Otis’s Bare Feet

When Otis was turned away after his MRI scan in June, which confirmed that his only issue is sidebone, I was told to put egg bar shoes on to support his heels and encourage his heels to grow down and out. This is supposed to reduce the pressure around the back of his foot, and in the sidebone area.

Dutifully I did so, removing his hinds in the process.

Below is a photo of his foot when the egg bar shoes went on.

Otis had these shoes on for two cycles, so twelve weeks, at which point he was no sounder so the vet recommended flip flop shoes – You can read about them hereand my farrier said “go barefoot” to which I readily agreed. It seemed like a logical step.

Here is a photo of when we took the egg bar shoes off and he was trimmed two months ago. Apologies for it not being a very good photo or one with a ruler that was promised to you (my farrier’s confession today is that he accidentally deleted them). Hopefully you can see how Otis’s heels are even more contracted after wearing the egg bar shoes, than before.

I was definitely disappointed in their appearance.

Today, Otis had his feet trimmed, and here is the photo.

Hopefully you can see the difference in the shape of them. They look rounder, with the heels coming down and out as opposed to down and in. This is only after eight weeks, so it will be interesting to see how they look in another two months time.

I know a lot of people are moving over to barefoot, and to be honest, after seeing the difference in Otis’s feet I am much more in favour of the barefoot lifestyle. Regardless of the physiological aspects, certain common sense benefits are to be had. One, it’s far cheaper to be barefoot. Two, there’s a far lower risk of injury from over-reaching, kicking between horses, stud injuries.

Phoenix is currently barefoot and I will aim to keep her barefoot as long as possible, and research alternative care methods if she does start to look sore. Here are a couple of photos of her feet. She’s not been trimmed for a while so has a little bit of splaying to their shape; I’ll get Christmas over with then sort it out, but I think her feet are of a good conformation with strong hooves so hopefully she’ll manage.

In terms of the physiology of hooves, how they function and the effect of shoes, this webpage (a little bit biased, but still with some clear explanations) is useful – Think Like A Horse

Another blog of interest is my friend’s about her horse’s transition to barefoot. Have a little peruse because it’s very enlightening. Below is the link to part one, but you should be able to continue looking through the rest of the story.

Leo’s Barefoot Transition

Advertisements

Snow Day!

Snow and ice are causing havoc to my diary again! Yesterday I had to stop lunging as the temperature dropped enough to cause the water, sand, snow combination to start balling in hooves rather than turning to slush like it had been minutes before. Today I know one arenavwill be frozen solid because it was still covered in snow yesterday afternoon and it’s currently -4 degrees. So yesterday I planned to delay my first ride until lunchtime, as that arena usually holds up well in cold weather, and I’ve moved a lesson and ride to Friday, when it’s hopefully a bit warmer.
This means another quiet day for me, which I can never get used to! Perhaps it’s chance to finish the Christmas wrapping …

I always wonder though, ow do equestrian’s in Canada, Norway, and other snowy places manage? Are there particular pre-winter preparations that you make, such as changing the type or removing shoes? Are arena surfaces different to ours so that they don’t freeze? Are barns and stables designed with snow days in mind? I’d love to know.

The Rubber Curry Comb

Now I’m not going to try and outdo my Canadian and bloggers from other Snow-covered lands, but today is a snow day.

Yesterday afternoon we had heavy rain until the early hours of this morning and then it snowed. So this morning we woke to a faint smattering of snow, but more importantly, the rain that had fallen yesterday had frozen solid.

Now us Britons are renowned for making a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to snow, but ultimately we aren’t used to it so need to take various precautions.

I’m going to London this evening, so I had a short day anyway. Plus the fact that I’d had a cancellation due to illness and moved a pony from today to yesterday in order to fill in a gap in my day due to a lameness. So I only really had four “jobs” to do.

I don’t…

View original post 646 more words

The End of an Era

It’s been creeping up on me for a while; I’ve caught myself thinking “I want to do that with my next horse” or “I’d like a horse good at that”.

But about a month ago I watched Otis in the field and resigned myself to the fact that he won’t come sound. Maybe he’ll be a happy hacker, but really I needed to face facts. The main thing though, is that he’s happy in his field with his buddies and I can afford to keep him there indefinitely. He’s not suffering, just a bit limpy, and otherwise in good health. I then broached the subject that next year I would like to get another horse. It’s all very well riding other people’s horses, but when you’ve experienced the bond with your own, and enjoy the satisfaction of training and competing, it’s not the same. I know I’ve lost some motivation through not having my own horse or reason to improve my ability. Yes, next year we’ll have our own two-legged project, but I like to keep busy and I know that not having my own horse will cause me to go insane. Thankfully, my lovely husband readily agreed to my light at the end of the tunnel.

