The Frog and Digital Cushion: The Original Double Stuff Oreo

You can see the frog when you lift up the hoof. Upon first inspection, it's immediately apparent that it's made up of a different substance than the rest of the sole and has a different texture and wearing.

While the frog reminds me of a dart in pleated pants; allowing room for the hoof to expand should it binge on Ben and Jerry's, it has concussive properties as well. Let's look at the hoof in a slow rotation. Keep your eye on the frog position, relative to the internal workings.


What you can clearly see is that the frog is located in mirror image of where the digital cushion is. One is the external neighbor of the internal other. Both are placed, anatomically, to help cushion the concussion of the footfall.

Let's look at the hoof from the side.

We can compare two images, side by side, to outline just three simple pieces inside the hoof.

Outlined in blue, we have the digital cushion.

Outlined in green is the tiny navicular bone.

Outlined in orange is the coffin bone, P3.

While this is a cut-away view (in 2D) the coffin bone (in 3D) is shaped like a croissant.

Where you can see the digital cushion, seemingly going "under" the coffin bone in the cut-away shot, it is existing in the alcove of this bone. What's interesting is that the "toe" of the coffin bone, going all along its perimeter out to its wings, is snugged up against the hoofwall, with no cushion under or in front of it.

If your horse had a poorly developed digital cushion and an unhealthy frog, it wouldn't leave much cushion underneath the navicular bone.

For that, we have the new Easyboot Cloud. With the EVA, injection-molded insert pad, we have a new tool for creating comfort in the horse by giving cushion.

Here is a Cloud Pad, after enduring many miles in the exerciser during our boot testing:

While the pad maintains shape and depth (didn't collapse flat under the weight of the horse), you can see that the frog and neighboring collateral grooves were happily molded into the pad. It's nice to see that the pad conformed and supported the varying surface of the bottom of the hoof.

If you are trailering across the US, on the road for the show circuit, standing on pavement at various fairgrounds or simply have a horse that could use comfort all the time, consider the Cloud boot for an "Ahhhhhhhhhh!" from your horse's hooves.

 

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

Giving Your Horse a Wedgie

Some people look at “wedges” and get a bad taste in their mouth.

“Why?!” What horse would ever need those? They look so alien! How can wedging a hoof “help” the lower limb? What is this madness?!

Let’s take a step back and look at a comparative passion of mine: cars.

Namely, how the suspension works.

I am all about the handling capability of a car. Suspension helps the ride of a car (how comfortable it is to the passengers) and the handling of the car (the ability to brake, corner and accelerate).

I recently had the pleasure of driving in Germany. Oh sweet goodness, I could get used to a life with no speed limits. But I would have to learn German. Der sigh!

I think we put 2,500km on this little beast on our last tour through Europe.

We think of suspension as the cushion that eats up the road bumps for us, so that we sit smoothly. Some suspension is “firm” which isn’t comfortable at all, but keeps your tires glued to the road.

The average sedan weighs 4,000lbs. With just a driver added, that’s a negligible amount of additional weight, but cram 5 high school football players into a Honda Civic and the question of suspension comes to the forefront. The car needs to be able to competently absorb the upward shock of a road variance against the tire and ALSO compensate for the 1,000+lbs of human passengers, throwing their weight around in the car.

I bet this thing corners wicked good.

If you’ve ridden in really soft suspension, you can hit a bump and ride a “wave” of sloppy suspension for another few minutes. You can corner and feel the whole car sway under the effort. You feel like you are piloting a land yacht that swims all over the place, not a tight sports car that is agile on the road.

If the combined weight of car and human can come close to 5,000lbs, how does the suspension get held in place? Without going over painful detail: it’s springs. They have finite tops and bottoms and are bound into place by metal. Pretty sturdy? Why yes. They can either be long curved pieces of metal (with multiple layers of curved pieces of metal) that can flex on impact. They can be coil-shaped springs that handle shock on each wheel, up and down. But believe me you: they are locked into place at each end of them, no matter which type they are.

What happens when you lose one of those bolts? Where does that standing tension go? KABOING! That tension is prepared for 700 lbs of resting car (and 3,500lbs of jolting, moving car) to be loaded on that back end. With nothing holding it in position, it’s not supporting anything.

So let’s hop back over to horses. Your Deep Digital Flexor Tendon is attached at a top and a bottom. Your Suspensory Ligament is attached at a top and a bottom. We know what happens when the “leaf spring” fails: we have a tear and a year off.

Here is a kicker: the “bolts” of the horse’s suspension system, should be secured to the mainframe of the horse. What if they aren’t?

If you put a rubber band around two pegs, that are secured to a block of wood, the pressure from the rubber band is met with the pressure of the pegs being fixed in place.

But when you remove the board and the pegs aren’t secured to anything, the rubber band pulls the pegs together and then <PLUNK>, no tension. So your DDFT or your suspensory might not tear (rubber band) but the attachment points, or “bolts” might fail, which is equally as bad a problem: you still have no suspension.

Enter exhibit A: Your horse’s Laminae.

Now, we all know that the Coffin Bone has sensitive laminae sprouting off the front of its wall and that the horn of the hoof has insensitive laminae sprouting from the inside of it's wall. These two lock together like drawer slides and the hoof stays in one piece.

When your laminae is compromised through Laminitis, its grip is not so good. The bad news is, the Deep Digital Flexor tendon is expecting to be bolted in place with enough security to withstand a 1,400 lb horse jumping a 1.2m fence (and the landing: exponentially increases the psi requirement). It won’t tear the tendon, no. Just like your leaf spring won’t break if the bolt comes off. It just falls off.

Same inside your hoof (EEW!) you end up very thoroughly tearing your laminae apart. The coffin bone is like a sweatshirt being tugged by two dogs. The Deep Digital Flexor Tendon carries tension back, which tips it down. The laminae holds it against the stability of the hoof horn, holding it up. If the laminae is weak, it’s like one dog lets go: your coffin bone gets pulled by only one strong side, the DDFT and that sucker will ROTATE.

The age old solution has been: put a wedge on it. This tilts the coffin bone down so that the DDFT, which is tied to the bottom of that, can be given more slack.

Sort of like your arm: a line from your shoulder to your wrist has the least amount of tension on it as possible. When you bend your arm, then tension increases around your elbow, where your tissue is “pulled” around that pointy corner and slightly stretched.

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you have a cable that wraps a corner, like a DDFT wraps around a pastern, you have tension. The best way to relieve the tension, is to try and create a straight line, past the pulley you are working with.

We don’t want that laminae tearing, so the best thing to do is to beat it to the punch and help the WHOLE hoof tilt, so that the coffin bone is supported and the laminae not strained. The DDFT will essentially be moved into as straight a line as possible. This keeps the weak laminae happy and unstrained and keeps the DDFT from having pressure on it, to lessen the pulling. For a horse whose hoof is in so much pain that they have trouble standing, it may look odd to wedge it, as you would think you are furthering an unnatural hoof capsule position and just adding to the madness. Internally, however, you are allowing the DDFT to attain as straight a line as possible = less tension, while keeping the coffin bone as close to the parallel of the dorsal hoofwall, so the laminae isn’t tearing.

