Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Levade

Yesterday and today I spent some time working with JB from the ground. We reviewed many of the basics with some flag work, tarps, the bridge , hind end releases, shoulder-in, shoulder-out, etc. JB was rusty at first but came around right away. JB displayed some rather animated stunts today on the line. Tom snapped some photos of our session from his horse Cassidy ( got his ear in the photo). Looks like JB has almost perfected his Levade....What do you think???Almost ready for the Spanish Riding School?

After this initial display of "Molto Vivace", JB did settle down and get to work in a nice working trot, reaching and bending. The round pen is still full of snow so I found one small patch of dry dirt in our pasture for our work area.

This is more like the soft responsive boy I know!

I was quite pleased to see the drape in the rein when I saw this photo.

Well, regardless of the training bumps of late, he sure can be a fun horse and a handsome one at that!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Being a Leader during Difficult Moments

You ever have those rides that make you think “why I am subjecting myself to this”?

Last night’s ride proved to be less than what I would consider fun. It was a beautiful clear evening and the sun was shining but it was cold. After a stressful day at work, I was looking forward to riding. JB was busting at the seams with energy and before we even got out of the driveway, I could tell there was a storm brewing in him. JB was less then pleased to go out right around dinner time, but he had hay in front of him most of the day so we weren’t exactly heading out on an empty stomach. Beet pulp makes JB kookoo for cocoa puffs because he just loves it.
As we fish tailed down the road for the 1st half mile in pleasant bone jarring jog/walk, I finally let him trot out. Let him burn off some energy. The fishtailing or ping ponging as I call it, continued. It is a direct result of his mind being back at home and him trying to get turned around to go back home. This is nothing new with him. Frustrating as all get out, but usually manageable. Part of this is related to the herd issues that come with riding a stallion and part of it is that we have some relationship issues to sort out as far as leadership. JB has a very busy mind and keeping his mind with me and the task at hand has been our ongoing trouble spot. Unfortunately, his mind is usually several steps ahead of me.
We bee bopped down the road in a tense trot. He was not thinking forward and therefore his feet were not moving forward.

..."If you can direct the thought, the feet will follow "... I reminded myself… Words of wisdom from the clinician Harry Whitney who I would trust with my horses life. Unfortunately, I wasn’t having much success in directing the thought. I added a little squeeze with my leg with each pushing off stride with his hind feet to encourage a lengthened trot and he would blast forward. I then gave a little squeeze on the rein to half halt and ask him to slow, engage from the hind and come onto the bit some. This give and take pattern continued and I was slowly making progress for brief moments. Ok... We can build on brief moments I thought.
Right about that time, I hear a “clank” of metal and then the sound of the buckle on the boot flopping with each step he made. He managed to catch his front right boot with his hind right boot. We have been having this over reaching problem on his right side since his feet are feeling better . To try to resolve this, I have started using cotter pins with the hind boots to keep him from kicking the buckle loose. Well, some how he kicked the cotter pin right out or it broke and the cotter pin disappeared somewhere into the ditch. No use searching for it. I had brought two extras just in case, thankfully.

I hopped off to get things back in order so we could finish our ride and every fiber in my body screamed “go home , have a glass of wine and call it a day”.

