Friday, August 29, 2014

"Pt 3 Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse"

Howdy Friends,

In Pt 1 we talked about the importance of restarting a horse after time off and learned about the Top-Line release and relax exercises, which I like to suggest become a part of every horse care givers routine. In Pt 2 we looked at exercises for the body and front legs. Today we'll learn exercises for the hind legs and a few in motion exercises to work on posture, balance and connection to her feet. It's important to note, always do these ground tied so the horse is free to move. Have no hay or grass in your exercise area, you want them focused on you and their release. Do not discipline during exercises as that will short circuit any release. Be sure to watch for and allow sighs, licks and chews. Your horse may ask for a little walk to absorb these new feelings, walk them if they ask for a minute, then begin again.

All the exercises we've covered so far, I do in the order we are discussing them, and including the ones we'll learn today, the routine takes me 40 minutes. I recommend you do all of them every day starting at least 2 weeks before you restart a horse. Don't forget the carrot stretches. And continue the entire routine while conditioning, or restarting your horse. We'll talk more about that in Pt 4. I'm not a fan of lunging or round penning. I include neither in my conditioning, restarting or routine maintenance. I don't have a riding ring. I believe the best conditioning, physical and mental, for any discipline is on the trail. We'll revisit that in Pt 4 too. These exercises done pre-ride do more to warm up and ready a horse than any lunging can, in my opinion. As time goes on and your horse becomes balanced, fit and relaxed you can begin to streamline your exercises to doing only a few every time pre-ride and keep the others in your tool box for every now and then. I never ride without doing the top-line routine (and the rock back and one step, which you'll learn today).

When I finish in the front I move to the rear with the Groin Release. This exercise releases and relaxes the thick muscles of the hind end. It is very important for a free flowing gait, and correct relaxed posture.

Just as the Armpit Release, stand straddling the hind leg, place your palm on the inside of her thigh, and slide your hand up into her groin. Keep pressure on and move in deeper as she releases muscle until you can go no farther, then hold and release slowly. Remember to do both sides. Some horses love this, others will have no part of it, so begin with care and just place one hand on the inside thigh to see what your horse thinks. In time they all love it.

Next the Piano Wire Release. This exercise will release and relax tension in the hind end, along the spine and all the way to the neck and chest muscles. I talk a lot about tension. We may not even notice it in our horses, but without routine maintenance like these exercises provide, it's there. It comes from work, worry, tack; it even comes from not working. Just like with us. These exercises release both physical and mental tension, and strengthen the bond of trust between horse and human.
Stand beside the horse and gently dig your finger tips in the center of the hind thigh muscle. Search up and down, side to side until you find a cord-like tendon that runs up and down. When you find it massage it up and down until you feel the release. Softening this tendon is huge. Remember to do both legs. NOTE – Sometimes this is the first thing I do with a horse. Sometimes a horse is so tight on the front end from tension in the hind end they cannot relax or even lower their head, then I know, do the Piano Wire first. You might remember this.
Next the Hip Circle Release. This exercise will release and relax the hip, create balance and posture awareness, surefootedness and power.
Hold the fetlock and elbow and gently rotate in small circles each way. And just as with the front leg, we want no movement in the elbow, we want it in the hip. We want the hip to release. Keep her leg under her, not out to the side. While doing circles move the leg slowly and gently upward, then work slowly down again and set the foot down on its toe behind the other foot. NOTE – at first some horses are so tight this exercise is very difficult, be gentle and go as far as she is comfortable, force nothing. Things will improve in a few days.
 Next the fist motion and balance exercise the Rock Back. This exercise will teach correct posture, teach her to carry herself off her forehand, and put the power and strength in the hind where it belongs.
First study your horse from the side as she stands ground tied. Look at her posture; learn to recognize the weight on her forehand, the angle of her chest and front legs. Then picture her standing with her weight shifted off her forehand. That is the position we are seeking.

