Thursday, March 31, 2011

Optimal Hooves: Don't have overgrown bars

This information is a little revolutionary, very few people really understand the bars. It wasn't until I found Cheryl at ABC Hoofcare that I really learned what they are, what they do, and how to manage them.

What do the bars do?
Remember that the coffin bone is shaped like a half moon and that it sits in the front of the foot. Therefore the coffin bone is responsible for the shape of the front of the foot. Since the back of the foot is composed of soft tissue, what is in the back of the foot to help the hoof hold it's shape? The bars. They give the back of the foot the arch structure that the coffin bone gives to the front of the hoof.

What are the bars made of?
It might be easier to think of the bars being half-wall and half-sole. They need to be stiff enough to hold the structure, but not so stiff that they don't have any give at all. Remember, the bars and the walls aren't quite the same thing, but even more importantly the bars and the sole aren't the same thing at all.

How do you manage the bars?
There is some confusion about this, even the barefoot schools don't agree on this. For example, Pete Ramey recommends leaving the bars alone.

Quick aside about Pete Ramey's trim: I think Pete Ramey is great. He has done fantastic things for the barefoot movement. If you want to learn about hooves start with Pete Ramey. But know that he teaches a very conservative trim. His trim is a great place to start and a good way to maintain healthy hooves, but if your horses have some issues you'll need to branch out after you've learned the basics from him.

But you need to trim the bars! Bars are tricksy little things that if given free rein will go crazy and grow over the rest of the hoof. Literally. Bar is much stiffer and stronger than sole, if it grows over the sole it will actually reduce hoof function by not allowing the hoof to flex as it should; if it grows too far it will actually cause the corium to stop growing sole!
When it comes to seeing bar that has grown over the sole, probably 3/4 of farriers and trimmers don't know that they're looking at. I'm going to try and make sure you don't miss it too. It helps that bar tissue and sole tissue don't look the same at all. Bar is waxy, smooth, and yellowish/whitish; sole is sort of pebbly and typically has a pigmentation pattern.

So how do you spot it?
 You develop an eye.

Take this foot for instance:
It's pretty easy to tell looking at this hoof that the bars have overgrown, right? There's an obvious ridge running all the way from the heels around the apex of the frog. But given the state of the walls you're not too surprised to see it.

How about this hoof?
Photo from a barefoot trimmer
 Or this hoof?
Photo from a farrier
Both of these hooves have badly overgrown bars- all the way over the sole! It's even grown up over the apex of the frog in the second hoof! That pink you see is bruising caused by bar material choking out the sole, the first one would probably show that too if the bar material was thinner.

Fortunately I happen to have a horse that doesn't have bar material growing over the sole.
Coriander's right fore, with some hay and poo for funsies
 Unfortunately I also have one that does (though not the whole thing, thank goodness).
Gwen's left hind
Can you see it now?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Optimal Hooves: Have healthy frogs and soles

A healthy sole is concave.

A healthy frog is triangle shaped and full-fleshed, without thrush.

The Sole

To understand what the sole should look like you need to see the corium again:

The concave shape that you see on the bottom of the corium should be reflected by the external sole. Why are soles concave? Because then they form an arch, one of the strongest weight bearing shapes possible. When weight is placed on an arch it is evenly distributed throught the entire structure. That means each bit of the arch is supporting the smallest amount of weight possible. Think of ancient bridges, there's a good reason why the basic shape on most of them is an arch- it's darn strong.

 Can you think of a better shape to hold up a couple hundred pounds of horse? I sure can't.

Coriander's right hind, check out the concavity

 The Frog

 The frog serves as the shock absorber at the back of the hoof. Frog tissue grows from the corium and gets compacted into a very dense, yet springy mass. Want to know something interesting? There are people that refer to the frog as the horse's pads, like a dog or cat. Thing is, I have to agree. If they were called pads instead of frogs, I think people would be a lot less confused about their purpose.

Mrs Mom just left an excellent comment that I want to add here: "the shock absorbing ability of the frog is not just limited to up and down as we have all been taught-- but also in it's ability to allow for lateral movement, acting as a wide rubber band. (ie: load the hoof, walls flex, frog allows for X amount of flexion before bringing things back into line. Combined with the up and down compression, the side to side action also allows for wonderful energy distribution/ dissipation.)." Thanks Mrs Mom!