And don’t let my fancy Paint sketches fool you: this is the primitive art of a pre-schooler. If you want this done right, a vet will be there doing radiographs and you will have them adjusting your wedge to be the exact angle your horse needs to feel relief. I just wanted to give a simple illustration of when wedges will be useful in a therapy setting, like laminitis.

This is why our newest therapy boot, the Easyboot Cloud, has an accessory for quick wedging.

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

Would A Squishy, By Any Other Name, Ride Half As Sweet?

There are a lot of talented trimmers out there and one such gal is Sossity Gargiulo. I met Sossity during a clinic in San Diego at Arroyo Del Mar. At the end of one of the days, I saw a couple of people dart off to the back side of the barn and, like any barn cat, I got immediately curious and had to follow. Curiosity had only killed me seven times. I rounded the corner and found Squishy in the cross ties, getting a trim by Sossity.

Now Squishy is a LOVELY big boy. He looks like he's smiling, all the time.

If we rewind about six years, this was not always the case. Squishy had gotten lyme disease. Getting lyme disease is not common. Sort of like being attacked by a shark. Then Squishy had resultant laminitis. Like being attacked by a shark on a plane. Squishy had, not one year of battling laminitis, but four years of recurring annual laminitis. Like being attacked by a shark on a plane, while being stung by a bee and then struck by lightning. And you find out later that the pilot was your cousin, and he was blind. Not to say it can't happen, but it's a pretty nerve-wracking series of events that I can only imagine leave you feeling like, "Why me... and why HIM?" I also imagine that Squishy was still smiling.

Enter Sossity, a barefoot trimmer out of Southern CA. If you can imagine anyone more sunshiney and covered in purple-everything, I can't.  A lot of caring farrier work and vet work went into the great boy, but all were having to manage his recurring laminitis and thus, his unstable feet.

Twice he had laminitis in all four hooves. Twice he had laminitis in just the front hooves.

Squishy enjoys watching the clinic.

He was living in his Easyboot Rx boots during his bouts of laminitis. Recovery time was spent hand-walking in Easyboot Gloves. Sossity was trimming him regularly and seeing improvement in his new hoof growth and his comfort.

Then Garrett had prototypes of the EasyShoes in hand and Squishy happened to be one that got to trial them. Shannon said, "His feet were not strong in general. He was either great barefoot, or sometimes he wasn't. Good then bad, then good. It would change." A big change she noted was that he grew great hoof in his EasyShoes.

During his four years of roller-coastering with laminitis, he had had some rotation, some sinking, inflammation and bouts of egg-shell walking. They managed this well in boots, for comfort and keeping him moving. It's amazing to see what the protection and comfort of the EasyShoe, coupled with its flexibility, was able to do for his new hoof coming in.

They say, "No hoof, no horse." I will add to that, "No fantastic hoof work by a hoof care professional and no passionate owner and no specific diet established" and you still have no horse. It truly takes a village to raise a child and a great team of professionals to help a horse. Ernest Woodward, Pete Van Rossum, Mark Silverman, DVM, and a host of others were part of Team Squishy.

It's quite emotional for any of us to see a great horse, back to their job they love and doing it with great feet.

Shannon is back to riding Squishy in Gloves and leaving him barefoot otherwise. The EasyShoes were a good tool, for the growth period that he needed them for. We are happy he has a variety of hoof solutions at his disposal.

Shannon Peters on Squishy: warming up for their show in Easyboot Gloves. With her is Michelle Moon, who is also warming up in Easyboot Gloves, on her mare, Highlight. By Feb 2013, Shannon had 12 horses barefoot and several of her students' horses.

Shannon and Squishy, back in competition. Shannon says Squishy lights up when he gets into an arena. Performing is such a part of who he is. "He gets about a hand taller and he has this presence," she says. She enjoys riding him, thoroughly. He also looks like he enjoys getting back into the limelight.

We were happy to be part of that ride.

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

Dammit Jim! I'm a Writer, Not a Farrier!

I may not be a farrier, but that doesn't keep me from learning about hooves and looking at them.

Everyone who has Googled "laminae" (it’s what makes Friday nights so exciting now that we’re not out clubbing and staying up until all hours on the weekends) will have read that it’s “like Velcro”. It’s the grip between the sensitive bits and the insensitive bits. Sensitive bits are on the coffin bone, insensitive bits are on the hoofwall. They lock together unless your horse gets laminitis… and that’s about all we can conceptualize.

But how does the hoof grow “down” and the sole not fall off? How does it grow “down” past a coffin bone like some sort of demented sock? (If I tried pulling it off your foot, by the toe, it would just keep fabricating at your ankle and never come off. I could make it 10 feet away and that sock would still be at ankle height. TRIPPY.)

(Do NOT study hooves while using LSD. I haven’t done it… but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it would be the stuff of nightmares.)

To answer this question, let’s look at my least favorite fabric of all time: CORDUROY.

Fashionable: Apparently  Logical: NO

Naturally, when designing clothes, the inclination is to create long, lean lines, by running your corduroy fabric north-south, in vertical lines. Nothing is more slimming than the sound of my legs rubbing together in corduroy pants; like a human-sized cicada bug. In fact, I’m pretty sure the cave man discovered fire, because he had attempted to run in corduroy pants and created a blaze from the ensuing friction.

If they could only see the practicality of sewing corduroy in horizontal lines, then the fabric would slide against each other WITH the grain of the grooves. My thighs might LOOK wider in horizontal lines, but at least I wouldn’t sound like a bullfrog in mating season when walking across my living room.

Say no to fashion and yes to quiet legs!

That’s my smooth segue back to laminae: they groove from insensitive laminae to sensitive laminae like drawer slides.

  1. Hoofwall
  2. Insensitive Laminae
  3. Sensitive Laminae
  4. Coffin Bone

I should’ve drawn the coffin bone with a 5-degree angle or so. I’m drawing-limited when I use my mouse. The salient point is: the coffin bone has sprouted its Velcro and the hoofwall has its Velcro. Unlike Velcro, that has 50 million hooks and loops in all directions, we have more of a drawer slide system. Yes, the top rail (insensitive laminae) is locked onto the bottom rail (sensitive laminae) and allows the growing hoof wall to “slide” down the coffin bone and shed out/off the bottom. Or like properly-thought-out corduroy: it can slide in the direction that nature intends; going with the grain.

It doesn't work on pants, but it DOES work on laminae.

Won’t the hoof just slide off then?!?

Have you ever installed tongue and groove flooring? Have you ever snapped the next piece of wood into place and then realized it needed to “skootch” 1/8” to the left? Heaven and Earth can’t get it to move. You can “tap” it with a mallet and quickly find that you need a lot more force than a tap to get it to slide. Why? Because you generally have a groove that’s 6 feet long and there is a lot of friction and resistance to sliding.

Lucky for you, your horse’s hoof is a lot like stubborn flooring. It’s not going to slide down and off without a lot of growth and pushing. 

In knowing that the hoof is a conveyor-belt moving “down”, you have to consider what can stop the conveyor belt or, worse yet, cause it to “back up” at the production from the hairline.

Let's look at the flop of the hoof tubules and the spacing of the growth rings: what can we tell?

While they look like awesome elf socks, they are three patterns of growth rings: even growth, heel-faster-than-toe, toe-faster-than-heel.