Standing in front of your horse very gently touch her shoulder point and say, "Rock Back." (Since most people ask their horse to back up this way, you need a verbal request that connects to this exercise; she will learn the 2 different verbal requests.) Be careful your body language does not tell her to step back. Be solid but soft in your stance, she will be looking to you to help her figure this out. We are looking for only for a shift in posture and weight off the forehand, not a step back. If she steps back, start over. Watch for the slightest move, at first it may just be her pectoral muscle moving – Stop asking as soon as you see the slightest movement or change.  You may need 2 inches of rock back to get her correct and off her forehand, and you may need to get it an eighth of an inch at a time.
Next motion exercise, the One Step. This exercise helps horses establish correct posture, patience, self awareness and reconnects them to their feet.
Standing in front of your horse say, "One Step," and look for one complete step forward – That is one front and one hind, then a pause, and ask for the Rock Back. Allow her to feel the movement and the posture, then step back one step, the same feet, and Rock Back. Repeat each each side 3 or 4 times. NOTE – Sometimes it is easier for the horse to ask for the first step to be back rather than forward. Notice in this picture Kessy has moved her left front and right hind. Keep the lead loose in your hand your body soft. This is one exercise I do each and every time I tack up.
The final motion exercise for this series the, Circle Tail Pull Leg Crossover. This exercise encourages hind end engagement and propulsion, and self awareness, relaxes the spine and releases the big rear muscles while creating surefootedness.
Ask your horse to "Walk On," in a slow easy circle on a 6 foot lead. Over the years I've been amazed at how many horses can't do that. That may be the first step in this exercise, teaching your horse to walk on relaxed and easy in a circle. She'll need to be comfortable with you taking her tail as she walks too. While she is walking grasp the tail and as the outside leg is lifting, tug gently on her tail to encourage her to cross over and set it down under her middle. Be quick on the release as soon as her foot touches down. Wait for the inside leg to move, then as the outside foot lifts, tug and release again. Does this for 3 – 5 circles then switch sides. You'll need to keep moving with her, but maintaining the circle is important, as well as a loose lead. It's all about softness, and relaxing ... Look closely at this picture and note the loose lead, Kessy is about to step down with her outside foot, not quite under her middle, but nice, and very important she is walking straight and upright while going in a circle. That's what you're looking for.
These relax, release and body, foot and posture awareness exercises I learned while working with my mentor Diane Sept for nearly a decade. From Diane, a "Senior Certified Connected Riding Instructor ®," I learned the techniques of Peggy Cummings, Connected Riding and Ground Work® and Linda Tellington Jones, Tellington TTouch Training ™. I highly recommend their training and books. In their books you'll find these and many more excellent exercises.

That's all the exercises we'll discuss, of course there are many more, but in my opinion these are the best to maintain or restart a horse. In Pt 4 we'll talk about starting to ride and beginning the conditioning or restarting under saddle.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry 

You can read Pt 1 HERE 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

"Pt-2 Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse"

Howdy Friends,

Yesterday we talked about the importance of restarting a horse after time off and learned about the Top-Line release and relax exercises, which I like to suggest become a part of every horse care givers routine. Today we'll have a look at exercises for the body and legs. It's important to note, always do these ground tied or in a stall so the horse is free to move. Have no hay or grass in your exercise area, you want them focused on you and their release. Do not discipline during exercises as that will short circuit any release. Be sure to watch for and allow sighs, licks and chews. Your horse may ask for a little walk to absorb these new feelings, walk them if they ask for a minute, then begin again.