Surprisingly frogs are actually quite delicate, if the hoof health is compromised, frogs are one of the first things to go. Sadly, the majority of horse hooves are so compromised that most people don't even know what a healthy frog looks like- my horses don't even have healthy frogs yet :(

So here you go, the healthiest frog I could find. Take particular note of the color, healthy frogs aren't gray, they are brown.
Photo from Heike Bean
 I pulled this photo from Heike Bean's website, she's got some great information up about frogs that you should take a look at:

The Affect of Shoes on the Sole and Frog

Now lets imagine you take a hoof and nail a shoe to it- what happens to the sole and frog? They don't touch the ground anymore. This is key. Without contact and abrasion from the ground the tissues are no longer stimulated to grow, the frog will atrophy and the sole loses its callus. I believe this is what actually causes heel contraction in shod hooves: atrophy. As the saying goes: Use it or lose it. This is aggravated if your farrier routinely trims sole- if sole growth has slowed due to lack of ground pressure and what's left gets cut off- you end up with extremely thin soles.

Think about your own feet: If you've worn shoes and boots all winter long and then rush outside barefoot the first chance you get in the spring, what happens? Your feet hurt. Why? Because you don't have the callus on the bottom of your feet to protect you. But if you steadily keep going out barefoot and acclimate, it's not long before you can wander around on rocks in fair comfort. Horse hooves are no different.

This is one reason why so many people fail in taking their horses out of shoes, the sole and frog need time to grow and build a callus, something that doesn't happen overnight. This is even harder for those horses that routinely get their soles cut off, for that kind of foot you desperately need to have boots and pads on hand to keep the horse out of pain while their sole and frog grows in.

Then there's thrush, if your horse has infected frogs he won't be comfortable no wonder what the sole looks like.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Optimal hooves: Don't have long hoof walls

Disclaimer: I'm going to say some bad things about horseshoes. Despite that I don't hate farriers, I believe that most of them are doing the best they can with what they know. I'll even say that your horse is better off wearing shoes that were put there by a really good farrier than getting hacked on by a bad trimmer or having no care at all (depending on where and how they live- some lucky domesticated horses really don't need humans attending to their hooves). If your horse wears shoes I'm not going to call you names or try to "convert" you. If your horse is sound in shoes and you're both happy then you should keep him that way. But if your horse is NOT sound in shoes then it might be a good idea to give barefoot a shot. Or maybe these posts will "convert" you, who knows...

Here's where the controversy starts, the main issue that separates barefooters from traditional farriers: Farriers are taught that the hoof should load peripherally, meaning the horse's weight should hang off the hoof wall. Barefooters couldn't disagree more.

According to my research the hoof wall has one job: to serve as a hard shell that protects the internal structures of the hoof. That's it. Now think back to the last post I put up on hooves to answer this question: When you hang the horse's weight on the hoof wall what structures are you *actually* putting that weight on? 

 The laminae 

Are they meant to hold up the whole horse?  

They are there to hold the hoof wall and the corium together, they aren't designed to hold the weight of the horse. Quite frankly, they CAN'T.

Peripheral loading is a flawed hypothesis, one that is hundreds of years old. That makes it an old habit, and old habits die hard. Do you know what another name for a horseshoe is? A peripheral loading device. By their very design horseshoes force horses to hang their weight off the laminae.

Now consider this hypothesis: The horse's weight should be borne by the frog and sole. Why else would they be there - growing directly out of the bottom of the corium surrounding the coffin bone - if they weren't supposed to bear the horse's weight?

The Swedish Hoof School has done research to prove that the peripheral loading theory is wrong; this video shows some of their work. Quick warning: This video is a bit gory, if you don't want to see leaking fluids you should probably pass. If you choose not to watch it, it shows that even if the laminae break completely the coffin bone does not plummet out of the hoof, it stays on top of the sole and frog. A horse with broken laminae is still in a ton of pain but the hoof capsule remains intact, if the peripheral loading theory was correct that wouldn't happen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Clicker training magic

Since I know that many people's eyes glaze over if you talk about hooves too much, here's a brief respite.

Proof that clicker training is for more than teaching tricks:

This is Oliver, a PMU horse, and his trainer Debra of The Magic Center in Washington. Doesn't he look beautiful? Look at his fabulous balance and carriage. This might serve as a little inspiration if you've been considering clicker training yourself- it works!

