Why Cast A Foot Rather Than Shoe?

These are pictures taken of a hoof that I began working on about 5 months ago. The horse had previously been in shoes, then in glue-on’s and this access crack was going nowhere good.

Many times a crack like this grows out easily, with no further issues. In this case, the horse has feet that look decent from the outside but the solar view reveal thin soles, contracted heels and a nonexistent frog. So it’s not a healthy foot and it’s not going to easily grow out a crack like this.

I was asked to begin casting it when the glue on shoes would not stay on. I trimmed it, did a mild resection and had the owner do a deep cleaning treatment. Further prep involved mildly sanding the outside to remove any debris, and then gluing a cast on.

Casts stop hoof expansion. Without getting into too much detail, sometimes we want this to happen. This hoof was cast three times to get to the point you see in the first (after) photo. The last time I was able to get a layer of Equipack down to increase circulation and the foot grew about an inch between casts.

One more trim and the crack will be completely grown out. We’ll keep working on his other issues but this was a fun example of when casting is the appropriate tool.

How To Not Ruin Your Baby Horse

I’ve been starting horses and restarting horses off the track for many years now.  Decades, actually. I’m getting old!  But the upside to getting old is that I’ve learned a lot of things and one is that horses don’t lie.

Horses don’t lie.

I freely admit that it took me a while to really believe this. It went along with horses don’t think about you when you’re gone, horses don’t plot to spook and dump you, horses don’t have an agenda or think about dressage when you’re gone.  Ok, I have one horse who does perhaps think about dressage but he’s a freak.  Most horses want to eat grass and have friends to hang out with.

But over the years I’ve come to realize they don’t lie. Some of them SCREAM at you that there’s a problem by bucking or rearing but some of them are quiet about it.

This picture is one of two caps taken off a three year old in training here.  His teeth were done a little less than six months before, so his mouth is being well cared for… this is not the product of neglect. It simply is how a horses mouth develops.  Adult teeth are formed under caps and caps come off when the adult tooth pushes it off. But they don’t always just come off.  Sometimes they stay on and wear into points – or daggers, as you see here. This horses mouth had bloody holes where the caps had dug into his gums.

A week before I went to bridle this normally cheerful guy and he refused the bit.  He just turned his head away.  I turned it back and tried again. Nope.  I got a little more assertive and he pinned his ears and threw his head up.

I’ve never seen him do this before.  Horses don’t lie.  So I put the bridle away and we went for a walk into the river bed instead.

What would have happened if I had insisted?  There’s no telling. He’s a pretty good natured baby horse so he might have just sucked it up. Or maybe he would have acted out and I would have disciplined him for it, teaching him that he cannot communicate to me that he is in pain and get relief.  It’s likely it would have caused at least some small problem that he might have carried around mentally his whole life.

This is how quirks start.

We do dentals here every six months without exception.  In his case, he should go to three months as he is retaining one more cap that was not quite ready to come off yet. When a horse comes here for any reason we do their teeth, get them chiropracted and have their feet straightened out before we ever get on them.  So many problems are caused by not attending to the details of correct care.  This lovely little guy may have learned to rear and flip over backwards if he’d hit one of those sharp points at the wrong moment.. we could have both been injured or died over something routine and simple not being done.

Resistance in training is inevitable.  If you have done your due diligence you can be confident that when you are in the saddle you can train through it.  We only accept horses in training whose owners put the horses comfort and happiness first – the owners who know that horses don’t lie.  Good owners are  our partners in training and earn my respect for being patient and keeping their eyes on the prize – a quiet, willing, trustful partner.

 

Hello Again! Long Time No Write.

I’ve always allowed myself to be pushed forward through life by what doors open next.

I’d hoped that I could help horse people feed their horses better through customized programs. I found that was very hit or miss and I’m no longer providing that service. Mostly I comment on FB groups that horses need forage. Forage, forage, forage. And I let it go, in part because the word is getting out and people are realizing that their horses don’t need to be fed by Purina.

It’s a good thing.

I’ve felt a strong pull to be present on my own farm more. Not just physically but mentally. More intimately involved with my own horses, friends and family.

