Four years ago, Dakota joined our family and I pulled his shoes off the day he arrived. Since 2005, none of our horses have been shod. I am one of the few hoof boot dealers in the area and for this is my 6th year in business as a Barefoot Trimmer. Today, my title official changed to Farrier.
Anna and I have had great success with hoof boots and my personal experience is what gives me the credibility as a boot dealer. After everything I have learned and my years of experience, why would I nail shoes on my horses? The answer is simple. I want to learn more. I have seen hooves that were in horrid condition from years in shoes, but I have also seen horses that had feet that looked great. I’ll be honest, there have been occasions when I wished I didn’t have the hassle of dealing with boots, but there have been times when I was convinced boots were an advantage. The bottom line is, I don’t believe shoes are evil and I also don’t believe that shoes with proper farrier care is harmful to horses.
Which brings me back to Dakota. I had considered learning to nail shoes for a long time. In fact, that was original objective in 2005 when I started asking questions of our farrier at the time. I am fortunate to have a friend who I believe is one of the best farriers around. I bought Mojo from Vikki Fortier and our friendship has grown ever since. Recently, I decided to start using my days of leave from the Navy to spend time working with Vikki to learn about shoeing horses. So tonight, I nailed my first set of shoes on a horse. I know I have a lot to learn, but I am committed to learning. There are flaws in the job I did on Dakota and I know that:
-The medial heel is too long.
-My nails do not all come out at the same height.
-My clinches are not all the same size.
I am fortunate to have 6 horses here at home that I can work with to improve my skills. I will continue to sell hoof boots and I will continue my business as a trimmer, but if you see us at a ride, don’t be surprised if you notice the sun glinting off some shiny shoes as the horses trot by.
Not every boot fits every horse. While we use a lot of Easy Care products on our own horses, they fall short for horses that tend to over reach with the hind feet. There is nothing quite as frustrating as a ripped gaiter right before a competition. Dakota really taught us a lot about this issue last year when training for our endurance ride.
Renegade hoof boots have a molded plastic cage design that captures the heel bulb of the hoof. It is particularly effective for horses that tend to over reach. Additionally, Renegade boots are easier to put on and remove than the Easy Care products. I am now offering fitting and sales of Renegade boots.
For the past few months, after a long day of trimming I was noticing my right hip would be quite sore. In some cases, I was able to slip on my running shoes and go for an easy jog to straighten everything out. In others, heat, ice and Motrin were required. Over the Christmas holidays, I went a week and a half without trimming any horses, and I didn’t have any hip pain. When I returned, I trimmed only 3 horses in one day and the pain had returned.
As a hoof trimmer, I frequently see horses that have a twist in their leg, an abnormality in their gait, or are not able to stand with their feet square. In some cases, you can look at the hoof from above and see that the horse is wearing the toe unevenly or the hoof has an asymmetrical flare. In other cases, everything looks fine from above, but an inspection of the hoof from below reveals uneven heel height and/or length. All of these issues are due to a lack of Balance in the hoof. Sometimes, I am able to restore Balance to the hoof and correct the problems. Sometimes, the horse has lived with the imbalance for so long, restoring Balance actually causes pain because the horse has adapted to the imbalance and relies on it.
Initially, I believed the pain in my hip had something to do with my stance while working on horses. But then it occurred to me, that my body was simply out of Balance. Furthermore, the boots I wore to trim in sat idle during my vacation. A quick inspection of my boots revealed that the soles and heels in particular are worn unevenly on the boots I wear when trimming. To further determine if this was the source of my pain, I wore a new pair of hunting boots when trimming 12 horses on Saturday. I came home without any hip pain.
Balance is important in our lives. Imbalances in our body lead to pain. If you live with the imbalance long enough, your body will compensate with a limp, uneven shoulder height, twist in your seat, or some other mechanism. An imbalance in our body leads to an imbalance in the saddle, and negatively affects our horse. Balance is also important in our relationships, finances, and mental health. As we start the new year, many people are making resolutions, but frequently do so without Balance, which is not healthy.
