Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: the year I was broken and put back together again

January began with a wicked cold snap that made it hard to do anything with the quarters. Finally, mid-month there was finally a break and I decided to try longing Gwen. It was disaster, and I broke a finger by letting the longe line get wrapped around my hand. Obviously what I was doing wasn't working so I scoured the web for help. I happened to run across this post from April Reeve where she suggested using treats with nervous, flighty horses. I tried it, it worked, and was reminded of a book I had read on clicker training horses. The very next day I tried it and made more progress gaining her trust and cooperation in 10 minutes than I had for the previous 6 months. I've stuck with the clicker training since that day and I haven't looked back.

February was the month of snow, lots and lots of snow. I took advantage of another brief temperature hike to introduce a bit to Coriander. He took it in stride but was a little annoyed at how difficult it was to eat hay around it. Oh, and it snowed.

In March, clicker training was going so well that I started saddling Gwen, after a little anxiety over the girth, she decided she was okay with the whole process. She did so well that I screwed up my courage and slid on her bareback for the first time about mid-month. She was totally fine with it. A few days later I went to get on her again and the *&%$#%^ mounting blocks tips over and I fall on her. That wasn't good. I did manage to get her back over to it and slide on, but after that day she wouldn't go near the mounting block again. I make the brilliantly moronic decision to mount her from the ground using the stirrup. I end up on the ground with a busted leg.

I spent the month of April on crutches. I still saw my horses nearly every day but I couldn't handle them. Gwen and the barn owner's mutual hatred grew exponentially. My frustration with the barn owner also grew exponentially.
In May I dropped the crutches like hot potatoes and resumed handling my horses as soon as I possibly could, Gwen was immensely relieved. The barn gets a massive wave of new boarders, I went from having the place to myself to having to coordinate with people just to get my horses out of their stalls. I attend my first clicker training clinic with Alexandra Kurland and meet Kate G., who continues on as my clicker training teacher/mentor. I also meet Marjorie Smith and decide to take a much closer look at her website Barefoot for Soundess.
In June, after being unhappy with how my horses' hooves were chipping one week after the farrier came and trimmed them I decided to take their hoof care into my own hands. This is an ongoing process. I ride Coriander again for the first time since the accident and successfully use clicker training to help Gwen accept the flymask, walk over ground poles, and be wormed.

July was wicked hot and I end up having to hose my horses off nearly every day to try to cool them off. Coriander has a mystery lameness (I found an abcess hole in his left fore a few weeks later, go figure) so I don't ride him for most of the month. Gwen is introduced to the western saddle and doesn't seem to mind it at all. I finally reach my breaking point with the barn situation and decide to move my horses. The day I decide to move them I find a Craigslist ad for pasture board and, a week and a half and a crash course in trailer loading later, the quarters are moved to their new home.
In August, Coriander is introduced to trail riding, which he thinks is the greatest thing ever, and we get our first canter under saddle. We go on our first group trail ride and he acts like he's been doing it all his life. I just about bust open with pride. Gwen proves that all she ever wanted was a herd and her anxiety about her brother leaving disappears. I am immensely relieved.

In September I try a new tactic to help Gwen with her herd boundness, CAT, which works out very well, Gwen is happy that I'm listening to her and I'm happy that she's gaining some self confidence. I take my first vacation since getting the quarters and travel to New Mexico. I have a rather bad ride on a lesson horse and gain an important insight about having all your wits about you when riding mares. The quarters get a new sidepull and Coriander gets overly excited in the pasture and stomps on my foot, cracking a metatarsal (ARGH).

In October I attend another clicker training clinic and everybody wonders if I'll ever attend a clinic when I'm not broken. I meet a fantastic barefoot trimmer that does consulting and a dressage trainer that does distance learning. I finally find a pair of boots that fit Coriander, I find ticks on my horses, and Gwen continues to prepare for our eventual next mounting attempt. Coriander and I ride in our first show and get a blue ribbon!

In November, Gwen proves once again that horses do everything better with company as she does very well going on trail walks with her brother and Rocky. I am grounded due to back pain (Which I finally figured out came from my new orthotics, bye orthotics.), I learn that Coriander has thrush, and I introduce Gwen to more weight on her back via kitty litter. I remark on the passing of the Greatest Arabian Ever.

