|Let us begin with a "Cindy-ism":
"The trick is not in knowing what to do, rather in knowing when to do it. Everything works sometimes, but nothing works all the time. If something fails on even ONE horse, then it must be considered a tool, not a rule." ~ Cindy "Hawk" Sullivan
Make that your mantra.
Study everything you can, go to clinics, read books and websites, hear what the "experts" have to say...BUT do it with extremely attuned critical evaluation skills. Take NOTHING at face value no matter who says it, or how much success they claim to have. Then stop listening to the people, take it to the horse and if it fails on one horse, it is not a rule (see above again). If it doesn't pass through the wild model (and not just one specimen) , then it is not truth. Many things make sense... learn to listen ONLY to the horse - each individual AS an individual - with an understanding of what it is asking for in this moment in time.
But make no mistake, no one has all the answers, neither do I...never will have. What I do have - and proudly - is an overriding deference to the wild model, and to each horse I trim, that filters all the bling bling theories out there. Do not let humans (including me) be the authority, rather defer to the authority of the horses in your care, even if you don't intellectually understand what's going on. Never sacrifice truth to authority, rather make truth your authority. Truth about horses is in the horse, not in the human.
In the information below, I have added some terms to help differentiate between certain presentations in the foot. Its is simply to help separate and clarify, because if you call everything a "flare" then you will treat them all the same...and they should NOT be treated the same. There are differences in cause and in treatment application. Use this writing for your own perusal ..if you disagree, that's fine, but at least think about it.
Finally, this is not meant to be a "how to", nor is it some new "theory", it has no science behind it and it certainly is NOT anywhere near a complete picture of natural hoof care. It is not in reference to any particular "method"...I don't prescribe to a "method". It's a snippit of thoughts, my OPINION based on my observations of the hundreds of horses that I trim. It may (or may not) help some of you who don't see hundreds of horses realize the tremendous variations out there...not all of which are "bad." Anyone who knows me, knows that I advocate less about how the hoof is trimmed than I do about how the horse is living, working, and what it is eating. I cannot, nor will not, try to tell you on a web page what to do about these things I mention below, because every horse is different as is its environment, diet, use, health, history, etc. It would all depend on the individual needs of that particular horse AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME.
Are you obsessed with chasing flares? Is your horse coming up sore as a result? STOP! Step away from the rasp!! Think!!
You are fighting what you perceive as flares. But are they really?
One of the biggest problems I see out there - more and more recently - are people going insane over flares, but not having a clue what that means. There are flares, but there is also (and these are my own terms) dorsal divergence, directional extension, and expansion deviation (aka "belling").
Flares are accompanied by stretched and damaged whiteline in the quarters. They are different from stretched whiteline in the toe that creates dorsal divergence commonly called "dishing." I call them different because the cause is different and thus the treatment approach is different than other deviations many people confuse as flares.
Dorsal divergence is the dishing at the dorsal aspect of the capsule or toe, commonly associated with laminitis . It is usually accompanied by a stretched whiteline mostly from 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock (but can go farther), generally also includes a lamellar wedge. The wedge serves many purposes that are as yet poorly understood (guesses at best), but I believe one purpose may be to serve as part of the ground surface contact (for various reasons) in an area where the wall has become non-weight bearing. My belief about that is based on observation many foundered horses and the effects of trying different applications to that area in a trim; removing the wedge, leaving the wedge and everything in between. Refer to the page on Founder Care for more on how I address this.
Directional extension is where an area of the wall (ground surface) is thicker that other areas. Say one toe quarter 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock is nearly 3/4" thick and the adjacent toe quarter and indeed the rest of the wall is 1/2" thick, or less. The whiteline is intact all the way around, although it may be a bit thicker adjacent to the thicker area of wall, but it is healthy. From the top it will look like a flare but it is actually excess horn following the direction of force. It generally relates to something elsewhere in the limb and is a compensation for the imbalance. Its there for a reason...take it away and you take needed support. Now a variation of this can occur dead center of the toe and look like laminitis related dorsal divergence, the difference is the white line is not stretched. Clubby feet might have it. The easiest to find example is the lingering "foal tip" that foals have for a time in their early life. It is a pronounced divergence but its there for a reason, the whiteline is intact and experienced farriers and trimmers know to leave it alone until the foal no longer needs it.
Expansion deviation (belling) is something I'm seeing more and more often when people are taking the walls off the ground around the foot in a effort to "address flares." It is the resulting lack of containment, particularly at the distal 1/3 of the hoof capsule such that when the bony column descends and the inner structure are compressed, expanding outward, there is insufficient strength in the wall (the container) to prevent excess expansion. There is a flattening of the volar surface and a deviation in the capsule silhouette beginning at the point there the wall is too thin, then downward.
A short term function of this belling is the expansion of the sole outward as the foot flattens thus trying to replace the loss of ground surface support mass...usually about equal to the with of the wall removed. In other words, if the horse has "x" inches diameter of foot on the ground to support his body weight, and you remove from weight bearing a half inch thick wall all the way around, then loss of support is an inch of surface across any two opposite points along the periphery that the horse no longer has to walk on. The sole flattens and the volar surface expands and diameter of support surface is temporarily regained...but then other structures internal and external are now stressed because its not their job. They can do it for a short time, but eventually they will break down.
