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.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

mineral balancing hay

I wanted to write this post to summarize my current understanding of mineral balancing hay in the Equine diet. This is a rather complex topic and I make no claim for my post to be complete or even up to the newest standards of research. The topic itself is not very close to my heart, as I personally have never seen any effect of "iron overload" and so I did not dive too deep in this matter, yet thought it was important for me to gain a "common sense" understanding that would be consistent with my background in Biology.

The background on the whole topic is provided briefly here. In brief, there seems to be some indication that elevated ferritin levels in the horse's blood (as a proxy for the amount of iron stored in the horse's body) could be a risk factor to develop insulin resistance and laminitis in horses. High serum ferritin is suggested to stem from hay rich in iron, or well water rich in iron, or other feeds with supplemental iron or naturally high iron content.

The one fact that is easy to confirm for anybody trying to is that some hays and some well water are very high in iron. Some! Not all. My own hay for example, tested during three consecutive years was normal to low in iron, and consistent through the years with respect to iron content. I also must point out that just the appearance of redish stain in well water, tubs and toilets does not mean that the water is high in iron, it could also be high in tannins, which has the same color, but a completely opposite effect on the horse. So a water analysis is necessarily required to determine if redish stained water is from tannins or iron.

Even hays that have normal iron content do pretty much always meet the minimum requirements for iron for horses, as published by the National Research Council. So definitely, there is no shortage of iron in an average horse's diet. Unfortunately, this is were the simplicity of the topic ends.

Before I will go into detail on how some believe it is possible to counteract the high iron content and high ferritin levels in horses by "mineral balancing" the horses ration, I will have a closer look at the evidence for the correlation between ferritin level and blood insulin response, based on the above mentioned paper, that was published in February of this year.

The study analyzed 16 horses of various ages and sex. 15 horses were healthy and one horse had a diagnosed insulin resistance. The authors analyzed the data for all 16 horses in the same statistical test. As I show below, this is not very good practice as an outlier "drives" correlations. To show what I mean I took the raw data from the paper and produced 2 figures in Excel, the top excluding the IR mare from the analysis and the bottom including it. Both datasets show a positive correlation, but only the bottom one is significant (P < 0.05). Among the healthy horses (top panel) the two with the highest ferritin concentration showed a very low insulin response.

Thus, among healthy horses, we cannot establish a link between ferritin level and strength of insulin response at this point in time. 

The IR mare had the highest ferritin levels of all horses and the strongest insulin response. The point is labeled in orange at the bottom plot. Including this one horse thus "drives" the correlation into significance. But it is rather meaningless, as first, we cannot know if the IR mare exhibits high ferritin as a cause or consequence of the insulin resistance (i.e. no causal relationship can be established from a simple correlation) and second, as the healthy horses showed no significant correlation, we cannot use ferritin levels as predictor for insulin response. In short, it is not totally clear to me why we should care about ferritin levels and iron overload in the healthy horse in the first place?

However, if we accept for the moment that there IS a causal relationship between insulin resistance and "iron overload", we can ask if there is any way to reduce the effect of the high dietary iron and thus help the insulin resistant horse. According to Dr. Kellon, there is, by a practice called mineral balancing of hay. The best way to learn about that practice is by reading this website, other than taking the course offered by Dr. Kellon.  

The basics of the method are easily understood. It requires the horse owner to obtain the nutritional content of their hay by getting it analyzed in a laboratory, which will determine the amounts of macro and microminerals per pound of hay. Multiplied by the amount of hay eaten by the horse we know exactly how much of each mineral a horse is getting through its forage diet. These values then can be compared to the minimal requirements for each nutrient as established by the National Research Council. If any nutrient is deficient, we can supplement it. The emphasis here is on IF a nutrient is deficient, we can supplement it. This is the major contribution by Dr. Kellon that I am personally very thankful for, because she pointed out that many horses don't need a lot of supplementation, if their forage already contains adequate levels of nutrients. On the other hand, many hays also suffer from notorously low content of some minerals, most commonly copper and zinc. So bottom line is,  in order to "balance" the hay diet, we only need to provide what is actually missing.

Now comes the confusing part, at least for me. And this concerns the question how much do we actually need to provide in order to make up for deficiencies in our hay. Since most hays provide an over-abundance of iron, and a deficiency of copper and zinc, Dr. Kellon recommends to not only supplement copper and zinc deficiencies to the amount of the minimal daily requirements (or a little above), but to provide them in a vast excess in order to counteract the excess of iron. The rationale here is that iron and zinc are supposed to compete for absorption in the intestinal wall. With a large excess of iron, zinc basically is out-competed from binding at the receptor that would transport the mineral across the intestinal wall into the blood stream. If we artificially lift the zinc concentration we allow it to better compete against iron for absorption.