This evening, I needed to trim some of our horses. Vicki has been asking for me to teach her to trim Devil, so I let her work on him. She attempted his right front hoof. I helped. She decided it was a lot harder than it looked when I did the work. But she wants to keep learning and do her own trimming when she is a little stronger.
On Sunday afternoon, we did a family trail ride. It was the first time in almost 5 months that everyone has been healthy enough to ride at the same time! Of course, Misti wasn’t able to go, so I went on King. Amanda is loving trail rides on Huey (although Anna keeps her on a tether). We did a 4 mile loop and the temps were well into the 50s by the time we got done. It seems like fall didn’t waste any time making itself known.
Back in early July, I posted about my excursion into the world of glue-on shoes. Here is the original post in case you missed it:
http://thesawyerfarms.com/shoes-on-my-horses/. So, it’s time for a followup. Most of the blog posts I have seen are about how great and wonderful everything is and how rewarding the experience was. This isn’t one of those posts.
My first glue up was done on Mystique, and her shoes stayed on 4 weeks. At that point, I pulled them due to only having a little attachment on the side of each hoof. Dakota’s were pulled at the same time. King’s lasted a few more days, but only 4.5 weeks. Of note, I didn’t follow the entire protocol laid out by Easy Care. In particular, I didn’t use the Dremmel to rough the bottom of the hoof, I didn’t use the buffy (a sander) on the wall, and I didn’t use a torch to dry the hoof. I did go to town with a wire brush to prep the bottom and side walls of the hoof. Let’s just say, trying to use the buffy on Mysti or Dakota would result in them leaving the barn, with the cross ties still attached to their halter, and eyes bugging out of their heads. We will work on that. With a lunge line. In the arena.
For the next round, Mysti and Dakota got shoes on all 4 hooves. King was left bare (he only got them the first time to give me another horse to play with). Mysti’s was first and her shoes went on without any real problems. I did keep Anna in the barn this time to assist with picking up the opposing foot to make the process go easier. Anna also rode Dakota for about an hour before he go trimmed and shod; he gets very nervous around farriers and a little work helps take the edge off.
After I finished Dakota’s first shoe, I realized I was out of new glue. I had 3 tubes of Adhere that were 2 years old and had been stored in the garage through heat of summer and cold of winter. Since it was all I had available, I decided to give it a try and hope for the best. Dakota isn’t the most cooperative horse. When I did his back left hoof, he didn’t exactly load it evenly as he put it down. Instead, he decided to stomp his toe into the ground and knock the shoe off. I got it back on, but after the glue cured, it was clear the shoe had too much twist on the hoof and couldn’t stay. I was after 8:30, I was hot, tired, and frustrated, so I pulled both back shoes and called it a night. I wasn’t happy as I tossed $50+ in the trash (the shoes can’t be reused once they have glue on them).
Additionally, I had serious doubts about the glue. Everything Easy Care had warned me about the signs of bad glue were present – grey and grainy look, not mixing well, etc. So, I ordered some Equilox from Meader Supply, but just enough to do 2 shoes. With shipping, it was about $30 worth of glue. So, 4 days after the previous episode, it was time to try Dakota’s hinds again. The Equilox I chose was a small container that you mix for immediate use. You have 6-8 minutes before it cures. I had enough to do both shoes, but I was “on the clock” once I mixed it. I decided to do the left hind first. Guess who managed to stomp a toe down again before the other hoof could get lifted? That’s right – Dakota knocked the shoe off again, but this time, smeared the glue all over his sole, and managed to get dirt all over the shoe and his hoof. I just threw away the rest of the Equilox and the now ruined shoe. Dakota is turning out to be an expensive test subject.
