Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Entire Story (mostly)

To start from the beginning . . . .

When I first brought Ashke home, his feet were a mess. I had started doing some research and trying to find a farrier, but for the first six months or so, I was locked into using the barn farrier while I searched for a better way. Once I moved to TMR, I started using Michelle. She did a decent job with his feet and for the most part he was sound. By that time, we knew he had issues of weakness with his right hind, and I was working on straightening and strengthening his right hip. After Michelle stopped traveling for trimming, I had a brief encounter with another trimmer who left Ashke sore and unbalanced before finding Dan. Dan started off okay, but toward the end, Ashke was left with flares untouched and the bottom of his hoof completely flat. I moved again from Dan to the farrier I am working with now and I have been completely happy with how his feet have looked.

One of the things I have heard from every farrier is how short his hooves are. K measures them and they are about 3.5" long from coronet band to the end of his hoof. The length of his hooves corresponds to the depth of the sole between the ground and his coffin bone. I am always amazed at watching Eddy traverse the terrain with no hesitation while Ashke has been tender even in gloves or boots. And Ashke hates the gloves or boots. It changes how he travels in the front and he has a hard time with where the break over on the boots is located. He trips and stumbles and slips when wearing the boots, which is only on trail.

During this time, he has always felt just the slightest bit tender in the front, and we have dealt with slipping and traction issues with his back feet. Those moments I chalked up to his left stifle and right hip. It's hard when both of them are wonky. It kind of feels like when you try to start fast and your shoe slips on something and the foot goes out from under you, with a lack of impulsion, That is how this has felt at times. When K put the shoes on Ashke's front feet, it changed how he was using them. Dr D watched how he was going and asked me to put shoes on his hinds, saying she thought he could use the traction. (Lightbulb went off). But then Ashke managed to pull both front shoes and tore up his left hind again, so I waited.

After Soapstone Prairie, on Labor Day, we did a ride along the South Platte. The ride was almost entirely flat, with wide verges on either side of the sidewalk for the horses to ride on. J and I talked about riding from Adams County Fairgrounds to the park off of 88th (about a mile from our house), getting a slurppee (there is a 7-11 on that corner) and riding home. We made it to the park without any issues, just some moments of temporary tenderness over sharp rocks. The ride out was 10 miles. Riding back both horses were up and eager, knowing they were going home, and along a stretch of dirt road, we let them canter. At the end of that stretch Ashke hit something in the ground with his left front and was lame immediately. I got off and hand walked for a brief stretch. He was a tiny bit tender over really uneven ground, but sound on hard flat ground, like the sidewalk. I figured we had eight or so miles left to the trailer but we could take it slow and stay on flat ground to get him back to the trailer.

Then K started having issues. She was experiencing intense pain in her hips, got off to walk for a while, then got back on without it getting any better. I was having doubts about her being able to finish the ride and it was getting dark quick. I suggested she stay at a trailhead at 104th, I would pony Eddy back to the trailer, and K's hubs could ride ahead to his car to go back and pick her up. She decided to do so and W took off for the fairgrounds. I took Eddy and we headed for the trailer (yes, we did check the parking lot to see if we could get the truck and trailer in there, but there was no way. It was too narrow and did not have enough room to turn around, plus it was still full of cars. J double checked before we went on.) I had K strip the bridle and take it with her, gathered Eddy on Ashke's left side and we headed onward. This was our first time ponying.

I had to keep Eddy close, with his head at my knee, on the left side so I could control Ashke with one hand on the reins. It would have made more sense to have Eddy on the other side, but I was afraid I couldn't keep Ashke under control with my stupid left hand. Ashke was pissed. He was not interested in having Eddy that close to him, but I couldn't let Eddy drop back given Ashke hates ropes by his haunches, plus I was afraid Eddy would run up on Ashke and reinjure that left hind leg.

Ashke piaffed. He jigged. He danced sideways. He kept his ears pinned for seven miles straight. He kicked out at Eddy three times, connecting once, and when I yelled at him, settled for snapping at Eddy as often as he felt he could get away with it. It did not give me the opportunity to rest Ashke's foot on the ride home, although he felt sound as we were going. And he would not walk. I had to settle for a slow jig and Eddy trotted next to us. J rode in front and our friend A followed behind to let anyone coming know what was going on with the horses.

