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?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oh my aching back!

Disclaimer: I am not a physical therapist or a doctor, if you are in substantial pain you should contact an actual professional to help you.

When I was 26, after a year of ever increasing pain, I had to have back surgery. My L5 disk had herniated and was pressing on my spinal cord, creating tremendous pain through my back and down my right leg. During the episodes of acute pain and the subsequent rehabilitation I learned a lot about how to deal with back pain and how to prevent it from coming back.

There are two common causes for back pain: muscle spasms and disk problems. If you are having an acute muscle spasm (usually brought on by overuse), the best thing you can do is rest and massage until the muscle relaxes, at which point you can begin the strength exercises I'll talk about below. Making these muscles strong and putting them in regular work will help you avoid muscle spasms in the future.

If your problem is with the disks (pain down the leg is a tell-tale sign) then the very first exercise you should do is a very simple one: Lie down on your stomach on the floor with your hands next to your sides (a hard surface is very important). Seriously, that's it. What you're doing is putting the curve in your back, helping the disks move back where they belong. The next step is to prop yourself up on your elbows or a pillow, finally you can push yourself up on your hands to get the most arch in your back.

I can't tell you how much time I spent lying on my stomach before my surgery, it was hours and hours and at times was the only thing that gave me any relief at all.

If you aren't in acute pain, you can start to incorporate some low impact abdominal exercises. The first one you should learn is the pelvic tilt, it specifically targets the muscles of your lower abdomen and is not physically taxing. Start with one set of ten and gradually add more until you can can do three sets of 10.

When you are comfortable with this exercise and can do it without arching your back, you can start lifting your feet an inch off the floor with the tilts. Start very slowly and stop if you can't keep your lower back from coming off the floor.

The next low impact exercise you should add in is the "dead bug" exercise. This is a relatively easy exercise that will work your upper and lower abdominals together.

When you've built some strength from the dead bug exercise you can add in some curl ups for your upper abdominals. Again, start slow with a set of 10 and work up from there.

You might be ready at this time to add in some more intensive lower abdominal exercises like the one below. BUT- I recommend doing this exercise with a bent knee, not a straight leg like the video shows. That's really hard!

This last exercise works the upper and lower muscles of your back at once. As with the others start slowly and deliberately, begin with 10 repetitions before working your way up.

My current ab routine consists of 60 curl ups, 40 leg lifts, and 200 back extensions 3-4 times a week. I'll be doing these basically until I'm dead, since if I let my abs go I'm in pain. Period. Sometimes I'll add in some abdominal twists and a medicine ball for some added punch but I didn't do that until the early exercises built up my core enough so I don't hurt myself.

Okay? If you try these (for at least two months) and they don't work, then you can complain to me that your back hurts. If not, well...

Bonus pic of the day:
Zombie polo player

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lovely blog award

My thanks to Grey Horse Matters, Rose Valley Ranch, Minus Pride and TBA for nominating me for this award. It's nice to be appreciated, consider yourselves nominated right back.

New-to-me blogs I'm recommending (most of these are on my sidebar):

  • Reflections on Riding - this is my dressage trainer's new blog. Her help with Coriander's training has been invaluable. We don't agree on everything, but life would be boring if we did, right?
  • Memoirs of a Horse Girl
  • All Horse Stuff
  • Pork Belly Acres
  • Two Horses
  • My Country Genes
  • All Gear No Skill
  • Song of the Black Horse
  • R Lil Bit of Cash
  • Beautiful Mustang
  • Calm, Forward, Straight
  • Snarkyrider
  • Ride A Good Horse
  • Sweet Horse's Breath
  • Eventing-A-Gogo - Gogo is breathing her last breath today. Head over and give Andrea your support, it's been a very difficult road for them.
A couple things about me you don't already know:
  1. I am obsessed with zombies and the fall of civilization. In my mind they are the same thing, in the case of a zombie attack civilization as we know it would end. If civilization fell we would be protecting ourselves against our fellow human beings in much the way we'd protect ourselves from zombies.
  2. I get headaches, A LOT. I've always wondered if maybe it's because my neck knots up like boat rigging. While we were in Hawai'i I got two massages and they really worked on my neck, softening up those knots, then I took over and worked on it myself. The good news is I've been mostly headache free for two weeks now (a record!) just by keeping those knots at bay.
  3. Speaking of that here's a little trick I was taught to stretch your neck: Lie on your back and put your hands behind your head, lift your head forward until you feel resistance and then press backwards with your head using 5% strength for the count of 15, relax and pull your head forward again. Repeat this three times and you'll find that your neck has stretched significantly further between the initial stretch and the last one. Pushing back against your hands is key.
  4. My favorite food right now is a turkey submarine sandwich with lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayonnaise, spicy mustard, and provolone. Yummy.
  5. My biggest pet peeve is people complaining to me about their back pain. I've had back pain, I've had back surgery, if you complain to me I will tell you what you need to do to be pain free. If you hear my advice and give me a bunch of excuses as to why you can't do some simple situps I can only assume you like the pain and will therefore ignore your complaints (This just happened to me again recently, just do some core exercises, darn it!).
  6. I have a large white streak in my hair due to vitiligo on my face, it's underneath so it's only noticeable when I put my hair up. When I was a kid I would tell people I was struck by lightning. Most people nowadays just think I do it on purpose, it does look kind of cool. Sadly it raises my risk for skin cancer to something like 100%. Sunscreen and hats are my friends.
  7. I have very long toes, they are so long that people like to call them monkey toes. I can interlock my toes like you'd interlock your fingers, some find this a bit disturbing...
I'll just leave you on that note, shall I?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Indian summer

I don't know the origins of that term, but it sure is fitting for today. I was supposed to have a two day clinic with Alexandra Kurland but she had to cut it short due to a horse emergency at home, so I ended up with a free day to spend with my Quarters.

