Friday, January 4, 2013

FEATURE FRIDAY-Megan Hensley–From Farrier to Holistic Hooves

Howdy Folks,

"What am I doing wrong?" Megan Hensley was relieved when they fired her. The horse had been diagnosed Navicular very lame, and the wedge was not working. She looked at those hooves, feeling defeated because she did not know what else to do, but she knew, just knew, the 4 degree wedge wasn’t the answer and she refused. She was relieved when they fired her but cried for the horse. At that moment, tears washing down her face, Megan decided she would do no more therapeutic shoeing. Megan transferred all her clients who wore eggbars, wedges, any type of specialty shoe to one of her colleagues. It cut her business by more than half. But the ongoing pain she saw and felt in the horse's eyes would not allow her to be part of the universe that promoted that kind of insanity. The myth of healing through hurting.

That was 2009 and Megan had been enjoying a thriving business as a "Therapeutic and Corrective” farrier who specialized in difficult cases. She was though, beginning to feel increasingly frustrated. She felt as if she was charging people large sums of money to apply prescription shoeings for thin walls, crushed heels, Navicular, laminitis, contracted hooves, white line disease and other “mystery” problems, and it wasn't helping. She could not think of one horse where any of these things ever showed long term improvement. The materials were very expensive and the work hard. She remembered one lady near tears because there was no way she could continue to afford the corrective shoeing, for laminitis and she had to have her horse put down. It broke Megan's heart.

Megan & Jerico
She was left with all the ponies, donkeys, and basic shoes all around, and just fronts, plus all the horses who just got trims. It was a huge relief. Megan knows now this was all part of her transition she was going to make. She continued on doing her work. She loved her clients dearly, but there was a part of her that still felt bad for letting all those horses go. She so wanted to help them, but didn't know how. Megan began noticing the difference in the bare hooves of clients she only trimmed; they seemed never to be lame. Then there were the horses who only wore front shoes. It was as if they had completely different hooves front and back.

Then one of her most favorite clients, Haley Bop who wore only front shoes began to show lameness on her front.  Her owner talked Megan into just putting a flat pad under her shoes. They did this for several shoeings, but Haley Bop declined rapidly... She dreaded taking her to vet, because they both knew what the diagnosis would be ... Navicular!  Sure enough, that is exactly what they said. The vet wanted Megan to wedge her, and give Haley Bop joint injections...  Haley Bop's owner opted for the joint injections but not the wedges and kept the pads on her.

The injections Haley Bop received provided slight comfort for only a very short time. Then they began Buting her almost every day. "It was awful. We were both just devastated!" Megan said. She worried they would put Haley Bop down … Megan again felt defeated, and the old pains of guilt revisited her about all the horses she seemed unable to help. She wondered if her shoeing was making Haley Bop lame. Megan seriously considered leaving shoeing altogether, just trim a few horses and get another job.

Just then a client loaned Megan “The Soul of a Horse” by Joe Camp. As she read the book Megan felt an emotional relief. A wave of energy swept over her. She read the book in two days and went straight to Pete Ramey's website. There she found Pete's article "Digging for the truth on Navicular." She read that article over and over. "My mind was reeling," Megan said. "I was thinking this is it! THIS IS IT!!! Why didn’t I see it sooner? Of course, that’s why the horses I just trim have better hooves!" Megan watched Pete's DVDs, studied all he had to say on booting and trimming Navicular horses.

Haley Bop had taken a turn for the worse and had been lying down for several days. Megan shared all the new information she'd just learned with Haley Bop's owner who eagerly said, "Let's do it!" We were down to the wire and Hayley Bop’s life was on the line.

"The day I pulled Haley Bop’s shoes was the best day ever!! It was incredible," Megan said. "She was so relieved and began to show immediate improvement. She has made a near complete recovery. She is my inspiration, and has been great teacher! Haley Bop is how I KNOW this is the right thing."