In my understanding there are two problems with this practice of providing zinc and copper in over-abundance to counteract the effects of iron. My view stems from reading this paper. The paper can be downloaded for free here. Below is my brief summary and a little of my own research, which is basically limited to zinc. I have not had the time to look in more detail into copper absorption.

While there is evidence that iron inhibits zinc absorption, the reverse does not seem to be true. It almost certainly does not happen at the level of the receptor, the "divalent metal transporter-1" (DMT1) protein. DMT1 was historically thought to transport both Zi and Fe (iron) through the enterocyte (the "gut cell") to the blood, but does now seem to only transport Fe, but not Zi. In humans, a family of specific zinc transporters has been identified. The genes that encode those proteins are called hZip1, hZip2 and hZip4, etc. hZip1 for example is specific for regulating zinc homeostasis in the human gut cell. Given that zinc seems to have its own absorption mechanism it seems very unlikely that the negative interaction between iron and zinc happens at the level of "competing for absorption" in the intestine.
The orthologues gene of hZip1 is also present in the horse, its name and genomic location can be viewed here. Those who are fascinated by evolution, can also see that those zinc transporters have been highly conserved through vertebrate evolution, suggesting that the mechanism of regulating zinc homeostatis could likely be conserved too. In total I found 113 genes involved in zinc transport organized in 12 protein families in the horse. I think this speaks very clearly for a much more complex (and so far unknown) picture than a direct competition of iron and zinc for absorption in the intestinal wall. Or in simple words, iron will be absorbed no matter how much zinc we feed to the horse, as both metals have their own specific transport mechanisms and do not compete for absorption by using the same transporter. 

It is also worthwhile mentioning that almost all biological system have built-in "feedback loops". In the case of iron absorption, for example, it was shown (in cell cultured gut cells) that the iron transporter gene dmt1 is down-regulated in the presence of high iron in the medium. This effectively  reduces the amount of possible iron absorbed, since simply less transporter molecules will be available to absorb iron, when iron is present in excess in the horses body.

The second aspect of confusion deals with how oversupplementation with zinc could offset iron absorption, given the anatomy of the digestive tract. Most mineral absorption happens in the small intestine, where the food passes through within 90 minutes. If we supplement large amounts of zinc in a single feeding, this large quantity of zinc is basically available to "buffer" iron only for that (short) amount of time, assuming that zinc and iron do compete for absorption (which is unlikely given the paragraph above). During the remaining >22 h there is no excess zinc in the horses digestive system (assuming any zinc not absorbed by the small intestine moves along to the large intestine with the rest of the digest) and thus is unlikely to help with reducing Fe absorption of the hay that is eaten after the supplement has left the small intestine.  Moreover, there may simply not be enough receptors in the intestinal wall to absorb such a large amount of supplemental zinc, if, for example, it is provided at 10 times the minimum daily requirements in a single feeding.

In 2006 Dr. Kellon reported findings comparing IR horses on a "mineral-balanced" diet to IR horses on an "unbalanced" diet. The details of the study can be downloaded here. The mineral balanced diet consisted of one that overcompensated for the supposed effect of iron, i.e. copper and zinc were fed in excess of minimal daily requirements. She found significant differences in blood iron status between those two treatment groups and therefore suggests that mineral balancing the diet could lower the iron status of the horse. The problem with this study, as is also acknowledge by her in the paper, is that the two treatment groups are "confounded", meaning that not only differed the treatments in mineral intake, but also in the fact that the mineral balanced group of horses received forage with low NSC while the horses in the unbalanced diet group did not. So instead of attributing the lower iron status to mineral intake, it could just as well be attributed to the lower NSC of the forage. In fact, I personally would find this a much more realistic explanation, but without a controlled study we don't know anything for sure. Such a controlled study would need to have 4 treatment groups, and not only two: one on low NSC forage plus balanced minerals, one on low NSC forage without balanced minerals and one on high NSC forage without balanced minerals and one on high NSC forage with balanced minerals. And ideally even one group of horses receiving low NSC forage and minerals only at the minimum daily requirements, without overcompensation for the supposed effect of iron. To my knowledge such a study to this point does not exist. However, even if such a study would exist, it would still be impossible to say that iron overload caused insulin resistance in horses. I think it is rather clear that insulin resistant horses do have high body content of iron, but the causal link is almost impossible to establish. A correlation does never imply causality. It could just as well be that IR horses also have problems with iron homeostatis, but that those two effects are totally unlinked.