In December I realize Coriander's thrush was much worse than I thought and get schooled by the people at No Thrush, he wears boots for a week because he's dead lame but is on the road to recovery, his frogs should grow back better than ever now. I learn about scratches (Still trying to clear that darn stuff up, I'm giving it till next week and then I'm trying the Animalintex.) I do even more work to get Gwen ready for mounting (last night I leaned about 90% of my weight on her back, during which all she said was, "mmm, this hay is good." That's what I want to see.)

And that brings us to today. My thanks to everyone reading for all of the support and knowledge that you've shared with me this year. I had no idea when I started blogging about my horses that I'd have the pleasure of meeting and learning from so many wonderful people.

Goodbye 2010, even with three broken bones I had a great year, I can't wait to see what next year brings (though I can do without the breaks, 2011). I'm off to see my horses now. Catch ya later!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hay balls

The problem with having your horses live on pasture during the winter is how best to feed their hay. The easiest way to feed is to just drop the hay on the ground in piles. The problem with this is the hay a) blows away and b) gets pooped on. Even at $3 a bale, hay is just too darned expensive to waste that way.

There is a hay feeder in the pasture that looks sort of like this:
Too much metal
The problem is that it's WAY too small for four horses and it's made of metal, not to mention that it forces the horses to eat with their heads in the air- not what I want for Gwen. We had a similar feeder when I was younger and it rusted out, creating nasty edges for horses to cut themselves on. I don't even want my horses near something like that.

Because of that, I decided to experiment with slow feeding this winter. The idea behind slow feeding is to simulate grazing by limiting the amount of hay the horses can get in their mouth at one time, minimize hay wastage, and make the hay last longer. Ideally this way your horses have hay at all times. There are a bunch of options for slow feeders, many of which I found really interesting, but given my current situation, boarding, I decided to go for the easiest option possible: Haybags.

I found some fairly inexpensive bags with 2" holes to try. Unfortunately there aren't as big as I'd like, they can only fit about 4 flakes of hay and I was really hoping to be able to fit a half bale in them (I'll keep looking to see if I can find some larger bags), but they still seem to do the trick. I fill up the bags every night and 24 hours later there's usually hay left in them (Mark feeds loose hay in the morning). I call them hay balls because that's what they look like:
Gwen is concentrating
Nom nom nom
Rocky and Butch chowing down
It took them a few days to get used to the bags. Interestingly, the mares went for them much sooner than the boys did. Coriander gave me some ugly faces at first. I've been using them for a few weeks now and they all seem to have accepted the bags. Sometimes they'll even choose them over loose hay on the ground. They must like the challenge.

If you're considering slow feeding there are a TON of options out there, even for round bales. If you are concerned about hay wastage it's worth it to check them out.
A bagged round bale
Here are some links I found helpful:
One last thing: my horses and Mark's horses are barefoot, haybags on the ground might be an issue for those with shoes.

    Saturday, December 25, 2010

    Neigh-y Christmas

    Coriander says that he hopes everyone out there gets everything they wanted this year.

    He'd like a treat now!

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    Thrush epiphany

    The friendly people at No Thrush just advanced my understanding of thrush by leaps and bounds in three sentences. Here is part of their response to my pictures:

    "The original photos tell the whole story. The sulcus and lateral groves are so deep, and the frog is so narrow, and there is such a concentration of thrush in there, that once the thrush and disease begin to get under control, that top layer will almost always shed. It is not unusual for the entire V to come off if the frog is extensively infested with thrush/disease."

    After I read that I went back and took another look at his before photos.

    Just ignore the uneven heels for now

    This is the view I should have been looking at. Just look at how deep those cracks go into his feet, all the way to the hairline! That is all from thrush. Look at Gwen's non-thrushy foot below for comparison, no deep crack there.

    Now lets take a closer look at the pictures I posted last time.

    This picture proves that the No Thrush WAS working. See how the tissue is filling up what used to be a super deep crack? That was why it took so long for me to see results, his frog had a LOT of recovering to do from deep inside the hoof capsule. There was also the issue of me not knowing what to look for, though I think I have an inkling now.

    Since I'm feeling a whole lot better now that his feet are on the road to improvement, I can go back and cogitate on the other signs of thrush he was exhibiting. Right off the bat I want to say that there was NO stink and NO black ooze in his feet. Don't let the lack of those symptoms fool you like it fooled me. Other than the clues my eyes should have given me when looking at his feet (and will from now on) I should have noticed other symptoms under saddle. For instance he was very footy on rocks, even little rocks. He had also started being a total slug in the arena which, in hindsight, was probably because the footing was getting up in those cracks and irritating his feet. It's a testament to his stoicism that he wasn't lame all the time.