I allowed myself a couple of hacks to think about what I want and need from a horse. I was quite specific.

  • A native or hardy breed, or part bred.
  • Height wasn’t really an issue; I’m lucky enough that I can ride anything between 14.2hh and 16.2hh, but I’d prefer to stay below 16hh.
  • I enjoy training a horse, so I wanted something I could take further. But not a real youngster as I wouldn’t have the time to devote to backing a baby. It would also be nice to have a horse who has already been shown the basics, perhaps five or six, that I could quite quickly start taking out to clinics or little competitions.
  • They needed to be trainable. I enjoy learning and training, so need a horse who does likewise. Whether their forte is jumping or dressage, I didn’t mind.
  • Temperament is paramount now. I want something which can have a week off yet still behave. One that I can tie up on the yard, leave to check on the baby, and not worry they will cause havoc. Likewise, in the future the horse needs to be sensible so I can juggle a child with them. I know full well that horses can be unpredictable but certain temperaments are more reliable than others.
  • I want them to be reliable. My free time will be limited and I want to know I can ride and enjoy my ride, not battle hormones or a bad mood.
  • I’d like them to be sensible to hack because when we get a pony I’m going to want to ride and lead: whether my child is riding or I’m exercising the pony.

Even as I thought of my list, I knew I was setting a rather stringent criteria and would be lucky to find anything which remotely fitted the bill.

Anyway, we weren’t looking yet so I filed my list away at the back of my brain.

Only a couple of days later I came across this advert on Facebook. Let me tell you the vital stats:

  • 6 years old.
  • Chestnut.
  • Mare.
  • Welsh Section D – more to the point, a half sister to Otis.
  • 15.2hh
  • Backed as a five year old and sold to a lady who had a friend ride her lightly – mainly hacking – from June 2016 to May 2017. Since then she’s been lunged and led out on hacks a couple of times a week.
  • Being sold because of owner’s ill health, and the fact she’s currently wasted.

On face value, most of my boxes were ticked. Just six months too early. I was really intrigued, but had an argument with myself as to whether I was being sentimental with the Otis link, or whether it was worth investigating further because of the other factors. My Mum told me that I should look, because otherwise I’d always wonder “what if” and upon seeing her she may be immediately unsuitable. I did a bit of research on the internet and social media, and actually found the original advert from April 2016, which I remembered seeing at the time and commenting “oh she looks nice”.

With the one condition that I don’t ride her (the whole six nearly seven months pregnant thing) I went with a friend to see her.

The mare was nicely put together with clean, straight limbs (although the photos below make her look splay legged!), a more traditional stamp of Welsh than my Welsh Warmblood Otis, and stood quietly while I examined her. I was told that she could be quite nervous, and when her owner bought her she was difficult to catch. I wouldn’t say she was really nervous from what I saw, but she was definitely cautious of new people. She wasn’t jumpy, just intrigued by things. I was also told that she wasn’t mareish – my first important question.

We watched her being lunged. She can be a bit fresh initially, but it was nothing compared to what I’m used to. She had a lovely movement, and after ten minutes she looked very relaxed and calm, so I asked my friend if she fancied sitting on.

This was my big question. Because if I’m not allowed to ride until the spring then if she was sensible after eight months of not being ridden then there wouldn’t be a problem in April. The owner thought the mare would be fine, and my friend is more than capable.

Starting off on the lunge, my friend had a walk and trot, went over some trotting poles. The mare hasn’t really done any jumping but poles don’t cause a problem. She looked very balanced in trot, and hasn’t done much canter work. Then we took her out around the village on her own. She was perfect with the cars and cyclists, more interested in what was going on in the driveways, and she looked very relaxed. Really, we couldn’t have asked any more of her.

Over the next week I battled with myself as to whether this mare really ticked all the boxes, if I trusted my friend’s judgement of her under saddle. Was I being sentimental because she was related to Otis, or did I believe his lovely temperament ran in the paternal side of his family? Was the price right, and worth me keeping her over the winter. Could I justify paying more livery fees when I was about to go on maternity leave? What would I do with her over the winter – would getting to know her, doing some lunging to introduce jumping and cantering keep us both occupied? She was a mare, a chestnut one no less. My last mare was a grey called Filly when I was ten! This was unknown territory.

