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.

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.

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.

 

Probiotics – worth the money?

Some are. Some aren’t.

Gut health is finally being recognized as an essential, if not vital source of well-being for horses.  A tremendous amount of time, energy and money is spent by owners trying to figure out how to prevent ulcers, how to cure ulcers, how to fatten horses up, deal with elderly horses and malabsorption issues and more.

Many horses are put on Gastroguard (omeprazole) without any plan for what to do when they come off of it. This is unfortunate because all gastric acid pump inhibitors cause a rebound effect when they are stopped.  Often horses go right back on them and sometimes even stay on them – sometimes at half or quarter doses – forever.  For what it’s worth, they were never designed for humans or horses to be kept on for long periods of time because you and your horse really do need stomach acid to digest food and they inhibit uptake of calcium.

So what can you do?  If you haven’t considered the link between processed feeds and ulcers, you should. Forage first, nutrition second, calories third.. can all be achieved without a bag of processed feed.  Grass is the ultimate ulcer cure if you have the patience for it to work its magic.

Other things besides ulcers and omeprazole cause gut issues.  Antibiotics are the obvious one.  They kill all bacteria including the good ones.  When you need them, you need them – but afterwards you need to do something to fix the damage.

An often overlooked issue in the gut is laminitis. Laminitis – unless you’ve bedded your horse down on black walnut shavings, or your horse is PPID, or has something like a vaccine or steroid reaction – begins in the hind gut.  Horses who are laminitic need gastric support also.

I do use and recommend a probiotic.  I tried things like Probios.. I saw no change.  I stumbled across this stuff more years ago than I can remember and gave it a try. I liked that it is made by a small company ( was VERY small at the time) that bred dogs and specialized in supplements. I liked how accessible they were and how their product actually worked.  15 years later, I’m still using it.

The Probiotic I Recommend

Nature’s Farmacy Website

I like it so much I’m just going to leave the link here.  I hope it’s of use to ya’ll.  I don’t rep for Nature’s Farmacy like I do Uckele.  They do have a referral cash back program so if you tell them Gayle Dauverd sent you by using one of these links I get a 5% kick back.  That’s nice.  But it’s nicer if your horses stomach doesn’t hurt and a small business makes a solid living.  Cheers!

Your Horses Feet – What You Put In Is What You Get Out..

I recently had the pleasure of having lateral radiographs done of a client’s horses feet.  We took them because it’s smart to have baseline rads in a younger horse for future comparisons and because he has a slightly club-like foot and I wanted to know how much lower I could take his heels.

Turns out his angles were perfect.  This horse has beautiful feet on the outside, concave on the inside and is sound barefoot on nearly every surface. However, his films revealed something – in the year we’ve had him, he’s grown a much healthier, hardier foot – but the work is not done yet.  His soles are still not yet thick enough to shorten his toe anymore than it is – it would drop him down onto his coffin bone.

It’s a process.  It’s a process.  It’s a process.

Here are nutrients found inside horses feet, borrowed from Progressive Nutritions website:

Table 1: NUTRIENTS FOUND INSIDE THE HORSE’S HOOF from high to low
Protein/Amino Acids (94%)
Fat/Oils (3%)
Sulfur
Calcium
Zinc
Copper
Selenium
Carotene (Vitamin A)
Alpha-Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
Biotin

Please note that biotin is LAST on this list.  Protein and amino acids are FIRST, followed by fats and then SULFUR and then a slew of minerals and a few vitamins.  Yet most “hoof supplements” are based on biotin.

Hoof quality, or lack thereof, is the thing I hear the most complaints about.  I do trim, and I do advocate for horses being barefoot but there is a caveat – if the horse is fed correctly, a tremendous amount of improvement can be made in almost any foot. If not, you can forget about it.  The single biggest hoof killer is carbohydrates.  Again, the formula for a healthy horse and foot is forage and nutrition first and carbs last.  If a horse is not fed correctly great feet will not happen.

My vet was thrilled with those films, as both his owner and I were.  We are in this for the long haul.  Another six months or so and those soles will be super thick and the toe will be able to be brought back even more.  Thinking long term is critical when considering what you feed your horse.  While feet get the big complaints, the most common question is “how do I put weight on my horse?”  The usual answers are the answers that cause secondary problems like poor hoof quality.  If you focus on only weight gain, you may sacrifice having a sound horse in the long run. I like a horse in good flesh as much as anyone does – frankly, I like mine a little fat.  But I want that horse standing on good, solid feet and nothing will do that but proper nutrition.

The beautiful thing about this is that the science has been done and the questions have been answered.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel.  Minimize carbs and provide the proper building blocks and every horse will grow a better foot.  Will he trot sound on gravel like this guy? I can’t say.  But if you are struggling with hoof quality, please stop feeding for weight gain or a shiny coat.  You can do your own homework – there are many resources – or you can contact me and I’ll guide you through the changes in your horses diet that will improve his hoof quality.  Incidentally, shiny and fat will follow right along!

 

Everyone Has An Answer?

I’m not quite sure what to title this post, so if anyone has a better one, feel free to leave it in the comments.

I’m often tagged on people’s requests for feed advice on FB forums.  I usually just post my blog address and move on.  Today I checked back on one of them and found no less than 42  advices on what this person should feed her horse to put weight on it. The only information given was that it was a mare and a TB.