I do still have horses of my own. Gwen did a little yielding of the hindquarters under saddle Saturday and stayed wonderfully relaxed the whole time. We still need to work on forward but I'm a little... erm... scared. I'm being a bit ridiculous, but I can't help it. There's nothing Coriander can do under saddle to make me scared, but all Gwen has to do to get me hyperventilating is pick her head up quickly. I do get more confident every time I sit on her but I've still got a ways to go. Fortunately Kate G. will be out in a week or two helping me out, with her there I think I can get around this fear block.

In preparation of trying out the Ansur saddle this week I've been riding Coriander more in the bareback pad to see if he might find my saddle constricting. You know what? I think he does. He steps out much bigger when I'm sitting on the bareback pad vs. the saddle. Maybe if I buy an Ansur it will have more benefits than just fitting both horses. Hmmm...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Optimal hooves: What holds them together

This part of the hoof is really important, but it's hard to understand how it all works without seeing it. I think the pictures will tell you more than I can so I've included a lot of them here. If something is confusing let me know and I'll figure out another way to explain it.

The coffin bone is surrounded by a matrix of blood vessels and connective tissue called the corium. The corium produces the external structures of the hoof.


As the picture below shows, there are different zones of the corium that make the different parts of the hoof. The structures that grow from the corium are:
  • hoof wall
  • sole
  • frog
  • bars
  • laminae
Photo from ABC Hoofcare

Since the hoof wall grows out of the coronary band at the top of the hoof, there needs to be something to connect it to the coffin bone all the way down to the ground- that's what the laminae are for. When magnified the laminae looks a bit like feathers, with many little "fingers" that grow along the edges. Because of this, the corium's laminae can grab onto the hoof wall laminae like velcro, locking the hoof wall and the coffin bone tightly together. Unfortunately the laminae tend to break under pressure or otherwise adverse conditions, something I'll write about more later.

If you've picked up a hoof you've seen laminae- at the sole level laminae become the white line.

hoof wall showing laminae extending towards the corium
magnified view of the laminae
The x-ray below is the best example I could find of well-connected hoof wall growth. Can you see how the hoof wall grows parallel to the coffin bone? What this x-ray shows are laminae that are able to do their job. Sadly finding an x-ray like this isn't easy, most domestic horses have at least some degree of separation between the coffin bone and the hoof wall.

well-connected growth

This post marks the end of the information that everyone agrees on. Where I go from here might be a bit... um... controversial. Buckle up!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Optimal hooves: Basic anatomy

I'm going to try to ease you all into this, the info in the last post was really easy, now we're going to get just a tad more difficult. I apologize if this post is a little boring, but in order to understand hooves you need to know basic anatomy.

I'll start with the landmarks on the bottom of the foot, Marjorie Smith has a great diagram for this:

Learn all of these. 

Yes, I know, that's extraordinarily helpful. Moving on...

It's also helpful to know that bones that make up the hoof and the bottom of the leg. I picked this next photo because it's very simple to see the bones and how they fit together:

This graphic is not so simple but highlights more of the structures that you should know about:
These are what I recommend you spend your brain power learning (they all have multiple names just to be really confusing):

  1. P1 - proximal phalanx - long pastern
  2. P2 - middle phalanx - short pastern
  3. P3 - distal phalanx - coffin bone/pedal bone
  4. Navicular bone - distal sesamoid
  5. Deep flexor tendon - deep digital flexor tendon
  6. Coronary band - coronet band
  7. Plantar cushion - digital cushion
That's easy, right? Yeah, I know, grumble... grumble...

It might help to think of the horse's lower leg as analogous to our hands and feet. The cannon bone is the "same" as one of our metacarpals or metatarsals (the bones inside our foot or palm), while the three bones inside the fetlock and hoof are analogous to the bones in our fingers or toes, only in humans we call those bones phalanges and not phalanxes. Unlike us, walking around with all our weight on our cannon bones and hocks, horses walk around on the ends of four toes. Horses used to have more toes, a couple million years ago, their vestigial remains are now called splint bones.

Why hello there, cute little horse ancestor
See his little toesies? So cute. Just ignore the rather sad looking toe of the modern horse directly behind him.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Optimal hooves: Shape

Is anybody interested in learning more about hooves with me? I've been doing some pretty in-depth research for the past couple of months and have learned LOTS. Thing is, I don't want to keep all this knowledge to myself. This post is a bit of an experiment, if you like it and would like me to do more, let me know and I'll keep going. I've got lots to write about.