You know when you fall asleep on the couch and you wake up with your arm paralyzed? It’s a painful lesson in blood flow as your arm prickles back to life. What we learn is: you can angle something in such a way that the blood flow will lessen or cut off entirely.

I’m not saying your hoof has to be shaped into a certain degree of angle to be healthy, but if your horse is growing lopsided rings: something is out of whack.

Heels growing faster than toes show no toe growth: not good.

Toes growing faster than heels show slow heel growth: not good.

It’s visibly like gathering, in sewing, to me. You have one side bunched and the other out-doing itself in length.

You, as the owner, can look at your growth rings and start the conversation with your farrier. I trim my own horses, so it’s a lot of awkward conversations with myself…most of the time yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”

You can have issues with growth coming in, or lack thereof. The uneven growth pattern of a toe vs a heel. But what happens when your drawer slides start backing up? What if all the growth wants to come in, but what is touching the ground is “in the way”? You can get “pushed-up” sections of hoof. 

Let’s say I trimmed my horse and I left a lump on the hoofwall. I just didn’t notice. Now, she may or may not wear it off. If she’s got any sort of shoe or boot on and it’s not wearing, then she effectively has a lump in her “shoe” and the effect will be the drawer slide pushing back against the new growth.

You’ll see the ripple in the hoof wall. Like a stone thrown in a lake, you can see the pattern of movement by looking at ripples.

Now, as I wrote in the Polishing a Turd blog, sometimes we’re holding on, when we should be letting go. There is probably a bathing suit crammed into the back of a drawer that is waiting for me to let ‘er go too. In hooves, they want to abrade, crack, split and fall off. They want to grow (so that there is hoof at all) only to be worn. When they don’t get worn as fast as they are growing, they speed up the breaking process and flare, crack and split off.

"Tootles! Ta ta! See ya later!"

That horse is going to run into trouble when we keep the hoof from breaking.

You heard me right.

Keep. The. Hoof. From. Breaking.

The heel can flare out and the quarters go wide. The bars flop over. Looking at Cinder’s hoof after Winter:

It’s wider than long: 125mm x 115mm

Anatomically, she’s not wider than long, she just happens to have worn off the surplus toe growth and didn’t wear off the heel growth over winter. You can see a nice tight connection of sole to hoofwall at the toe, but overgrowth at the quarters and heels. When that surplus is trimmed down, she is then 115 by 115, a “round” hoof.

The problem she *could* have is, if I left that heel on and then bound it in such a way that it wasn’t allowed to flare… well then I would be pushing back on her drawer slides, wouldn’t I?

Look at her top hairline here. Looks even and sloping towards the heel. But when we looked at the sole, we saw how she was managing to do that: the drawer slides were pushing down and flaring OUT. If that heel area is not going to wear, it still has to get out of the way. We have a hint of the flare by looking at her hoof tubules and see that they are folding as we get closer to the heel.

We all know that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line:

But we can also illustrate that, the steeper the angle, the longer our line can get away with being. Our up and down line is 43mm, and they sneakily get longer such as the increasing slopes being 45mm, 50mm, 55mm, 58mm, 65mm, etc. until we reach the final line which is 110mm long! The good part is, the hoof “drawer slides” are having no push back. The bad part is, that flare is REDONKULOUS and is playing havoc with the other team players in the hoof: namely the laminae.

Your laminae is like a make-up brush. If it’s short bristled, you have great control and connection. The makeup goes exactly where you want it to and will look great for hours.

The longer the bristle, the less control and connection you have with your brush. It’s going to start out bad and only get worse as the night goes on.

Have you ever seen a washing machine with an unbalanced load? At first it vibrates a little, then it vibrates a LOT and the shift of the load starts worsening and worsening. Your washer starts shimmying, but ends up galloping across your laundry room. Thank goodness there is a laundry room door, or it would get loose and roam your house. Here is a long hoofwall doing the washing machine shimmy.

We know that longer growth in the heels, left untrimmed, starts to flare them out. But what if you put shoes on them and tie those heels into position? Urethane or metal, if you keep that flare in, it’s like putting a corset on your hoof.

You gather in that heel flare and since it can’t go “out” to the side, it only has one place it can go: bolstered upright and spilling out of the top. Remember our lines? We started with a 44mm line and let it slope out to a 110mm line. If you grabbed that line and shoved it back into being upright, you would have this:

When I take a pushed up coronet band and compare it to Cinder’s hoof, you can see the natural hairline slope and how much more pushed up our top guy is. Horses do a lot of forward thrust and not a lot of spinning and brake-slamming. The toe gets nice abrasion and the quarters and heels don’t. Then you add a shoe (urethane or metal. In this instance it’s anything that will hold that heel in place and prevent it from –GASP- flaring. Heaven Forbid!) and you get the drawer slide backing up the hoof wall and pushing up the hairline, like a lovely bosom in a corset.

Here again, we’re going to see an example of the hairline being pushed back and up, because the heels are long and cannot flare out, so naturally, they must push back on their slides. The more vertical lines are dark green. The light green start to show divergence from uniformity, they are starting to bend further away from the parallel: they are longer and looking to escape pressure. They need to fold to “be longer” and stay in pace with the rest of the hoof. The further back the hoof goes, it naturally is shorter near the heel. In the case that the heels are long, they have to go somewhere, they will start bending even further off the parallel. I drew in the “Cinder line” on the right photo. Not only did the horse have the highest push-up in the back portion of the hairline, it was ALSO compensating by letting the hoof tubules fall farther out of parallel with the rest of the growth.

In two ways he’s saying: THIS IS TOO LONG.

Hoof tubules bending to allow more room while being long? CHECK.

Shoe keeping hoof from flaring so it has no choice by to push back up at the origin at the hairline? CHECK.

As an owner, take some time to read your hooves. You might not trim, but you have eyes! Pick up the feet and look for what the horse is trying to get rid of: sole that goes chalky and flakes out with just a hoofpick? You think your arm strength and that tiny piece of metal can flake out sole when your 800lb+ horse, romping around is somehow unable to? Hint: it must not be touching the ground or touching anything or it would’ve fallen out on its own. Solution: you gotta get it in contact with something. That could mean taking shoes off, trimming, adding gravel to a paddock or any number of things. All roads lead to Rome: get the hoof in contact with something that will wear it down.

Keep an eye on your flares if you are barefoot: the hoof is escaping outwards.

Keep an eye on your hairline if you are shod: the hoof is escaping upwards.

Your laminae connectivity will thank you.

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

Retained Soles: Stop Polishing a Turd

Only a month ago, my filly was still cannon-deep in fresh powder.

Summer brings hard-packed, baked-clay earth that chips off flares and wears out toes. Fall brings mud and no abrasion and leaves frogs soggy and thrushy. Winter brings snow, beautiful clean snow. I think snow hooves are my favorite

What I like about snow hooves is the way they seem almost clinically preserved. You can see all your sole-hoof wall connectivity and gaps. You can see your bars. You can see your collateral grooves and the health of your frog.

I went running in the snow in the winter.

The differences between mud and snow becomes immediately apparent as soon as you try running in it. Snow compacts into hard snow and ice. Ice is pretty darned scratchy. I have never been cut by mud, but I’ve been wrecked by snow. It’s not all hot cocoa and 80’s ski suits. Looking at snow hooves, my little filly was definitely showing ample sole abrasion from traversing across a snowy field each day.

