Please remember!

The information presented on this blog represents "learning in progress" on my part, a horse owner, who was not satisfied with professional farriers and took matters in my own hands. As far as I am aware at the time of the post, the information presented is correct, but may change with me understanding more about hooves, in which case I will edit or remove the post. In order to follow my learning and understand everything about Molly's hoof, you need to start reading at the bottom.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

new addition to horse boot rack

Father Christmas brought a pair of Renegade boots for Molly!

This complements my 2 pairs of Equine Fusions, first and second generation. The EFs, I think, are the best turnout boots, but I wanted something with a better break-over for riding. 

saddle fit journey

Just as my "journey to better hooves" has taught me incredibly much about horses, so has my "journey to better saddle fit". The saddle fit journey started with my gelding Gus, who came to me in June of 2009, with some "baggage", especially when it came to riding him. The story is too long and complicated to tell, suffice it to say that the problems he had could be traced down to improper saddle fit.

It took me more than one year to really understand what the problem was and probably one more year to solve it. I bought and sold 3 saddles, none seemed to be working for Gus. I just knew that he was uncomfortable under saddle. These were the observations:

1) when I rode Gus it was hard to keep im from not rooting his nose down to the ground.
2) Gus often tried to lay down with the saddle on
3) worst, Gus often bucked with the saddle on, with and without rider

Because of these problem, I never really rode Gus very much. The few times I did ride him and he actually worked hard enough to sweat I saw the following sweat pattern:

One can see a dry area just behind the shoulder blade. This dry area indicates too much pressure from the saddle in this place. Too much pressure stops the sweat glands to secret sweat. This was the same with the 3 different saddles I bought and sold again.

I inspected Gus' back and did notice a "swelling" in the muscles right there, exactly where the dry spots were, but I could not find a saddle that would alleviate the problem. So I basically stopped riding Gus altogether. After all, I got him as a companion horse and Molly was my main riding horse. And I did not have the time to ride two horses anyway.

Then, on one of the many occasions when I searched for information on saddle fit, I found this website:

This article introduced me to the "Thoracic Trapezius" muscle. This muscle was exactly where I always saw that "swelling" on Gus back and where his dry spots were when I rode him. Many "Baroque" horses have this enlarged trapezius muscle and Gus, being a cross between "American Cream and White" (a very rare draft horse breed) and a QH, has those too!

Then, another coincidence came my way. I became a Clinton Anderson "follower". I bought the Fundamentals and taught them to both horses. But maybe more importantly with respect to saddle fit, Clinton designed his PRS pad (pressure release pad) that has a cut-out in the area where Gus has his enlarged trapezius muscles. It turns out a lot of Quarter horses do have that issue too.

I bough the PRS pad and it solved the pressure issue immediately on Gus. However, the pad is very thick with 1 inch, and the cut-out isn't exactly where Gus' muscle enlargements are. Every horse is built differently. After a whole lot more research I found Tom at Skito pads, who made me my own custom PRS pad, 3/4 inch memory foam insert that fits in a cover made out of wool (bottom) and canvas (top). My Skito pad is the best pad I have ever owned!

In addition, I ordered Gus a custom made saddle, that accommodates Gus' back best possible. Allegany Mountain Saddlery made it possible. They sent me Steele tree fit forms that I could place on Gus' back and inspect for fit.

Steele had just come out with a new tree, a cross between a draft horse (wide in the front) and Arab (a lot of "rock" to the tree) tree, that Stacy, the owner of Allegany Mountain saddles, said she has had great success with on horses like Gus. She included the whole tree for me to try as there was no fit form available yet. This is the "HW" tree in the front of the picture. Sure enough, this was by far the best fitting tree for Gus, only the bars were a bit too long.

Stacy ordered the HW tree for me at Steele with even shorter bars, especially for Gus, and built the whole saddle to my exact specifications.

This is what came out of this endevour:

And this is now a happy horse :-)!

It is kind of ironic: I have two horses, one has a really difficult topline (Gus) and one has a really difficult front leg anatomy (Molly). Molly's front leg anatomy has left her with damage in her lateral cartillages and Gus topline issues have left him with severe behavioral issues when it comes to riding. In neither case is it the horse's fault! Horses were not born to live in fenced in properties and carry people around on their backs. It is our responsibility to provide them with the best care we can give and not leave them damaged along the way.

