Friday, August 31, 2012

Down 11 pounds!!

Down 11 pounds!!! Not me... The dog. :( If only I could be half so strict with myself as I am with my animals. My mom and I (and our respective menfolk) have shared "ownership" of Hunter for years but he lived primarily at her place. At the beginning of this year my mom had a change in her work schedule and it became increasingly difficult for her to keep up with Hunter especially as they live in a condo and she is on the road most of the day. To keep him happy and occupied (he would go to the office and job sites with her) he might have been given a few too many chewy treats, a wee bit too much dog food after a hard days work (at the office) and some extra bones from all the staff who all like to stop by and give him lovin's. About four months ago Hunter came to stay at our house aka "fat camp". Since that time he has drooped a whopping 11 pounds. And he is just as proud as punch about it too! The plan is for him to stay with us indefinitely. I couldnt be more pleased. We love this dog to bits. He is so sweet, cuddly, smart and a little whipper snapper too. There just aint nothin' better in life than a good dog!

Monday, August 27, 2012

On the "Natural" Trim

The biggest challenge facing I faced while trying to learn the skill and theory of horse trimming was actually not how to handle a rasp, though I did bleed, multiple times... no, my challenge was sorting through the rubble of contradictory information and drastically varying theories about just how the engineering marvel that is a horses hoof should operate. Understanding the science behind a method and applying common sense and logic was my only arsenal against the madness. The Mustang Roll was one of the first theories that really made sense to me, though, at first, it rubbed me all wrong.

I hate when mustangs are used to justify a theory. For instance that horses dont need shoes or blankets or grain and shouldn't have their coats or be stalled, clipped etc. etc. etc. because mustangs are sound and healthy without such things. The reason why this logic chafes me is that wild mustangs are not ridden. They are not kept on small properties. They do not naturally live in rain forests. They do not go about jumping fifty fallen logs for fun or lope a dozen circles just 'cause. In fact they dont lope much at all. We ask our horses to live in environments and use their bodies, (or not use their bodies), in ways that are completely and utterly unnatural. It is because we use and keep them so outlandishly that we have come to care for them in such an outlandish manner. However, I think it would be foolish to recognize how amazing it is that mustangs are able to maintain their own hooves, remain sound and  travel over the worst of ground with out a wince. It would also be foolish to not look at a mustangs hoof and try to understand whether the shape and natural wear pattern of that hoof could serve our own horses.

The Mustang Roll is, simply put, a natural hoof wear pattern (found on Mustangs and horses that consistently travel long distances on firm ground barefoot) wherein the outer wall of the hoof becomes beveled or slightly rounded off in shape. What's more is that the entire hoof of such horses have a common shape and characteristics with low heels, short toes, a round foot with a beveled edge and wide thick frog that makes contact with the ground (and that's only the half of it). As it turns out a mustang roll is just one aspect of a "natural" wear pattern that barefoot or natural hoof trimmers are trying to replicate in our "domestic" horses. To me the question was not whether this was true of Mustangs, there are plenty of examples of Mustang cadaver feet to prove this out, it was whether this shape, wear and overall hoof anatomy was correct for our own backyard horses (who are kept in far less than ideal environments, used for sport or left to stand.) At this point I can honestly say I havent come to any conclusions on that front. And I really dont know if I ever will because every horse has such different feet, different needs and environments and uses.

Once again the horse world has become divided between those who believe in the traditional and those who are embracing the new and "natural". Just like in horsemanship I think I'll end up falling somewhere right in between... And, as with any other horsemanship theory, I have to constantly remind myself to treat the horse as an individual, to not impose my ideas of what should work, to not fix it what isnt broken and to keep an open mind to new ideas and concepts.

As I mentioned before understanding hoof anatomy is key. I realized that I cant really explain why some aspects of the natural trim made sense to me without getting deeper in to hoof anatomy. The bottom line is that you can argue any theory if you understand all the parts. So let's look at the parts and go from there.