"Haley Bop is how I KNOW this is the right thing. I've now been doing this work for the last year and a half and it has been the most fulfilling thing ever. I have helped more horses than I ever did as a farrier. It breathed new life into me, and I have become so passionate about this work. I just can't keep my mouth shut.  It's all I talk about, and read about, I wake up every day since then and feel like I finally found my truth, what I am supposed to be doing for horses." Said Megan.

Spicy & Megan
Megan has totally transformed her business to Barefoot Trim only, and since Haley Bop she has saved 5 more horses who suffered with Navicular and had been recommended for euthanasia. "I feel like I can finally make up for the times I wasn't able to help. Yet I know that experience makes this even more important. I know what doesn't work. I've been there."

Megan is working hard to spread the word on how we can truly help horses. She campaigns daily on Facebook, started a page called Holistic Hooves devoted to helping folks discover the true way to help horses. She posts on as many blogs and pages as she can find. Megan is devoted to getting this message out and devoted to helping folks understand how easy it is to have healthy hooves. She frequently speaks on local radio, at Expos and other venues and does demonstrations at Wellness Clinics. She also started an apprentice program teaching students the Barefoot Trim, who can go out and teach others, thus spreading the word.

Megan also recently started offering rehabilitation services at her farm. Folks can send their horse to Megan and she'll work with them, trimming, exercising, booting, and feeding, in a natural lifestyle environment.

Megan knows that horses are great teachers. "I frequently ask my clients what can your horse teach you? Especially lameness cases. Where is the gift in this situation?  When I work with a client and horse in a barefoot rehabilitation, I see transformation in the horse, but also the caregiver. When we are experiencing pain, fear, or stress there's a great opportunity for growth and healing.  As they become more educated they become more empowered. It is a beautiful thing. I am constantly inspired by this work, the people, and the horses. Instead of fighting old ways of doing things we are simply allowing the new to rise through us. I know horses can help us raise our consciousness."

Thank you Megan and Haley Bop for helping so many to understand.

Visit Megan here on Facebook-

Find Joe Camp's book, Soul Of A Horse - Here -

Visit Pete Ramey's Website Here -

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"How Can I Transition to Barefoot?"

Howdy Folks,

Yesterday I shared a few thoughts on the healthy reasons to go barefoot. Of course in one blog post, even a long one, not everything could be covered, but I hope I hit the most important reasons; Nutrients and blood flow, Shape of the hoof, Horses see with their feet, Shock absorption and Traction.

Diablo & Dutch

As I said yesterday I owe my understanding of the health benefits to the horse by going barefoot to my mentor, Diane Sept. And folks she'll tell you, I was not an easy convert. But she's patient, kind and really very knowledgeable. I think back now of a few of the horses in my past and wonder if they may have fared better, had she won that battle with me sooner. One magnificent horse in particular, my Diablo. A Spotted Saddle horse who began his career long before I met him, in the show ring dealing with those horrible shoeing and other practices designed to "Make A Gaited Horse Gait."  That's a topic for another day ... But Diablo was a tremendous horse who developed such bad arthritis in his front ankles that a month before his tenth birthday he was unable to even stand ... I wonder often, had I allowed him to go barefoot from the day we met, would he have had a longer life?

Is it easy to transition a horse from shoes to barefoot?  I say YES! We have any number of safe, easy to put on, and suitable for anything you want to do with your horse, hoof boots. Hoof boots have made much progress, are available everywhere and not only hold up well, but will save you money compared to shoeing.  Many Endurance riders use boots on 100 mile rides.

How do you go about the transition? I say jump right in, the water's lovely.  You horse will think so too. Today there are great resources and folks out there to help you. If you've not found a barefoot trimmer you can even search the web for "Certified Barefoot Trimmer." Aside from my mentor Diane, the main resource for me were the books of Jamie Jackson, whom I credit with really being the fellow who first shined the light on the benefits of going barefoot, and Pete Ramey .  Pete has on his website much valuable information and a link to help you find a trimmer. Another wonderful resource is, Joe Camp Joe has on his website a link to help you find a trimmer and a list of 10 EXCELLENT QUESTIONS to ask before hiring a trimmer. Our "Feature Friday" tomorrow will be Megan Hensley of Holistic Hooves, she too is a wealth of information. A great magazine by Yvonne Welz -THE HORSE'S HOOF will guide to many more resources.