In order to recalp the boot and put in another cotter pin, JB would need to stand still and wait patiently. JB had other ideas. He thought this moment would be an opportune time to play ring around the rosy or something. Every time I would step towards his hind end or bend over to grab his foot , he would step his hind quarters away from me at Mach chicken speed and try to head in direction we just came from . Home.
This went of for several minutes and the situation was deteriorating quickly. He offered to rear and at the same time, did what I call a sunfish. As he reared, he turns his neck and head to the opposite direction of where I am standing and pulls away from me. I feared he would succeed and get away from my hold. Then we would really have a problem. He would have to cross a main road and stood a good chance of getting hit. During this fit he was apparently having, he also managed to kick me during one of my attempt to get a hold of his leg. He caught the outside of my lower left leg. These barbs have very fast little feet.!! Thank god he had boots on otherwise it would have been worse. I realized the kick was out of frustration that I wasn’t letting him go where he wanted. It was a hard enough kick that I developed a good sized hematoma by late last night but really didn’t feel much pain at the time, I supposed due to the adrenalin pumping through me.
I realized I needed to change the program because we weren’t getting anywhere. He was not going to stand quietly for me so I could do what I needed to and we certainly couldn't go on with a flopping boot. For whatever reason, JB was well into meltdown mode like I have never seen before with him.
Standing still for JB has always been difficult. It has a lot to do with his busy mind. When I first started JB, he didn’t want to stand still to have the saddle put on him and would run around in a circle. Harry worked with me on this in a clinic a couple years back. He taught me that a horses feet are nothing more than a means to get his body to where his brain is. JB’s brain was back at home. His feet were moving because he wanted to get home. When a horse is not wanting to stand quietly, our first reaction is to keep trying to make them stop their feet to stand still by popping the lead rope. The feet are secondary. It’s the mind I had to get back and the feet will come.
So, not having a safe area to really work this through (busy gravel road) I had to be thoughtful about my approach to keep JB safe while getting him to change his thought about going home. Instead of focusing on trying to make him stop moving his feet, I allowed him to move his feet but the key point here is that I directed his feet…. in a circle around me. It started out as a pretty furious paced circle, a speed JB was choosing. He was still tense, his head was still held high but I wasn’t sending him around at that speed. An important piece that I want to emphasize is that as he was choosing the pace.My role was to allow that but direct the feet and then offer him a good deal to slow down, to show him that it would be a lot less work to choose to stay with me mentally and physically than try to leave. He was still pretty focused on getting home as he went around me. I am pretty sure that he thought that if he could run around the circle fast enough, he might just be able to launch himself home. Every time he made it to the south side of the circle, he was looking hard to the outside (toward home). He was also pulling on me. Guess he figured that since the launching wasn’t working, maybe he could just drag me home. At this point, in the round pen, I would usually do something to interrupt his thought .In this case since I could see he was mentally checking out, I took my stirrup fender and snapped it, timing it with his pulling on me and looking away, to bring his mind back to what we had going on. It's sort of like saying.. "HELLO, I am right here... pay attention..." In the round pen I might have used my flag or even done a cartwheel to get his attention (really, I have done that) You could do other things too I suppose to capture their attention but being that he was on a line ,I had limited options and the leather was easy to grab. I knew it would be enough to get him to think something different anything but than leaving, even if his mind drifted to something else. I was trying to direct his thought, hoping eventually I could bring it back to me.
Sounds easy enough right? Unfortunatley, the next thing is a crucial point and can be a bit tricky. Watching for the smallest sign that he had a change of thought, even for a passing second. That would be the exact time he would need a reward. After a couple of times of snapping the fender, he finally said… “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS IT THAT YOU WANT LADY??”

AHA!!! His ear flicked and his inside eye actually made contact to the inside of the circle, I had him . Finally he was asking the question I wanted to answer for him.

I said, “Well, dear son, I would sure like it if you would slow down a bit and be here a moment with me”.

I consciously made my body language into quiet relaxed stance (without looking suspicious) I let out a deep breath and talked in a quieter voice to him. I slowed my pace and he slowed, just a bit. I gave a small bump on the lead to cue him to slow more, now that he was paying some attention. He responded with “ BUT I REALLY WANT TO GO HOME “

And I said, “ Yes, I know and we will go home, but we are going to have to go home together”.

After a bit of this discussion and give and take, he walked. I continued to talk and stay quiet and asked him to come around me with a nice bend which slowed him more . As he bends through the jaw, that released his entire top line and he came around the circle with the nicest bend that went from head to tail. He was finally letting go , let out a huge sigh and he finally said, “ WELL , THERE YOU ARE, I WAS LOOKING FOR YOU! I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER"

