Myths and Misunderstandings
The Strasser Trim Revealed
with Dr. Hiltrud Strasser & Sabine Kells
Understanding the complexities of the Strasser trim, an integral part of the Strasser method, can be overwhelming for the horse owner and beginner trimmer. Unfortunately, misunderstandings abound, and it is important that these issues be brought to light. THH has chosen these four topics as the problem areas that are currently causing the greatest confusion: 1) Toe Length 2) Opening Cuts 3) Bar Trimming 4) Abscessing
Myth: "Dr. Strasser is advocating long toes."
Myth: "This is the same thing as the Long Toe/Low Heel Syndrome."
Misunderstanding: "After my horse received a trim with the Strasser principles, his toes looked too long!"
For more than a thousand years, it has been known that the horse must have a toe angle of 45 degrees in the front hooves in order to be sound; this is not Dr. Strasser's invention. The Strasser trim does not advocate long toes, but rather correct, 45 degree toe angles in the fronts, and 55 in the hinds.
Excessively long toes are unnatural and harmful, just as excessively long heels are.
Among domestic horses these days, excessive heel length is far more common, leading, due to heel pain, to insufficient toe length. And, due to the prevalence of sick, deformed hooves (both in veterinary and farrier textbooks and popular magazines), a properly trimmed hoof often looks strange to one not informed about the healthy hoof shape.
The shape of the coffin bone is what determines the hoof angles, and since a hind coffin bone is about 55 degrees, and a front one about 45 degrees, the hooves must have angles matching these. In the healthy hooves of horses living on softer, non-abrasive terrain, this is the case. However, in a horse living on hard, abrasive terrain, the wall is often naturally rounded, and the toe wall may be abraded some distance above the ground, giving the appearance of a somewhat steeper toe angle. In fact the wall is thinner at the ground than at the coronet, which is visible in a cross-section or an X-ray.
Myth: "Opening cuts will cause the heel to collapse."
Misunderstanding: "There is only one type of opening cut."
Misunderstanding: "Every horse needs opening cuts."
Most horses used and kept by man live on ground that is too soft for them, and additionally have insufficient movement. As a result, most domestic horses have contracted hooves, especially if they are also shod (since shoeing contracts the hooves). Therefore the situation is that most horses require opening cuts, which enable hoof mechanism to function.
In a healthy, uncontracted foot, the heel at the height of the periople lies on an imaginary line form the tip of the frog to the outside curve of the bulb. This is necessary in order for the hoof to expand properly on weightbearing, and for hoof mechanism to work normally. In such a hoof, no opening cut is necessary.
In a contracted foot, parts of the heel, wall, and bar may lie inside this line, i.e. too far toward the centerline of the foot. As a result, the hoof does not expand normally, or even contracts, upon weightbearing. As general rule, the opening cut removes all hard horn inside this line, since normally only frog horn should be here. The degree and type of contraction determine what, exactly, is removed by the opening cuts, and the trim is adjusted depending on the particulars of the individual hoof. The purpose is to restore the weightbearing point of the heel to a place where normal hoof mechanism, or as close to normal as is possible under the circumstances. is restored to allow uncontraction and healing of the hoof.
In other words, there are as many opening cuts as there are deformed hooves, and a great deal of knowledge and practice is necessary to be able to do opening cuts correctly.
Myth: "The Strasser trim removes the horse's bars, and leaves nothing to support the heel of the foot."
Myth: "Carving away at the bars and soles is butchery"
Misunderstanding: "The Strasser bar trim removes the heel buttress."
Misunderstanding: Why must the bars be removed at all?
The function of the bars is to stop excessive lateral movement of the walls during high-impact situations. Since the sole draws flat on weightbearing, it is necessary to know the correct distance from the bar to the weightbearing wall in order to allow the bars to function properly, but without interfering with hoof mechanism when their function is not needed (lesser impacts). The bars must be kept at this level. This is especially important for horses on hard ground.
The heels don't need support from the bars, they are supported by the bulbs.If the bars are not trimmed properly, but rather are left on the same level as the wall, then no hoof mechanism can take place.
When most people look at the solar surface of a horse's foot, they fail to realize that, when the hoof bears weight, the sole will draw downward-outward as a result of the walls spreading apart. This means that if the bars are left at the level of the wall when one looks at the foot, they will stand like pillars in a cathedral, will prevent the hoof from expanding on weightbearing, and will cause painful bruising in the area of the navicular bone, which is the source of pain in "navicular syndrome".
Correctly-trimmed bars are weightbearing only on full expansion of the hoof capsule, such as cantering on hard ground or landing from a jump. Otherwise, they act as traction devices on softer ground. The bar should protrude slightly above the level of the sole, but never reach the level of the wall, since otherwise the solar vault in this region cannot draw flat, and hoof mechanism is impaired.
In a severely contracted hoof, or one with long-term coffin bone rotation, the collateral grooves are very deep, and the bars have grown far into the interior of the foot. In this case, they must be trimmed out in order for the hoof to be able to expand again, and the coffin bone to return to a ground-parallel position.
Myth: "Dr. Strasser's trim causes horses to abscess."
Misunderstanding: "Abscessing is to be avoided at all costs."
Most horses' hooves are contracted in various ways and places, and the corium is dead as a result of pressure from these contractions (lack of blood circulation). After circulation is restored, this dead tissue is "discovered" by the body, and the natural physiological response is to remove the dead tissue through abscessing. This is a necessary process, since no dead tissue must be left inside the body. Abscessing is part of the healing process for the damaged hoof.
However, if there is no damaged or dead tissue in the foot, a correct Strasser trim will not lead to abscessing.
©2006 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.
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