What Do You See? What Do I See?

Late this past summer I began trimming an elderly horse who’d been subclinically laminitic for years. I requested radiographs as it was clear he’d had some changes to his bony column and that he had not been being trimmed in a way that was helping to correct that. We made some preliminary diet changes and then we looked at the film.

It is typical that a coffin bone, when it rotates, also tilts laterally. A telltale sign of rotation is a horse with a straight medial wall, a flare on the lateral and rings that dip at the toe and the heel. This guy had all the signs and the film confirmed it. Trimming this horse, and the questions I’m being asked, have really got me thinking about flares.

One of the things trimmers and farriers hear from clients and vets the most (next to “shorten the toe”) is “remove the flare”. I’ve found myself many times stuck between what a vet wants me to do and what I feel is best when it comes to flares. I have found it’s very important to understand why a flare is there. Is it simply from bad trimming? Is it because the horse is uncomfortable somewhere in his body and is shifting his weight off to one side of this foot? Is it because he’s crooked legged and his body needs that flare so that he literally doesn’t roll his ankle over? I saw a horse once so badly crooked that his flares were what we call *functional flares* and I declined to trim him without radiographs. Another person was willing to, took all the flare off and he then proceeded to walk on his fetlock. Flares are not always THE problem, they are often the symptom of a problem, and require some thinking before you cut them off.

Often I won’t remove a quarter flare until I have a heel and toe in the place I want them. Then removing that flare leaves other structures to support it as it grows back in correctly. I’m slow to remove flare on a foot that is extremely thin soled and thin walled; I’d rather focus on slowly bringing the foot into balance as we develop sole depth and a thicker wall. Sometimes I do remove a flare the first time I trim a horse but often – even if it looks straightforward – I ask the owner if they don’t mind if I wait until I see the horse again. I learn a lot about the horses way of going and feet by seeing what changes between trims.

In the case of flares being supportive of upper limb and body issues, if you cannot get a foot to balance up and it continues to push out in directions you wish it would not, you need to look higher up. I can often tell that a horse prefers a lead or won’t land on a front foot after a fence based on how he grows. Sometimes feet do crazy things because the horse is being ridden crooked or out of balance. A good example is if a horse is encouraged to push more than he can carry. The front feet of horses ridden this way always take a beating and you will struggle to keep them under the horses body. Riding the horse in better balance (pushing and carrying the same amount) will fix his feet. There are a lot of hoof problems caused by riding; high/low feet can be caused and/or exacerbated by not keeping a horses shoulders even and/or overbending the neck in the direction the horse is hollow. This throws the weight of the horse continually onto the opposite shoulder, no matter what direction the horse is going in.

So back to the older horse I’m trimming with the lateral flares. The flares appear to be the problem – but they are not. The medial walls being straight are the real issue. Slowly lowering those walls and only taking off the same amount of corresponding flare is bringing his feet into balance. This will take a very long time and will always require careful maintenance once the ideal has been achieved. In the meantime, his owner has people asking her why he has these flares and why haven’t they been cut off? I feel for her. She doesn’t completely understand why; she has seen the films and in theory gets it but probably would love to see her horses feet look “normal”. Standing her ground while we work on his feet is probably difficult. The good news is, he’s getting sounder and sounder.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about while driving around – flares. Most horses have an issue with flaring in one way or another… it’s the WHY they flare that matters, and dictates how we deal with it.

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.

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.


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.


Hind Gut Ulcers

Hind gut ulcers..

Dr. K's Horse Sense

It’s difficult to go anywhere online (and probably off) where people are talking about horses without having something come up about hind gut ulcers, symptoms and treatments.  There are even commercial supplements out there, including from companies run by people who should know better.  There is no such thing as ‘hindgut ulcer syndrome’ that is a correlate of gastric ulcer syndrome and certainly no cause that a supplement would correctly treat.