Usually when he gets here, he begins to yawn repeatedly and tt’s at this point, he is ready to move on. Lesson over. I will mention that just because it worked and I was able to get him back, that doesn’t mean he will stay there with me mentally. Given his state of mind, it was a real possibility that I may lose him again. Nonetheless, JB finally stood quietly and I was able to latch his buckle down and insert the new cotter pin. Mission accomplished, for now. I hopped on and off we went.
We now kept on in the direction we were headed. I had another mile before our turn around point. I suppose I could have turned around right then and everything would have gone fine. I wasn’t worried about sending the wrong message to JB had I turned around. I just wanted to ride a bit with him engaged so well. JB happily walked out and was looking ahead. No more weaving or ping ponging. What a relief. Right about then , there was a lady coming toward us walking her dog and then behind her about a half mile was a group of about 8 bicycle riders coming down the road. I may have made a mistake by continuing!! Well , I got him past the lady with only minor concerns but when JB spotted what was coming at him next, his body filled with tension, his head popped up and I could feel his heart pounding. Here we go again I thought. He wanted to turn and run and frankly so did I. I had to remain calm and be ready for whatever was about to unfold, while trying to keep JB as calm as possible. The bikers must have sensed that JB was nervous by his body language and were nice enough to slow up and talk as they passed, which sometimes helps. I have had other horses balk at bikes and have found that if you can get the bikers talking (which can be hard sometimes) a horse usually can recognize that bikers are people with really weird legs if the biker talks. Not this time. Today, it was too much. JB lost it. He spun around and tried to bolt. In one HUGE leap, we landed with all four feet in the ditch which probably saved us. The ditch was full of about 3 feet of snow. It kind of hobbled his momentum , atleast enough for him to stop and think about something else other than the bikers. By now the bikers were past and looking back at us, probably glad that they were on the bikes and not on this horse. He jumped up out of the ditch and we carried on. But, interestingly enough, he didn’t stay bothered. He just resumed a nice steady walk. Maybe our earlier lesson stuck?
We made it to our turn around a point and I even went a little further. He had settled down quite a bit. By now things were calm enough I was feeling the pain in my leg and apparently he had also jerked on me e hard enough that my middle back was also aching. Twisting to turn around and look behind us (to be proactive with oncoming vehicles) was rather difficult. We managed to get home without any more major issues. I unbooted, unsaddled , brushed him off and gave him his beet pulp. I went in for the evening, glad to have arrived with both of us safe but was left thinking about a few things.
JB’s a stallion and no matter how well behaved he has the ability to be, it will always require me to handle things a little differently than I would with a gelding or a mare. Tonight was a very good display of how JB can turn on the pressure because he doesn’t want to follow my lead. The dominance can come on strong. He did everything he knew to try to get away from the perceived pressure, which was to travel down the road with me and be away from his herd.
As I work toward being his leader that he will happily go along with, there may be some times when I have to step out of my comfort zone. Last night I had to be careful since I was out there in the open, my priority was to keep him safe. If I were in a round pen, I may have handled things a bit different. When JB gets “big” and displays behavior like rearing, kicking and these sorts of things, it is no longer only about being his leader, its about safety. Had we been in a round pen, and he had reared, I would have come in alot bigger as soon as he turned up the pressure (rearing) to meet his pressure. Why? To establish those boundaries of what is ok and what is not okay. Establishing clear boundaries and rewarding at the right time is a crucial part of working with any horse , but it seems moreso with a stallion. Last night, I had to choose my battles he may try this again. With any luck, we will have a few things better established if and when it does.
Now that JB’s feet are feeling better, it's pretty clear that he is showing me some things I hadn’t seen before. Being full of spring testosterone I suppose the desire to be the dominant force is playing into the cards. He is testing those lines with me. Last night, his very strong self-preservation instinct was in the "on" position and he wanted the comfort of his herd. He wasn't too keen on my ideas of going out for a ride and so he tried to go over , around and run away from that idea.The hardest part about all of this? Remembering it’s not personal and keeping the emotion out of it. It’s hard to keep yourself calm and not get angry in these situations. Were not there yet, but I am not giving up. We have way too much to do together.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Long Slow Distance, New Beginnings