Both my guys confronted me with enormous challenges, but after all they only left me stronger and a better horse person. On the go I became a hoof expert and saddle fitting expert and now I am even becoming a problem horse trainer. Gus still needs to overcome his fear of the saddle, to trust that it will never hurt him again. It may take another 2 years for this trust to develop. What else do I need to get an expert on in this vast country of "unlimited opportunities". Due to the size of the United States of America people have to become their own experts, due to lack of experts to rely on close-by. The internet makes it all possible.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

first major frost

Today finally winter arrived. Let's see for how long. It was -8 C in the morning and the water puddle at the lower part of the paddock has frozen. Very interesting for Gus :-)!

Since the ground is very very hard and has huge holes in from all the rain before I was a bit afraid how the horses would handle it. But since I am the kind of person "better safe than sorry" I decided I equip both my horses with their Equine Fusions today, Molly even with thin felt pads in. I just thought I give their hooves a bit more time to adjust, especially given all the rain the hooves were really soft. On the frozen ground, the EFs are really perfect. Since the sole is flexible the horses still can feel everything, they just have that little layer of extra protection. With their boots on, both horses did very well on this frozen terrain, so that by the afternoon I removed Gus' boots and he manoeverd the terrain still like a champ. My impression is he prefers the hard ground over the soft muddy one. Molly walks a little bit like a stork, lifts her legs up high as if she is not sure where she should place it when it comes down. It looks quite funny.  But she is not lame or sore at all, just careful. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

one should always take a camera to the barn

My Gus is really a "wild horse" at heart! We had a lot of rain last night and this morning the lower part of the paddock was under water, about 5 inches deep. For Molly this means she is not even coming close to that large water body. With big eyes she stared at the big lake. But Gus is totally the opposite. He marched right in the center of the water and started digging. The water/sand mixture splashed up high and the more it splashed the more violently he dug the ground to make the water splash higher. He really gave himself a mud-bath. In the end he decided he may as well lay down in that lake of mud and water. It is cold and very windy today, really horrible weather here in NW Indiana, so Gus did not take that bath because he was hot. He just so much enjoys playing with the water. And maybe it reminded him of his youth, where he would spent the hot summer days in Southern Texas in exactly that sort of pond.

In any case, I really regretted not having my camera with me. I have never seen any horse doing what Gus just did, apart from Mustangs in the film "Cloud".

Update, a few hours later Gus has dried up (and shaken off the sand) and decided to sleep with his front hooves in the puddle. Not sure if this is the greatest thing, but he won't stay there for long I hope...

This is the good thing about a Palomino horse: one really can't see if it is dirty or clean :-)!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

another Rockley farm horse example

that is very important to look at:

This is the same horse self-trimming itself, before (left) and after (right). I find amazing how the leg has straightened up with the hoof being allowed to wear as it likes, a short lateral toe and a slight medial flare.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rockley farm rehab horse shows same pattern as Molly's FR

I was very excited this morning to read Rockley farm's most recent blog post:

For those who do not know Rockley farm, it is a rehab facility in the UK, that instead of trimming horses into some certain balance a human thinks is right, submits them to various terrains and controlled exercises and allow the horses to self trim their hooves. This is only possible with large amount of land, that I, as most horse owners, do not have access to. So I need to trim my horse in addition to allowing them to wear their hooves.

This horse's front right hoof shows the same conformation as Molly's. I would be willing to bet his medial side of P1 is longer too. The way this horses has self trimmed itself is consistent with how I have determined Molly's FR balance: the coronary band is not straight, but raised slightly towards medial. And this horse too has a short lateral toe. Overall the hoof capsule is much shorter than it used to be. All these features are identical to Molly's FR, as I am trimming it now. Of course I am only systematically trimming her like this for a short amount of time and problems usually only show up later, but seeing this horse makes me confident that my understanding of Molly's FR is correct and I should keep going as I am.