Slowly, without really realizing it, I restructured my work with horses to focus around bringing them here for rehab and working closely with local owners and trainers on their own horses. Recently I’ve had a string of school horses all go barefoot and sound; much to their owner/trainer’s delight.   So the fun has gotten closer to home than further away, not exactly what the age of the internet projected.

Right now there’s a steady stream of horses coming and going, along with my long term boarders and my personal horses. I still have Love and he’s completely sound and in steady work. He wears four shoes, a fact I like to point out to people who are barefoot fanatics. He needs a minor palmer angle correction behind and he dislikes any lack of traction up front on grass. So he’s got shoes. Turns out he’s quite talented and he may be going off to somewhere more upscale to be sold as a happy happy hunter… we’ll see.  In the meantime I’m enjoying him.

The biggest upswing of Love being in shoes may be that I’ve gotten to work closer with my farrier and the group of farriers HE works with.  It’s been fantastic and highly educational.  I think I learn more from them than they do from me but our conversations are always lively.  I’ll be heading to the big farriers convention this January because hey.. why not?  I’ll learn more things.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still feel the need to help people understand horses.  I’m still on that road.  I’ve had some things happen recently that I’m going to write here about in hopes that they help other people understand their horses.  The focus will probably stay on OTTB’s and TB’s in general although there will be things that apply to all horses.

So stay tuned. I’m excited about it all and hope you will be, too.

Introducing Withalottalove!

Wholelottalove  Day OneSo I have to admit that I have been telling everyone the wrong name.  His name is Withalottalove and he’s by Not For Love out of Tekawitha.  If you’re a TB person you probably know that Not For Love died last month.  He was known for putting lovely sport horses on the ground.  Not For Love’s dam line also produced the amazing horse Private Account, who remains one of my all time favorite sires for producing rideability and athleticism.    Withalottalove’s dam line is purely Canadian, which is probably where his substance comes from. They grow them big up there!

He’s seven and had seven starts, one win and nothing else to show for his racing career. He then left the track and was trail ridden for a few years along with a little dressage training.  I’ve wanted a Not For Love for quite a while now, wanted another red head for quite a while and he fell into my lap.  So here he is, all 16.3 hands of sweetness and seven year old happiness.  I adore him.

We hacked around the farm a few days ago and he acted like he’d lived here his whole life. I’m sure every day won’t be that perfect but it was a nice way to start.  I’ll keep updating his progress as he gains some muscle and we work on getting his feet into tip-top shape. He’s already had his teeth done and will see the chiropractor soon.  I am hoping he will be a keeper for me but that will depend on what he wants to do with himself.

Welcome to your new home, Love. We are happy you’re here.

While I’m Under Your Horse Trimming.. Some Guidelines

Lately I’ve had a few new clients comment that they’ve never been told by their farrier or trimmer what they need to be doing while their horse is getting worked on.  I realize I discuss this with people that I work for, but that there really isn’t much written about this. There is however a video from Smartpak that shows a farrier being downright molested by the horse he is doing finish work on (front foot forward on the hoof stand) and everyone is laughing.  It’s not funny.

It’s not funny if you’re the person doing the work.  I’ve been bit on the head, on the shoulder, on the back.. So here goes, starting from the beginning.

When we arrive, we’d like your horses to be ready to trim and reasonably clean and dry. We do understand weather happens; spotless is not necessary but mud to the knees is a problem.  One big reason we’d prefer less muck is because that stuff ruins our tools.  Rasps currently cost over $30.00.  So in order to keep costs down for everyone, clean is good!

Please don’t expect us to catch your horse in the field.  This is dangerous and frankly the liability to you is huge should something go wrong.  I personally want you there so I can discuss your horses feet with you, so I never do this anyway and would never expect anyone who works for me to do it, either.

Crossties.  Some folks are ok with this, personally I am not.  I don’t feel it’s safe after having a horse fall on me and get stuck with me underneath it.  Freak incident?  Maybe.  But horses pull back and horses panic and – things happen. I’d prefer a human on the end of the lead rope!

We really like a clean, dry, level place to work.  I know a lot of people will work in the dirt and I’ve done it, too.  But I can’t do my best work on an unlevel, dirty surface.  Please try to  give us at least a few stall mats somewhere to work on, out of the weather.

