Sunday, July 26, 2009

For Heaven's Sake - part two.

So I just wanted to follow up on my post regarding the farrier who owns the blog Farrieritis (see post below titled "For Heaven's Sake.")

I'm convinced that farrieritis is an actual condition that so many horses fall prey to. I'm kidding...sort of.

In the post, I had put the question to Marcia asking how the farrier and vet working relentlessly on her horse was working for her. I was being a smartass and I apologize for that.

At the time that uploaded that post, I also sent and email to her asking how her horse was doing. They were doing all they could...was her response.

Today, she sent me a sad email letting me know that her sweet mare had been euthanized. I am very sorry to hear that she had lost her lovely mare.

But sadly, I'm not really surprised by the news.

I personally don't believe there is a such thing as coffin bone rotation as the equine medical community explains it.

It has long been thought that the laminae is the only connection of the coffin bone to the inside of the hoof wall and when it fails, the coffin bone is allowed to drop or rotate.

Please correct me if I'm wrong about this, but what about those two big tendons, the extensor and the DDFT Deep Digital Flexor Tendon? These are two big tendons that hold the little coffin bone in place!

These tendons are so strong that you could probably tow a Volkswagen with them. One, the extensor (with attaching ligaments) at the front of the coffin bone, and other, the DDFT, is attached, via ligaments, to the back of the bone. Both run up the leg and attach above. So how in the heck could a little coffin bone rotate completely out of position with this tendon/ligament apparatus stabilizing it?

(The above paragraph has been revised after receiving input from Mrs. Mom, see comments.)

The coffin bone might detach and leave it's tight position against the wall when the laminae fails, but not to the degree that we see in some radiographs or rads.

A rad may show what appears to be a tipped down coffin bone, but what is really happening is that the hoofwall has flared away from the bone due to poor trimming methods or due to neglect. The bone hasn't gone anywhere, but flared wall (poor trimming and shoeing) makes it appear that it has.

That is so common and I can't begin to tell you how common that is. When I point it out to vets in my area, you'd think I just poked a hole in their brain and poured in a smart potion.

The only possible way we can know for sure the degree a coffin has rotated is if we take rads of the hoof before the incident. We need a baseline. As well as pictures of the outside of the hoof to see if the wall has changed its dimensions.

Pictures of the outer wall are cheap and easy and we should ALL have them on our horse's hooves. When the hoof fails we can look to those pictures and see if there are any changes caused by among other issues, improper trimming.

Equine doctors are not to be blamed for situations such as Marcia's horse enduring because they don't know what they don't know. Vets get almost no education in school about the hooves of horses and defer much of the treatment to farriers. I believe that is starting to change as the field of natural hoof care emerges as a positive treatment for horses with hoof ailments that traditional medicine is losing.

Farriers are not to blame as they know what the know from going to farrier school and they are taught by professionals, some of whom have never been to farrier school themselves.

Or very commonly, they learn uncle Joe who learned to shoe horses by trial and error - and out of necessity when he was young. When Joe began crippling fewer horses than not, he went into practice as the local farrier and he was busy because most people couldn't or wouldn't do that dirty, dangerous, difficult job for any amount of money!

So Joe passes his skills on to others, but with no knowledge whatsoever regarding hoof anatomy or hoof function and so it goes. I've met a number of farriers who went into that profession after losing their job and needed a quick-to-learn skill to make some money to support their families. Not because they loved shoeing horses or cared anything about horses' hooves.

That's just how it is, but we are working hard to change how people think about traditional hoof care and how it might not be the answer to their horse's prayers.

Rehabilitative trimming and "different" rehab practices actually save the lives of many of these horses if they are lucky enough to fall into the hands of a natural hoof care practitioner and not someone like the author of ferrieritis.

For more info on CBR see


UPDATE regarding tendons:

Extensor Tendon: This tendon is attached to all the bones in the foot except the Navicular bone, it bears no weight and is therefore slim and generally trouble-free.
At the lower end of the long pastern bone it receives reinforcement on either side from the branches of the Suspensory ligament, which increase its width.
The function for the extensor tendon is to extend the bones of the foot and lift the toe.

Flexor Tendon: Running over the back of the knee in the carpal canal and held in position by a carpal check ligament. It then extends down the back of the cannon bone between the superficial digital flexor tendon and the suspensory ligament.

In the middle of the cannon bone the deep digital flexor tendon is joined by the carpal check ligament, known as the inferior check ligament. The tendon then passes over the sesamoid bones, before passing between the two extensions of the superficial digital flexor tendon.

At this point, the deep digital flexor tendon becomes broad and fanlike, passing over the navicular bone before inserting into the lower surface of the pedal bone. This takes some of the strain from the muscles situated above the knee in the forearm or above the hock in the gaskin.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harley Find's a New Home!

