Monday, December 26, 2011

I interrupt this Christmas vacation...

To bring you this important announcement:

We have trot! Under saddle!

That is all. Now back to my regularly scheduled vacation...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Something that I didn't fully consider when I took on my first trimming clients was how different their training methods would be from mine. My two clients both follow Parelli, a training regimen that I'm not terribly familiar with but have taken a quick look at and decided it's not for me. I detest the rope shaking (which I've been told is only used in the beginning levels), and from watching Linda Parelli's round pen work I can't say I'm much of a fan of that either.

Another thing I didn't really think about was that when I go to work underneath a strange horse, that horse doesn't know me from Eve.They have no reason to trust me and they have no reason to cooperate. Because of this I've found that it's sometimes helpful for me to take the lead rope and do some groundwork with the horse as an introduction- this is who I am, this is how I work, can we get along?

So I went out to trim the little arab mare that I started seeing in August, up till this point we haven't had any problems, she was happy with me just rubbing and scratching her and was pretty cooperative without me having to take the lead. But this last time it was different, she's had a bunch of time off (it is winter) and we were working in a strange spot. She just didn't want to cooperate, at one point she started sidling away from me every time I went to pick up a hoof. Hindsight being 20/20 I should have realized she was uncomfortable with the location and asked the owner to move her to the other side of the barn. Instead I took the lead rope to see if she was having an issue with me.

Now I like to think that between Alexandra Kurland and Gwen I've learned how to be pretty tactful with a lead rope. I don't tug, yank, or pull on the rope. I've also learned how to gently ask for something so I'll get a nice, calm reaction from the horse without tension. For example, if I want a hip yield I'll take a little more tension on the rope, look towards the horse's hip and step towards it. I might need to point a finger at the hip or touch the hip to initiate movement but as soon as the horse starts moving I back off and let them finish. One step is all I need.

Okay, back to my story.

I started out by leading her forward to see if she would start and stop with me, she was a little up but she did it. Then I turned and asked her to step backwards 2-3 steps, at this point she started getting pissed. I then went to her side to ask for a hip yield and then she just lost it. She started ripping around me, occasionally stopping to fling her hind legs around. I waited until she calmed then asked her to back up and yield her hips again. Again she took off around me, only this time she spun around to face me and struck with a front foot.

Now I don't know about any of you, but there are three things that I absolutely will not just stand there and take from a horse: rearing, kicking, and striking. When she did that, I'll admit I got a little bit mad, I growled at her and snapped the end of the lead rope at her. Of course she took off again, but I think the fact that I didn't back down made an impact on her because as soon as she slowed down, that was it. She didn't feel the need to take off again and I was able to ask her to walk and back with me again calmly with lots of praise.

The owner was quick to tell me this is how she's always been, and that this was a bad day because she hasn't been worked in so long. I think that's a plausible explanation for how hyper she was, and I wouldn't have thought anything of it if it weren't for her aggressiveness with the striking and kicking. It made me think of the other horse I trim, and that every time I see him lunged he's always turning toward his owner and aggressively double-barreling in her direction. Not to mention the first time I had to take his lead and asked for a hip yield he nearly fell over himself trying to do it as fast as he could, which kind of surprised me.

I know both these owners have learned Parelli techniques from the same trainer, so it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to me that their training might be causing both of their horses to act aggressive and protect themselves from perceived pressure. These are both very nice people who do their absolute best for their horses, I know there is no abuse going on here and yet I felt like both of their horses have overreacted every time I see them do any groundwork. From what I've seen of Parelli's program, I'm inclined to think that their training regimen can create tense, anxious horses.

So here's my question to the blogverse: Is there any grounds for my feeling that Parelli training can make horses aggressive or are they doing it wrong?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I took my human for a ride

and I dids a good job!

I knew something was up when my human starting putting the leather things on me while I was eatings dinner. She got a new leather thingy for my back that I'm trying out from someone who lives a long ways away. I've never met the person who lent it, but I like her for sending me such a comfy leather thing to try! (Thank you, KK)

When I was done eatings, my human grabbed the metal steppy thing and took me up to the field with all the sharp green trees in it. She put the steppy thing next to me and stepped up, but the horses over there were making noises so I had to pay attention to them. I forgot my human was there until I noticed her scratching my withers and calling my name, then I remembered that I'm supposed to put my head down when the human is on the steppy thing. After the human sat on my back I had to wait while she bent over and did something with the leather thingy (It's SO nice having stirrups with her), and then we got to go!