Enter exhibit 2, Stella.

What caught my attention first was that she had flaky sole. I could run over it with a hoof pick and get white flake and crumble.

In my super-simplistic view on hooves, I see if something is falling out, falling apart, flaking, cracking, chipping or shedding: the horse is trying to get rid of it. You can look for these little markers and know that the horse decided they don’t want it. So the question becomes, if they don’t want it, why is it still there? It must be being held back.

Now, Stella came with long hooves (let’s look back). Even with her goat feather growing down, you can tell she’s got some long toes. Adding insult to injury, two of her shoes had fallen off, they had been left on so long:

While Cinder didn’t have long hooves and was able to abrade and shed, Stella couldn’t. Same diet, same travel, same footing. One shed her sole and the other retained it.

Those who know me know that I tend to have a story for everything. You can mention train schedules in NYC and I will “have a time when…” something like that happened to me. Here’s one of those seemingly unrelated Holly-jumps, that totally made sense to me. (Of course, because I AM Holly!)

I was looking at a contract plastic mold manufacturer (of course I was!) and they had a guide book for how to best design your mold. Sort of like, “Please read this and we might skip 27 versions of the disaster you are going to ask us to make for you.” One of the things I thought was fascinating was that your plastic would inject in, mold, and have to self-express. It needed to be able to pop out on its own.

Illustration courtesy of www.mdiproducts.com

There were pages upon pages for ratios in height to width to ensure your product didn’t buckle as it tried to express itself. The plastic, being toasty-hot, would expand in the setting-up process and, if the design was right, it would pop itself out of the mold. If the walls were too long, too straight, etc. it would retain the product or (at worst) it would warp while half trying to express and half being retained.

It looked like the battle of my legs trying to get in and out of jeans that were too small. It was going to get ugly.

This got me to thinking of excess hoof wall length and its potential effect on holding in a sole.

The first difference I noted in the girls, was that Cinder had a fairly good line of connection between her sole and hoof wall and Stella had a scraggly gap. I marked Cinder's in color grades. Cinder had a smooth polished connection in the green and light green areas of her toe, spanning out to the sides, I could easily see where her wall was longer than her sole and didn’t have as close a connection. The quarters and heels were starting to flare out, pulling away from their connection to the sold. The bars were slightly too long (not world-ending) and ended up breaking off on their own (I left them alone). Her frog ended up shedding a layer as well.

Stella’s looked much clearer in photo resolution, so I didn’t need to mark hers.

You can see the tiny lines of laminae along her longer hoof wall. The sole has not been knifed, yet has all sorts of dents and dimples in it. It has the dirt marbling of the cracks, or fissures, that denote that section of sole would be flaking and coming out. Unlike my thighs, horses don’t get varicose veins in their hooves. Her heels are taller, her frog recessed by the height of the bar growth and heel height.

Something to illustrate on sole perception: It’s old news. No really, I don’t mean to be funny about it, it’s reading the past. It’s what she’s grown OUT, not what she is growing IN. Sort of like looking at the tips of your hair instead of the roots. You might’ve dyed your hair 20 times and drank a total of 400 gallons of coffee by the time that hair on the end has reached the “end”. My hair grows about 6 inches a year. So hair that is a foot long, on my head, has an age of about 2 years at the tips. Oh the places my hair has been! Same with soles. I don’t scream when I see “stuff” show up. I don’t freak out when the laminae shows signs of stretch. They are the back of the boat, the wake. I am already steering in a different direction. See my next blog on Tracking With Your Laminae, for more on seeing laminae lines when your hoof wall is growing out.

So let’s say your horse has very solid walls, growing down. He essentially has a mold with too steep and confining of walls for that sole to either 1) make contact with the ground to gradually abrade, or 2) to slough off huge chunks of sole, due to them being penned in.

Luckily, the hoof has a mechanism for this: the walls will start to flare and give wiggle room to the sole to express.

On Stella, I didn’t see a nice thick wall. I saw a flared wall, that was thick because it was bent out and ground flat. I saw lack of connection from the hoof wall to the sole. She has connection, but it’s hiding under a layer of dead sole. In my picture above, I have grayed out the hypothetical depth of sole that was going to shed out. I have indicated the beginning of the flare. From the flare downward, you won’t see a tight knit with the sole. It will have pockets and be gappy. That’s just the indication that you’re dealing with old, dead, excess.

You will want to note the large rimmed walls. I have seen people brag about how thick their horse’s hoof wall is and yet it’s not connected to the sole. That’s not the true thickness of your hoof wall, that’s a flare that has beveled itself into an apparent wideness. Almost like a hand of cards, it’s a “Flush Flare”. And the issue with that is, it is a flare. You are dealing with old news. You need to get ahead of the flare to get better connection. Leaving the flare there by not seeing the lack of connection, by not seeing it as a flare, means you are polishing a turd.

Your connection is higher up and hidden from view by your sole being retained. You aren’t gauging how much flare is there. So you leave it. That hoof wall will continue to pull and be strained. With standing on soft ground, your hoof isn’t wearing and you will need to address the hoof walls to help the sole discard. Here is a 16.1h 1,200 horse. He should have the weight and bulk to wear his feet, yet he’s on soft ground.

It almost looks like a decent hoof. At first glance and from across a pasture, you wouldn't think he was doing too bad.

Lifting the hoof up, we see how unsupportive this hoof is.

Looking at Stella’s hinds, we see a sole a bit more like Cinders: uniform abrading of the sole, some wall height that is surplus, less flare and (if the small amount of excess is trimmed) a bar/heel height that is more on par with the height of the frog.

Next time you are looking at your bare hooves and see “nice, thick, healthy walls” but no connectivity to the sole, check and make sure you are not, in fact, dealing with a flare and a false sole. It happens to me every once in a while and I sigh and say to myself, "Holly, you're polishing a turd."

 

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

I Have a Hoof Fetish

The horse has a natural pulley system in its leg. It uses the bone pivot of its fetlock and lower pastern, along with the help of its ligaments to take the brunt of its landing. The hoof itself can expand in the heels and the digital cushion helps soften the blow within the foot. 

A fun fact to keep in mind: The lower limb has no muscles. None. It has ligaments and tendons, yes, but no muscles.

The tendons are connecting muscle to bone.  It comes from a Greek word, teinein, to stretch.

Ligaments are attaching bone to bone. It comes from a Latin word ligare, to bind.  

You can stretch muscles and tendons. Athletes will stretch after a workout, when their muscles and tendons are very warmed up. You cannot stretch ligaments. They are made to hold joints together and bones in place. You will not do stretches to help your suspensory ligament in a horse’s limb. You can do stretches to help relax their tendons. The muscles up the upper limbs and shoulders pull, like puppet strings, the lower limb tendons. They either flex or extend. Extending is reaching, like claws reaching out. Flexing is contracting, digging, like claws into your jeans. If you’ve ever watched an adult cat that still thinks it’s nursing, it will extend and flex its claws over and over. This is what the flexor and extensor tendons are doing in the hoof. They are rotating and releasing the angle of the hoof so that it can land, then dig in and push off. It’s like a cat claw.