    I'm posting this in the hopes that I can help somebody else with thrush issues. If I didn't know this then I'm betting that there are a lot of other people who don't know it either. I encourage everyone reading this to pick up their horses' hooves and look at those heels and frogs. If they look anything like Coriander's then TREAT THEM NOW! Your horse will thank you.

    I just stumbled on this post by an endurance rider that confirms my new understanding of thrush: Thrush does not always smell and it is not always obvious.

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Coriander's frogs

    Ugh, I've been sweating bullets over his feet for a few weeks now. At the recommendation of my trimming consultant, I used a specific product to fight thrush in Coriander's feet.

    Here are his frogs before I used the product, you can tell that all was not well in Frogsville.

     Here are his frogs about a week after I flipped out about how his frogs had disintegrated and decided to stop using that product. The pictures make his frogs look better than the reality. The flaps next to his heels weren't attached to anything and there was nothing between them, I could stick my whole pinky down the central sulcus. Holy Freaking Crap, what had I done to his feet!

     The last photos are after I started using Pete's Goo a week ago (a mix of antifungal and antibacterial creams). This week has been a little hairy. Once the rutted ground in the pasture froze up, Coriander went DEAD lame. Thank goodness I have the Cavallo boots because he's been living in them since Monday. That is so NOT ideal since I worry about nasty crud breeding the boots but he couldn't get around without them. Fortunately it looks like he's finally getting some frog growth again. I cut out the flaps at his heels since they were doing more harm than good and I think that's made a ton of difference in making him more comfortable. Comfortable enough to leave the boots off today, I'll have to see how he's looking tomorrow, but I've got the boots ready if I need to stick them back on.

    I contacted the company this week, basically telling them that their product appears to have destroyed his frogs. Here's the response from the president of the company:

    "Thanks for letting us know about your horse.  We would love to see the 
    pictures!  I have personally seen and heard of this development many times. 
    And believe it or not, it's entirely positive. It sounds like your horse's 
    feet were quite diseased.  When the [product] dries out any diseased hoof it 
    looks like the frog has been "eaten" away - in actuality, that part was most 
    likely mush before you dusted it, once dried out there is nothing there. Now 
    that the you have made the area inhospitable to thrush/disease, the new 
    healthy frog has a positive environment to grow back.  So, I know it may 
    look dramatic, but I believe you're on the right track!"
    Um, really? A little warning on their website would be nice. I sent them a document today with these pictures. I'll have to wait and see what they say about what happened. I'll decide about revealing the product name until after they've responded to my photos. At this point I don't know if their product really did the trick or if it was the switch to Pete's Goo. All I know was that I didn't see any improvement in frog growth until after the switch.

    I'm just super relieved that he seems to be improving!

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Conformation question

    I would like to start Gwen free jumping in the spring once the ground softens up but I'm a little concerned about her front legs. I think I see a conformation flaw in her front legs that would effectively end her jumping career before it even starts.

    My question is: Does anyone else see it? I'm going to be honest and say that I hope you don't, which is why I'm not saying what I think I see, but if most people see it then I'll have to change my plans for her. I don't want to risk her longterm soundness for a bit of fun.

    This picture just makes me laugh
    For the record I know she's sickle hocked but that doesn't concern me too much. She's almost seven and has had zero wear and tear on those hocks so they should hold up under a normal workload.

    So what do you think? Safe to try a little jumping or no?

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Catching up

    A bunch happened this week and nothing happened this week all at the same time. I had to call the vet out last Saturday because Gwen's hind legs were swollen. Comes out she has scratches, awesome. I've been scrubbing her fetlocks with Nolvasan as per doctor's orders and she's been really tolerant of it, which is really good of her considering the temps are usually around 15F when I can get out to do it. Brrr. Fortunately between the scrubbing and some injected antibiotics she seems to be recovering well.

    I hate you so much right now.
    Not so happily, Coriander has something really wrong with his hooves. Something is eating up the frogs on his front feet from the inside out. About a month ago my hoof consultant told me his feet looked thrushy and to treat for it, so I have been even though I didn't think he had thrush, there is no smell and no black, slimy gunk in his feet. Well a month later his feet don't look any better. I don't think the issue is thrush, I think it might a fungus infestation. Worse, I think it's contagious. Both of his front frogs look like heck and now Gwen's left fore looks eaten away. I blame my hoofpick. Really I blame myself because I should have known better, but since I can foist the blame onto an inanimate object I'm going to.