I headed up to the top of the field but then I had to stop because the ground got all funny (deep, muddy ruts with ice), so I had to put my nose next to the ground so I could figure out how to walk over it. Once I got past the funny ground we got back in the grasses and I was happy. I wanted to stop and eat the grasses but my human made me keep going.

Then we turned down the hill between the sharp green trees and I had to be real careful, it's hard to walk down hill with a human on your back! Plus there were branches from the trees on the ground that I had to sniff. But I made it, all the way down the hill and I didn't have to trot once! (She's been having a hard time walking downhill without trotting, we've been working on her balance)

My human asked me to turn back towards the pasture where my herd is and then she let me eat a bunch of really yummy looking grasses before we headed back up the hill. I tried to take the shortcut back to the barn and jump the ditch but my human made me walk up along side it instead (I was not relishing the idea of eating driveway dirt). Then I wanted to stop and eat grasses again but my human made me keep going until we got back to the metal steppy thing.

Then my human said "whoa" so I stopped and she jumped off and gave me treats and told me I was wonderful. She might have been crying, my human is so dramatic sometimes.

You gives me treats now!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Holiday gift guide 2011

It's that time of year again, when many of us think of gift giving. If you're like me, and handmade art strikes your fancy, take a look at these offerings from Etsy.

Handpainted mug by Carole Koch

"All That Glitters" photography by Juliet Harrison
"Wild Mustang" ACEO print by AmyLyn Bihrle
PMC silver horse jewelry by Silver Wishes

If you'd like to give a gift for a cause,consider buying one of Sarah K. Andrews' calendars. All the profits go to One Horse at a Time, an organization that seeks to rescue horses from abuse and neglect. They have a weekly feature on the horses at Camelot Auction where they network on facebook to try to find homes for the horses that would otherwise be killed.

If you've got something more practical in mind, you couldn't go wrong with a bottle of No Thrush.

 Or how about a pair of these?
Bates Webbers
Wintec Webbers
I bought a set of webbers for my Ansur and I love them. They are very easy to use and, best of all, they don't create a painful lump under your thigh like traditional leathers. The Bates webbers are a little more expensive as they are leather, but the synthetic Wintec webbers have gotten great reviews.

One of my favorites is the gift of books, here's a selection I've got my eye on:
"True Unity" by Tom Dorrance
"Old Men and Horses" by Ross Jacobs
"Nature in Horsemanship" by Mark Rashid
Of course the best gift of all is our horses, I hope everyone gets to enjoy them this holiday season!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Laminitis research

As promised here are the links to my sources for the laminitis posts. You'll see a lot of Pollitt on this list, since he's considered the world expert on laminitis I went to his research first.

Microanatomy of the hoof wall (Pollitt)

Recent research into laminitis (Huntington et al)

Equine Laminitis: Current Concepts (Pollitt, 2008) This link sends you to an automatic pdf download

Cryotherapy Reduced the Severity of Laminitis Evaluated 7 Days After Induction With Oligofructose (van Eps and Pollitt, 2006)

Equine Laminitis (Pollitt et al, 2003)

Understanding Laminitis webinar with Jim Belknap and Rustin Moore.

Laminitis diagnosis and treatment webinar

The wooden shoe as an option for treating chronic laminitis (O'Grady and Steward, 2009)

Care and Rehabilitation of the Equine Foot (Pete Ramey, 2011) Specifically the chapters written by Robert Bowker, Eleanor Kellon, and Debra Taylor.

If you only look at one, I highly recommend "Equine Laminitis: Current Concepts." It's long but everything is in there.


In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in the new developments in Zippy's feet. Look and see what I uncovered yesterday.

Big honking disease pockets where that massive wall separation was. The sole was just peeling off like a scab. Fascinating.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Laminitis: Hoof care

This post is the hardest for me to write because I don't have any personal experience with laminitis. The previous posts were just reporting on research, this one will include some of my own opinions based on my hoof research. This opens me up to criticism, I know, so I will try to clearly label anything that is purely my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.

Most farriers and vets believe that the hoof wall holds up the coffin bone. When a horse is afflicted with laminitis the connection of the hoof wall to the coffin bone via the laminae is totally lost, leaving the coffin bone floating around willy-nilly inside the capsule. Because of the lack of connection to the toe wall, the deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) would then be able to pull the toe of the coffin bone downwards, where the bone can pierce the sole.

Severely foundered hoof (founder = chronic laminitis)
Because they believe that the pulley action of the DDFT pulls the toe downwards, they try to find a way to lessen that tension. To do this, they will often prescribe that farriers either let the heels of laminitic horses grow or add pads to lift the heel.

