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.