Wednesday, December 16, 2009

For, like, the 9 billionth time: IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT TRIM.

Well, no time to put together a newsletter this month, but I did have one topic I wanted to address, so here it is.


I know I've said that about 84 gazillion times. For some reason, that phrase gets lost between my lips and the eardrums of many wannabe barefoot horse owners.

Let me make a distinction here. I am a Professional Barefoot Hoof Care Provider. All I do is look at hooves all day long, and figure out what needs to happen to make each one of those hooves healthy. The title "hoof trimmer" is inadequate, because it implies that I somehow magically apply a trim that can make any horse, in any situation, sound barefoot. Trim is important, to be sure. But I cannot get your horse sound barefoot with just my rasp, nippers and knife.

I'm often asked if I believe that every horse can go barefoot. YES. I do believe every horse can be comfortable and sound barefoot.


Most of the time, there are many factors that will need to be addressed to make that possible.

When I come out to assess your horse, and I start telling you we need to balance the horse's diet, or the horse needs to be moving more over more appropriate terrain, or that the horse would benefit from jiaogulan or acetyl l-carnitine, it is MUCH MORE than a suggestion. When I say these things, I am telling you what I KNOW will help your horse become a sound barefoot horse. If you are reluctant to take my advice, I will gladly send you research and literature to support my "prescriptions".

There is no cookie-cutter protocol that fits every horse. Consider 150 horses times 4 hooves -- that's 600 hooves I shape and handle in a 5 - 6 week period (how many hooves does your vet look at every month??) They are all quite different, but if all you do is diagnose hoof problems every day, all day, and you use every resource available to learn everything you can about how to heal hooves, you can hardly help from getting good at it.

Sometimes, only one area needs to be addressed. Other horses require much sharper attention to all of the details.

Some horses thrive on a diet that is not balanced, providing they have good, manure-free footing (pea gravel, decomposed granite, or river sand are ideal) and plenty of reason to move about all day long.

Some horses need their trace and major minerals precisely balanced.

Some horses have poor circulation, and benefit from a nitric oxide enhancing herb called jiaogulan.

Some horses have chronic pain after a laminitis attack, and benefit from the addition of acetyl l-carnitine to their diet.

Some horses are borderline insulin resistant, and become painful if even a tiny amount of sugars or carbs are added to their diet.

Some horses have such extensive damage to the sole corium from long-term rotation that they will ALWAYS need boots on rugged footing.

If you take my recommendations with a grain of salt, and implement little or none of it, and the horse fails to improve, know that you have not done all you can to make this work. Be honest with yourself, and your acquaintances, when they ask why you went back to shoes. Don't say "my horse couldn't go barefoot". Say, "I was not able to meet all of the requirements necessary to help my horse become sound and healthy barefoot."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Completely Random Thoughts for the Day...

  • Blonde sorrel...I've never heard the flaxen-mane/tail sorrel coloration termed thus, and I love it!
  • On the other hand -- "psuedo palomino" to describe a blonde sorrel??? Mispelling NOT mine...but have to say, it's a pathetic marketing ploy, but creative....
  • Why do people who expect perfection under saddle constantly make excuses for their horses' poor ground manners??? Really. WTF????
  • is NOT too much to expect a REALLY YOUNG HORSE to behave admirably for hoofcare. Yanking away, hopping around three legged, slamming feet down, or taking thinly-veiled shots at the trimmer is NOT "doing pretty good". I love you guys, really, but if you want a good trim on your horse, TEACH YOUR HORSE TO BE GOOD FOR THE TRIM.
I think that's all for tonight...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Top 3 things that should simply be outlawed.

1. Breeding horses that are HYPP N/H or HYPP H/H.

2. Breeding horses that are Herda N/HRD or Herda HRD/HRD.

3. Not only soring, but also stacks, chains, and pads used to create the horrific, unnatural movement known as the "Big Lick" in Tennessee Walking Horses.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Toe Grabs = Catastrophic Breakdowns. Multi-Million Dollar Track Surfaces Won't Help. HELLLOOOOOOO.....

Yes, I agree that the horseracing industry does everything wrong, including racing babies, inbreeding, and other questionable breeding practices. But for a long time now, I've squawked about toe grabs, race shoeing practices, and the hoof pathologies created by gallop training. David M. Nunamaker, VMD, DACVS, apparently concurs:

This is particularly disturbing in light of the reversal of the toe grab rule. WTF is wrong with these people????

