Sunday, December 30, 2012

When the 'celery approach' doesn't work

Isn't it nice that the world didn't end last week? Now I can get back to discussing the hooves from my last post. Many of you caught on to my bit of sarcasm about the truly awful state those hooves have fallen into, this is what happens when the 'celery approach' goes bad.

So much wrong here...
For those of you who may not know, the celery approach is advocated by Nic Barker of Rockley Farm, the author of "Feet First: Barefoot Performance and Hoof Rehabilitation." Barker believes that people shouldn't touch horse hooves with anything sharper than a stick of celery; that all modification of the hoof should be done by self-trimming alone.

Let me just be clear on one point: I have a lot of respect for Nic Barker and what they do at Rockley Farm. I am inspired and impressed by what they achieve and many of the things Nic writes about leave me thinking. But I think their blog should come with a disclaimer: Do not try this at home without doing your research.

The celery approach works for the folks at Rockley because they've put a lot of time, effort and resources into creating an environment and lifestyle where the horses can self-trim their way to soundness. From what I've seen and read, they have three key pieces in place for this to happen.

  1. A day-to-day living environment on very abrasive footing. 
  2. A very specific and controlled diet.
  3. An extensive daily exercise regimen that is, again, done on very abrasive footing.
If you want to embrace the celery approach to hoofcare, more power to you, just be prepared to spend a lot of time and money making sure your horse is living a lifestyle that will enable that. There is a reason that people have been using hand tools to trim hooves for hundreds of years, most domesticated horses don't get enough exercise on a variety of surfaces to wear down their own hooves, and overgrown hooves create a mess of problems.

I mean, seriously, how does she even function?
*I did contact the owner of the horse from my last post and sent her an eight page document detailing what I saw going on with those hooves and a plan for bringing them back to health. Fortunately she agreed with what I said and I'm going to work with her over email to see if we can't get her horse sound again (he currently most definitely is NOT). Fingers crossed.*

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hooves for the end of the world

I snagged these photos from an online barefoot trimming group. It was recommended to the owner a few months ago to stop trimming the horse (he had been sore after a trim) and just to let the hooves grow. Here they are a few months later. What do you think? Chalk this up as another win for the "celery" approach?

(You'll see some pictures where the hooves have been touched with a rasp- we'll just ignore that for now.)

BTW- happy winter solstice!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More on pregnancy: A few details I missed

In my last post I wrote about some of the lovely symptoms a woman may encounter during the first trimester of pregnancy. I realized a bit later that I missed a few things, mostly the side effects that are just annoying in the beginning but don't go away after the first trimester. Nope- they just get more obnoxious.

The breathing
You may not be aware of this, but pregnancy hormones also affect your lungs, increasing their capacity. What this means is that you might start breathing a bit heavier when you become pregnant. Or you may be like me and end up breathing A LOT heavier really early on. Seriously, I'd climb one flight of stairs and I'd be breathing like I'd just run a mile. I wasn't tired, I wasn't out of breath, but boy did I sound like I was. I was walking across campus with a coworker one day when she asked me if I wanted to slow down, "what, why?" I asked.

"Because it sounds like you're dying," she said. Oh.

Of course later on you start having issues breathing because you've got a baby kick-boxing your lungs. But that's for later.

The gas
When you get pregnant your hormones will also affect your digestive system, slowing the whole business down. When this happens you start to accumulate gas, which then needs to come out. Pregnant women start to sound a bit like one-person bands. One day, after burping for the umpteenth time after drinking orange juice I turned to my husband and said, "I burp after drinking orange juice, who does that?"

"My grandfather," he said. Excellent.

Fortunately for everyone around me, my gas tends to come out of my mouth, some aren't so lucky. When we got married, the best man's wife was pregnant and she stayed in our spare bedroom for the night before the ceremony. When we came back from our honeymoon a week later, the stench in that room was still bad enough to make your eyes sting. True story.

The peeing 
Even if you've never been pregnant, you've probably heard about how preggos frequently need to urinate. You might think that starts later in the pregnancy when the baby gets big enough to start pressing on your bladder, but no, it starts immediately. Sure, in your first trimester you'll probably only need to pee once every two hours instead of the once every half hour/10 minutes/5 minutes that you'll experience later in the pregnancy, but even peeing every two hours gets a little annoying. Given this you might be tempted to drink less, but that is not a good idea. First of all, you'll feel terrible if you don't drink, your body wants that fluid for a reason. In the first trimester you're building the placenta- which is filled with amniotic fluid, and you do not want your amniotic fluid levels to be low. Also, your blood volume doubles and water is pretty necessary to that process too. So drink up ladies, and stock up on toilet paper!