First know it is natural to take some time. Depending on the horse it could take 6 months, a year, or no time at all. Please don't let that stop you. From the moment you pull those shoes your horse will begin to enjoy the benefits of better health. And you could be going along smoothly right from the start, even as the hooves change. The first hoof to grow out takes about a year. The second re-growth will come in with a greater density. And of course during this time, use hoofboots as you need them. As I said earlier there are a good number of quality hoofboots to choose from. The most important thing with the boots is to size them correctly and every manufacturer I've seen has easy to follow directions for that. But you can, and should be riding all along, and don't use the boots all the time. I've transitioned horses without the use of boots at all. Trimming a barefoot hoof is different than a farrier just pulling shoes and letting a bare hoof hit the ground. Be sure to find a barefoot practioner who understands this. 

When the shoes are first pulled and your horse seems to be, "Ouchy." What is happening is blood is flowing into the hoof and awakening nerves that had been shut down. Too many times folks mistake this for thinking their horse cannot go without shoes, so they put them back. With shoes back, they appear to be sound again when really all that's happened is the nerves have been blood starved again so the foot has lost the ability to feel again. It's not sound, it's numb. Give it time, in a few days it'll work out.

Put your horse out in the yard or pasture. Make sure she has plenty of room to move about, pump that blood. That's very important! If you see her picking her way along a soft route at first, keep an eye on it, but that is perfectly natural. She knows what she's doing and she's beginning to see with her feet again. There is a lot going on. Allow it to happen. Remember her feet are just beginning to wake up. It may not hurt as much as just feel strange to her. Put her hay at several different locations so she's encouraged to walk about. 

Don't be afraid to ride. Riding is important to the transition. Use boots at first if you must. But here I'd like to say as you go down the trail, let her select the path she feels best about. If she wants to go along the edge where there is grass or soft earth, let her. As time goes on and her feet harden, that'll change.

I hope I've encouraged you if you're thinking about giving your horse the health and freedom of going barefoot. I realize I did not give a grand outline. There isn't one. Just surround yourself, and your horse with supporters, not doubters, check out the websites I've listed here, and others you will find, and listen to your horse ... Perhaps I could have listened to Diablo.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry
Please also read "Why Barefoot"

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Why Barefoot?"

Howdy Folks,

I had a catchier title in mind, but by golly "Why Barefoot" seems to ask the most important question. The answer is of course, it's best for the horse. There you go. That's it. I could stop there and have my shortest blog-post ever, but you know me so I'll go on a bit. First I need to thank my mentor, Diane Sept for opening my mind to the health benefits and well being of allowing horses to go barefoot. The health benefits you might ask? How can a hoof, unprotected by a steel or aluminum shoe be healthy for a horse? I'll give a few thoughts as I've learned them over the years.
narrow weak frog in shod foot
nice big healthy frog in barefoot horse
Nutrients and blood flow. By design the blood flow through the hoof - and leg, tendons and muscles for that matter - is aided by the natural expansion and contraction of the hoof as it contacts and raises off the ground. Contact causes expansion of the hoof, lifting allows contraction. Think of it as a syringe sucking up fresh blood loaded with oxygen and nutrients as you pull back the plunger, and then squirting out the stale blood loaded with toxins and depleted of oxygen as you depress the plunger, sending it back through the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs to be refreshed, cleansed and oxygen enriched to begin the cycle all over again ... Nailing shoes on the hoof greatly retards the ability of the hoof to perform this all necessary and vital function by preventing the hoof from expanding and contracting properly ... That's why you see hooves that look flaky and full of tiny cracks, frogs that are narrow, misshapen and weak. And soles that are hard, cracked and lifeless. These hooves are STARVED for nutrients and loaded with toxins they have no way of shedding because the hoof cannot operate as designed ... I suppose these poor starved, lifeless hooves are the reason for the huge industry out there of feed supplements for healthy hooves (which can hardly get there anyway if the hoof pump isn't working) and the products to paint and smear on the hoof to make the flakes and cracks go away, or hide them. Why not simply remove the shoes so the horse can heal its hooves without all those chemicals and save you money, too?