Friday, July 17, 2009

New DVD Set from Pete Ramey

Pete & Ivy have just released a new 3 DVD set documenting the rehab of a single horse for 16 months. This set is an excellent look into the ups and downs some cases present. Of particular interest to me, though, was the final segment, where Pete describes the new radiograph markup techniques he and Dr. Taylor have developed. Using barium paste, the important landmarks (hairline, heel, sole at frog apex) are carefully outlined. Instead of noting degrees of rotation, distal descent is measured in millimeters, as is horn-to-laminae separation. Have a look here:

Pete doesn't just focus on trim; he talks about diet balancing, movement, and booting, and how important it is to get all of these elements right. YES!!!

I wish I could share these DVDs with all of my clients; in addition to all of the other valuable information presented here, Pete laments the training issues with the mare, who battles him throughout the rehab. People, if your horse cannot stand patiently and offer a foot for a trim, PLEASE address this issue. If you're not competent to train the horse properly, then hire someone who is. Your hoof care professional can only do a good job if the horse is cooperative. Training the horse to be good with his feet is NOT part of a monthly trim. And there is just no excuse for a horse that needs to be twitched, drugged, or otherwise manhandled for the process!!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

NEW E-Booklet from The Thoughtful Horseman!

Making Sense of Natural Horse Training Techniques

Philosophies on Horsemanship

Thoughts and ideas to help guide you and your horse to a more rewarding partnership.

What the heck is natural horsemanship, really?

Although much of what I've written here is essentially theory, and not specific step by step instruction, I believe you'll find the answers to guide you through many of the places you might find yourself stumped along this journey.

(20 pages, 10,000 words in PDF format)


After payment, please click on the
button to automatically download the booklet.

You will also receive the file via e-mail within 24 hours of purchase!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It's that time of year again.

Folks, if you need to hire a couple of linebackers to manhandle your colt/weanling/yearling for hoof trimming (or any other activity), the basic fact is YOUR COLT NEEDS TRAINING. Don't know how to do it yourself? I'd be happy to do it for you, for my going rate. Training a young horse to be docile and manageable for hoof trimming beats the hell out of hiring SIX linebackers to wrestle your now 1200 lb HORSE for his trims. Added benefits? Basic ground manners! Not to mention happy hoof care for a lifetime.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sssssurprise, sssurprise!!!

So there I was, trimming the (salad-plate-sized) right hind hoof of Tolstoy, a ginormous young Warmblood.  He was being a very good boy.  I had his leg back behind him, foot resting in the cradle of my hoof stand; my left foot anchoring the stand, right foot between his back legs.  Suddenly, I see something moving near my right foot.  And here comes a snake, slithering purposefully under Tolstoy, and RIGHT OVER THE TOE OF MY RIGHT BOOT.  Nice, fat, 3 ft gopher snake.  ACCCKKKKK!!!  Tolstoy never knew he was there (thank goodness!)  Now THAT was a bit of a heart-stopping moment -- especially since I wasn't sure what sort of snake he was until his tail went over the top of my shoe -- and no rattles -- behind the rest of him!!

Ah, the outdoor life!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fabulous Foal Feet Photos!

The lovely mare Gracie, owned by my good friend Maren Thompson, foaled a precious filly Sunday night.  Little Aliyana kindly allowed Maren to take these beautiful pictures of her amazing, itty bitty foal feet.  Here's the baby hoof model herself:

And here are her perfect, tiny 12 hours old:

...and at 2 days old:

Monday, April 27, 2009

The "Please Say You're Kidding" Quote of the Day...

"Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Sunday that he was planning to treat the hoof with “Thrush Buster” as a drying agent and also with Animalintex poultice."

...this from the trainer of Kentucky Derby favorite, Quality Road, on how he plans to treat the second quarter crack (which is at the coronet band, and bleeding) the horse popped last week...because of course, the priority is not healing the hoof, but running the damn race!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Things I Hate. By Mixer.

(Editor's note:  Today's Guest Blogger is 7 yr old Mixer, AKA Drum's Dunlight Shadow, dun tobiano gelding by APHA stallion, Drum's Double, and out of AQHA mare, Tilly's Twilight.)

Got to thinking about it today.  There's just some things that a self-respecting Paint horse can't abide.  Things that sorta preclude the sensible, calm, trustworthy, unflappable side of a horse like me.  Here are the top four:

4.  BGIH (big gelding in herd), Leroy, riderless and thundering down the trail behind me.  I am HUGELY proud to report that this incident, which occurred during my TENTH RIDE EVER, as I calmly loped down a trail on a loose rein, elicited only a slight turbo boost and mild snortiness.

