Saturday, December 12, 2009

Basic Barefoot Trimming DVD progress

Just an update on how we are doing on the DVD.  The packaging is being developed and the title of the DVD is currently:

Discovering Your Horse's Natural Hoof.
Learn to Trim Your Barefoot Horses.

You will be able to purchase the DVD through the Rainier Equine Hoof Recovery Center website.  The original site has been replaced by one I'm working on myself and is still under construction.

And of course, all proceeds from the DVD sales go to the REHRC non-profit i.e. hay for the horses we are rehabbing.'

I'm hoping that we'll be distributing the DVD this Spring.  Just like natural hoofcare, it's a process!  But don't give's just a very busy time of year.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Missouri Emergency Response Service

Hey, I just wanted to share this website with you all.  These folks are awesome!  I wish every state had an organization like this in place and was funded, at least partly by the state.  How much better off our large animal residents would be.

I copied this from their site:

GOOD SEARCH.....You can help support MERS every time that you're on your computer doing a search, without it costing you any money!! Rather than go to Google each time, there is a search engine called . The neat thing about this is that GoodSearch is powered by Google, so you get the same fast service while you are helping MERS. Every time that you go to GoodSearch, MERS receives a donation. All that you have to do is go to, under charity type in "Missouri Emergency Response Service"' then do your search. After the first time, it should be set up. If you put it up on the top of your computer on your tool bar, you are good to go every time that you want to do a search, and MERS benefits, each and every time!

MERS does not charge any money for our services. All of our expenses (fuel, etc.) come out of our own pockets, and the operating costs to keep the organization running relies entirely on corporate and private donations.

MERS has no paid employees. The 4 board of directors receive no compensation of any kind.


How cool is that!

Monday, November 30, 2009

For want of a horseshoe nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe the horse was lost
For want of a horse the rider was lost
For want of a rider the battle was lost
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

Too bad they weren’t aware of what a healthy, perfectly trimmed barefoot hoof can accomplish. A win for the hoof, a win for the horse, a win for the rider, a win for the battle, and a win for the kingdom.

But most importantly it's a win for the horse!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hoof Watchers

I had to share this comment! It's such a great topic. And my reponse was getting so long I had to post it. Thanks Desiree!

Hi Pat, I live up in Port Townsend. I do CMO rides so we go over lots of different ground. I do the trimming on my horses. It's interesting (scary) to be in a large group of horses and look at all of the different feet that they have to live with. I find that the feet are the first thing that I look at when I meet a horse for the first time! LOL!! Any updates on Whiskey? Desiree.


That's funny about the feet. I think we all get that way when we start working on our own horses. We spend so much time scrutinizing our own horses feet asking ourselves, "Is that angle getting better?" or "Is the foot coming down on the medial or lateral side or on the toe first?"

So as we really start seeing wonderfully healthy feet on our own horses, we can't help but look at others and wonder why their owner can't see everything that is way off.

One day after I had just gotten done trimming the hooves of one of my clients at a big beautiful boarding facility I was sitting in my car putting away my calendar and reshuffling the mountains of stuff on my front seat. (Stuff that flies onto the floor every time I have to make a quick stop. Drives me nuts!)

A horse came walking toward me being led by an attractive young woman in her twenties. Her horse was slender and black and beautiful. I looked down at the horses feet. Not intentionally, just that my eyes were drawn to them, just like the eyes of passers-by are drawn to my husband’s prosthetic hand.

Disbelief at first and I just settled on the horse’s hooves and watched her walk by. It was a little like watching a person walking in swim fins, but not as exaggerated. The heels were very underrun and the toes incredibly long.

Her poor mare’s hooves reminded me of glam finger nails that I sometimes see on people. Fingernails beautiful contoured and painted, but crazy long and causing their fingers to be nearly useless.

I think this owner was feeling proud of herself, walking past a barefoot trimmer with her barefoot horse.

Okay, I'm aware that there are some wild bands of horses who grow very long toes and very effectively use those toes to dig through snow, sand, dirt in search for the sparce food in their environment, but this would not be the case at a fancy boarding stable.

I wanted so badly to get out of my car and stop her and tell her what I saw about her horse’s hooves that could be corrected to make her horse so much more comfortable.

It is possible that the owner was trimming her horse herself. If so, bravo to her! I really think it’s great when owners get involved with their horse’s feet. If she pays someone for the service, I had to ask myself, how could a hoof care professional do that to a horse and not know it was really harmful and even dangerous, especially when she was riding her horse.

