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.

Friday, July 5, 2013

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.

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