3.  Palm trees with wheels.  WTF??  Nothing remotely natural about that.  In retrospect, had they told me the palm tree was on a dolly, and that one of my humans was pushing it, I might not have been quite as alarmed.  But still.  In the moment, it was horrifyingly like a scene out of a zombie movie...When Zombified Palms Attack!  In my own defense, I only reacted with moderate eye bulging, deep, rattling, sinus-clearing snorts, and full-Arabian tail position.

2. Pasos of any persuasion.  For the love of God, are you trotting, or having a seizure???? Mother of Mercy, are your knees dislocated??? NO??? Then what the HELL is up with your front feet flying out SIDEWAYS???  IS IT CATCHING?????  AAAAACKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!  No apologies on this one, folks.  And heed my warning: snort deeply, roll your eyes with wild epileptic abandon, spin, and RUN LIKE HELL.  Eight strides is good.  Don't want to get too far away before you spin back around for a second snorty look.

1.  Coyotes.  Sneaky, slinking, thieving, cunning, SCARY little doglike furballs.  Don't get me wrong:  dogs are a joke.  Drooling pansy-asses.  Nothing remotely menacing about a dog; make themselves dizzy wagging their tails and exhaust themselves chasing rabbits a coyote could catch blindfolded with both front paws tied behind its back.  I mean real honest to goodness, borderline-wolf Coyotes.  I'm proud, but when it comes to Coyotes, I'm mostly proud of how really, really fast I can run.  Really, my eligibility for the Kentucky Derby was clearly overlooked, because not even Quality Road could catch me with coyotes on my tail.  Wanna see me take the Triple Crown?  Put a couple 'Yotes behind the starting gate, and watch me FLY.  Then again, chances are good I'll give in to curiosity and spin around for a second look after about the eighth stride....but hey, I was up to full speed after three!!!

See, I didn't get the nickname Turbo for nuthin'...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Because, shoot, it's the 13th already, and I don't believe I've incited nearly enough controversy yet this month...'s one for ya: my advice du jour? Go to Farrier's School. Or at least purchase the text books and read the certification requirements.

No, really -- I mean it!

First of all, the biggest stumbling block most aspiring trimmers face is how the heck to use a hoof knife, nippers, and a rasp. Not to mention how to gracefully wrestle a shoe from a hoof. I've yet to attend a barefoot hoof care clinic that did a good job of teaching tool handling skills. Now, who do we know that has that stuff down to a science?......Yeah, every certified farrier you ever met.

Secondly, some of the better and more intensive farrier schools do a fine job of describing and teaching rudimentary equine biomechanics, as well as how to recognize many gait abnormalities and their commonly accepted causes. (Do me a favor, though, and forget most of what they tell you to do to correct them.)

Finally...there is nothing more empowering than understanding what you DON'T want to do. And being able to coherently and in detail explain the difference between a barefoot trim and a farrier's work. It will also shed a lot of light on what's been done to a lot of the horses you'll pull the shoes from, and why. And THAT will shed copious light on what to do to alleviate any insult that may have been inflicted.

Now, I don't mean to cast aspersions here and imply or insinuate that farriers are the enemy of barefoot proponents, but "know thy diametrically opposed alternative hoof care theories" doesn't have quite the punch that "know thy enemy" does. As the famed Chinese General and military strategist, Sun Tzu, said:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

- The Art of War, Sun Tzu (c. 6th century BC)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Credibility and the future of barefoot hoofcare

We have some very talented individuals providing barefoot hoof care services these days. We're starting to present an organized front, and we're beginning to sound a lot alike in what we preach. This is all very good and positive news for barefoot hoof care and healthier horsekeeping practices. But it continues to be a very grass-roots movement, and while that in itself is not detrimental, the do-it-yourself presentation detracts from the overall plausibility of our cause.

To take our message to the next level, we'll need to present solid science, and little dissention amongst our ranks. We'll need a curriculum that would pass muster at least at a local college level -- which, frankly, surpasses the average AFA certification program! We'll need highly structured data collection. Most of all, we'll need the veterinary community's stamp of approval. And while lots of comfortable barefoot horses should make that case for us, all one has to do is look around at the popularity of horseshoeing to see why that's just simply NOT ENOUGH.

What can you, as an individual hoof care professional do? It might be more about what you DON'T do....but here are some suggestions:

  • Take the time and expense to have your logo and website professionally designed. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that first impression should be one that smacks of scientific credibility. Home-grown websites, unless you were a web designer in a previous life, rarely pack the right kind of punch. This is why ad agencies and web design firms get the big bucks for what they do!

