Friday, December 21, 2007

Classy & Cricket Update

One week ago, I began a new treatment for both mares, soaking their front hooves in a combination of ingredients I've concocted. In this video, the clips of the mares struggling to walk were taken a few days before I started soaking their hooves, an improved over when the arrived here 2 months ago. But in the last clips you'll can see something different. True, the ground they are moving on is soft, but there certainly seems to be a difference in how they are weighting their front feet. See what you think.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Q & A Abscesses

The following is a question sent to me by a student practitioner, regarding abscesses. Before getting to her question, it’s important to understand that there are 2 types of hoof abscesses.

The most common is the “hoofwall abscess.” It’s been my experience that these happen when there is an opening between the hoof wall and the white line. (Flare is usually the culprit.) If the opening becomes deep enough, debris and bacteria will start making its way up the hoof, under the wall, leaving a trail of dead laminae in its wake. Eventually the abscess will erupt when it gets to the soft tissue of the coronet brand. It leaves a horizontal split, usually about an inch long. Which grows down to the ground as the hoofwall grows. This type of abscess may or may not be painful, but it will almost always become painful just before or as it is erupting, and may cause swelling up the leg.

Below is a hoofwall abscess about 3 months after erupting at coronet band. This apparently didn't cause any sign of lameness. No one had noticed it before I did.

The other type is subsolar. As that name implies, the area between the coffin bone and the sole will become inflamed and filled with blood. This type of abscess can be incredibly painful and can reside beneath the surface of the sole for a very long time. They can be small, or they can be very large taking up residence under the entire sole. I believe these types of abscesses can have a variety of causes, which all lead to flat soles: shoes, or too much time between shoeing and trimming, neglect, or flare, etc. (Note: Shod hooves are typically flared to some degree.)

Subsolar abscesses are often misdiagnosed as founder because the symptoms appear to be the same. The abscess may not be discovered until we trim to it and it erupts and drains. When that happens, depending on the size of the abscess the horse may feel instant relief.

Below is a subsolar abscess after it had revealed itself. This took a few trims to get to. Notice new sole tissue developing. This horse had been diagnosed as founder case and was lame for many years while in shoes. (So she was used for a brood mare.)

While transitioning out of shoes, she remained lame and was in boots. Once the abscess opened and drained, the hoof could finally begin to heal itself. She was well on her way to a new life of soundness, until a vet was called in who advised the owner that natural trimming causes abscessing. The horse was put back into shoes.

Sometimes all we can do is walk away scratching our heads in wonder.

The question:

Just this week, a horse I trimmed about 4-5 weeks ago seems to have gotten an abscess in the pasture. A vet will look at it tomorrow, then I will be there Friday to try to trim. This horse has only had two barefoot trims since having shoes removed. His soles were thin, so I didn't touch the soles so they could get stronger but apparently they still have a ways to go. Any
thoughts on this? I'm pretty bummed about this abscess-- my first to deal with!

My response:

Don't worry about the abscess. Just check back with the owner and ask her to please make sure the vet doesn't dig a big hole into the hoof. They often do that and all it does is set your work back.

Abscessing is part of healing the hoof. They can be harbored up in the shod or neglected hoof for months, sometimes years. We start trimming and suddenly the hoof wakes up! The stimulation caused by the correcting trim, the hoof feeling the ground again, as well as the improved blood circulation and finally it can get rid of those abscesses. I often look at abscessing as a sign of improved hoof health.

But a vet will sometimes come in and dig into a subsolar abscess (S.A.) Most will just explore a little bit, which is okay, but other's think they should dig a hole to the horses elbow. All that does is create a crater in the sole that you have to work toward trimming past. It’s good to explore the S.A., and try to help it drain, but the hoof should determine how much sole material it can exfoliate over time to reveal the area of the abscess. That we shouldn’t rush too much with digging.

Think of a S.A. as a blister. Once the healing can begin new sole material begins to develop under the layer that is shed. It sheds because it’s former attachment to the bone has died. The new sole tissue is quite thin and tender, but as it becomes acquainted with the outside world it will thicken and toughen, just like human skin does as we age.

If you are dealing with this type of abscess, I would just explore it a little and spray with mild iodine. Let it run its course. If the owner is worried about pain, have them ask the vet for something for the temporary pain.

I’ve even heard veterinarians say natural trims cause abscesses. That’s because when you start transitioning, you will often see them. Yes, you do also find them in horses with healthy hooves, that's not unusual - it happens, but there is typically a reason and you will find it if you look for it. Primarily though, a transitioning hoof is where you see them most often.

Sometimes you DO have to touch the soles especially on the first trim. Clean them up at least with a wire brush and see what's there. When we do that we often get to an area that could potentially abscess, open it and keep it from becoming a problem. Always explore every hoof sole and frog, with every trim - to help avoid situations that can develop if you don't.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And another thing...

This is Jake. He's a Quarab. He was a yearling in this photo, but he was club footed when I got him as a weanling. Although I can't prove it with this photo, with corrective trims, he is no longer clubbed.
After thinking about my response to Bill, I have to add a few notes about typical events that we see take place with horses dealing with lameness issues.

When a vet or farrier is called in to evaluate a lame horse that is barefoot. Whether that horse has recently come out of shoes or has been bare for a awhile, the remedial measures taken are typically to put shoes on the horse.

That seems to be the answer to all hoof issues. In fact, I've heard top docs say that if a farrier cannot get shoes to stay on a horse's hoof, and that horse has the unfortunate luck to be a gelding, it may as well be put down. At least a mare with poor hooves can be used for breeding.

The problem with shoeing a horse with lameness issues is that we take a sick hoof, that is trying like hell to heal itself, and put a shoe on it, taking important elements of the hoof even farther out of function.

The argument for doing this is that the horse walks off sound in many cases. Well, of course it does, you've provided a type of support for the hoof that inhibits that laminae and inner structures from feeling pain (that same thing can also be done with a snug pair of Marguis Hoof Boots, btw).