Flyspray.  Please have GOOD flyspray available and allow us to use it liberally.  If your horse picks up a foot to kick at a fly, all that weight shifts onto the person under the horse. It’s abrupt and can injure your hoof care professional in a second.  This is a dangerous job; please, let’s minimize the risks of people getting hurt.  I often carry fly spray and if I continually have to spray someone’s horses will charge extra for it.

Your horse needs to stand still when we are working around and under them.  This means also keeping their head and neck straight and still.  When they turn and look right, all their weight goes left and vice versa.  1200 shifting pounds is not safe or easy to deal with and again.. we can’t do good work under these circumstances. I have noticed that often when I trim a horse for the first time who has  a bad trim – he also has bad manners.  I doubt this is a coincidence.  Please don’t let your horse touch me.  Even the kindest horses have nipped me – when I’m under them, I’m fair game.  I always “meet and greet” and say good bye at the end – I like your horses and enjoy getting to know them.  Just not while I’m under them.

Where should you be?  Ideally it is on the opposite side of the farrier while we work in the front and on the same side when we are working behind. Please don’t stand directly in front of your horse in case he startles or the hoof stand goes flying! Staying alert and and aware of your horses activity is important; I appreciate a heads up if a client needs to take a phone call or text.

Discipline.  A great client told me the other day that she realized a long time ago that I am the one who needs to discipline the horse for acting up because I know it’s happening long before she can identify it and furthermore, it’s often directed towards me and therefore I’m the one who needs to address it.  I could not have said it better.  I feel your horse tip onto me long before you can see it.  I feel them think about rearing long before you can see it.   Corrections are based on a lot of factors.  One is – how old is your horse?  Babies get leeway because they need training and I’m more than happy to participate in that because I want to trim well trained horses.  It’s in my best interest, too.  Old horses get leeway because they have aches and pains (and I expect clients to use whatever is appropriate to make them as comfortable as possible).  Your average working horse of middle age has no excuses unless there’s an injury, so – perfect manners are expected.  What is perfect?  My horses can be trimmed with the lead rope over their backs and their feet are light as feathers.  That is perfect.

What is discipline?  Sometimes it’s a growl or I’ll tell you to do something. Usually it’s a tap with the rasp and a sharp word to stand up.  If a horse tries to kick or strike me, it’s going to be more than that.  Rearing gets a strong correction also.  Anything dangerous is going to get a much bigger reaction out of me because I want your horse to understand that this is never acceptable.  Not only is it not safe for me but I think you probably don’t want your horse kicking or striking at you, either.  If you do then I’d prefer to not trim for you.

A world about natural horsemanship and “moving their feet”.  This is inappropriate when someone is under your horse working.  Whoa needs to mean that your horse plants his feet and does not move until told to do so.  You cannot discipline him for moving by moving him more when someone is under him – it’s dangerous.  I’ll leave this subject alone now other than to say that I don’t train my horses that way.

Scheduling. Some clients we schedule the next trim before I leave, some contact me a few weeks out to set up an appointment.  Most horses should not go more than six weeks between trims and I do a few who need to be done every 3-4 weeks to stay balanced.  Life gets crazy and it’s important for us to all stay on top of scheduling as best we can.

Diet.  What goes in your horse creates the foot we have to trim. If your trimmer or farrier suggests a change, ask why and try to work with them on this.  We see a lot of correlation between diet and hoof quality – and we see a lot of feet – so please take this seriously.

Questions.  Please – ask!  I am, and I think most hoof professionals are happy to explain things and answer questions.  If your vet has questions, have them call me. I’m happy to explain why I am doing something the way I am, and to listen to what they have to say.  This is how we all learn.

Remember – these guidelines are so that everyone stays safe and your horse gets the quality work that he deserves!

  

 

 

 

Is Your Horse A Happy Horse?

I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with my vet yesterday as she did routine dentals on every horse on the farm.  We believe in prevention here; dentals are done every 6 months – sometimes this means nothing more than a tiny point removed with a hand tool; sometimes that means for an older horse or one whose mouth has not been cared for properly his whole life quite a bit more work to keep things comfortable.  After their teeth get done they are chiropractically adjusted within a week or so to realign their necks, jaw and poll as well as an entire body check.