After doing some budgeting and working out finances, I decided to go for it. I needed a basic livery yard which ultimately provided grass livery, ad lib hay in the field, and would be able to check her when I’m otherwise occupied in March. Timing is never right in life, and it did seem like it was meant to be – as far as I can tell, she meets my criteria; the price was within budget and she was local.

Yesterday, we went to pick her up. She had never travelled in a trailer, but loaded slowly but surely, and remained very calm all the journey. We turned her out into the small herd of mares, and within ten minutes she was grazing happily.

You can see the introduction here.

Today, she was very content in the field and let me catch her after sniffing me thoroughly.

I gave her a quick groom, getting to know her and checked for any injuries from her field initiation. She was alert to the surroundings, but stood fairly still. Then I put the bridle on and took her to the arena. The surface was a bit crusty with frost but I wanted a “before video” and to introduce her to the arena. She was very good – the video for your perusal is Here – and you can see that she moves very nicely, although my lunging leaves a bit to be desired. We’ll have a look at canter next week when the ground is better and she’s more settled. You’ll see in the video on the right rein, that she stops and turns in to be. Behind, just out of shot, someone had come round the corner with a saddle which she stopped to look at. Overall, she was a bit tense and lacked focus, but given the fact she’s at a new yard and with a new owner, I don’t think she did anything wrong, and if that’s going to be the extent of her behaviour at new places then I’m more than happy.

From what I can tell so far, I think we’ll be slow to build a relationship because I still feel like I’m cheating on Otis, and she is an introvert. But I also think we’ll get on well and have lots of fun together.

Oh yes, I haven’t told you her name. She came with the name Dolly, but I’ve known lots of Dolly’s, and I didn’t really feel that it suited her. After some thought, I came up with Phoenix. For her fiery colour, and for new beginnings.

After all, it is the end of an era and the beginning of another.

A Clipping Challenge

I had to clip a horse this week who’s quite tricky to do. I can’t fault her in that she stands still the whole time. Though she does try to eat the clippers when I’m doing her chin and she can fidget for her face.

The problem I have with her is that she’s very sensitive to heat, and as soon as the blades start to get warm she gets heat lines across her body.

So it’s a bit of a race against time for me, to start on her neck and then do the fiddly bits around her ears before progressing to her body and trying to get as much done as possible before the blades heat up.

I’ve got Lister Legend clippers, which are professional grade and, touch wood, they work well for me, but I do find their blades tend to get hot.

With this heat sensitive horse, I use fresh blades and oil them well before I start. Oh, I also make sure the air filter is as clean as possible and brush out the head so that there’s no possible excuse of friction or poor air flow. I probably over oil the clippers, in an attempt to keep the temperature down. When they do get hot, I turn them off and leave them touching to cool concrete for a few minutes. Sometimes I take the blades apart to cool both blades quicker. Then, oiled up, I go again. Usually I manage to finish the full clip with the minimal of heat lines, and they disappear within a couple of hours. It does make it harder to see if I’ve missed any hairs, and can also make my clip look uneven, which is really embarrassing. However, the owner is aware of her mare’s sensitivity and I can always go back if I have missed anything.

It got me thinking though, is this a common problem; what are other people’s techniques to keeping blades cool; and has any research been done on the temperatures of blades whilst clipping?

My first port of call was Google, and it does seem that Lister clippers can let the blades get hotter than other manufacturers. Which is a shame, because otherwise they’re a very good set of clippers.

Suggestions of preventing blades from overheating include:

  • Using the correct oil for the blades rather than sprays, which tend to dry out the blades and increase the friction. I only use the R30 oil that Lister recommends.
  • Oil the blades frequently whilst clipping. I could do it more often, but do try to do it more frequently. It’s just easy to get carried away finishing off an area or perfecting a line.
  • Check you’ve got the correct tension on the blades. Lister recommends tightening the screw as far as possible and then unscrewing it one and a half turns. Which I do, but perhaps next time I’ll have a play around with the tension while the blades are running and see if I can hear a difference in the running of the blades.
  • Poorly sharpened blades or blunt blades can also cause overheating. I use a good, well-renowned company and blades only do a couple of full clips or half a dozen half clips, being sent away for sharpening before they even show signs of being blunt.
  • Having the correct type of blade for a horse’s coat will mean the clippers cut more effortlessly so will be less likely to get hot. I have a collection of fine and normal blades, which suit the majority of horses that I clip. The cobs, Cushings sufferers, and heavy coated horses have normal blades, and I also have some coarse blades for any manes or feathers that I have to do.

