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

Monday, August 11, 2014

"A Few Polite Touches For A Pushy Horse"

Howdy Friends,
We've all seen horses crowd, drag, or push their person when being led. I chuckle sometimes when I see folks follow the pace set by their horse as they are dragged along. I frown when I see them yank on the lead and yell at their horse. I feel sorry for them when they get stepped on, because neither of them knows where they are supposed to do, or their job. It simply does not need to be.

We are responsible for setting boundaries. Not by discipline or heavy handedness, but by simple politeness, consistency and thoughtfulness. Horses do not violate boundaries because they want to be bad, unruly or "pushy." The violate boundaries because their caregiver never set them, politely.

If you think about it pushy horses follow exactly the boundaries set by their person. If each time a horse is haltered and led it drags their person, dances, steps on their feet and pushes them through the gate, well, when the halter goes on and they set out the horse has to think, "Okay time to drag, push, dance, and I gotta be sure to try for her feet." It's never the horse's fault, they are well within the boundaries set by their person.
Kessy demonstrating the polite way to halter.
I once asked a friend, "Do you know why your horse holds her head so high when you try to halter her?" She replied, "No, tell me, I hate this." I said, "That's how high you can reach." – Think about it seriously, any horse can lift their head higher than we can reach. If they can learn to hold their head at our highest limit, as they've been taught, does it not make sense they can also learn to hold their head waist high for halter and bridle? Sure it does. Our horses happily learn everything we teach them. They also learn from us to be rude, and pushy, just like us.

Now let's talk about the pushy horse on lead. Easy to fix, politely, in one lesson. I like to work on the off-side whenever I'm fixing anything, or introducing something new. It heightens a horse's attention. Remember, we can never control any horse by the halter and lead rope. Ever. So forget about that. The halter is simply a gentle guide. I don't like the word control, anyway, so let's talk about guiding the horse, into their space, into our pace, and into softness and politeness.

For this exercise, which will become an all the time exercise for a really long time, you'll need a light dressage wand, or the new popular light bamboo wand. Not a crop, which is too short and stiff, or a lunge whip which is too long. I don't recommend the carrot stick, which is great for a lot of things, but for this they are too long and too heavy – the heaviness will tighten your arm and shoulder and alter your body language.
Kessy and Saturday help demonstrate leading. The wand sets the boundaries, the halter is just a gentle guide.
Stand on the off-side, between her ears and shoulder; hold the lead rope in your left hand, your hand just about a foot or less from the halter. Hold the wand in your right hand, across your middle to a few inches in front of your horse's chest. It is important to stand square, shoulders and eyes looking where you are going, not at the horse. It is sometimes helpful to practice this stance, position and walk alone with the rope and wand, just to master the feel of it before trying it with a horse.

Ask your horse to, "walk on," and start walking, holding the wand a few inches in front of her chest. Eyes straight ahead. Your left hand is light on the rope, no pulling, or constraining, the wand and your thoughts send the directions ... You may need to, ever so slightly, tap her chest, not hit it, until she figures it out. Stay soft. In time, usually not much time at all, you'll need only to hold wand the in front of her chest and never touch her. The pushy, rude horse will never again be seen. As long as you clearly, gently and respectively set the boundaries. And remain consistent.

One last thing, most horses become pushy because they are heavy on their forehand. Leading this way, every time, all the time, helps fix that. I suggest you also master the, "Rock Back," and add it to your daily routine ... Stand beside your ground tied horse, facing her, and very gently touch her chest and ask her to, "rock back." Not to take a step back but to simply shift her weight to her hind end, where it belongs. If she steps back, she'll stay on her forehand. Be soft, look for only a tiny movement at first. After a few days she'll get it and you'll wonder where this polite, light footed, soft and confident horse came from.
Kessy loves the "rock back" - just a gentle touch on the chest to shift her weight off her forehand. It creates proper body carriage, sure and light footedness, and promotes overall sound health.
So there you go an easy way to help your horse understand boundaries, and correct body carriage, politely. Kessy and I hope you have fun with it. Remember consistency works like magic.

Giddy Up ~ Dutch Henry