As I sit down to pound out this post, I feel a bit weary but it’s a good weary. It’s a weary that comes from pure physical labor. So begins the season of running at full accelerator. Saturday kicked off our spring cleanup marathon around the place which included 3 loads to the dump of wet, rotten , soggy hay. Hours were spent raking, shoveling, fencing, currying, raking, cleaning, sweeping, did I mention raking??? You get the drift. The currying was a moment of weakness when I happened to look over at the geldings. They just looked itchy! They appreciated the gesture and my blisters appreciated the break.
Things are really starting to melt here and as a result things are a real mess. We got a lot accomplished, although it feels like we only scratched the surface. With the agenda full of yard work yesterday, I had to forego a ride but today, it was first on the agenda.
Already tired from Saturdays full schedule, I wrestled the boots onto all four of JB’s feet, only to finish soaking wet with sweat. The sun was out and I was dressed much too warm. By the time I finished getting the boots on and JB saddled up, the sky now threatened a downpour which would have been refreshing but the clouds skittered off to the northeast and the sun came out again. Perfect…. I grabbed my helmet , slipped off my knee high rubber muck boots and into my riding boots, climbed aboard and off we went. Now that JB’s feet are feeling better, he is showing me much more animation, a side of him I have long since forgotten. Todays ride consisted of everything being scary , even thought none of it was anything JB hadn’t seen a thousand times before. Nonetheless, I have to work with him from where he is at , not where I think he should be. Atleast I knew right way what kind of ride we might be in for and he didn’t disappoint.
Vehicles coming up from behind him sent him into a flurry of scurry, even offering a sideways crow hop today. Oncoming bicycle riders were surely horse eating monsters and caused him to let out an ear piercing warning blow that could be heard for miles. (Last year bike riders were fair game to chase). Miniature horses were cause for pause until they moved, and then became the scariest thing ever to be seen. All the talking and soothing by my voice was only barely helpful today. I found that if I could spot a car coming in enough time, I would stop and have JB face the car and wait until it went by. This seemed to help, and surprisingly seemed to help signal the driver to slow down! By the time we hit the first mile, I think I was probably turning blue from holding my breath so many times (not suggested). I realized this wasn’t helping either of us and took a moment to gather myself at that point. Otherwise, how could I be much help to him? By mile 3, things were starting to come together for us. Vehicles coming from behind were no longer quite as scary and he was listening to me and responding to a pet along his neck as the vehicle went by to reassure him that it was okay . I was glad to no longer be sitting astride a jet propelled rocket.
Not once during the 4 miles did he feel like he was getting the least bit tired. This was a defining moment for him and I and our previously questionable future with distance riding. There was no doubt left in my mind after the first few miles that this horse, with enough training time, will have the energy required to complete a 25 mile limited distance. That's a far cry from what I was thinking last fall.
Throughout the four miles JB maintained a nice energetic free swinging, head bobbing , flat footed walk. I allowed him to trot when he offered a few different times but only for short spurts. Last season, he rarely offered a trot on his own and if he did it was a slow trot. Today there was absolutely no pedaling him along. JB would have preferred that the ride go at a lot faster pace today but keeping the long slow distance in mind and also considering his state of mind, we walked most of the way, maybe only trotting a total of a mile of the four. JB had more energy and life to his gaits than I remember feeling in quite some time. I am quite thrilled because with the energy he is displaying also comes hope that I didn't completely have several months ago. He is willing to look down the trail with interest. As far as the spookiness, it 's a little nerve wracking. JB hasn't ever really displayed much spookiness so it's a bit of unknown territory with him but riding a spooky horse certainly isn't new to me. I suspect it will pass because it's not really his nature. It’s likely a combination of feeling really good and the fact that he hasn’t been able to get out and move much. Spring Fever if you will. I would imagine that after a week or two of steady work, this will dissipate and his mind will be a little easier to direct and he will allow me to support him more. It’s like a cloud has lifted for him and everything is new again… if that means I have to endure a few spooks here and there for a bit I suppose that's a small price to pay. What's more important to me is that he is feeling good enough to spook. From where we were last year??? That's huge.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Test Drive

Took a test drive last night on JB with the boots. Hopefully, what I experienced will be the first of many rides like it. The storm clouds were moving in quickly from the West and North and by the time I got home from work, changed into riding clothes, layered with fleece and wool, the flurries had already started. There was no accumulation predicted, it was likely just a passing squall but after the lightning strike that came last year about this time in a supposed passing squall, I tend to be a bit more leery of squalls.

