Monday, March 30, 2009

Hoofing It!

I had my first hoof trimming lesson yesterday! It was a very educational experience and I'm looking forward to applying the knowledge to Halo's feet. Since I fired the farrier about a month ago I've been keeping up with her feet every week or two, mostly with the rasp. I took pictures on Saturday, and overall her feet are looking good. That said, the pictures brought to light some things that definitely need to be corrected.

Front legs

Hind legs

Left Front

Right Front

Left Hind

Right Hind

Here are the things that immediately stand out to me:

  • Left side of heel is too long on right front
  • Tiny bit of flare on right front
  • Steeper hoof angle on left hind than right hind
  • Toe could come back more on right hind
I've posted these pictures on a forum and also shared them with my previous hoof trimmer to get advice. The hoof trimmer says I am on track, and that I've correctly identified the main problems. I'm interested to see what the internet folks have to say...people can argue all day long about horse feet.

What I learned this weekend is that taking pictures is priceless. It is a lot easier to be objective about a hoof picture than the actual hoof right there in front of you. I will periodically be posting hoof pictures and discussing them here on the blog to keep me accountable for doing good work. So far I am very satisfied with my decision to start maintaining Halo's feet myself.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Longeing and Long-Lining

Casi took a long video last weekend of me working Halo on the long reins. However, either my camera or my computer decided to eat it. The culprit has not been identified, but the fact remains that the video no longer exists. I do, however have pictures of Halo longeing last Sunday. She was extremely well-behaved, and I was very proud that she was showing Casi how much she's learned.

As I've been studying a lot about horse feet and movement lately, I did notice something I'm slightly concerned about. Looking at the pictures I have of Halo longeing, she looks like she is landing toe-first, which makes for a shorter stride and puts excess pressure on her toes. I'm not sure if this picture is quite at the right place in her stride to catch it, but it does look suspicious to me.

Landing toe-first generally means there is an imbalance with the hoof that is preventing the horse from moving properly. As I mentioned previously, the last trim she got from the barn farrier was terrible. I'm not sure if it was that, or the monkeying that I've been doing with her feet subsequently that is causing the problem. On the bright side, ever since I rasped her feet and gave her a mustang roll, there have been zero signs of chipping. I think what I am going to do is see if I can get some advice and identify whether or not there is an issue.

Please excuse the longe line flapping in the breeze - the wind was carrying it off as I gathered it up. What a good girl!

After longeing, I worked with Halo a little bit on leaning weight over her back from the mounting block in the indoor arena. She's usually surprisingly still during this, especially for a baby. What I like to do with her is to first ask her to stand quietly, then I adjust the position of the mounting block and climb up on it. Next I pat her over the back and rump as future desensitizing should someone get on who knees her or kicks her in the rump by accident. She's very quiet about all this. You can see how concerned she is...with her eyes closed like she's about to take a nap.

One thing she doesn't like is pulling on her mane or a lot of pressure on her neck. We will have to work on that, because while there's no good reason to go hauling on her mane, it would be nice if she didn't toss her head and get crabby about it. The lower my hand is on her neck, like in the picture above, the less she seems to mind it. So it shouldn't be a problem in the long run. I would just hate to have a child get on her one day and grab onto her mane, and her head to fly up into said kid's face.

After I've patted her thoroughly and she's still quiet, I go ahead and lean my upper body onto her back. Good girl!

Friday, March 20, 2009


The mud has finally dried up a little bit, so I went out and got Halo worked on Wednesday. My surcingle arrived in the mail last week, so I was excited to try it out. Since it didn't come with much padding, I decided to rig up something half-assed with the pad from my jumping saddle. It looks silly, but was functional. Here's Halo modeling my frankenhorse training equipment:

Halo was a bit fresh on the longe, but I wasn't surprised. I hadn't been able to work her well the previous weekend thanks to everything being so muddy. The funniest thing about her antics on Wednesday was that every so often she would decide the girth was eating her and crowhop while kicking her feet toward her belly. I think next time I am going to try my dressage girth, which is padded, to see if she is more comfortable with that. The girth shouldn't have been rubbing her wrong, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. If she still kicks up, then I will treat it as misbehavior rather than a discomfort issue. Wednesday, I simply encouraged her to maintain the gait I'd asked for, and she settled quickly.

Despite some extra energy, I was pleased overall with her workout. However, we did have a big oops - but it wasn't Halo's fault at all. Nobody else was at the barn, though one of the property owners was at the house. When I took Halo up to the arena I didn't close the gate. She's usually good, so I figured, "eh, no big deal." I'm sure you all know how this is going to end.

As I mentioned, Halo had an abundance of energy. There are always jumps set up in the arena, which we usually just ignore and work around. None of them are more than about 2 feet tall. Miss Halo, in one of her spastic moments, got strong on me and went straight for a jump. I couldn't turn her without creating a crash, so I decided to let her choose to either stop or go over it. She chose to go over, and the longe line didn't clear the jump standard. I had two choices - hang on and let her pull the jump down with her face, or let go. I chose the latter.

Immediately after I let go, I realized what an idiot I was for not having shut the arena gate. Halo beelined for the round pen, went in there and pranced halfway around before realizing that the gate back to the barn was open too. She was home free! She took off for the barn with me jogging after her. Although she did some snorting and blowing, the minute she found a patch of grass by the tackroom, she had her head on the ground and was eating contentedly. Luckily she didn't get hung up on anything on her flight back to the barn, and it's not too far a distance either. I was extremely embarrassed, and also relieved that Halo was unhurt.