Harley was a great pasture pal and trailer riding buddy for many of our horses here. That was his job and he was good at it. However, he doesn’t care for human’s much and he can run really fast, so it was always tricky to convince him to stop long enough to be haltered.

Hard to catch!

But now we have Buster,
who is sweet and friendly little gelding pony who also makes a great pasture pal and trailering buddy and he likes to get caught. In fact, he’d rather be with people than anywhere else. He likes kids and he seems to have a great time taking the small ones for rides.

So recently, after much consideration, we decided that Harley would be a great new pasture pal for a lonely young filly owned by one of my customers.

And when it was time to take Harley to his new home, three year old Jake, was his trailer riding buddy.

Jakes Story
We had met Little Jake when he was a weanling about 6 months old and living in Tieten, in Eastern, Washington.

He was upset about the recent separation from his mom. She was a flea bitten gray Arab, but his coat color was more like that of his buckskin QH sire. Jake was in a tiny pen of tossed up wood fences and had been handled about as much as your average zebra.

We hauled the horse trailer over the pass with Harley inside so he could be a trailer buddy for Jake on the long ride back home. As most horse people know, when it comes to horses nothing goes according to plan most of the time. So it wasn’t a big surprise when the surprise snow storm blew in just as we got ready to haul the two little guys home. The pass was no longer passable with a horse trailer in tow. To be safe, we came home without the trailer, or Jake, or Harley. It would a few weeks before we could go back for them. So baby Jake, and mini Harley experienced their first Eastern Washington winter together in a round pen with the opened horse trailer for shelter. Harley was left standing in snow that was deeper than his legs were long, and Jake was afraid to go into the horse trailer. We hoped that by the time we returned, the horse trailer would be Jake’s second home. After most the snow melted though, the trailer wasn’t any more comfortable a place for Jake to be in than it was when we left. Jake was a wild baby, but it only took a couple hours of playing in the round pen to change him from a wild thing into a puppy dog,

which he’s been ever since. The two of them rode home safely together.

That was 3 years ago, so it was fitting that Jake would accompany Harley to his new home. We said our goodbyes to Harley and although I’ll still get to see him when I go to trim his hooves, he will be so missed.

Harley has been a pasture ornament here for about 5 years. He was the smallest horse in our field and he has perfect little mini feet, so he was great for student trimmers to practice trimming mini hooves. We miss him a lot and everyone who knows Harley asks about him. “Where’s that little guy who doesn’t like getting caught?

A good butt scratching!
Helping a friend learn the 7 games.
Teaching kids how to care for special equines.
His girl, Trudy, called for him for days after he left.

Jake says good bye to his little buddy.
Getting in the trailer for the ride to his new life.

He’s getting lots of attention with his new family and has a cute young girlfriend. What more could a little horse ask for?

Friday, July 10, 2009

“For Heaven’s Sake!”

Okay, this post has been rattling around in my head for awhile now and a recently received email from a farrier whose website I’ve basically ignored for a long time, sent to me.

All he sent was a comment from someone who commented on his site. Yes, I made the mistake of commenting on his site one time awhile back, then I forgot about him.

I had commented on a post showing pictures of what appeared to me as a butchered hoof. I could not help myself. I asked why he would do that to a hoof. His reason was that he'd had many years of experience. So I guess that made it okay.

Yes, because he made no sense at all in his email conversations with me, I posted the pictures on my blog warning horse owners to protect their horses from anyone who would do that to their horses hooves. But if they do, the horse most certainly would need some sort of protection. Shoes being the preferred choice of hoof protection by that horse shoer.

It easy to figure out that a hoof that has been gutted will be a lame hoof. Enter horse shoes!

So after many months after I forget this guy exists, here what I received. So bizarre!

A comment regarding "Coffin Bone Rotations", an entry at Farrieritis, was written at 7/2/2009 6:25:36 AM.
Hello John, You were to nice to Pat. lol
She is the kind that knows it all for heaven sakes. People are the reason for horses bad feet most of the time and then some are as you said just founder and with rotation. My daughters horse is now getting the shoes you spoke of and it all began with a virus, then colic and now rotation, and this was no ones fought, just happens and good folks like you can most of the time fix it. We now have the Vet and Farrier working relentless to fix this horse and keep her out of pain, Thanks for your comments I think you are a hell of a good farrier or you would not have been able to explain the problem with the hoof you showed and with the x ray.

Ironically, the commenter states that her - quote “…Vet and farrier are working relentless to fix this horse and keep it out of pain.”

I only have one question for Marcia. “How’s that workin’for ya?”