So, we had a hunter pace on Sunday. Saturday, after trimming 11 other horses, I decided we were going to get some shoes glue on those hind hooves! Anna rode him to calm him. He was hot, I was hot, and we were both sweaty. Neither of us felt like arguing. We cooled the glue and the shoes before application to give a little more cure time. By the way, I still only had the 2 additional tubes of old glue available, but that was all I had. So, I got to work. Amazingly, 20ish minutes later, Dakota had shoes glued on both hind feet and it was the prettiest glue up I had accomplished, with very little excess squeezing out around the edges! But don’t celebrate too much…
The next morning, we went off to Arcadia and the WGHA Hunter Pace #2. About 1.5 miles in, I looked down at Dakota’s hooves in front of me and noticed both hinds were oddly lacking shoes. That’s right – the glue didn’t hold. Needless to say, all that glue is in the trash can to be removed tomorrow morning by Willimantic Waste. Dakota’s front shoes did fine on the ride and Mystique’s stayed on all the way around. Mysti was being a complete idiot for the first 5 miles, but that’s another story.
So, tonight it was time for a short training ride. What good news does Anna greet me with when I arrive at home? Mystique has lost a back shoe. It only made it 9 days. So, I pulled the other hind and we went for a short ride. The last shoe on Dakota that was put on with old glue isn’t going to make it much longer.
I’ve already sent an email to get more shoes, more glue, a buffy, and other supplies. Next week it’s time to do another round of gluing on shoes. We will also have to do some serious training so the horses tolerate the other portions of the gluing regime without killing me in the process.
Why am I so committed to this project? I could just go back to using the boots that have served us to this point. To a certain degree, it is the challenge of getting this right. Trust me, it’s turning out to be a lot harder than I expected. I have considered trying Equilox instead of Adhere, but I don’t really think that is the biggest problem right now. Also, I want this to be an “arrow in my quiver” so to speak, I am not comfortable doing it for a client until I know I can do it correctly. Luckily, we have plenty of horses here on our own farm that I can continue to use as test subjects.
Yes, it’s true. There are now front shoes on Mystique, Dakota, and King. I know, I know. You are thinking, “but Rob is a barefoot trimmer!” So I guess now, I am a farrier, and not just a barefoot trimmer. But before everyone gets all “I knew it wouldn’t work” let me explain. Last year, I debated very heavily about getting into gluing on Easy Shoes. I even got a whole delivery of inventory. But I sent it back unused.
This year, Anna and I are planning to do a 30 mile endurance ride in October. As a result, we have been spending more time trail riding than in year’s past. Dakota in particular, is very hard on boots and tends to over-reach and tear up the gaiters. So, after a lot of consideration, I decided to take the plunge and try out the Easy Shoes.
This afternoon was my first gluing session, and I learned a lot. For example, when it’s 85F, the glue doesn’t set in 5 minutes; it sets in about 90 seconds. Also, don’t work on Dakota alone in cross ties, because he might freak out, break the cross ties, almost trample me while trying to finish the glue, and take off out of the barn.
Of course, after putting some new shoes on, I had to take them for a ride. So Mysti and I went for a trail ride, alone, starting at 7:30 in the evening. I’ve only ridden her alone a couple of times, and it’s something we have to work on in case Anna and Dakota couldn’t finish a ride. So, we went out for a nice 4.4 miles as the sun set.
Mysti still needs some confidence; she gets nervous about things like rocks on the side, trees, changes in the color of the ground, wind in the trees, and basically anything else you encounter on the trails. But she did go out alone. And she trotted the whole time (when she wasn’t slamming on the brakes due to a puddle in the road). I took her riding fly mask off and that actually helped her calm some. And as it got dark, we headed on the last mile back towards home and Mysti was very confident, which really surprised me. But my biggest surprise of the evening was, Mysti really liked the shoes. She moved awesome and her front end was very light. She definitely liked the shoes better than the boots.
So now, it’s just a matter of determining how long the glue ups last. Easy Care says farriers are getting anywhere from 4-8 weeks. One benefit of having a whole herd is there are plenty of test subjects.
As we are all aware, Lyme disease is a way too common in our area. Some friends who live farther away may not realize the disease is actually named for Lyme, CT, where the disease was first diagnosed in 1982 (about 25 miles from our house. In fact, the disease was diagnosed at Subase New London (according to a display I saw on base). While some still believe Lyme is a temporary illness that is gone after a simple round of antibiotics, I am not one of them. I truly believe based on my experience and observation that Lyme, while occasionally short-lived, is frequently a life long problem once contracted. I want to share a few quick things just in case it might help someone dealing with Lyme. I’m not a doctor and I’m not a vet. These are just my thoughts and experience, so take it or leave it.