After I do the Top-Line I move to the front legs with the Armpit Release. This exercise will begin to release the tension in the chest muscles, and helps with girthy horses, and begins the reconnection to their feet. Remember, do both sides.
Stand straddling her leg, in neutral your knees slightly bent, place your palms inside her leg and gently slide your hands up into her armpit keeping your palms against her leg. Keep gently pushing up allowing her to release the tension in her muscles and continue to move into the space opened by her release until you can go no farther, then release slowly. Note – Some horses are so tight they may try to bite, you made need to first get her used to your hands touching the inside of her leg, then in time move your hands into her armpit.
Next the Shoulder Delineation. This exercise will release the tension along the base of the neck, the withers, and forehand, and begin to correct the inversion muscles, and help maintain proper soft posture. Remember do both sides.
Immediately following Armpit Release, leaving one hand in armpit, with your other hand search for the crease in the center of the chest muscles on this leg, not the center of the chest, starting at the base. When you find the crease (in the beginning this could be hard to find, you may need to make it) gently dig your fingers in, and walk up the crease toward the neck. (You can see Kessy's crease, and you can also see the line from my fingers down to her arm pit where I started, go deep, but be gentle) Then bring your other hand up to help, and walk them both up, using fingers to dig the crease, between neck and shoulder. Continue up over and around the shoulder blade back down to her arm pit. In many spots you may not find a crease, many horses are so tight from poor posture, stress and even tack and riding, that it may take time to develop the looseness, but it will come. Remember to do both sides. Many times the horse will turn their head toward you in an attempt to release the crease, that's a good thing.
Next Pretty Neck, or Inversion Muscle Release. This exercise will release the tension in the neck muscles and bones and poll. It also begins to correct the inverted neck and tight chest muscles, and allows for free flowing movement and aids in getting horses off their forehand. (As you might guess, I'm very anti tie-down, and these exercises mentioned so far today will help eliminate the need for them.) Remember to do both sides.
Look at her chest just below the neck for the muscle we call the inversion muscle. It will appear as a vertical muscle just about where the neck meets the chest, some are easy to see, others not. Gently grasp the muscle as I do here, and squeeze from the BOTTOM up, like milking only backwards. Watch for her to arch her neck like Kessy is here. Some horses will back up, because they think you're asking that, or sometimes they are so tight and sore they can't arch their neck. I like to rest my other hand on their withers to give them support. Just walk with her and keep trying and in a few seconds, if your hand is at the correct place, and you're squeezing from the bottom, you'll see an attempt. Release quickly. But when she begins to master it hold a few seconds so she can get the big release. In time she will soften, and soften and give you beautiful neck stretch and release.
Next Withers Rock. This exercise releases the shoulders, neck and spine and aids in free flowing movement and balance.
Stand beside your horse both hands resting on the withers and gently wiggle, not moving the horse, just wiggling her withers. Then start over and ever so gently rock her back and forth about 5 times. We are not looking for big movement, just enough to see her shift her body but not her feet. Think a swaying motion, but less.
Next  Shoulder Circles. This exercise releases tension in the shoulders, chest, neck and withers, and creates soft fluid strides and increases body awareness, balance and posture.
Hold her leg about at the knee and fetlock (my left hand should be nearer her or on her knee) and do about 5 small gentle circles left and right. Allow no movement in the knee as this could cause damage; we are looking for movement in the shoulder. Be sure to stay under her shoulder, don't pull it toward you. Notice Kessy's lowered head enjoying the release.When finished set her foot down, don't drop it. Remember to do both sides.

These relax, release and body, foot and posture awareness exercises I learned while working with my mentor Diane Sept for nearly a decade. From Diane, a "Senior Certified Connected Riding Instructor ®," I learned the techniques of Peggy Cummings, Connected Riding and Ground Work® and Linda Tellington Jones, Tellington TTouch Training ™. I highly recommend their training and books. In their books you'll find these and many more excellent exercises.

Tomorrow, in Pt 3 we'll look at a few exercises for the hind legs and body posture and correct soft carriage.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry 

You can read Pt 1 HERE 

You can read Pt 3 HERE   

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"Pt 1-Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse"

Howdy Friends!

In 4 days Kessy I can ride again! Our last trail adventure was Sunday April 27, then we got interrupted by my cardiac adventure. When a horse has been idle for that long, even though she has 24/7 turnout in a modified Paddock Paradise track system, I don't believe you should just saddle up and go. It's important for the health of your horse to get them back in shape for rides; a horse looses its cardio fitness in about 30 days, muscles about the same, and tendon, bone in about 90 days. I've started Kessy's restart 2 weeks ago with the carrot stretches, and shared them on our Coffee Clutch blog.

This weekend I started relax, release and body, foot and posture awareness exercises. Ravishin' Robbie took some photos and I'll be writing a series of posts to share them with you. Our first rides next week will be 15 – 20 minutes over the same course I walked for my cardio rehab. The following week we'll add time, and a little terrain change. The week after that we'll add more distance and more terrain change. It takes about 30 days to get a horse minimally fit … when I trained for CTC and Endurance I learned it takes 60 days for cardio, 90 – 120 for muscle and a year for bone and tendon to condition. Kessy and I hope you'll enjoy our Coffee Clutch series, "Restarting, Conditioning, and Great Exercises For Your Horse."

We'll start by reviewing, over 3 days, relax, release and body, foot and posture awareness exercises I learned while working with my mentor Diane Sept for nearly a decade. From Diane, a "Senior Certified Connected Riding Instructor ®," I learned the techniques of Peggy Cummings, Connected Riding and Ground Work® and Linda Tellington-Jones, Tellington TTouch Training ™. I highly recommend their training and books. In their books you'll find these and many more excellent exercises.