Others also leave them to cool or take them apart to expose as much metal as possible to the cooler air. I think the only real thing I could improve on is the tension. But then, as the rest of the horses I clip don’t react in the same way as the mare this week I have to presume that she is particularly sensitive to temperature.

I couldn’t find any research about the temperature of blades and different clippers whilst clipping. I guess it will only be independent researchers who do such an experiment, but if anything is done it would be interesting to see the results, and whether different makes of clippers are better and keeping the heat at bay.

Let me know if you come across any research! In the meantime, hopefully these ideas will help you keep your clipper blades cool.

Exercising Ponies

Between October half term and February half term, kids ponies tend to get unruly. It’s too dark and cold for their young riders to do much during the week, so they’re only exercised on weekends and they’re often living in.
I think parents underestimate the effort required on their part to keep ponies under the thumb: minimal effort may be required during the summer, but in the winter it can be very time consuming with the chores, let alone exercising them on top of that.

If, or when as the case now is, I get a pony, I’ll be looking into getting a sharer, who’s slightly older and more advanced than my jockey, and enlisting the help of a small teenager to do some squashing if the pony gets above themselves.
Otherwise, the pony will have a variety of calorie and behaviour burning exercises such as lunging, ride and lead, and long reining to keep them sensible enough for my child to ride. Then it will be a more enjoyable, confidence building and educational experience for their riders. And I’ll have a few less grey hairs!

The Rubber Curry Comb

I’ve recently had a fun job of exercising a little pony for her owner. She’s ridden by the owner’s young son and had a share rider over the summer, where she unfortunately learnt a few bad habits.

It’s inevitable unfortunately. Ponies are highly intelligent and rapidly learn how to take advantage of small jockeys and their lack of strength.

One of my favourite things when I was growing up was getting to ride the naughty ponies. They weren’t necessarily that naughty, but as soon as they started pushing the boundaries, cutting corners, stopping at jumps, one of us teenagers got to ride them in a lesson.

Our job was to push the pony back into their box; stay around the outside, canter when asked, jump the jump correctly. Not only did it remind the pony of the correct expected behaviour but it also gave them a good experience as they…

View original post 419 more words

Girthing Myths

I saw this little article last night – All about girths – which highlights how important it is to keep yourself up to date with scientific developments within the equine industry.

I can remember when elasticated girths first appeared. They were the bees knees. Then there was a phase which said elastic should be on both sides so that the tension is even.

There has been the warning for a few years that you should be careful not to over tighten elastic girths, but it was interesting to learn that it makes the saddle more unstable. More controversial then, are those anti-slip girths designed for barrel shaped cobs, which have a rubbery anti-slip pad on the girth, and elastic on both sides!

I didn’t know that girth tension varies with pace: although it makes logical sense because the different footfall sequences will affect the horse’s body. If you lift one arm up, for example, your barrel shifts to maintain balance and muscles around your rib cage contract in order to enable you to move your arm, so this follows through that the horses’ barrel will be similarly affected. In canter, their breathing is also in sync with the stride, so that could help explain the variation in girth tension whilst cantering.

Girths are now much more ergonomically shaped, cutting back away from the elbows, so I guess manufacturers are already aware of the pressure points.

I’ve heard plenty of times that girths shouldn’t be overtightened. And it’s easy to get carried away with rotund ponies prone to saddle slippage, but I wasn’t aware that it affected athletic performance other than the horse being uncomfortable – try running in too small a trainers, or like me still squeezing into your jodhpurs – and unable to take deep breaths that over tight girths compromised a horse’s performance.

I’m not really sure how the average horse owner assesses the tension in their girths, in order to be as close to the ideal 10kgs as possible. I would say that 10kgs doesn’t sound very much though!

I think it’s fairly obvious that men create more girth tension than women. It’s a fact, feminist or not, that men are usually stronger than women, and if you take into account their usually increased height, you can see quite easily how they can crank the girth up.

Even in my limited history of being around horses, which scarily enough is twenty years now, technology and research has made huge advances in tack and the way horses and riders are taught. It’s actually exciting, in a geeky way, to see how our knowledge and understanding changes in the next decade, and the impact this will have on all areas of the sport.