unhealthy shod foot, high heel, wrong angle
pretty barefoot hoof, good angle, good length
Shape of the hoof.  There is simply no way for a hoof to enjoy the healthy confirmation it was designed to have with a shoe nailed, or glued to it. For one thing, when farriers prepare a hoof for a shoe they file the bottom of the walls flat. Horses' hoof walls are not flat on the bottom by natural design; they have an arch, much like our own foot. The toe and heel of the hoof wall will touch the ground while the center of the hoof wall will be slightly raised, only touching the ground as the hoof is in motion. This natural action and flexing is greatly harmed by the restriction of the shoe, causing the foot to smack the ground more like a club than a graceful dancer's foot. 

Shape of the hoof, continued. Typically shod hooves have longer, or higher heals, and too often longer toes than is healthy for the horse. These incorrect and unhealthy conditions greatly change the angle of the pastern, ankle, leg and shoulder causing discomfort and excessive wear and tear on many other joints and muscles throughout the body ... Of course there's another entire industry out there ready to take your money and pollute your horse's bloodstream with supplements for stiff joints and achy muscles. Why not give nature a try first through healthy hooves? 

Horses see with their feet. Yes that's right. Horses have a wonderful way of seeing the ground through their hooves, which is why when you ride a barefoot horse, stumbling, missteps and over reaching are rare things indeed. With shoes nailed to the feet, and blood flow restricted, it's like tying a blindfold on their feet. They really just don't know where their own feet are and are compensating with other senses not designed to focus so heavily on foot placement. 

Shock absorption. The hoof is the primary instrument of shock absorption for the entire horse's body. Through natural flexing, expansion and contraction the hoof absorbs the shock of the hoof striking the ground. The shoe not only prohibits that natural and vital function, but it instantly sends the shock up through the body where it must be absorbed by joints, bones, muscles and tendons not designed as shock absorbers, causing excessive wear and tear, and pain ... There is though, that helpful industry out there to sell you supplements and pain medicine for your horse, caused by that shock transference. And there's even "Corrective Shoeing" available for helping with those injuries. For me, "Corrective Shoeing" feels like an oxymoron. 

Traction. A healthy hoof has a wide, long frog offering its support to both shock absorption and traction. Healthy hooves will grip the ground and snow very effectively. And you won't have those snowballs forming inside the steel shoe. I submit even on paved road the natural, healthy hoof has wonderful traction, and in years past I too believed you needed shoes with borium or studs to travel safely on paved roads. I will tell you that is not the case, barefoot horses can and do travel safely and sure footed on paved roads.

So, "Why Barefoot?" … I still think the best answer to that question is, "it's best for the horse." Please join us tomorrow for some helpful thoughts on how to make the transition from shod to barefoot.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 
Please also read - "How Can I Transition to Barefoot?"

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"HAPPY NEW YEAR! Resolutions, Traditions and Superstitions"

Howdy Folks,

Well here we are at the beginning of a brand new year. Does it seem to you that 2012 went by really fast? I heard once that as we get older the years go by faster and faster ... Am I the only one who thinks we now have one week of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter? Or is that my age speaking?  They say when we're younger time goes slower because each period of time is a larger portion of our lives, and as we accumulate years and decades each segment, or season, is a tinier piece of the whole. Thereby giving us the, "Fly By" sensation.

Another common held belief is whatever you do on New Year's Day you'll do all year. That's why Ravishin' Robbie and I are always sweet to each other all day long, with plenty of kissin' mixed in. And you know what? It's pretty much that way all year for us so I reckon there must be some truth in that old saying.

I also make sure I ride a little on New Year's Day. Gosh some years I've gone on marathon New Year's Day rides. But that could be a story all its own ... "Really Long and Cold New Year's Ride, Because We Got Really Lost," or some title along those lines.  But Kessy and I will head out for at least a short adventure today.