Very short video clip showing how unhappy my horse was.

We finally made it to the fairgrounds as the last of the light was leaving the sky. K was there and took Eddy as we got close.

Wednesday when I went out for my lesson, Ashke was sore footed and lame. I contacted K and got Trey's information to set up an appointment to get shoes on his feet.

I think that Ashke would have been footsore anyway. K said that he was likely to be sore after we removed the shoes, since she had trimmed him short to put the shoes on. Trey applied the shoes (Ashke was not a fan of hot shoeing and pretty much freaked out at the roiling clouds of smoke coming up both sides of his barrel) but it didn't make any difference in his soundness. On Monday, Trey came back out and added pads to the shoes.

I had no idea what that meant. I thought that perhaps there was a nail set wrong and he was sore because of that. Trey tested the nail holes and there was not indication of pain, so he put pads on. They are a thick piece of leather between the shoes and the hoof. Trey said he was having sole pain and this would help. If his soreness didn't resolve in a couple of days, he would come back out and put casts on him to allow his hoof time to grow.

By Wednesday night, I could see he was almost entirely sound. He appeared sound to everyone else, but I could see a slight hesitation when circling to the right. By Friday, he looked amazing.

 One of the things that has changed with the shoes is his big, floating trot. He has one now.

Sorry for how dark it was. We are losing the light, quickly.

I didn't ride for long, just checked him at w/t/c in both directions

He is really stiff to the right and I wonder if he threw his neck out in whatever happened that caused him to rip open his left hind leg again.

So, he is sound again. Still a touch tender over rocky terrain, but better overall in comparison to any time since I brought him home. We had a wonderful ride on Saturday evening, but that deserves a blog all of its own. 

I know there is a huge contingent of people out there that believe barefoot is the only way to go. I can tell you that I have spent four years trying to figure out how to make that philosophy work for us. The bottom line is that Ashke needs shoes. After our ride on Saturday, I am convinced this is the absolute best solution for his thin soled feet. I am hoping that we can get a little more hoof growth on him, to deepen the sole and give him a longer hoof capsule, but we shall see. At this point I am just ecstatic that we have found a way for him to go without the tenderness. I have added a hoof supplement to my smartpaks for the next few months to see if we can get this issue put to bed once and for all.

More to come in the post about our ride on Saturday . . .


  1. Some of our horses are barefoot and some are not. It just depends on the horse. We just put pads and shoes on Flash because his feet are very tender.

  2. I'm glad the pads have helped him. I love barefoot, but I love a happy and sound horse more and being open minded to figuring out how to best make your horse happy is what counts.

  3. I love barefoot, but I've also had horses that could not be without shoes.

    I would recommend looking into a biotin supplement to see if that will help him grow thicker soles. I like Bioflax 20 - good stuff and won't break the bank. Of course every horse is different so what's worked for me might not work for Ashke, but it might be worth a try.

    1. I have added the SmartHoof Ultra Pellets for the next couple of rounds of smartpak to see it that makes a difference in hoof growth and strength. We will start those in October.

  4. I'm not a die hard barefoot person. I like barefoot because it costs less and they can't lose a shoe if they didn't have a shoe to begin with. We have been using the Easy Shoe NG nailed on. It's a rubber shoe with a nice cushion across the heal. It's thick and more supportive than metal shoes and can be nailed in so you don't have to do gluing, which is a PITA. So far, Eugene hasn't lost a single one and doesn't have any bell boots or anything on. Nilla likes to pull hers off even with bell boots on, but her feet are mule shaped, not horse shaped so they don't fit great to begin with. I would recommend trying them out. You can order them online from RW and your farrier can put them on so you don't need to find a specialized farrier that carries them.

    1. With the size of Ashke's hooves, I'm not sure I could fit them to his feet. I am pretty happy right now and don't want to change anything until next spring, as long as he stays sound. Thanks for the suggestion, though.