Thanks Rockley farm for posting the progress of your horses so diligently!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2 years

I took pictures today, for a different reason and so I also took one of Molly's FR. It is making so much progress it is hard to believe, given how long I have wanted this progress to happen. The picture is not great, but I could not help to post this comparison: today I saw for the very first time in 2 years Molly's complete sole to show normal, healthy consistency, instead of "inflammation" sole. I really did not think this sole would ever recover, I certainly did not think it would take two whole years and then suddenly be normal, but with the proper balance, it did recover 100%. What an amazing capacity for healing these hooves have.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

long lateral toe

I have reconstructed the (likely) sequence of events that have resulted in Molly's front right hoof problems. To recap: Molly had, from at least of the age of 3 years on, the tendency to hit the ground with her lateral toe on her front right hoof. This prevented her to land heel first and caused her to develop side bone in her FR and frequent abscesses.

I now know why this happened, at least I think so. It is pretty trivial and can be simply explained by sloppy work by farriers and trimmers, who never really bother to look how the horse walks. If someone would have looked carefully they would have recognized that Molly's lateral toe had become long and was hitting the ground before the heels had a chance to land first.

The picture below shows what happens when Molly places her foot on the hoof stand: the leg is crocked, it has a strong tendency to lean inwards. As explained in a recent post this tendency is caused by the fact that the medial side of her P1 is longer that the lateral side (see this entry). Molly can absolutely not extend the leg for it to become straight on the hoof stand, something that Gus has absolutely no problems with. Also, her FL is straight on the hoof stand. But not her FR.

The consequence of that leg anatomy is that the lateral toe area is pretty much out of the trimmers sighting when the hoof is up on the hoof stand. The picture does not show it all that well, but I can tell everyone who doubts what I am saying: the lateral toe is invisible from the trimmers perspective when the trimmer looks down from the top at the hoof on the hoof stand.  The trimmer would need to lean down far enough to the height of the hoof to really inspect the growth lines on the lateral toe in order to see them. This was not done, not by my trimmers and most likely not by the hoof care professionals who trimmed Molly before I owned her. This has resulted in the toe never really being trimmed properly along the growth lines and simply becoming long.

This picture is from today, and Mollys foot is now, finally, after 2 years, balanced

The picture below shows Molly's hoof in January 2011, when I released my last trimmer from her duty because I no longer wanted to accept the frequent abscesses. In the left picture I have indicated the growth line of Molly's hoof 2 weeks after she had been trimmed last by my professional trimmer. It is obvious that the lateral toe wall was pushed up, indicating a lot of excess hoof wall in this area. This was exactly the area where Molly hit the ground. Also, on the sole, one can see a black hole in the lateral toe. This was a chronic bruise, that was the reason for the frequent abscesses. Moreover, the whole hoof had taken on a weird triangular shape (I now know due to the side bone that developed due to that excess wall pulling on the lateral cartillages in unnatural ways).

Now the problem was that I myself was a total beginner when I started trimming. When I looked at  the hoof from the front it looked quite balanced. I always noticed the bulge in the coronary band on the lateral side, but I was told to address it via quarter relief, which I tried. Quarter relief proofed unproductive placing even more pressure on the lateral toe. So the hairline did not come down. What Molly needed was lateral toe relief, actually placing more weight on quarters and heels instead of on the toe.

I realized that relatively early on but I ran in problems: as the sole around that area was constantly inflamed (hard and plastic like, due to the constant hitting of the ground), I almost always, when I tried to lower the wall through the sole, hit blood or wound serum. So I was hesitant but still kept going slowly removing sole and toe wall in the lateral toe. Since watching Gene Ovnicek's videos, I knew at least how I could find the life sole in the quarters. He also has quite good explanations on how one can project that life sole plane forward from the quarters in the toe. So at least since I knew about Gene's method, which was not until very recently, I was pretty confident that the bruises/serum pockets that I had seen in the toe were not actually live corium.

In May 20012, Molly had another abscess (the only one since I started trimming in January 2011) in exactly that lateral toe. It erupted at the coronary band. It grew down until 2 weeks ago, when it had grown down enough that the lateral toe wall underneath broke off (see picture below, orange line indicates where toe wall broke off).

I think that this breaking off of the lateral toe wall gave the hoof the final push towards healing. Molly is now able to get her toe out of the way when she lands and all bruises are gone from that area. The sole is still a bit unusual in its consistency in the lateral toe area, but this is hardly surprising given in was inflamed for probably 6 years running.

Just in the last 2 weeks since this toe wall has broken off, Molly made enormous progress, her hairline is dropping and the foot is getting rounder and rounder. My goal is to revert the side bone! We will see if this is going to be possible. The next x-ray will show.