If you have been routinely aggressive in removing flares, concerned yourself with "cleaning out" around the frog perhaps seeking to encourage that elusive concavity, you may only have succeeded in taking away the adaptive support the horse was desperately trying to put down setting it up to go flatter, or remain flat. The thinning of the wall, as in an aggressive effort to remove "flares", or relieving it from its job as a weight bearing structure reduces containment in the distal aspect of the hoof capsule. Inner structures then expand the capsule outward where the wall is too thin and the foot becomes flatter. From the dorsal view with the foot on the ground, it appears as a bell shape which is misinterpreted as flares. But it cannot be a "flare" if the wall isn't there in any substantive measure and the whiteline is intact. This is what I call "belling" the capsule angle turns outward at the bottom like a bell and it is entirely human created by over thinning the outer wall. If your horse has that form naturally and is sound...then don't try to read something into it.
Some believe that the sole is the primary weight bearing structure. (Primary means first...in other words when used in this context it means the sole would be the first structure to bear weight) THAT is not what it is meant to do, in spite of what some folks espouse. Don't believe me? Look at any of the pictures of wild horse feet out there...do you see any with walls not on the ground? Walls not engaged? The sole can do the job of full support for short periods without negative long term effects, if need be, but that is in response to other issues and the horse decides. It is not only harmful, but also irresponsible to dump a horse completely down on its soles in the name of "addressing flares" or some other human dictated future goal. It is NOT natural for the sole the be PRIMARY in the weight bearing of the horse on a relatively flat surface except for an inner rim of about a cm or less just inside the whiteline in some cases, and only some times. Even sole callous, which also needs further defining, is temporary and constantly changing. There is callous and then there is what I call a sole ridge. They are different and require you to treat the foot differently depending on which it is.
Now, that said, I understand the logic behind the "sole is the primary weight bearing structure" ideology. In nature, the horse rarely walks on a flat surface and the sole is always getting pressure from the ground be it from rocks or from the foot sinking down into soft ground. However, that does not negate the engagement of the wall which will impact first or at least at the same time relative to any part of the sole. If you want to really complicate things in your mind, consider this...if the horse lands heel first, as most believe it should, then the initial impact is neither the sole or the wall...its the frog, heel, and in many cases, the bulbs. Then as the moving horse "rolls over the foot", the rest of the hoof structures come into play at various degrees of loading depending upon the terrain and the body mechanics of the individual.
The structures of the hoof are designed to work in harmony with each structure having a certain percentage of the "job" to do. When all is well, none are overly stressed. However, one of the most fascinating elements (to me anyway) of nature's design is that if one structure is damaged. other structures can, and will, quickly adapt to take over the load for the time being until the damage is repaired.
One example of that process is a quarter crack resulting in a rapid thickening or lump of sole emerging adjacent to the quarter, somewhere between the crack and the frog. Sometimes it will be the bar on that side that grows rapidly and actually becomes weight bearing taking over the job of support in that area that the damaged wall in the quarter can no longer provide. When people then come along and remove those "high spots" or take down the bar without taking into consideration that in this case it is there in excess to do a temporary, but very important job, then the entire area is stressed and further weakened. The subsequent resulting discomfort then causes the horse to shift weight away from that side of the foot, over stressing other areas which sets up a whole other set of problems - bruising, "flares" on the opposite side, and perhaps bar or sole thickening there which then is also pursued for removal or reduction by a well meaning trimmer. What's a horse to do???
I can not tell you how many horses I see with flared, cracked, split, horrendous looking feet from neglect that trot happily over gravel driveways as they come in to get their first trim in a long time, and not all of them are walking on their soles. In many cases they are loading those damaged walls. I then am astounded at how many horses I see with owners and attentive farriers/trimmers who are diligently "working' those flares, that cannot take a sound step on even minimal rocks. Perhaps you have found something to ponder in this writing that will help remedy that situation for your horse. Certainly flares should be addressed, but be sure you know what you are seeing and address it appropriately. Everything that deviates is not necessarily a "flare."
Also...keep in mind that what you see in the foot, especially "flares" more than likely has its genesis elsewhere in the body. Often what you see in the foot is either a nutritional imbalance, or a musculoskeletal issue causing imbalanced movement (often both). The foot is simply compensating for that imbalance. That means that you must address those issues before taking away all the compensatory support the horse has grown in its feet even if you don't happen to like the way it looks! The horse may NEED it, that annoying flare..if only for a short time. So be SURE you don't get hoof bound...you must look up out of the foot and take into consideration the entire body.
Finally, in reference to "rehab trimming" please people...never, EVER, deliberately sacrifice present comfort for some future goal. Horses forge their feet over time, terrain and use. Set up the environment and then enable the horse through lifestyle and critical analysis of what to trim TODAY and guide the horse to healthy, sound feet. The horse has no watch, it has all kinds of time. If you will relax and learn to hear what it is saying through the growth patterns in his feet then the horse will not have to move from the problems it had when you met it, to problems it has from you trying to help it. Listen to your horse and if your horse limps of..that's a "no"... if the horse says "no"...don't do it.
Call for personal responsibility: Folks, there are many people putting information out there to help you learn more about Natural Hoof Care. All of them have some good information and some excellent insights. But the responsibility is yours to learn and to evaluate all that information before you apply it to your horse, or any horses in your care. If it doesn't work, or that horse suffers a setback because you tried someone's theory, that is not their fault. Let us stop the blame game. You decided it was a good thing to do, and it wasn't, not on your horse. Learn from it, apologize to your horse and move on. You are the one making decisions for your horse, so the responsibility is yours. Horse are all different and what works on this horse might not work on that horse. ..even, what works on this horse TODAY might not work on the same horse TOMORROW. If you want a quick step by step "how to" that always works...well, sorry, you are in the wrong arena.