Every joint has a center of rotation or range of rotation that best works for it, based on the supporting ligaments, tendons and muscles around it.

The hoof also has a range of motion that it would like to follow.

The coffin bone is hinged against the lower pastern bone. Imagine the ball of your foot (the big pad) and your big toe. Lift up and push down with your big toe. You are extending and flexing, just like the coffin bone in relation to the short pastern bone. Test your range of motion UP from flat on the ground.

You have a no barriers to lifting in what could be viewed as “the full range of motion” of that joint. It’s a bit like a pendulum. Given the right amount of push, it can freely swing from left, to center, to right and back again.

Given its position, you have an expected range of motion.

Now let’s adjust your limb, into a high heel shoe position and ask the same exercise to be done.

With the ankle lifted, you have cut down your range of motion for that joint. The tendons that lift your toe are already in a rotated, lifting angle, by the mere fact of your heel being elevated.

You can’t change one part of your foot and expect it not to affect the other parts.

It would be like adding a wall to one side of a pendulum:

Not only can it not swing widely towards the wall, it will no longer build the momentum to gain full range on its “open” side either.

Let’s look at the hoof:

Forgive my Crayola art; this is as good as it’s getting. What we have here (L to R) is a hoof viewed from the side. You have the coffin bone (solid grey) with a groove in the back that the short pastern bone pivots against (grey outlined). You have a red tendon, that is connected to the top of the coffin bone and lifts it, angling it up. You have a green tendon that wraps under the bottom of the short pastern bone and attaches to the coffin bone which pulls it and angles it down. There are other pieces in the hoof, but I’m trying to just illustrate the action of these two tendons. When one is pulling with a force of “3” the other is releasing with a force of “3”. It’s a push-me-pull-you device. Flip and flop. So when the hoof is digging into the ground, the tip is pulled down by puppet string GREEN. RED must relax and release to allow it to tip down. When the hoof is landing heel first in the stride, the GREEN must let go and the RED pulls. These are your extensor (RED = to extend) and flexor (GREEN = flex, contract, grip) tendons.

Ideally, the hoof should be balanced on its center of rotation, or its pivot point. If you’ve walked with flippers at the beach, you know how tired your legs get with having to lift those flipper toes (and sand) with each step. You can also get tired in high heels, where your center of rotation is balanced on a stem and the room for pivot is very tiny, front to back. How many models try striding down the runway like nothing is wrong and then their ankle wobbles and they go sprawling? You don’t want too much toe out front or too little toe out front, it affects how hard the tendons have to work to keep you mobile.

Let’s look into a hoof to see where our center is. Here is a hoof capsule that was freeze dried with the coffin bone and digital cushion still in place. You can see the deep dish where the short pastern bone would groove into and have a half-pipe ramp to drop into. See that slit? That’s where the band of your Deep Digital Flexor Tendon goes. It attaches into the belly of the coffin bone. If we had the short pastern bone in place, we would be able to see the center of rotation.

But I’m all about spoilers, so let me guesstimate it in green. I tried to visually follow where my halfpipe was as I turned the hoof to a profile view. I then dropped my green circle to the bottom of the hoof to see if we possibly had a 50-50 of mass in front of and behind our center of rotation. What you can’t see (SORRY!) is that the heels were long and would’ve been trimmed. The honest back of the hoof, where the frog and bars and hoofwall all would have met up nicely, was where I dragged my red line. As a rough look: yes, it would be a decently balanced hoof, 50-50 to not put undue strain on either the Extensor Tendon or the Flexor Tendon.

What would happen if the toe was longer? I carried over my same center of rotation, but this time, added in a longer, sloping hoof. Now we clearly see there is a lot out front and not a lot in back. The Extensor Tendon is going to have to LIFT that massive schnoz up in every stride (against the friction of sand, mud, turf, water or other variety of footing) and the Flexor Tendon is going to have to PULL that massive shovel down into the terrain in every foot fall. Not easy on either of those tendons!

And not only do we have those two tendons affected by our trim (or what hoof we take away or leave in place) we have the suspensory ligament and the conformation of the rest of the limb to consider.

Here is the range of motion in my ankle. From a starting point, I have the ability to spring up and down quite a bit. But what if my heel was stuck in the middle position? I would only have half the rotation available to me. What if my heel was stuck in the far right position? I would have my leg column stacked vertically with no shock absorption left in my leg structure. Additionally, my pivot point is now balanced on the ball of my foot and I will have a harder time balancing there. My knees and hips and lower back will try to take up the support roles for shock absorption. This is the primary factor as to why I never became a Flamenco dancer. That and I couldn’t dance…or wear frilly red dresses.

What about negative angles? Just like a long toe, the negative slope of the foot pulls on the suspending ligaments and tendons in my leg into a state of constant pressure.

This is how my ankles feel worked after riding with “heels down” at a trot for extended periods of time. I actually ride with my heel “flat” or at a neutral level, because I could care less about my form and a whole lot more about my Achilles Tendon not snapping off.

Like a horse with a negative Palmar angle (coffin bone base pointing up at the tip and falling at the back) the supporting tendons and ligaments are in a constant frame of tension. Again, just like a long toe, it gives a lot of work to the Flexor tendon to not only come up from being negative, but to rotate up to flat, then to dig in when covering ground at any speed.

In talking with a physical therapist, there are just a handful of reasons that tendons get inflamed:

  • Repetitive activities
  • Prolonged activities
  • Standing in the same position for long periods of time
  • Injury
  • Strain

Barring an incident that actually tears or sprains your tendon, you can have inflammation and damage due to repetitive or prolonged (even at low energy) activities and also from standing in the same position for long periods of time. It wasn’t real to me that horses could be injured just standing, until I thought of their feet. Just like me in high heels, I will get sore legs just standing in them. And when I ride with my heels down, in a negative palmar angle? I get sore then too.

It’s food for thought: if you are plagued by lower limb injuries or inflammation consider the quality of your hoof work and make sure your horse is not left with overly upright or overly sloping hooves.

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

Cloud Pads: Just Reading That Makes Me Feel Happy

I was never a runner. Ever. I was not the person you looked at in the laundromat and thought, "I bet she runs."

When I got into running, it was for the self-serving benefit of being able to eat more. There was no blissful joy of frolicking down mountain paths that made me desire to slip into sneakers every day. It was about Oreos and PBJs. That being said, when I did start running, I wasn't very good at it, from a form standpoint and was hurting myself.

I changed shoes, I changed locations, I changed tempos, I did core work and complementary exercises "for runners". Ultimately, I found I needed to run in minimal-to-no shoes. Been happy ever since. My hips are good, my calves are happy, my Achilles issues were no more, my lower back stopped killing me and the list went on.

My sneakers were great, but they had a lot of cushion. So much cushion that I didn't run with great form on roads or trails. I could get away with really haphazard form and not care. Running in poor form pairs REALLY well with wearing neon colors that blind a passerby: they can't glance in your general direction to see your best gazelle-waking-up-from-anesthesia impression. My sneakers still were great for walking around the house, going hiking, walking on paved roads, travel through airports and tradeshows. Pretty much any place where I would be standing or walking, I wanted my sneakers on. I knew I didn't feel great running in them, ironically, but loved the cushion for pretty much everything else.