Centaur Biomechanics does a lot of research in this area. It’s a fairly local company to me, and once I’ve swallowed the price of a lesson, I’d be really interested in having a biomechanics session to really see how straight I am as a rider. I’m just off to Google some biomechanics books to add to my Christmas list … I’ll be needing some bedtime reading in the New Year!

Money Saving Expert

After a weekend of tidying up finances – car insurances, phone bills etc – I got thinking of how you can save money, or at least make your money go further, with horses. Who we all know think that we have orchards of money trees.

Here’s a few things that I’ve come up with.

  • Buy in bulk. Last year I bought a pallet of wood pellets in September, at a cheaper price, and kept them in my garage. I took up a few bags to store at the yard every couple of weeks. If I’d ordered a couple of pallets I’d have gotten a better deal. So it’s definitely worth buying bedding and feed in bulk, perhaps share an order with a friend or two in order to qualify for any discounts.
  • Share jobs with friends. Instead of paying livery services, get a rota with friends that you turn each other’s horses out, or dish out breakfasts, which means that as well as saving some money and time, you also save petrol and time in traveling to the yard.
  • Pick the correct livery deal for your lifestyle. If you need more help than favours you can ask, it may be better to be on a part livery yard rather than a DIY yard and paying for individual services. Also, it’s worth weighing up the distance between the yard and your house. If you’re on a part livery deal and only need to travel to the yard once a day then commuting an extra mile or two, to a yard that has a lower monthly charge, may be more cost effective than staying at a yard closer to home yet more expensive.
  • Don’t get too materialistic. It’s really easy to see a new rug, or saddle cloth, and think “oh he’d look nice in that”, or “that will match his boots” … how many saddle cloths do you really need? On a day to day basis, two per saddle is sufficient that you can wash one, or let it dry, and still have one to ride with. Of course, a competition saddle cloth is needed if you compete. In terms of rugs, it’s most cost effective to go with one make of rug and have a turnout rug, with a detachable neck, and liners to increase the thickness of the rug. Two turnouts is probably sensible in case one gets ripped, or it rains heavily. But if the liners are interchangeable between the rugs then you can easily make rugs as warm as necessary without having a huge wardrobe, thus keeping costs down.
  • Plan your purchases so that you know what you need and then you can buy off season, or take advantage of any sales. Like any sales, you do need to check that you are getting a deal.
  • Join forces with friends, and book dentist, physio, saddler appointments to get any discounts, or to save on call out fees.
  • Whilst talking of call out fees, think about when you are going to call the vet. Many vets have zone days, where you can have vaccinations and routine checkups with no call out fee. Apart from the obvious emergencies, sometimes you can end up in a predicament, “do I call the vet?” Or “does this wound need antibiotics?”. At this point, it’s worth speaking to other liveries, or ringing the vet. For example, if you’ve started treating a wound, but it doesn’t seem to be healing as quickly as you’d like, then ask if anyone else is having the vet that day or the following day and if so, it’s worth speaking to the vet to see if you can combine visits. Sometimes it isn’t, because of the welfare of the horse. Likewise if you need a follow up vet visit, a week after treatment for example, then tie in with someone who’s having the vet out in six or eight days time to just save the call out fees.
  • Don’t be afraid of looking for second hand equipment. Often people purchase bits and pieces, yet they don’t fit their horse or don’t suit them. Which means you can pick up quality items at reasonable costs.
  • Work out what jobs you can do yourself, and what jobs need doing professionally. For example, can you wash your saddle cloths and boots yourself by hand and save precious pennies. Some lightweight rugs, like fly rugs or coolers, can go in your washing machine (just pick a day that the other half isn’t around!)
  • Don’t go for the cheapest farrier, or scrimp of saddler visits because it’s far cheaper to prevent a problem than to correct one. Instead, look for the perks like a good manner with your horse or a quick call out time to replace a lost shoe.
  • Shop around for insurances, just as you’d check out the tack sales to make sure you’re getting value for money.
  • Lessons can be expensive, but necessary (of course I’m going to say that!) but riding club clinics are usually good value for money, and if you have a friend who has similar riding aims to you then semi private lessons can reduce your outgoings. Buying lessons in bulk sometimes gives you a discount. Either you get a free lesson, or each lesson is slightly discounted.

So whilst horses are an expensive hobby, there are definitely ways of making your money go further whilst still providing your horse with all their needs.