My current feeling with mineral balancing is that it is a great way to supplement specifically what is missing in a horses diet, and only that, thus not overloading our horses with components they actually don't need. But also that some of the specifics of the practice is questionable, especially when it comes to counteract the excess iron due to fear of iron overload. To me it is not clear that counteracting one excess (iron) with another (zinc) is the right cause of action, especially considering the fact that there is only limited evidence that iron overload is causally related to insulin resistance in horses and that zinc seems ineffective in limiting iron absorption.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

balanced horse - balanced ride

the best way for me to know that Molly's hooves are balanced is riding her. When I can stay on her balanced in both directions, my saddle does not lean towards the left and Molly isn't stiffly bracing through the corners on the right lead, I know her hooves are well balanced. And if I can do all this on a loose rein, it is even better. I would say that today was the first day in a long time that all of the above was true. It was wonderful. I have been working a lot on collection recently and bending transitions at a walk and trot. Maybe these exercises helped. Also, I must say, since I have the bitless bridle, it is just so much easier to get Molly soft in her poll without even the slightest resistance on her part.  Also, I think I have become a much better rider, since I am much more aware of my own balance, especially in the corners and on circles.

Bitless bridle and balanced hooves (and of course my much loved Sharon Saare custom saddle) make a world of a difference on Molly's and my riding. Since I have the bitless bridle, I have never once touched the bitted bridle  anymore.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

one size does not fit all

I have decided that for the next couple of post, I will review the book "ABC Hoofprint Trim" by Cheryl Henderson, and in particular, detail my experiences with the trim. This endevour will be divided in 3 parts:

1) heel height
2) 30 degree angle gauge
3) treatment of bars

This will be post 1, on heel height.

UPDATE: there is a more recent post on heel height, where I show how my gelding's hoof differs between the time I trimmed him according to ABC and now, where I trim according to my accumulated 3.5 years  of studying hooves:

I bough the book in August of 2011, after I had already applied the ABC trim for 6 months, based on mark-ups and personal advice from the author of the book, members of the ABC yahoo group, and through hoofmechanics.

The ABC method was appealing for me, as it seems easy to apply, following a "manual". I am a molecular biologist, I am used to follow manuals, in the most precise way, in a laboratory. This is my daily business at work, and so I thought it was perfectly suited for me to apply to my horses hooves.

I applied that trim (I should say I started as a total beginner) for almost 1 1/2 years, on both my horses. On Molly, this trim worked reasonably well (see exception of 30 degree hairline and treatment of bars in one of my future posts), but on Gus, it did not. Over the course of 1 1/2 years Gus' feet, which initially could master any terrain and had never taken a single lame step while he was in my possession, became fragile, and he became more and more reluctant to travel over concrete or termac road. So I knew something was not right for him, as I knew from before that he did not have these problems.

Trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, I read an enormous amount of books on hoof care. I think pretty much every single book out there on barefoot trimming. One day, I'll post my library of books.

To make a long story short, I finally figured out that my problems were caused by enforcing a heel height of 1 1/8th inch for Gus hooves, as the Hoofprint manual demanded for every horse. Gus is a 155 cm quarter horse, though quite big boned, with big feet and big head, the regular QH halters are rather tight on his head :-)!). It really was only after I had seen wild mustangs with my own eyes (and seeing all the variations they had in their feet!), discussing on many online forums and personally with many important people in the barefoot world, and also after having come across Maureen's HGM trim, that I realized that not all horses can tolerate such a heel height. Some can, no doubt, but some can't. And if one enforces something on a hoof that it is not meant for, it becomes weaker and weaker as time goes on. And this is what happened to me and Gus. The most important point here is, that this did not happen instantly, but took time, over many months. A slow decrease in performance, and this is also why it was so hard for me to understand what was going on. Because each individual trim did not cause so much problems but overall, his hooves just went downhill, and became more and more sensitive. In order to accommodate a low heel on Gus, and a short toe, I needed to remove significant amounts of hoof and sole along the way, and in the long run, this was rather detrimental.

The picture below shows Gus' hoof as of today, next to a Utah mustang hoof. The red line points towards the "baseline", which is the position where according to the ABC manual, the heels need to be backed to. It is quite obvious that neither the mustang, nor Gus do currently have heels down to that "baseline". I should say that Gus, with a heel height such as on this picture, is totally comfortable on any surface, be it concrete, gravel or sand. He is just like he used to be when I first got him.