The exercises we'll discuss and explore are excellent for restarting a horse, but I recommend them as part of everyday routines for all horses. We will cover more than you need to do every day, but some of them I do faithfully before I tack up, every time, no exception. In time you'll learn to hear your horse when she tells you which ones she really needs. Also all the exercises, about a dozen, are the basis for what I call my, "Therapy For Therapy Horses," clinics.

Today's exercises I call The Top-Line exercises I do before I tack up, always. It's important to note, always do these ground tied or in a stall so the horse is free to move. Have no hay or grass in your exercise area, you want them focused on you and their release. Do not discipline during exercises as that will short circuit any release. Be sure to watch for and allow sighs, licks and chews. Your horse may ask for a little walk to absorb these new feelings, walk them if they ask for a minute, then begin again … We'll start with the "Poll Wiggle."
 Poll Wiggle - Gently support her head by holding the halter, place your fingertips around the poll, and watch for the release, as you wiggle gently. I always start with this, and it is great to do anytime. It will also help calm a horse anytime.
Next is a series of TTellington TTouch circles along the back and rump, both sides. You can also do them on each side of the neck.
The circles are the size of a quarter, moving clockwise with your fingertips of one hand, resting the palm for support, your hand cupped, letting your fingertips do the work. Picture a quarter size clock face, start at 6 move to 9, 12, 3 back to 6 and on to 9 and stop there, making a circle and a quarter. Slide your hand about 2 inches and do the next circle, and so on. Pressure is gentle, just enough to move the skin. Make a series of circles all along the back, out over the rump and down the meaty part of the thigh, both sides, your line is about 3 inches from the spine. Always make connection with both hands; you see my left hand resting. When finished, lay both hands flat and gently drag them over your tracks. (I often do this one first out in the field before I even halter Kessy)
Next the Vertebrae Wiggle.
Starting at the Poll, using your fingertips, grasp each vertebrae and wiggle each one a time or two. Imagine holding the vertebrae in your fingers and moving one hand away from you while pulling the other to you so it wiggles. Proceed all the way down the neck, across the back, over the croup (I know you can't feel the spine here, pretend you can) and down the tail –
where the wiggle in the tail is up and down not back and forth. If your horse clamps her tail, gently slide your fingers under her tail and tickle until she lifts it. In time this will not be an issue. Also many horses hold much of their tension in their tails and you must be very gentle, this will ease that tension, and relax the entire horse in a way that is lasting.

Next the Tail Pull Belly/Back Lift.

Grasp the tail about midpoint and by bending your knees pull slowly, steadily and firmly, being very careful to stay on the angle of her butt, and hold the pressure a few seconds as she tightens her rump, engages her abdomen and raises her back. Then release Very Slowly.
Next the Belly/Back lift.

Standing beside your horse, reach under exactly in the middle, front to rear and side to side and with your fingernails, in a slow steady motion, apply pressure until she engages her abdomen and lifts her back. Hold this for a few second and release SLOWLY … Note, this exercise MUST be done AFTER all the Top-Line release exercise are completed, not before or as a lone exercises. In time when your horse is released, and used to carrying herself in proper released and relaxed posture, you can do the Belly/Back Lift anytime, and should do it often.
Kessy and I hope you'll make these easy to do exercises part of your routine. Tomorrow we'll move into a few great body release and relax exercises.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry  

You can read Pt 2 HERE

Monday, August 25, 2014

Grandpop – "Of Course I love My Country, I'm Just Not Sure I Recognize It Anymore."

Howdy Friends,

They told me at the house Grandpop had saddled ol' Blue and set out on a moon light trek to the campsite. That's all I needed to know something was bothering him. It was a two hour ride to the knob Grandpop called the campsite, and neither he nor Blue should make that trip alone, and certainly not by the light of a sliver of a moon. I hustled to the pastures behind the barn, caught the first horse I could, saddled in a hurry and rode out. Clouds covered the moon and I couldn't see the ground my horse trod over. But miles away I saw the tiny flicker of a campfire on the knob.