To be fair, some of them did inquire as to the horses health and deworming status.  But the majority of them said something like “Tribute! Love the stuff” or “Safechoice and Cool Calm, worked for my horse!”

I suppose you get what you pay for but I was sincerely alarmed at the sheer number of answers, all different. What truly stood out was that there are A LOT of choices out there and clearly people don’t understand what questions to ask and how to sort through the information out there.  That is a daunting task; with all the processed feed sources available I don’t know how anyone could keep up. I suspect most decision are made based on what the feed store sells and a hit or miss approach to feeding.  The amount of trial and error documented in that single thread also made me believe most people would come out better off, financial and for their horse, if they simply consulted first with someone to help them figure out a solid nutritional plan for their horse from the beginning.

I recently went to a feed seminar to observe and while the basic concepts certainly were correct, what it took to get to a complete nutritional profile was just as complicated as any custom feed program. In his defense, he was clear that one feed cannot fit the needs of all horses – in spite of the bag stating exactly that.

When I meet with a new client I get a history of the horses diet, health and work.  I do a physical examination of the horse and discuss its deworming history and dental care. I ask what concerns the client has and what their capacity is for dealing with feeding programs. We discuss hoof and hair coat quality and what those things mean in the bigger picture.  We discuss what their vet’s input has been and what tests might be appropriate to run.  After coming up with an initial plan, I run it through Feed XL to be sure all the major categories are fulfilled and then we do a trial run for 3 months.  There is usually some tweaking to be done after that and some horses change diets between summer and winter (grass, no grass).

Initially it can seem overwhelming.  If you are used to scooping out processed feed from a bag, it can seem downright daunting.  Many of the Uckele products I use can be sourced as individual items or as complete vitamin/mineral supplements; so this can be worked around if necessary .  Uckele will also mix custom supplements if required.  If the horse is kept at a boarding barn, extra care must be given to minimize supplementation or the owner must be willing to bag feed.  Personally I’ve gone this route and been pleased with it; there’s no better assurance that your horse is actually getting the diet you’ve chosen than counting out two weeks worth of bagged feed stuffs and having two weeks of empty bags returned to you.

In the end, the majority of my clients comment that once they got in the habit of feeding comprehensively rather than just scooping out of a bag it became easy.  A few are not able to make the adjustment and so I help them find a simpler solution that works for their horse and them, even if it’s not optimal – sometimes you simply have to meet people where they are at.  This is better resolution than “a scoop of Safe Choice and some Cool and Calm”.  It’s all about the horse and if moving to a quality ration balancer and oats is an improvement, then the horse benefits. And that’s what this is about.

 

Spring Is Coming! Wait.. It Already Did.

What on earth could I mean by that?

For your horses, spring began when the days started getting longer.  Hormonal changes are triggered by the sun shining later into the day.  This is subtle at first but as the year progresses we begin to see the things we associate with spring – shedding, sometimes allergies to gnats and – uh oh, the grass is growing.

If you have a young, high-metabolism type horse, the grass coming in is the happiest time of the year! However, if you have older horses, fat or metabolic horses (horses with crusty necks and fat pads) or PONIES, this means you need to be considering how to manage your equine friends now – NOT when the grass shows up.  Your horse is already gearing up for breeding season! WHAT, you say?  My gelding can’t breed and I have no intentions of breeding my mare! It doesn’t matter.  Your horses hormones pay no attention to what we want to do and continue to act accordingly. This is even true for geldings – not all hormones are affected by gelding. Ask your vet for more information if you are curious.

This means it’s time for you to consider what your horse has been eating all winter. Often we have upped feed sources to accommodate cold weather burning calories and a lack of grass.  Please take off the blankets and reassess your horses body condition now.  Consult a body scoring chart and be honest.  Does your horse have a cresty neck?  Does he have fat pads over his withers, ribs or tail head?  Is he just plain FAT?  Or alternatively, was winter tough on him?  Can you see ribs and does his neck look thin?  Step behind him *carefully* and assess his topline from behind.  Does he fall off from the croup?

Whatever the situation is, if it’s not perfect, the time to deal with it is now.  Horses and ponies who are metabolic or overweight need changes made to their diets immediately. Often a truly easy keeper can do perfectly well on a high quality vitamin/mineral supplement such as those made by Uckele and hay, with some sort of omega 3/6 supplement.  The horse coming out of winter thin needs accessible protein, attention paid to possible worm-load and careful calories and high nutritional value feed stuffs.  The metabolic horse needs a customized program that may include special supplements to help regulate insulin and decrease the inflammatory process present in these horses.  Extreme care needs to be taken in vaccinating this group of horses, please discuss this with your veterinarian.  If they are not aware of this, do some research on your own before vaccinating so you can make a plan with your vet.

Whatever the situation is, there is an answer.  I hope you’ll consider contacting me if you are not confident in how to handle what you find when the blankets come off.  Here at Dry Creek farm we have a pony who is one diet, a metabolic horse who is on another and two middle of the road TB’s who have yet another diet. I know that processed feeds say you can feed that one feed to all horses – but I feel sure that common sense tells you there’s something not right about that concept as all horses are not the same!

I look forward to hearing about you and your horse.