Horse’s trip and fall and roll over riders when their feet aren’t functioning properly. I believe that is why Linda Parelli recently took a bad spill on her horse Remmer. I bet she never even considered it might be his feet. His feet were the first thing I thought of when I heard about the accident.

It’s kind of like have bad tires on your car and expecting it to get you safely around. It can most of the time, but at some point…well, people have gotten killed.

And even more recently Remmer has abscessed and had to sit out their trip to the UK. Linda sounded okay with giving her lovely horse a break and she was happy that in a few days, the abscess would rupture and he would be good as new.

That tells me that neither she, nor her “genius farrier” understands the cycle of abscesses.  Or that separation in the white line of the hoofwall and/or bars is the cause of abscessing.  And there should really be no separation in Remmer's feet since he's been under the care of a genius farrier for awhile now.

Of all the horses I know, I feel so sad for that horse. He’s has an owner who loves him with every fiber of her being and would do anything for him no matter what the cost.  Sadly he has some of the worst hoof care money can buy.

What can you do though? I never stopped the gal with the horse who had the super long toes to offer advice. I figured it would likely fall on deaf ears. People are not ready to hear it until they are ready to hear it.

Thanks for the comment Desiree. Wisky is doing as best that she can. Her hooves are really improving and she has a great trimmer working on her at home and we are constantly brainstorming on ways to keep her comfortable while she is growing new hoof capsules. I learned a lot from working on her. So I’ll always owe her that.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Horse Poem by Jessica

This is a lovely poem my young niece wrote and her mom sent to me. I had to share with you.

A lonely barn
On a warm, cloudy day
Right before the sun sets
Stomping hooves
Wind flying through my hair
Running horses
The beautiful animals
I ride in the wind
I play with the horses
On a lonely weekend
I will be happy

Thank you Jessica!  You look great on Pearl.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I've Been Polled!

Well, no one has ever accused me of being opinionated.

That's not true.  Really a few hundred people have accused me of that. Haw Haw!  It's true.

But here's another opinion of mine that probably won't matter much to anyone else, but it might.

I think we should band together and rise up and demand more informative horse magazines! If they are going to whittle the pages down in horse mags today, the information should be more user-necessary and less user-fluff.

Okay, let me back up a little bit.

I was just over on the Eclectic Horseman site where I ordered a DVD set called
Four Strands of Rawhide with Randy Rieman and Bill Dorrance.  Because I want to learn to braid Raitas (or Reatas) just like Bill Dorrance used to. That was the only website where I could find any instructional material with him.

On that site they have an ongoing poll where you can vote on different horse related topics. One of the poll questions really surprised me when it came up and the results REALLY surprised me!

In general, when your horses are in use do they go:

166 49.7%

shod all around
125 37.4%

shod on fronts
35 10.5%

in easyboots (or similar product)
8 2.4%

(334 voters)

I was so impressed with this site and the topics that I signed up for their magazine.  Which is what got me on this topic!

Over the years I've subscribed to many of national horse magazines or nag mags as some refer to them. Equus, Horse & Rider, Horse Illustrated, Dressage Today.  I love to keep abreast of everything horse related.  (I don't do any dressage riding, yet.  But you know, someday maybe.  And my dressage horse is a beauty!  He just doesn't know he's a dressage horse, yet.  But you know, someday maybe.)

My first poll question:

Have you noticed lately that horse magazines have been shrinking?
a. Yes, but at least the prices haven't gone up as they have with everything else.
b. Nope, and don't care about this stupid poll question.
c. Get real!  The only thing that hasn't been shrinking is my waist line.

Once you pull-out all the extra subscription cards, what remains isn't much. A front and back cover and 10 pages of ads and 5 pages of articles. Okay that's a tiny bit exaggerated, but it's getting like that.

I think they should combine all those mags, Equus and H&R (which are printed by the same publisher anyway), along with a few others and create one new mag.

Would you subscribe? 
a. Yep
b. Nope
c. Maybe

I let all my subscriptions drop (as did many others I'm assuming, which explains the reduction in pages) except two Equus and Horse Illustrated.

The next one I may drop will be Equus. That's because Horse Illustrated kind of is that magazine that combines all topics and I don't see as many really lame trainers in that one as I have in the others.

So in Equus recently I came across this picture. The article is titled Hoof Supplements on page 27 of edition number 387.

I looked at that photo and was instantly upset.  Someone has once again cut into a healthy frog!  Dang it! 

That same person cut into live sole!  Do you know that the hoof reacts to this assault as an injury because that's what it is?!  That's a fact, not a poll question.

But this hoof is ready for a shoe.  It needs the protection of a shoe now because every bit of protection that it's been busy growing over the past 8 weeks has just been hacked out of it.