But just because the pain has been masked doesn't mean we've cured the hoof. And normally, the pain eventually returns and then we are told that if the horse cannot be "cured" with shoes, we might as well put him down. He will never be sound.

"And surely, if we can't add the weight of a baby to those already aching feet, what the hell good is he anyways!"

(Sorry, I let my inner voice escape there for a moment, but people actually think like that.)

Natural hoof care is tried typically as a last ditch effort to save a horse when everything else has failed. That is if the owner is willing to try one more thing. The very sad part of the usual scenerio is that if we were the first one owners would come to, we could work to return that horse's hooves back to their natural state and with some time, proper trimming and improved diet, and turn out. He (or she) could be sound again one day without anything being nailed, glued, screwed, blued or tattood to that poor horses hoof.

Now here's a novel idea! How about seeing just how healthy our horses' hooves can be if they all were started into natural hoofcare, rather than farrier trims or no hoofcare at all, as babies! Issues like clubbed hooves fixed before becoming permanent comformational faults! It's simply mind-blowing, isn't it!:0)

Q & A Transitioning to Barefeet

Here is an email question from Bill Petry. Eighty-Three years young, retired farrier.


In 1970 I went to Oregon State Shoeing School for 16 weeks - the longest at the time. We were taught that the hoof wall was the box. We thought the box was to carry the weight of the horse and no weight was supported by the sole. We used the Army instruction book. The box [hoof capsule] was meant to hold all the internal parts together, like the skin is over the knee, no weight on the wall. See how long you can hold pressure on your finger nail. Then on the end of the finger, pressure can be held there forever. Explain your practice from shoes to barefoot. I'm 83 wont be doing any. How much do you charge for a trim? Bill Petry

Hello Bill,

Thank you for emailing me. I love hearing from very experienced farriers. In my area, I charge $50 per trim for at least 2 horses. That's more than the cost of a farrier trim, but we trim to replace the horseshoes, not the farrier’s trims. It takes longer and involves a bit more skill. As you know things have changed so much in many fields, not just the care of the horse's hoof. But they are still teaching the methods you're referring to in your email, and many veterinarians still believe that line of thinking. But it's wrong. The study of horses in the wild has proven that horses use all the elements of their hoof to function properly. Shoes or extremely long hoof walls take the frog and sole out of function causing the horse to become tender-footed without shoes, or with a proper trim. That's why we hear a common comment that only some horses can go barefoot. What they mean is “only horses who have never worn shoes and have always been trimmed correctly can manage going barefoot. Once we’ve damaged the hoof with shoes, or with poor trimming methods, some horses find the transition phase of returning to barefoot, very uncomfortable. So I have to ask then, why do we shoe horses in the first place? When a horse comes out of shoes, after some transitioning time to get used to feeling the ground again, they toughen up. What we humans need to learn to recognize when we see horses flinching over rocks is that we aren’t always seeing extreme pain, but what we are seeing is a discomfort. The same discomfort I would feel if I kicked off my boots and took off running over rocks. Well, it would not look like “running” that’s for sure. If we lost our shoes suddenly when we were out hiking in the deep woods and say we were only out there for a day, our feet would surely hurt like hell after a few hours. But if we were lost in the woods for a few weeks, we’d be doing pretty good with our unprotected feet by the time we found our way out of the woods, or until were eaten by another predator!:0) Your finger nail analogy is a good one that I use a lot. If I were to stand on my fingernails, the reason it hurts is because I'm really suspending my weight on the tissue that connects the nail to the interior of the finger. It doesn't hurt our nails, it hurts our nail beds. On a horse, that would be the dermal and epidermal laminae - the tissue that connects the hoofwall to the coffin bone. When we put all the horse's weight on its walls, it would be like us doing push ups on our finger nails. Ouch! But when we use our whole finger tip, well, that's how we usually do it, if we were to do push ups, which I don't! One experiment I have students try is using the finger the is most similar to the anatomy of the horse’s foreleg, their middle finger, and move your remaining fingers back, like you’re giving someone…..well, the finger. Now pointing toward a table top, but both fingertips on the table and put as much pressure as you can stand on just the finger NAIL. Hold that for a few seconds or as long as you can. Now roll the finger forward toward the nail, like a horse would breakover their toe to take a step. THAT HURTS! Now if you do that same thing using your entire finger tip, it’s not so painful. Can you imagine that kind of pain, times 1,000 pounds or better? I can’t. But that’s the kind of pain, I imagine foundered horses live with daily. Can you imagine in the days of the Cavalry, how long horses lasted back then in their horseshoes going for miles every day. Not very long. That's why they needed so many horses. Mostly to replace the ones they lamed up. Yet, wild horses, if left alone have been known to live much longer than domestic horses and hoof issues are the last thing they die of. For domestic horses, hoof issues are the second leading cause of death. Colic is first, but hoof problems are gaining on colic to become the first. For some horses, you can pull their shoes and they are off and running barefoot right after you trim them. In fact, that's usually the case. Because the trim isn't a farrier pasture trim, it's a trim that emulates the wild horse hoof and how it functions, not the domestic horse's typical foot. But if a horse has been getting trimmed incorrectly, has been neglected or has been in shoes for a long time, it may take some time to bring that horse back to sound hooves again. Often there will be abscesses harbored up inside the hoof that will expose themselves and cause pain when the hoof begins to function normally again. Abscess are often misdiagnosed as founder. So I've heard vets say natural trims cause founder, or cause abscesses. Still All those issues pass and the horse heals and is once again sound in barefeet, just like it was as a youngster, before we started putting shoes on it. When I get the opportunity, which is rare these days, I ride my horses barefoot and they walk as if they have shoes on. So it can be done. It's good for them. It's the healthiest way they can live. But for those horses who just can't quite become riding horses barefoot, there are many types of boots on the market (none that are perfect - yet) that can help keep the horses out of shoes. I like using boots because with boots we can take them off at the end of the day, unlike shoes that the horse has to wear even during his time off, which realistically for most horses is most of the time. I sure wouldn't like sleeping in my boots. Well, this is sure a long answer to a short question, but if you have any other questions, feel free to email again or call. I'm happy to help.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Foundered Hooves in Boots

This is how Cricket moves over rocks in her boots. Without boots, she will tip her weight back onto her already tender hind hooves and walk as if she is walking over a bed of nails. The boots get horses moving and using their lateral cartiledges (navicular area) of the hoof. The boots incorporate frog pressue into the pads which is necessary to bring the frog back into function if it has atrophied. These are the Soft Ride Comfort boots. Measure carefully for the boots. The size 6 tends to run small while there is a big difference between the 5 and the 6. Five is larger than six, but quite a bit.

