Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Horses in Need of Intervention

I take agility lessons with my dog and trade caring for the instructors animals when she goes out of town for the lessons. Her horses are in DESPERATE need of a trim. It's at the point of neglect. The horses belonged to her husband who recently died, so I have a feeling she's not intentionally neglecting them, but that it's just too painful a reminder to get them a lot of TLC. I suspect she simply feeds them and doesn't do anything other than that. The feet are TERRIBLE. I mean bad bad bad. One of the girl's feet are so long that they are cracking up and chipping on the edges. When she walk she trips on her toes. The other isn't so bad, and I think it's because her hair seems to not grow as fast or as long as the one who has the chips and cracks, and so her hoofs just don't grow as fast (my poodles hair/nails grow much faster than my mothers- so that's just a guess, I am NOT a horse expert- I don't even have one!). I can't keep sitting by praying she'll call somebody out. It's to the point where I have to say something, even if that means offending her and losing my agility lessons. So my question for you as the hoof expert and someone who deals with these situations is, how should I approach this? I have class with her on Wednesday and plan to talk to her then. So what's the best way to tell her that it can't wait any longer without being rude? I am embarrassed I haven't said something sooner but it's a tough situation. I am really bad about confronting people anyway, and this is more personal than just some random person who isn't taking care of their horses- this is someone I know loves her animals and wouldn't intentionally hurt them. Sorry this got so long! But thank you so much in advance. I love your blog and get excited when I see a new one on my reader! Thanks again!

I'm really sorry for the horses you mentioned and for you for finding yourself in this position. But really, you are likely the only one who can help these horses, so I'm putting the pressure on you to do something. Sorry:0)

Because this isn't an unusual situation, this is a really good question. I thought I would post my response here to insure that you get it.

I’m sure you’re correct that this likely isn’t intentional neglect. I’ve come upon this exact situation myself a couple times. The owner of the horse dies, and the spouse, who knows nothing about them, becomes the caretaker. It’s too difficult to sell the horses, so they end up being neglected.

Since those were your friend’s husband’s horses, she is likely purely ignorant to the fact that horse’s need pedicures occasionally, just like dogs and people do.

If I were in your shoes, I would simply ask, in a sincere way, if she has noticed her horse’s hooves lately. That will give you an idea of what exactly is going on with them.

If she says she hasn’t, then you could ask her if she is aware that horses need regular hoofcare, (not necessarily shoes – but trims) or their hooves will deteriorate to the point where it becomes very painful for the horses to move around, and it can get bad enough, in some cases, that the horses may need to be put down.

If she responds that she is aware of the condition of their hooves, but hasn’t had time (or finances) to get them on the schedule of a hoofcare professional, then you could again let her know that this could be a very painful condition from which it will be difficult for the horses to recuperate.

Maybe you could offer to help her out by calling someone who can help with their feet, and schedule a trim and let her know how much it will cost. Would you be willing to do that? I can provide you names of people to contact in your area.

I don’t think asking her questions in this way and offering to help make a few phone calls would become confrontational at all. She just may not be aware. It’s easy to toss hay to horses without even glancing down at their feet. It happens more often than we’d like to think.

But if you, as a non-horse person, are noticing the condition of the hooves of these horses, then I agree, they must be in dire straits.

Maybe, she would like to get the horses into new homes so she no longer has to worry about them. Again, you could help with that by listing them on craigs list for her. Not as free horses, but as inexpensive horses. Owners of free horses that are listed on craigslist.org run the risk of the horses being sent to slaughter by fraudulent adopters who portray themselves as someone looking for a horse to provide a good home to.

I hope this helps. Please keep me posted on what happens with these horses. My email address is patslark@fairpoint.net

All my best.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Flare Part 2

Since a few of you commented that hoof in the last post with the splits. I thought I would follow up so you could see what natural trims can do in cases like that. This horse's coffin bone was on the ground. There was no sole protection for it as his soles were stretched paper-thin.
Here are a couple after shots. These were taken after a few trims, but his original problems developed mainly because he was a thoroughbred, and the knew of his opposite leg was blown out. So he put all his weight on this foot. The other foot really didn't look so bad, because he wasn't putting much weight on it. Of course, this hoof never should have gotten to this point so yes, he had gone out way too long between trims, but it was a cool case study.

Often horses that find them in his situation are put down, when they can be fixed.
But I didn't continue with him until we had him all the way back as the owner couldn't afford to keep him on as tight of a trim schedule as it would have taken to get that foot solid again, so I was always chasing those splits.

So this wasn't just a hoof problem. I see so many OTTB's (off-track thoroughbred) with the exact knee condition. Also many Quarter horses who were used hard when they were too young. So we can only do so much at the hoof to support a warped joint.