One thing about this picture is that you can clearly distinguish the white line ( that yellow line around the outside of the sole) and the waterline just to the outside of the white (yellow) line. Then nail holes and outer (or pigmented) wall.  Sometimes the waterline is referred to as the unpigmented wall.

If your horse should start limping right after being shod, usually that's because of what is referred to as a "hot nail."  The nail was driven into the sensitive laminae above the white (yellow) line.

What would I have done differently with this foot?

1. I would have left the protective outer layer on the frog so it could function normally.  I would not have opened it up to the horse's world of manure, urine, bacteria and most likely thrush which can and will damage that foot to the point where the horse would be mildly to seriously lame without shoes.  If this type of damage continues with every shoeing eventually that frog will just give up trying to heal itself.  Two more poll questions: Do you see shriveled up, atrophied frogs on your horse?  Do you know that frogs aren't really supposed to shed every year?  They only go through that cycle when they aren't healthy and they are attempting to self-repair.

2.  I would not have attacked the sole and hacked any of it out unless there was a layer of dead, flaky sole that was trying to exfoliate because it was ready.  Then I might help it, if that what the hoof seemed to be calling for.  I'd leave it alone if it didn't.  A hoof on natural maintenance trims usually needs nothing done to the frog, bars and sole.

3. I would NOT put a shoe back on this foot because I wouldn't have damaged to the point that will take weeks to repair itself. I would simply put the natural bevel around the wall and grow out those ugly nail holes and any flare.  After the hoofwall was able to repair itself and the holes were gone, I would have a healthy foot the horse could use without shoes.  Or if not, I could just pop a pair of Easyboot Gloves on the fronts and off I'd go.

I do all the time, still I hate to see these pictures in magazines.  I wish editors would educate themselves in fields that have passed them by. 

Two more poll questions:

Why is the white line termed the white line?
a. because calling it "the yellow line" made too much sense.
b. because calling it the distal laminar junction is too hard to remember.
c. because there are no blood vessels in the area of laminae that connects the wall to the sole, so it's white, rather than red as is the sensitive laminae, the area that connects the wall to the coffin bone.

Why is the water line termed the water line?
a. because that where the horse stores water in dry climates.
b. because it sounds almost as ridiculous as calling a yellow line a white line. 
c.  because that area of unpigmented wall is the most moist part of the wall drawing moisture from other areas of wall and is generally the area of wall that should come into contact with the ground first during a stride.

I have never seen those two questions answered in any nag mag anywhere. Have you?

I like my answers!

Well, I know I'm going to get some flake for both of those "c" answers though.  I always seem to illicit at least a couple "you're so dumb" response when I try to sound like I know what I'm talking about. Haw haw!

And what is your response to that Eclectic Horseman poll question?

Just curious!

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Licensed Professionals!

So I just came across this list of professionals on the Washington State Dept of Licensing website who are required to be licensed to perform their job.

For the past few years now, I’ve felt that hoofcare professionals, anyone shoeing, trimming or administering repair of any sort, professionally, to the hooves of horses, should be licensed.

What I found interesting about this list is the how some of the professions who are required to be licensed  compare to hoof care professionals who are not required to be licensed.

It's nice for me that I'm involved in one of the few professions that doesn't require anything more than a business license, and that's not something many farriers require of themselves which resolves that whole tax paying deal, however I think that would be a smart requirement of us - as well as a way to help ensure that horseowners are offered some assurance that they are hiring a professional farrier who has a basic idea of what he/she is doing

Did you know that to be a professional taxidermist, you are required to be licensed?

It’s okay to use cutting tools on the hooves of live animals without a license, but not okay to cut into dead animals without one. Interesting? Well, morticians must be licensed and their profession involves the non-living.

Some of the professionals on the list that Washington State (and most other states) requires license for include: accountants, animal massage therapists, auctioneers, professional boxers, bulk commercial fertilizer distributers (Big BSers I guess) check cashers, crematories, egg handlers, explosives experts (I s’pose that one makes sense) recreational fishing and hunting requires a license, as well as game farming, interpreters, insurance agents, nursery owners, pest inspectors, plumbers, real estate agents, river outfitters, seed dealers, shellfish harvesters, shopkeepers, stock brokers, talkie tooters (not makin’ that up) timekeepers (for professional athletes – are you kidding me?) travel agents and professional wrestlers.

All those professionals need to be licensed, but those of us responsible for the horses ability to stay upright when needed, are NOT required to test for a pesky license!

That just blows my mind. 