When I was trying to film her walking, Cricket was pretty sure I was hiding some treats some where on my body so she was sure she was going to have to flip me upside and shake them out of my pockets. She's had her teeth floated by Equine Performance Dentistry so her mouth is feeling better and she's not dropping as much grain. She's still getting used to chewing a new way. I'll try to get a better video to upload soon. Promises promises, I know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hoof Recovery Patient Update

Cricket and Classie are improving. Actually, as with most horses in their condition, they have good days and not so good days. I'll look out to see them moving out across the pasture at a fast walk with no sign of lameness and the next day, I'll see one moving slowly with a definite limp.

I’ve been working on their hooves about every 6 days. By that I mean, I’ve been looking for signs of sloughing sole, overgrown bars that are ready to let go, frogs that want to slough off old diseased tissue. Each time that happens, there will be a bit of wall that I can take down as well.

Yesterday was a good day for them. The work I did on their feet wasn’t comfortable and Cricket asked me to stop several times. But her hooves were asking me to keep going, so I did. I suspect they both have large subsolar abscesses - once drained, much of their hoof pain will begin to dissipate.

I rinsed the sole and frogs of their front feet with Nolvasan Surgical scrub – chlorhexidine, (which I've also used to successfully treat rainrot and summer itch) and packed the collateral grooves and soles with Nolvasan ointment - applied it like a poultice to the entire sole. Then I wrapped the hooves with vet wrap and put them in Soft Ride boots.

Because they are moving so much better now, especially Cricket, the boots don’t stay on as well. But Cricket is a little power house and she will often charge off from a stand still and to a dead run, leaving at least one boot in her tracks.

But that’s okay, I don’t want to leave their hooves overly protected because my goal isn’t to soften the sole tissue and take any hoof components completely out of function. (The main problem caused by shoes.) Yet, at the same time, I’m trying to cure the thrush and keep any bacteria from entering the hoof corium through small fissures that are typically present in an unhealthy hoof.

I don't have pictures to add to this post, but I will upload a few with the next.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In One Trim

Here is just a minor sample of what can be changed in one trim. This hoof might look scary to some, but it's really a slam dunk of a trim. It would be wonderful if hooves were never neglected to this point because it still will take months of recuperation, trims and growth to become the healthy hoof that the horse wants and needs to perform at his best, but this first trim is a real start. The owner was smart to get her horse out of shoes and into natural trims!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Two New Hoof Recovery Center Patients

This is Classie. Her owner advised me that she is 16 years old. She appears to be dealing with chronic laminitis. There is heat at her coronet bands. I’m curious as to what started her lameness on. From the appearance of her sole, the laminitis appears to me to brought on mechanically rather than organically. But I could be wrong. Classie is a sweet, very sensitive mare, who obviously has had some natural horsemanship training. The owner let me know that she was a 4-h horse. The lameness apparently came on in both horses suddenly.

Cricket is Classie’s pasture mate and of the two mares, her lameness is much worse. She is a horse in founder. Cricket is the smaller of the two and about 10 years.

When I play with Cricket, I’m not finding that she’s had any training at all. She’s a nervous horse and she has some emotional baggage she’s dealing with, but when a horse is in as much pain as she has been in, unless it’s a very stoic horse like Dexter was, (see old posts for his story) the mental and emotional outfall from that pain shows up in many ways. Those horses are typically mouthy, kickers, distrustful, easily panicked, and always worried, and they will often chew on whatever the can find. That fact is showing up in their loafing shed.

When I first met her, I didn’t like Cricket much. But I’ve got her wearing Soft-Ride boots and she is a different horse now. She is sweet, willing, more trusting, she’s good about hoof handling too. She is fun to be around, although, challenging horses usually find a comfy place in my heart and just hang out there.

This mare is a little pistol. Without her boots she can barely take step, but I let her out to run a few times with her boots on and OMG! She is FAST! With good feet, I bet she could run barrels or cut cows like nobody’s business. She has an extended trot to die for and can buck higher than many professional broncs. She likes her boots!

(This is Cricket’s left front hoof. Not pretty.)

I’ll keep you posted on their progress. I haven’t trimmed the mares yet as they were just trimmed by a farrier a week or so before I picked them up and hauled them home from Port Orchard. Boy, what a day that was, but that’s another story. Thanks Debbie for helping me bring them home and for loaning Cricket your hoof boots. My Soft Rides just arrived today so I’ll get them back to you. (For more information on the Soft Ride boots go to

Meet Our dogs!

This is our newest addition. She is a joy! A customer found her wondering, she had long matted hair and runny eyes, but she was still a happy little girl. She gets so much joy from the simplest of things. She loves loves loves life! She loves everyone she meets! She brings joy and laughter into the lives of everyone she meets. So we named her JOY! Although I'm pretty sure she thinks her name is "Go Potty!"

Murphy and Sheila are cousins. Sheila is about 10 years old now and Murphy is 6 years old. Murphy rides on the backhoe whenever he hears it start up. Sheila tries to herd the backhoe by biting it in the bucket.

Lucy came along at about the same time as Murphy. She was found in the ditch near our house on a cold January morning. I offered to keep her until her owners could be located. That was 6 years ago and we're still looking.