Why do we keep the horses on such a strict schedule?  Because like most flight or fight animals, horses will hide symptoms of pain in order to not appear vulnerable.  What that means as a rider is that your horse might act perfectly normal on the ground and then when you bridle him, engage in all sorts of evasive behaviours that appear to be related to any number of things.  This is just one example; saddle fit can provoke the same issues, as can orthopedic and soft tissue issues.  The point is that eliminating anything that could be an issue BEFORE it becomes an issue makes for.. a happy horse.

We had some time to talk after her work was done and she expressed to me a dismay over the lost art of horsemanship.  We talked about what it means for a horse to be happy; and how when people put their desires and ambitions over the happiness of their horse how they are set up to fail because an unhappy horse will never perform for you.  He will never trust you, he will never be willing to partner with you.  You must begin where they are, do the important physical and mental work and always put their welfare first.

They are, after all, horses.  Not people.

What are the signs of a happy horse?  One comment she made was she wants to see them head down  and eating or resting.  This is an interesting point because when a horse is high headed and animated, he is experiencing adrenaline flow and this is counterproductive to relaxation, which is where all good work with horses begins.  This lead to a discussion about turnout and how so much unwanted behavior in horses results from them not being in a natural setting that allows them to develop relationships with other horses and to wander about for hours a day, building inherent fitness into tendons and ligaments.

If you are new to the idea of tending to your horses needs in a comprehensive way, you are not alone.  I am old enough to remember when horse keeping and care was either what was called “backyard” or they were in a “program”.  Now we have a lot of variety in between and that is a good thing – people want to keep their horses at home AND learn how to give them the best possible care.  At one time you could only get that from putting your horse in a program with a barn manager and a a trainer and grooms who did all that work for you.  Now you CAN learn to do it yourself.  Do you want to commit to having a happy horse?  Think about it.  If your horse is happy you can build on that and achieve just about anything. If your horse is NOT happy you will struggle in ways that are only not acceptable, but were avoidable.  If you want help getting to happy, contact me.

 

Nyquist Wins The Kentucky Derby! Let’s Talk Thoroughbreds.

So Nyquist strolled down the field today and won the Kentucky Derby. I have to admit that I missed it; I was on a horse. One that is 3/4 TB (see above photograph of him and my lovely daughter)  so not quite exactly the “real deal” but he might as well be. I’ll catch the replay later.

TB’s and OTTB’s have always been my horse of choice. I love the way they think; give them a question and they try to answer. The answers might be eclectic but they sure try. Being patient with their method is key. I love the way they want to work, and work hard. The trickiest thing in getting a TB fit is to NOT overwork them; I have to remind myself of this constantly. Doing too much on a horse who feels good today makes a sore horse tomorrow, which can begin a vicious cycle. It’s hard though when they keep insisting that an extension here would be a really great idea!

I grew up riding them. I learned to train on them. My training philosophies evolved from working with horses who were forward, who were sensitive, who wanted to please and wanted to understand but wouldn’t tolerate being held on to or overly controlled. It taught me how to create a partnership through freedom and showing the horse how joyfully we could create movement together. TB’s like to move. Tap into that and you’re going to have fun.

It has always bothered me to hear the stereotype that TB’s are crazy. Sure, there are outliers in every breed. But I’ve found my TB’s to be the most sensible horses I’ve ever trained and ridden. I sincerely believe that the reason so many TB’s struggle to accept training, to be able to be calm, to be able to focus on work, is because they are being fed a diet that simply doesn’t work for them.

Growing up we fed hay. Lots and lots and lots of hay. We fed oats. Then sweet feed came along, and then pelleted feeds. I wish I had been observing closer but I can say that it seems like the arrival of the crazy TB started around then. Until then, that’s all we rode and some were hotter and some were calmer but for the most part, they did it all – hunters, jumpers, dressage, eventing – and when I lived out west, they barrel raced and even cut cattle and did ranch work.