PS- Below is a link to a hoof anatomy website I recently found that has very clear pictures and descriptions. It is a great place to start. Happy reading!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Stall Mat Quagmire

We usually try to leave the horses outside for most of the late Spring, Summer and early Fall (I live on the West Coast of BC so it rains pretty much rains non-stop 6 months of the year.) Over the past few days I have been doing a little summer cleaning in preparation for the coming fall/winter drudgery. I pulled up the stall mats, hauled them out, hosed them down and left them to dry in the sun. While the rational (and lazy) side of my brain argued that to clean them at all is an effort in futility, the other side found it enormously satisfying to make something so nasty nice and clean. We last stalled a horse in the stall pictured almost two months ago. You can see in the picture that despite the heat we've had, and despite leaving the stall empty, under the mats were still sticky nasty wet.

Ideally I would like to not stall at all but that isn't my reality... So what do you do to combat the nastiness under the mat?

Ps- I am dying to get my next hoof trimming post written but am having computer issues. It is coming soon! (writing on my iPhone takes for-ev-er!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How a Horse Warms The Heart...

The sound of a horse munching grass is enough to warm my heart...

...But watching them play, now that makes my heart sing!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

On Hoof Trimming- Simple Stupid

It'd be just plain delusional of me to think I had gained enough knowledge or experience on hoof trimming to start divvying out advice here. However, what I can share are a few of my ideas on how to navigate a learning curve that is slick with stubborn traditionalists and new-age fanatics.

Oh, and folks like me that fall somewhere in between.

Here is my simple stupid theory:

Understand how the hoof works, understand all the parts and how they fit together and you will ultimately be able to decide, using simple stupid common sense, what techniques or theories make sense to you.
The best way I found to learn about the internal structure of the horses foot is to watch gruesome and gory youtube videos. I'm actually not kidding. Cadaver hooves are a wealth of knowledge, animated cadaver hooves are ever cooler, though not for the faint of heart.

Here are a just a few of the videos I watched that show the internal workings of a hoof. Also there is a link here to a British program called "Inside Natures Giants- The Racehorse" that is beyond awesome. One of the coolest shows I've ever seen. They dissect a racehorse. Inflate its lungs. Snap its tendons. It's a must see.

Inside Natures Giants- The Racehorse

This set of videos is made by a guy who sounds like the evil genius in some action movie but he has some wicked cool video demonstrating hoof mechanism. He believes that to peripherally load a hoof (which is what horse shoes do) is animal abuse. Maybe one day we will come to the point where we look back at the way it was once done and see nothing but brutality... but for now this guy is a wee bit too fervent in his ideas for my taste. However, his video of a laminitic horse's degraded laminae is too cool for school. (Is there anything as uncool as that expression?)

Check out his youtube videos at: Swedish Hoof School

I have added a page under my header called "Handy Horse Links". Here you will find a few more websites that I used while trying to better understand hoof anatomy.

Now, last post a comment was made by a friend who said she would not want to do her own horses feet and that she would rather trust the experience and knowledge of her farrier. (thanks for the comment Crystal:) The very reason why I am learning this is today is because I do not have such a farrier and one is not available to me. Trust me, I looked. My search was so epic it became worthy of  capital letters (see "The Hunt for the Good Farrier" in my last post). However, I would still want to learn what I've learned and I would still want to be able to do some maintainance between trims because...

It just makes plain ol'practical sense to me that the hoof is meant to be consistently worn and kept in shape through natural wear and tear.  It doesnt seem to me that it is ideal for a horse to be allowed to grow it's foot out then have it cut off, then grow it out, then have it cut off, then grow it out etc. etc. etc.. Unfortunately I cant ride enough or keep my horses on a large enough property to allow this to happen naturally. Therefor, I think, it would be ideal if I could (depending on the rate of growth (which for Ella would be once a week, for Hola every two, for Marm every three)) file off the small amount of extra length on the outer wall and just ever so slightly file down the overall length of the hoof to keep the foot in a consistent and ideal shape. I am not experienced enough to create a sound and balanced foot out of a bad foot. But I think that most owners would and should be capable enough to maintain their horses feet between trims. My goal is to have Hola done by a professional very three months even if it means hauling her an hour from home to make it happen. I think, or hope, that I am now capable of maintaining a hoof that an experienced professional has already made balanced and sound. Also, sometimes when things get out of whack it is hard for a farrier to get things straight again in one trim. Being able to progressively work at getting things right by taking a small amount every week (rather than a large amount ever six) is something that even professional farriers are advocating. I have two friends with farriers that have taught them how to maintain their horses between trims for this reason alone. Besides gradually correcting a problem we can also maintain a foot that naturally wants to fall out of balance. The perfect example of that is Ella.