Just an observation.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pond Bridge

These pictures might explain why our Barefoot Playfield is taking so long to complete.  Rich doesn't like to do projects that don't involve heavy equiptment.  Many thanks to our friends Jim and Don for all their help!  We have a ways go but it's going to be one heck of a bridge!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Collecting Analogies!

“If you aren’t planning on going hiking for awhile, do you stop trimming your toenails?”

Say, I had this idea. I want to collect some great analogies regarding horses and hoof care. I was hoping you all could help me come up with some good ones that I could post here.

Here’s one that popped into my head last night. I was trimming a customer’s horse at a boarding facility and I noticed another boarder’s horse’s hooves were getting a bit long in the toes and could have really used a trim. 

The owner of the long-toed horse said her horse was just trimmed a month ago so it will be another month and a half before he’s due.  AHHHHHHH! 

I guess the incredulous expression on my face caused the next reassuring comment. “It's okay, he’s not being ridden.”

Seriously, I get that a lot.

The response I thought of much too late was:

“If you aren’t planning on going hiking for awhile, do you stop trimming your toenails?”

Last week, one of my students and I were discussing the fact the veterinarians get very few hours of education on hoofcare in college. When presented with horses that are suffering from hoof ailments, vets will generally refer those horses to horseowner’s farrier. They don’t often realize that some horseowner’s use farriers who haven't had any actual training or education in rehabbing hooves.

Many shoers out there have learned to tack on shoes from an older friend or relative who taught himself how to shoe (by trail and error years before) and hoof anatomy or ailments never becomes a part of their education or experience.

Hooves are pretty simple right.  Just rasp and nail on a shoe.  If the horse doesn't limp, you did good!

After I explained this all too common situation (which can cause years, sometimes, of unnecessary pain and suffering for the horse) he said:

“That’s kind of like an MD sending a patient with foot problems to the Nordstrom’s shoe dept.   He’ll be fitted with a nice pair of shoes, but he won’t get help for his foot condition.

So true! And you never know. A well fitted pair of shoes might make him feel better for awhile, but is the problem solved? Likely not! That's what podiatrists are for.

I was yakking with oue of our better local farriers one day and he explained that he'd been shoeing for 20 years.  The first 5 or so years, he was just shoeing using the skills his father taught him about shoeing.  Then he decided to go to school and get certified.  He said, that's when he found out how much he didn't know.   Cool that he was honest and great that he realized he could better serve the horses, but getting some education behind his work.

So anyway, just for fun, if you have any such hoof care or horse care analogies floating around in your brain, please share them with me either in the comments section or email me directly at


Pat Wagner,
Hoof Elitist

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What good are horse people?

A thought, a question really, just popped into my head this morning while I was watching the Today show. What good are horse people? And the many answers to that question came flooding in to my early morning brain behind it.

I was listening to reports about the huge bonuses that bank and corporate executives who helped send our country into a deep recession are paying themselves and the controversy regarding whether they really deserve the millions they are receiving.

Who am I to care really, I’m just a tax paying horse person. And what good are horse people really? We don’t deserve huge bonuses for our work. Or do we?

I visit horse people nearly every day in my job as a hoof care professional. My definition of a horse person isn’t the big breeder who owns the facility that is worth millions, and breeds horses that sell for thousands. That’s a business person.

A horse person is someone like me. Someone who loves horses, and owns a few acres with more horses on it than it can support. Our every spare dollar goes into buying hay from the local hay farmer and who keeps the local feed stores in business.

A horse person is someone whose spouse or partner may not be considered a "horse person" exactly, but they've come to care very much about horses and often spends most his or her free time feeding the horses, then dragging a two-wheeled cart around and filling it with the outcome of feeding the horses.

Our partners may not be "horse experts", but may have expertise in many other fields, such as fence building and mending, gate adjustments, footing and bedding, mud and manure management, composting, and a host of other demands involved with horse care.

Horse people don’t own horses that are worth thousands usually. They own the horses that someone else has tossed aside. Tossed aside for being too lame, too arthritic, too old, too blind, or just one too many.

We feed those horses, groom them, pay for their hoofcare, dentistry, and medical care. We love those horses and will do anything to assure their peace of mind and comfort.

We do so much more for our beloved “throw away” horses than the poor horses who live on the million dollar farms could ever hope for. Very often, those horses feel the touch of a human only when they are being led to and from the breeding barn.

And it's not just horses we take under our wings and into our dwindling bank accounts, it's all the other animals who find themselves in need of food, shelter, healthcare and love.

But the most crucial aspect of being a horse person is our kids. Not just our own kids, but more likely our grandkids. As well as our friend’s kids, our cousin’s kids, and most often our neighbor kids.