Most every horse Grandpop kept in his remuda knew the way to the knob. The knob was Grandpop's second favorite place on the ranch; he and Mom had picnicked there countless times and, until her final year, always celebrated their anniversary with a campfire taking in the view. His favorite place was anywhere he sat a horse. In recent years his trips to the knob had lessened, but every horse had been there dozens of times over the years. The last time I'd been to the knob was a year or so ago when Grandpop took a young reporter who had come to write a story about Grandpop and the ranch. I gave my horse a friendly pat on his neck, "You know the way, take your time old fellow. Watch your step but get us up there, gotta check in on Grandpop."

The final assent wound its way ever steeper between boulders, trees and drop offs. I offered no direction to my horse, he knew every step to take without interference from me. I chuckled when I remembered that reporter, all jealous of Grandpop's ranch, so certain someone had stacked the deck to give Grandpop an easy route to success, because that's how he "knew" things happened. I chuckled again when I remembered what Grandpop had told him as he guided the city fellow in the art of campfire building, and self reliance – "These days there's too much talk about some folks havin' more than others and being angry and jealous about it. There's an old cowboy sayin' … God put the firewood in the woods for everybody, it's up to each of us to gather it and build our campfire. That's the story you should write, young fella."
Grandpop's silhouette by the fire greeted us as we broke into the clearing. Without words, he tipped his hat and motioned for me to join him. I tied my horse next to ol' Blue, and settled onto the carved log bench across the fire from him. He tossed a split chunk of wood onto the fire sending sparks and crackles high. From the pile of freshly split wood I figured he'd worked out at least some of his frustrations. But by his silent stare out over the black valley below, I knew not all sat square with him.

"Sometimes I have a hard time figurin' out the new way of thinkin', Son." He pulled his hat and shoved gnarled fingers through his thin gray hair. His eyes sparkled with light from the dancing flames. His stooped shoulders told of decades of hard work. I knew he wasn't looking for a comment from me. I knew he was hurting.

"I lost a lot of friends over there fighting for what we thought was right. Fighting to protect freedom. Your mom and I tried our best to be good parents, good stewards of the land, and good citizens. Honor, respect, love for our country, Son, they used to mean things."

I watched his eyes as he spoke. I couldn't tell if the shine in them was firelight, or tears.

"I can't wrap my brain around this idea of our country being the cause of problems all over the world. Can't almost tolerate watchin' the news anymore, ruckus in the streets, folks hating each other. College professors and school teachers teachin' the youngins ours is an evil country that steals from every other country. Young'ins bein' taught what to think, not how to think. This group hatin' that group, and far too many folks who don't even know the meaning of respect, and love of country. Strangest thing of all to me is all these folks from all over the world breakin' their backs to get here, and folks born here can only see how bad a place it is."

He cradled his face in his hands, sighed then leveled the hardest stare my way I'd seen in years.

"Of course I love my country, I'm just not sure I recognize it anymore … Could be I'm just an old man whose ideas ain't worth much, but I reckon folks better soon figure out a way to love this good ol' United States of America, find some old fashioned patriotic spirit, or it's gonna fade into darkness and wither away like a passing day. Then what are they gonna have … ?"

I had no answer.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

This is the Eleventh in my series of Grandpop stories. I began writing about Grandpop, June 27, 2013, with what at the time I imagined what would be a standalone short story, "Perhaps I've Just Lived Too Long." You can read that story (and find links to go on) (HERE)   Folks said they enjoy visiting with Grandpop, so I wrote more. Frankly, I enjoy him too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"What Is Your Favorite Thing You Do With Your Horse?"

Howdy Friends! 

 What is the one thing you enjoy doing most with your horse?
My favorite thing, just being with her ...

Okay,my second is trail riding, bird and butterfly watching .....

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Paddock Paradise and the Track System For The Health Of Your Horse"