Fortunately you probably won't pee yourself in the first trimester. Nope, that bit of fun is saved for the second and third trimesters. Joy!

Laugh it up now, dude, the mood swings are coming for you...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The joy (?) of pregnancy

FYI- this post has pretty much nothing to do with horses. I'm putting it up because I remember being newly pregnant and scouring the internet for other women's accounts of their pregnancy. I wanted to know if what I was feeling was normal. So this post is for those among you who may become pregnant and wonder if what you are feeling is normal- just remember that every pregnancy is different, even for the same woman.

I'm currently in the middle of the second trimester, and I think I can say so far that I've had a pretty easy pregnancy, but still...

The first trimester SUUUUUUUCKS!

Seriously, it does.

It didn't help that I wasn't trying to get pregnant and that when I found out I was I had to get over being annoyed about all my plans for the year getting tossed. Riding in another dressage show? Nixed. Getting Coriander to reliably pick up that left lead canter? Nixed. Getting Gwen solid under saddle and attempt canter by the fall? Nixed. I was a little cranky for a couple weeks.

Anyway, physically the first symptom I had was cramping that started, literally, an hour after conception. At that point I ran over to the calendar and did a little mental arithmetic after which a few profanities fell out of my mouth. My midwives still don't believe that I know the day of conception but I do, down to the hour.

The cramping continued for the next six weeks, it was accompanied by dizziness, thirst, and the need to eat ALL THE FOOD. Heaven help you if you annoyed me when I was hungry. It wasn't pretty.
Hyperbole and a Half, I miss you
Eventually the cramping went away, at which time is was replaced by round ligament pain and SOUL CRUSHING FATIGUE. It was a daily struggle to stay awake at work, I would daydream about curling up under my desk for a nap.
I never looked nearly this nice
By the time I got out to my horses after a full day at work it was all I could do to feed and groom them, then I'd just let them loose to graze and lay down until I could gather enough energy to stand up again. If you're in the first trimester and you have the energy to ride just know that I am really, really jealous.

Sometime around 9 weeks the morning sickness hit. This was all-day, constant, never-ending nausea. It's much worse when your stomach is empty, which it tends to be when you wake up in the morning- thus the name. Here is an interesting discovery:

Pregnancy is the one time in a woman's life where she'll feel sick for months on end and it's considered a good thing.

Somehow I got lucky and never tossed my cookies, but that doesn't mean I didn't have a few close calls. Unlike me, there are a bunch of women out there who have hyperemesis gravidarum, and vomit so badly while pregnant that they have to be hospitalized for dehydration. That really sucks.

Really all cats are
Fortunately, the worst symptoms went away with the beginning of the second trimester, but I'll write about that later.

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's time to get a pony!


We're having a boy!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Being prepared

Hurricane Sandy may have come and gone, but millions are still feeling the effects of the "Frankenstorm." Fortunately the storm didn't have much of an impact where I live, we got some heavy wind and rain, but no lasting damage. But we were *supposed* to be on the main track of the storm so I made sure to prepare for it.

Unfortunately, looking at the news lately, it seems like a lot of people who were directly hit didn't prepare, and they are suffering now. So, with that in mind, I figured I'd pass along some tips for when something like this happens again.

Keep in mind what you really need to survive: food, water, and shelter.

You should keep a minimum of one week's worth of non-perishable food in your house, one month is even better. That means canned and dried foods, if you lose electricity the food in your fridge and freezer isn't going to last for very long. Also make sure that you have a manual can opener in your kitchen, nothing would be worse than having a bunch of cans and no way to open them. Start collecting your food BEFORE the crisis appears imminent. You don't want to try to stock up when everyone else is out there clearing the shelves. Another thing to keep in mind: most grocery stores only keep enough stock for three days at a time.

Make sure you have a way to cook your food. If you have a gas range you can probably use that, otherwise you'll need another option. I have a propane camp stove, it's probably older than I am but it still works just fine. Barbecue grills will work in a pinch. If you're going to rely on either of those, make sure to keep some fuel on hand. Matches are also helpful to keep around.

 Make sure you save enough water. You'll need it to drink, wash, and cook with. Depending on the size of your household that could be a lot of water. Consider options for storing water outside (like a rain barrel), and remember that you can purify water by boiling it or treating it with a tiny bit of bleach. Water purifiers and purification tablets are nice to have, but they aren't necessary.