Here's the problem I see with that scenario: The heels are raised to prevent the coffin bone from being pulled down due to stress from the DDFT, yet raising the heels mechanically forces the coffin bone onto its tip, which will then descend straight towards the sole like a spear. They've created the problem they were trying to avoid.

Another option they'll turn to are heart bar shoes, these shoes are designed to contact the frog and make it bear some of the horse's weight. Heart bar shoes are tricky to make and even more tricky to put on, you need a very talented farrier to do it right. Not to mention that if the horse has thrush as well as laminitis this shoe might not be a very good option. Weighting a thrushy frog hurts, a lot.
Heart Bar Shoe

Personally, I cannot understand why you would put shoes on a laminitis horse at all. It simply does not make sense to me to make the horse put all its weight on a failed structure (the laminae). That's what shoes do, they force the weight of the horse onto the hoof wall, and since the hoof wall is connected to the internal structures by the laminae, that means all that weight is transferred from the wall to the laminae- which have either given way or are in the process of doing so. Not to mention that you have to pound nails through the laminae to get the shoes to stay on (how painful must that be to a laminitic horse?).

I think heart bar shoes are terribly ironic, they are designed to take some of the weight off the walls by loading the frogs. Guess what a properly trimmed bare hoof does? Takes the weight off the walls and distributes it between the sole and frogs. So why not just leave the hoof bare and keep the walls from weight bearing at all?

Now I know that farriers have helped laminitic horses, if you've had a horse with laminitis and your farrier has been able to help your horse with shoes (like Dusty), then you've probably got a rather brilliant farrier and you should keep them and never let them get away. The problem is, from what I've heard, those farriers are few and far between.

On a positive note, there is another solution that's been catching on bit by bit with farriers that I will endorse, it's called the Steward Clog. It was created by Dr. Michael Steward of Oklahoma by accident. He had a client come to him with a severely laminitic horse and not much money. At a loss for what to do for her he did the cheapest thing he could think of and screwed a wooden shoe onto the bottom of her foot. The horse came back a few weeks later, much more comfortable and with interesting wear patterns on the wood at the toe and heel. Based on his experience with that horse, Dr. Steward came up with the idea of his clogs and horses have been doing well with them ever since.

Steward Clog
I think the Steward Clog works well for a variety of reasons. For one, you don't have to nail it on- it can be screwed or glued onto the hoof which means no pounding from a hammer is involved; the breakover is under the foot, which greatly reduces the stress and tearing on the laminae at the toe; it covers the entire sole of the foot which allows for a greater dispersion of weight away from the laminae; and they allow the horse flexibility to find a more comfortable stance.

Nicholl's twist on the clog
Here's another good thing about the Steward Clog, the instructions are available for free online. You can make them yourself or you can buy the premade version here. The premade clogs can be nailed, screwed, or glued to the hoof. There's no reason not to try them.

At least that's my opinion, for what it's worth.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My first ride on a friesian

I started taking dressage lessons at a local-ish barn a few weeks ago, I've been feeling like I need to get further along in my education before I get on Coriander again and start asking him for more. Fortunately the barn where I test rode an Ansur saddle offers lessons.

For the first three lessons I rode an appaloosa cross, the same horse I did the test ride on. All was going well, I enjoy riding that horse and his trot, I got to try a training level test, I got to feel what it was like to ride 'on the bit.' It was very cool.

For my last lesson though, I rode a different horse. A friesian. A friesian that is much more specially trained than the appy cross.

Now when you imagine riding a friesian you like to think it will go something like this: You are sitting on a magnificent black beast with flowing hair all over the place. You whisper to the horse with your legs and he strides boldly forward, long black mane caressing your face. You merely suggest a direction with the reins and he willingly follows. When you want to canter, all you do is think it and the horse lifts into the smoothest, roundest canter you've ever ridden. It's like riding a shiny, black dream.


It was more like falling to pieces. We were fine until the trainer told me to ride him on the second track and that's the point when the steering went out. You know what that means- the steering was never there to begin with. Plus he was kind of lazy so I had to use a lot of leg, but I didn't keep my leg long like you're supposed to- no, I curled it towards my bum which the horse didn't understand at all. The worst was when she asked me to canter and I.Could.Not.Get.That.Horse.To.Canter. I just fell apart, lost the contact, lost my balance, and curled into the fetal position trying to get the leg aid as he just rushed into a faster and faster trot.

It was horrible and awesome at the same time. Horrible because the ride highlighted everything that is wrong with my riding. Awesome because it laid it all out there in front of the trainer. Here I am, here are my issues, help me learn.