The wind kicked up just a bit but I figured we probably wouldn’t melt. It was moving to the aast quickly. JB watched anxiously as I grabbed his halter and made my way to his paddock. I could see right away he was pretty full of himself. Since my tie post is surrounded by pond 4 inches deep, I had to elicit Tom's help to hold JB while I saddled up and wrestled the boots on. Standing still was not coming easy for JB at the moment. I could see putting on these boots is going to be process of learning how to finesse them on.JB was rather patient with me during this process but by the time all four were securely on, JB was vibrating with anticipation it seemed. With the air full of energy, both from him and the squall blowing through, I opted to heed my own internal voice telling me maybe I should take some precautions given his state of mind. The footing wasn’t going to be great and JB was acting like he might have a few tricks in the plan. I might have to relearn how to ride this horse....
I played it safe and chose to start out with taking him for a walk in hand up the road. By now , the snow was coming down heavily but off in the distance, there was a blue sky. JB exhibited more airs above ground and found every excuse to spook , rear and in general, dance on the end of the line like an 800 lb trout unwilling to be reeled in. After a few discussions about manners on the lead, and putting on one heck of a show for a passerby in a truck, he settled in a bit. It seemed I could probably help him more from the the saddle. I decided to climb on. After the initial discussion about who was captain and who was co-captain, we were off. JB offered a big energetic trot (big for a 14.2 hand Barb) with only the slightest hump in his back! The hump went away as he freed up and got moving forward. Then I could feel him let go in a big deep sigh as he reached his head and neck down. Along with that came a nice reaching trot.
We had to be a bit careful as the footing was muddy in spots and icy in others. The wind had picked up and was now whipping snow in our faces. Surrounded in gray and concerned about drivers not being able to see us due to poor visibility, I regretfully decided to turn for home after only a 1/2 mile. Better safe than sorry but once home, I knew I could ride a while longer up and down our short dead end road, where it was safe from vehicle hazards. JB continued to move out nicely in the boots. We probably only went a little over a mile in total but it was nice to ride a horse so full of energy and impulsion. This was something I hadn't seen in JB for a while while. I also wanted to make sure there was no rubbing with the boots before I considered any future longer distance rides. All things looked good when I peeled the boots off.
I don’t know if JB's improved energy and impulsion was related to the fact that he hasn’t been able to get out and move much with the 3 foot drifts in his pasture, or the fact that his feet feel so darn good in the boots… maybe a combination of both. Either way, I welcome his renewed energy. Welcome back Hot Stuff!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Passing of a Legend....

Just wanted to make mention of the passing of one of the great’s in the Natural Horsemanship. This post is dedicated to the Memory of Ray Hunt. August 31, 1929 - March 12, 2009.

While I never had the opportunity to attend any of his clinics, I have watched videos and read his books, articles and etc . He was , without a doubt one of the best out there when it came to understanding the horses. His ways have been very infuential in my own training and starting colts. One of my most favorite and , in my humble opinion, one of the most profound statements he ever echoed was

Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. -Ray Hunt

The memorial service information as well as an obituary has been posted on the Ray Hunt web site. Please visit for details.
May all of us continue to strive to become the horseman this man was.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Time flies when your having fun. I can't believe the weekend has already come and gone. This weekend found me very busy. Nothing like piling several different things into a couple of days. We had company this weekend , horseback archery friends that came up so they could shoot video for training and form exercises , with the beginner archer in mind. Nothing like a home grown video for entertainment on a Saturday night. It was rather entertaining. There was also an informational seminar that the local vet clinic was putting on. A professor from Washington State University was speaking on lameness and diagnosing various forms of lameness, advancements in technology with MRI in relation to Navicular, etc. Last but not least, we had planned to get the Epic boots fitted with the comfort pads for JB. Since last post and looking at the fit of the Epics along with my vet, we opted to give the comfort pads a go.
While the house was brimming with activity of people coming and going, I managed to sneak away and head to the seminar. It was very informative and gave the audience some new things to keep in mind when looking at a lame horse. I won't go into details but I definitely came away with a lot more tools in the tool box to use in the future when trying to identify a lameness. As a bonus I picked up a few informative laminated cheat sheets that I can post inside my trailer for quick reference for vitals and various other helpful information that evades the mind in the wave of an emergency!!
The most exciting part of the weekend? We finally got the Easyboot Epics on JB all the way around, now fitted with the medium density comfort pads. They worked like a charm. JB was initially tentative walking on the gravel road even with the boots but a few passes back and forth found him lengthening his stride and then suddenly he exploded in a display of airs above ground that would have impressed even the Maestro Nuno! JB literally seemed to leaping for joy, I imagine he felt pretty good. He displayed more animation than I have seen in quite some time. I was tickled pink with the improvement it seemed to make for him. We are officially on our way to possibly being another boot wearin success story! Now, for the ice covered roads.... I think by mid week if the temps stay in the 40's, we might just have that issue licked!!!