Shelter, hopefully you'll already have this in the home you live in, but consider the time of year when you might experience a crisis. Temps in the Northeast this week are supposed to hover just above freezing, that is not good news for those still without power. Since the vast majority of modern homes are heated with electricity, you need to keep a plan in mind for how to heat your home if you lose the grid. Gas and propane powered heaters are an option, but if you use them you MUST ventilate your home to let the gas out. There have already been stories coming out of the coast about people that have died breathing their generator fumes. Don't burn your house down! If you have no other option, you can gather the household together in one room and huddle under blankets to stay warm.

Of course none of this is helpful if your house gets flattened. If you are under a mandatory evacuation order, GET OUT. Your lives are not worth the stuff in your home and you won't help anything by staying. Standing in front of your house and yelling at the storm to "go around" isn't going to work. If you do have to get out, it's not a bad idea to take food, water, blankets and a camp stove with you just in case.

Don't forget about your animals! If you have house pets, you should keep spare food on hand for them too. Have crates available if you need to grab them and go. Our horses are trickier, can you still get water for your horses if the power goes out? Do you have enough hay on hand if you can't get any for a week? (This is especially tough this year with the drought) What if you have to evacuate your horses? Will they load onto a trailer easily? Do you have a place to take them?

It's difficult to think about this stuff, literally it is. There's something called a normalcy bias that nearly all people have that makes us think bad things won't happen to us. Unfortunately they do, but if you plan ahead you can make the aftermath a lot easier for yourself and your loved ones.

 Stay safe out there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

GRAPHIC: Dissection of hoof with impacted bars

I did not do this dissection, I found them posted on one of the list serves I follow. I wanted to show you these because it's one of the best dissections I've seen that show impacted bars in a horse hoof.

For any of you that may think I go on like a broken record about trimming the bars, or for any Ramey/ less-is-more followers who happen to stumble across this blog, this hoof shows what could happen when the bars are left to grow unchecked.

The side view and x-ray for reference. This is obviously a founder, I would say a completely avoidable one if only the bars had been trimmed.

Everything under the pink area (digital cushion, corium, later cartilages, deep digital flexor tendon) is bar. Look at how they've squeezed the soft tissues into an incredibly small, tight space. How could the hoof possibly function normally when it's been squeezed like that? Can you also see how bars that have impacted like these will damage the DDFT where it travels around the navicular bone and connects to the coffin bone?

Yet another view showing just how tall the bars have gotten. That's almost 2 inches of bar!

I think this one is interesting. Even though the walls are probably only a half inch too long (keeping in mind the dead material over the sole), the bars are at least an inch-and-a-half too long! Somebody was obviously trimming the peripheral walls down on this horse but they probably didn't touch the bars for years, if ever- and the horse suffered for it.

Here's a refresher: The bars are part of the hoof wall. Just like the rest of the wall they are composed of an outer wall, an inner wall, and laminae. Since they are part of the wall they grow at the exact same rate as the rest of the wall and should be trimmed in like fashion. Horses don't grow bar over sole and around the frog because "the hoof needs it," that's a garbage statement. If they are not trimmed they have to go somewhere, so they either grow up into the hoof like on this horse (hello navicular and founder) or out over the sole (which will create underrun hooves in no time). If you do trim the bar and it pops back out, that again isn't proof that the "hoof needs it" because cell division doesn't work that way, what that proves is that the bar inside the hoof finally had some room to move out.

Someday I'll let this subject go, but as long as there are people parroting misinformation about the bars I can't. So long as there are hooves like this out there I can't. This horse could have been saved if only someone had trimmed those bars.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hoof angles

I was inspired to do this post by Kristen over at Sweet Horse's Breath, she asked about hoof angles which is something I have an opinion about (of course, right?).

I realized that I've posted a lot of sole shots of the Quarters' hooves but I haven't shown much of the top side. The reason for that is I believe if the sole of a hoof looks good then the top of the hoof usually looks pretty good too. But it has finally occurred to me that most people look at the casing of the hoof instead of the sole- and that's where the angles come in.

There's only one angle in the hoof that I really care about- the hairline angle. It should be around 30 degrees from the ground and it should be straight. If it's horizontal to the ground, curved around the heel, or is lumpy and bumpy you've got problems. If the hairline angle is around 30 degrees, you can be reasonably assured that the coffin bone is in the correct position inside the hoof.

I care very little about the toe angle. I know that many farriers go on about how the toe should always be around 55 degrees, but I don't go for that -because the toe LIES. If there's any degree of separation in the lamina that toe will stretch and the angle will grow shallow. If all you're looking at is that angle you end up letting the heels get higher and higher as you try to keep that angle at the toe. If you do that for long enough you end up with a lame horse at best and a foundered one at worst.

