Tak tak tak
I’ve been watching Eric the Marechal paring hooves for three years now, and I’ve been paring hooves under his supervision for at least a year. There’s one thing I’ve always struggled with, though. Trimming frogs.
Eric makes it look so easy. He takes a knife, lays it against the part of frog he wants to trim, and taps it with a small, light hammer, saying “Tak tak tak” as he tap tap taps. The section he wants to remove almost seems to peel off on its own accord. Then he looks up at me and says “Et voilà!” with a big smile.
Et voilà indeed. If only it were so simple. What if I take too much off? What if I go too deep and puncture the sole? What if the knife slips and I chop a finger off? Or worse still, sever an artery at the back of the horse’s leg? So I’ve stuck to my hoof knife. And I’ve struggled with frogs since forever – well, since whenever I started trimming their feet myself.
The thing is, that damn hoof knife is almost impossible to sharpen. At least, that’s the only reason I can come up with for the way I’ve been struggling. Despite valiant attempt at sharpening, it’s invariably like trying to cut through a car tyre with a butter knife. The end result is that Eric always, always tells me that I need to take more frog off. He demonstrates why, slicing effortlessly through the top layer of seemingly-healthy frog to expose goop filled holes and crevices underneath. This is what happens, he tells me. When the frog is too high, there’s too much pressure on it when the horse stands on stones or other sharp things, causing this type of damage. This can cause an infection or an abscess to start. He has also pointed out pink patches on Flurry’s frogs in the past – definite bruising, which would have lamed a lesser horse, but not my Flurry!
(NB I am not trying to initiate a discussion on reasons for trimming or not trimming frogs, by the way. I feel that I am currently taking advice from two people who have been doing this for a heck of a lot longer than me, so I listen to what they say. I’m going to attend a two-day course on natural trimming next month, perhaps I will have more thoughts on the subject afterwards)
Some time ago, I bought an ordinary old bone-handled knife, with a rounded head, my logic being that with a rounded head, I’d be less likely to go around puncturing soles… Yesterday, I finally sharpened it. I also bought a small, light hammer. This morning, I went off to trim Flurry’s feet and his enormous, bulbous frogs.
Tak tak tak… well it wasn’t quite that simple, but I was pleased nonetheless. My super-sharp knife easily carved through his thick, rubbery frogs. Using a combination of tapping and slicing, I was able to clean away the black, diseased stuff deep inside the collateral sulcuses (sulci?), lower his bulky hind frogs, carve off raggedy bits at his heels and clean around the central sulcuses all round. Then I sprayed the back half of his feet with liquid Stockholm tar. I’ve been using this religiously for about a month now, and I see a huge improvement in their feet, even with the wet muddy conditions we’ve been having.
Tomorrow I will see what Eric has to say when he checks them. Fingers crossed I’ve done okay.