First, even if you had a negative Lyme test or never saw a bullseye rash, that doesn’t mean you are not dealing with Lyme. The estimates vary dramatically, but there is general agreement that the Lyme tests are not perfect and false negatives are not uncommon. In our family, Anna has had Lyme for years, Amanda was born with it (possibly got it in-utero from Anna), and I now believe many of the symptoms I thought were related to my concussion in 2013 (migraines and memory problems in particular) were actually Lyme related, even though I tested negative for all tick-born diseases.
Symptoms that might be an indicator you are dealing with undiagnosed Lyme in your horse:
unexplained, and inconsistent lameness
stiffness resembling arthritis
hypersensitivity to touch
Unexplained muscle loss, especially along the topline
general poor performance (more apparent as a reduction in performance in competitive horses)
For people, symptoms may include, but certainly not limited to:
lack of energy
memory loss or degradation
swelling and joint pain (similar to arthritis)
numbness of hands and feet
I listen to podcasts from The Horse Radio Network and the founder, Glenn, shared his story about Lyme a couple of years ago. That got me to start noticing a lot more about Lyme. Recently, they did a revisit to the topic. If you are still interested in what I have written so far, I HIGHLY recommend you take the time to listen to this single podcast.
There are some alternative treatments that don’t require large doses of antibiotics, which is sort of the point of this post.
Dr. Tobin is a holistic vet that has done some extensive research on Lyme, and specifically has identified Ledum as a treatment that is effective in animals and humans. Now, I will say this is not something we have used yet on our own farm, however, I have a friend who used it on her horses that had chronic Lyme, and had been through multiple rounds of Doxycycline without success. She tried Ledum and saw a dramatic improvement in her horse in under 48 hours. Here is a link to the article from Dr. Tobin and more information about Ledum. Check our the entire website for some interesting alternative views to traditional medicine.
For people, we were turned on to Silver Biotics by a friend. We have used Silver Biotics, purchased via Amazon and noticed subtle results. The Silver Biotics aid your immune system by killing the spirochetes of Lyme. It’s not ucommon to feel a little worse initially as the spirochetes die off. The changes were actually more apparent when the Silver Biotics were stopped. For me, I had some chiropractic adjustments to my neck at the same time I was taking the Silver Biotics. My migraines ended and my memory challenges faded away. However, after not taking the Silver Biotics for almost 2 months, the memory lapses returned. For Anna, the joint pain and stiffness seemed to lessen when taking the Silver Biotics, but returned when she stopped. Now, this is far from definitive evidence, but the silver is not very expensive (the dose is only 1tsp 1-3 times a day, and we just take 1 dose at breakfast) and has been helpful to both of us. Care needs to be taken not to overdose on silver as it can turn your skin permanently blue. It is also toxic in large quantities.
There are many other alternative treatments for Lyme disease. It’s not about the right answer, but rather what works for you. I encourage everyone to keep an open mind and be willing to learn. If you have other treatments that have worked, please leave a comment below!
As a trimmer, I see a lot of hooves. Sometimes, new clients have horses with hooves in great shape being transferred from another farrier or trimmer for whatever reason. Sometimes, hooves are overdue because money has been tight, previous farrier didn’t show up a few times, or just life happened and the hooves got overdue. But when does overdue become neglect?
Earlier today, I got a call from someone I have worked with before. She isn’t a regular client and uses a local farrier to keep her horses in shoes. However, her farrier hasn’t been available and she needed help. She had recently been looking for a companion pony. In the course of her search, she went to see one particular pony that was a little older (maybe mid twenties). When she arrived, she was basically told the owner planned to put the pony down if no one took it. The hooves were in serious disrepair. She decided to load up the pony and take it home. It needed everything – hoof care, vaccinations, feed, etc.