Fortunately the trainer was very nice about it, she said most people who are good riders on lesson horses have this problem. Lesson horses will kindly fill in the gaps for you, the better trained horses won't because of their expanded repertoires- they can't guess what you're asking for because you could be asking for so many things. That's exactly the kind of horse I need to be riding right now, so I can learn finesse and balance and transfer that knowledge to the Quarters.

I feel like Humpty-Dumpty, now I just have to learn to like the feeling of being put back together again.

(no fear- I'll get back to the laminitis posts now)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Laminitis: Diagnosis and treatment

Here's the hard part: How do you know that your horse has laminitis?

The first signs include:
  • shifting the weight from foot to foot
  • pounding digital pulse
  • heat in the hooves
  • reluctance to walk in a circle
  • lameness or stiffness of gait
Side comment: Some of you may remember that a while back Coriander went lame and a possible diagnosis was laminitis. Thank goodness it was just an abscess, but it presented much the same way, he was lame with heat and a pounding digital pulse. Sometimes different problems have very similar symptoms.

If you know the horse has had an event that would trigger laminitis, is displaying the signs, and you've caught it within 24 hours of onset you need to ice the hooves. I'm not talking about cold hosing the legs for 20 minutes 2 times a day, I'm talking fill a muck bucket or tank full of ice water and have the horse stand in it for 48 hours straight (keep replenishing the ice).

I'm not kidding.
Chris Pollitt did a lot of research with cryotherapy (ice) and proved that prolonged exposure to the cold works really well to stop laminitis in its tracks. The theory is that vasoconstriction caused by the cold slows down the activity in the hooves enough that it gives the body a chance to right itself before more damage is done.

Now for those of you worried about your horse getting frostbite, Dr. Pollitt says this, "fortunately, cold-induced pain is not a problem in horses; they seem to lack cold nociception in their distal limbs. Horses in the current study showed no cold-induced injury or any clinical signs attributable to cold-induced pain, despite extremely low ice boot and tissue temperatures. Continuous aplication of ice and water to the equine distal limb for 48 h seems safe, effective, and well tolerated by horses."


I've also heard good things about For Love of the Horse's MMP Stop Solution, if given within 48 hours of the trigger it has also been known to lessen the damage from laminitis.

While you are icing or using something like MMP Stop you also need to treat the cause of the laminitis. If the horse is IR you need to restrict their access to sugar, that means putting the horse on a dry lot, using a muzzle on grass, and soaking your hay if you know it's high in sugar. If you don't know if your horse is IR but you suspect they might be, get them tested. It's a lot better to know now, before they have issues, than to find out later when they do.

If the laminitis was caused by SODS then the horse probably has an infection that will need to be treated with antibiotics and a bunch of other stuff that only a vet can help you with (Always feed probiotics if you have to put your horse on antibiotics- they kill the gut flora.)

Unfortunately if your horse looks like this:
classic laminitis stance
it's already too late to ice or use the MMP Stop, the damage is done. Now you'll need some heavy duty pain killers and anti-inflammatories along with a pretty strict maintenance regimen to get that horse feeling okay again.

At this point in time you'll start hearing about rehabilitative shoeing, but that's for the next post...

If you've seen any other laminitis symptoms please let me know in the comments, if I get enough I'll make another post putting your experiences together. For instance, Kristen said this about when her horse was affected: Laz's laminitis was caused by Potomac which lead to endotoxemia...his sheath was SWOLLEN too during his high fever which is a clue to look for fyi.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Laminitis: Three different paths

One cause of laminitis is physical strain on the laminae due to trauma/injury leading to the horse's weight physically tearing the laminae. This is what happened to Barbaro, his laminae gave out due to excessive weight strain. Personally I think that horseshoes can lead to chronic low-level laminitis since they force all the horse's weight on the laminae (Remember when I said the laminae aren't designed to hold up the entire horse?). I think Dr. Bowker says it best, "any weight-bearing responsibilities the laminae have should be considered their secondary role."

There are two more mechanisms that are found in laminitis that I would call chemical based, one affects the anchoring filaments and the other affects the MMPs. Both have the same result but the causation behind them and how they work is completely different. (Refer to my last post if you don't know what these are.)

Glucose overload- most people know about this cause of laminitis, a lot of them think it is the only cause for laminitis. It isn't. Glucose induced laminitis only happens to horses that are insulin resistant (IR). The horse consumes too much sugar so the body freaks out and shuts down all its sugar uptake mechanisms (similar to diabetes in humans).  Remember how I said anchoring filaments  that attach the hemidesmosomes back onto the basement membrane are made of a glycoprotein molecule? Well the body can't make any if the uptake of sugar (glucose) has been inhibited. That means that the MMPs are still doing their job of popping off the hemidesmosomes but there aren't any anchoring filaments to glue them back on, resulting in the separation of the epidermal laminae from the dermal laminae.