That is the inspiration for me in the new Cloud boots. It's the same feeling of walking on sunshine. It's not the performance boot that you can run in, but it's the boot you want to be wearing for 99% of your lazy time. Your horse will want to wear them around the barn, wear them after cool down, wear them on pavement or at horse shows that have stalls on concrete, wear them on hard-packed ground and pretty much all the time. 

The EVA orthotic insert is intentional in its design. Running shoes are built on EVA. It gives it the cushion.

If you've ever taken a straw and blown bubbles in milk, you know you can build up foam. It is the secret power of foam that makes Starbucks a force to be reckoned with. If you can balance a penny on cappuccino foam, you've got the GOOD stuff. EVA is no different. Just substitute your milk with liquid rubber and TADA! 

The magic of EVA is in the FOAM. It's tiny bubbles that are fully encapsulated. The perfect latte. You can ask for the right amount of air-to-material ratio to get the amount of "squish" you want. See, more squish doesn't just mean thicker foam. 

More squish is just more air.

There is a Catch 22 with having perfect cushion: 

1) it GIVES, which is what makes it so dreamy

2) it GIVES, which makes it eventually compress

If you had a barefoot shoe like the Vibram 5-Finger, there is no give. Congratulations! They also never have to be replaced!

Stuff that doesn't give lasts for a LONG time. They are harder rubbers. Winter tires are soft and wear quickly. The eraser on your pencil is soft and if you walked on a tread made of them, they'd last a day. Speaking of which, they should make shorter pencils, because if you make so many mistakes that they've banned you from the pen, that eraser is NOT going to last the life of that pencil. I was a first grade teacher. Trust me on this one.

You have to replace running shoes approximately every 3 months, if you're running in them with some regularity, because eventually your cush doesn't cush any more. Drat. Well, if I were a horse, I could keep my whole tennis shoe and just get a new orthotic insert. Running shoes cost between $90 and $200 dollars. What if you could replace the cush for under $20? Well now your horse can. It doesn't matter if your horse is shod or barefoot: he's going to love wearing sneakers. It's not just that our "soles" like the feel of cushion, it's the way that sneakers are kinder on our ankles, knees and hips. We're reducing the shock and fatigue of the hard ground for every step we take. Thank goodness I don't weight 1,500 lbs!

You know what's nice about an injection molded EVA? As the air bubbles are injected into a mold (not cut out of a sheet) there are no open holes. This means it's great for areas prone to moisture and bacteria. Even on a micro level, there are no Swiss Cheese pockets on the surface of our pads. Our softness specification for our pads is a 35 rating, which puts it on par with a pencil eraser. Our pads weigh a feather-light 2 ounces. Horses will be standing in stalls, standing in trailers, walking around after workouts and being bathed in their Clouds. The last thing you'd want, from a design view, was a pad that held moisture or bacteria.

I am in my 30's and I get comfort from wearing cushioned sneakers. What about retired athletes? What about the elderly? Just as I think any age of human loves comfort, it can be a life-changing difference to someone who lives with a constant degree of discomfort. I knew a baseball catcher who had blown out his knees in high school and always had bum knees afterwards. I couldn't imagine what his life was like, living with discomfort in his knee joints since he was 17.

Horses are the same way.

Some are 47, blind, missing an ear and the soundest and happiest horses you've ever seen. Some have been high-end athletes at a younger age that want the comfort NOW. Some are athletes looking to extend their careers by guarding their assets.

If you were the world's fastest sprinter, wouldn't you be buying the best to preserve your legs? Heck, Dolly Parton's "assets" are insured and I bet she invests a lot in "support". The point being: if you have a jumper, a reiner, an eventer, a barrel or dressage horse... actually, I can't think of a single horse you could have in any sport that isn't using their legs.

Horses don't do discus or javelin throw (although the rider-toss is an ever popular past-time), they are not biathletes who ski and shoot. They aren't driving cars or playing tennis. Horses are athletes of DANCING, SPRINTING, RUNNING and JUMPING. I think every category of riding, including barrels, calf-roping and reining, fits into a blend of dance, sprint, run and jump. That comes down to the tendons and ligaments of the leg and, above that, the hip and shoulder and the health of the spine and neck. 

We invest in saddles and bridles that fit. We invest in icing, compressing, magnetic wave and other types of therapy for the legs. But icing my legs is temporary and being in my sneakers for the rest of the day and for the next week is long-term comfort.

Not to sound corny, but everyone needs these. It would be silly to say "Only actors and actresses should have orthotics," or "Only high-end athletes need to take care of their joints." Actually, every person who walks should be taking care of their bodies, right? If you've ever ridden in the back of a trailer with a horse, you will get exhausted trying to stand up. The minute (or obvious) road vibration, the turns, the stopping and going. Being stuck in traffic with Highway 5 heat pounding overhead and seeping in up the floor. Trailering can be exhausting.

So what if you are "only meeting up with friends for a trail ride". Put his Clouds on. Take that stress off his knees and his hips. Take the road vibration out of his limbs. Take the heat off the floor mats on those ridiculous SoCal Summer days.

Got a mare being sent to stud for live cover? I'm sure I'd be happier to go meet Prince Charming and get home with my Clouds on. Glass slippers are out of the question.

So what if you "only" warmed up, jumped for 45 minutes and then walked your horse to the wash rack and hosed him off. When you pull a saddle, put his Clouds on. Let him sink into his sneakers and get his bath time, cool down time and stall rest in his new favorite "house slippers". 

 

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

I'm Not Big-Boned

We see hooves of all makes and models. Some have tall heels, some have short heels, some have long toes, some have short toes. Do these all reflect trim? Are their bones just that different in shapes and sizes?

Since domesticating horses we have to balance their growth of hoof with their wear of hoof. The less we let them wear it, the more we step in to “help” them. No doubt some of you have seen trims (then left barefoot or shod, but we’re talking about the hoof treatment by the person cutting it back, prior to any other steps taken on the hoof) that made you cringe. More often than not, we see a hoof that looks pleasing to “us” and as long as the horse is sound, we consider it a job well done.

Let’s look at BONES.

And to remove my subject matter from the flame wars of trimming methods, let’s go to a really tame, safe corollary: peoples’ weight. Because if one thing’s for certain, nothing is more exciting than telling someone they could stand to lose a few pounds. It’s right up there with telling someone their trim is awful. What’s funny is, slight deviations in trimming style and slight deviations in “ideal weight” don’t faze us. It’s the larger deviations that bother us. It’s the obese or the bony that catch our eye, likewise, it’s the really scary trims that attract negative attention.

I used to weigh more than I did now. Happens to all of us. I gained weight and luckily lost it. During that process I met people who sympathized with my weight gain. Comments ranged from, “Every decade of life, a woman’s body changes” to “You just like eating ice cream, don’t you?” Not too surprisingly, the protagonists were overweight like I was and the antagonists were fitter people than I was. Which brings me to the “I’m not fat, I’m just big boned” argument.

While we may look greatly different on the outside, frankly, our skeletons are not that different. Yes, I will have a different skeleton than a person who is 6’10” but if you lined me up in an airport scanner with 20 other people that were 5’9”, TSA wouldn’t be able to pick my bones out of the line-up. Except that I would probably be the one doing this:

What about our horse’s coffin bones? If I take a Thoroughbred hoof and an Arabian Hoof and a Standardbed hoof and a Warmblood hoof; how different are their coffin bones?