Just thought I would share that! Thanks for following!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Question Regarding Hoofwall Flare

Hi Pat, I have a question for you. I have a post about my horse’s feet and I talked a little about how her foot is flared out a bit. Pony Girl wanted me to explain more what flare is. I am not a farrier so I thought I would ask you, a barefoot specialist about it. Can you help us out? I don’t feel qualified to give her an intelligent answer. LOL

Thank you. (Blushing) I'm not so sure about how intelligently I can respond, but here goes.

My personal short answer: Flare is when the healthy (well-connected) angle of the hoof wall diverges due to stress - on the laminae – which creates stretching and separation of wall from the interior part of the hoof capsule.

So now for my long answer!

First, let’s look a healthy hoof. We see an angle that is the same from the coronet band to the ground. What we can say about that hoof is it has healthy well-connected wall from top to bottom. In other words, healthy tight laminae from the coronet band to the ground.(Boy, I had a tough time finding a picture of a healthy hoof on my computer. I only take pictures before they're fixed! This is Khessie's (an Arab) hoof after her first natural trim. Not perfect, but not bad.)

Next, if we look at a hoof that isn’t as healthy, we may see that the angle diverges at some point between the coronet band and the ground. That point on the wall where the angles changes is commonly referred to as DTA, divergent toe angle.

On some hooves you may see several different DTA's. This hoof isn't a great example for defining DTA as it's got so many other things going on, but you can see a definite DTA just above where the splitting stops.

I like the way Pete Ramey explains flare. If you take your hand and wrap it around the hoof just below the DTA, what you’ll see above your hand is wall that is connected to the coffin bone by healthy, tight, laminae. Remove your hand and you see is flare. Make sense?

It doesn’t matter if the degree of the divergence, or flare, is extreme or slight either. It’s all wall flare.

What does it mean when we see flare? It means that the laminae below the DTA is stretched and in some cases, stretched to the point of separation. When the laminae separates, that’s when we start seeing abscesses and white line disease.

What causes flare?
Usually incorrect or overly cautious trimming, shoeing or neglect (not trimming often enough.)

Remember from the last post that the laminae is the connective tissue that is the attachment between the coffin bone and the hoofwall. There are two layers. Think of it as Velco. The sensitive (dermal) layer is the coffin bone side, and the insensitive (epidermal) is the hoofwall side. It’s referred to as sensitive and insensitive because the sensitive laminae is alive and has a complex vascular (veins with blood flowing through it) system. And the insensitive layer does not have blood flow. That’s easy to consider. Right?

Well, let’s take it a step farther. The coffin bone doesn’t go all the way to the ground, does it? No. But the connective tissue that attaches the bone to wall does.

Still with me?

So between the base of the coffin bone and the ground, what’s the laminae doing? It’s essentially connecting the sole to the wall. That area where the laminae is connecting sole material to the wall is called the white line.

The “white line” is the yelowish colored "line or ring" that you see on the bottom of the hoof between the wall and the sole. Right?

If a hoof is neglected for months, even years in some cases, the wall gets very long. The wall at the ground, supporting the horse’s weight starts to grow “out” away from the coffin bone, rather than continuing to grow “down.” That’s flare.

As time passes and the wall continues to grow, it will continue to grow out and as it does it stretches the white line, (it also stretches the sole which can become very thin causing the horse to be very tenderfooted.)

The connective tissue (laminae) between bone and wall, now begins to stretch as well. In some neglect cases, where that situation lasts for an extended time, it’s not uncommon to see hooves that are flared all the way up to the coronet band. So there is no DTA on that hoof because there is NO healthy connection to the bone. It's all flare. Crazy, huh?

In many cases if flare is severe, the wall circumference can no longer sustain the horses weight and it will begin to split - sometimes splitting all the way to the coronet band.

Can that situation be repaired with trims? Yes, in most cases, it can. The key is to start getting frequent and correct trims going on that horse.

The other important components of a healthy hoof must be considered as well, diet, movement and environment. But the trim schedule must become often and consistent.

When repairing a hoof in this condition, you can’t expect to see results by trimming every 5 or 6 weeks. I personally would recommend starting with a 2 week trim schedule and working out to 5 weeks as the hoof is being repaired. I try not to let my own horses' go out past 5 weeks between trims. That schedule, in itself, alleviates hoof issues such as abscesses, white line disease, thrush, and more.

From time to time, one of my customers will say to me, “My horses’ feet are doing great! So I’d like to start extending their trim schedule out a bit longer.

To that I say, “No problem, but after a while you won’t be telling me how great your horses feet are doing.”