First walk with the boots on. You can see it on his face. "I am not so sure about these things....I look ridiculous...Everybody is staring at me...."
Above are the fronts. He is in a size 1. We need to trim just a little off the tongue although they aren't hitting the coronet band, I would like just a little more space there.

Above are his hinds and he is in size 0, again, probably will trim the tongue a bit.

After about 20 minutes walking in the boots and post airs above ground, looking pretty relaxed but observing the pigs next door, wondering, "hmmm.. I wonder if these boots would get enough grip on pavement to chase those things?????"

.....and as for the title of this post, that is what JB wants the other horses to call him now....hehehehehe!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Radiographs are In!!

I thought I had better get this on the blog so there are two posts today.

Last Friday we took JB in for follow up xrays of his two front hooves. Over all very good news in the progress we have made since last September. His left front made the most significant improvement with his overall alignment and angle. The right front had the most improvement in his break over and bringing his heel back under him. (sorry , no pics yet, darn weather!)

The vet was quite happy with what we had accomplished. We had definitely been successful at getting his heels back under him better. The not so good news is that JB’s sole depth had not improved much, still between 6-8 mm on both fronts. The vet believes that his sole depth is probably more related to how JB’s naturally built, which surprises me given what he is. It’s hard to know if it’s a genetic thing but I am suspect of that given his breed. It may be more directly related to the fact that the landscape he lives on doesn’t encourage a lot of sole " "toughening". Our property has no rocks. The footing in which he spends the majority of his time on is relatively soft .Our dirt is sandy loam and we also get a lot of moisture in this area. I had to remember that even our other horses, none of whom have any hoof issues and have more than enough sole, can’t exactly be trotted on gravel barefoot without being ouchy. (I keep telling Tom this is a good enough reason to move to a more desert like climate)
So long story short, given the sole depth, we would definitely have to make sure JB has some type of protection, whether it was pads or boots. Overall, the vet felt we had probably gotten JB’s feet as far as his natural hoof form would allow. I am a bit more optimistic on that. I think we can still make a few more improvements and get him just a little more upright with that heel. Hoof growth slows tremendously in the winter so I would imagine we could potentially get greater results when more hoof grows, once spring hits and green grass comes up. The vet also recommended trying a 4 month trial of Farriers Formula to increase growth rate. We'll have to think about that.
There is a great deal of relief in knowing that we are atleast on the right track with this horses feet.. He sure has been a challenge!
I am working on making adjustments to the Epics. I think they might work after all with some inserts.
Now, if the arctic blasts would ever let up, maybe I could actually get to ride JB in the boots and get some conditioning in!!!

Frosty Freeze

Brrrrrrrr... Don't these photos just make you shiver??