Kids, who love horses and like to hang around the very horse people who spend most their time and all their money taking care of their horses. Yet are willing to take time out to tack up horses whose main job it is to be led around with a kid on his back.

We horse people influence those kids. We teach them how to care for and manage life for the animals we are responsible for. We teach them about safety, sharing, and play, not just for the horses, but for themselves, their family members, and their friends

Is it worth it to horse people to take all this extra time and do so much for kids that we probably would otherwise rarely see if we were not horse people?

Well, when I look over to see my 8 year old neighbor standing at my field fence waiting for me to notice her and invite her over, and I see her sweet face light up and watch her dance in the air when I ask her if we should get one of the horses out for her to ride, and when she jumps into my truck to ride with me to attend a lesson, or when she gets a little nervous when I ask if she’s ready to try trotting...I'd have to say's very worth that extra time.

When I watch my little granddaughter carefully extend her arm out to the Belgian draft horse, who was formerly abused and dangerous and whose head weighs more than her entire body, to offer him a corn

chip which he politely takes from her small hand, I wonder why those bank executives are getting millions of dollars in bonuses, when it’s horse people who really deserve to be rewarded for their lifes’ work.

But what do I know? I’m just a horse person and really what good are horse people anyway?

This good!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Question: Would you use a wood sealer/preservative on your horses’ hooves?

Some of you have and some still do. Anytime you smell a little thrush and run down to your local feed store to purchase one of the most popular hoof treatments on the shelf.

That's what I discovered today. There is a wood sealer that you can buy for less than $18 a gallon and its main ingredient is 10% Copper Naphthenate. The other 90% called "inert ingredient" is likely petroleum products like kerosene. That's according to Rich.

Rich purchased several gallons of this stuff today to treat the lumber for our bridge over the pond in our playfield. While he was treating some of the lumber, I was outside and the aroma was so strong and so familiar to me, but I couldn't place it.

Then Scrunchy, the curly coated cattle dog, jumped up and sat her little curly white butt down on one of the beams and her butt turned very bright green.

As she turn and mooned me with her neon green bottom and wagging tail, it slowly dawned on me. That color! That unmistakable smell was the same as the hoof treatment that I've warmed so many owners NOT TO USE!

I checked and sure enough. Copper Naphthenate is the main ingredient in a popular hoof treatment, a product name that ends with the first syllable in the word “toxic" by the way.

The ads brag that it's antifungal, and it seals and preserves the hoof. Why yes it does. I find this stuff inside horse's hooves months, sometimes years after the owner has applied it.

It has the same affect on hooves that it has on wood! Only the percentage prescribed for wood (10%) is much less than what is prescribed for your horse's delicate foot - nearly 40% in some of the products I found on line!

And the price! You can get a whole gallon of wood preservative for a buck or two more than you’d pay for an 8 ounce bottle labeled "hoof treatment."

Whoever thought of using a “wood sealer/preservative” on a horse’s hoof?

Probably the same folks who are okay with suggesting old timey remedies like turpentine, acetone, aluminum chloride, formaldehyde, alcohol, bleach or Lysol, or Oxine/Citric Acid combinations.

And please allow farriers to use CS (copper sulfate) treated sole packs typically used under shoe pads. CS destroys thrush and frogs and sole.

Copper Sulfate treated hoof packing (commonly used with NBS - Natural Balance Shoes) was used under a pad on this hoof. It's not a clear photo, but trust me, the frog is missing.

Dang, as I list this so many "chemicals" come to mind that have been recommended to horse owners to apply to their horse's feet!

This has got to stop!

This only product I will recommend to soak a horse's hoof is Epsom Salts. I have no idea if it helps anything, but I'm pretty sure it can't hurt. It doesn't have any antibacterial or antifungal properties, but it helps the owner feet better about doing something to ease their horse's discomfort. That's important.

(This product can be found at your local farrier supply store or on-line.)

Mild iodine is all I will treat thrush with and lately I’ve been using Hawthorne Sole Pack to treat thrush (inside boots) and fill in large areas of separation, splits, etc. It’s a pine tar/mild iodine combination that packs like playdough. When it’s packed into large areas of separation it keep other foreign materials out and the horse can still go barefoot.

From now on, let's take time to read the labels on products we apply to our horses's feet. It could be harmful to their health.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ain't That a Kick In The Head...

Did I do that?

I just wanted to add a post today to remind everyone I care so much about, those I know and those I haven't met yet, to please be so careful around your horses.

Spencer has been getting so much better around people, but he can easily revert back to that unhandled stallion who joined our group last year. Occasionally, he expresses his annoyance with his feet! But usually, his aggressive gestures are directed at the other horses while he's eating. Not at me.