If a customer really wants to stretch their trimming schedule out for 7 or 8 weeks, or more, (and granted sometimes that just happens and it can’t be helped) but if that should become the norm, I will eventually refer that owner to someone else. I, personally, don’t want my name on the hooves of those horses.

Also, in that situation, I’m not performing maintenance trims. Every trim is a corrective trim, and corrective trims are more difficult and take longer to accomplish. Not only is my job continually more difficult, but the horses will never be able to prove how well their hooves could perform because their transition to healthy feet never actually occurs.

Every hoof I maintain is a reflection on my work as a natural hoofcare practitioner. I don’t want my name attached flared, split, hooves of tender-footed horses when it’s the length of time between trims that is likely causing those issues.

How’d I do with that answer?

This hoof looks pretty nice don't you think? It was just trimmed by a farrier. Pasture trim. But the hoofwall doesn't have a healthy connection from the coronet. It's all flare. The tri m isn't bad at all, but I would have gotten much more assertive with the trim so as to begin correcting the problem rather than allowing the hoof to maintain the disconnected growth.

Q&A Degenerative Tendonitis and Laminitis

Question: chronic degenerative tendonitis and laminitis. Are they genetic? What causes them? My horses sire was put down because of these.

This is a question from Denali that was posted in the comments section of the previous post, so I thought I would try to address it here.

Interesting question!

So we are referring to two separate issues. First: Chronic degenerative tendonitis

I did a quick internet search for “degenerative tendonitis” and found that in humans, degenerative tendonitis is a gradual degeneration or deterioration of the Achilles tendon. A condition sometimes referred to as tendinosis or tendinopathy. The Achilles tendon like all the other tendons of the human body relies on a steady blood flow to stay healthy. If you suffer many tears in the Achilles tendon over time these tears will prevent proper healing and the tendon won’t repair, as it should. If the tendon does not repair properly than the blood supply will not be as it should and the tendon will slowly deteriorate. This causes a weakening and thickening of the tendon, which will prevent normal movement and can lead to pain and an inability to move and to perform normal tasks. Degenerative tendonitis in many ways is just like any other tendonitis with the difference that it occurs over a long time and that it gets progressively worse.

Degenerative tendonitis is treated pretty much like other tendonitis in that you are treating the pain and use physical therapy, stretching exercises, a brace or boot and immobilization of the leg for rest in order to minimize the damage and to help rest and then allow for a return to use as much as possible. The difference is that it is understood that the body part will not be returning to normal function, as this is a degenerative form of tendonitis.

Interesting huh! If the tendon is torn over and over, it doesn’t heal well after a while and builds up what I would think of as scar tissue that can inhibit how a tendon moves over the bone beneath. Just a wild guess!

So is it hereditary? Wow, I don’t know. But I’d be inclined to say no. It would depend in my opinion on how athletic a person is.

As for a horse, they are natural athletes, but we humans tend to destroy their body parts by overworking them when they are very young and their bodies are still developing and/or sending them into hard work before they’re muscles and connective parts (tendons and ligaments) have had a chance to “warm up’ – get the blood circulating.

Although, in the wild, horses can go from sleeping to super fast in a split second anytime a predator steps out of the bushes. But then those bursts of energy are typically short sprints, then rest. They don’t run and run for hours at a time. They zip across a meadow and look back to see if the danger is still too close for comfort. For any wild animal conserving energy means survival.

As all horse owners should know, the laminae connects the coffin bone to the interior of the hoofwall. When the dermal layer (coffin bone side) of that connective tissue becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as laminitis.

A sudden onset of extreme inflammation of the dermal laminae is referred to as “acute laminitis.” When the laminae is damaged by inflammation, the sensitive or dermal layer of laminae gives up and the connection between the coffin bone to the interior hoof wall fails. That condition becomes long term, “chronic” and by then is generally referred to as “founder.”

So laminitis can be chronic, absolutely, and due to chronic founder, there is typically degeneration to the coffin bone, but not always. However, the dermal laminae is either alive and well with a healthy blood flow, acutely inflamed and failing, or dead as a doorknob.

I can only assume that the level of pain the horse was suffering with and how well his pain could be controlled would determine the decision to terminate his life. And how much effort and expense the owner was willing to extend to save him. Everyone has their own set of values when it comes to decisions like that.

There are so many things that can go wrong with our horses, I don’t think I would worry about these two conditions afflicting your mare just because the sire was diagnosed with them.

How’s that for an optimistic view?!:0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Thoughts on Alfalfa

I just wanted to take a minute to talk about alfalfa. Alfalfa has probably been one of the most controversial, misunderstood forages for horses.

