had some queries about trimming their hooves, so I suggested that I could use them for the final demonstration.
There were three horses; the stallion, the mum and the baby. I was wired for sound, and talking to the audience about what I intended to show them. The rubber matting on the floor of the demonstration enclosure was wet with their urine, and the baby was slipping, mum was getting rather agitated and all three horses were moving around me. I picked up mum’s leg and proceeded to trim her while demonstrating to the audience how to stand while trimming and then showed the trimming procedure on the front feet. There were lots of chuckles from the audience, which I assumed was because it looked rather funny watching such a little horse having its feet trimmed. After referring to mum as ‘her’ at least 15 times, I moved to the back feet, and realised I had been trimming the stallion. For someone over six feet tall it’s a bit hard to see the finer details. Oh well, we all make mistakes.
(Footnote 2014 – I now use a mini trimming stand, made by an engineer client of mine who owns a mini and understands the logistics of trimming minis. It is demountable, portable, has an access and exit ramp and the two panels on each side can be removed progressively to trim each leg.
The minis love it and really seem to enjoy their elevated view of the world. Some of the smaller ones’ hooves are only 25mm from toe to heel, so my HOOF-LINE ruler does not work on them as it isn’t calibrated to that level. However if you trim the toes to stop any flaring at the toe, and keep the heels down low enough to engage some frog contact with the ground, you will be helping them.