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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Decisions decisions

This is a horse we looked at yesterday. I'm in more than two minds. More body and less bone than I'd like and terrible feet. If we could turn the feet around it would be very rewarding, but it is a risk. Would be a good his 'n' her horse. Probably make a good petting horse for the local kids too. Unlikely to more than clamber over the lowest of obstacles though, so no jumpies.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Lateral thinking

In more ways than one. It's very hard, carrying on when your best four legged pal isn't around any more. But you have to, for the sake of the other four legged pals and the two legged ones as well. So making the best of a bad job we are using the 'time' to up the game for Madam. Today it was a stab at a bit of lateral work.

As Madam was primarily a halter horse up until April 08, we are doubtful of how much schooling for lateral work etc she may have had. Our approach is always to test the waters, see what answers come back and then try and consolidate the good bits before looking for a smidge of improvement. Little and often, keep it light and varied. Especially where Madam is concerned because she is easily bored.

Today we learnt that Madam can do lateral work, but is a bit stiff. Provided the aids; especially weight are in the right place she responds well, but tires easily. She has improved at lifting her back and can now manage to do so for longer, but still has a tendancy to evade with excessive 'peanut rolling'. A trick I guess she learnt in her previous life. Don't get me wrong I love them to stretch long and low, when it is a true stretch and not just a way of avoiding working round. But I don't agree with getting into battles with horses. Mostly they are genuine and there is usually a reason why they do what they do. So I ask a little, make it easy for them to achieve the right thing and then praise them immediately and if appropriate let them have a bit of a rest. When that 'little' is established as the norm we can move on. Much better that they see 'schooling' as an opportunity for fun and praise than as something that makes them stiff and sore and gets them grumped at.

Of course this is all very well in theory, somewhat let down by the fact that my riding stinks. But we do our best and this is one of the reasons I miss the Grey so much, she never let me get away with anything.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Frogtastic - what a difference a day (or 3) makes

It's hard to believe, but the first two photos were taken on the 21/05/09 and the second two were taken today, 24/05/09.
We discovered a pocket of thrush/fungal infection in one wing of Madam's right fore frog. It was progressing faster than the foot could grow it out, so we decided a little judicious trimming was required. We only took out the grotty rotten bits. You can see the hole left in the left hand photos. Well give nature a chance and she gets to work. Three days later and look how that frog has bounced back!
Because of our current situation Madam is being stabled rather a lot. So to protect the delicate regrowth from any urine etc that Madam might stand in we are coating the frog and sole in nappy cream before putting her to bed.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Horses teach us about life

Madam after initially being in shock has moved on. Already she has seized up the horses in her temporary home and seems to reckon they are are no match, despite being twice her size and age. Alpha mare all over. Thank goodness she is ok.

Humans not faring so well. Must take the Grey lady's legacy forward though. A brilliant communicator and teacher she blessed all who had the opportunity to share her space. She taught me to listen, to ride quietly and reinforced earlier lessons about the generosity of the equine spirit.

She can never be replaced but maybe we will find a horsey partner that can continue the work.

Friday, 15 May 2009

In Memory

Of the Grey who died today. Didn't quite make her official 16th birthday. Having escaped death so many times I can't quite believe it has claimed her so soon. At least she can't suffer any more.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Nutritional Nightmares

Both girls have the same DEET, ie Diet, Exercise, Environment and Trim regime. One has good concavity and the other has feet that resemble pancakes. Of course all hooves are a work in progress and it only takes one thing to fall out of whack and the feet to suffer the consequences.

I plan to improve the environment element this summer with the addition of some pea gravel outside their field shelter. At present they are on a semi track which is largely hard beaten clay with very little grass. They are currently exercised for about 10 hours a week. So it is time to tighten up on the nutrition, which is where the nightmares start.

Until today they have been having unmolassed Alfalfa, with cooked linseed, magnesium, seaweed, nettles, rosehips and garlic and free choice various Rockies. Now I have swopped the Alfalfa for Kwik Beet and the seaweed for Dodson and Horrell Surelimb.

When I get the next lot of hay delivered I will have it analysed. Dodson and Horrell offer an analysis service, currently priced at £7.50 for a basic sugar/protein and £47.50 for a wide variety of minerals. As I am concerned about the minerals the girls are receiving I'll try the latter service. As I buy at least 6 months worth of hay at a time it will be well worth it.