Over the weekend, we suffered through an “arctic event” that blasted the area. As a result, there were no “Photo Shoot” opportunities to get pics of JB’s feet like I had hoped.
Have you ever tried to feed off round bales with a fork while getting through gates and dodging grumpy,hungry horses with 35- 40 mph winds? Well if not, than I don’t suggest it. It had me cursing like a sailor!
The cold blast was supposed to only last only through Saturday evening and let up by yesterday but this morning, the winds continue to rip and tear at anything in its path. Tonight, we are the lucky recipients of yet another arctic air weather pattern to hit the area with wind chills reaching -20 to -30. Is Al Gore scheduled to appear somewhere in the area to talk about Global Warning or something?? Hahahaha!! Seems everytime he is scduled to speak , his meeting gets cancelled to due to record cold temps… The big man clearly has a sense of humor! Ok- enough
Our morning attempt to get to work, aleady behind schedule due to the extra time it took to feed in the hellacious wind, was eventful since all the east west roads were drifted shut. A few braves souls also attempting to get to work the “back way” had attempted the usual bust through the drifts and pray you make it out on the other side without landing in the ditch maneuver (since the plows don’t always show up until later). Unfortunately, this time, it was a bit deeper than they had bargained for and they found themselves stuck. I turned around and had to try 3 different routes , all of which had snow drifts that had captured other victims. I finally back tracked and had to get out onto the main highway, although I was tempted to just go back home and go back to bed. By the time I had gotten out to the highway, it was 20 after and the 8:00 traffic was full on. Oh Joy. Usually I am at work by 7:00 a.m! Here are some photos of what our place looked like over the weekend.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ride Season and Feeding Programs

With the conditioning season gearing up, snow storms and ice notwithstanding , it’s still time to start thinking about the feeding program for the season. While winter has loomed, our horses have been fed straight hay with the occasional beet pulp for a treat and free choice mineral/salt. Last fall, I did a fairly comprehensive review of feeding requirements in relation to digestible energy, calorie in take, etc that you can read about here. ...and I will warn you, I am bit of a nut when it comes to nutrition for my horses...

It’s easy to get lost in all of the mumbo jumbo of KCAL, DE, Calcium to Phosphorus ratio, etc , etc. In my ongoing quest with nutritional analysis, I finally narrowed it down to focusing a just a few important facts. Really, it’s pretty simple…

Low Protein levels (<13%)
Increased Fiber, Increased Fat
Starches that are easily absorbed in the small intestine.
Sufficient vitamin/minerals

There are a lot of articles out there on feeding the endurance horse and there are a lot of blogs out there that have also done a write up of feeding the endurance horse by much more qualified persons than myself, so I won’t duplicate efforts here.
I found that during this decision making process, it was quite easy to get caught up in the myriad of choices available. Each company tries to sway the consumer by coming up with the most eye appealing packaging. The more I looked, the more questions bubbled to the surface. If I chose one brand name, then I was left to decide what the type of feed I want within that brand , such as extruded, textured, pelletized, complete or just a supplemental type feed. I also found that I consistently ran into a situation where one product would have the Fat and Fiber %’s where I wanted them, but the protein levels were way to high, or vice versa. After several head spinning trips to the feed stores, reading feed tags, comparing prices , emails and phone conversations with feed dealers, vets, and so on, it seems that I have come full circle.
As much as I did like some of the products out there and definitely would consider them in the future, I kept coming back to one thing. Whole Foods. On a personal level, when given a choice, whole foods are always better than “processed” foods with the human diet. Why should that be any different with my horses diet? With all the top name grains out on the market today, there seems to be a lot of processing going on. I am just not convinced that is necessarily a good thing. Keeping to the basics, like feeding oats, seemed to make more sense to me and frankly, makes me less nervous about digestive upset. At the same time, I have fed some of the name brand grains in the past, like Strategy, Omolene, etc and had some very good results, so I really did have to weigh all the factors.
I have decided that I will put JB whole oats (yes, whole oats, I’ll explain shortly) with beet pulp, ground flaxseed for his Omega’s and fat and then a daily multi vitamin like Horse Guard. Now, before I go much further, for those of you reading this that are fellow endurance riders, I know some of you might be cringing. I realize that oats really aren’t that popular in the endurance sport but please read on….
I found a lot of information on why oats might not be a good fit for an endurance horses and I did a little digging into this. Oats have been fed to horses for a very long time with pretty good success. As it turns out, the worst part about Oats for an endurance horse is that oats tend to create a bit of a glycogen spike 1.5 to 3 hrs after consumption, also known as the dreaded “sugar high”. They are also not as low in the protein level as endurance riders like to see, but certainly not any higher than some of the other grains out on the market. According to what I was able to research, on average, oats run somewhere in the 12-13% range in protein level. Interestingly enough, the quality of the protein is not considered excellent (adequate amino acids) As an example, if your feeding young growing horses, you may not want to feed oats alone for example to meet the nutritional needs of a growing horse. On the plus side, Oats are much less likely to cause digestive problems because of the fiber content. The part that really sold me on oats is that they have very high prececal starch digestibility, somewhere in the 80- 90%. That is the key when considering starch levels. This means that the starch is digested in the small intestine and that is exactly where it needs to be digested, as opposed to the large intestine. Corn or barley by comparison, is not well digested in the foregut. This is when a horse can run into trouble when starch leaks into the large intestine(colic, laminitis , insufficient absorption of minerals) The sugar high effect of oats I mentioned earlier really doesn’t have me overly concerned because I feel that I can manage that with my horses feeding schedule. It will be several hours before and several hours after conditioning that my horse will receive his grain. I will monitor JB’s highs and lows and adjust as needed if it does become a problem. ….And.. ofcourse, he won’t be getting oats on race days.
One other point to consider is that oats can have an imbalanced calcium to phosphorus ratio with Calcium being on the lower side. This is more of a concern when feeding a large amount of oats (over 7 lbs per day)but the recommendations to keep this in sync is to either feed some alfalfa hay or supplement. Our hay already has some alfalfa in it. JB is also supplemented with Horse Guard and he has access to a mineral/salt lick . My vet feels this is not something to be concerned about. However, I would suggest that anyone check with their vet as hay can be different depending on the area and every horse is different as well.
On another note, Oats can be much more economical for me as I can access whole oats in bulk from a local farmer. I can purchase 100# of oats for $10. The only downfall is that you have to put in a little extra work to go get the grain yourself and load the oats but I can deal!!
When I considered the alternative options of brand name grains, I will still be ahead based on price and ration needed to feed. I will likely feed JB approx 3 lbs (dry weight) of beet pulp per day to JB and adjust as needed. Rebel is a much easier keep so he will likely get less.
In addition to the oats and beet pulp, I mentioned Flax seed and Horse Guard as well. Flax seed is also something I can buy in bulk and would run me pennies a day to supplement. Flax will provide needed Fat and Omega’s. Horseguard is a vitamin /mineral supplement that I have fed for years and feel very comfortable with. It runs about .48 cents a day per horse if you buy the 28 day supply.
If I had decided to go with one of the grains available off the shelf, I probably would have chosen either LMF Gold, Ultium, or the Nutrena Empower product as a top dress with beet pulp. My vet liked the oat with beet pulp or the Empower with the beet pulp choices the best.

