Use of Power Tools To Trim Hooves
For every horse in the world, there is a different way to train ‘em. Or feed ‘em. Or catch ‘em. Or pretty much anything that has to do with handling or managing a horse. Horse people are not short on opinions when it comes to their favorite animal. Our differences have shaped the equine industry, sometimes in ways that make the task of providing the very best for our horses just a little bit easier. Ken Rhodes, a tough Texas farrier, has kept his clients happy for the past eight years with a unique method of trimming a hoof. While his power tools have raised eyebrows, Rhodes’s clients are happy and their horses stay sound. For a farrier, that’s the toughest part of the job.
Ken’s use of power tools to trim hooves came about from necessity. 8 years ago he was certain that he’d only be able to do this demanding work for about 2 more years at the rate he was wearing out his body. Today, his back, hands, elbows, and shoulder are better than before even with increased work. For most farriers, a daily average work load of 10-20 horses per workday can be brutal, 5 days a week, even with “easy” horses, those who stand without flinching or complaining for the time it takes to trim, and then in many cases shoe a horse. For the past 7 years, Ken has been easily trimming 100 horses a week, and he feels great.
His tools are a power grinder and a power planer/rasp that he has adapted to perform this unique work. This is where the eyebrows go up. Images of horses rearing up in fear of the buzzing sound of clippers around their ears or feet usually overpower the image of a horse standing, eyes half-closed in slumber while his feet are cleaned and then balanced by a battery-powered carpentry tool. Ken’s clients insist this is the norm. Their working horses, older horses with stiff joints, and even young colts getting trimmed for the first time have all quickly learned to relax with this technique. The best part is that the entire trim takes less than ten minutes, start to finish.
It’s been his experience that about 1% of the “broke” horses will not tolerate the power tools. But that percentage is far outweighed by the positives he’s discovered in the 8 years he’s been using these tools. “It’s easier to find a good foot under the bad foot with power tools. You have less chipping, less cracks, and so forth. In dry weather, the splintering that takes place with nippers or half rounds doesn’t happen. You can also be more aggressive with the longer or neglected feet when you apply the power tools to the problem. It’s easier on the horse. Some might think that the tools cause heat, but really, they don’t create any heat. I’ve found it’s a great improvement on the quality of the feet because everything is flat.”
“Ken’s been doing all my horses for the past ten years or more. It allows him to have a longer career, which makes all of us happy. Who wants to look for a new farrier every few years?” says Carrie Dodson, ranch owner in rural Quanah, Texas. Dodson went on to describe her two favorite geldings, both champions and both of whom performed double duty as working ranch horses and weekend competitive team sorting mounts for years. “My old guys, well they’re sore from years of working hard. Pushing cattle on land like we have here, and just being out there on a working ranch can take its toll on a good horse. With Ken, those boys don’t have to hold their feet up and balance on three legs forever. He’s done in about five minutes and they’re back in the pasture, hanging out, not sore or worn out from the farrier.”
She said she can literally feel the geldings relax as Ken allows each horse to find their “sweet spot,” or comfort zone, when he lifts their feet for trims. Stifle, knee, hock or other lower joint issues are literally not a problem with this technique, says Dodson, as the horses are better able to tolerate the angles and length of time per trim. No more “torqueing” and pulling on tendons and muscles. The young colts on the ranch also benefit early on, as this is how they are trimmed for the first time. Dodson said she hasn’t met a colt yet who hasn’t figured out quickly that standing quiet gets them back to their pals in the pasture more quickly. “The power tools haven’t been an issue for them to learn, any more than learning patience to stand tied,” she said. “Ken isn’t saying that power tools are the only way to trim, but with my horses and all the folks we know who use Ken, we’re sold on this technique, and so are our horses. That’s what matter to us the most.”
Rhodes says “I don’t have to plan my work day around easy horses versus difficult horses that will wear me out. Because of the reduced stress on my own body, and the reduced time for each trim, I think I’ve prolonged my career for as long as I want to keep doing it, and increased my bottom line, too. Saving time, adding more horses per day, AND making it easier to do, it’s a win for me, a win for my clients, and a win for the horses. These days, that’s hard to beat.”