I feel about the same about the heel angle. If the heel is underrun the hairline angle will tell you anyway. If the heel is too high, the hairline angle will tell you that too.

Anyway, time to put my money where my mouth is:
Gwen's left fore
Gwen's right fore
Gwen's left hind
Gwen's right hind
Keep in mind that my horses have classic hi/lo front feet because they have terrible posture. They both stand with the left fore back that makes it clubby and the right foot forward which makes it want to splay out. Hopefully as I get further along in their training, lateral work will take care of this problem.

Coriander left fore
Coriander right fore
Coriander left hind
Coriander right hind
Are they perfect? No. Because of the crazy weather we've had the grass sugars have been all over the place, we had an especially bad spike this spring and many horses had acute laminitis attacks because of it. Fortunately, neither one of my horses was lame from it but they were still affected.

Despite that, Coriander is trot-on-gravel sound and Gwen has never acknowledged the existence of gravel. She has Chuck Norris hooves: She doesn't need to watch out for rocks, rocks need to watch out for her.

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This is how hooves should be trimmed

(In my opinion)

James Welz posted a video of his trim on YouTube, I encourage you to take a look at this video before he changes his mind and takes it off. I've been doing this trim since February and have seen many positive changes in the Quarter's hooves.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Gwen's choice

I haven't been able to do much with my horses lately, as you might have ascertained by my lack of posts. Other aspects of my life have crowded into my horse time, add to the very swollen left knee that my handsome boy seems to have acquired and I haven't had much to talk about that wasn't depressing. Summer of maladies, 2012.

Gwen, it would seem, does not appreciate the fact that I'm "ignoring" her. She came up to me yesterday after eating her dinner and said, "I want to do something." Well it's hard to argue with that. I dug out her mat (a piece of plywood), put it on the ground and waited for her to put her feet on it. Mind you she wasn't wearing a halter or anything, so there was no way I could direct her to stand on the mat besides body language and her memory of what the mat means.

For those of you who may not know, standing on a mat is a foundation clicker training exercise. Horse get a high rate of reinforcement for placing both front feet squarely on the mat. It teaches impulse control and how to ground-tie. For many horses who really love standing on the mat you can use it to help a horse get comfortable in the "scary corner" of arenas or trailers or trails. It's a very handy exercise.

So there we were, looking down at the mat when Gwennie did what she normally does at first sight of the mat (which btw is not good) and pawed at it. Normally I back her up or step her forward to approach the mat again when she does this, but without a halter I couldn't do that. Fortunately this wooden mat doesn't stay put when she paws, it skates over the ground- which doesn't get her rewarded. So she tried that a couple times before her lightbulb went off and she planted one foot squarely on the mat. Reward!

Then I waited. "You have to put the other foot on it, babe," I said, pointing to it. Up went the other foot, plopped down squarely next to the first. Reward, reward, reward! I then slowly walked around her, rewarding her for remaining still when I left her head. At one point, she fidgeted and a hoof came off the mat. No reward for that, so I walked a few feet in front of her and asked her to target on my fist. She came off the mat to my hand for her reward and I figured that would be the end of it- that she would take the opportunity to walk off and graze. But no, she turned around and went right back to the mat! And she didn't paw at it!

To me, these are the moments when clicker training is the most rewarding. When the horse obviously chooses to do the exercise, when they're involved 100% and having a good time. It was also one of those moments when one of my horses approaches me and I know exactly what they want. It kind of feels like a thought pops into my head that's not my own, it feels strange but completely true, know what I mean?

Here's a picture of a horse standing on a mat by his own choice. This is not Gwen, sadly I had left my camera at home.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Happiness is a dirty horse- they can't get muddy if it doesn't rain! Grow grass, grow! Just look at that pathetic pasture. I know it could be worse, a lot worse, the Associated Press just reported that the drought is intensifying in the Plains states. Did you know that the American Midwest grows most of the corn for the entire planet? This drought isn't only affecting us, the whole world is feeling it.

Anyway, onto the dirty horses:

What is he finding to chew on?

Honestly, he looks a little skeptical too
Updated photo of Coriander's leg wound. About a week after he first cut it the flap came off, which was a little alarming, but I've been diligently spraying it with Wellhorse and I think it's been healing pretty well. I'll be getting another bottle of that stuff.
I can touch the camera too!
Gwen's chest and neck swelling has gone down too. It comes out that arnica gel will work even when applied over hair. The day after her first application the swellings had already softened a bit and were less painful to the touch. Now they are almost completely gone. Happy mare!

Are you hiding the good grass under your feet?

How do you like my sun flare?
There's more rain in the forecast, I can't wait. Neither can they I think.