Okay, so why was this sent to me? Oh, yeah, I figure if he can convince enough people that he is right, then he will feel good about what he’s doing to the hooves of horses -- backed by his many years of experience, doing this to horses, of course.

I’ve said it a million times, but I’m going to say it again here.

Why do we shoe our horses? The main reason we shoe are horses is for our own convenience. Period!

What's wrong with that? Nothing. If your horse isn't suffering from the shoes.

Going natural isn’t as easy paying someone to nail shoes onto their horse’s feet. Going natural means owners have to take a more interactive roll in their horse’s hoof care. They must educate themselves about the most important part of their horse's anatomy that let's face it most horseowners know as much about as brain surgery.

In the past years, for more and more horse owners whose horses are barefoot, their horses are worth the time and trouble.

Still, I keep hearing people blame bare hooves for every ailment imaginable - no matter which end of the horse is afflicted. From a blind eye to runny poop. "Oh, that must be caused from your horse being barefoot." What?

Everyone knows horses survived for millions of years without our intervention of nailing shoes onto their feet, but now that we’re involved in their care, they can’t get along without horse shoes being nailed onto them. For Heaven's Sake!

That sarcastic remark right there should tell us something about what we are doing wrong to their feet to cause a need for something as extreme as nailing iron to the bottoms of their hooves.

Horseowners are figuring out that there is a better, healthier way. The problem is they are figuring it out faster than the equine medical educational institutions and the farrier schools.

What is wrong with shoes?

The shoe isn’t so bad if the application is done correctly (9 out of 10 times, shoes are not applied correctly) AND if the shoes could be removed at the end of every ride, which we know they can’t be, unless we are farriers as well as horse owners.

What else?

Shoes create constant pressure on the hoof and





The hoof IS held together by live tissue – the sensitive laminae.

The shoe supports only the outer edge of the entire hoof (peripheral loading) causing the horse’s entire weight to be supported by that living tissue this is connecting the coffin bone to the wall- the sensitive and insensitive laminae.

My horses were once shod. I remember my mare pulling her foot away when the nails were being driven into her foot. That alone told me, shoes were not a good deal. But it was when she tore a good portion of her hoof off when she stepped on her shoe with her other foot, (see the June 09 issue of Equus for an example of why you should grab the lead rope and runaway with your horse if you hear your farrier bragging that his shoes don’t fall off) was when I knew I had to figure out a better way for her than shoes.

That was over 5 years ago and she’s not worn shoes since nor will she ever be shod again. Funny, she is NOT lame.

So let me ask you something. If you’ve got a horse whose coffin bone has rotated, (if that's even a true diagnosis and it's usually not) how can you, with any compassion for your horse at all, look that horse in the eyes and say, “I realize you’re in constant, excruciating pain, and you can’t get off for aching feet for long, but I’m going to pay someone to pound nails into your hooves now too. So that your aching feet can locked up with these nice pieces of iron, until you start getting better or until you die trying.” ?

I, on the other hand, would look that horse in the eyes and say, “How about we put these boots on your feet with these soft pads in the bottom, so you can comfortably move around until you either get better, or it's determined that your condition is chronic and we chose to end your suffering.”

Who do you think that horse will thank later - whether it be from its pasture or from its grave?

When it comes to hooves, I’m the first to admit I do not know it all. I sure don't know much about hooves compared to people like Dr. Robert Bowker or Pete Ramey ( and others like them, but when I hear and read comments like the one emailed to me, I’m convinced that I know a hell of a lot more about hooves than most horse-shoers; more than some horse owners (most horse owners know more than their shoers) and a large percentage of veterinarians.

Especially the veterinarians who feel compelled to taking their hoof knife and gouging out an abscess. Why do you people do that? Leave it alone! How many holes do you have to make before you figure out you’ll never get past it. It’s working its way up the hoof to soft tissue where it will rupture. Digging out the hoof until you get to blood only opens the hoof up to infection. Isn’t it enough that the horse is already dealing with the abscess? Is it better that we add a giant open crater to the problems it already has?

Okay, sorry, I'll save that one for another rant.

Here is another experts take on "coffin bone rotation"

Andrea commented on this post: Here are the pictures she sent. One is of her shod gelding and one is of her barefoot mare. Most of you can guess which is which. Andrea, we are all so very sorry about your gelding. He is the reason you're doing things so much differently with your mare. Bravo to you!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July. I'm so fed up with the Snaps, Crackles and Pops...coming from next door.

It's understandable though. Our neighbors have 5 boys. Boys and fireworks go together like summer and swimming. They just gotta do it.

