Movement Monday: How good movement improved my hoof trimming

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Helping my friend with her horse’s feet while she recovered from her broken arm. That’s her on the left with her sling.

For those of you following my blog, you know I’ve written a few about trimming feet. I don’t trim for a living, but it is a passion of mine and do as much with my own horses as I possibly can. Last summer a dear friend had an accident and she broke her arm so I’ve been driving to her place every three or four weeks to trim her horses feet. I take this as a great honor because she trims her own horses and doesn’t let too many people mess with her horses, let alone their feet! Did I mention she is 84? For those of you thinking you’re too old to move more than you already do?

First, let me just say, my 84 year old friend is the perfect example of the benefits of natural movement. She lives on a small acreage in a home that is more or less off the grid. She chops firewood, clears dead wood out of her pinon forest, takes care of her two horses every day, trims their feet, walks them, rides them and all the other things that need to be done on a small farm. I have seen few people heal like she did from a broken arm, let alone someone who is 84.  Seriously, it’s been 5 months since her accident and she called a few days ago to report that she trimmed both horses herself!

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This is Jean and I at a clinic at my place together in June. She had her accident and broke her arm just a few weeks later.

But I digress.

What I want to share is that I used to struggle with trimming. I never really had the physical strength for it and my hands are quite small so getting the nippers working for me on thick walls or especially hard feet was challenging, to say the least. I would line them up and move a hand down to the narrower end of the nipper handles, start the bite and work my way up the handles. Using two hands I desperately relied on my puny grip strength to get the nippers through the concrete hoof wall.

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Did I mention the big joint at the base of my thumbs was starting to bother me quite a lot and my fingers were often stiff and sore. I was constantly injuring my shoulders, on the edge of rotator cuff injuries. It’s easy to start thinking “I’m getting to old for this”. So imagine my surprise when I drove down and worked on my friend’s horses a few weeks ago and discovered I no longer needed to use my grip strength to make the nippers work. Nipping was easy! It took me so by surprise that I had to pause and analyze what was different.

Without making any conscious changes in how I nip I was, in fact, using my body in an entirely different way. I found my dexterity with the nippers improved, the ease of cutting through the hoof wall had improved and I was not needing to creep my hands down and work my way back up. What was different?

As I explored, I realized I was using my whole upper body, the strength in my arms and back and shoulders to close the nippers! I have never had any power to use my arms that way before so what changed?

You guessed it, movement. I had spent the week before that trimming session really focused on small things I could do each day to build my arm, trunk, and hand strength. When I say simple I mean it. I wasn’t doing planks or anything particularly taxing because my left rotator cuff was bothering me so much. Instead I did things like – a modified plank with my hands on the counter, the table top or a chair. I’d get down on all fours and focus on how my arms were supporting me. I’d reach up and grab a door frame and pull as though I was going to do a chin up – but just enough to work the gripper muscles in my hands and activate those muscles in the rest of my body that would allow me to hang or swing. I hung in door frames and did modified pull ups and push ups where I could. I carried my feed buckets without just letting my arms hang so the ligaments in my joints were carrying the load. Anything I could come up with to get my arms bearing loads in different ways to recruit different muscles.

I’d hold as long as I could, emphasizing proper technique (ie – correct positioning of my hands, arms and shoulders to activate the muscles that stabilize my shoulder joints). Focusing on proper technique with a smaller load takes the pressure off the joints and ligaments and puts the load on the muscles surrounding them instead. Who knew…  And who knew that doing such small things throughout the day could have such a profound impact!

Trimming my friend’s horses was a revelation. The increased strength in my arms and shoulders made the job a breeze. Only after trimming did I realize my hands are so much stronger. They are also have more dexterity and they don’t ache all the time. My shoulders feel strong and my left rotator cuff is healing up after years of giving me problems. I can use my arm strength to close the electric fence gate handles without having to use two hands and put some body weight behind it. My posture is improving in leaps and bounds. I feel better and stronger than I have in years.

And I didn’t ‘work out’ at all.

If you want to learn more about the things I’m doing to improve my own strength and mobility, check out Nutritious Movement

Get out there and get moving!

One thought on “Movement Monday: How good movement improved my hoof trimming

  1. Andrea – when you say ‘proper technique’ – “proper technique (ie – correct positioning of my hands, arms and shoulders to activate the muscles that stabilize my shoulder joints)” – does this mean something I can work out myself just from the way it feels? I understand what you’re saying (mostly) and it’s exciting, and bears out a lot of what I’ve discovered informally on my own, but please go on with these posts – I’d love to hear more! Thanks!

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