    I'm changing treatment tactics and giving Pete's Goo (a mix of antibiotic and antifungal creams) a try. It can't hurt and it should cover all my bases. In the meantime my hoofpick is getting a nice, long bleach bath. Take that you traitor!

    In other news, I had a rather exciting lesson this week full of equipment fails. I was assigned a rather round haflinger pony (Dudley) that my saddle didn't fit at all, but since I was running late I decided to just go with it. Of course that pony decided at one point that he needed to bolt right while we were turning left and I suddenly found my left stirrup about a foot lower than my right. Whoops! I got off and put my saddle back on and managed to convince Dudley that he did, indeed, want to continue to the left instead of bolt right. A little later I sat up after going over a jump only to find that the left rein had come loose in my hand! Since we were cantering away from the jump all I could do was hold up the flapping end of rein in my left hand and hope Dudley would stop when I said whoa. The most interesting part? The rein wasn't broken!

    Other than that the quarters have been busy getting really fuzzy. They look adorable right now.

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Ignorance is bliss- a public service announcement

    The problem with educating yourself about hoof form and function is that the more you know the easier it is to find examples of bad hoof care. Everywhere.

    I can't even look through catalogs anymore without seeing hooves that make me sad. But there is one photo in particular that I can't get out of my head. Check out the feet on this poor bugger:
    This photo is supposed to be selling splint boots but I can't drag my eyes away from those hooves long enough to see them. I would bet money that this horse is a model because (s)he is too lame to do anything else. I would also bet they are paying a fortune on those shoes and that the farrier would punch you in the face for questioning him/her. Does anyone else see why these hooves are so depressing to me?

    Sigh, sometimes I long for the days when I could look through a catalog and just shop.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Butch at work

    I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the quarters new home is on/around/next to a Christmas tree farm. Now that it's the season, the place has been hopping on the weekends with all sorts of people coming in to find their perfect tree.

    While this does mean that Gwen is on a forced hiatus- it's not safe to take her out when there are small kids around- it's a chance to see a draft horse at work. Butch only works for a month a year, sure he goes on rides every once in a while for the rest of the year, but Christmas tree season is the only time he does what he was bred to do.
    Butch was made to pull stuff and boy is he good at it. Somebody came by yesterday and picked out a really big tree, it had to have been about 20' high. Mark hooked Butch up to pull it out to the guy's trailer and all I can say is that I wish I got it on video. Butch built up a head of steam and charged  out of the field with that tree. Actually he didn't want to stop, he would have taken that tree all the way into the pasture if he could. It was at that point in time that Mark decided a bit was in order for Mr. Steamboat. The whole thing was a sight to see, let me tell you!

    In other news, Gwen has scratches :-(

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    The holidays are on their way...

    Or: Shannon helps you spend your money.

    It's coming up on "that time of the year," gift giving time! If you've got a few horsey people on your list you might want to check the Whoa Horse Artists Group on Etsy. In case you haven't been there, Etsy is an online marketplace where artists and craftspeople can sell their handmade goods. I LOVE this site, you can find a little bit of everything there and the best part is you deal directly with the maker. I don't know about you, but I love to support starving artists. In fact, even Natalie from The Un-Retired Racehorse sells hand painted ornaments on Etsy (sorry Natalie, I lost the link to your shop).

    Here are just a few pieces that caught my eye- I could never put up everything I like or this post would never end. The captions are links to the sale page for each item.

    An awesome sculpture that I could never afford:
    An incredible commissioned sculpture

    Adorable earrings:
    I own a pair of these
    A watercolor painting:
    This is an interesting perspective
    Black and white photography:
    This photo has a great mood

    You name it, Etsy has it. If you're trying to find gifts for the horseperson who has everything, give it a try, but don't be surprised if you find yourself doing a little shopping for yourself :-)

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Thoughts on barns

    This is the only man-made shelter that has been available to my horses since I moved them in July. Has this been a bit of a hassle for me sometimes when it rains or gets dark early, or it rains after it gets dark early (like tonight)? Yes. Enough of a hassle to move them back into stall board?

    Oh Hell No!!!

    I'm pretty sure my horses are the happiest they've ever been right now. Out in the pasture peace and tranquility flow off them in waves. What's funny is that I never realized how much both of my horses disliked stall life until they weren't in them anymore.