Remember - even though the information that I'm going to post is based on barefoot research - a hoof is a hoof and this knowledge applies even if you put shoes on your horse.

I'm going to start with what the optimal hoof shape is supposed to be:

Front hooves are supposed to be round. 
They should NOT be oblong.

This is Gwen's left fore as an example, notice how round it is. I know this hoof is far from perfect- I've been battling thrush with her too and her bars have gotten away from me- but I want you to ignore that for now and just focus on the shape. If you superimpose a circle around her foot, from the arc of her heel and frog purchase to her toe, you'd see that her foot would fit pretty neatly inside of it. This is what you should look for in a front foot, barefoot or shod, a shape like this ensures optimum breakover and gives your horse the ability to stride out correctly.

Hind hooves are shaped like a spade. 
They should NOT be round.

Once again,not a great foot as far as the frog and bars go, but her hoof shape is pretty spot on. When you think about how horses are supposed to move, essentially by rear-wheel drive, it makes sense that the hind hooves should be shaped this way. They need a bit of extra traction to get the horse moving. Hind hooves should not be rounded off to look like front feet.

Now I know what you might be thinking, "Shannon how could you possibly make a generalization like this? I've seen plenty of different shaped hooves and they work just fine." My reply is that the proof is in the coffin bone.

The top bone in the photo is from a front foot, the bottom is from a hind. See how the top one is basically round and the bottom one is spade shaped? (They are shaped like half moons because the back of the foot is shaped by soft tissue, not bone.) Since the hoof wall grows around these bones doesn't it make sense that it should mirror the shape of the bones?

Need more examples? How about these specimens of front coffin bones?

photo from ABC Hoofcare
Some variation is to be expected but, for the most part, the basic shape is round. There are instances where the coffin bones aren't shaped like this- be it by birth-defect, accident, or degradation due to poor hoof maintenance and diet- but I'd expect that the number of horses affected by those instances is so small that it's statistically insignificant.

What about your horses? What are their hooves shaped like?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Still winter here

Gorram weather!

Monday, March 21, 2011

One year later...

It was a year ago today that I busted the dickens out of my ankle. I was too traumatized at the time to really post what happened to my leg, but time is a great healer of that kind of thing:

I know the feeling
 See his right ankle and how it doesn't look quite right- like "I didn't know ankles could turn that way?" Well they can't, at least not without ripping a ton of soft tissue and busting your fibula. That's what my ankle looked like. I remember looking down at it in disbelief, my knee was pointing forward but my foot most definitely wasn't, and thinking that just wasn't possible. Fortunately for me, I was so pumped on adrenaline that I didn't feel it for about an hour, extra fortunate because the only painkiller they had in the ambulance was morphine and that stuff makes me immediately throw up. Addicted to pain killers I will never be.

Anywho, fast-forward to today and the current state of my ankle:
My ankle yesterday
I can walk in heels again and stretch down into 2-point! My physical therapist was quite impressed, he says I have almost complete mobility back. That's how it goes when you look at the offending appendage and tell it that IT WILL WORK CORRECTLY AGAIN, DAMMIT!!! And then ignore a lot of pain while you make it do what you want it to do. There is a bit of soreness and stiffness left, but after going through a nasty bout of tendinitis a couple months ago this minor ache is nothing. Just a reminder to not be stupid. Like my back. Ugh, so many injuries that could have been avoided...

I did celebrate the occasion. I got four solid canter departs with Coriander out on the trail yesterday. I figured out (DUH) I needed to squeeze and scoop with my hips, don't know why I wasn't squeezing. Once I put it all together he stepped up within a stride or two of me asking him, even in places we've never cantered before. I think we're ready to give it a shot inside the outdoor arena now- way to go March goals!

Then, in extra defiance of history, I got on Gwen. She's getting better about forward but her mind was 100% on the hay under the barn. I asked her to move and she bee-lined right for it, subsequently bringing us right under the roof. Guess what she got to practice then? Yielding her hindquarters under saddle. She's good at it to the left, not so much at the right, but she's stiffer than concrete to the right so I'm not surprised. She even decided to step off on her own, I'm not clicking her for this since I don't want to start that bad habit, but it gave me the chance to ask for a whoa- which I got! I couldn't be happier with how relaxed she is when I'm on her now, though next time I'm going to give her a little more munch time before I take her out.

