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.