    Gwen's distress was obvious. Her panic whenever she was left without a stall buddy was pretty explicit. Less so were her calls to me whenever I arrived at the barn. She knew the sound of my car, if the barn was quiet enough that she could hear it she'd be calling to me before I even got out. If the barn was noisy she'd scream to me as soon as she saw me (the other boarders always knew I was there, she made sure of that). I thought it was endearing, until she moved out to pasture and didn't do it anymore. That made me sad until I really thought about it. Every time she'd call to me in the barn it always had a note of panic in it. I think she was making frantic pleas to me to get her out of there.

    Coriander was never as obvious as his sister, he practiced avoidance. For one thing, I'm pretty sure that he didn't stick his head out of his stall if I wasn't there. He'd grab all his hay and pull it into the back of his stall to eat away from the aisle activity. I just took these as signs that he was a little standoffish, but I've found out that he's really not, he's usually the first one to approach me in the pasture. And you should see him now with his pile of hay- he sets up camp in front of it, cocks a leg, and just chews away. He doesn't feel any need to drag his hay around. Not to mention that I'm still battling the horrible thrush he picked up from standing in those stalls.

    Would they have had a different experience if it had been a nicer barn run by better people? Who knows. All I know is that tonight, while there was blowing rain all over the place, my horses were not standing under the shelter where it was dry. They were standing out in the open, waiting for me to bring their hay to them, and I was happy to oblige.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010


    Radal El Wadi 1981-2003

    I was on fall break from college, so since I didn't get to ride Dal much anymore I just pulled him out of the pasture, put his bridle on, and headed up the road bareback. We lived on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, half a mile up the lane there was a section of road where trees completely covered the road like a tunnel. It was a picturesque autumn in upstate NY, the leaves had changed and had started to fall off the trees.From the passage of the few cars that traveled our road, the leaves had been formed into long mounds that bordered the roads.

    Dal and I were leisurely strolling up the road when he starting drifting towards the right side of the road. I didn't think much about it and steered him back towards the middle of the road (no traffic remember). He drifted off to the side again and I corrected him again. When he drifted a third time it finally dawned on me that he was doing it on purpose so I let him go.

    He went directly into the mound of leaves on the side of the road and started DRAGGING his feet through it. He had a grand time playing in the leaves. I laughed so hard I almost fell off.

    I miss that horse.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    The kitty litter experiment

    Remember how I mentioned a while ago that I might try throwing a bag of kitty litter on Gwen's back to get her used to having more weight up there? Well tonight I gave it a try.
    I brought Gwen in under the lights and put the western saddle on her. The first thing I did was stand to her left, grasp the horn of the saddle with my right hand and jump straight up. Interestingly, her head went up at the same rate that I did. Hmm... should have done this last March. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, right? We did that a few more times before I switched sides and did it again. Gwen has made me a believer of the "different side, different horse" mantra, so I always make sure to work both sides before proceeding.

    I then went over and grabbed the bag of kitty litter. Apparently it wasn't a bag of litter like I thought it was, instead it was a bomb. At least that's what Gwen told me as she snorted and bugged out her eyes. We spent the next 15 minutes touching the bomb/kitty litter. At first I had to click her for just looking in my direction, but it didn't take long for her to come over on her own and touch the bag with her nose. We did this on both sides and then I raised the back towards her back. I waited until she dropped her head to click her and put the bag down.

    Eventually she let me put the bag on the saddle, where I'd wait for her lower her head, then click and take the bag off. I kept going until she didn't even pick her head up when I put the bag in the saddle and then I put the litter away for the night. To finish up, I asked her to move over by pressing the stirrups into her sides. As this work goes on I'll look for her to move her hindquarters over if I press further back and her shoulders if I stay near the girth, but today I just wanted her to move.

    Overall I think the kitty litter experiment was pretty successful. Her only response to the weight was to throw her head up, otherwise she didn't move. I don't know how well it will translate for her having me get in the saddle (I weigh 100 pounds more than the kitty litter), but it can't hurt to have her get used to more activity around her back. We'll definitely be doing more of this in the weeks to come.

    Sunday, November 21, 2010

    Four happy horses

    Eating hay:
    Not having daylight during the week combined with back issues has slowed me down quite a bit. It seems like all I've done since the time change is feed hay and pick poo piles out of the pasture.