May is our one year old border collie. Her story is interesting too. One evening, I rode with a friend to somewhere outside of Chehalis so she could pick up a beautiful young stallion she'd just purchased. I watched while the little stud, who had just been taken out of his familiar stall, and was parked at the back of a stranger's trailer wondering what was up. An expert was called in to help get him loaded. A female border collie promptly came up behind the horse and without looking directly at him, she began trotting in half circles, back and forth, closing in on the stud's hind legs with every pass. She worked with amazing confident, quiet calm, using her body to passively-persist that he keep stepping forward. He edged toward and finally stepped into the trailer one hoof at a time while he kept one eye at a time on the clever dog. She systematically disappeared and reappeared from his right side to his left side, really not seeming to pay him any mind at all. Yet, she was focused on him with every nerve in her entire body. I was blown away by this dogs incredible natural horsemanship in its purest form. This! My friends, is what Pat Parelli is always trying to get across to us humans. When the horse was safely loaded into the trailer, without one bit of fear, hesitation or argument, she fell to the ground to await any further orders. The words just blurted out of my mouth before I could catch them. “I’ve got to get me one of those!” The owner's response: “She just had a litter of puppies.” And one border collie pup rode home on my lap.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Simulcast Interview

To listen to my debut on webcast radio, click on arrow above! Enjoy!!

This network is a great deal for horse people. Check out the website! I love it! There is so much great horse info packed into it!


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cadaver Dissection

A farrier friend and I recently spent a very interesting afternoon, cutting into horse body parts. That is gruesomely fascinating to me and I learn a great deal every time I cut into a hoof. This was an exceptional experience because we didn’t just limit our dissection to the hoof, but instead went up the leg to the knee and did some serious investigation of the tendons and ligaments. We took lots of pictures and clips of the how the tendons activate the leg and hoof. Good stuff! Allen’s specimen was from a healthy horse with lovely pale pink laminae. He meticulously took it dissected the hoof and leg and that was so interesting to watch. My hoof, however, was from a foundered horse and his laminae was extremely red. After we removed the navicular bones, I found a hole in the bottom of the N. bone from my hoof, which was about the size of a nail head. I looked for information about this condition and could only find it described in a farrier text book and it is termed Street Nail Syndrome or Collar Button Disease. Old terms with no explanation of what causes the ulcer. But I’m sure it’s painful and often goes undetected because we think we’re dealing with founder issues only. I cannot stress enough how importance of x-raying the bones of lame horses, even if we think we know that the problem is, we need to get those x-rays and have them taken by a vet who really understands the hoof. They’re may be underlying causes of severe pain that cannot fix with trims, diet or environment. We can work miracles with our natural trimming techniques, but we cannot fix a dead horse and we shouldn’t try. More stuff to learn about these amazing hooves! It just never stops!

Monday, October 29, 2007

This and that

Well, the webcast interview went pretty well. When you're being recorded you really start to notice all the interjected "ums and "ahs." But it wasn't as unnerving as I thought it was going to be. Toward the end, I was just getting wound-up and Colleen forgot to hit the button to continue recording so we sort of broke off suddenly somewhere in the middle of my rantings. Coincedence? I'm sure it was. And that's probably okay. We're going to do it again another day.

We have two new patients that have checked into our Hoof Recovery Center. Classie and Cricket. Two very pretty Appy mares. Both very lame, of course or they wouldn't be here. I will be adding posts with more information and photos to come just as I did with Dexter. I'm optimistic that their outcome will be more positive than his was.

We also have a new dog living with us. Our granddaughter, Olivia, named her Scrunchy. She looks kind of like a scrunchy too. She reminds me of Cookie Monster with her curly fur. She's very cute! Photos forthcoming when we get her looking less scrnchy-like.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm My Biggist Fan!!

Well finally! My big break into show biz has arrived! I knew it would happen someday!!
Just kidding.
But something fun just came up! I'm going to be interviewed regarding Natural Hoof Care (what else) with the Natural Horse Network.
This network, that I just discovered myself, is a great deal for horse people. Check out the website! I love it! There is so much great horse info packed into it!

You can call or write in ahead of time with questions about natural hoof care. It's going to be a teleseminar, I'm told and I don't if that's webcasting or what exactly yet, but I guess I'll find out soon. I'm so excited!!

EVENT: NHN presents a session with Pat Wagner
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27th at 11:00am Mountain (10:00am Pacific)

That's Colleen in the picture!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Additions to the Farm

Recently, I met a very nice lady who was doing her best to care for 2 geriatric horses and a mini donkey and mule. Her husband was the sole caretaker of them and he took the best care of his equine charges. Sadly, he passed away suddenly and his wife was left to care for his pets as best she could with help from friends and a neighbor. They were doing well, except for their hoofcare so I was called in to work on that part of their care. One thing led to another and well, Annie and Franny came home with me shortly after my first visit! Annie's hooves were quickly brought back into shape. I trimmed her 2 days after she arrived here.

Franny isn't a very friendly sort and has made past hoofcare impossible. So when I met her, her hooves were over 6 inches straight out in front of her. The walls had rolled under on the sides and she was walking on the outer hoofwall. Her ligaments were stretched beyond their normal limits and running away from, and kicking at people, was showing signs of pain.

Her first trim involved removing as much of the excess hoof as she would stand for...with a hacksaw. The procedure went well and we at least relieved the stress on her ligaments and tendons. However, as soon as we turned her loose, she thanked me by kicking me in the stomach. (What's up with these mini mules? Doesn't any one handle them after they're born?)

I've yet to trim her a second time as we're working on making friends first so the procedure isn't as traumatizing for her... or me.

We are up to 12 equines now, most are rescues, and we're going to stop now.

Um, yeah, that's what I said after each one came here to live.

But really, I mean it this time!

Yes, I said that too.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

2007 Parelli Conference

We laughed, we cried, we cheered, we fell silent waiting for more...and more...and more. It was such an emotion packed 3 days. It was draining and exhilerating at the same time and we're goin' again next year!! I love everything about Linda and Pat Parelli and the Savvy team. I just wish they didn't shoe their horses.