I didn’t see the hooves when she first got the pony. Apparently, the hooves were so overgrown, they had wrapped OVER the shoes on the front hooves. She had been using a rasp to slowly work at exposing the shoes so they could be pulled. This morning, discovered one shoe had finally come off and she wasn’t sure about what to do with the hooves from there. I was passing within a mile of her farm today anyways so I stopped to take a look. Note she has only had this pony a short time. The pictures show significant neglect by the previous owner.
Left front before trim
Right front before trim. I snapped a photo of the bottom of this hoof, but it didn’t turn out. This hoof still had a shoe with pad on it. The shoe was mounted backwards, which is usually a sign the previous farrier was treating founder.
Since the current owner rescued this pony and had already paid to have it vetted, I did the trim pro-bono. I don’t think she is going to be keeping the pony long term as it doesn’t get along with the intended companion, however, I’m sure it will get hoof care while she has it.
When someone sees the sign on the side of my car advertising “Natural Hoof Care” they ask me what that means. For the average person, I explain “You know how a farrier puts shoes on a horse? I am a barefoot trimmer and specialize in un-shoeing a horse.” I guess it’s time to change my answer.
According to Wikipedia, afarrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses’hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves, if necessary. A farrier combines some blacksmith‘s skills (fabricating, adapting, and adjusting metal shoes) with some veterinarian‘s skills (knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the lower limb) to care for horses’ feet.
Before anyone gets too upset, let me explain. I firmly believe that horses should be barefoot. I have also previously stated I would not turn to shoes unless I met a horse I was convinced couldn’t be helped without them. Well, I’ve met that horse. At the same time, I have been closely following the development and release of the Easy Shoe from Easy Care. It is similar to the Epona that some of you may have heard of before. This is essentially a plastic shoe that is designed to be glued or nailed on. At this point, I am only planning to offer Easy Shoes as a glue on option. Specifically, I plan to use the Easy Shoe Performance and the Easy Shoe Sport. Here is a good article comparing Easy Shoes and Boots http://blog.easycareinc.com/blog/bootlegging/easyboots-or-easyshoes-yes
So why would I make this change? There are a number of scenarios when people choose to shoe a horse instead of boot a horse. In years past, I showed King in dressage at Falls Creek Farm. Boots are not allowed in dressage and if I rode him on the gravel roads between the warm up arena and show ring, he would occasionally take those wincing steps. His feet couldn’t handle the gravel, which is why he gets boots on the trails. Easy shoes solve that issue. Another example is the horse who needs 24/7 protection due to laminitis or founder recovery, but destroys the boots out of boredom.
The initial reports are that these shoes last a full 6 weeks when glued on correctly and still allow a hoof to function as it should. Because this isn’t a completely rigid metal shoe nailed to the hoof, it still allows the hoof to flex. Since I will only be gluing the shoes, if you are interested, you must have a clean, dry area for me to work on the hooves. At my farm, that means I will be shoeing in the garage since our barn floor is dirt.
As I have stated before, I won’t sell something I haven’t used. So, as soon as my first order of shoes arrive, I’ll be gluing up the hooves of King and Calli. Glue on shoes will be $65 plus the cost of the trim. If you are interested in having shoes glued on the next time I come out, please email me so I can make sure I will have shoes in the correct size and plan for the time required.
Laminitis is defined as inflammation to the laminae that results in lameness. The inflammation normally causes damage to the laminae which is visible as separation around the white line on the bottom of the hoof.
Founder is an advanced state of laminitis that is much more severe. In a case of founder, the laminae has been damaged beyond repair and hoof capsule loses connection to the coffin bone.
Below is a list of causes of laminitis and/or founder. The causes are broad and general in nature because many specific examples can probably be allocated under these broad categories.
1. Metabolic – excessive intake of carbohydrates and/or sugars. This may be from grain or forage.
2. Overweight horse – As a horse becomes obese, the excess weight can physically cause laminitis. Additionally, as the horse becomes overweight, it is more likely to suffer from metabolically induced laminitis due to the inability of the system to handle excess sugars.
3. Physical Trauma – inflammation in the laminae can be the result of a severe physical trauma to the hoof. While hitting a jump with a hoof would not likely cause this, repeatedly hitting an immobile object could. Another example could be a horse that stomps hooves on concrete flooring.