Ella is not correct in her front end. She walks on the extreme outside of her foot and this pressure creates a flare on the inside (think of sitting on one side of a balloon). Two of my old "traditional farriers" would take down a pretty extreme flare every trim even though we shortened her to a four week schedule. They both told me that is just the way it is. Within a week of a trim you could see that flare coming back. Ella's feet grow REALLY fast. Then I had a natural hoof trimmer come out. The problem with her was that she wanted to change the overall angles of Ella's feet to create a proper "balanced" foot. My issue with this was simple- Ella is sound. And has always been sound. She travels beautifully. Again, simple stupid common sense dictates, if it aint broke, dont fix it! Now, for the past month and half that I've been trimming Ella's feet she has not had a flare. This is not because I am the most amazing beginner hoof trimmer of all time! *takes a bow anyways* It is because every ten days I take down that little bit of excess. The other thing I do, that is different than all three of the farriers Ella has seen in the past two years, is I use a Mustang Roll. My favorite new old invention.

More on that... next post.

Friday, August 10, 2012

On Hoove Trimming- All That I Don't Know

(Video of Hola (unrelated to post))

The biggest obstacle I faced while trying to learn about hoof trimming had nothing to do with finding so-called experts willing to share their infinite wisdom via youtube, blogging, websites or DVDs. There is a copious amount of information to be had on the web. Instead the challenge was to find a common consensus on any one topic. I knew that there was a divide between the traditional blacksmith farrier's trim (called a pasture trim I believe) and the so-called "barefooters" but I didn't realize that there were such varied opinions amongst those who have embraced a "new" barefoot or natural hoof trimming ideas. Much like with natural horsemanship, I think we are experiencing a revolution in the horse world with respect to hoof trimming and care. Ideas that were once considered radical are now entering the mainstream. And, inevitable, with change comes conflict. That conflict spurs people to question commonly held practises and ideas and only time will tell which of those will become the new normal. The fact that it is difficult to find a common opinion is not a bad thing, it is simply the byproduct of evolving ideas. However, it sure makes it difficult for a beginner like myself to figure out my ass from third base. Sorry for that analogy:)

I decided to read and watch everything I could, to collect as much information as possible, fill up my proverbial tool box and and then pick and choose which ideas I wanted to put in my tool belt for immediate trial. So far I have figured out that....

1. You must always trim to create a congruent (same) angle from pastern to hoof.

That's it. One thing. What I haven't decided yet is:

-to trim the frog or never trim the frog
-to use a mustang roll or not
-to use a measurement chart or not
-to measure from the visible frog apex or to cut back to find the true apex
-to pare back the sole or never touch the sole
-to trim for a specific ratio (front to back)
-to thin the outer wall to bring the toe back or never touch it
-to trim the bars or not
-to file off flares or grow them out
-to create a break over point or hope one will develop naturally
-whether frog contact with the ground is essential to hoof mechanism
-whether a hoof should be peripherally loaded (weight carried on the wall or over the whole of the hoof surface

and then obvious:

- to shoe or not to shoe
- to shoe only when "needed"
-or to never ever ever ever shoe no matter what

And then there is the whole question of what primary "theory" one employs while trimming:

-the less is more trim is when you take off only the excess hoof wall growth leaving the shape of the foot untouched.

-the "sight"ing trim where you sight the hoof and trim to create a "balanced" foot by filing the sole until it appears visually flat

-trimming via measurement (using a chart or predetermined ratios to create specific hoof dimensions)

And that is just the tip of the "what-I-dont-know" iceberg.

The more I read the more overwhelmed I became and the less confident I was in my ability to so much as pick my own horses feet, let alone trim them. But then i remembered my own golden rule of horses:

1. I will use my sole discretion to determine what is best for my horse. I will do my best and take responsibility for the consequences of my mistakes. (read: It is my horse and if I bugger it up then it is my own damn fault and my own damn problem)

2. Employ good common sense and hope for the best.

I was going to trim dammit and that is all there was too it!

Here is what I figured...

