Hoof school

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Last Blog was the cliffhanger that I'd be taking a day-long workshop on hooves in order to better educate myself.

Ok cliffhanger is a little over dramatized 🙂


For any new readers jumping in here I'll do a hoof synopsis:

my weak link at the moment is Khaleesi's feet. They've always seemed sensitive on rocky surfaces (yes- most horses will be sensitive on rocky surfaces, but she is more sensitive than any horse I've had experience with or ridden with). Boots didn't stay on reliably so I moved into shoes. That seemed to improve things then she became sensitive with shoes. We moved to shoes and pads… this seemed to help a while- then this spring the two of us 'turtled' through a rocky ride coming in second to last and picking a snail's pace through everything rocky. I had this feeling it wasn't right. The next ride she actually lost a shoe just a few miles in and I decided to go with my gut.

Start over.

I needed a whole new approach to her feet.

I pulled the shoes first fronts then hinds later in June.

Cranial Sacral Therapist suggested her nutrition was off because her hind gut wasn't functioning- add probiotics so her body can use the nutrition she's getting.

Now at 6 weeks of probiotics her mane and coat are looking healthier and I believe her feet are starting to improve as well.

Meanwhile she's been barefoot and my Scoot Boots seem to be reliable- last weekend they did well through a pretty grueling 26 mile ride.


Keeping her barefoot meant I could constantly work on the toes and not have to grow out a shoeing cycle then cut back all at once. What I needed to see (as my vet had mentioned late winter) was better quality hoof and more directed growth – not long in the toe but more underneath to support her. Like sculpting a bush or tree: it works better if you can do it over time and help train the growth gradually- trimming the hoof can help encourage more new growth as well. There is also more blood getting through to the hoof without shoes and that can't hurt the entire process of rebuilding.

I filed on her feet regularly- small changes- to get a more supportive angle over time.

I also began asking around to see if there were any good barefoot trimmers who could help me.

I got a suggestion from Sherry in WV (endurance rider vet friend) for someone she trusts who does mentoring. She would come and do an education day so I could learn do more myself in between.

Perfect.

It took a little time to work out a date and details but this week I finally held a mini hoof school at the barn!

A member of the AHA (American Hoof Association) education committee and a mentor through the Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners group- she spent 8 hours at the barn the first part classroom style complete with freeze dried bisected hoofs (more than one) and bones to show how the structures and suspensory apparatuses operate.

After a break we went to work and she did a trim on Khaleesi while we talked over what I had been doing, what worked and what still needed to be done. Kelly had mentioned on Sunday- her toes were looking pretty good but her heels needed to be brought back underneath her more.

This was exactly the case. I learned some fixed points to look for to understand the heels better and to know if they are even without just trying to eyeball. Her toes also came back a little more after measuring the hoof looking for 50/50 balance on either side of the line marking the widest part of the hoof with a tool- we marked her hoof up with red sharpie to be able to understand from the outside what was going on the inside.

She thought the shape of her hoof was pretty good especially when trimmed to balance where the widest part of the hoof falls- and her soles were not too flat either. Khaleesi has decent concavity as well. She cleaned out only what was dead taking no live sole, and did some minor sculpting that would distribute the pressure on the parts that are best suited to share the weight load.

Overall she thought her hooves were going to be fine and we went over what I needed to look for and do to maintain them myself.

Then we worked on a barn horse that had some other issues that had evolved over time and learned a lot from her talking through how she helped him with the trim become more comfortable in his whole body.

What I loved seeing the most was when she would make a change and set the hoof down- she'd watch the horse to see how they rebalanced, how they reacted (often sighing or licking and chewing) and then sometimes she'd move to a different hoof to come back and see how something in the soft tissue was able to drop back to level with the other side or even allow the bone structure to adjust a small amount before continuing to work in small degrees on the hoof.

She seemed to be listening to the horse as she went.


Khaleesi looking super relaxed as her feet were worked on.

After those two learning examples I brought in Wild Heart for me to trim with her guidance.