I've been going to the Savvy Club Forum and members have been posting these of amazing pictures. Rich and I are in some of them. See if you can spot us. (We're on the end of the bleachers about 1/2 way up. Rich's mustache is easy to spot.) It was such awesome experience. We purchased our tickets for next year's conference while we were there. I see they're almost sold out already.
Parellis joined forces with the Myler bit brothers and came out with a cool new bridle that comes with a bit that fits your horse's personality. I don't think it's for sale on their website yet, but I have one and I love it!! I actually save so much money with Parelli items. I only buy what I need now. I used to buy every gadget that anyone would tell me worked. Now I only buy what Parelli's sell that actually does. I have so much stuff that I never use from my normal days. I could have a pretty big tack sale all by myself.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Under the Horse Sneak Preview

Pete Ramey's New Natural Hoof Care Program

Here is a sneak preview of Pete Ramey's new 10 DVD program. It is a necessity for anyone who wants to learn to trim their own horses, and professionals with a desire to get better and learn more about natural hoof care. Buy it! Watch it! Loan it to your farrier and veterinarian! But make sure you get it back so you can watch it over and over again.

The sad truth is that the hooves are the most neglected and abused aspect of every horse's body. We owners will budget for fancy show equipment, expensive saddles, trailers, trucks, costly supplements, and grooming supplies. We spend millions on that stuff. But we sure don't like to spend money on, and really have the least knowledge about, the most important part of the horse. The hooves!

Without healthy hooves, we will not be riding our horses. Well, I have to take that back. Most horseowners are riding horses whose feet hurt to some degree. Most of us just don't recognize the problems our horses are living and performing with daily.

Every horse deserves for us to know this information and Pete does a spectactular job of delivering it.

The second most neglected, yet most important part of our horses is their teeth! Don't get me started on that...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Q&A Toewall Separation

Hi Pat:As I said in my phone call, our Arab/Quarter Horse mare, Zippy, hasdeveloped a stretched white line on her right front hoof. We have had heralmost 2 years and I have been trimming her for about a year and have neverseen this.We moved her about 2 months ago. She was in a mud free area that was partsand and part dirt. She was with another horse, so she moved around a fairamount. She spent the nights in a stall (large; 12 x 18) and had access tofree choice orchard grass hay. We moved her to a boarding facility muchcloser to our house which is dirt and weeds with a two sided shelter. Wescoop manure daily. She sometimes has another horse in with her, though notat present. Here she is fed alfalfa twice per day. When we bought Zippy, shewas in a very muddy paddock and not very clean stall and fed alfalfa twiceper day. Even at that she has always had good hooves.There is about a ½ "space between the white and water lines, with dirtpacked between. She had developed what looked like a hard ridge around theedge of the hoof underneath. I nipped this and it seemed to be dirt mixedwith horn, although it was too hard for me to scrape off with a hoof pick. This ridge reappeared 4-5 days after I nipped, but when I squeezed it withthe nippers again, Zippy seemed sensitive, so I left it alone. She is not lame (yet) and has no ridges or other abnormalities on the outside of thehoof. Any advice on how to deal with this would be greatly appreciated. TW
Hi TW,

I've seen what's in the pictures a few times and it does generally come on suddenly and usually tenderfootedness is associated with it.
There are a couple possible causes. One is acute lamintis - founder. Possibly caused by a sudden change in feed or sudden over-abundance in feed, spring grass or some form of mechanical founder rather than organic.
Correct whatever caused that incident and grow the hooves out and continue trimming.
Another possible cause is thrush. We think of thrush as being a stinky condition of the hoof which happens now and then during wet weather. But it's a fungal/ bacterial infection which can lead to a very painful condition that can degrade the hoof structures it attacts.
To know if it's thrush, press on her frog and her digital cushion and see if she responds with sensitivity. There might be some other cause of the heel pain, but generally, it's thrush. What happens is that the horse doesn't want to come down on his heel when pain from heel pressure is present, so they start impacting first on their toe and then on their heel. You can walk her around and really watch for how her hoof is landing. That toe first landing will disrupt the toewall/sole/lamelar juncture and cause the separation you're seeing.

Take care of the thrush or whatever is causing the heel pain (an abscess could also be the culprit) and get her landing on her heel again and the toe wall will again grow down tight and the separation will grow out.

Please don't treat it with chemicals, or anything you wouldn't be willing to gargle with, including bleach! There are so many caustic thrush remedies on the market. I use "gentle" iodine.

You might also want to take a look at your horse's diet and see if any improvements can be made. Let me know how it goes.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Pat Parelli sliding Magic to a stop right in front of us!

We got back last week from a wonderful trip to Pagosa Springs to attend the annual Parelli Conference! It was amazing! Astounding! Emotional! Motivational! I got a hug from Pat Parelli! (His idea, I didn't attack him, although I did consider it, but my husband was taking pictures:0)

We drove there and back and Rich did almost all the driving! Our only stop on the way there was in Moab, Utah where I got to see the Arches for the first time. Beautiful! We arrived in Pagosa Thursday evening and stayed in a wonderful room at the Hot Springs Hotel. Rich and I got to experience the Lobster Pot! Wow, I'll never eat another lobster. Poor things.

We left Pagosa at 5pm on Sunday and pulled into our driveway at 7pm the next evening. What a haul, but that is the 2nd time I've driven through Utah at night. You miss lots of pretty scenery when you do that.

They have a new program out that I recommend to anyone looking for a better relationship with their horse! Also they've partnered up with the Myler Bit Company and they came up with the coolest new bridle. A few were sold at the conference. We will test them out and reporting our findings and once they've worked out the bugs, they will be selling to the general public.

Well, off to work! Have a wonderful day!

Pat (Parelli) Wagner


Phil from Jeromesville, OH emailed this question to my website:

We have an older (mid 20’s) appaloosa that had been neglected and hasCushing’s. Recently she started to limp the veterinary found an abscess and wetreated by soaking in Epsom salt and an oral medicine for inflammation. When theveterinary was there the frog came out, she said it would grow back?It is now a couple of weeks later and she is limping again. We have startedsoaking and the oral medication per the veterinary’s instructions. We cannot see another abscess? Will the frog grow back? Is there more we can do to help her, we have heard about a soak boot and Epsomsalt poultice? What can we do for prevention?Do you have any recommendation on what we should feed her since she has Cushing’s? Thank you,Phil

Answer: (It's a long one!)

