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, May 29, 2013

bar anatomy - bar pool

I have recently learned something new about bars. This understanding emerged from my conversation with Maureen Thierney, from Natural Barefoot Trimming and after reading her book. The picture of the healthy hoof below, which she sent to me, serves as an excellent example to explain the situation. The picture on the right is from a dissected cadaver foot, so does not represent the same foot.

This hoof (left in picture below) had just completed a 25 mile endurance race, during which the horse walked 5 miles on rock and 2 miles on pavement. The horse finished third, barefoot. I first show you the pictures without my markings.

When you look closely at the shape of the bar it does precisely match the shape of the bar corium, from which the bar grows. As an extension of the hoof wall you can easily see the wall tubules of the bar. The bar is indicated in blue below.

One can recognize the end of the bar easily by following the "dirtline", which is just an accumulation of dirt in the white line of the bar.

The material below the bar, that looks like an extension of it, is not bar, but sole build-up. You can clearly see this because there is no longer a dirtline. Whether or not this slight sole built-up has a function or not is controversial. I would think that given this horse just raced 25 miles it certainly does not look like a liability to its performance. My own experience with this material below the bar is that it does make the horse more sound. Off course, as with everything in life, the right balance is crucial.

Going back to picture 2, I have indicated how I used to trim my horse's bars, in a triangular fashion, indicated by the red triangle. I basically forced the bars to merge with the frog at the bottom of the collateral groove.

This is how many people on the internet and in barefoot trimming schools teach trimming the bars. However, if you look at the shape of the corium, and the bar on this healthy hoof, the corium has the shape of a rhomboid and not a triangle. Since the horn grows from the corium, the structures in the hoof should match their underlying corium, which it would not do when trimming the bar in a triangular fashion. Of course there will be some variation between feet, but in general, the bar corium runs in parallel to the frog, and does not merge with it. Bars trimmed in a triangular fashion remove about half of the bars supportive wall (i.e. the other part of the triangle that would fill up to the shape of the rhomboid).

Now here is an example of what you might see when you trim the bar and disrespect the shape of its corium. I cannot show the picture on my blog, due to copyright reasons, so you have to klick HERE:

The right side of the picture shows the trimmed hoof, with a triangular bar trim. At the end of the bar, you can see how this trim exposes the inner hoof wall and white line (it basically exposes a white "blob" at the lower end of the bar), especially well visible on the right half of the hoof. This is an unphysiological state for the bar to be in.

Now there are some people, who then go ahead and say that this white material, that is exposed after a triangular bar trim represents "bar pool". They recommend removing it and I have seen people trying to do that literally for years. But they always hit blood very soon and then needed to stop. This is due to the fact that the triangular bar trim already removed half of the bar's wall, and so one operates already very close to the bar corium.

So maybe, next time when someone hears about the "bar pool" that requires removing, consider the alternative explanation, that the bar trim was unphysiologial and did not follow its underlying corium.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A powerful demonstration of Gus' role as "leading stallion" in their community of two

I just experienced the most amazing thing. Molly has the new Zebra fly blanket. She has been wearing it for a few days now, but never in the big turnout, i.e. together with Gus. Only separated in her small individual paddock. Today, I saw her rolling twice in the blanket and I thought everything is fine, the blanket stayed put, so it would be time to turn her out together with Gus wearing that blanket.

Oh my god! Gus did not recognize Molly. He thought a new stallion had appeared on the scene and his mare had disappeared, and he went straight into attacking mode. Really, just the same as one can see those mustang stallions fighting each other in the wild. Gus was crazy, gaping his mouth open, rising high in the air, chasing Molly like I had never seen before. Molly kicked and squeeked of course, but really could not believe what was going on. They had been such a perfect couple for a long time now, with defined roles as mare and stallion (though he is a gelding of course).

I managed to get Gus out of there, he had a few hoof prints on his chest but thankfully both horses are unharmed. Next, I took the blanket off of Molly and let Gus back in the big turnout area. He immediately recognized Molly, moved her a few steps around, like he always does, throwing his head until she slowly walks in front of him where he wants her to move and then he hid his head under her tail, something he does to get rid of flies. Both horses were one heart and one soul again. Within 1 second, he had his mare back and gotten rid of that rival, and was happy.

So now I am wondering, which cue did he miss on that "new" horse. I cant imagine it is the smell, Molly had been wearing this blanket for some time and at the back there was even a pee stain. He must have missed the visual cues he is used to. That was enough for him to attack.

But it also says a lot about my Gus. Because this is how he is, in the slightest doubt that something bad could have happened he chooses the attack route. I think it is because he knows he is so strong. And he is. He would have been a wonderful powerful stallion out on the ranges with his band of mares. Now he has just one, but he will never give up on that one, that's for sure!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

News on the farm

1) My ground hog has multiplied. There are now 6 of them. Living under my tack room. Not sure if I am happy about that, but the little ones are the sweetest thing ever.. I am hoping they will all disperse at the end of the summer though.

2) Molly has speciated into a Zebra

Equine dentistry - wave mouth

The horses had their teeth floated on May 9th 2013. They had not been floated in two years. Before that, they had been floated once a year, using "powerfloat".

Dentistry is another one of those subjects were I had, until now, given away full responsibility to my vets. And they always performed powerfloats. Only recently did I become aware of the fact that there are also those who criticize powerfloats and advocate manual floats (see this website of further information).