There is another, much more sinister, mechanism for laminitis. This one can be caused by anything that results in an inflammatory response: colic, carbohydrate overload, endotoxemia, septicemia, prolapsed uterus, retained placentas, heat cycles in mares, potomac horse fever- basically anything that ends with -itis and messes with the balance of the hindgut can cause this other kind of laminitis. This can also be referred to as SODS- single organ dysfunction syndrome. When there are bacterial toxins in the bloodstream (which often begin in the hindgut) they activate white blood cells, these toxins and white blood cells eventually migrate down to the hooves and into the lamaella, where they cause the MMPs to go haywire and start popping off the hemidesmosomes at a rate too fast and furious for the anchoring filaments to keep up with, resulting in a separation of the laminae. This action can also result in the death of the secondary epidermal laminae cells. (It's a bit more complicated than this, but I'm trying to make it easier to understand.) Unfortunately, in this case, there is usually some pretty nasty damage done to the basement membrane. 

In the case of IR, it's the failure of the anchoring filaments that lead to laminitis, in the case of SODS it's the MMPs that lead to laminitis. The important thing to remember is that even though they both have the same result they are not caused by the same thing so they cannot be treated the same way. If your horse has laminitis the first thing you need to find out is what caused it.

The hoof wall gives evidence of damage to the basement membrane. It might be the characteristic "rings" that most people think of, but it also looks like these two pictures below. In the case of founder (chronic laminitis) horses will often create a "founder ridge," a place where the hoof wall appears to bunch up. I think the cause of this is damage to the basement membrane, basically the hoof wall cannot be moved down because the foundation that it would attach to is non-functional.

References for this post include Chris Pollitt, Jim Belknap, Rustin Moore, Robert Bowker and Debra Taylor.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Laminitis: Hoof wall growth

The first thing you need to know about the hoof wall is that it is actually composed of three different sections:

  • the distal hoof wall/pigmented wall/stratum medium, 
  • the water line/unpigmented wall/stratum internum
  • the white line/epidermal lamellae
To understand hoof wall growth we also need to focus on the lamellae, of which there are four types:
  • Primary Epidermal Lamellae (PEL)
  • Secondary Epidermal Lamellae (SEL)
  • Primary Dermal Lamellae (PDL)
  • Secondary Dermal Lamellae (SDL)
The lamellae from the epidermis (outside of the hoof) interlock with the lamellae from the dermis (inside of the hoof) by means of a basement membrane. "The basement membrane is a thin, unbroken sheet of extracellular material, partitioning the dermis from the epidermis (Pollitt)."

Each one of the SEL (the little fingers hanging off each PEL) is attached to the basement membrane by a hemidesmosome through anchoring filaments. Anchoring filaments are composed of a glycoprotein molecule called laminin-5 and a protein called BP-180.

Following along so far? Okay...

The coronet band is constantly creating new cells for the hoof wall, which means there needs to be a mechanism to move the already existing wall down towards the ground to make room for the new cells. To do that, lamellar remodeling enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) come through and pop the hemidesmosomes off the basement membrane (not all at once, mind you), tissue inhibitors called TIMPs then turn the MMPs off, and the loosened cells then move downward and reattach lower on the basement membrane by the anchoring filaments.

This process happens constantly in order to keep up with the growth from the coronet band. The MMPs, TIMPs, and anchoring filaments are always working in a very delicate balance to keep the hoof wall growing and replace material lost at ground level.

And that's hoof wall growth in a nutshell.

Upon further examination, Bowker's theory of hoof wall growth doesn't differ terribly from this, he just posits that the PELs actually contribute cells to the stratum internum to increase hoof wall thickness closer to the ground. For the purpose of understanding laminitis that isn't terribly important (just interesting).

All the info in this post I learned from reading the work of Chris Pollitt, I'll provide links later on. You'll notice that I've made a few words a little more "obvious." Try to remember those, they'll be important later.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend update

I'm working on the laminitis posts, here's a heads up that there will be multiple ones and some of them will be pretty technical, there's no way around that. I'm going to start with a post on how the hoof wall grows but I've still got to wrap my mind around Pollitt's theory vs. Bowker's theory. They aren't the same, not at all.