If I hold the ABC heel gauge to his current hooves, it becomes clear just how much hoof (AND functional sole) I would need to remove in order for him to conform to the hoof print trim for a "horse". The horse size heel height is supposed to be 1 1/8th inch. It is, most of the time, roughly at the position where the periople skin curls up. Interestingly, that landmark seems to be at exactly at 1 1/8th inch, even on Gus (see right side of picture). However, his heels are actually high beyond that point, currently to "draft" size, or 1 1/2 inch. There is no wall above sole level that I could take off and Gus is comfortable, which he has not been with a 1 1/8th inch heel. I think 1 1/2 inch will be roughly the heel height that suits him. I am now seeing the first indications that maybe some sole will start to exfoliate and the medial heel has a small crack.

While I don't have an x ray for this exact foot, the one from May, where he already had a "draft heel" suggest that even with this draft heel height his coffin bone is barely ground parallel. Most likely, the 1 1/8th inch "horse" heel height brought him into a negative angle, and that's why he was so uncomfortable on hard ground.

So, I guess, the conclusion of this part of the series of post is that one size does definitely not fit all horses. It takes a bit more knowledge of hooves to trim a foot than applying a set of measurements.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

rhythm beads

for Molly, as a birthday present from hubby! The colors red and gold are supposed to give confidence and the little bells are supposed to scare deer away on the trail. Molly looks beautiful wearing them!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

the problem with measuring heel height

I recently had quite dramatic events happening to me and Molly. I try to summarize them here, as far as I understand everything right now.

About 3 months ago, I started to trim Molly according to the HGM method. HGM stands for "hoof guided method". More information about it can be found here. The reason why I wanted to do something different as I always did was because I just could not get Molly to walk comfortably on concrete or asphalt. This statement is not completely true, as Molly usually was comfortable walking on concrete at the end of a trimming cycle, especially when I had been away for a few weeks and did not do anything to the feet. Not even pick them out. Every time when I got back and had not interfered with Molly's feet for several weeks, Molly was cruising over concrete, but when I finished trimming, she did not, but was stiff and careful again on concrete. So at this point I knew that I was the problem with her walking on concrete!

For the longest time I thought this was simply because I trimmed her generally to short. However, as it turns out, this was not the case, I simply trimmed her in the wrong places, and as I know now, I trimmed her lateral heel too short.

The way I fond that fact out was the following. I had started the HGM trim, which basically does not do anything else than beveling the toe, but leaves the heels alone, unless the wall is more than 3-5mm above sole. That was not the case on Molly and so I left heels alone for at least 2 months.

On July 22, Molly had this FL foot:

I liked this foot a lot. Molly and I were riding and riding, for the first time in 2 years she was sound on all surfaces!

Then I made a mistake. I had no experience with this new HGM method and I was too much influenced by other trimming methods, and my feeling was that the heels were becoming too high and needed a trim. The HGM method would still not have trimmed those heels, as the sole was right up there at heel level. And as I said, Molly was as sound as never before. Nevertheless, I decided to shorten them. In hindsight, it was stupid, BUT I learned a lot from this mistake! And that really is the important thing, learning from the mistakes.

Since I did not really have any indication from the sole how to trim the heels, I resorted to my "heel gauge", that I still have from the times when I followed the ABC trim (which I stopped doing a long time ago, for many reasons I don't want to go in to). However, that little heel gauge I still had used even though I had updated it to incorporate a larger heel height than originally recommended.

This is an example of how this tool works:


The little L-shaped tool is held against the heel (red line) and the tool would then indicate a vertical heel height of 3 cm (in my case).

So I went ahead and marked and trimmed the heels as I used to do, using that gauge on both sides of the hoof.  The tool indicated to me that the lateral heel was higher than the medial one. It also looks like that, when looking at the picture above, and I was convinced that this is what needed doing, shortening the lateral heel to match the medial.

The next morning, Molly was very sore. And I had absolutely not done anything else than shortening the lateral heel, to what I thought would match the medial. She was way worse on her FR than FL. The FR has large ossifications of the lateral cartillages, which the FL does not have, and thus the FR can cope pretty much not at all with an unbalanced foot. And lowering that lateral heel must have seriously unbalanced the foot. I could hardly believe how dramatic the effect was.