  • If you're not comfortable writing scientific dialogue, then please don't try. Most of the half-baked theories floating around the barefoot hoof care forums have so little basis in science fact, they are instantly off-putting to anyone who ever took college level biology or chemistry. And they'll make anyone with a degree in veterinary medicine instantly disdainful. Going off half-cocked about your completely unscientific theories just amplifies the "crazy barefoot advocates" assessment the general equine community already stamps us with. With all due respect, you might very well have an excellent point, and a hunch that could lead us to new discoveries. But let's leave science to the scientists!

    At least get your terminology right, if you're going to plow ahead. For instance, there is a very BIG difference between "exasperate" and "exacerbate", and yet the former is, exasperatingly, often used where "exacerbate" is intended:


    One entry found.
    Main Entry:
    ex·ac·er·bate Listen to the pronunciation of exacerbate
    transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s):
    ex·ac·er·bat·ed; ex·ac·er·bat·ing
    Latin exacerbatus, past participle of exacerbare, from ex- + acerbus harsh, bitter, from acer sharp — more at edge
    : to make more violent, bitter, or severe

    2 entries found.
    1. 1exasperate (transitive verb)
    2. 2exasperate (adjective)
    Main Entry:
    1ex·as·per·ate Listen to the pronunciation of 1exasperate
    transitive verb
    Inflected Form(s):
    ex·as·per·at·ed; ex·as·per·at·ing
    Latin exasperatus, past participle of exasperare, from ex- + asper rough — more at asperity
    1 a: to excite the anger of : enrage b: to cause irritation or annoyance to2obsolete : to make more grievous : aggravate

    Similar definitons, yes. But trust me -- you cannot exasperate insulin resistance. You CAN exacerbate it, though!

  • Case studies are powerful. But labeling them as such when you have but two pictures that represent totally different aspects of the hoof, and then making grand assertions about the dramatic changes that your pictures clearly do NOT show is pointless. Also, refrain from making grand blanket statements without showing a SERIES of successful examples. My favorite is "I can cure any navicular horse!" If only that were true! A much more accurate statement would be that "barefoot may be the only hope for HEALING your navicular horse".

We've come a long way. We've battled resistance all the way. We're starting to get it right now. Let's strive to finally eliminate the stigma barefoot hoof care still illicits, and -- pun intended -- put our best foot forward!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Redesigned Website Launched Today!

I spent a good portion of my week long "staycation" revamping the website.

I've added tons of links, more thorough information on all topics, references, articles, research studies, downloadable how-to documents, downloadable forms and information flyers, and an archive of past newsletters. I hope you find the new format easy to navigate, and the information enlightening and helpful!

It's not quite finished -- I have yet to add all of the articles, I'm still converting the case studies, and I've yet to do a full QA, so keep checking back in the coming weeks!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Barefoot is better...and we've known it for CENTURIES...

Think barefoot is a new idea that goes against hundreds of years of farrier science? Think again. Even in 1889, it was widely recognized that shoeing and traditional farriery caused most of the hoof and limb maladies suffered by domestic horses. We knew it then...we just didn't know how diet and environment thwarted our attempts to keep barefoot horses comfortable!

Read the section on horse shoeing from page 686 through page 691:

Horseshoeing: Supplement to Encyclopedia Britannica, 1889

Sure, there are a few assertions in the text that I would vehemently particular, the idea that the hoof wall is the primary load bearing surface, and the notions regarding how energy is dissipated (via the laminae? yikes!!), but hey, it WAS 1889, and the overall message is that the nailed on metal shoe is the root of many of the evils prevalent in the hoof and limb of the domestic horse.

Now that we understand how movement, hygiene, diet and trim work together to forge and maintain a brilliantly healthy bare hoof, it is indeed time for an end to horseshoes...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dry Weather Feet....Wet Weather

Nothing ruins my month like a horse going even slightly tender after a trim. So the rainy season -- when it actually *rains* -- gives me fits. You'll hear a lot of people refer to the wet weather as "abscess weather". That's not really true for healthy footed horses, and I'll explain why in an article on abscesses in the upcoming newsletter. But it is absolutely true that the soggy conditions present challenges for horses acclimated to a predominantly moisture-free existence.

You'll notice a lot more going on on the bottom of your horse's feet in these muddy weeks. Everything becomes soft to the point of mushiness. The wall reacts much as your fingernails do after a long soak in a hot bath. Heavily calloused frog becomes spongy. Laminae swell and protrude, fringe-like, from the white line. And sole that has stubbornly clung despite exaggerated depth suddenly sloughs out in great hunks, leaving the much sought after, spectacular solar concavity that's been elusive through the dry months.

The result of that sudden metamorphosis is a double-edged sword: the upside is that the hoof capsule definitely has the ability to make much more dramatic changes in the wet climate, and we can make great strides in correcting pathologies with this much more yielding foot. The downside? Tender feet.