It wasn't exactly a walk in the park, but it was a success and I learned a lot more having to do it myself.

Heart for the most part was willing and patient but I was slow and clumsy with tools. Sometimes she'd jump in and finish something up so it would go quicker and was always patient, kind and supportive while saying: this isn't exactly the best horse to learn these skills on… she won't be so patient with you!

Yep. That I know. But Wild Heart is the horse I have to be able to work on… so I did my best- and the mare did well with the process.

Heart didn't seem to mind this stranger helping out. And the one time she got antsy and began to refuse to cooperate we seemed to simultaneously realize she may need a break and walked her outside.

Yes. She peed.

And returned to the barn calm and relaxed to finish up like a whole new horse.

So is this barefoot direction going to 'work'?

Time will tell.

Neither the trimmer nor I am anti-shoe. Please don't take this post the wrong way. Every horse, handler, rider has a path for many reasons and I have no idea today if I'll ever put shoes on Khaleesi again. I know better than to rule anything out completely!

Right now this is what my horse needs.

I love seeing her feet doing so well right now. So I'll follow it along as the road twists and turns and hopefully learn as much as possible in each step.

Knowledge is never a waste of time and I will do my best to sort out what works from what doesn't.

Seek… and ye shall find.  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

After a really fascinating day at the barn I’m left reflecting over that gut thing, that voice from somewhere else that has led me to the place I’m in right now. Then I feel grateful because that search that started as a gut feeling those years back that sent me off to find a young feral mare to start – when I didn’t know a thing about starting a horse – and to find a different way to approach it, to approach horses in general…. has been an amazing journey and I know it’s still only the beginning. 


Just to clarify: I still don’t know a thing about starting horses and have barely scratched the surface of the secret equine world but I want it. I want to learn. I want to be better. I’m better than I was and I’m getting deeper glimpses of that world all the time!

The latest leg of the journey involved a visit from a really good cranialsacral practitioner yesterday. We arranged her visit because of Wild Heart’s issues that were not connected to an injury that a vet could pinpoint (nothing broken, swollen, pulled, diseased etc) but after serious amount of firm insistence from myself and my friend Susan only resulted in this fine mare digging in her heels (literally) we needed to dig deeper ourselves. 


Dee Janelle from Simple Equine Teaching came to do a private clinic back in April and we started with her. 

Definitely pain. By that time (April) she had developed an obvious stiffness in her stifle and something going on in the poll. The pain she was dealing with had caused louder and louder communication from her and though I was listening I wasn’t completely certain just what the mare was saying. But she had begun to show disrespect towards me likely because if I couldn’t understand her and continued to insist on things she couldn’t do- I was not going to make a good leader for her to trust. 
I did not go down that path very far without getting help. 

Dee helped start some basic healing process that was amazing to watch (as a science minded skeptic… this laying of hands type stuff seemed unlikely to make a difference. But when you see the changes with your own eyes and if you care about results… you’ll believe too).  

After the clinic I went back to groundwork she could do without pain and allowed her some time to continue to repair and reset – because the body will do that, sometimes it needs a little help when it’s stuck. I took Dee’s advice and called in Sandy (cranialsacral practitioner) to give her a deeper look and give us either a prescription to go forward or the green light to get into saddle work again. 


Sandy is highly regarded in her field. This meant a two month wait to see her- even with the connection from Dee- it was worth it. 

In the end I decided to have her look over all my horses and my aging pup Linus who has been getting stiffer and stiffer with age after even a short easy trail ride. 


One thing I’ve learned that has begun to save me time, money and aggravation: if Dee says it is a good idea, jump on it. I have yet to see her be wrong. I can’t explain exactly, but in a couple years time I’ve seen the evidence: she is not guessing. And she is not going to be wrong. 

I’m not a mindless-follower type. I believe in results. The longer I stay connected to her and her methods- the more my horse life blooms and my animals thrive and things come together. 