Photo courtesy of Daisy Bicking. Can you tell which one is a Quarter Horse?

Yes, they are slightly different, but every horse is slightly different. Their ages, what they are fed, what ground they live on, their level of hoof care over their life can dictate variations to the coffin bone. But at first glance: they ain’t that different. I can’t look at these and spot which horse weighed 700lbs and which weight 1,700lbs. Just so you know, that little guy in the front row with the least amount of palmar process (sticky-outy-bits) was a baby.

Photo courtesy of Daisy Bicking.

But if the variety of horse, their intended function, their height and weight can be grossly different, how come their coffin bones aren’t grossly different?

Photo courtesy of Daisy Bicking.

There are two points I am trying to make:

1) No two coffin bones are the SAME.

2) These coffin bones aren’t grossly DIFFERENT.

To draw out my obvious conclusion, no two trims will be the “same” and should suit every horse. It is custom to that horse and how IT moves, on the terrain IT covers and with regard to the hoof IT grows from the diet and exercise IT is on. Conversely, there isn’t room for the scary trims to exist by reason of, “His bone structure is just different”.

Is there room in logic for this variety of hoof trims?

How about for this variety of solar prints?

And there are exceptions. A horse that is growing out a new hoof capsule after an acute case of laminitis, a chronic case of laminitis, a hoof injury, a metabolic crash or a horse that has a modified coffin bone due to a hoof pathology would have hooves that looked different than the norm. But I get my panties in a twist when I see a horse (that has no past or present health issues) not moving freely and soundly who has scary-bad feet.

Each owner should understand the basics of hoof anatomy and have a heart-to-heart discussion with their trimmer or farrier if they think they are too far off the path. Especially if your horse is not sound. In my next blog, we’re going to look at suspension and how the trim can adversely affect the suspending structures of the lower limb.

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!

Cattle and Deer and Alpacas: OH MY!

You know when you’ve been at a tradeshow for a few days, the first thing you want to do when you get home is pack up for a race right?

Garrett, Kevin and I had a fantastic time at the International Hoof Care Summit, sharing new product prototypes and hosting gluing contests for all walks of farriers.

Garrett had a couple of horses that he wanted to get through a 25 miler and invited me to ride Djustify, a talented 4yr old chestnut.

I met Djustify while riding with Garrett and Lisa in one of the washes in NM. I was on Durham, a bay gelding of theirs and Lisa was on Djustify, so I got to watch him from an exterior view for much of the ride. We happened to have with us a particularly spunky pony, who was loose.

If you’ve ever taken a baby or youngster with you and intended to turn them loose, you know you’ll have to be up for pretty much anything. What were NOT expecting was our happily loose pony to go rogue and try herding us and racing us. Where did the winter-wooly portly pony go? We were left with a wild stallion who darted off into bushes, assessing danger and then bursting back through the brush to herd us into a tidy group.

Halfway through the ride Lisa and I switched. We swapped saddles on the two horses and I was now on Djustify. He was very forward yet very controllable. I had a hard time believing he was 4. Even with a loose horse and other riders ahead or surrounding him; he was super sane.

Of course I wanted to ride him in his first race.

We drove out to NM and landed late in the evening. We popped up corrals in the dark and watered and fed the boys and went to bed. Early morning saw a beautiful sunrise over the grass-riddled desert and I couldn’t help but get some pictures.

We vetted in for the 25 amidst the milling 50-mile starters. Djustify was at 36 heart rate and didn’t get frantic if his buddy wasn’t near him. He was soaking it all in.

Garrett had glued a new prototype boot, the Slipper, on the front feet of his ride, Nouveau. We would be putting Mueller tape and Gloves on his hinds and the same on all four of Djustify’s feet. Garrett had also drilled holes in the boots to add in Equi-Pak Soft.

Djustify, rocking his cushion-filled Gloves.

He had already done a pour-in cushion with Shufill Urethane Medium for Nouveau’s fronts when he applied the Slippers. (Note, this product was given to us just days before at the International Hoofcare Summit by Stephan Van Der Heijden of Glue-U, who says this product is a hybrid that works well in cold and sticks to the hoof. It is different than their other sole product line which are silicone.)

As you can see, the Slipper is the love child of the Glue-On and the EasyShoe Performance.

Tacked up and race started, we stayed at the back and walked to warm up the horses. We picked up a jog to loosen them up and then picked up more of a working trot. Quite soon, we were in the front. This wasn’t meaningfully in the front, as we were treating the day like a training ride.

We hopped off at water troughs and got Djustify used to the pleasure of being cooled on the trail, albeit, I was just scooping water onto him with my hands. At one point, Garrett used his helmet as a scoop and the amount of water made Djustify’s eyes light up. YES PLEASE!

We alternated leading and the 4 yr old surprised me again with being a very forward and spook less youngster. I have to say, horses off the track have been ridden a lot! You have to forget that mental age as they are big boys now with a job.

We walked up a canyon and then hopped off to hand-walk them down the other side. Mounting and dismounting on the trails and scooping water and hiking were all part of the job and Djustify was going to see the support that his rider-mate would offer him during a race.

Practicing leap-frogging on the trail so both horses could pass and be passed.

It was rocky too. I was off walking and having trouble not rolling my ankles in my little, leather, heeled riding boots. I was watching Nouveau’s hinds and marveling at the way the tread capably covered the rock strewn ground. It was also neat to notice that they didn’t “pound” the ground blindly.

 

I could see when Nouveau stepped on a rock directly and would not put full weigh on the foot and sort of softly go over it. He could still feel the terrain and take care of his soles, which was nice to see.

Hopping back on, we climbed back out of the small canyon and headed into camp.

Sure, she's a fixer-upper, but look at the views!

We vetted through wonderfully and let them roll. Djustify was trying to figure out if we were done. How is this a group ride when everyone is coming and going? Am I done? Where are THEY going? I sponged off his saddle grime and got the sand out of his nooks and crannies. He then settled into eating his mush and diving into his hay. This is not a bad deal.

"Where are they going? This is the strangest training ride."

We stayed in camp a few extra minutes, as we weren’t in a rush (read: I don’t really keep track of time and I wanted to wolf down a yogurt before I saddled up). When we left camp, Djustify was so excited that he twirled a bit while I was getting on. Rather that, than a horse that doesn’t want to leave camp.

We hit the trails with a plucky trot and took turns leading again on the single-track that followed the ranch fence line. We had seen no real wild life, but were now approaching a pasture of cattle. I don’t know about you, but reading cattle is dicey. I can’t tell if they are happy to keep sitting in the shade, or they are going to stampede. They have the same look either way: intently watching horses, totally frozen.

Nouveau saw them first and gamely trotted up the next rise. Djustify saw them and his instinct was to do the baby thing: stop and face the cows and assess. It would’ve been a stand-off, as the cows just stand and stare too. So before he could decide to have his OK Corral moment, I headed him up the hill after Nouveau.

We saw deer next, with not much fuss, even when they left. The footing was getting better, but randomly deep where there were odd gopher holes. They say everything is bigger in Texas, well the gophers in NM must be the size of small cars, because these mounds were impressive. I was equally impressed that I didn’t pop off any of my Gloves and they didn’t collect dirt.