Though we had been close to the end of our workout, I didn't want to end with letting her escape. So back up to the arena we went, and I long lined her for the last 15 minutes or so. She was quiet and well-behaved for all of it, and we even long lined with the bit this time. When I finally stopped her, I unbridled her in the arena and she led placidly back to the barn.

This time it's mom who learned the lesson - close the gate!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Between a Rock and a Hoof Place

It's been a restful week for Halo. I came down with a very nasty cold last week, so I was only able to work with her a couple of times. Yesterday I was finally feeling better, so Halo got longed and long-lined. She's learning quickly with the long lines and I even got her trotting on them yesterday! I ordered a surcingle yesterday as well, and when that arrives we'll be able to do much more serious work with the long lines. It's difficult to deal with them now because I'm essentially using two longe lines, and they are constantly down near her legs when she stretches her head down (which I want to encourage, rather than hinder).

Something important also came to light a couple of weeks ago, and I've been wrestling with the decision it necessitates. The barn owner let me know that Halo was "bad" for the farrier and that I need to work on having her feet held. I found that very strange, because Halo never gives me trouble with her feet. She also never gives Casi any trouble, and Casi usually takes a lot longer to clean a foot than I do. After further conversation the barn owner let me know that their farrier "doesn't have much patience" and doesn't like his trims to take too long since he's paid by the trim rather than by the hour. It was made clear that the horse's behavior isn't his responsibility - he is just there to get the job done. It was a huge red flag for me.

I do not expect a farrier to take the time to train my horse to be good - that's my job as owner to work with her feet. But given that Halo NEVER gives me a hard time, something else definitely seems to be going on. Unfortunately I can't see what because I am not able to be at the barn during the day when the farrier comes. I sent my previous farrier an email after the conversation with my current barn owner and asked her what I should do. Her opinion was that I should never let someone trim my horse who was going to lose patience with her and manhandle her. It is her opinion that there is no reason I can't learn to trim my horse's feet myself.

So for the past couple of weeks I've been contemplating it. I have a very good eye, and I am willing to learn. But I know that farrier work takes strength, practice, and commitment, and it is a lot to take on just to do one horse. I would also expect to have a professional out to check my work regularly. Yesterday was the final straw that pushed me to a decision. I noticed while cleaning Halo's feet that they were chipping around the edges. After having done some basic research into barefoot trimming, I knew immediately that it was because her feet had been trimmed flat like they would be for a shoe, without having the edges rasped (mustang roll). Her feet never chipped under the care of my previous farrier. Maybe he didn't rasp them because he didn't have the "patience" and maybe he didn't do it because that's not how he trims. Either way, It's an unsatisfactory result.

So that's that. My shoddy work will be better than his shoddy work, even if it takes me a while to get the hang of things. I rasped her a little bit last night, but I want to have my previous farrier come out to watch me before I attempt a real trim. So the next time she is due at the end of this month, it's my problem! I am looking forward to the challenge now, and not as afraid as I was. I know I can do well by Halo, and that I will be responsible about making sure to have a second opinion as often as necessary.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Halo Makes Her Video Debut

I am definitely not going to win any awards for videography here, but I've finally managed to capture Halo on video! One of these days I need to get Casi out to help me get a truly decent recording, but in the meantime you'll get a view from the center of our longe circle.

A word of caution - I recommend muting these, as the wind was blowing and it makes for unpleasant static. (I am not yet genius enough to understand the fine art of video editing).

Here's her walk:

And trot:

Does anyone have any thoughts on her movement? Personally, I like that she travels with her head low and relaxed at the walk. I also like that she generally still tracks up well at the trot, reaching well beneath herself with her hind legs. It seems surprising given that she's rather post-legged in back. This may not be the best representation of how she moves, but hey, it's hard to film and longe at the same time. I'm not lucky enough to have a vigilant videographer like Stacey's Bob over at Behind the Bit. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Why is it Always Windy on the Weekends?!

We had a lovely warm week last week that suddenly devolved into a frigid and windy hell on Saturday. Upon waking I could hear the wind smacking tree branches against our house and sending up flurries of dead leaves. Great. When it's windy in town, it's usually twice as bad out at the barn.

Characteristic of most windy days when she hasn't been worked in a while, Halo was full of fire and antics on Saturday. I longed her with the bareback pad on, and she decided it was an alien back hugger that was going to suck her kidneys out from above. She doesn't usually buck on the longe line, but she gave it some darn good effort on Saturday!

After her workout she was as placid as ever, and I managed to get some pictures.

You can see her eyeballs are squinted closed; it was because the wind was blowing a fine powder of dirt, dead grass, and manure into our faces. When I took a shower after getting home, I swabbed dead grass (or possible horse-processed grass) out of my ear with a q-tip. And believe me, I wasn't out there rolling around in the hay as some of you might imply!

This picture was taken as I walked back from the car with my camera. Halo is perpetually convinced that if I go to my car and then come back that I am undoubtedly bringing carrots.

It doesn't show much in the pictures, but Miss Halo is starting to shed out, and seems to be darkening a little bit. Her legs especially are a warmer color, and places where she's gotten little nicks out in the pasture are growing in darker. I'm not optimistic that she'll be too dark, but it's exciting that she'll soon leave the near-white behind!