When I saw her in April she said to me (paraphrased): She’s a great mare- I really like her.  I’m not happy with her [Khaleesi’s] feet. You have a nutrition problem. Get her shoes off, get her nutrition issue fixed, start by getting off the junk food [commercial processed fillers and grains], you’ll need hoof protection that isn’t nailed on constricting the blood flow into her legs. Her legs will look better too when you get the shoes off. Your saddle is ok, she’s happy with it- but there’s minor atrophy starting behind the withers- talk to Carol about a Balance Saddle so her back can grow stronger. You like riding trails in a halter – I see you in a neck string, that will be better. Let’s just get everything off her face entirely – is that legal in your sport?Next year. 2018. That is your year. You are going to have a fantastic 2018. 


I heard her. I still hear her voice in my head. 

2018. That is your year.

Well I wasn’t quite ready to bail out on 2017 in April. So I made mental notes and thought:

There’s no way I can afford another saddle- especially an expensive one. I spent all that time and finally found what ‘works’ for us…. LA LA LA LALA I DON’T WANR TO HEAR SHE MIGHT DO BETTER WITH ANOTHER SADDLE… 

I can’t pull her shoes off today I have a 55 mile race next weekend and I don’t have a good boot program in place. Plus my vet and farrier keep telling me pads and shoes are giving her the protection she needs to reverse some of the impact damage. Pull the shoes- ugh! Just when I’ve found something that seems to be working ok. I know I’d like to see her able to get out of shoes but I’ve tried that before…. how can it work?

I don’t feed a lot of grains anyway- I can pull off my feeds pretty easily. I’ll start there….

And I did start there. I at least took one thing to start with immediately. 

I pulled all the mares off ration balancers and feeds and went to coolstance and grass only. I add a vitamin/mineral supplement.

Then got to the OD 100 in June and lost a shoe in mile 2. 

2018. That is going to be your year. 

I can’t lie. That’s the first voice I heard when I started having shoe issues. She’s always been right before. 

Pull the shoes as soon as you can and get her nutrition fixed. 

I suppose that gut feeling is partly why I didn’t put that shoe back on and try to finish. Something is not right with those feet. Hasn’t been for a long time. She’s always been right before. 

Interestingly, Jeanne Waldron the legendary endurance vet took a look at K as a favor to Lynne two years ago and said a similar thing: her coat and feet and sensitivity in the lower back tell me she has nutrition issues. Probably worms. Give her a power pack.

I did. Not sure if it helped a little. But I’m still here trying to sort out her feet. 

Enter Sandy Siegrist of Perfect Animal Health. I was intensely curious what she would find with Khaleesi. First I’ve been working on my riding and balance a lot and for a couple years now. Sandy can tell a lot from the horse about how the horse is being ridden and about the rider. 


I’m not at all afraid of what Khaleesi would say! The good bad and the ugly I want to know it all! Especially the ugly- that’s where you learn how to improve.

I was beyond glad to hear that she was in great balance and great shape. Her back looks good but her top line could come up to improve it.

I just picked up a balance saddle.

…. this is what I’m learning about following this path. My reaction to finding a balance saddle was: no way. I can’t afford it. 

Seriously I can’t. 

But I started to do some research- to search. To follow that voice- and within two weeks of being open to the possibility the saddle was here. The exact right size and style available used for a price I could sell my other saddle for and a year interest free to find the right buyer. The saddle I could never imagine would be attainable fell into my lap. 

I’m slowly learning to stop putting up roadblocks and start watching the doors open. 

Wonderful- that’s perfect! That will help. 

So the only problem you have with her (and I like this mare very much!) is her guts aren’t working. Like at all. So no matter what you do for her nutritionally it won’t help because her guts aren’t processing it. 

Ok so now what?

Probiotics. 

Her feet should come around in 45-60 days. Keep them trimmed shorter so her angles are better for good growth. Do you have good boots for her? (Yes i do!!) Then she showed me how to tell if the probiotic is working and when to stop feeding it. By feeling a spot on her side with a lump that will eventually go away.

