barefoot update #4

I haven’t written a barefoot update in a while because progress on the barefoot front has slowed down.¬† With the rainy season beginning in earnest, Murray has been stuck in his stall with minimal turnout.¬† Less movement == less progress. I’ve actually seen a little regression with his gaits, which is a bummer.¬† But his feet have still made some nice progress, and next week marks 12 weeks since¬† started on this whole barefoot adventure.

We’ll start with the left front. It’s so much more straightforward than the right front…. though more problematic, in some ways.


LF in October

The angles aren’t exactly the same, but Murray’s toe is a little shorter and his heel is¬†way less underrun now. As in, he has a heel!! The hairline is also even now — no more dip in the front!

LF in January

Best of all, there’s a pretty significant change in angle in the new growth on this foot!¬† I traced the new growth (and extended it down) in orange, and traced the old angle in red. We will have a much, much healthier foot if that orange growth continues down to the ground!

Murray’s LF sole has also shown some pretty significant changes. I had my farrier come out for an inspection/trim this week, and she took a little bit off his toe and clipped away some funny, flaky bits coming off his sole. (I have before/after pics for the RF, but the before pic of the LF is really blurry so I didn’t bother uploading it.) She was very happy with his progress so far!

October on the left, January on the right

Let’s talk about all those neat changes!¬† I created all of the reference measurements on the October image, then superimposed them on the January image without changing the size.¬† So I could make accurate comparisons, duh.¬† First, the frog is much wider.¬† Probably 10-15% wider, which is awesome!¬† You can’t tell in the picture, but the collateral grooves are also deeper.¬† These have been steadily getting deeper over the last 12 weeks, as the foot gains concavity and the frog gains depth.¬† The heels have also widened (purple bracket), and the toe (blue bracket) has shortened!

RF in October

Murrays RF has also made some good changes, but is going through a much scarier ugly phase than the LF right now when viewed dorsally (this picture was before the trim, it’s slightly less scary now).¬† But he’s not unsound — well, no more unsound than he was before I pulled his shoes! — so I’m going with it.¬† And here’s the thing — and it’s weird, so bear with me.¬† This foot is now wider at the top than it is at the bottom.¬† The top half inch or so of new growth is wider all the way around the coronet band.¬† Farrier thinks (and I fervently hope so!) that the wider section will probably continue to grow like that all the way down, and we’ll just end up with a bigger hoof overall!

The sole is much less terrifying than the dorsal view — here’s Murray’s foot in January pre- and post-trim.

That excess heel (red arrow) is what my farrier trimmed off during the appointment.¬† And the blue arrow shows his brand new breakover!!¬† Murray’s never before had a breakover that wasn’t, you know, his shoe.¬† Confession: I actually thought that might have been his coffin bone falling out though his sole at first, because I’d never experienced a barefoot horse’s breakover before.¬† I was quickly informed that he would have been crippled and hobbling were that the case.

October on the left, January on the right

Sole comparison shows a lot of heel expansion (purple bracket), and a¬†longer toe (blue bracket). Lots of people wouldn’t be excited about a longer toe, but I am!¬† This foot needs a little more shape to it, instead of trying to be a cylinder.¬† And as before, the frog has expanded and much more of it is in contact with the ground.¬† He’s a touch footy on the RF after the trim, but I suspect that will go away in a couple of days.

The caudal shots this month all came out crap, so I’ll probably just give them another go next month (with more light maybe?).

At the beginning of this month I started Murray on a ration balancer formulated for our area, which should help his overall vitamin/mineral balance and contribute to overall better foot health.¬† I’m also considering switching him over to pasture board, but haven’t decided yet.¬† I’m not sure that Murray would love it, but he isn’t loving being stuck inside right now either.¬† So… we will see.

The barefoot experiment continues for now!

lemonade

When Murray’s leg hole turned into a more significant situation than originally thought, I was like “dammit, I’m not going to become one of those people who can only talk about her horse’s injury.”¬† And here I am.¬† Talking about his injury¬†again.

But this week, we made some lemonade of this whole stall-bound situation. I pulled all of Murray’s shoes!!

back in the day of pony playtimes

You might not think that shoe-pulling is something to get excited about, but for me it really is. I have been obsessed with the idea of functionally barefoot horses ever since I started care-leasing Murray.  It coincided with finding the Rockley Rehab Blog, the proprietor of which firmly asserts that all horses can become comfortably barefoot with the right care.  And I really liked that idea.  I lived in Kenya and saw zebra on the daily, and never did I see a lame zebra.  I saw zebra running away from things (cars, lions, cheetahs) pretty damn quickly, over some pretty interesting (rocky, shale, slick, muddy, rainy, watery) surfaces, and very few of them ever slipped.  This was pretty good evidence in my mind.

Over time, I came to realize that without being willing to undertake certain lifestyle changes for the horse, it may very well not be possible for Murray to have a competitive career barefoot.  That is clearly not for everyone.