Thank you for contacting me and for trying to do what’s best for your horse. First to answer the question about the frog: Yes, it will grow back. It takes awhile sometimes depending on her current hoofcare. So I have some questions for you.

Is she barefoot? I’ll assume she is or you probably wouldn’t be contacting me. How often is she being trimmed?

She should be trimmed no less than every 5 weeks. And how is she being trimmed? If she is being trimmed by a horseshoer (pasture trimmed) it would be better for her hooves is she was being trimmed naturally.

Shedding of the frog is usually caused by thrush. Which can be very painful and mimic laminitis or abscess. Cleaning the hooves daily and spraying with "gentle" iodine can really help thrush. (note: stay away from the harsh chemical treatments found in the feed stores). For the abscess, your vet offered the correct prescription. And you may be seeing a recurrent limp because when there is one abscess hiding in a hoof, there is often more than one. Abscesses just have to run their course once they start causing pain (and sometimes swelling up the leg) and soaking them or using a poultice can help. You might also offer her some bute temporarily for the discomfort. You could ask your vet about that. Whenever I trim my horses, I spray the bottoms of their hooves with “gentle” iodine. That helps with thrush around the frog which as I mentioned, could possibly be part of your horse’s problem at this time since her frog has shed–thrush will cause that to happen, but spraying will also help toughen their soles and it helps with abscessing.

Another product I like to use that you can get off the internet or from your vet is called Equi-Phar MG-60. It’s a topical poultice by VEDCO. It’s 60% Epsom Salt and has Methyl Salicylate (a wintergreen liniment). I will use this to pack into the bottom of the hoof and then wrap with vet wrap and duct tape. If the horse is stalled it will stay on for awhile. If they’re on pasture, it usually doesn’t last long. It's a great liniment for other problems as well.

As far as the cushings goes. There are grains being manufactured now for horses that need to be on low NSC (non-structural carbohydrate) grains as Cushing's horses do. If you’re going to feed your horse grain, it’s imperative that they are on low NSC grain. One that I know of is made by LMF and that’s what it’s called. Low NSC grain. I’m not sure yet if Purina is manufacturing that or not, but I’m going to be checking into it. Also, the other thing about Cushings is that laminitis is often a symptom of cushings. So you’ll have to determine if your horse is suffering from abscesses or laminitis or both. But if it is laminitis, getting her on a diet of good quality grass hay and low NSC grain should help her symptoms. I’ve got several customers with Cushings horses and they are doing very well and are riding their horses, by keeping them on this diet, plus frequent natural trims. Also cushings horses cannot be put out on green pasture and very little alfalfa and NO ORCHARD GRASS.

Getting some boots for your horse, such as the Soft Ride hoof boots, will give her some comfort while she is going thru the healing process, but shouldn't be left on 24/7 because the hoof needs to be in use and getting lots of air. Boots can cause rubbing and soften the bottom of the hoof.

If you’re not using a natural hoofcare practitioner, you might check the American Hoof Association website and see if there is anyone in your area. I hope this helps you. Please let me know how she does. I’m always curious about the progress of horses I hear about no matter how far away they are. I wish you the best. Pat

Blogging again!

I haven't added any posts to my blog for awhile as it's taken some time to get past losing Dexter. I'm so glad he's no longer suffering, and I think of him whenever I'm out with my horses. He'll never be completely gone. One thing I often visualized him doing someday was running around the field, bucking and farting. I never got to see him doing that, so I think that his spirit is out there always running around my pastures maybe even bugging the other horses just because he can!

Okay, on another note! I frequently receive emails through my website with specific questions owners have about their horse's hooves. So I'm going to start posting those questions with my responses here and hopefully help many horses at the same time.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

When do you give up?

Eating with a friend.

I had been hopeful that when I said Good bye to Dex, it would be temporary, until I saw him for his next trim. His owner came to see him yesterday. The pain medicine he’d been on, bute, had been what was keeping him going and understandably she didn’t want to see him live out his life this way, nor did I.

What appeared to me to be an abscess that had broken out at his heel was becoming infected and there is a chance it could be the beginning of hoof slough. He seemed happy enough in his soft dirt field and we’d gotten the loafing cleaned and cushioned for him, but I was expecting too much from him. A lifetime of chronic laminitis cannot be cured in weeks, or months and maybe not at all. From the day he was born as a halter show horse, Dexter’s life was a recipe for founder. Like many horses before and after him, they don't see the results of what they're doing to pump up these babies into the Amazon yearlings to win the ribbons.

I called a company that hauls carcasses to the rendering plant. He also euthanizes animals in the most humane way possible, in my opinion. A single bullet.

Last night Dexter got to see a beautiful lightening storm and he felt his last warm summer shower. I fed him a dinner of sweet feed, oats and alfalfa. This morning his breakfast was the same, and he’s been grazing for hours. Sweet feed, oats and carrots for lunch. Now we are just waiting for the man to arrive to take his life and take away his body.

Because he is later than expected, I’ve had to reschedule a couple trimming appointments I had today to wait with Dexter. This isn't a fun way to spend the day before a trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to spend the weekend at the Parelli Conference. I should be really excited about that, and I am, but I’m also very sad. I wish I could have done more for Dex. But in the words of a man who has seen lots of death, “if you are going to have animals, you are eventually going to have dead animals, and that’s just how it goes.”

Good bye Buddy. It was sure wonderful getting to know you. You’re an amazing horse.
Taking a load off.
New place to get out of the weather.
Grazing on his last day.
Go and be happy in horse heaven.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Founder Horse Walking

Day 19: I just went outside in my PJ's to take a quick shot of Dexter over the fence this morning. The bute has been helping, but I also feel that he’s improving…to the point where he gets cranky at feeding time! This is a new attitude for me to see, but Marci tells me I’m seeing the old Dexter. The head nodding he's doing is his way of telling me to get my butt out with his breakfast. The head shaking that follows means "Damn my feet hurt." Sorry about the shaky tape.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dexter Update, Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 16: Founder Roller Coaster Ride!