'The End is Nigh'

Or not as the case may be. Met three lovely kids on the common and the girls did their usual excellent PR job. Cuddles all round. But later as we were wandering home we met the kids again - or rather they came haring after us. The local 'The End is Nigh' man had scared the living daylights out of them by pursuing them across the common shouting that 'the world would cease tomorrow'. As they sheltered between the girls I found myself wondering what I would do if he suddenly turned up? Fortunately he didn't and after they spent a few minutes calming down all was well. I guess its never boring on the common...

PR and exercise

Well yesterday's exercise session went quite well. Madam exited the field brimful of enthusiasm. Two minutes later we met PR (public relations) one, with Irish Red and White Setter. Long conversation ensued, but I try to engage as much as possible. I always think it is helpful to have the locals on side and it is good training for the girls to stand still with out fidgeting or gawping at the dog. They were both excellent although the Grey (being led) got very social with Madam and spent an age nuzzling her wither. Who am I to complain when they are playing nice? So much easier than when they are bitching.

Then we trotted up a hill a couple of times (one for each diagonal) and practiced being light with our cues as we explored new trails on the common. Both girls were again very cooperative, even when faced with shopping trolleys and assorted rubbish. It was peak commuter time so we met lots of suits, some very friendly, others obviously super stressed. Again good practice for the girls, they have really got the hang of mutually scooting to one side and then standing so that people can pass without fear. Not so many dogs and children as the weather was overcast and a bit cold.

Then we met PR two. Young lad, it was easy to spot from a hundred yards that he wanted to pet the girls so we pulled up and had a chat. I always worry about kids approaching strangers. Especially when those strangers have animals. He was safe enough with us, but the common is no place to be alone. Anyway he enjoyed stroking the girls and asked lots of questions and the girls as always were good. No begging for tit bits, no pushing or fidgeting. Just quietly standing and soaking up the fuss. I can't ask for more.

But all the chatting does eat into the exercise time. I reckon if I deduct the talking they probably did 50 minutes of physical exercise. Mostly walk, but varied terrain, so we are building the muscles and ligaments needed to keep them safe and sound. Also a good brain work out for them.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Madam used to be a 'Halter' horse. Here she is showing how to pose :-) Even with a Boett on she still has class.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Madam's right front frog and sole

Superficially the first foot (24/01/09) looks better. After all the sole has no bruises. But check out the frog, its very narrow and there is a deep groove in the central sulcus and a big hole on the right. Plus if you divide the foot top to bottom at the widest point you can see the split is 50/50, where it should be 1/3 top and 2/3 bottom.

The second picture shows bruising, but its too late to fret, those bruises will have happened about 2/3 months ago, when we had a mix of soggy and then frozen ground. You can see the frog is improving. It looks wider, generally more robust and the central sulcus is filling in. You can also see that the foot is on the way to the correct proportions.

Both feet are rather flat, but I am hoping that the obviously shedding sole in the second picture means that we will soon have some more concavity. Also note that in the second picture the heels are wider and the buttresses have more substance. We CleanTraxed the front feet today. We can only wait and see if it speeds up the improvement in frog health.

We think the real issue for Madam is diet. She has given us so many indicators, but it is no simple thing to sort out. We change one thing at a time until we hit what works for her. Big no noes are sugar/molasses in any form and actively growing grass. We are experimenting with alfalfa as legumes can be a problem for many quarter horses. I also need to check out the iron content of their water supply as iron can be a problem too.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Does this horse use Pantene?

We did 10 miles today at an average of 4mph. Mostly in walk apart from an uphill trot of 0.62 miles. Doesn't Madam look shiny in the third picture and I love the way her muscles are developing (picture 4).
This ride on hard surfaces has worn Madam's feet quite a lot. They were flat, now they are flat and polished. I am keen to get more concavity and depth of sole, but her metabolic issues (we think) are not playing the game.
The Grey was very keen, not strong, but would have cantered the lot if I had let her. After two hours she finally relaxed and put her head down.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Just posing

Couldn't resist this one. The Grey has spotted the black and white monsters (cows) on the move. Cows are okay, but you have to get to know each one as an individual (apparently). Rather like the Borg, they are dangerous in a collective.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Technical look at Madam's front foot

Okay, I appreciate this is not the best, but it's a start. The black rectangle gives a idea of the real ground line (I never take photos straight!). The orange diagonal line shows where the front wall should probably be (it's in line with the newest growth from the coronary band). The black diagonal line is roughly 30 degrees - it also shows the slight bulge in the hair line.