So, what is everyone else feeding out there in the great big world? What are your likes and dislikes of your feeding programs

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hoof Boots; The Story Continues

I’ll make this brief because frankly, it's getting boring to even post about and I am just so frustrated with the booting situation with my horse. The Epics came in yesterday and while the width fit was much improved from the Glove, the boot itself was coming up way too high on the hoof, rubbing the coronet band. The sides of the boot where the screw holds the gaiter on also seemed to be in a position in which it would rub him. His foot seemed to sit too far down in the boot overall. We tried the 0 size, which was intended for his hinds , and that was way too small in width. Couldn’t even get the latch to go down. To add, JB let me know right away that it was uncomfortable to him by pawing and picking his hoof and holding it up. He definitely didn’t like the way the 0 size was feeling. I didn’t get to the hind feet as we ran out of daylight but tonight I might try the 1’s and insert the pads from his shoeing last fall. They are about ¼ inch in thickness.

It seems to me that this line of boots are simply not made for a small , round wide hoof. While JB’s hoof angle still needs improving, there isn’t much I can do about the size and natural shape of his hoof. Boots may never be an option for him.

All of this may end up being a moot point after Friday. You may recall JB had some serious issues with a sole bruise last August/September that I posted here.

Last fall, JB was put in therapeutic shoes /pads for 8 weeks, then barefoot for the winter as usual. Over the winter our job was to keep him trimmed and trimmed frequently, focusing on getting his heels back (tendency to slide forward) increase his sole depth, and get a better heel first landing by balancing his weight bearing points.After 6 months, the wanted to xray him again to see progress. Tomorrow is JB’s follow up appt to see where we are with everything. My suspicion is that while we have made several improvements in his feet, we probably need a few more months of concerted effort to get to where he needs to be.