Here's a link showing my x-rays if you're really into seeing grimness...

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Meet the new Ansur Crossover
Is it gorgeous or am I nuts? I'm a bit of a sucker for stamped or tooled leather so I can't tell if I'm being objective. The other good thing about this saddle, I can school or show dressage in it and take it out on the trail the next day. Check it out with its trail clothes on:

Why am I introducing you to a saddle? Because I need a new one; preferably one that will fit both the quarters. You'd think that would be easy since they're half siblings, but their backs are completely different. Coriander is slab-sided with prominent withers and spine, while Gwen is very round with sort of sloping withers and tremendous back muscles ridging her spine. Knowing that, I've been researching treeless saddles- which led me to Ansur. What I like about these saddles is that they have a gullet and they look like a regular treed saddle. Thing is, they are NOT cheap. I'm trying to set up an appointment now with the local distributor to try one out. I need to look one of these puppies over with a fine-tooth comb and put it through all its paces before I shell out the big bucks. But if the Quarters and I like it, and it's going to last and last, this might be my next big purchase.

My horses are already shoeless and mostly bitless, might as well go treeless too, right?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Terrific Tuesday

First of all- thanks to everyone who commented with helpful advice on my last post. Rest assured that I will be taking your advice and making the indoor treat city for my boy... in a few weeks. He's started ducking away from the bridle when I try to put it on him, then when I get on him if we're even stepping in the direction of the indoor he starts getting upset. I think he needs some time to associate riding with positive experiences again before we go back and try to tackle his traumatic association with the indoor.

Since the outdoor arena is beginning to thaw, yesterday I wanted to see if he was still okay working out there. Problem is the outdoor is accessed by the same trail we use to get to the indoor - and it's now completely poisoned for him. There is another option though, riding along the road (their driveway is about 200 meters down the road, not far). Since he immediately swerved down the driveway away from the poisoned trail I decided to give riding alongside the road a shot.

Quick aside here: I don't like riding alongside roads. I had a nasty cuss of a horse throw an absolute fit one day when I asked him to move to the side of the road so a car could pass. Instead of moving over he started bucking and rearing in the middle of the road, directly in front of the oncoming car. Fortunately they had the presence of mind to stop; I had to emergency dismount at the top of a rear to get that &%#$^# horse out of the road.

Anyway, back to my fabulous boy: I was not only worried about his reaction to passing traffic- I was also worried about his feet. I had no idea whether or not he'd be sore walking in the rocks and cinders that accumulate on the side of the road. Fortunately his feet felt great, not a single misstep, and he didn't have a single issue with the passing cars. I did ask him to whoa every time one went by and gave him a treat, but really he didn't seem bothered by the passing traffic at all. That's a relief.

After a quick jaunt to check the status of the trails across the road (still too snowy), we wandered into the outdoor arena and he was cool as a cucumber. We did some serpentines, a little bit of circling and called it a day. Another huge relief, his issue is only with the indoor and hasn't expanded to everything around it. I think he'll be much happier with our ring work now.

I also popped up on Gwen last night. We got three steps forward in a row. Excellent! She's really starting to get it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The dreaded indoor

I took the chance on Wednesday, during a brief respite from awful weather, to take Coriander out for a short jaunt on the trail. I thought it was important for him to know that not every ride ends up in the indoor next door. You see, Coriander HATES the indoor with the burning fire of a thousand suns. Lately, with all this snow, it's been the only safe place to ride so most of time we've ended up in there. Knowing this, he's started ducking away from the bridle and pitching mini-fits at the turn in the trail that leads to it. This is not ideal.

The thing is, I totally understand why he hates it. It's a nice facility, they maintain it very well so the footing is nice and the air isn't polluted, but it has no windows- just a transparent band around the roof to allow light in. This means that there are lots of sounds coming from outside the building that Coriander can't distinguish the source of, and he's not too keen on that. Also, something bad seems to happen every time we're in there.

Consider the last three times we were in there:

On the first it was a nice-ish day and the snow on the roof was melting. This meant that every once in a while there'd be a big "whump" coming from outside the building, freaking him out. To his credit he never did anything more than startle, but it's incredibly difficult to get him to listen to me when he's constantly on edge waiting for the next bit of snow to drop.