What this picture shows to me is how 'off' the hoof still is. Whilst the trim can (must) be improved, we largely have to wait for this foot to grow while we work hard on the diet, exercise and environment.

Madam's hind foot

This is one of Madam's hind feet in close up and prior to trimming. The second picture is with half the foot very lightly rolled and the other not yet done.

The close up shows (I think) the tight white line in the forward part of the foot and also the chips that are appearing in the outer wall.

There is no wall height to remove, I just keep rolling out the flares and chips as they occur. I tend to touch up once a week/10 days, doing just a small roll rather than anything major. If the toes square off I roll the rest of the foot to match. Next time I might put in tiny quarter scoops all round. These feet seem to need them and they have worked a treat on the Grey.

But being very cautious I only do a very little each time and then monitor physical performance and how the foot grows afterwards. The horses are very honest. It seems to me that even as I put their feet down they instantly give feedback on how I am doing.

Madam is getting better all the time, but I admit to feeling frustrated that she doesn't have better concavity and is a long way from rock crushing.

Great legs and gorgeous feet

Great legs and feet all round for this pair and rarely lame. One of them goes over all surfaces, except thistles with no problems at all. The other insists on wearing boots and won't let me photograph the feet. They do lots and lots of miles helping me search out good routes for conditioning the horses. This is part way up the hill at Long Man, which is disappointingly picked out with plastic tape rather than chalk these days.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Beauty is in function, not form

This is one of the Grey's hind feet, it like Madam's foot has also done 26 miles in the last 7 days. It has also not worn off. In fact the fronts are getting a bit long again. This foot is not pretty. If we did a close up you could mistake it for the moon. But this is another foot that works.

This horse has more concavity than Madam, but the lumpy bits show that the foot still considers itself a work in progress. Some would argue for a 'tidy up'. But one of the things I have learnt is this foot is building in protection. It likes its bars and lumps and if I try to interfere it quickly replaces any material which I have cleaned up.

While the foot still stomps happily over most surfaces I am happy to listen to it. I will roll out the flare shortly; which I know is appreciated, and post more pictures then.

Madam's left hind foot

This foot, belonging to Madam's left hind leg, did 7 hours over the weekend - probably about 16 plus miles, over a variety of terrain, including rather a lot of really horrible flints. In the three days it did another 10 miles, mostly on the road (a bit short of our 35 mile/week target but that is another post).
It is easy to see that it hasn't worn off, not even close. In fact I shall have to give it a roll this week as it has a bit of flare.
The frog rather resembles Madam's butt. Broad and quite fleshy! It is not a beautiful foot and its a long way from perfect. But it works and it works well and Madam is happy.
I'll take more pictures after I've rolled it and put them up as a separate post.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Voice training saves getting squashed

Really as a foot note to previous post. The Grey was spooked by fire breathing dragons and wisely decided to leg it before they ate her. Unfortunately I had not seen the dragons and so wasn't ready. So I quietly said (ok yelled) 'noooooo, I'm not ready!' And bless her, she stopped on the spot. QH Mum said the Grey's legs were shaking really badly. But whether this was because of the dragons or me yelling 'no' we can't be sure.

How much work is enough?

Depends on so many factors. We like to keep our horses fit enough to cope with at least the sort of work load they could cope with in the wild. Depending on your source material, this is typically reported as anything between 10 and 30 miles a day.

20 years ago the horses I looked after would think nothing of doing that sort of mileage - but they did wear shoes and I gave hardly any thought to their feet at all.

The two mares in the photos did five hours today. Probably 3/5 of the surface was the small flints over hard chalk that you can see in the first picture. This was a challenging surface today, they are both experiencing a bit of flare - a few weeks ago the Grey would have had no problem and Madam would have really struggled. So the Grey has gone back a little but Madam is getting better all the time.

The three pictures of them on grass are towards the end of the ride. They are both still feeling very well and ready to go. I am hoping that their new much stricter diet (no grass) will improve their performance still further.

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Southern England, United Kingdom