Being PA Dutch we always have Pork and Sauerkraut on New Year's Day, for good luck you see. I think that one holds true too. At least we have pork and sauerkraut every year on New Year's day not wanting to chance it … The Good Luck thing … Do we have it every year because we have pork and sauerkraut every year? You know that, "Whatever you do on New Year's Day thing?" … It could be tied in with that, couldn't it? Well, anyway, we do. Eat pork and sauerkraut every New Year's Day, I mean. And Robbie still loves me, so isn't that about the best luck a fellow could have?

Do you make resolutions? … That's one tradition I've never done. Thinking about it, I don't even know why I don't. I just never did. If you do, do you keep them? … Some folks make life changing commitments. But can you only do that on New Year's Day? What if you get a really, really good idea on Jan third? For it to work must you wait 362 days to implement it? Maybe you could mix in a few trial runs throughout the year so when the next New Year's Day rolls around you've got it figured out.

Whatever your traditions and superstitions about New Year's Day, Robbie and I hope you have a blessed and prosperous New Year filled with love and kindness.  Be sure to hug your sweetie, children, pets and of course your horses, send out plenty of Happy New Year wishes, make resolutions, eat pork and sauerkraut and remember to start this New Year off with a heaping helping of love.

God Bless & Gitty Up
Dutch Henry

Monday, December 31, 2012

"Chickens On The Half-Wall"

Howdy Folks,

Tiny rings of frozen fog formed around tips of ice covered branches creating a dancing lace blanket cloaking trees and bushes outside the barn. Tiny droplets of freezing rain continued painting trees and ground alike with a clear and shimmering frosting. Branches began to bow under the added weight. Wind gusts shook the branches sending crystals showering to the ground. Dark clouds formed a heavy gray canvas behind the trees. Cold, dark and windy as it was, there was a glittering beauty to yesterday morning ... Even if the chickens could not appreciate it.

Inside the barn Kessy, Saturday and I were snug and dry. Kessy munched hay, Saturday curled at my feet, I poured my first cup of coffee . Juncos, Cardinals, Chickadees and Doves huddled under low branches as they scratched and pecked at the cracked corn intended for the chickens. The chickens were up and about alright, they just were having nothing to do with the ice show outside. Their house is on the end of the barn and they usually start out just about daybreak flying out the window and to the cracked corn under the bushes, or just take off on what I call their, "search and devour" missions.

The wind and ice had them running late and the Coffee Clutch gang was all settled in before the first rooster braved the freezing drizzle. Finally the first rooster flew out, landed on the shinny, slick ground only to slide a foot or so before regaining its footing. He promptly stood up, shook his wings, paused a second to scowl at the sky, then ran slipping and sliding, squawking with wings flapping into Kessy's barn. Once inside he shook like a soaked dog. I don't think he even noticed Kessy, Saturday and me. 

One by one the other roosters and chickens flew from widow to slippery ice, slid along doing their chicken version "Disco Duck" and half skated, half ran to the safety of the barn. As they gathered around our feet in Kessy's stall, Saturday scampered about saying "Howdy" and doing his best to act as concierge of "Hotel Kessy."

Not willing to let the dark skies win they began to fly up on the half-wall that is the rear of the barn. They often like to sit there a few at a time, but yesterday nearly everyone took the lofty perch and began crowing and clucking at the dripping sky.

Kessy, Saturday the chickens and I enjoyed a noisy (there were 10 roosters crowing) but snug and dry Coffee Clutch as the freezing rain continued to fall. The only thing missing was the song the ice rain played on the tin roof. I'm sure the tune was played, and well played, but the chorus of crows drowned it out. The chickens not on the wall made much ado about searching Kessy's stall, and her hay, for whatever edible morsels may be hidden there. Kessy, the good hostess she is, was polite and even sharing. … It was an all around good Coffee Clutch and start of a great day. We hope yours is perfect too!

Gitty Up
Dutch Henry