Howdy Friends,

Horses love to move about. Jamie Jackson, after years of studying and observing wild hoses not only gained a vast understanding of the natural way of the horse, and their feet which he was instrumental in bringing to the horse world, but he also learned how horses move in the wild. He put his observations on horse movement, travels, health and habits into his book he titled, "Paddock Paradise," I highly recommend it. You can buy his book here on Amazon – in it he clearly explains his observations and details how anyone, anywhere, can create a track system for their horses. You can also make a lot of friends on the Paddock Paradise facebook page who have implemented this practice for their own horses. (Photos for this story provided by Paddock Paradise FB)
One of the many things Jamie observed, noted and proved, was that horses left to their own choices in the wild, move in regular tracks. They have well established routes, or tracks, for grazing areas, watering, resting, foraging and even playing, and they don't graze in lush grass, they nibble and browse, while moving. It is these known facts that he incorporated into his idea of Paddock Paradise, and many folks have adopted. I believe it is the most natural and healthiest way to house and keep a horse.
You can see the trails the horses made between hay stations as they roam freely on Joe Willis' Paddock Paradise in CA. Looks fun and natural, because it is.
The track system goes hand in hand with maintaining a barefoot horse's feet, strong, beautiful, and healthy. Movement is a key ingredient to the barefoot paradigm, and nothing I have ever seen encourages movement like the track system. Lush grass, lazy grazing is as unnatural to a horse as couch potato sitting and gorging is to humans … but we lazy humans force it on our horses, and then wonder about a plethora of health issues. Stalls, barns and shoes are a human convenience, not a horse first philosophy.

Beatiful PP in Finland!
Many times folks say, "It looks too inconvenient or expensive to set up." To that I say, in the long run, and even the not so long run, it will be far less expensive than vet bills, injuries, and anguish – the person's and the horse's – and missed riding and competing dates due to injuries. Yes the track system works for shod as well as barefoot horses … and folks who know me know I believe every horse should be barefoot. One very wrong answer to the "too much grass" syndrome is to confine their horses in stalls, use frustrating grazing muzzles, small paddocks or "sacrifice" lots. Rubbish all. None of these things are either natural to a horse, or healthy to their bodies or minds. Let the horses roam at will, I say.
Just strolling along because we want to and can!
Paddock Paradise, or the track system, incorporates every aspect of a horse's natural and instinctive urge and desire to be on the move. Explained briefly, the track system is a track 10 to 20 feet wide inside your already existing big pasture, (which may have too much grass) with various footings such as dirt, pea gravel and rocks. Also incorporated within the track are wide places for play, sleeping and rolling, as well as various hay feeding stations and watering locations, and run ins, strategically placed to encourage movement. Many folks add mud holes, streams and bridges to help their horses overcome issues, or just for fun.

Your track can be any design that fits your land, plan, and budget. I once saw a terrific track on an acre and a half rocky, grassy hillside that offered long winding trails instead of just a useless hang out spot.
Many folks incorporate this kind of feeding stations in their tracks. Simply pound in a heavy tee-fence post, cover with PVC pipe and cap and hang a slow hay feed net. Several locations around the routes make it fun for the horses and keeps them energized and moving.
Many folks, when they set up their first track, simply use step in posts with electric fence, easy and very affordable, and if the horses escape the track, they're still within the original pasture. Of course the original grass pasture can be opened for limited grazing with far less risk of over eating and all the health problems associated with the high sugar content of most pasture and field grasses.
Here is a good example of a field that is conducive to creating all sorts of health problems, but can easily be turned into a Paddock Paradise by simply running a track system around the border full of entertaining obstacles, watering and feeding stations.
Another common rejection to creating the track system is, "We have all this grass and we can't afford to not use it." Some folks then bale it or even graze a few cows on it. Sometimes it takes years for the symptoms of sugar related health issues to show up in horses, but don't be fooled, eventually symptoms are likely to occur – often not connected to the true cause of too much grass and not enough movement.

Track design for Paddock Paradise for boarding facility in Afton NY. Wouldn't it be fabulous if every boarding facility created track systems and did away with stalls, barns and paddocks?
The Paddock Paradise, and track system is the easiest, best choice for maintaining a healthy horse and healthy hooves. Combined with proper all forage diet, limited vaccinations and very limited chemical de-worming (I recommend fecal counts, have not wormed Kessy chemically for 3 years, I do use herbs though), the track system will create rock crushing hooves, and a happy healthy horse.
Look at these naturally happy hooves! - This horse roaming happily in his Paddock Paradise in CA suffered from acute laminitis in'05. You would never know it now. Absolutely curable and preventable.
For the health and happiness of horses everywhere it is my hope many more people begin to see horse care from the horse's perspective.