It was too hot to ride and they were both over-due for a trim so that was the task of the day. Plus it gave me a chance to get a pic of those nasty frogs I was telling you about.

Here's Gwen post-trim:
Left fore

Right fore
I'm aware that the left looks better than the right. There was some bruising under the bars on the right and I think that made her a little sensitive, she didn't want to stand still for long. I'll have to go back tomorrow and tidy that foot up a bit more.

Can you see the black lines around the hoofwall on that foot though? That's the left over crummy foot from last winter- when she wasn't on any supplements. That cruddy wall connection is 100% caused by diet. I think that in a month or two that nastiness will have grown out and she'll have nice, tight white lines.

I didn't get any pics of Coriander's feet because he was even less willing to stand still when I was done (Mark was working in the barn overhead and I think he was getting nervous) so you'll have to settle for these pictures instead.
Here he is playing with Butch (cleverly hidden behind Gwen)

And here's a not-so-great condition photo
 Here he was last fall for comparison- he put on some more muscle this year!
A couple of super sweet people nominated me for an award too, I'll get that post up later this week.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nutrition woes

The Quarter's frogs look like CRAP again. This is so disheartening. Over the past year I've gotten the nutritional aspect of thrush hammered into me over and over and over again. Sometimes, if not most of the time, thrush is a side affect of what goes in the horse's mouth and not what goes on the horse's hooves.

Let me just say that again: Thrush is not only a product of the horse's environment, poor nutrition is a deciding factor

I put my horses on California Trace in April and started seeing results in May, it was working and I was happy. BUT my horses didn't like it and I had to mask the flavor with anise seed powder to get them to eat it. Since it's also pretty expensive and only available over the internet I decided to look for some other options.

I went looking for something local, found DuMor Hoof (which I chose over Farrier's Formula after looking at the ingredients), and they ate that for about two months.
I don't know if my horses are especially hard keepers or what, but all the frog growth they'd gained while eating California Trace was lost while they ate the DuMor- and that was with me spraying on oxine and dusting with No Thrush nearly every day. Basically the topical treatments just kept the thrush from eating the live frogs, it didn't helped the callused frog grow out at all. The only good thing about it was that the Quarters liked the taste. Basically it was a giant waste of money, time to move on.

While I was in Oregon somebody recommended the Figuerola products to me so I decided to try out Equinesaver.
They've had this for the past month, while their winter coats have started growing in nicely and they love the taste, I haven't seen any sign that their frogs are improving (still treating with topicals, mind you). Knowing that copper and zinc are super important for coat and hoof growth I took a closer look at the ingredients on the bucket. Holy crud! The amounts of copper and zinc in Equinesaver are miniscule at best, no wonder their feet haven't been improving!

So after kicking myself for taking them off something that was working, last night I bought some more California Trace and should have it by the end of the week.

The moral of the story is that I've decided I'm tired of taking wild guesses about my horses' nutritional needs and have signed up for Dr. Eleanor Kellon's NRC Plus course. The class runs from November 7 through January 9 if anyone is interested in taking it with me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I thought you might enjoy seeing a few pictures from Hawai'i:

What I did in Hawai'i:
  • Ate little bananas
  • Ate Spam
  • Had a massage
  • Swam with dolphins
  • Went snorkeling
  • Took a surfing lesson
  • Took a gazillion pictures
  • Lusted over orchids
  • Got a violently red sunburn
  • Had a great time!

We got home around midnight on Friday and the first thing I did was go out and check on the Quarters. My husband thought I was a crazy person, but priorities are priorities. It took me a while to find them in the dark, but once I did I brought them up to the barn to eat and get their body checks. They are A-Okay!

It comes out that I left at the perfect time- I snuck in a ride on Thursday before I left and tacked up Gwen to be ponied. She was feeling a little on edge and actually bucked and pulled the rope out of my hand while we were cantering. I asked for a canter again a little later and she pulled the rope out of my hand again. Apparently somebody was going into heat that day, I can't think of a better time for me to check out than when she's feeling hormonal. She was back to normal again today. I didn't ride Coriander because it's been raining like crazy here lately and the ground is horribly wet and muddy, but since my rides on her don't go anywhere I got on her. She had some slight bobbles, like forgetting that leg pressure means go forward, but for a week off she was really good. I was happy with our short ride.

Coming home from Hawai'i really brought home how close we are to winter, I figure I've only got about a month of daylight left where I can work with her during the week. It'll be interesting to see how far we get before daylight savings time. In the meantime, I'll be busy catching up with what everyone else did while I was gone!