For years, like most of you, I fed alfalfa to my horses. But then, I’m going to say about 5 to 7 years ago, I started hearing all the rumors about how terrible alfalfa is for our horses. I didn’t look at my horses and think, “Hmm, but they seem to be doing well with it as part of their diet."

Nope! I listened to the rumors and took it completely out of their diet. Replaced with grass hay and watched as my horses’ energy, weight, coat and hooves began to lose…something. That healthy appearance, or snappy glow, just wasn’t there after awhile.

So, I went through a period when I recommended "No alfalfa" for any reason to any equine, ever! That was in my American Association of Natural Hoof Care Practitioners (AANHCP) and Zen Master, (note sarcasm) Jaime Jackson, days.

I've since learned that with nutrition, for horses especially, there is no cut and dried (PUN!), right or wrong, black or white, all or nothing way to feed. There are all sorts of shades of green and brown.

Many nutritionists recommend testing our hay. True, it’s really the only way to know how we should supplement the hay we feed, but…

…testing hay for me is difficult. I, like many of you have precious little storage space for hay. So we purchase about one ton of hay at a time, feed it out, and go purchase the next ton. I have several hay sources that I purchase from and I feed a variety of hays because equine bodies were meant for a variety of forages. Not just one type all the time.

Sometimes I get lucky and the hay I get is beautiful and the horses love it! And sometimes it's dusty, dirty, and not that nice, but the horses eat it if they get hungry enough.

The thing is, I had fed alfalfa, either exclusively or with other hays, over the years, but when I really got into “natural” horse and hoof care, I learned that alfalfa is not natural to the horse’s diet and that it is intended mainly to put weight on beef cattle and that was all it was good for. True, it’s great for fattening cattle…and horses!

So after hearing the rumors and banning the green stuff from my barn, I discovered Katy Watts! A scientist! Katy has done studies in her own back yard in her own lab on hays. You can purchase her DVD’s from her website safergrass.org and learn all about it yourself.

One of the main things I took away from Katy's research was that alfalfa is one of the only hays that has NO SUGARS. That may not be what she intended me to take away exclusively, but I did. Not only that, but alfalfa is loaded with calcium and protein and packs a real nutritional bang for my horse-feeding buck.

(Note: that picture has been altered:0)
I believe that over the past number of years, we horse owners got so caught up in limiting proteins and fat (needed for energy) from our horses’ diets that we totally spaced over on how bad sugars are for them. Note: I personally prefer my horses to have energy. If they really act out, I blame my training program, not my feeding program.

So now a-days, we are seeing so many EPSM, insulin resistant, cushings or some other sort of metabolically challenged horses, not to mention regular old chronic founder cases, that it’s kind of mind boggling. Why weren’t we seeing as many of those issues years ago when everyone was feeding…um, alfalfa?

Most equines will choose to eat alfalfa over any other hay. Some horses might get loose stools when it’s first introduced to them, but if it’s slowly added into their diet as any new feed should be, that issue usually clears up in short order.

I’ve heard that alfalfa will make our horses fat and will likely cause founder. It could make them fat, if "over-feeding" is part of your horse’s nutrition plan, but it is less likely to cause founder than when we allow our horses to graze on spring pastures during the temperatures when grasses aren't as efficiently respirating out the sugars that is manufactured during photosynthesizes during sunny warm days.

I’ve heard that it destroys the horses liver. Maybe, I’m not scientist, but haven’t seen evidence of that, yet, have you? Let me know if you have.

And that it shortens the life of donkeys. Huh! Who did that study? I haven’t heard about it. Donkeys can survive on just about anything and live to a ripe old age, so again, who did that study? It would take years to confirm whether that declaration is true or not.

Our own donkeys eat alfalfa everyday and they are still alive and healthier than when I wasn’t feeding alfalfa. Their feet are in great shape, their weight is pretty good, they are a little pudgy, and they usually have shiny coats in the summer. As do the mules. I'll make a note of it if they start dropping dead soon.

So because of the ribs I was seeing around my pasture, last year, I went back to feeding alfalfa. Slowly those ribs have been covered over, although, I’m pretty careful in trying NOT to allow my horses to get fat.

It’s not easy to keep minis from getting fat, but on the larger equines, I don’t like to see them fat. As we know, sugars and obesity can lead to laminitis, founder and insulin resistance.

A fat horse is no healthier than a fat person. I cannot figure out why, we prefer humans to be slim and trim - a few ribs showing is a good thing. But on our horses, we want them fat and sleek and we ask them to work very hard in that condition. If that were the case with people, I could consider myself in excellent physical condition! (I'm not. I'm right up there in weight, with my minis.)