Then there was the second experience. On the way over we passed two riders who were being brave enough to tackle the deep snow and go on a trail ride. I had just got him in the building, mounted and started walking around when we heard a horse frantically galloping around the outside of the building. Coriander freaked out. A few minutes later the two people we had passed came into the indoor, one of them had been bucked off and it was her horse we heard bolting back to the barn. She gave up rather quickly and took her horse back in, but the other rider stayed. Now this person is very nice, but she has an uncanny ability to amp up every horse she rides and create a nervous, jiggy mess. I'll jump out on a limb and guess it has something to do with her hanging on their faces while applying strong leg, but I don't know for sure. Anyway, poor Coriander was already nervous and the addition of another nervous horse to the mix didn't help any.

The last time I rode in the indoor was last Friday. Normally Friday is a free day to just toodle around and chat, so I popped the bareback pad on him and headed over hoping that it would be low-key enough to soothe his fears. Nope, comes out the local equestrian team had a show the next day and they were cramming. My trainer very nicely said we could come in anyway and ride in the back of the ring after they finished their flatwork. I got him inside (he wasn't real pleased about that) and waited in the middle until they finished up. Wouldn't you know, one of the horses (Elvis, I might do a post about him someday) bucked his rider off and bolted across the ring towards the door. Poor Coriander freaked out again, fortunately not enough to get me off, but he was so upset that no amount of circling I tried could get him to calm down. Since all I was sitting on was a bareback pad, I decided to abort the ride before he threw me and wrecked their practice.

You see why I don't blame him for hating it? This leaves me not so patiently waiting for the outdoor to thaw. We need to do a lot of work on bending and circles, but since I want quality I think I'll pass on the indoor for now. Poor boy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A step in the right direction

Fortunately the weather cooperated and I got to work with Gwen last night. I almost had to chuck out my plans though, when she didn't want me to put her bridle on. Immediately I was worried about her being in heat, riding a Gwen in heat is a no-no in my book. Fortunately I figured out she was just hungry, when I showed her that she was still going to be able to eat hay she was fine with it.

I spent a few moments just sitting on her, letting her eat, until she started looking around at me. "Okay, you're up there, now give me some treats." I very gently tapped her with my calves and said "walk" (see, I do take your advice). She thought about it for a second, then slowly stepped forward. After rewarding her for that, I asked 2-3 more times until I got a much bolder step forward. Click, treat, and dismount. Good girl!

I'll let her cogitate on that for a day or two before I climb up again. When she steps forward boldly as soon as I touch her I'll start asking for another step. Eventually I have plans to set up some cones so she can get the concept of traveling from point A to point B, but I'm taking it super easy for now.

I don't know what I'd do without clicker training, I wouldn't have the guts to climb up on her without it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In like a lion

I guess I know what the weather thinks of my goals: We got 1.5 foot of snow overnight on Monday. Ugh.
This hay bag is a bit higher than it used to be
Do NOT like!!!
But I'm not letting it get me down! It's supposed to be a beautiful day today, with warmth and sunny skies, so I'll see if Gwen and I can get a hint of "go forward."

Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March plans?

Law of Nature: If Shannon sees a bandwagon, Shannon will jump on said bandwagon.

I've been seeing a bunch of goals posts on other blogs so I've decided to do my own. I have two goals for March: 1) teach Coriander the canter cue and 2) get a solid whoa and go with Gwen under saddle. Should be doable, right?
I was documenting his hooves for my records, thus the board.
Here's the thing- the last time I tried to get Coriander to canter in a ring he wouldn't do it. Granted he was lame from thrush at the time (and yeah, I felt like a total jerk once I realized that), so I really can't blame him for not wanting to grind all of our weight onto one painful forefoot at a time, but now I'm feeling defeated before I've even started.

I'm figuring what I need to do is throw him on the lunge line and get a really solid voice cue for it. Then, when I'm riding him, I can teach him to associate the leg and seat cue with the voice cue and, Viola!, canter cue complete (Except for the leads. Details, details.). Does this sound like a good plan?

Getting a whoa and go with Gwen is going to be much easier in comparison, I just need a safe place to do it. I'm planning on riding her on the pasture but that's dependent on the footing in the pasture, and right now it's crap. Melt snow, melt! Dang it!

I'm SO ready for spring!