On Sunday in the afternoon, I had put a pair of Marquis Boots on Dexter. He started yawning as soon as he stood up. (I had to put them on while he was laying down.) He seemed to get so much relief from them. Back on bute and in boots, yesterday was a good day for him. We noticed him playing with a barrel trying to get my attention, I think to bring food. Then I put him out in the larger dirt field and he was walking all around searching for little nibbles and walking fairly comfortably. It really suprised me after he crashed last Friday to see him feeling so good. I thought he'd hit bottom and was working his way back up now and fast.

But I took the boots off yesterday as mud was around the top and I was afraid after having them on so long, they would rub. Well, the way Marquis boots fit, they offer a lot of support around the front of the hoof and the heelbulb. Twice I've had them on him and there he improved drammatically. But you can't keep them on 24 hours for days at a time. They have to be cleaned daily and put on when he's laying down or when he can tolerate lifting his foot. I'm convinced now that unless he really improves, I may have to trim him laying down as well in order to trim him again.

I just wanted to add and update. I wish I could do something to just take all his pain away and make him a happy healthy horse again. I realize he's not one of my own horses and I shouldn't take his condition so hard, but I feel like all horses deserve a chance to get better and I can love all horse no matter who they belong to.

As horse people, ALL the horses are our responsibility, not just the ones in our pasture. We owe it to them all to do what we can to help insure they have the best life possible. Don't we?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just Another Day at the Office!

When I worked at the City of Tumwater, I drove there on the same roads, there and back every weekday. Usually I was speeding in a panic, heart thumbing because I knew I was going to be a few minutes late and all too often I found myself on the receiving end of the you’re tardy again look of scorn.”

Upon my hasty arrival, I would bid good morning to the same fresh faces, chat about our evenings and weekends and then I sat myself down at the same desk in a room full of desks at one end of the basement and then the other in front of a computer which was replaced every few years.

I had a window near my workspace. I could see when it was daylight or dark outside, but my view was of a wall of large rocks and a couple volunteer fir trees making a very strong effort of growing up through the rocks. I cheered them on every workday for many years. I was proud of them for getting so tall in such a precarious location. But grow they did until they were deemed a hazard and scheduled for “Timber!”

In my new job however, my window view frequently changes. I never know from day to day until I look at my calendar, which roads I’ll be driving on, whose barn I’ll be in, or whose horse I’ll be greeting for its trim. The owners are always happy to see me even if I'm very late, because they understand that I'm on horsetime and making there at all can sometimes be a pleasant surprise. The horses are always curious about me and anxious to meet someone new. I love horses.

Yesterday, was an exceptional day at the office. My view from my office window kept changing. Rich and I flew to Roche Harbor in a very small airplane, then we took a cab to the ferry terminal in Friday Harbor, then a Ferry to Orcas Island. We hopped into an older pick up truck affectionately known as the “Island Truck” and rode across that amazing island to a beautiful farm where the owner raises gorgeous Gypsy Vanner Horses. I helped an upcoming natural hoofcare student with her 3 Icelandic ponies’ hoof trims. And later she took us on fun tour of that beautiful island and we stopped to visit a large Icelandic Pony farm and I picked out some cute ponies for my granddaughters! Grampa was surprised too!

It was one of my best days so far, since leaving the desk at the office. I guess I'm just like those trees outside my window for so many years. I grew there too, in more ways than one, and eventually it became a hazard to keep myself there, so I had to leave.
Thank you Lili, for such a wonderful day!


Dexter update

Day 13, Saturday, August 25, 2007

Well, yesterday was Dexter’s most difficult day so far. Unfortunately, it was also the first day his owner Marci came to see him since he was left in my care and I wasn't here. He was depressed and in pain. I didn’t put any horses in with him and I should have. He’s in a fairly emotional state and he does not like being alone. But then who does when they’re not feeling well? All the other horses wonder out to the back of the pasture and there he is, alone and feeling like crap, unable to walk at all without the ruthless hoof pain.

He had been off bute for 48 hours. I truly believe the bute is part of the problem. It’s certainly not a cure, it does make him feel a tiny bit better temporarily, but to his body, it masks what’s really going on and therefore compromises his ability to go to war against the root of the painful problem. In other words, the bute numbs the pain, but also numbs his body to what is happening. Kind of like shoes numb the hooves to the same kind of pain creating the allusion that healing has already taken place, so why should his body put forth more effort to help himself?

You have to understand, I grew up with movies like The Incredible Voyage.

So I did give him a double dose of bute this afternoon at 3pm. But today was better for him even without having had any pain meds for such a long time. He’s moving around a bit. He got down and rolled and he’s eaten LOTS of grass hay. He drinks water, he pees and poops and does all the things healthy horses do. I had Jake and Boomer in with him this morning until just a bit ago. I let them out and he wanted so badly to follow them out of the gate, but his body wasn’t cooperating.

Marci came again today and we agreed to give him a few more days. If he remains like this, we’ve agreed that he doesn’t deserve to be put through this agony any longer than that.

I personally believe he’s hit bottom, and all the things I’m doing for him are going to kick in now and very gradually he’s going to improve until he comfortable again. But then, that might just be part of the founder roller coaster ride we all climb on when we are dealing with a horse suffering from chronic laminitis.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What a Difference!

I just noticed this today. This is the same hoof. Dexter's left front. The top left picture taken in January right after deshoeing him. The top right taken 8 days ago (that's marking pen at his toe) and the bottom one was taken last Saturday.
(Now of course this is not a trim I would perform on a healthy hoof. This is a trim I would perform on this horse's left front foundered hoof because I want to see if I can trim him in a way that will help him. )
Interesting changes. Not just between the first two pictures, how his heel is much wider, but also it appears to me in the 3rd picture after only a week, his frog got busy! So then I took the forces nearly completely off his hoofwall, (off his laminae). I can't wait to see what his hoof will do now. It never ceases to amaze me the capacity these hooves have for healing themselves if you can set them up for success.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Today, I was trying to get Dexter to pick up his feet so I could work on them and he's not cooperating with me AT ALL!