    I did manage to take Coriander out for a little ride today. He and I both wanted to go for a trail ride something awful but, sadly, it's hunting season out there and, no offense to any hunters reading my blog, too many hunters are idiots for me to risk it. We ended up in the ring next door but we were both feeling pretty meh about it so we didn't really get anything accomplished- until I got off and was walking him back home. The fastest way back is right next to the pasture of a particularly feisty spotted draft horse (Toby) who loves to charge the fence at us when we walk past.Well I didn't see him coming this time, but Coriander did and he almost jumped out of his skin, poor boy. But he didn't jump past the end of the reins, he jumped to my side and stopped. I was very impressed (and thankful, it would have killed my back), he trusts me enough to seek me out when he's scared and he respects the slack in the lead enough to keep it there even when he freaks out. He got a nice, long grazing break outside of the pasture while Toby could only stand there and watch. Served him right for scaring the wits out of my horse.

    When I got back I grabbed Gwen, put the western saddle on her and took her for a walk. She's been a lot more relaxed since she's gone out with Rocky and Coriander and we've been able to get a lot further alone now. She was grazing nicely up by Mark's house (about 200 yards from the pasture and out of sight), when Mark's tractor started up. We were both pretty startled by it and Gwen tried to get the hell out of Dodge, but only to the end of the slack in the rope! Two horses in one day, I'm doubly impressed.

    Lesson of the day: If you keep slack in the rope for your horses, your horses will keep slack in the rope for you too!

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    A little inspiration

    I watched a Peter Leone clinic at the stable next door with a bunch of my lesson-mates last weekend. He did three lessons that day, and in the third lesson a teenaged girl and her little pony proceeded to ride the pants off of everybody else at the clinic. Girl and pony were like a well-oiled machine, working in perfect harmony, and that little 12 hand pony was flying over 3' jumps like they weren't even there. They were so impressive together that Peter, a former Olympian, told the girl that if she could ride like that on a horse, her country needs her.

    Wow, right? Of course I had to compliment this girl on her pony. The first thing she said was that the pony had been donated to Cornell by her first owners because she was rank under saddle. My jaw just about fell off at that. Looking at this pony now you'd never believe it. Her mom told me that the girl had been riding that pony for 7 years and had been doing most of the training herself. They spend most of their time doing dressage and jump only once a week. Obviously that training schedule is working.

    Imagine my surprise when two days later I randomly clicked onto the Ansur Saddle homepage and found that girl and her pony! It seems the pair have been kicking butt and taking names up and down the entire East Coast for the past couple of years. They've medaled at USEF shows, the Devon show, The Four Seasons Horse Show and more - together those two are practically unstoppable.

    The page linked to a YouTube video of the two during a competition, take a look:

    The girl's name is Rachel Fleszar and her pony is Valley Girl, aka Currie. Keep an eye out for her, because this girl is going places, and it all started with a pony that somebody else gave up on.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010

    Tacking up is so stressful

    My husband taped this without telling me, actually he told me he wasn't taping. You can see me halfway through giving him a suspicious glance.

    Look at how tense Coriander is, how cold backed and girthy. Obviously being saddled is a huge issue for him...

    Sarcasm doesn't always translate very well in type. I thought this video was funny, it demonstrates very clearly Coriander's motto "I'm just here for the food." Seriously, I can do almost anything to this horse if he's got a pile of hay in front of his face. I'm just making the right thing really, stinking easy.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Flare debate

    I was perusing through blogs the other day when I came upon this post on Cherry Hill's blog:

    Hoof Shape
    by Richard Klimesh
    © 2010 Richard Klimesh © Copyright Information

    The hoof is a plastic structure, that is, stress can cause it to change shape. A hoof is strongest when the entire hoof wall from the coronary band to the ground is straight, without flares. A flare is a concave bend, or dip, in the hoof; a flare at the toe is called a dish.

    Flares weaken the hoof wall and can lead to cracks. A dished toe can affect a horse’s movement and long term soundness by causing the toe of the shoe to be too far forward. This makes it more difficult for the hoof to break over and can cause forging (hitting of the front shoes with the hinds) and more serious problems like those caused by Long Toe/Low Heel.

    Flares can result from hoof imbalance, poor genes, inadequate nutrition, too much moisture, or most likely, a combination of these factors. Serious flares are easy to see, but early flares are not as obvious. To check if a hoof is developing a flare or dish, lay a pencil against the hoof wall. Space under the center of the pencil indicates a flare or dish.
    Most hooves tend to develop flares and dishes to some degree but they can usually be kept in check if a shoer takes the time to “dress” the hoof wall straight with a rasp every time the horse is trimmed. This doesn’t mean the entire wall is indiscriminately rasped – only where a flare or dish is forming. Even neglected feet that have developed wide flares or deep dishes can be improved dramatically with one trimming and gradually retrained with regular care.