(Again, altered picture!  Do I really need to mention that?)
Anyway, I think there is much research to be done and much to learn about equine nutrition. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t believe there are many experts in that field, because not enough research has been done in that arena.

In my opinion, equine nutrition as we know it is mostly speculation. We mostly are guessing and that explains so many different diets, and the mind-blowing plethora of supplements we horse owners have to chose from.

This is one book that I didn’t care for at first, but had only skimmed it before making my initial (hasty) decision, is now one of my favorites on nutrition.

On the back cover is a horse leaning over a rickety fence getting into a pile of apples that had fallen off the tree. Crap! That’s not good. But there I was judging a book by its cover! Now that I’ve given this book a chance, I really like it and I feel it’s probably better than most books I’ve read on the topic. If you give it a read, let me know what you think. I’m always interested in other opinions – usually -and mostly if they agree with mine. Hee.


Update on Fancy's Trailering Injury

April 15, 2009

Lisa: Fancy and I spent the day at the vet. Her orginal cast is removed.

Two cuts were made diagonally from each other and then the cast was split and pulled off. It doesn't sound like it would be, but this was quite an interesting procedure to watch.

The foot is healing nicely. There is so much granulated tissue that the doc had to scrape some of it off. It had grown all the way through the crack in the hoof. But everything is pink and healthy!

No bare cartilage showing and even though the vet didn’t say so, I am hoping that the white band that seems to be extending inwards from the coronary band is actually band tissue and her hoof will heal better than their prognosis. [I'm sure it will! Pat]

Fancy gets a brand new cast and I think this one went on much better and will be more comfortable than the first one. It isn’t up as high on her leg, and has more padding around the top. Fancy will be in this cast for 3 weeks if everything goes well.

Back at the barn Fancy is moving better but still depressed about being locked up.

On a happy note…I got a 3 horse slant! Yea! This particular accident will never again happen to us.

Friday, April 17, 2009

501c3 Status!

Good news! We are now officially a non-profit corporation in the business of rescuing, rehabbing and rehoming horses with hoof ailments!


One More Scary Horse Hauling Mishap!

Live and Learn

I'm often asked whether I tie my horse's head or not when trailering. I think it depends on the trailer and the horse. But this is one situation where the horse was lucky his head wasn't tied. Read on:

Four young older teens in a hurry to trail ride. They hooked their older heavy 4 horse trailer to a small lowered half ton pickup. [That was their first and biggest mistake - Pat]

The pickup they usually use was in the shop for repair. They placed the two heaviest horses in the back end of the trailer. [Second, and nearly deadly, mistake]

They pulled onto the interstate [Mistake #3] and went less than 2 miles when the truck and trailer jackknifed blocking all traffic. Fortunately, two of the girls were following in another vehicle.

Those two girls could see the trailer swaying and actually held back the traffic with their car when the trailer started to jackknife. The horses were bruised and battered but okay. One horse went down under the other horses. The 1200 pound horse in the back of the trailer was flung around to where he was facing backwards. If he had been tied his neck likely would have been broken.

The police wouldn't let the horses unload on the freeway into the rescue trailers that arrived on the scene later. The rescue truck/trailers' drivers was directed to wait at the end of the exit ramp. They were going to unhook the wrecked trailer from the truck and tow the horses and trailer off the freeway. However they could not disconnect the trailer from the wrecked truck with the horses still inside due to the damage. Finally the girls were allowed to lead the horses off the freeway to the awaiting trailers.

The horse that incurred most of the injuries, was formerly owned by one of the drivers who came to their rescue. Imagine how that must have felt.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Beth's Trailer Experience!