In the meantime, here's a video showing that bum squeeze I was telling you about a few weeks ago. The only thing I was doing was squeezing my cheeks, I wasn't doing anything with my hands or my legs except get him organized.

Gwen did some really good work today. I put two cones up and we worked on walking to a cone, turning around it and then walking to the other cone. She did pretty well, the steering got a bit wacky at times (she was very interested in the barn for some reason) but we eventually ended up where I wanted to be. We even finished up by walking in a circle around a cone, I was pretty pleased with that. She's getting to be a riding horse, by golly!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writer's block

I haz it. I can't think of anything I want to talk about that would be interesting. I just got Pete Ramey's very expensive new book and part of me wants to snark on that, but I just snarked on AQHA and too much snarking gets old fast.

I could talk about our latest nocturnal training sessions, but talking about training for ground tying, pose and leg lifts also gets mad boring without any visuals to explain what I'm doing.

I could talk about my last ride on Gwen on Saturday, where she was really good until she decided she'd rather graze than move forward and so decided backing up to stay in the grass was the better option. Unfortunately she backed my helmet right into a tree branch and scared herself when it made a sound (which only resulted in a 3-step spook, good for her!)

I could talk about my last lesson where we worked on leg yielding and I innocently pretended I didn't know what I was doing so I could pick her brain on the aids. But most of you know how to leg yield so that's not too interesting either.

I could talk about how I trimmed Zippy again last weekend and it looks like I've finally come to the end of his impacted bars. YAY! The owner lunged him before I worked on him and I was delighted to see that he was completely full of beans, bucking and kicking- horse felt good! Still lame, but a lot  better than he has been. I did uncover some disease pockets in his right fore though, that was a little worrisome.

But nothing seemed to be entire post worthy all on its own. Anyone interested in what I have to say about laminitis? I've been meaning to do some more research on that anyway.

Ah well, I guess you'll just have to look at this strange photo of Coriander eating dinner last night. Hopefully I'll come up with something interesting to say soon.

Friday, November 11, 2011

In the dark

Daylight Savings day is my least favorite day of the year, it marks the beginning of three months of darkness for me. Three months when I only see my horses in the light on the weekends or holidays. Ugh, winter.

Anyway, this year I'm going to try to make the most of it. I asked Mark to set up a light on the front of the barn so I'll have a place to work in the evenings and I plan to pick up all the projects that fell by the wayside this year. That means head lowering, pilates, standing on the mat, leg lifts, and working on balance in small circles (AKA picking the shoulders up and out instead of falling in on them).

I plan on trying to ride Gwen on the weekends, I'm hoping that when the snow covers the grass she'll be able to focus better, while Coriander is basically getting the winter off from riding. In the meantime I've started dressage lessons so that when Coriander and I get to work next spring I'll be better prepared for our next step in training.

Speaking of that: During my lesson we worked on walking and halting "on the bit." She had me squeeze my buttocks to get the horse to lower his head and lift his back, then I got him to go long and low by squeezing my cheeks while he walked. I went and tried it with Coriander later that day and it worked, he arched his neck down immediately.

Why does that work? Is it a pressure point on their backs? I would be afraid to rely on that trick though, does it teach the horse anything about carrying their bodies or is it just a physical response? I want a little more than just a reflex to get my horse stretching over his topline (not to mention that my tushy gets tired and it makes me feel like I'm perching on top of the horse). I'll have to ask her about that during my next lesson.

Dr. Kellon's nutrition course started this week too. I mentioned I'd give out little tidbits that I've learned along the way, so here's one for week 1: You almost never need to supplement vitamins A, D, K, B-12, and C in your horse's diet.

Wow, that seemed like an incredibly random post. Might as well keep adding to it then- I added another video to my last post. I'm really starting to wonder if the judges for AQHA are legally blind.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Really AQHA?

Apparently I'm on a video kick, cause here's another one.

Some genius AQHA judge said this horse was world champion quality and they proudly declared this on facebook:

2011 AQHA Yearling Stallions World Champion

I'm no professional show judge, but I would have DQ'd this horse immediately. Anyone else agree? Already lame at one year old and fat as a slaughter-bound pig to boost. Wanna place bets on this horse's future?

PS- is the lip chain really necessary? I thought the ideal quarter horse was supposed to be calm and easy to handle (Gwen notwithstanding). Even the stallions.

Edited to add a video of AQHA naming yet another lame horse world champion, this time the performance halter champion. This is even worse, horses are supposed to earn points under saddle to qualify for performance halter. Was this horse lame for all his under-saddle classes too? What is wrong with these judges?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Always remember...

It's about having fun!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A real ride

Honest to goodness, I had an actual ride on Gwen today.