Don't forget to incorporate the wide places for rolling and napping.
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"For A Beautiful Barefoot Trim – Keep It Simple"

Howdy Friends,

Kessy's never had shoes in her twelve years. She came to me at seven with a few issues. I trim her feet every three weeks, I feel for healthy bare feet most horses are best served with a three or four week schedule. The eight or ten week schedule is far too long and can encourage flares and stretching of the lamina or white line. Yes there are some horses that can go much longer, Pete Ramey says in his book he has one who needs trimming only twice a year, but for most horses and situations I feel three weeks is best. I maintain Kessy's feet with a sharp rasp, do all the shaping from the top down, holding the rasp on a good angle so we get the good bevel, or mustang roll, as Jamie Jackson calls it. In full disclosure the photos in this story were taken after Morgan Whitmer trimmed Kessy, she has been for the past three trimmings while I heal up from heart surgery. Every thought in this story comes from what I've read, seen and experienced, and by that formed my own opinion. I share my thoughts with the hope some folks may benefit, but they are my thoughts so feel free to disregard.
Kessy's fronts after trim. Look good right? She's such a great gal ... Now look closely you'll see on both front feet a faint line running up from sole, in the center of her toe, to the hair line. Her feet, while barefoot, had not been properly maintained before she moved in with me, and back then she had flares, chips and long toes. She also had thrush right there in the center of her toe on both feet, and two of those famous cracks. I cleaned it and packed it with cotton soaked in diluted batadine, stuffing the cotton up with a nail, for months until it grew out. But see the damage it left behind.
While rasping, from the top down, I only work on the area to bevel, and angle my rasp to get that nice bevel of about ¾ of an inch. I never rasp down over the entire hoof to "clean it up," as we see so often, that removes precious live material important for sealing, growth and hoof health. I look at the sole before I start, clean it with a brush, not a hoof knife.
Kessy's hinds post trim. It took me 6 months to get her hind toes correct.
Another opinion I have is we clean our hoofs far too often and thereby strip away important live tissues put there to guard against disease and infection. If the horse has room to roam with pea gravel or other hard surface she will keep her feet clean, and healthy. I think I clean Kessy's feet twice a year with a hoof pick, some years not that often. From the bottom I judge toe length, heel growth, balance, heel bars etc. I only trim the bars if they are long enough to fold over, which is rare for me indeed.
Kessy's RH bottom post trim.Don't you love that sole and frog?! No nippers or hoof knife will touch this sole.
The view from the bottom tells me most of what I need to do. Then I set her foot down have a look at balance, position and angle, and start rasping at the toe. The toe is my guide as, if the horse is well maintained, she will always tell you where it should be by wear. No more than one third of the hoof should be in front of the apex of the frog.
Measuring Kessy's LF we see her hoof is 5 inches - her frog apex is 3 and 5/8 leaving exactly one third of her foot ahead of the frog apex. Perfect. Be sure to check this on your horse.
If the bottom inspection tells me the heels are slightly out of balance, or a flare wants to start (which is never in my case, but wanted to mention because often a flare will tip its hand on the bottom before even showing an angle change on the hoof wall.) I angle my rasp even more sharply in those areas to thin the wall more there so she can wear away the wall that needs to go, and shape her hoof naturally in a way best for her. Now it goes without saying the horse must have room to roam, not a 20 by 20 paddock or stall, but that's a story for another time.

And that’s about all I do. I do not trim the frog, or pare or scrape the sole. That again removes precious live, or dead tissue, there for a reason. It will wear away naturally when she moves about. I rasp the wall even with the sole so she walks as designed on her sole, not her hoof wall. That helps prevent that ugly black line around sole and hoof wall which can allow disease and infection into the lamina, and of course allows the suspensory tissues within the foot to remain tough, vigorous and strong and not weekend by excessive stretching ... and builds rock tough soles.
Here you can see the arch in Kessy's RH hoof wall.
One last thought about rasping only from the top down and following the hoof, in that way I can maintain the natural arch in Kessy foot. Yes the hoof wall does and must have an arch, something that cannot be maintained by rasping flat across the bottom of the foot.

Of course trimming is only one part of a healthy barefoot horse. Housing, exercise, diet and health care all are equally important. I've thought about writing this little story for a while now because there seems to be a lot of folks making barefoot trimming too complicated. It's not. Keep it simple, leave the bottom and soles alone ... And as Pete Ramey says, "Take care of the toes and the heels will take care of themselves." I recommend both Pete Ramey and Jamie Jackson's books.
Kessy says thanks and have a fun day.
 Have a wonderful barefoot time and Gitty Up, Dutch Henry