4. Internal disease, infection, or colic – Any system/whole body illness can have a negative effective on the hooves and could result in laminitis.
5. Chemical reactions – this can be a reaction to vaccinations or other pharmaceuticals administered to the equine. This could also be the result of ingesting a chemical through forage (fertilizers or pesticides applied to pasture/hay).
6. Supporting limb laminitis – uneven weight- bearing due to an injury on the opposing limb
Laminitis is a challenging and complicated issue for owners, vets, and farriers/trimmers. Research documentation can be found to prove, or contradict, any course of treatment. It is difficult to lump all views and treatment options into a broad category such as conventional vs alternative, as many progressive vets are recognizing the value of a compromise between the options.
In conventional views, laminitis is generally a secondary issue to another problem. Examples of primary issues include colic, retained placenta, excessive grain consumption, and supporting limb laminitis due to some problem on opposing leg. Laminitis is generally accepted as debilitating with little hope for a full recovery. Additionally, it is commonly viewed as a long term problem, although there is usually only significant focus on the acute phase of laminitis at the onset, when the most significant damage occurs to the hoof capsule.
Conventional treatment plans for laminitis vary so significantly, it would be an over simplification to simply list the methods of treatment. The underlying commonality is the attempt to manage the primary initiating event, such as colic. It is clear that by resolving or removing the primary stimulus of the laminitis, the acute phase will end sooner. There is significant disagreement about how the hooves should be managed during the acute phase of laminitis, ranging from providing extra support to the coffin bone through the use of heart bar shoes to removing all support and leaving the horse barefoot.
Many pharmaceutical and veterinary organizations are pursuing chemical solutions to curb the effects of laminitis. The belief is that the actual damage to the hoof can be thwarted if the proper chemical is identified and administered early enough in the laminitic event. Until such an unlikely “cure” is developed, vets will continue to do the best they can and rely on what worked before. Like most situations, prevention is clearly more valuable than treatment.
Alternative treatments to laminitis are generally any treatments that address the primary cause of laminitis as the method to stopping the progression. Many practitioners who provide alternative treatment plans share some common beliefs about laminitis. First, laminitis onset is almost always due to a metabolic upset. The actual initiation may be from grain overload, pasture that is too loaded with fructan, or ingestion of Black Walnut. One of the critical elements of treatment is to educate the owner on the impact of nutrition and dietary requirements. Then, aid the owner in making adjustments to correct the underlying metabolic problem.
Many horses that are laminitic show signs of previous, less severe damage in the hoof wall. These indicators are important to distinguish between rapid onset cases, such as grain overload or vaccination reactions compared to gradual build up cases. Regardless, steps to ease the pain of the horse should be addressed. Vets will frequently prescribe the use of NSAIDs for pain relief for the horse. The problem with this approach is it allows further damage to occur from motion as the horse does not get the feedback from pain. In general, laminitic horses are better off not moving around to limit damage to the hoof capsule in the acute phase of laminitis. If possible, it is better for the horse to actually lay down and unload hooves entirely.
Shoes should not be added to a laminitic horse. In fact, it is better to remove the shoes to allow the sole to be loaded and minimize loading on the hoof wall. Trimming to make the hoof wall passive, thinning the wall near the bevel, and backing up the break over point are methods a trimmer can utilize to improve the soundness of a horse.
There are also homeopathic and herbal treatments that some practitioners may incorporate, however, they vary depending on specialty.
Finally, the most important treatment is the education of the owner. As previously discussed, owners must be educated on the nutrition and dietary changes needed to treat the situation, but also to prevent recurrence. Furthermore, owners need to understand the internal damage that has already or is still occurring to prevent overloading the hoof from moving too fast in the recovery process.
Below are some pictures I took of a horse that was in a chronic state of founder with a severe thrush infection. Notice how overweight the horse is and the condition of the hooves. Those hooves were in the regular trim cycle of a farrier. The farrier was using a grinder to trim the hooves. Ultimately, the owner decided against my proposed treatment plan and I never heard from her again.