So here is another one of those topics, where the average horse owner has to make a decision, based on very limited information and knowledge.

I personally contacted one of those "Natural Balance Dentists" but never heard back. This is the problem with rural Indiana and with just two horses. One does not have very many treatment options.

So I went with my vet who did a regular power float. Good thing about that was that I learned something new, about Molly, where I had no idea about before, namely that she has a "wave mouth".

A wave mouth can be seen here:

Because Molly was sedated I could have a long and detailed look in her mouth. My vet did not mind to wait for my to try and get some pictures. I had never before personally looked in her mouth. I noticed the wave immediately and said: "Oh, there is a wave"! My vet did not seem to be concerned about that and and I had no idea what it was and that it was a regular "condition". By the evening, I had forgotten all about it, but the next morning I typed in Google: "Wave, teeth, horse" and to my surprise found a lot of information on "wave mouth". It seems to be very common. Unfortunately, opinions differ on whether this is a normal condition or should be corrected. I have not done enough research to decide on that. The only problem I could see is that the horse would restrict its range of motion with the jars at chewing, but then, given I have never seen any problems on Molly with her chewing, I am not sure if it affects her at all. I actually think most of the chewing motion is sideways. But again, I need to read up on that some more.

Below is a picture of Molly's upper left teeth, the wave is visible if one knows it is there. It is not huge, but 100% there when looking in the mouth in person.

Unfortunately, I only had a very brief look in Gus mouth. He kept moving backwards and the Vet wanted me to stand by his bud to make him realize there is no way backwards. During the brief look I had I did not see the wave. But I really should have had a more detailed look at the end. Unfortunately, I was just happy that this whole thing was over and then forgot about it.

I just found this picture. A dead mustang in Nevada, having a wave mouth:

Saturday, May 18, 2013


I started this blog initially to keep track of all the things about hooves and have easy accessible links to share with others for discussion. It now also has become a tool for me to keep track of other issues with my horses. So this entry is on my recent Vet's appointment. Three things were on the agenda:

1) vaccinations
2) teeth
3) Hoof x-rays

Unfortunately 1) and 2) are controversial issues where it is difficult for the common horse owner to make the right decisions. Many people do not vaccinate their horses anymore, or much less often, citing negative side effects, short and long term. Others vaccinate against every possible disease and because some vaccines are so inefficient, often repeat those vaccinations every 6 months.

For the longest part of my horse ownership, I would simply do what the vets told me. Back in Germany, this was also much easier, because diseases such as West Nile, WEE and EEE do not exist in the old world. So all I vaccinated was Tetanus. Germany, by now, is also Rabies free.
But now, I am living in the US, and also in a very mosquito prone area. Potomac horse fever is another disease that does not occur in Europe. So when I came to the US, my horses were all of a sudden vaccinated a LOT more.

The first vacination apointment Molly received:

1) Tetanus
2) West Nile
4) Potomac
5) Influenza
6) Rabies

Uff. This was a lot of stuff!! Thankfully however, she never showed any reactions to the vaccinations. However, as I have learned later, such effects can also show up only later in life and with repeated use.

So when Gus came to me, he was subjected to the same vaccinations as Molly. However, in contrast to her, he was rather sick after being vaccinated. Not any specific symptoms but just lethargic, which is very easy for me to recognize on him, because usually he such an energetic horse. It took him about 5 days to get back to his normal self. So this is when I started rethinking my approach and reading more on that subject.

What I come to conclude is that nobody really has any idea about the long term negative side effects of vaccinations. Just like in people, horses today seem more prone to allergies, and metabolic disorders. Some people blame this on vaccinations. I personally am not convinced, but I am convinced that we should not burden any body with anything it does not need.

And so I really scrutinized my vaccination cocktail, in particular after going through each one of the vaccinations and weighting the risk to their benefit, as described in this article. I called our Wild life officer to ask about Rabies. We do live in the middle of the woods and coyotes and foxes come by every single day.  He said, however, my area was free of Rabies. Also, my horses had received in total 3 vaccinations, which is most likely protective for the rest of their lives. So Rabies was dropped from my list. So was Influenza, as my horses never travel anywhere and if they were to get influenza I would just give them enough time to recover, hoping their immune system would be strong enough to fight these infections. I also saw no need for Potomac horse fewer anymore.

This left me with the mosquito-borne diseases and tetanus. We have Millions of mosquitos in my area!! I wanted to postpone tetanus vaccinations to once every 5 years. But I did want to vaccinate against West Nile and EEE+WEE every year because these vaccinations are rather inefficient. One could of course argue that given they are so inefficient one could drop them in the first place. But I did not (yet) have quite the guts to do that. So I called my vet and told him what vaccinations I wanted this year. He said EEE+WEE always comes with Tetanus and so I could not have those separate. I tried to argue, because I had found those on the web, but he said he would not write me a prescription for me to vaccinate the horses myself, which I would have no problem of doing. So I gave in (one last time!!) and horse received 1+2+3 from the list above. Dr. Harman said Tetanus is a very safe vaccine and the risk of tetanus in horses is arguably there, as they do roll in the mud and do get injuries much more often than we humans do and if they do get wounds they are much harder to keep clean. 

The good news is that this time, Gus had absolutely no reactions to the vaccinations. I think the thing he reacted strongly to was always Rabies.