    In order to control flares, the bottom of the hoof where the flare was located is sometimes sculpted out, or “relieved”, with the rasp so that the hoof at that area bears no weight. This removes the bending forces on that portion of the hoof so new hoof horn grows down straighter. Another approach is to rasp the flares to about half the thickness of the hoof wall and apply a shoe with side clips located at the flares. The clips prevent the hoof from flaring and encourage the hoof wall to grow down straight. 

    Huh, that doesn't quite mesh with what I've been researching on causes of flares and how to treat them. Check this out from Marjorie's page (

    A flare is separation of the hoof wall, away from the coffin bone. Often the wall curves outwards at the bottom like the bell of a trumpet. You can feel even the slightest flare with your hand, and you can generally see a flare by looking at the hoof wall with your eye or camera at ground level, and moving around the foot to see all parts of the wall.
    A flare due to laminitis or long-term mechanical stress (shoes or a pulled-forward toe) often is straight in outline, and may be difficult to recognize. The angle of the wall changes abruptly, high up -- sometimes so close to the coronet that you can't see where it changes.
    Flare tells us that white line stretching or separation has occurred and the hoof wall is not attached to the coffin bone in that area. Flare and white line separation are the same thing. When you look at the sole of a flared foot, the white line beside the flare is dirty (stretched) or makes a small groove (separated) between the wall and the sole. To say it the other way around, you will find a flare where the white line is dirty or grooved.
    When the white line has pulled apart -- like pulling the two sides of Velcro (hook and loop fastener) apart -- the two sides cannot re-attach to each other. A new connection must grow down from the coronet (hairline) -- just as, if you tear part of your fingernail, you have to wait for the fingernail to grow out from the quick.
    Most flares occur at the bottom of the wall, where ground contact mechanically starts to pry the wall away from the bone. Occasionally a hind foot that is overgrown in the toe but short in the heel, will form a bulge ("bull-nose") halfway up the toe wall. The white line at the bulge is stretched because the unusual mechanical forces in this shape of a hoof pull the wall away from the bone.

    Then there's this from Pete Ramey's page,

    How to grow them out? Diet is certainly most of it, regardless of the trim method you use. I think it is important to relieve flared areas from active ground pressure with the mustang roll beginning from the ground surface exactly where it would be if there was no flare. Depending on current sole thickness, I try to accomplish this on the first, second or third trim. I do rasp the flares from the lower 1/3 of the outer wall on most set-up trims, but am careful not to thin the walls or lamellar wedge so much that there is a risk of the horse kicking a rock and bruising the dermal laminae. After the setup trim, I rarely do more than lightly dress the outer wall to eliminate superficial fungal cracks. Often I don’t even find a need for that.  

    What I find interesting is that while they agree on what a flare is, they don't seem to agree on why they occur or how to deal with them. Right off the bat I need to admit that I've drunk the barefooter's Koolaide, but I can admit that doesn't necessarily mean they are always right. To me the barefooter's explanation of flare and how to deal with it is more in line with the laws of physics and how hooves are designed. So I'm a little confused as to why the traditional farrier doesn't mention anything at all about long hoof walls- unless that's what he's alluding to when mentioning unbalanced hooves. He says he *sometimes* carves out the bottom of the wall  to relieve the pressure, but the first thing the farrier recommends to treat the flare is just to rasp off the outer wall until it's gone. According to the barefoot philosophy this would just disguise the problem and wouldn't do anything at all to fix it. So...
    • if the farrier knows that pressure on the hoof wall is making the flare worse, why doesn't he always advocate shortening the hoof wall? Is it because if you took down the hoof wall low enough to avoid it you wouldn't have enough wall to nail a shoe to? 
    • if the farrier is always "dressing the hoof wall," AKA rasping it thinner and thinner, to get rid of the flare aren't they just taking away the material that's supposed to hold the shoe on? Wouldn't this lead to more pulled shoes because the wall is no longer thick enough to hold the nails?
     I don't mean to bash farriers: making shoes, fitting them to hooves, and nailing them on properly is an art. An art that I couldn't do. I'm just wondering if their trimming philosophy couldn't be tweaked a little.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Oh my aching back!

    I haven't been able to ride in over a week because of my back. The combination of walking funny on a broken foot and no gym time has caused the muscles in my back to rebel and they've been cramping like there's no tomorrow. It's been a bummer. I missed the last week of being able to ride in daylight after work and I had to miss this week's lesson, plus I wasn't able to get a video for my new dressage trainer. Yes, I'm feeling sorry for myself right now.