Here's our story, thank goodness it's not injury-related! Prior to moving to Washington from Illinois in 2006, we purchased a new (off the lot) 2004 Sundowner 727 2 Horse slantload, gooseneck. Originally I was hunting for a Brenderup, but couldn't find a nearby dealer and would have had to travel two states away with a check in-hand. No thanks. I am not fond of separating the horses, so we pulled out the divider to allow the horses to move into a comfortable position. I also don't tie them when they are loose. Some people will gripe about that, but honestly, there is no SAFE way to truly haul livestock.
The only trailer issue we had was due to not having bars on the drop down windows. We had screens with sliding door windows (very small, who designed this?). I bought a screen from Professional's Choice and using zip ties, was able to make it work. It was much too small though. So, we drove with one window down. Even though we traveled the higher (cooler) roads, it was still too hot in the trailer. One of my horses (the Arabian, of course) refused to drink while on the road and only took water when we stopped at ranches for the night. We walked the horses into the trailer each day and they would get into position while on the road. The Paint stood facing forward, the Arabian faced backward. Each time. The only scare we had was when we stopped to eat one afternoon and the Paint laid down. He was fine, just decided to lay down, regardless if the Arabian was in the way.
In 2008, we had to move overseas, so the horses went to live at the ranch they had come from. This time, I ordered custom-made screens to fit into the drop down windows allowing me to drive with the windows down. However, I didn't need to do this until we got to Kansas since we had snow storms following us most of the way and it was quite cool. This time we drove with the divider up, horses tied. Both horses were fine, the Arabian drank more, but he was also 2 years older (5) and had more trailer travel experience. If I can figure how to include it, I'll attach or email a photo of the Paint drinking (water) from a Taco Bell cup.
I was convinced by the owner of the ranch (where I worked and bought both horses) to convert my F150 to haul a gooseneck. He has been training and hauling horses his whole life and was worried about me hauling a regular trailer cross country. My dad agreed, as he's had jack-knifed trailers happen. It was a great decision and we had absolutely no swaying or problems (like we had with our camper trailer). The Sundowner worked very well. It has pads on the divider and walls, as well as rubber up the half the walls. I wish it had a ramp and barred windows. Oh, my trailer also has the emergency & dressing room doors open on the traffic side. I think most have changed to the other now. Lessons learned.

Fancy Cast! Part 4

Here are shots of Fancy's cast. Lisa has been reading your comments and she wanted me to respond to Laughing Orca Ranch that Fancy should be rideable by October according to her vet.

And to note that Fancy walked right into her trailer without a single hesitation. That's pretty cool. Lisa is trailer shopping these days.

That is an interesting cast. I wondered how far up the leg it would go, It's good see it didn't go halfway up her leg as I would have expected.

I know we all have some horse trailer hauling stories to tell and I thought it would be a great learning experience to hear your stories. If you have a situation you can tell us all about (with pictures - even better) I'd love to post here. My email address is patslark@fairpoint.net.

I have several stories to tell, but here are a couple that I will try to “briefly” share.

When I first got back into horses about 15 years ago, I bought my quarter horse mare, Missy. It had been 10 years prior that I sold my horse to try to survive as a single mom. During my early horse years, I had no experience hauling horses. If I needed to move my horse, I usually called one of my sisters to haul for me.

So shortly after purchasing Missy, I basically knew nothing about hauling horses and one day, I learned one of the most important rules of hauling. Do not tie the head of the horse to the trailer without first shutting the divider. (And do not open the divider until the head is untied.)

I know. I know, I see people doing just the opposite all the time, Some stock trailers are divider-less, or because of the way a trailer is built, it’s easiest to tie the head first, but I personally believe that is an accident waiting to happen. Just like mine did.

One day, as we were loading Missy for a ride home, my sister and I were yakking as we were loading and not really paying as much attention to what the other was doing as we should have been.

Missy' head was tied and started to walk out to close the divider behind me. Missy thought she was going to walk right out with me and when she felt her head was trapped, she went straight into severe panic mode.

Now, this horse was a solid-minded horse and a trailering veteran, but when she realized she couldn’t back out of that trailer because her head was stuck, her feet started going about 90 miles an hour up and down, up and down, stomping like crazy, on the tops of my feet.

I couldn’t get away from her because every time she lifted a hoof off of one of my feet, she'd stomp down on the other. Over and over. I was stuck! Scared and feeling the stabbing pain on the tops of my feet over and over again.

But it was happening so fast and I was so scary. Finally, my sister reached up from the outside of the trailer un unbuckled her head. Missy managed to unload herself without blasting over the top of me, and without flipping over backwards (something else we hear about all too often.)

My perfectly tenderized feet were two solid bruises for weeks afterward and I thought I had broken a bone or two in one of them, but I healed pretty fast.

Interestingly, Missy never hesitated to back into a trailer after that either. Some horses are amazing. But I personally will never tie the head before slamming that divider shut again.

In another incident, just recently, we were hauling a mare to her new home and we didn’t get very far down the road, and the mare was making a lot of noise in the back. So I got out to check on her and found her sweaty and scared and almost laying sideways. She was leaning on the divider and trying to climb the wall with her feet. She was in the first stall of our slant load trailer.

Although she had hauled pretty well previously, she was going nuts on this ride. My sister (always rescuing me) suggested opening the divider so the mare could spread her legs, which we did and she hauled just fine for the next hour until we got her to her destination.

Now I hear that is pretty common for horses to do. And it sounds like that is what Fancy was doing as well. I often wonder if they might get vertigo in the trailer sometimes and think they should be on their side. Who knows, but some horses really need to get a good base under them and giving them lots of room is a good idea.