So I say to him, Buddy, it can't possibly be that painful!
Well, then he DID pick up his foot and put it right down...on mine!
And if I read his expression accurately, I'm sure his reply was, "Here, let me demonstrate on your foot so you can understand better the amount of discomfort I've been tolerating so gentlemanly for the past many months."

I got the idea. His feet hurt like a...(deleted text).

Dexter Update: Day 10

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

For the past few days, Dexter was back on bute for pain control. I’m not sure how much it’s really helping him though. I‘m researching alternative pain meds. Mostly, he has just been hanging out eating all the strange offerings that appear in his feed pan, or not if it’s too weird. He’s had friends over for catered meals. (I think my horses are getting a wee bit jealous of the attention and time His Highness has been receiving. I’ve got to work in some time for them as we’re going along.)
He's pictured taking his evening meal. Grain is in the pan on the barrel and hay at a level where he won't have to put weight on his toes and a bucket of water in case he needs a drink and refuses to walk to the corner of the paddock. Dehydration is a concern. I've been tracking everything that goes in and comes out as much as I can. The sand he's on is so much better than standing on urine soaked shaving. If the weather takes a turn though, I'll have to boot him to get him to the stall.

Today, his hooves were very warm to the touch so he stood in cold running water for about an hour. Much better afterward.

This afternoon, my friend Desiree, helped me with him while I touched up his fronts and trimmed his hinds. His frogs needed attention due to thrush. I’m going to apply the thrush remedy I found on Pete and Ivy Ramey’s website, What I’ll use is ½ Neosporin and ½ Tinactin mixed together and put into a syringe so that it be applied deeply into the center sulcus and side sulcuses (aka collateral grooves) Thanks Cora!
He sloughed a lot of junky sole, yippee! And I trimmed quite a bit of long hoofwall off. Yes, after only two weeks. That is why it’s nice that he’s here and not an hour away at his stable.

I did all this work and Dex didn’t get his bute this morning! So that was pretty cool. However, this evening when I was just out there with him, he really didn’t want to take step. His coat is shiny and beautiful though, so that indicates to me that I’m on the right track. His cresty neck is still… cresty, but the swelling that he’s had in his left front around the fetlock and cannon bone is diminishing. I believe I tapped into an abscess while I was trimming this morning, but I wasn’t sure. There is lots of stagnate tissue and crud inhabiting his sole.

So he got two scoops of bute and will call me in the morning…for his breakfast. I hope when I see him next he’ll be dancing around his paddock with a big ol’ smile on his handsome face!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Old Tractors!

I learned how to do something new today! How to drive an old tractor. For awhile now, we've been working on what is supposed to eventually be a Parelli Play Field. Where like-mind Parelli folks like myself, can come and play with their horses.
So today I went out and helped Rich work on it. He showed me how to operate the old tractor. I've moved the back hoe around the place, and I love driving the Gator out to feed the horses, but the old tractor was a first for me.
While I was driving back and forth across the field, I was thinking about how I would write about my experience of driving an old tractor. (People who love to write are always thinking of how they would write about their experiences and that's what I do too.)
Of course, tons of books and lots of songs have already been written about old tractors, and now I understand why! There is just something about sitting on an old smelly tractor slowly working your way across a field pulling a disk plow. Plow disk? I'm not sure what it's called. But you look out at the field you haven't plowed yet and you get this daunting feeling of "this is going to take all friggin' day! Then you look back at what you done, and you get this instant gratification of "Look what I've done!" It kinda goes back and forth. Daunting feeling. Gratification. Daunting, gratified. Back and forth. Until you're nearly done, and then it's WOW! I'm nearly done! I cannot imagine how they plowed huge fields up in the olden days with a horse like Forrest.
I started out jamming the gears and getting stuck too close to the fence and having to back up all weird and messing up my rows. But by the time I was three quarter's of the way done with the field, I was still jamming gears and I was getting a little better at keeping her going. See I called it a "her." That means I'm a real "old tractor person" now. It is old and I am old. We're both old.
Seriously, there is just something about driving an old tractor. I've heard it said that old tractors are like women, very temperamental. You have to know how to treat them to get along with them. I don't think so. I think old tractors are more like horses. If you don't handle them correctly, they buck, snort, fart, rear up on the two hind tires. They stop dead in their tracks and you have to find a way to start them again. A tractor with a plow disk thingy on the back of it is a bugger to turn around without getting hooked up on stuff like the fence and they will tear stuff up you don't want torn up. Yep, they are just like horses.
The picture of the rock wall is what Rich did today while I was the plowin' the field, and that's May the dog, taking a dip in the fishpond! Yep! We're hicks!


I just thought I would introduce you to Forrest. He's a sweet boy. I haven't brushed him out in days and he's still a pretty good-looking guy. He's one half Clydesdale, 1/4 TB and 1/4 warmblood. He's a smart boy, kinda big and very friendly. Notice my pasture. Good for toughening feet up!

Coming and Going

While I was out taking pictures, I had to take this shot. Danny and his mom, relaxing after a hearty breakfast of grasshay. Yum! I'm so happy to have healthy horses. I look back on what I know about Dexter, and compare his upbringing to Danny's. Danny is the horse facing you in the picture. His registered name is Larks Flashy Diamond and I'm always happy to brag that he's a grandson of Rugged Lark. If you haven't heard of him, google him. He was an amazing horse.
I had considered showing Danny at halter, but when I compared my little guy to some of the monster yearlings in the show arena, I knew we'd never bring home a ribbon. He has beautiful conformation and a great temperment, but I'd seen for myself that little yearlings and 2 year olds do not place. And after comparing him to those giants, I thought my baby was probably not going to get much bigger than 14 hands.
Well, Danny eventually grew to a nice stocky athletic 15.2 hands, around 1100 pounds, it just happened a bit more naturally and took about 5 years. Funny thing though, he has healthy joints, tendons and ligiments, and I'm fairly certain won't develop Cushings and laminitis later in life.
When are we humans ever going to learn. There's more to our horse's lives than the amount of money they can bring in.