Their sixth and youngest child is a seven year old cutie who LOVES horses! She helps me whenever I have a bit of extra time to zip around our common fence to pick her up in the J.D. Gator, so she can come over to play with the horses.

She will stand at the fence waiting some times for nearly an hour. I feel terrible if I don't have time to go get her. But she gets that I can't always do that. I wish I were on kid-time, that would be great, but I'm on horse time.

Here she is standing next to Spencer. He sure has mellowed since he's been here. I would have never let her get this close to him a year ago, especially while he was eating. He's a pretty good boy now.

It's hot today. I went out to feed the horses and Forrest came up to me and started rubbing on me. At first I thought it was flies bothering him. But he was insistent. Something just didn't seem right.

So I asked him to follow me back to the barn and I sent him into the stall and gave him his hay there, with a special grain treat.

Then we got busy across the street. Rich was on the tractor mowing the field that we use when our pasture needs a rest. I came back over in the Gator to find Forrest down in the stall. He got up and came out as soon as I slid the stall door open. I grabbed a halter, but as I tried to put it on his head, he turned away to bite as his stomach.

Panic time! Why is it the faster you try to do something - the longer it takes? The rope halter got all tangled up and Forrest took off towards a pile of dirt near the back hoe. He dropped down and laid there for a moment, then rolled. I went for his head with the halter again.

He got up took off toward a grassy patch and dropped again, then walked off before I could get to him. He headed back toward the barn. I got the halter on him finally and we started walking. I noticed that he had pooped several times in the stall.

I took him out to the play field and we walked around the pond. I needed Rich to come help me walk him so I could get something for Forrest's pain. I looked across the road at Rich on the noisy old tractor.

I couldn't believe what I happened to see, just beyond Rich on the lumbering tractor. A big black bear running across the field into the trees. Holy Cow or Bear rather!

That distracted me from Forrest who just dropped on the ground. This time in the soft grass of the field. I flapped my arms and yelled at him to get up! He did and then he pooped a couple times and stretched out and took a pee. Weird.

Then, he went down again, now I had to call Rich to help me. He came and we got our big boy up again and Rich walked him while I went to get something for the pain.

After we got the pain meds on board I asked Rich if he saw the bear. Nope. Since he didn't see it, I told him it was really huge. was big. I assumed it was the fireworks that scared it out into the open in the middle of the day. I hate fireworks, I really do.

We took Forrest over to the hose and let cold water run all over him. He seemed to enjoy that. We kept it up for about 20 minutes. Allowing him to stand in the water was not only cooling his feet, (colic can lead to laminitis - keeping the feet cool is critical) the water was softening them as well.

I thought, "Good, when he starts feeling better, I can trim those softened hooves. We tried to get him to take a drink out of a nearby water trough. Nothing doing.

We went back to walking and cold showers. He stopped trying to go down and roll. So I let him stand in the shade, all damp and cool now, under the big willow tree.

While he stood, feeling better I think, I went for my tools.

As he stood gazing off at the neighbor's house, I pulled up beside him in the Gator. What a comfortable place to work.

Forrest, who is normally impatient with me and gets me upset when I trim, stood quietly in the shade of the willow and listened to the kids next door, squealing and having fun playing games out in their yard.

At that moment, I was evaluating Forrest’s hooves, listening to the pops and bangs all around us now, and loving life.

A song rattled around in my old head - "let freedom ring...let the white dove sing...something something...Independence Daaaay.

It's very cool how it doesn't cost me anything to keep my horses hooves trimmed and healthy. And I sure love the gratification of turning neglected hooves into sound hooves and making horses and their owners happy. I enjoy teaching people about what I do. But most of all I appreciate the independence of working for myself and answering to no one except me, my customers, and their horses. And sometimes, my husband:0)

As corny as it sounds, this truely feels like Independence Day to me.

After I got done trimming Forrest, I offered him water again. He wasn't interested. He peed though for the 2nd time. What can that mean? Should I be worried? They are like kids to us, aren't they?

I let him hang out in the field for a while longer, until he moseyed on back to the loafing shed to visit with his buddy Spencer.

They are cute together.

Since he seemed to be back to his old self, I sent him out the gate to the pasture and he took a big, reassuring for me, drink of water.

Later I saw him standing out with the other horses, gleaming in the sun from the cold bath he’d gotten earlier. What a sweet horse he is. I would hate for anything to happen to him anytime soon.

It’s starting to get dark and the fireworks are going off in earnest. Hopefully all the horses will stand around enjoying them as they have in years past only jumping when the big ones go off.

For me, I'll probably have trouble getting to sleep, worrying...about the horses, the dogs, the cat, the neighborhood kids...and that poor bear.

Happy Fourth of July!


PS: I'll be posting pictures of our last trimming clinic soon.