So I embark on a probiotic program to see if it helps and will keep in touch with Sandy as it goes. 

What creates this issue with the gut health? As we all know a lot of things including stress, pain, heavy workload, herd changes, antibiotics, chemical wormers, vaccinations… and more. I am fairly certain this has been an issue since she came to me. Since the first times I ponied her with Faygo (about 6 months after she came to live with me) she was sensitive in rocky ground. 

I wonder about taking her off the land and starting the important modern horsekeeping necessities such as worming and vaccinations and feeding grain added with the stress of leaving her feral style life and herd and having to get to know a human as her new best buddy. 

Often once the balance is upset it needs help to rebalance. 

Luckily Pam has a big tub of a good probiotic she loaned me before the OD ride and Khaleesi loves it- she’ll lick the powder right out of the bowl with no feed. 

Which brings me to the fascinating concept of free choice and how I’m changing even to free choice minerals now because I’ve been told by too many people that they will if allowed to – balance themselves by taking in what they need if they have the access. 

I won’t put the Forco out free choice but I am intrigued that the horse who won’t try new things: it took me a while to get her to try a carrot… she resisted eating grain feeds when I first got her… she licks the Forco out of the bowl as a powder like it’s candy. Does she know she needs it? Does the wisdom of the horse really go there? I don’t know but I’ve stopped assuming it doesn’t. 

As for the others: I’m also glad to say none of them have serious issues and are overall balanced in body, mind and spirit and in good health. 😊

Faygo had a very long ago head trauma that created uneven growth and development in her head and face. Sandy moved things around – this I don’t understand but I watched it happen- in the structure of her head and eye and even in her mouth. She does this with almost no pressure and no force. However when she was finished she asked me to walk her so she could process the changes and readjust. The mare stumbled like she was slightly drunk at first. After a few minutes she came around but the changes for her were significant. 


It is very likely she will breathe more easily now. She may have suffered harder breathing for many years because of the shift in her face and head from an early injury and though her heaves are always worse in humidity so I don’t believe that will cure the condition it will be interesting to see how much it helps her. I talked over her move to live with my mom with Sandy and she agreed a drier climate will be beneficial and she’ll be working with my mom to come up with herbs or remedies that will help with symptoms as she continues to age. 

As for Wild Heart: she had a shoulder way out and bound up. Sandy said it was like she was T-boned at some point not sure how long back… could have been pasture antics here or in captivity or as far back as her wild days. She wasn’t telling. It caused an issue in her psoas (I think it was that, but I could have the body term wrong) which is what works and drives the hind end and allows that back leg to reach underneath her. All this makes a lot of sense from what we watched ponying and riding her in how she moved and how hills were when she’d have the most trouble. 


Her stifle issue and poll were completely fine during this visit and after the shoulder was reset and released she is good to get under saddle again!

Her prescription is go for a pony ride first and get a nice long trot out so she can see that her body is working properly again and she should be pain free. She may struggle at first until she realizes it’s ok- or she may realize it right away – but she is healthy and ready for work.


As for Linus- he had scarring in his shoulder probably from when he was hit by the car as a pup. She spent a lot of time with him and helped release some of the scar tissue. Sandy has worked on wolves and wolf dogs before and said that they are different than domestic dogs. She didn’t say that Linus had wolf in him, but that she sensed a definite wild dog gene in his bloodline. She said it’s a strong presence. I was not at all surprised. He is also healthy aside from the shoulder injury and said raw apple cider vinegar and turmeric will help him as he’s aging. After his session he went from stiff and slightly limpy from Monday’s ride to moving like himself a few years back. It was lovely to see!

I left the barn feeling reflective and grateful that the path I began seeking a handful of years back- to find better answers and a deeper understanding – not just to be successful with my horse but to be a better person is a path that continues to come to me one footstep at a time. I don’t know where it will lead me, but that isn’t my job to know. 


My job is to seek. And to stay open as the steps present themselves – and to have no fear but instead walk in faith that the next step will be clear as it is meant to be. Then take the step. And enjoy!