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, January 31, 2013


This is my Molly. I guess she has a little bit of every personality, but in contrast to Gus easy to handle. I think she just never made any bad experiences in life. She truly loves and respects me, although she does not leave out any opportunity to try and get that treat out of me. Her good expression does sometimes lack, when I ask her to do something :-). But she will always do it.

As anyone who has a Left-Brain Introvert knows, the Circling Game and going forward are the two most challenging things to achieve with any degree of refinement, consistency or good expression; it’s not that the Left-Brain Introvert doesn’t want to go forward. He just doesn’t want to do it when you ask him to! If your Left-Brain Introvert was wearing a t-shirt, on the front it would say “Born to argue” and on the back it would say “You’re not the boss of me.”
Here is what makes the Left-Brain Introvert less responsive and more cranky:
  • Asking for more energy (using spank or spur)
  • Getting more animated (you using more energy than the horse!)
  • Boredom, lack of purpose
  • Lack of reward
You need to do the opposite of all of the above! Ask for less energy, use less energy, have a purpose and reward your horse. And reverse psychology? It’s easy… rather than trying to make your horse go faster, ask him to go slower and slower and slower. You’ll be amazed at how that will get his interest up. And once he offers his energy, don’t ask for a lot. Reward him sooner rather than later by slowing down, resting a moment, and giving him some scratches or a cookie. When he sees what’s in it for him, he’ll have more incentive to respond.


I have never studied Parelli. I don't quite know why. Somehow I find him weird. But I have always wanted to learn more about Horsenalities, pretty much because I have had a tough time understanding my gelding Gus. He has challenged me more than any other horse I have ever dealt with. Not because he wants to be bad or unpleasant, lazy or anything, rather the opposite, he wants to please and do everything right, but he can blow up in a matter of a millisecond at unpredictable moments and at unpredictable violence.

Today, the Parelli Newsletter published an interesting article and a short version of the different horsenalities and I did recognize my Gus: he is a Right-Brain Introvert. 

The Artice describes right-brain introverts the following way:

"Right-Brain Introverts can be hard to read because they appear calm on the outside, but on the inside their emotions can be running in high gear; you just can’t see it. They are highly emotional but really want to please, so they hide their feelings and do their best until all of a sudden the pressure becomes overwhelming and they blow up. This is why Right-Brain Introverts are often hard to read and therefore seem rather unpredictable.
Here’s what makes Right-Brain Introverts run away inside themselves:

  • Asking too quickly and rushing them
  • Carrying on even though they tense up or make a negative gesture (ears back, tail swish, etc.)
  • Asking for more and more, which comes across as demanding
  • Being rough – having quick hands, quick legs, quick demands
Right-Brain Introverts will teach you to really think about things from the horse’s perspective; you know, how Pat says it: “Walk a mile or a minute in your horse’s horseshoes.” The more opposite your Humanality is from your horse’s Horsenality, the harder that is to do. Their t-shirt would say “Don’t rush me!”
So how do you get that trust? Slow down, feel more, ask for and wait for permission. A good way to think about it is “red light, green light.” When your horse gives you a red light (ears back, tail swish, tension), don’t speed through it. Stop or back off for a moment. When you get the green light (licking lips, blinking eyes, deep sigh, lowered neck, regular breathing), you can continue until the next red light. The key is to watch for those red lights and respond accordingly. When your horse realizes you are actually listening to him and honoring his reactions or opinion, you’ll be amazed at how that will change his perception of you and earn you a lot more trust."

Intuitively, I have started treating Gus the way one is supposed to treat a RBI. At least to an approximation. I did sometimes push him through red lights and I can say pretty much every time I did this has resulted in a disaster. I had quite a few disasters with Gus. But at least those disasters helped me understanding when Gus' red lights go on and his blowing up does not catch me by surprise anymore.

So maybe I should become a Parelli student. Mainly in order to find ways to know how to get him and me safely out of those red light situations. I have developed some mechanisms such as trying to refocus him on some exercises that he knows really well, keeping a completely cool attitude. Also I found it is important for me to not look directly at him when the red light goes on, but pretend I am focused on something very different. This has helped him relaxing too.

Here is the whole Parelli Article:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

an old picture of Molly

I received this picture today! Molly at ~3 years of age, 6 months before I knew her. She must have just injured her left legs. She somehow got stuck in a fence. The front left has a very small scar only, but the hind leg must have had proud flesh, because she has a biggish sort of scar until today. Never bothers her in the slightest little way. All healed really well.

Despite the bandaging, most sweet and beautiful! Yellow suits her. Maybe I will buy a bright yellow saddle pad and matching boots for her one day...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

update on effect of frost

It is now roughly 3 weeks that the ground is frozen solid, with a short interruption of 1-2 days. I must say that I cannot see any major changes in the hooves. Other than absolutely no thrush or white line separation anywhere, which is not very common for my horses anyway. The hooves are very hard though, I tried to trim Gus' bars a bit and no chance! I guess that is the major difference. The hooves are so hard! The ground is so hard too, but both horses master it perfectly fine. For Gus it is a peanut to walk, trot and even canter over the frozen ground. Molly can only walk on the deep holes but where the ground is hard and LEVEL, even she trots and canters. She moves confidently and not sore. I think for her it is more a balance issue, as she is just less sure footed at any faster gait than walk with the holes in the ground.  So so far the frozen ground has been really great. I have to hack the poop loose off the ground in the morning though :-)!Even the poop freezes within a few hours.

I am still ready for some snow. I think this is the longest we have come into winter without snow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

new developments on Molly's FR

I know for most people these developments are not as extraordinary to merit a whole post on a blog. But for Molly's FR, I think this is significant: for a couple of months now, I can see two very faint cracks at the sole-bar junction on Molly's FR. They are marked with yellow arrows below. I know it is not a great picture, I just took it quickly this morning out on pasture. Because it is freezing cold, the hooves are dry and only then can the crack be seen on a picture.