The next thing I did then is cut Molly a pad and glued a piece of firm rubber mat under the lateral heel, lifting the lateral heel up to what I thought it may have been before I lowered it. Molly went from looking almost like a foundered horse to walking 99% normal on pasture. Incredible effect, of simply raising the lateral heel. So that confirmed to me that I lowered Molly's lateral heel too much. Unfortunately I don't have a picture. Molly did not want to lift her feet and I was devastated thinking about other things than taking pictures.

Luckily, during the last couple of months Molly had grown rather high heels and I was now in a position to remedy at least some of my mistake by lowering the medial heel too. But I did not have any good trimming guidlines from the hoof, so the whole thing was kind of a mess. Nevertheless Molly was ok with the lowered medial heel, which kind of restored the heel proportions to before I did anything to them. After 2 weeks I started to ride again and Molly is almost back to what she was before the mistake.

But for the last weeks I have been trying to figure out why this heel measurement does work so badly on Molly and why my visual judgement of the heel height also failed me. Many people trim the heels back to the widest part of the frog, and Molly's lateral heel was definitely ahead of that landmark, and much more so than the medial.  I was by then pretty convinced that this must have been my problem all along, unbalanced heels after my trim.

The explanation I came up with is shown below, as a model. What I realized is that the lateral heel is different from the medial in the fact that it grows at a more shallow angle. The medial and the lateral side of Molly's hoof (and almost all domestic horses) are not identical. The medial wall angle is usually more upright. I think as a consequence, the medial heel also grows at a steeper angle. I have never read about that fact, but I am pretty convinced it is true on Molly (and also on Gus), and I had actually noticed that phenomenon earlier, just never realized what it means with respect to shortening the heels using a measurement.

What happens to the heel height, when the gauge is applied to heels that grow at a different angle, is shown above. Of course the tool is supposed to be hold vertically, but in reality, this is pretty much impossible with the hoof in hand, nor is it emphasized anywhere in the ABC protocol. In my case, I just held it to the medial heel as I did hold it to the lateral heel.  But this procedure leaves the lateral heel with a too short vertical height, IF the heels grow at a different angle, as is the case on Molly.

Since I am always studying the hoof wear patterns on Rockley Farm horses, I began to notice that the same phenomenon, as I observe on Molly, happen to the Rockley Farm horses, when they are allowed to self trim and grow their feet as the like. Below is a picture of Paddy, taken from the Rockley farm blog.

This is Paddy's front left foot, after 8 weeks at Rockley farm, self trimming. What I noticed is that the lateral heel, just like in Molly's case, grows forward. I have marked the heel purchase in green on the right side of the picture. Yet, when sighting the hoof from behind, if anything, the lateral heel is lower than the medial. This is because of the shallower angle it grows at.
Again, my observation is that when Molly's lateral heel has grown forward, in a similar way than Paddy has grown his heel, she is SOUND, when I take the heel back, to the widest part of the frog she is stiff on concrete. That must mean something, I would think! And obviously, Molly is not the only horse who grows her feet like this.

In any case, I am back with the HGM, now waiting patiently until the heels show me any indication for wanting to be trimmed.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mustang hooves

Here some pictures of mustang hooves, with my comments on them.

The first 5 are from the same horse, a 2 or 3 year old young stallion. It did not have any sign of injuries, thus, the hooves most likely are "as good as it gets". Click on the pictures to magnify.

I numbered the horses so that it is obvious which horses are the same.


My visit to the Onaqui Mountain mustangs

My husband and I had a chance to visit the Onaqui Mountain mustangs last week. It was soooo exciting. We attended a conference in Salt Lake City, and I emailed the BLM about the best viewing opportunities for wild mustangs. A friendly lady actually responded and directed us to the Onaqui herd.

I must say it was quite an adventure. This is a very isolated place, the only human habitation within 40 miles radius is a military base, Dugway. As I have only found out afterwards, there is a good reason for the location of this base in the middle of the Utah desert. This base is designed to test chemical and biological weapons and at this location there are so few people that in the event of an accident human casualties would be limited.

At 5 am in the morning we took our tent down, left the beautiful camp side in the nearby mountains and headed towards the Pony express road, where the BLM woman told us the horses can usually be seen. We drove for about 40 minutes on a dusty dirt road and saw nothing but two pronghorns. Then the road divided and we headed towards the right, towards Simpson Springs. 10 more minutes of driving and THERE THEY WERE!!! Around 80 horses gathered around a big trough filled with water. This water source must have been put in place by the BLM. I think if it would not have been there there would not be any horses. July is the hottest month of the year, temperatures approached 110 F and we did not see any evidence for any water other then the well that was artificially dug. Horses must have just arrived from the night of grazing, it was around 6:30 am when we reached them. They had all drunk and assembled in small groups of 4 to 5 horses that dozed together in the sun.

