Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wisdom from Denny Emerson

If you're on Facebook and you don't follow this guy, you should. His post this morning was too good to pass up:

"ENGAGEMENT" The act of stepping under, planting, and lifting", and how it is related to connection:

In the first picture, Essie is allowing Veloz to trot along with little to no connection, because if you "connected" a 100 mile trail horse, back to front, and asked him to engage his hocks for miles, you would swiftly do him in from sheer exhaustion.

In the photos of Mr Watjen, he is creating push from behind into a carefully monitored constraint with his hands and body position to encourage the horse to step more under (engage) and LIFT, rather than simply PUSH, which is what Veloz is doing.

"Negotiated driving aids into negotiated restraining aids to create the engagement which leads eventually to greater lift, which in turn leads eventually to creating the strength required for some degree of "self carriage".

Correct, systematic dressage work is akin to human athletes working on weight machines at the gym, to build strength, power, and greater athletic ability.

You can't build lifting strength by pulling back on the reins. You can't build lifting strength by driving from behind into no contact. You can't build lifting strength by driving from behind into hard, rigid constraint with the hands against the bit.

You use "negotiated driving aids into negotiated restraining aids", basically half halt after half halt, and let the "magic" of time do its job of building lifting power.

All our good American dressage riders learned this concept "with their mother`s milk", so to speak. This knowledge is starting to trickle down into the other disciplines, into some more than into others. LEARN IT if you aspire to improve your riding skills.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Healthy bars

Cindy had a very good question about my last hoof post: What do healthy bars look like?

In a nutshell:
  • Healthy bars end at the midpoint of the frog
  • they are straight instead of bowed
  • they stand up, not pushed over onto the sole
  • they are not so long and deep that you can't see the bottom of the collateral groove
  • really healthy bars point toward the frog and not the toe

In detail: 

First we have to know what the internal bar structure looks like. In this photo you see a pretty nice hoof, the heels were nice and wide and the corium was healthy. You can see that the bar corium (outlined) angles in from the heels to the midpoint of the frog.

(I encourage you to click on these photos and zoom in to see the detail, they are important.)
Photo by Cheryl Henderson
In this, slightly less healthy, hoof you can see that the bar corium has started to angle toward the toe but they still end at the midpoint of the frog.
Photo from HP Hoofcare

 In this, really unhealthy, hoof you can see the bar corium (bright red) points straight toward the toe but they still end at the midpoint of the frog.
Photo from HP Hoofcare
What all these hooves have is common is that the bars all end at the midpoint of the frog. That is true whether they are healthy or terrible. So when I trim I try to get the bars to end at the midpoint of the frog- to keep the external structures similar to the internal structures.

The angle is a different story. You can tell by the above hooves that if the hoof is contracted and unhealthy the bars are going to point straight at the toe. You can't change this by trimming, only the full weight of the horse on the heels will get them to open up and point the bars toward the center of the hoof. What you can do is make sure the bars aren't so long they are digging into the hoof and aren't laid over so they are suffocating the sole. Essentially, you want to trim the bars to give the horse comfort; that will facilitate the hoof transforming into a healthy shape.

The following two photos show my second trim on a contracted hoof. I use the bar lamina to outline the bars from the heel turnaround (seat of corn) to the frog. I then try to make the bars as straight as possible and I slope them "downhill" from the heels to the frog. I do this so the bars are "passive," meaning that they don't bear weight which is especially important if the bars are impacted. While I do this I try to take off as little sole as possible, this can be a very time consuming process of taking off thin slivers at a time. It takes a sharp knife, a steady hand and lots of practice (I admit, I still need more practice) and can be made even harder by a fidgety horse. 

In this closer view of the above hoof, you can see the bar lamina as the demarcation between the inner/unpigmented bar wall and the sole. In this horse it's easy to see because the sole is slate colored.

If you can't see the lamina the bars are laid over the sole. If there is a black line along the bars it means they've laid over the sole and trapped dirt and thrush under them. That trapped dirt and thrush will destroy any sole underneath it, not good.

This next photo is after my first trim on a pony. The circled areas show bruising from overgrown bar, bruises that weren't visible until I started pulling the bar off the sole (Excess bar puts too much pressure on the corium below it, crushing blood vessels and creating these bruises.). Lots of horses have these bruises but you don't see them because the bar that causes the bruises also covers them up.

This last hoof is mostly healthy and shows little sign of contraction. You can see how the bars on this hoof angle in toward the frog instead of pointing down to the toes. I didn't make this happen, I just followed the bar lamina. These bars are pretty close to ideal, if your horse has bars that look like this chances are that horse is sound.

Bars should look similar to this

Here's a how-to guide to trimming bars similar to the way I trim:

Questions? Please comment.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Legendary White Stallions

Check out this Nature documentary on PBS while you can, it expires on Feb. 11.