The reason why I find them significant is because I have never ever seen anything like this on Molly's FR. The reason why I haven't is shown in the picture below.

Molly had very excessive bars and a large amount of retained sole that basically prevented her foot to flex in any way. The left part of the picture is the FR in January 2011. The yellow lines show the extent of her bars. They reached all the way down to the frog apex. The blue lines indicate roughly where the bars are located today. Can you see how much excess material had accumulated in the hoof? This was by no way flaky sole that "wanted to come off". It was as hard  as it can be.

These bars must have put a huge pressure on Molly's digital cushions and maybe even lateral cartillages, and potentially the Deep Digital Flexor Tendon. The right part of the picture (the hoof from today) I have indicated where the bars end today. I am very pleased by the fact that those cracks at the bar-sole junction appeared at the same place and to the same extent on the medial and lateral side of the foot. This to me indicates the foot is loaded equally and thus is balanced. This was the other major issue of this hoof, a pronounced medial-lateral imbalance. The hoof is overall now showing every sign of a healthy hoof. The sole has nice consistency (not this hard and shiny material  of compressed and retained sole anymore), the apex of the frog is round and defined and no longer embedded in the sole from the stretched forward toe. Molly walks perfect on the foot, even on the hard and frozen ground she has no problems.

The conclusion of this post is that one really needs to have a good understanding of hoof anatomy and especially bar and sole anatomy in order to determine what grows in some area of the hoof is supposed to stay or needs to be trimmed off. Just because it grows does not mean it is needed or beneficial in any way. The terrain the horse moves in is determining how much one needs to trim for the horse to have a healthy foot.

Monday, January 14, 2013

negative palmar angle on hind feet

My next post will investigate the relationship between dorsal wall angles and palmar coffin bone angle on front and hind feet.

Heike Bean, who is a collector of coffin bones, found that the hind foot coffin bone has a steeper dorsal angle than the front coffin bone, on most horses (not all!). Below is an example (taken from here:

Note that these two bones do not stem from the same horse. Yet, the difference in dorsal angle is comparable to bones that do stem from the same horse. 

This difference between dorsal angle of coffin bones was also noticed by Dr. Hildrud Strasser, which lead her to formulate her strict rule that all horses' hind feet needed to be trimmed to a dorsal wall angle (DWA) of 55 degrees and all horses' front feet needed to be trimmed to a dorsal wall angle of 45 degrees. In recent years, these dorsal hoof wall angles have been proven wrong (due to the fact that the coffin bone does not sit in a ground parallel position in the hoof capsule) but what remains correct is the difference in dorsal angles between front and hind coffin bones.  By extrapolation from Dr. Strassers rule, this difference should be as great as 10 degrees.

Nobody really knows exactly which palmar elevation of the coffin bone in the hoof capsule is the best for a horse's comfort and performance. To my knowledge, noone has measured (by X-ray) the palmar elevation of hind feet coffin bones in free living mustangs. However, it is reasonable to assume that both, front and hind feet should have similar palmar elevations of the coffin bone. This palmar elevation could be anywhere between 2 degrees and 8 degrees positive angle. For example, on a front foot a dorsal wall angle of 50 degree translates in a 3 degree positive palmar angle (see below, top row).

However, given the difference dorsal angles of coffin bones between fronts and hinds shown above, a dorsal hoof wall angle of 50 degrees on a hind foot results in a negative palmar angle of the coffin bone in that foot, as can be prominently seen on the lower part of the picture below.

While the horse in the picture below is not lame or sore, it is expected to perform much better once the palmar elevation of front and hind feet match. The hind feet need to be correctively trimmed to achieve a higher palmar coffin bone angle. This corrective trim is not so trivial. 

Most people do not have x-rays at their disposal to guide their trimming techniques. Thus, a good rule of thumb should be that the dorsal hoof wall angle of the hind feet should at least be slightly steeper than on the front feet.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gene Ovnicek's model for medial-lateral imbalance

I watched this recent video on the Rick Lamb show:

Gene states that 70% of all lameness stem from medial-lateral imbalances. He goes on describing how this process is man-made and how it affects the horses posture. So here is his model:

From my experience with Molly I can confirm that she stood very often with pushing her FR outwards (to the side) and in her case, backwards. This must have gone on for a long time, while Molly was still growing. When I look at her X ray I see that her way of coping with that lateral side on the front right being left too high was by growing a longer medial side of P1. This would allow her to place the FR foot outwards without actually placing the whole leg outwards which must be tiring. Maybe this is how Molly came to have her crooked front right leg. She has stabilized that conformation by ossifying the lateral cartilages. Until this day Molly grows much more hoof wall on the lateral side than the medial, every trim cycle, I have to lower the lateral side.

My theory for why this lateral side grows so much more than the medial is because of Molly's orientation of the knee joints she is loading her foot over the lateral side. Thus, she receives more stimulation laterally which means more hoof growth. But since Molly lives in a non-abrasive environment, this extra hoof growth (which would be a good thing on abrasive surfaces) accumulates on her and causes an M-L imbalance. If the trimmer does not recognize it, it accumulates over time and the lateral wall gets pushed up high and the coronary band curves. I think that this pushing up of excess lateral wall was the main reason for Molly's ossifications, as the wall and cartillages are joint and the excess wall would pull on the cartillages.

According to Gene, the other way to spot a medial-lateral imbalance is when one heel (lateral) is run more forward then the other (medial). On Molly this is the case, the lateral heel runs more forward than the medial. To what degree this is normal or not I do not yet know.