Still he sometimes lets me know when it’s me bugging him. Normally, I get after him for forgetting not to kick around me, but on Sunday, I wasn't paying close attention and probably could be in the hospital today, or worse, if I didn't have such a hard head.

I was clipping the hair around Spencer's gargantuan front hooves so I could get a better view of them. He doesn't always display obvious signs of annoyance, so they are easy to miss and Rich missed them as he was standing at Spencer’s head. Draft's are typically just so easy going that we can take their tolerance for granted without even realizing it.

And I was busy clipping away at his lower legs not realizing Spencer was getting bent about it. Guess where my head was while I was coming around behind his front legs with the clippers? He raised his hind hoof up and bam! To the moon, Alice! That’s where I felt like I was for a second or two.

First, I felt this:

then I saw a nanosecond of blackness, followed by this:

A couple pints of blood later, I decided I didn't want to go to the hospital and wait for 7 hours in the lobby with 87 sick people like we did a few weekends ago when Rich dove head first off a stack of hay bales and landed on his head on the edge of the utility trailer. His injury was worse then mine. He didn’t cry. I did.

This morning, I spent a couple hours playing with Spencer in the round pen. We just did some ground work, but I had my helmet on. From now on whenever I'm around him or any other untrained horse, I will be wearing my helmet. I don't care how silly I look.
Later I went to work and trimmed 4 unruly horses and 1 nice one. I felt okay, but I was so paranoid of my head that whenever one of the horses would lift a hind leg I'd jerk back, wishing for my helmet.

About a month ago, I was standing beside my beefy QH gelding, Danny, in the driveway. He was next to the fence and I was on the other side. Our dang dogs suddenly ran up to him and didn’t start yapping until they were right next to him.. He spooked and jumped into me, knocking me off my feet and sending me backwards onto the gravel. I HAD my helmet on then and could tell from the impact I would have gone to the hospital if I hadn't been wearing it.

Anyways, I know I don't have to remind you to be careful out there and protect your noggins even when you're not riding, and to make sure your guests who come to ride your horses are always wearing helmets even if they are just standing beside the horses. But I will anyways because I care about you.

Heads up!

Yes, it was me...Sorry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Abscesses Revisited.

I think I get it now and I'm so excited!!

I wrote an article last year about abscesses. But I’ve since had an epiphany about them, what causes abscesses, treatment and how to keep them from starting in the first place.

I once thought there were two types of abscesses: The kind that start in the white line and work its way up the hoof wall; and another type, subsolar that start under the sole and work its way up and out the heel bulb or rupture out of the sole.

That’s only partly correct.

Recently I read an article by a farrier who was certain sole abscesses start with stone bruises. The sole doesn’t bruise. The sole tissue has no blood as the farrier suggested, causing bruising. A farrier of all professionals should know that. Farrier’s, vets and trimmers often cut into the sole (even when they shouldn't) and it would seem to me that if the sole could bruise, the result of cutting into it would be a bloody mess.

Some suggest abscessing is diet related, but I don’t think that’s true either.

There is only one kind of abscess. And maybe “abscess” isn’t even the best word to use to describe what is happening, but for now, lets use it because that’s the word we are most familiar with.

Abscesses begin only in the whiteline of the hoof. I’ve only ever seen sole abscess start in the area of the bar. The bars of the hoof are an extension of the hoofwall and the bars have a whiteline, just like the outer hoof wall.

I didn’t put this together until I attended a seminar recently with Swedish natural hoof care practitioner, Ove Lind.

So what I used to think was a very complex topic, I now realize is VERY SIMPLE.

When we allow separation of the white line to take place, we are going to get abscessing. Bacteria invade the white line and works its away up the whiteline/laminae until it reaches soft tissue where it can erupt and relieve the horse of pain. Abscesses that start in the outer wall, erupt at the coronet band and abscesses that start in the white line of the bar erupt at the heel bulb.

It’s that simple! Separation of the whiteline allows abscesses to start. Separation is caused by neglect or improper trimming whether a hoof is shod or not.

Shod hooves can abscess. But a shod hoof is locked down restricting flexibility and circulation. That conditions impedes the abscess from working its way to soft tissue were it can erupt - resulting in pain relief for the horse.

Shod horses with abscesses, I know, are very often misdiagnosed with mystery conditions like navicular and laminitis. Translation: Your horse is lame and we don’t know why.

Either the horse is put into corrective shoes, (more constricted) put down, or the shoes are pulled and the horse is put out to pasture where it very often becomes sound again on it’s own. Also a mystery as no one noticed the abscesses finally ruptured.