First of all, I took her over to the mounting block and got on without putting a flake of hay down first. She stood like a stone until I was mounted and she was rewarded. Brilliant.

Then walked up the hill around the barn, and she halted when I asked her to before turning into the Christmas tree field. Excellent.

We turned into the field and hit a bit of a snag- I wanted to turn around and head back, she wanted to graze. Grazing wasn't on my agenda, so we had to do some hip yielding until she decided to just stay in the direction I pointed her. Points for me on sticking to my guns.

Then she walked down the hill and turned toward the barn when I asked her, and halted again when I asked. Awesome.

Oh, and guess what? She backs under saddle! I asked her on Sunday and she just glided backwards- there was no pushing through the reins or trying to slide left and right, she just stepped back. So cool. I asked her again today with the same result, flowing backwards. All of our ground work has really paid off.

We've now got go forward, turn, halt, and back. The building blocks for making a riding horse.

It was a simple, short ride by most standards, but considering how far we've come I had to crow about it!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Impacted bars lead to toe-first landings?

I think I've mentioned before that I sort of stumbled upon my first client last spring. This was the first horse I've ever trimmed that wasn't my own; wouldn't you know that he's proven the most difficult. He's been on and off lame for the past 6-7 years, with frequent bouts of hoof wall separation, thrush, and, when I first saw him, ridiculously long toes that I've had to back up at every trim.

His case has been daunting for me as a new trimmer, he became much sounder after my first trim, then not so sound after the second, improved again after the third and then went totally lame. I was a bit flabbergasted and, to be honest, scared. So I made plans with the owner to get photos and ask for help online. When I got there I found out the owner hadn't told me about the massive separation that had popped out since his last trim which explained the increased soreness, but I took the photos anyway because I wasn't sure exactly how to tackle that separation.

Long story slightly shortened: I got the help I was looking for with the wall separation. BUT I found out something else interesting as well. Looking at the photos (note, these are pre-trim) it looked like his bars had grown faster than his hoof walls, something I don't think is physically possible. I wondered if what I was seeing was something Cheryl had talked about while I was in Oregon, that his bars had been left untrimmed for so long that they'd impacted inside his hooves.

This would explain quite a bit, for instance why this horse continually lands toe first (follow this link to Rockley Farm to read a good post about why this is bad). If the bars had impacted into the back of the foot then landing heel first would become incredibly painful as he would have been stabbing himself with the bars at every step.
Left fore pre-trim

right fore pre-trim

Here's a picture from Ove Lind at the Swedish Hoof School that should help you visualize what I'm talking about. The impacted bar is on the left, shoving into the hoof and skewing the whole thing right. Can you see it? Now imagine how that must feel to the horse. Remember that the bar material is similar to hoof wall material, it is strong and stiff. If the bars are left to grow long enough they will begin to reach the hard, unyielding ground- forcing them upwards into the soft, yielding hoof of the horse where they pinch the bejeebers out of the inner structures of the hoof. Not to mention throw a wrench in the hoof mechanism.
Photo from the Swedish Hoof School
When I trimmed his bars down the impacted material finally had room to migrate back outside the hoof to where they belong- explaining why it looked like they were growing so fast. (If any of you have spent time on Pete Ramey's site you can probably guess by now that I've got some issues with this article.)

So here's what I did when I trimmed him- took those bars right back down and recessed the separated wall 1/4 inch off the ground. The horse was immensely relieved, he'd been shearing his heels trying to get off that outside hoof wall, poor guy. He's now getting No Thrush treatment every day and soaks twice a week- gotta keep the baddies at bay!

I know- medial bar needs to be straightened. This horse needs to stop yanking so I can do that.

I'm very interested to see how he feels after my next trim. If the bars stop popping out faster than the walls can grow I'll know I've gotten all the impacted material out. If, after that, I don't have to keep lopping excess toe off at each trim I'll know he's landing heel first and will finally be on the road to soundness.

Once again: If the walls aren't self-trimming, the bars aren't either.

Friday, October 28, 2011

First snow of the season

We got our first snowfall yesterday, unfortunately it started as an all day rain shower that turned into snow which means that the horses were soaking wet before the snow started.

When Gwen got to me in the pasture I could immediately tell that she was too cold. I brought them up to the barn to eat and the poor girl was shivering so hard her teeth were almost chattering. So she got to wear my "turbo dry" cooler while she ate. I had some weird ideas in my head when I bought that cooler, like it should somehow rapidly dry whatever horse I put it upon, unfortunately it doesn't work like that but it did give her a little relief from the precipitation. After they ate their grain I spread out a bunch of hay piles under the barn so they could eat under cover and then I hung out until she'd stopped shivering and took the cooler off. Hopefully they stayed under there long enough to dry off a little bit so she could warm up.