I'd love to see the backward facing trailers manufactered here in the US. That's the way horses like to ride. My minis always chose to ride facing backwards when I don't tie them in, so if I do tie their heads, they are facing backwards.

It just seems to be more natural for them to keep their balance in a moving vehicle and I believe it's easier on their joints when the trailer goes over bumps. Trailering is tough on the knee joints. If you've never ridden, standing up, in a trailer, you might try it (in a safe situation) just to see. You really feel the bumps in your joints.

And old trailers from the 60s, 70s and 80s, that people are STILL using - oh my gosh, there is no suspension!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fancy - Part Three

Today Morgan and I went to see the cast put on. Her foot is continuing to look better.
There are still some parts that are nasty though – like that white area by the remainder of the bulb…that is bare cartilage. Urk.

But everything else is fairly dry and pink so they wrapped it up.

I didn’t get any pictures of the cast process because Fancy has decided that the vets make good chairs and she leans (practically sits) on them at every chance while they are holding her foot up. I got to stand at her head today and try to talk her out of squishing the nice ladies.

Tomorrow she is supposed to go home, so today I put a new wall mat in the trailer.

There is a very good reason it costs so much to have those mats installed!

She had to remain for observation today to make sure the cast fit right and that she would walk on it.

Fingers crossed that we go back to the barn on a nice sunny day.


Wow, that hoof is starting to look great! The vet is doing a wonderful job with it. I can't wait to see the casting job! Thank you for taking the time to share this story with us Lisa!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Fancy's Hoof Injury - Part 2

From Lisa:

The kids and I went to Pilchuck Hospital yesterday to groom and love on Fancy. She seemed to be doing well, bearing weight on the bandaged foot. We left her a much cleaner horse than when we got there. She must have itched horridly with all that dried sweat and blood under her blanket. Tuesday was a nice warm day so we left the blanket off to keep her from getting sweaty.
Wednesday we went out again. This time we timed it so that we would be there for the wrap change. Again, we did some bonding. I think she was glad to see us – what do you think?

Vet says that the sugardine wrap seemed to help dry up the tissues. It does look a lot better. I see now that she didn’t take off quite as much as I thought she had. Don’t get me wrong, this is bad enough; I just thought it was worse.

The circled area is where she removed some of the coronet band. In these photos it seems like it might be less than originally thought. I have higher hopes for a great recovery.

The tissues are drying up nicely. I expect a cast to be put on in two days if everything keeps to this schedule. She got a good soaking in Epsom salts and weak Betadine today followed with a fresh wrap with Scarlet Oil. Morgan got to be the vet’s assistant.

Things are looking up. Fancy is down to ½ gram of Bute 2x a day and isn’t limping. She is not sound of course and she favors the foot while standing in her stall but while walking she looks great. Thank you to all the well wishers and support I have received from all my friends.

Back to me.

I received an email from Sharon Cregier after she viewed Part One of Fancy’s story. This is part of the text from her email. I thought it might interest you as much as it did me. We do need to find ways to make traveling safer for our horses. Something Lisa mentioned to me on the phone was that the first thing she was going to do was get a different trailer.

Dear Pat,

Next May I will be giving a presentation at the international Animal
(Air) Transportation Association conference. It is in Sydney,
Australia. The presentation concerns scenarios just like those
presented by Lisa and so graphically pictured.

Yes, there IS a solution. If you will provide your postal address, and
that of Lisa, it will be my privilege to send you both a complimentary

In the meantime, please visit www.equibalance.co.nz I have been
compiling data on horse transport accidents for three decades. I am
aware of the American Horse Shows Association study which found that
most of the injuries presented at horse shows are transport related.
And Nat Messer's AAEP newsletter observation that many horses
transported to his clinic for routine procedures arrive with colitis.
The reason is: Horses are being transported in trailers designed for
dead weight, not live weight.

Horses must travel in trailers designed to accommodate their behavior
and center of balance and allow them to lower their heads at will.

To date, only one horse trailer in the world meets these requirements as
well as the stipulations for horse and handler and automotive safety as
establised by the OIE -- a world organization having to do with animal
health. It is a trailer which is so safe women and children load their
own mounts.

I do not receive any compensation for presentations on the problem, and
solution, of horse transport. I am not monetarily affiliated in any way
with any manufacturer.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours for the horses,
Sharon E. Cregier

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fancy's Hoof Injury

Yesterday, I was contacted by Lisa, a horse owner whose horse had suffered a severe injury in a horse trailer accident the day before, March 30th. Lisa has given me permission to post her poor mare's condition. The pictures as you can see are graphic, but it will be interesting and information to follow her case as she heels. This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon hoof injury.

