Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care

Last week, a practitioner friend - Lori and I drove to Jacksonville, Oregon to the Oregon School of Natural Hoofcare to attend a seminar with Dr. Robert Bowker, DVM, PhD.

The drive to Jacksonville was filled with beautiful scenery. I call my car windshield, my office window, and back in the day when I was spending 40 hours per week in a basement, I could not have imagined the view out my windows today. LOVE IT!

Dr Bowker is a professor at Michigan State University, Department of Pathobiology & Diagnostic Investigation. For short – Bob - one amazing guy!

(Dr Bowker making sure we get the point of his lecture.)
(Dr. Alfred Hitchcock Bowker - notice his silhouette on the screen. )
( In a nutshell, all domestic horses are dealing with toes that are too damn long! If we fix that, we can fix lots of other problems within the hoof capsule.)

Cheryl Henderson, ABC Hoofcare and owner of the OSNHC, had many hoof and leg bones there for us to inspect, and even 5 or 6 horse skulls. There was every kind of hoof boot on the market as well.

Not only that, we were fed like horses destined to founder, and we slept in the bunkhouse at the school/private home. It was a lovely atmosphere for learning. However, the temperatures dipped a ways below what my sleeping bag was rated for. Brrrrrr.

Dr. Bowker's findings produced from his research pretty much “flies in the face” of traditional teaching at every university, vet and farrier school. Not many of his colleagues want to hear what he has discovered. However, he is right and they are all stupid not to listen to him.

His analogy of how receptive the traditional educational community has been to him is that he’s been swimming upstream for many years and has been getting pissed on the entire way. He’s accustomed to that kind of treatment so nothing anyone says about his lectures on his research can hurt him.

None of the hoof junkies (his term for us) at the seminar would have pissed on Dr. Bowker. Just the opposite, I think most of us were in awe of him. Oh yes, a few seemed to be know-it-alls who attended, not so much to learn, but to confirm what already knew, and to show off a little by spewing out medical terminology they knew was over most the rest of our heads. That’s okay though, we all have something to offer.

Press on Dr. Bowker. Help the rest of us become better practitioners. Take lots of showers.

On the way home, we had to leave I-5 and get a room, due a snow storm, slushy pavement, and lots of big accidents. The power went out in our hotel room at 4am and again, brrrrrr. I was glad to get home to my own horses (and dogs and husband) and get warmed up again.

(View outside our hotel window)
My next trip is in 4 weeks, to New York, for the annual American Hoof Association Conference. I’m so jazzed!

Monday, January 21, 2008

More on the problems of horse shoes:

As those of you who have spent any time with me at all know, I’m fairly opinionated…

“No! Really?”

Hey, watch it! I know what you’re thinking!

…and I spend most my waking hours thinking about horses and their hooves. So the fact that I’m capable of filling post after post on this blog with my opinions, thoughts and experiences with horse hooves comes as no surprise. I just wanted explain that before I ask you this question.

Can you believe that I’ve been pondering what we’ve been putting our horses through by shoeing them for many hundreds of years and that I have more to say on the topic?

Well, here is something that I find fascinating for you ponder also.

It just makes sense to me that not every farrier has the skill to shoe a horse “comfortably.” So it’s a given that not every set of shoes applied to every horse is a comfortable set of shoes.

In fact, I believe I can say with confidence that MOST horse shoers (except the most skilled) leave a horse standing in a very uncomfortable set of shoes.

Now I ask you, if someone gave you an uncomfortable pair of shoes and told you, you had to wear them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (and for most of that time you would be standing) and you could not remove them for 8 to 10 - and even much longer in some cases - weeks, can you imagine how you’d feel?
I imagine your feet would be numb within a couple days, maybe less than 24 hours. That’s typically what happens to the hoof.

Now take hooves that haven’t been trimmed properly and apply a set of shoes that don’t fit well. Never mind the steel nails driven into the hoofwall and sometimes into the sensitive laminae, or that the steel girder (shoe) keeps the hoof from flexing like it’s meant to and increases the amount of vibration the hoof must tolerate, or that shoe lifts all the functioning hoof parts off the ground that are meant to come impact the ground with every stride.