She's such a sensitive little flower, all the other horses were just fine while she was shivering. Somehow she's always the one who gets cold, gets scratches, gets inflamed after vaccinations... Anyway, now I'm in the market for a mid-weight turnout, all I've got for her is a heavy-weight and I don't want to put something on her that will make her too hot right now. Anyone see any good sales lately?

Gwen looking miserable

Coriander looking like it's a beautiful day

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stretchy, stretchy

First of all, thanks so much for your comments on my last post. There was a definite string of similarities between everyone's advice, adding to that jme put up a brilliant post on her blog, Glenshee Equestrian Centre, with detailed instructions here. If you haven't seen that post yet and you've been in the same position I am, I highly suggest you read it. She broke the initial steps down very clearly, making it easy for me to figure out how to teach this to Coriander using a bit of clicker training.

As she suggested we started at the halt and I asked him to bend his neck. If he started to walk off I asked him to stop and bend again (we did that a few times). Once he figured out I wanted him to bend and not move, I could then wait for him to drop his nose. He got that part, but then he decided what I really wanted him to do was stab his nose downward. Um... not so much, this is supposed to be relaxing. So then I had to wait him out a bit, ignoring his frustration, until he finally dropped his nose and held it there for a second.

That's as far as we've gotten so far. I tried to do a bit at the walk but it was much too soon, he'll need at least a day or two more of practicing at the halt before we move on. But at least now I know where to start, thanks jme!

Gwen got ridden on Sunday, we worked on "whoa." Of course we first had to work on maintaining a walk before we could stop- she was much more interested in grazing than moving. That was just fine with me though, we needed to work on that anyway. If you teach one thing you have to teach the opposite too, right? Funny how that works. I thought about riding her tonight but she was anxious about something. I had to take her with me when I worked with her brother because she was giving me the distinct impression that if I left her behind she was going to try the fence. That's the first time I really felt that way since they've been here so I decided I better heed my gut feeling. I'll have to see how she feels tomorrow, I'd like to ride her and do some head lowering with Coriander- hopefully my plans won't go awry. The weather has been depressing lately, rain and rain and rain.
Recent theme: Wet

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An inverted western pleasure horse

That's what I've succeeded in training. The first time I sent Katie a video to evaluate (last fall) she told me that Coriander was pokey and inverted; I've been trying to work on that ever since. We've gotten a little better on the pokey front, he's a more forward than he used to be, but he's still inverted.

The better-educated-than-me riders reading already know why this is a problem, but, in case you are emerging out of the tunnel of ignorance like I am, here's why riding an inverted horse is bad in a nutshell: It damages their body. Since I plan to ride this horse well into his twenties, I need to teach him how to carry himself better so his body doesn't get hurt carrying me around with poor posture.

This is how he looks under saddle right now: His back and neck are hollow, his weight is on the forehand, and his hindquarters trail out behind. You can watch us at work here if you feel like assaulting your eyes.
 picture borrowed from
 This is what I want him to be able to do when ridden: Pick his back up and stretch his neck down with the hind legs engaged.
pictured borrowed from Sustainable Dressage
Problem is, I have nary a clue how to achieve this. I've taken huntseat lessons for most of my life with instructors who didn't/don't seem to care that their horses run around inverted and hollow, so no one has ever taught me how to do this. Fortunately I found Katie who I know can teach me, but she lives awfully far away,  essentially still leaving me on my own.

Yesterday I ran across this exercise at Sustainable Dressage, the shoulder-in volte. It's an in-hand exercise that's supposed to help horses learn to stretch over their backs. I introduced Coriander to this exercise last night, just the beginning part where you activate the inside hind to step up further, with dubious results. I made the mistake of trying to lump too many pieces together before he sufficiently understood what I wanted, now I'll need to spend a few days fixing that mistake. Anyway, I have high hopes that this exercise will help him to round instead of invert.

Has anyone tried this exercise? If so what were the results? Does anyone have other suggestions? My plans for him over the winter is to do in-hand work on stuff like this to help his posture, so having a few tools in the box would be helpful.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Coriander is the cuteness

Well, hello over there. Do you have any treats, perchance?
I'll just come over and see, shall I?
You getting those treats handy?
Cause I'm here and my mouth is empty.
Nom nom nom
Mmm, that was good!
Oh, dang it! Where'd she come from?