It usually heels with a large scar around the back of the hoof over the soft tissue or at best, a seam that runs down the wall from the coronary band. Something, we've probably all seen years after the accident. I feel like the more we do for this type of injury, the less scarring the horse will end up with.

So as terrible as it is and as sorry as I am to know Lisa and her pretty mare are going through this, we are going to follow Fancy's story, with updates as I receive them with the hope that sharing her recuperation will help other horses. And I know we all wish Lisa and Fancy well in her recovery.

Here is Lisa’s story.

The horses, kids and I were on our way to Poulsbo to spend a few days with
Andrea and her kids. Fancy has re-developed her trailer anxiety so I spent
the last three days really working on this and thought we had it managed.
Everything was loaded up and the horses were calm. We headed back home
because I forgot a few crucial things like stirrups and chaps. I could see
Fancy was throwing her weight around, but it didn't look too bad. We pulled
into our cul-de-sac and this is what I saw when I got out of the truck.

This is NEVER a good sign with a horse trailer. There was a trail of blood down the road - why someone didn't notice it and wave me down, I don't know. (People don't notice things like this. - Pat)

Fancy gets in the trailer just fine. It's what she does once we are under
way that is causing the problems... By the time I opened the back I knew
something very bad had gone down, I was hysterical - screaming at the kids
to go in the house and get dad to call the vet because I thought Fancy was
going to have to be put down. OK - I've never seen clotted horse blood
before and I thought she had gutted herself somehow. Yes I am a drama queen
- shut up. ("Who wouldn't be in this situation?!" - Pat)

She was throwing herself to the right and trying to climb up the wall with
her left legs. She managed to rip the mat off the wall but then the rivets
that were left in the wall ripped her up.

I am pretty sure the kids are scarred for life. I might be too. I am sure
Fancy is.

She had blood on her forelock, it was even up on the ceiling.

Fancy was a wreck. She was a sweaty mess and my brain was not
working. My neighbor, Craig, suggested offering her some water and she was
glad to have it. "Thank you Craig - I wasn't thinking well."

Then I carefully unloaded her out of the trailer. Reba was a rock, very calm and soothing, she stood right next to Fancy and quietly nickered once in awhile. Fancy started shivering so I put a blanket on and ended up adding two more. One wrapped around her neck and two on her body. I was afraid she was going into shock. Leslie and Curt brought their trailer down so that we could separate the horses and take Fancy to the vet. There were many phone calls made to the vet during this time.

She was bloody from her front legs to her tail. Even Reba was wearing Fancy's blood.

When Leslie arrived, Reba looked at her and then turned to Fancy with the
quietest sweetest low nicker I have ever heard, as if to say "She's here, you're going to be alright". (Sniff...- Pat)

Fancy removed the entire outside corner of the hind left hoof.

This is where ALL the blood came from. She could hardly put any weight on
it. I gave her 2 grams of bute for the pain, but I didn't want to even wash it because I knew the water would cause so much pain. She gamely walked to
Leslie's trailer and got in with no fuss.

Reba was not happy about the separation but she loaded back into my trailer and we took them to Pilchuck Vet. Hospital in Snohomish.

At the Hospital, after sedation and much cleaning and X-rays. No, the
towel is not bunched by the hoof.

This shows how much hoof she lost. The X-rays show that she did not fracture
the coffin bone, but she did scrape it near the heel. That is gonna hurt
for awhile.

You can see here how much tissue is missing. She removed a fair bit of
sole, but the bar is left so at least she has some support. You can see
that she removed part of the coronary band by the heel so she may
have a deformed heel from now on. This is going to take about six months to
grow back in. She will have to live in a stall for quite a bit of it.

That isn’t going to go over very well with her.

As I try to find the positive here, I have an X-ray so I will be able to see
if my barefoot trimming is right according to the coffin bones and in looking
at this photo I can see that her frogs have grown in nicely - much better
than where they were a month ago.

Fancy will NOT be going on the Chief Joseph ride this year. I may not be going as a rider since I just spent the budget tonight and she still has 3 days in the

So if any of you can learn from this - this is my very hard learned advice.
If you feel motion in your trailer - GO CHECK THE HORSES.

Don't assume it is business as usual. I really thought we would end up in
Poulsbo with her all sweaty and maybe with a little hide missing from
stomping on herself, I was very wrong and I will never make that mistake

Happy trails to you all and I hope you never go through this. I will keep
you updated.


Back to me now. As you can tell, this accident is very fresh and Lisa is still reeling. Please let us know if you've experienced the same situation and what was done for your horse. Any advice for us is welcome.

Thank you, and thank you Lisa for letting me post this as you go through it. Not an easy thing. Stay strong.