Beyond all of that and more, now let’s say the shoe salesman at your local shoe department sold you a pair of poorly fitting shoes for your 2 year old daughter and told you that once the shoes were on your child’s feet, you could not take them off for 8 to 10 - and frequently much longer - weeks.

You’d know that your child’s feet were going to grow during that time, not to mention all the other reasons for allowing your child to go barefoot most the time, so you as a wonderful caring parent, would be appalled at this crazy suggestion.

But we have no problem at all doing this to our young horses! Why? Because we think their perfectly healthy feet can’t function once the horse begins to work. We think? NOPE! We’re not thinking. Not about the horse anyway. We are thinking about our own convenience.

And one more thing, we don’t shoe our dogs who accompany us on miles of trails, and they have even softer soles than horses do.

So there you go. If you’re not scratching our head right now, your visiting the wrong blog.

That’s my latest thoughts and opinions on horse shoes. Stay tuned. More to come, I’m sure!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Natural VS Unnatural

This is Just My Opinion, but I have to say something about an issue that has been bugging the hell out of me lately that has to do with horse's tails.
Not just their tails, but that's a big part of it. Really, horse shoes are not the only unnatural thing we do to our horses. I get so frustrated when I see all the other things we do to them, such as forcing them to stand in urine soaked stalls for as many hours as most natural horses are out snooping around for blades of grass, playing with each other, nipping and kicking and playing dominance games. Just plain keeping their minds occupied.

But why stop there? Why not bundle them up in blankets meant for arctic climates. Those horses just look pathetically HOT to me. A stalled horse can stay plenty warm without added protection. In fact, horses like to be on the cool side. It’s unnatural for a horse to be warm in the winter like we humans think their horses want to be.

Have you noticed how miserable horses look on a hot summer day compared to a cold snowy day? My horses love to romp in the snow. (Of course they’re unshod so they can romp in the snow without killing themselves.) They are not stalled and they rarely wear blankets. I have to admit, they get a little sick of all the rain though. Me too.

So it’s not enough that we keep our horses in warm and often dirty blankets and standing in stalls for 17 hours a day, but we find it necessary to bag their tails. What the heck is that about? Again, I see natural horses with lovely tails that are rarely brushed out! Unless another horse is chewing on a tail, it will comb out shiny and full when we need it to, without all those broken hairs you see on bagged tails.

But let’s not stop with the braids and the bags! Why not stuff the tail bag with something heavy. Whoever started that practice is a real lunkhead. Nowadays, a flip of their tail could mean a concussion!

Or false tails! Can’t people tell that horses hate to have stuff hanging from their tails? They use their tails for balance and swatting flies and soothing their foals, or other horses, by swishing their tails against each other.

I see videos on Youtube of horses being worked in round pens and it appears to me they are running away from all the crazy crap hanging from their butts. It’s unnatural!

I could go on an on about the stupid stuff we do to our horses. The short list is:

Bagging tails
Docking tails
Nerving tails
(We do a lot of unnatural stuff to their tails. It’s so bizarre.)
Soring pasterns
Weighting pasterns
All the stuff we do to show horses
Cutting check ligaments
Etc etc etc

Yes, I know simply saddling, bridling and riding horses is just as unnatural to them as anything else we do, but since they allow us to enjoy them in that way, why do we put them through all this additional crap?


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why not shoe your horse?

One question I get asked a lot is “Why are shoes harmful to hooves?”

Horse shoes:

protect the hoof wall from wear (allowing hooves to get too long and putting unnatural forces on the ligaments and tendons)
can cause the frog to prolapse
cause vibration which can damage living tissue
impairs shock absorption
impairs hoof mechanism – contracts the heels, deforms the hoof and bruises navicular area
can pinch the corium
cause unnatural strain on joints
can cause thrush which can lead to permanent lameness
cause unnatural weight and centrifugal forces
nails destroy the hoof wall
nails conduct cold into the interior of the hoof
cause increased risk of greater injury and damage
prevent improper development of a young horse’s foot

Those are just to name a few of the possible and probable affects of shoes attached to the hoof by a competent farrier. Imagine the damage when shoes are applied by the many incompetent farriers out there shoeing our horses.