    Of course Coriander doesn't mind his vacation, and I have been able to do a bit of ground  work with them. We've been doing a bit of Why Would You Leave Me (that's a video link) to help the quarters learn to bend around circles (Gwen is better than her brother at this, interesting). Then my husband came out with me on Sunday to take Coriander so I could walk Gwen again. We took them up to the top of the fields right next to the woods. Gwen saw her first downed tree and found it to be spooktastic (ow). Fortunately after only a little bit of blowing she realized it wasn't going to kill her. We then came upon her very first water crossing which she leapt over (double ow, she was leading on a loose line but her leap took her to the end of the slack). We'll have to work on those a little more but that will wait until I'm not hurting.

    In the meantime I've been working on my back. I tried going to the gym, didn't help, kept going to the gym anyway. I tried taking ibuprofen, helped for a little while but wore off. I tried a hot pack, that helps but I need to have it on continuously, which means I'm running to the microwave every half hour. But after walking Gwen on Sunday and almost not being able to breathe anytime I had to walk quickly, I decided it was time for stronger action.

    Time for acupuncture. If you've never tried it and you're not deathly afraid of needles you should give it a go sometime. It doesn't hurt when the needles are tapped in but it can sting a little when they are twisted after that. Once you get past the initial setup you usually get an hour to feel some really funky things happening to your body. I've gotten treatments before for migraines and for my broken ankle and every time I've gone I've felt something different.

    Yesterday she put the needles in my back all along the knotted muscles and in my ankles. I felt a tingling in my back and then the familiar feeling of waves running through my body, pushing the pain out. Then something weird happened- my scalp started cramping! That was really weird, but I could feel my back relaxing as my scalp got tighter, and then it passed. When I got up I could feel the difference in my back muscles, it's rather amazing sometimes.

    The good news is today I feel much better, not great yet, but closer than I was yesterday morning. Hopefully I'll even be able to ride this week!

    Has anyone reading this gotten acupuncture for their horses? I'm wondering if the horses sometime exhibit strange behaviors while they're being treated, indicating that they feel odd sensations like I did.

    ps: Here's another photo of us at the show

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Comfort in companionship

    Or Gwen surveys the countryside...

    I've been thinking for a while that Gwen needs another horse to go along with her once or twice so that she can see that the fields above her pasture are safe but I hadn't quite figured out how to do it. I could pony while I ride Coriander, but I really don't want to be aboard if she were to freak out and cause a wreck. I also don't really want to lead them both together and become the gooey center of a quarter sandwich. The solution is to add another human but they aren't always in good supply.

    Last night I got lucky, when I arrived at the pasture Rocky's human (Carly) was taking her out for a ride. She graciously agreed to a leisurely walk so that I could take Gwen along.

    My girl started out being a role model for the sometimes crotchety Rocky, she walked out of the pasture with me on a loose lead while Rocky grew roots and didn't want to move (something she does a lot). We walked up the driveway together past the horse eating canoe (snort, blow) and then embarked into parts unknown for my girl. She looked around a little and then looked down and noticed all the ungrazed grass below her feet. She then spent the rest of the trip trying to gorge and walk at the same time. That ended up creating some interesting moments. I didn't fight with her about the grazing since I wanted the experience to be positive and relaxed for her but more than once she got left behind while she was eating. She then felt the need to trot and catch up with Rocky but she was listening and respectful of my space while on a loose lead the whole time. No flip outs!

    She even ended up in the lead more than once. When Rocky would see something that bothered her and wouldn't move I'd take Gwen out in front for Rocky to follow. She did get a lot more alert when she was in front but she didn't get upset. We even came upon a person in a tree, Mark was hunting, and it didn't bother her a bit.

    It was a great experience and proved to me that if she's feeling confident I can throw almost anything at her and she can take it in stride. The trick is how to get her confident, sometimes it requires a bit of creativity. This is definitely a part of horse training that no one ever talks about: taking your horse for walks. Hey, it works for us!

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    Halloween show

    An adorable girl with a sparkly horse
    A fairy girl on a fantastic pony, O Henry
    Beauty and the Beast
    A bee in the flower garden
    Scout as Prince Charming, he jumped a course with that crown on!
    Mira as The Yellow Brick Road
    Cody as a bubble bath, he dropped balloons all over the course!
    My favorite: my friend Carrie and her horse Hank as a big game hunter and the African safari
    So how did we do?
    We won our class!