So now I believe I really get it! Correct and frequent trimming, as well as not allowing the bars to be weight bearing will keep your horse from abscessing. It’s just that simple.

When I hear my horse abscesses over and over again. I know that the hooves of that horse aren’t being trimmed correctly. That’s all there is to it!

Abscesses in the hind hooves often cause so little pain we don’t even know it’s happening until we notice a rupture site at the soft tissue above the hoof.

Or abscesses can be so painful, the leg swells, the joints lock up and the horse can’t put any weight on the hoof for days.

What is the correct treatment? There is none. Once the abscess starts, it must be allowed to run it’s course. It erupts when it gets to soft tissue and the white line it invaded on its way up is now dead and the rupture site must grow out. As for the abscess that starts in the bar, that very often means the horse may lose a large section of bar and sole in the heel area or even the entire sole depending on how much of the solar papillae was invaded.

We have to give the horse time to grow out a new hoof often times, before we see complete soundness again. As this is happening we often see off and on again lameness. No lameness at the walk, but lameness at the trot and this can go on for months even years of the horse isn’t allowed time for the abscess to rupture.

What is the worst thing we can do for the abscess? Dig it out? If we did at something that’s on it’s way up, all we are doing is giving the horse a secondary problem to grow out. And if the dig site becomes deep and wide, more debris is allowed to enter the hoof and possibly cause bone infection as a result.

So when your horse abscesses, make sure it’s barefoot, has time to heal and no digging.

That’s where I stand on abscesses now.

Subsolar abscess: This mare was lame in shoes for years with no obvious signs so she was diagnosed as a founder case. The owner's comment was that she should have been dog food long ago. Sad. We pulled shoes and abscess was allowed to rupture. She was slowly becoming sound again and owner was advised by her vet that natural trims cause abscessing. She was put back into shoes before she had a chance to fully recover. I haven't heard anything about her beyond that, but it wouldn't surprise me if she's been digested by a dog by now.

You can see the rupture site of an abscess that started in the bars, here just above the center sulcus between the heel bulbs. This horse was never shod, but he went too long between trims and separation of the white line resulted. I hate to admit this is my horse and he was a gravel cruncher before I allowed this to happen.

Lesson learned. A year later, he's much improved, but still not the cruncher he was. Boots solve that.

Rupture site at coronet band from abscess that started in the white line. Separation of the white line was the cause. This abscess started at the same time as the one that started in the bar so that tells me there was a large section of separation that went into the bars.

A horse will usually exhibit more pain if the abscess is in the front hoof rather than a hind. The leg and fetlock joint can swell and the no weight can be put on the leg without the horse exhibiting intense pain.

Does this resemble a founder stance? Yes it does. And a huge diagnositc mistake could have easily been made on this horse. Thankfully, I was certain it was an abscess and I was right. He was laying on the ground for 4 days before the rupture. I just allowed him to rest and the abscess to rupture and he gradually recuperated. It's been a long road for this poor guy. Due to the abscess, he foundered in all four feet. A full recovery has taken just over a year.

It's important to note that we probably won't even realize our horse is abscessing until it gets close to soft tissue where it can erupt. That's why digging at the abscess is a mistake. By the time the horse is experiencing pain, the abscess has made it's way so far up the hoof to get past it. NO DIGGING!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ove Lind and the Swedish Hoof School

I had the opportunity to attend one of Ove Lind's seminars last weekend. Wow! I had so many "Aha" moments listening to him. He's an amazing teacher of natural hoof care.

If you trim and want to learn from someone who really knows therapeutic hoof trimming strategies, you need to attend one of his seminars if you can catch when he's over here from Sweden touring.

I don't have any pictures to upload. Doh! A smarter woman would have pulled her camera out at least once while there, but there was just so much information to absorb, I didn't even think of it. Well, I did, but then I'd forget to go get the camera from the Jeep.

For some awesome info about slow hay feeders and articles on thrush and other important hoof issues, go to the website,

I would love to fly to Sweden and attend the school and tour the country and meet the barefoot horses. Horse owners there are way ahead of us in the barefoot movement. It's not new to them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meet Wisky

This is the newest horse to come to us for help for her hooves. An 11 year old saddlebred mare whose hooves are in a similar condition as two other horses that came here for help and are doing well today, Hank and Amado (see previous post).

She will have her own blog up soon. Watch for her progress. I hope to be updating you on Hank and Spencer soon as well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Itchie Horse Cured!

Old Song - New Words!

This Butt was made for scratching! So that's just what he'd do!

If you weren't payin' attention...this butt would scratch all over you!!!