Sometimes, even in dry weather, the sole sloughs dramatically, but in the dry season, it presents less of a problem. It's hard to imagine that the new layer underneath would be tough enough for the outside world after such a shed. It's possible that if a horse is truly moving enough, getting enough steps on the right sort of terrain, this type of dramatic shedding doesn't happen...perhaps the wear is much more gradual, and the sole sheds at a much more even rate. Then again...maybe even healthy hooved wild horses shed big layers, and have a day or two of tenderness. Either way, it's unavoidable. Leaving excess sole can be just as detrimental as carving into healthy material -- it can cause bruising, force an unnaturally long hoof capsule, and inhibit hoof mechanism (the expansion and contraction of the hoof capsule). If it's ready to go, it's best to take it -- you'll always wind up with a more accurate trim. And a proper trim is critical to forging a healthy hoof. Tenderness, however, is never desirable. And so we're faced with a bit of a paradox.

One thing is certain: horses with healthy digital cushion rarely exhibit the sensitivity that less healthy hooves are prone to. As always, the ultimate solution is to forge a truly healthy hoof.

What to do in the meantime? Arm yourself with boots and pads, just in case. There's never an excuse for letting the horse be uncomfortable, and rarely a good reason to make him stand still when movement is the real cure!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Southern California Custom Mineral Blend Now Available!

Carefully formulated to compliment the
typical Southern California forage.
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Horses thrive best on adequate amounts of forage, and most of the popular hays provide ample amounts of vitamins, protein, and carbohydrates. It's the minerals that are often found to be in less than optimum amounts. Our typical Southern California hay (hay grown in the Imperial Valley), particularly bermuda, but also alfalfa, orchard, etc, is consistently alarmingly high in iron, and low in copper and zinc. The end result is, essentially, a lack of copper and zinc in the diet. Some of the common symptoms of this imbalance include poor hoof quality, signs of insulin resistance, laminitis, joint problems, illthrift, irritability, non-specific lameness, poor hair coat....the list goes on. The myriad commercial mineral supplements fall pathetically short of addressing our specific imbalances, and in fact, frequently throw the balance even further out of range.

After analyzing hay samples from dozens of ranches in the area, and averaging the results, we've formulated a blend to fill the gaps. Our So Cal Custom Mineral Blend is now available!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Handing out pink slips....

People. I don't give you detailed explanations of your horse's pathologies and in-depth suggestions for correcting them by improving nutrition, hygiene and lifestyle just to hear myself talk (or type). If I tell you your horse suffers from laminitis and diet changes are imperative, but you just can't believe that maybe I know what I'm talking about, for God's sake, at least read the research I send you on the subject. If I tell you, REPEATEDLY, that thrush is literally rotting your horse's feet and the issue MUST be addressed to achieve a healthy hoof, get off your ass and soak the damn horse's feet. If you refuse to listen to my advice, and frankly, my expertise, and continue to expect me to work miracles via trimming alone, if you just cannot understand why your horse has failed to miraculously develop rock crunching bare hooves by standing in urine and manure and eating the equine equivalent of fast food while moving maybe a total of 20 feet through the course of the day, well then, don't you DARE come to me and act as if it's all my fault.

I go above and beyond to provide detailed information to owners. I avail you of the same resources I am privy to. There is nothing stopping any of you from educating yourselves on the topic, if you are at all skeptical of my recommendations. If you take the time, you'll begin to realize that you can, indeed, trust my judgment. If you're too busy or too lazy or too whatever to do the work, then just give me 6 months of doing exactly what I prescribe. Not 6 months of thinking about soaking hooves, or pondering a diet change, or booting your horse once a week when you feel especially motivated, or working yourself up to actually exercising your horse daily.

There is nothing more heartbreaking for me than to watch a horse suffer when I know exactly what would make him healthy again. I'm not a terribly assertive individual, so while I will do everything in my power to politely instruct you, I will not take you by the shoulders and shake you until you see the light. Maybe I should. Because coming back every four weeks to see no improvement, to see the bottom of a rotted hoof, to see a hoof with distal descent and an inch of lamellar wedge and all the harbingers of unmitigated metabolic issues and a sweet soul (I'm sorry, Billy!) who can't decide whether his heels or his toes hurt worse breaks my heart.

I have historically frequently made the mistake of continuing to trim horses whose owners blythely ignore my advice. Going forward, I can assure you, that will no longer be the case.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

January Newsletter...or the lack thereof...

Hey, I figure I deserved a month off. December was sort of a doozy of a month, after all. I promise I'll get my nose back on the grindstone and put together a worthy February issue!