However, I can’t shake the inclination to believe those farriers and veterinarians and yahoos that say that barefoot really is good for the foot overall.¬† Human podiatrists acknowledge that the types of shoes that many people prefer are not actually all that good for our overall foot health and strength.

okay so this guy probably slipped at least a little

So knowing that Murray only has to be sound in his stall, in arena footing, or hand walking around in the gravel, I really, really,¬†really wanted to give his feet a break from shoes and see if we couldn’t strengthen up his heels and re-angle his upright RF.¬† Farrier approves of this plan and hopes that it will help his particularly contracted RF heel spread out a bit.

Right now, we hand walk for 20-40 minutes 3-6 times a week.¬† I’ll try to start doing that on a whole variety of different surfaces so Murray isn’t just standing in the cushy padding of his stall an paddock.¬† I forsee another six weeks of this routine, which should give both of us plenty of time to harden up our feet and get into a rhythm!¬† It’s certainly not the same as the Rockley horses being out 12 hours a day on tons of different surfaces, but perhaps we’ll be able to get there a few weeks after that with night turnout.¬† Once we get back into real non-walk-work, the shoes will probably go back on.¬† Fronts first, and we’ll see if we can make it through the winter without hinds.

farrier tales & that time I accidentally Parellied my horse

I adore my farrier. ¬†She is so great for me and Murray, and we blab and blab during our appointments. ¬†We very much share the same philosophy for shoeing — do as little as you need to — and she explains everything to me in great detail so that I really feel like if she told me I needed to do something for Murray, I would completely believe her (perhaps this is the long con?! kidding). ¬† Most importantly: Murray likes her, and she is GREAT with him. ¬†Oh, and my farrier is a LADY, which is not the most common thing in the world and I do believe in women being badasses so you know.

2014-02-12 08.49.18We are not in posession of the world’s greatest feet

However, Murray and I did not always have such a positive relationship with farriers. ¬†Doubtless the kid had all four feet shod at the track, but when he got to our barn he started out barefoot, just getting trims (from another lady farrier in the area, actually!). ¬†Eventually, he graduated to front shoes, and that’s where I picked up. ¬†After a couple of months of work, I noticed that Murray was wearing his hind toes down quite a bit, and asked my farrier if we could put hind shoes on to protect his feet while we worked on fixing the root of the problem. ¬†It got put off for two appointments, until I finally put my foot down and asked for them then and there, as I knew I would be starting to ask the kid to do some harder stuff in the coming weeks — running XC on harder ground, for example.

Farrier man was in a bit of a rush, and with some bribery and minimal hijinks we got on the left hind shoe.  By the time we got around to the right hind though, Murray was done.  D-O-N-E done.  He kneed the farrier in the chest three times, and ripped his foot away while the shoe had a grand total of one nail in.  He pulled back, I popped him with the stud chain, and he happily backed away from me, twisting the shoe in his foot as he did.  He backed towards another horse in the barn aisle, shoe all askew and weaponized on his foot, and the farrier yelled at me to just get Murray away from that other horse.  Fortunately, Lisa showed up at just this moment and managed to placate Murray into some kind of submission.  At which point the farrier man uttered this very final statement:

“I’m not putting hind shoes on that horse. If you want hind shoes, call another farrier.”

I did find another farrier, of course.  And I love her!

Anyway, along the lines of this farrier I adore, I’ve worked really hard to make sure that Murray and she get along well. ¬†This involved a lot of stuffing cookies in his face while lady farrier worked on his less-acclimated feet (hinds) and distracting him or reminding him to be a good boy during shoeing.

So with all this treating, I figured I would just clicker train Murray a bit to get him to be better while I was grooming him. ¬†So every day, I pre-masticated a few carrots (read: bit up into tiny, treat-sized pieces), stuffed them in my pockets, and would click and treat him as I curried, picked, and brushed, targeting good behavior. ¬†Murray, unfortunately, would be super mouthy whenever I was near his face, and would practically try to crawl into my pocket to get to the carrots he could smell and sometimes even see. ¬†So I trained a “head down” command, and clicked and treated specifically for him keeping his head down.

magnesium
Yes you really must wear this baling twine

But instead of getting steadier and more reasonable, Murray got fussier.  He started to wander all around the tie when I was grooming, and repeatedly picking up and slamming down his front right foot, a behavior I had been specifically trying to train out of him!  He would put his head down, up, turn around to look at me, and then shuffle all around.  I tried to click and treat only for the good behaviors but there were so many bad behaviors in there that I felt like I was really missing the point.

And then I realised what was happening.  Murray, thinking that this was training time, was offering me every single behavior I had ever rewarded him for in an attempt to get treats.  He knew the treats were there, and he was willing to work for them.  Constantly.  Forever.  Always.  Just to get more treats.

I mentioned this to lady farrier at our latest appointment, and told her how I’d had to back off the clicker training because of it (upside: Murray is much more well-behaved during grooming now). ¬†She laughed at me and said “Well, you know, that’s one of the goals of Parelli! To have your horse to the point where they understand the game and are offering you all these behaviors to participate in the game!”

I was like UMMM WUT?

So there. I accidentally Parellied my horse.  No carrot stick or waving lead rope needed.

carrotstick