Today I read constantly about how quirky they are. How hot they are, how untrainable they are, how all the want to do is run. And yet, I don’t have that experience with mine. I sincerely believe that TB’s are being made nutty by being fed incorrectly. It makes me sad because this is an incredible breed with amazing drive and heart and so many of them are like kids on sugar highs – too much energy being generated. The “hard-keeper” concept drives this. Give them more food because they need more calories because they are thin. So the calories go in, the energy goes up and the horse burns even MORE calories, resulting in the “hard-keeper” phenomena. I don’t believe it. No matter what condition a horse is in when it gets here, we feed it for nutrition first. Once you sort out what the deficiencies are (and yes, OTTB’s come from the track very nutrient depleted) most horses calorie requirements – even in average to moderate work – are covered by forage.

Feed companies are in the business of selling feed. If they can convince the consumer that their horse needs 12 lbs of whatever-it-is, they have succeeded in their job of selling feed. Remember this has nothing to do with the well-being of the horse. My opinion, based on a lot of fact, is that TB’s are being made to feel crazy by what they are fed. In general, horses want to be quiet and relaxed in their lives. If your horse is not please consider that perhaps what he is being fed is not in his best interest. Going back to basics and reevaluating what your horse really needs to eat to thrive is the first thing you should do if you don’t have a quiet, willing partner.

A Little Bit on Feet and Trimming

The reason my business is called The Whole Horse is obvious – nothing works in exclusion.  In addition to the other horse services I provide, I am also a barefoot trimmer.  I’d like to clarify the context of that a bit here; as I’ll be taking on a limited number of new clients this summer.

I was always a fan of the foot.  I love the shape, the function, the symmetry and… the puzzle.  When I ran a sales barn I was blessed with the very best farrier in the area; he routinely worked magic on the horses that came in.  No left lead?  Let’s look at how this horse stands.  Doesn’t want to use the shoulders?  Let’s consider why.  The list went on and on but he always began from the bottom up.  This was my initial education on a proper trim and shoe job, even though I didn’t know it was happening.

When I moved to my farm, I was out of his travel range.  This was when things got a little weird, so to speak. I met and worked with a number of farriers but they were never able to achieve the seemingly effortless work he had done and my horses began to subtly suffer the consequences.  Training problems.  Joint issues.  Back problems, hock problems.

At the same time I was receiving great encouragement from my new hoof care providers to take things into my own hands. I had a yearling who snapped off a toe; I was handed a rasp and taught to keep his heels level. I’m proud to say he does not have a club foot – not because I was particularly skilled but because I was given the knowledge and tool to prevent it by a generous farrier who didn’t feel threatened by my interest.

Then I had a horse with a laminitis episode.  Again, out came the rasp and an earnest conversation about how if I kept his heels level and short the outcome could be very different than getting into a shoeing package. I was asked to have a little faith, ride it out and monitor it closely with him.  The outcome was fantastic; the horse never rotated, had very little hoof distortion and recovered completely.

I was intrigued.  I began studying.

The next horse came with a bucking problem.  Four shoes, four sheared heels, four contracted feet.  Off came the shoes and he handed me the rasp again.  Once his feet were fixed, he stopped bucking. It was that simple.

My personal horses.. off came the shoes.  Sometimes things were hit or miss. I was studying Pete Ramey and Jamie Jackson’s work and some of it made sense and in practicality worked and some of it didn’t.  I kept what worked, filed the rest for possibility and kept going.

At this point my personal horses and sale horses were now all barefoot and sound.  Of course I had also began feeding them differently.  The elements were coming together.

I began riding with farriers. A pivotal moment was when I was asked by one to draw a picture in the dirt of an ideal foot.  He nodded at my little dirty sketch and said “yes, you see it”. I am deeply grateful for the time, interest and effort the people I have worked have given me.

The foundered horses and ponies came POURING in.   I learned to cast; a skill I am particularly proud of as I can keep a cast on a horse for 4-6 weeks and use them to create nearly any situation without damaging the foot or causing pain by nailing an already sore foot.

I kept studying.  Anatomy, physiology, practical purpose.  KC LaPierre’s dissections. Fran Jurga.

Along the road I learned that the battle between barefoot trimming and shoeing is not productive at all and I refuse to engage in it.