The mares of the Onaqui mountain herd are supposedly treated with the fertility drug ZP3. Nevertheless there were around 6 new foals. It seemed to me that the sex ratio of the herd was quite skewed with many more males than females, but I did not properly quantify this. There were several dominant stallions at the water station, but no fight erupted amongst them. It was all very peaceful and we could approach the horses really quite closely (maybe within 10 meters). The horses were curious, at times it seemed that the younger ones would have liked to approach us, but then they decided to stay away.

The main reason why I wanted to see the mustangs was off course to see their hooves. And their leg conformation. I made a lot of observations but unfortunately not enough. I will document what I saw in the next post. Here just a few general observations.

1) There really is not ONE mustang hoof. Each and every horse had different hooves. Some had very steep dorsal wall angles and some much more shallow. Some had rather massive hooves and some had short hooves.

2) Only two horses had obvious pathologies. All other horses, despite their wide range of hoof forms, seemed perfectly fine.

3) I did not see any evidence for laminitis, excessive flaring or pronounced rings in the hoof walls. This is not to say that all hooves were "perfect". I could see small flares and sometimes small rings. To me this indicates that the hoof is not a static organ but a dynamic one, that allows for small, short term, adjustments.

4) Given that this was the very dry season, hooves were generally "filled" out with callused sole, leaving just a narrow collateral groove.

Friday, June 14, 2013

I may finally know what Pete Ramey is talking about

I think everybody who is seriously interested in hoof care has studied Pete Ramey. The one aspect he is most often cited for is: "if some part of the hoof that has just been trimmed grows back quickly, the hoof needs it and should be left alone".

For me, this principle was, and still is, hard to apply. Since everything on the hoof grows, how I am supposed to know which growth is important for the hoof and which one isn't?

In any case, I have described in my previous post how I used to trim the bars. I basically forced them to merge with the frog at the bottom of the collateral groove. The problem for me was always how to treat this transition between bar and sole. In order for me to trim the bars such they would meet the frog at the bottom of the collateral groove, I really needed to thin out the area at the end of the bars. My horses always developed cracks and holes there, I think as a consequence.

Now, just accidentally, I took a picture of Molly's feet 4 weeks after I had trimmed that transition between bar and sole. The picture below shows how Molly grew her bars, and the area of sole just in front of them, within 4 weeks. She has grown the sole up straight from the bottom of the collateral groove to meet the bars in one long and straight line. There is no crack, or no bar "migrated" or overlaying, the collateral groove side of the sole just grew straight up. Importantly, this is how Molly is sound on hard ground, and this is also how she can maintain a stronger heel (I used to also often have cracks in the seat of corn). And this is pretty much the only significant change in 4 weeks.

So maybe this satisfies Pete Ramey's definition of a structure that is needed for comfort, at least at this given time and stage the hoof is in. I have now, for the first time NOT trimmed that extension of the bars off and will see how the foot develops. For some reason all this looks much more natutral to me than this sharp transition between bar and sole as one can see on the left part of the picture, which is how I had left the foot 4 weeks before.

I should point out that my horses do live on soft and (often) wet ground. Maybe this has something to do with how the bars, and the sole in front of them, grow. Gus grows his bars and sole in exactly the same way.

I will wait and see what happens next.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Molly has a bitless bridle

And it is wonderful! I decided to get the BBB (Barefoot Bitless Bridle). It is made in the Netherlands, I had it shipped to Germany and then on to the US for EUR 3.45.- (shipping).

I just tried it and Molly LOVED it. It was funny, when I used it just so slightly, I noticed how Molly was getting ready to put in some resistance, but then she realized it was only the soft noseband that gave the signal and no metal in the mouth and she relaxed. It was just like a reflex to show resistance at first. I had to hardly touch that bridle, I do hardly have to touch the bitted bridle, but I definitely feel more resistance in the bit than without. Molly collected just the same as with the bit, only for short stretches at a time, but she is not used to work collected for more than a few minutes at a time.

I like the design, the noseband is soft and broad, it has a nice padding between two sheets of leather and the chin piece is made of some sturdy rubber in a double layer, so also has a "give". Overall, I am very happy and probably will never use anything else. It just feels so good to not have to put a metal piece in the mouth.