When I first brought Ashke home his feet, like the rest of him, needed work. In one sense, they were in pretty good shape, lacking cracks or splits, both of which could potentially terminate any consistent work going forward. It was easy to see in the bumps and ridges in his hoofs, that his nutritional needs had not been met. Since we had decided to rescue him, regardless of his condition, I gave his feet just a cursory exam while we were in Amarillo, both times. S had told me he had Ashke's feet trimmed, but I didn't check his hooves to see what that meant. Once we got him home and I began washing and grooming and cleaning his feet, it was easy to see the neglect he had suffered etched in his hooves. Not only that, but whoever had "trimmed" him before I picked him up had just clipped the hoof wall. I could still see the ragged trim edges in his hoof. It was one of the first things I needed to address when we got him home.
So, how does one find a farrier? I started calling names out of the phonebook, trying to find someone to work on my horse. I was referred to Dan Venz. I didn't realize at the time that farriers pick a set of barns/area to work in and don't really travel outside of them. Dan was one of the farriers that worked out of Christensen's and was willing to add Ashke to his list, provided he was trimmed on a day when Dan was already going to be at the barn. Dan assured me on the phone that he didn't hit the horses he was trimming, but that was the extent of the conversation. He wasn't interested in Ashke's history. He didn't want to watch him move. He didn't seem to care. Not that he wasn't professional in his approach to shoeing, he just seemed to think that all animals should and could be trimmed and shoed the same way. Also, even though he never hit Ashke, he wasn't nice. He would pinch and hurt Ashke to get him to raise his leg, rather than ask. Ashke tolerated the work, but didn't like Dan.
I also felt disregarded. I think this is a common effect of working with "cowboys". When I called Dan and asked him to work on Ashke's feet prior to our scheduled appointment, it would take as much as a week for him to call me back. I told him about Ashke's clipping, about his sensitivity on his front left, about how weak and unbalanced he felt. Dan finally watched him move one time and commented that he thought he moved nice. I want him to move naturally and without pain. I'm not all that interested in a high stepper, or a lot of action. I want him balanced and I would like to address his hamstring issue through his feet. If we don't get his feet right, he will never be an endurance horse, or even comfortable being ridden long distance on the trail. I will never be able to stretch him beyond the 40 minutes he's being ridden now. And I want to be able to do those things.
When I gave my notice to Christensen's I figured now was my chance. I would be able to look at a new farrier. Not that I couldn't have before, but I hadn't had much luck finding the kind of farrier I wanted. I called Dan and left a message saying I needed to cancel my appointment, since I was no longer boarding at Christensen's, told him where Ashke was being boarded and asked him to call me. I never heard from him, so I feel like I've given my notice and moved on. I don't want to burn any bridges or damage my reputation in the horse community, since everyone knows everybody. It was time for me to try and find a new farrier.
I've been doing a bunch of reading on farrier work and hoof care. I am leaning strongly toward the idea of natural hoof care and leaving Ashke barefoot. Natural hoof care is a concept that works toward shaping the horse's hoof like the hooves of mustang running in the wild. It is intended to help improve circulation, improve balance and improve break over. When you ride out over rocky terrain, you can boot the horse, with Easyboots or Renegades, that are kind of like vibram tennis shoes for your horse. They are kind of pricey, but once you have a set, they should last for several years. A lot of endurance riders do natural hoof care and boots. There are some farriers in Boulder who do this kind of work, but none of them would come as far as Christensen's, so I was hopeful I could find someone to come to TMR.
I called a farrier in Boulder. He politely declined to come to TMR, but he gave me the name and number of a farrier who he recommended. I called her and left a message. She called me back last night and I have an appointment on Thursday of next week at 2:30. I talked to her for about twenty minutes last night about Ashke, his feet and his history. I told her about his right hamstring and when I mentioned Diane, Michelle asked me if I was talking about Diane Wagner and I said yes. She knew Diane and said she worked with Diane really well. It felt right that she knew Diane and I was sold. She was actually interested in what he had experienced, what I was trying to do with him, and what my long term goal was. I had more conversation with her in twenty minutes than I have had with Dan in eight months. I'm excited to see how she is with Ashke, and what she thinks of his feet.