This butt is normally bald from scratching, but this year, I think we may have found a cure!

I want to know if anyone out there has a horse or knows of one who becomes so miserable in the spring and Summer, that he/she has trouble focusing on anything, except how much they ITCH!

Do you know of horses who scratch and rub themselves raw, rub out patches of hair?

Or what about the horse who will be strolling across the pasture or paddock, and suddenly drop to the ground, then using his front legs, gets into a sitting position and rub, rub, rub his belly on the ground?

My gelding, Danny, would rub his chest between until it callused over with a thickened layer of hide.

Sound familiar?

Since he was about 4 years old (10 now) Danny has been itchy and he'd find a new way to scratch himself with each season of itchiness.

Not only was there a cost to him as far as his sanity, but also the cost of lotions and potions and bath treatments I've tried in my vein attempts to find relief for my boy. Hundreds of dollars were thrown at sprays and chemicals guaranteed to give him relief that probably cost next to nothing to produce.

Many of the product required bathing the horse in them every few days. I have a family, a job, a herd of horses and live in the Pacific NW where the term “sun breaks” was a coined. And they expect mee to bath my horse every few days!

So basically, last year, I just gave up the battle of the itch. I felt bad for him that he was so distressed from Spring until Fall, but I was out of ideas.

I discussed the situation with MANY other owners of horses with his same symptoms. There were as many theories as to what causes this problem, as there are horses that suffer with it. Am I right? Those of you with an itching horse know what I'm talking about.

Allergic to the saliva of midges? Maybe. But who knows for sure.

But Danny didn't itch at all this year! He never dropped, rubbed all his hair out on his butt, never itched until his neck was raw or his chest was callused.

When I realized something had changed about him, that something was missing this summer, at first I thought, hmmm, he must have grown out of it. I've heard of kids with allergies growing out of them and one vet told me early on, that was his problem -- allergies.

Then I remembered something that I did early this year. I treated him for lice! For a couple dollars, I think I fixed his problem.

I noticed Spencer and a few of the other horses itching like crazy this Spring and I got to combing through Spencer’s mane and thought I was seeing lice. I wasn’t sure, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
"Who me? Lice?"
I know a breeder who treats her horses for lice once or twice each year whether they need it or not and when she told me that, I thought – over kill.

Lousy horses are nearly unheard of these days and doesn’t treating a horse with ivermectin for worms take care of lice? That’s what we’re told, but somehow I don’t think that’s true in all cases.

I treated Spencer and all the other horses according to the directions and all the horses seemed to experience some sort of relief from itching. You have to be careful to get their forelock treated though, or if your horse has bugs, they will migrate to whatever part of their forelock, mane or tail, that you didn’t treat and will drive the horse nuts in that one spot.

The treatment instructions call for treating all your livestock, 3 times, 10 days apart. That is going to be a part of my horsecare regime once a year no matter what. Mainly because equines come and go on my property.

So did Danny have lice? I don’t know. He has black mane and tail and you’d think I would have noticed at some point in his 10 year of life. I found them on Spencer who has nearly white mane.

These guys live right next door to my horses. Could lice be transmitted from cows to horses? I don't know.

So I’m wondering if there is something about the lice dusting powder that treated whatever it was he did have.

Whatever it was, he’s much calmer now that he can think about other things in the Spring and Summer besides how much he itches.

Water fun with the kids!

A few of my itchy horse customers are trying the lice powder and are going to report back to me. So I’ll update you on the experiment.

If you have an itchy horse and try treating them with the delousing powder, please send me your results. And remember not to expect lasting results until after the 3rd treatment.

I have a feeling you have to use it before the itchy season starts for it to be effective. So if it doesn’t work this year, try applying in February or March of next year.

Let me know how it works. And if that song gets stuck in your're welcome:-)

Note: The product that I use is Horse Lice Duster III, by Farnam which contains Permethrin.

Don't try to sprinkle the powder from the top of the can. All you get is a mist that you end up breathing. Use gloves and a face mask and pull the plug from the bottom of the can, dump powder into your hand and rub it into your horse starting at the forelock and working your way back to and into the tail. Then from the chest along his stomach to his other business.

If weather permits, cover your horse with a sheet for a few days to keep him from getting powder him his mouth, although, I doubt that a small amount would hurt a horse, and I didn't use a facemask, but the powder doesn't taste very good.

I just used this on another itchie horse and she's itch free too! She just seems so much more relaxed and happy. It's amazing. Again, I don't believe she had lice, but I do know this powder also treats other parasites including, but not limited to, fleas, ticks and those small annoying face flies.