I will continue to hope for a better dialogue about what is best for the horse at any given time; but the people I work with don’t seem to be interested in anything else.  I refer horses  to farriers often when I believe that the horse would benefit from shoes.  I often rehabilitate a horse for a client with the goal of making a foot that is easy for the farrier to shoe and maintain.  I never have been and never will be anti-shoe.

I like the problem feet, I like solving the puzzle. I love to rehabilitate a horses feet and watch the other issues evaporate, just as my original farrier showed me so many years ago.

The journey of fixing a horses feet is often long. In consult with my vet over a horse a few months ago she commented that it takes a year to grow a new hoof entirely but the process of healing the inside is much longer than that.. the second year is when you develop sole depth, stabilized internal structures, strengthened collateral and medial ligaments, and the tendons and ligaments in the leg regain their correct support systems.

I’ve always been a fan of the Thoroughbred and hate that most hoof problems in them are blown off as being breed inherent.  Sometimes this is true; my personal horse has thin walls that he inherited from his TB mom.  He’s sound barefoot as he has excellent internal structure. Occasionally I cast him for extra wall support.  However, I trim many many TB’s and OTTB’s that have excellent feet in every way.  The idea that all TB’s have crappy feet and will be hothouse flowers on them is always a time bomb ticking.  No hoof, no horse is true.  Horses need to stand on four balanced feet in order to have sound upper body structures.  Putting a bandaid on a horses hoof problems will only lead to unsoundness in the rest of the horse.  The time you take working on the bottom saves you time and money working on the top and isn’t that what we want?  A sound horse.

If your horse has problem feet, consider thinking out of the box and looking at solutions that are customized to YOUR horse.  Nutrition, management, expectation during rehabilitation and proper trimming and/or shoeing is a package deal.   Find someone who is interested in your whole horse.  If that’s me, great. If it’s someone else who can do the work, that’s great – it’s the horse that matters.  I wish for you all and your horses four happy feet.  If you’d like to contact me about your horses feet, fill out this form. I’ll be adding limited clients in the Garner/South Raleigh NC area this summer and some in the Chapel Hill/Mebane/Durham areas.

 

Herbs and Other Medicinals – A Return Back To The Good Old Days?

 

I first began on this journey with a horse who was severely metabolic.  This was over ten years ago; there was virtually no information available as to why this guy couldn’t gain muscle, had fat pads, was unhappy in his own skin and had become laminitic for no known reason. In spite of it all I liked the horse; I bought him for a dollar and decided to see what I could do for him.  I figured anything I could do was better than ending up in a kill pen.

At that time I was still feeding processed feeds.  He was thin – or so it seemed, after all,  his ribs showed!  So I began “feeding him up”.  Oh, how I poured the groceries to that horse.  “Quality” feeds – and oil, and beet pulp, and all the good quality hay he could eat.  He became laminitic again.   Clearly feeding a horse simply to make them FAT was not a good idea (keep this in mind as it’s a recurring theme in horse nutrition) so it was back to the drawing board.

I cut out all his processed feeds, simply because I wasn’t sure where else to begin.  I kept the beet pulp as a carrier, added a source of quality protein and.. chaste tree berry. Why?  Because I read that it offered metabolic and adrenal support.  He ate it, so I kept feeding it. I added kelp. I added.. a lot of things.

What I didn’t fully understand at the time was that I had REMOVED inflammatory feed stuffs from his diet; and that was probably the most profound thing I had done for him.  Slowly.. and I do mean slowly… he began to blossom.  Eventually he became rideable and then he was restored to his former glory – a horse no one could take their eyes off of and everyone wanted to ride.

Since then I’ve learned a lot more about metabolic disorders, how they are caused and what you can do to cure them.  Yes, often they can be reversed.  I’ve recently had the opportunity to collaborate with a company who distributes quality herbs and spices and I’m going to begin offering them as part of my nutritional services.   Please inquire as to what will be available and how they should be used.  As always, consult your vet if you have any concerns about feeding your horse herbs or spics.

Expect more information coming on this subject, as not only are herbs and spices helpful for metabolic issue but also can address inflammation and hormonal problems very effectively without the unfortunate side effects of NSAIDS, steroids and artificial hormone manipulation.