                            Tapeworms are a common cause of hindgut ulcers

It is not unusual today to hear people claiming that 60 to 65% of horses have hind gut ulcers.  However, if you read medicine, surgery and pathology textbooks or the published literature there is no mention of this widespread hindgut ulcer disease. It isn’t even mentioned in the horse health articles for owners on the AAEP.org web site.

When ulceration (an open sore or erosion in the lining of the…

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The Whole Horse – How It Came To Be

Hey there.  I’m Gayle Dauverd and this is The Whole Horse.  I’d like to tell you how I got here and why it’s important.

My childhood was of the typical hunter kid barn rat; I moved on to riding dressage horses in my later twenties and eventually began training and teaching.  But it wasn’t until 15 years ago that I began becoming more involved in what my horses ate, and the big awakening came when I bought my own farm and could not only control what they ate, but had the opportunity to live with them and really, truly observe them.

During that time I also began trimming horses feet, and that has also brought me a tremendous amount of knowledge about how what goes in a horses mouth affects every aspect of its body but that’s a side note to explore later.

What I began discovering through the journey of becoming very ill myself and having to take a hard, close look at my personal diet was that I was feeding my horses processed feeds that at worst contained mystery ingredients and at best, still contained things that horses tend not to tolerate well, like soy.

My attitude towards supplementation was willy-nilly. Need a shinier coat?  Feed flax, one person advised. But how?  Whole flax? Ground flax?  Stabilized ground flax?  Keep it in the freezer?  Really?  Ok, so how about oil.  Uckele makes a great supplement called Cocosoya, it will put shine on anything.  But it’s very expensive.  I began wondering, what causes a shiny coat?  Is this related to strong feet, since hair and feet are basically made of the same substances?

Then there were the gut supplements. Ulcers were the big ticket item then, and it seemed like every horse was on Gastroguard.  Even the smallest bit of research revealed that long term use of gastric acid inhibitors used in humans can cause serious secondary issues.  So why were we keeping horses on Gastroguard for what seemed to be forever ?  Why when they did come off of it were other supplements being recommended?  Why weren’t we trying to figure out why these horses had ulcers in the first place?

At that point I took a big step back and looked at what I knew to be true. Horses are made to ingest forage 24/7 and they are designed to move. I researched Jamie Jacksons work “Paddock Paradise” and everything else I could get my hands on.  At that time barefoot trimming was becoming a fad, and a dangerous one at that.  I was beginning to carefully trim my own but under supervision and training; but we were routinely seeing horses being trimmed in very destructive ways.   What I had not yet connected were the foot problems and the food problems. I had already understood how incorrect riding affect the feet but here was one more piece of the puzzle and I was determined to figure it out.

So as I said, I went back to forage.  The advice at the time was to analyze all forage and then base a nutritional plan around the results.  This seemed like the answer until I realized that not only could I not analyze grass, I did not feed the same hay all winter AND the hay I did feed came from many different places even if it was the same supplier. So for the most part I threw this idea away and went with generalized standards of nutrition for average hays.

Around this time the Chronicle of the Horse was running a free forum that was acting as an incredible crowdsourcing resource. People from everywhere were happy to discuss what they were feeding and why; what the results were and listen to others input.  That resource has since passed, but we also were able to do a tremendous amount of research on parasites, which is something I will talk about in a later post.  Be prepared, because I LOVE parasitology!

One thing I found was that there were people who were NOT feeding their horses processed feeds. Some were feeding only (copious amounts of) forage, some adding vitamins and some other form of protein.  Across the board these peoples horses had one thing in common – no ulcers.  Other people were feeding incredible amounts of processed feeds to their horses and while some reported no issues, many were commenting on behavioral issues and interestingly, their horses still being ‘hard keepers’.

At that point I knew that I had to learn what a horse RDA was for each necessary vitamin and mineral and how to make that work with a forage based diet, because the writing was on the wall.  How that all went is a story for another post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing how I finally figured out where to begin this journey.  Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll be back for more!