What I absolutely had to learn before I could in good conscience pick up a rasp was to understand the basic principles of how a hoof works and how all the various parts fit together. That is the topic of my next post.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On Trimming Hooves and Farriers

Farriers- they're a dime a dozen. So why is it so damn hard to find a good one? A reliable one; one that doesnt end up busted up or burnt out; one who doesnt suddenly jump on the current fad or one-size-fits-all-band-wagon; or one who doesnt fall off the wagon?  Having owned horses for over seventeen years I've met my fair share of both the good and the bad. My biggest challenge has always been finding a good reputable (read popular) farrier willing to come out to trim just one horse. Luckily, I've never had a horse with special needs and so was able to get by with whatever farrier was coming out for a fellow boarder. That is, up until last year when I hit a road block. I was using an old friend, Chrissy, who was fresh out of farrier school to take care of both Marm and Ella (formally Princess). Chrissy did a great job as she was conscientious and took her time. Both horses were barefoot and sound, or so we thought.

 Long story short is that Marm had some issue and after being nerve blocked by the vet we were told she had some issues with her feet (that was unrelated to the farrier work Chrissy had done and that we hadnt previously noticed). The vet recommended a farrier with the experience to do some corrective blacksmithing and pads. I didnt want Chrissy to come all the way out just to do Ella and so we ended up changing both horses over to another farrier. The result being that Marm ended up seriously buggered and rather than fixing a problem we couldnt even see to we ended up creating a problem that left her with misshapen feet and dead lame. It was at about this time that I got Hola home.  Her front right foot was just a little out of shape and flat and she was a litte off on it. This "little bit off" on the right lead to a big problem on the left (which I will get to in another post). Hola and Marm were both in need of a better than average farrier and we still had Ella who still needed just a basic trim. The Hunt for a Good Farrier was on.

Luckily Marm's old farrier (who had retired a few years ago) took pity on her and committed to treating Marm until her feet get back to normal. However, she wasn't able to do Hola or Ella. I found a farrier to do Hola but he ended up being completely unreliable. I lost him after just one trim. Out of pure desperation I picked up a rasp and trimmed my first hoof. No one died. I only bled a little. So far both horses are still standing on four sound feet. 

*dances a little Rocky on the steps victory jig*

I am still completely and utterly terrified that I am going to permanently or seriously lame Ella and Hola. But at the same time I feel so empowered and emboldened to take responsibility for my own horses feet. Have now learned the very basics (I hope) I want to advocate every horse owner to learn the basics of trimming, even if you never pick up a rasp yourself. I know a few of my blogger buddies are die-hard barefooters or natural hoof trimmers so I invite anyone with any links they wish to share to do so here. I hope to do a few posts here over the next month on what I've found out there in the vast recesses of cyberspace (do they even call it cyberspace anymore?)

Like most things in the horse world, the more I try to find information about hoof care the more I realize just how little I know and how much there is left to learn... I've also realized how difficult it is to find two horsemen of a like opinion. Which is hardly a surprise, eh? (I love being Canadian).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Comments On and Chelsi's Favorites- Horse Picks

Okay first things first. I've decided to open up my comments. You see, I wanted to post some of the links I have to horses for sale in my favorites folder, a segment I once called, "Chelsi's Favorites" which the past readers of this blog seemed to really enjoy. So I began with the question, "Does anyone out there remember "Chelsi's Favorites"?" ... But  then I remembered that the people I was asking that question of cant actually answer ... and then I realized that I don't actually know if any of the readers I once had have come back. So I then wrote this question, "Does anyone wonder why I'm asking questions of a hypothetical readers when I wont give them a venue to answer?" Then I answered my own question by writing, "Asking a question of hypothetical readers about asking questions of hypothetical readers is a little weird...and obnoxious and really Chelsi, just a little creepy." Then I rewrote my blog post to include an announcement that I am turning my comments back on... I just thought I'd share. Arentchya glad I did?

So.... Chelsi's Favorites.... Needs a new name. It just doesnt ring!


Here are a few of the horses in my favorites folder...

Put a few hundred pounds on this doe-eyed gal and she'll be a beaut!

 Lately I've been looking at a few Arabs. Long story. More on that later. Like the face on this girl....

A goodie...

Love the color of this roany pony...

The sad fact of good broke STDB is that they can be hard to give away.

Love her face marking, looks like a thistle... fit and shiny this would be a nice mare...

This mare is a Duel Pep gdaughter....

Dun mare...