Garrett and Nouveau on Loop 1. I was digging the tread pattern on his Slippers and Gloves.

We turned a final corner on the fence line we were following and were about halfway through the loop and officially “heading towards camp”. As the trail left the single track and picked up on the wide road, Djustify dug in and wanted to canter. Picking up an easy lope is really enjoyable on a racetrack horse. They really know how to use their hind end and know how to do lead changes nicely. They work one side of their body and switch gears to the other side when needed.

We came over a rise and Garrett asked me what that was in the distance. Not having glasses on, I hadn’t the foggiest. I had to get relatively within distance to note that it was two, lone alpacas.

"I didn't choose the alpaca life, the alpaca life chose me."

One circled around and came between us and the 2nd one. We immediately understood that he was the male and she was “his”. Garrett slowed up to a walk, but the look on Nouveau’s face read, “If that thing comes any closer, I’m getting BOTH of us out of here.”

Our intrusion lead the alpaca to snake his head down and then the ears went back. He started jogging in a flat, confrontational manner at us. Garrett made a few whoops and hollers at him and it was enough to deter his charge. He turned and pranced back to his missus with his head held high. I might've gotten a picture of him at the beginning of his dance, but I got both hands on the reins and ditched the pictures once he started coming our way.

We get it buddy. She may be 87 years old and missing a tooth, but she’s the only female in all of the ranch and she’s YOURS. You can have her. Djustify thought it was all so exciting.

Cattle and Deer and Alpaca: Oh MY!

We hit the final water trough on the trail and he happily cameled-up.

We now had oncoming traffic from horses leaving on the 50-miler loops and he did great with that. He saw the white trailers and camp in the distance and I could almost hear his thoughts, “Snackie time! Holly is going to sponge bathe me! I get mush! I get to see the vet! I get rolling time!” Everything is so exciting to a happy horse, or maybe all my internal monologues occur in that tone.

It’s really nice to take the time to ride a race right, to ride a race for the horse, to let it be his introduction to the world of distance riding and to make it leave a sweet taste in his mouth. We strolled across the finish line and pulled tack as we passed the trailer. We walked to the water trough at the P&R area and let them have a drink, then P&Red to officially finish. Djustify was at 40. With his vet check and trotting out and back, he was still at 40. What a guy! All vetted through; we let the boys have a celebratory roll. We finished in 1st and 2nd and both horses looked absolutely ready to go out again.

All four Gloves still looking pretty.

Djustify drank eagerly and dove into his food. I could tell he thought he was actually still racing and he was tanked up and ready. I laughed and let him know we were done. The look in his eyes said, “Please, one more loop!”

"I think we're still going out again. Other horses are doing it!"

I was happy to report we lost no boots and had no sand or rock accumulation in them. We also saw a number of people using Easyboots and Easyboot Epics on their horses. One guy had Epics on over the top of his shod hooves, as he knew the trail was rocky and wanted solar protection. He had done the first 2 days of the race and was on his 3rd 50-mile day. I really loved seeing Garrett meet up with people and answer questions about boots. If our ponies were happy, their ponies should be happy.

Djustify and me.

Until the next ride!

Winter Hydration: Don't Eat Yellow Snow

Seeing the snow fall is a magical part of Winter for this California girl.

Rain brings winds and shivering ponies, but snow, snow is perfect. My girls are happy and “blanketed” in fresh snowflakes and their fur is all puffed up and insulating. Nature seems to provide a perfect balance to the elements.

They have a tree, which they prefer to stand under even though it’s nothing but twigs and branches right now. They also have run in shelters, but seem to only go in there to poop and then flee from the “dangers” of the cave.

What this Cali-bred horsewoman hadn’t yet experienced was WINTER. ACTUAL Winter. Having lived in California and Texas, I only saw snow on super rare occasions and the sighting of flittering flakes was akin to seeing a unicorn. All cars stopped in the middle of the road and dozens of zany LA-creatures frolicked for moments of chilly bliss before regaining their senses and getting back into the cars. The “Snow Incident of 2004” was probably an 1/8th of an inch of flurries that never even hit the ground. It likely lasted 12 minutes. We still talk about it.

Now I am in a “winter wonderland” and I get snow almost every week. It’s still wimpy snow by REAL Winter standards, but it brings temperatures that are consistently below freezing and now I get the real joy of being a horse owner: Water Trough Vigil.

Oh. My. Gosh. Doesn’t that just look like LOADS of fun?!

I get to break ice every morning and some mornings I bring a gallon of hot water to kick start the ice thaw of the day. By about 10am, the water is sufficiently “thawed” to not rebuild a crust of ice. This brings me to the point of today’s blog: WINTER HYDRATION.

Horses lose water in several ways: Sweat, internal processes, respiratory systems, urine.

Sweat is the coolant system of the body. When the internal temps tip too high, perspiration is increased to keep the skin wet and offer “chill” on the skin. A relatively sedentary horse, during winter, doesn’t sweat all that much. Ol Bessy just lumbers around her pasture and eats hay and hits the water trough and calls it a day. If she does sweat, it wicks off quickly and might go unnoticed.

The urine process can slow if there is not enough hydration present. This results in a bit of extra work for the kidneys to condense the urine and “save” some of the water for the body. Not ideal. You can check for coloration of urine: the darker it gets, the more concentrated it is. Lighter and creamier is ok, but something akin to coffee should be seriously looked into.

Internal processes include the digestion of forage necessary to keeping the body warm. Lacking water would be bad.

This leaves a mondo category that might be overlooked: water loss due to respiration. Horse lungs are MASSIVE. They require a lot of fluids to maintain tissue moisture levels. Lungs also account for 20% of cooling in mammals. The bigger the lungs, the more temperature exchange is occurring. If you have a horse with little meat on its bones, you have less insulation to keep the lung tissue toasty. You end up with a quadruple whammy: lungs are cold, lungs are cooling off the body, water loss due to breathing, water loss due to heating the body up, water loss means drinking more water, which in turn uses more energy to heat the water. No wonder hard keepers can be especially hard during winter months.

I’ll admit that my fat stores are saved below the belt. It’s handy that my legs don’t get as cold when I run, but I do find that running with a vest on helps keep my lungs “warmer” and I can warm up faster into my run. If I don’t have something warm on up top, my lungs struggle to heat up the air as fast as I am breathing it. It’s sharp and cold and struggling. Generally my whole “engine” needs to warm up before my lungs, hands and toes are warm and comfortable. I short-cut this time when I run in a vest as I am losing less heat through my lung process.

Drinking ice cold water uses calories. Not very many, but it takes about 1 calorie per oz to heat up to body temperature.

A horse drinks roughly 7 gallons of water a day (5-10 gallons is the swing). That’s 896 ounces thus the same amount of calories to heat it up.

Considering my horses will be fed roughly 20,000 calories a day or more (grass hays are about 800 cal per lb and each flake of what I am feeding now is about 6 lbs and they get 4 flakes a day each) maybe 900 calories spent in merely drinking water isn’t that big of a deal. If you have a hard keeper, this might be a HUGE difference.  The half lb of grain you feed a day would be going straight to water heating and nothing to the rest of your horse’s body warmth needs. I feed the two year old a scoop of extra grain mix to give her a boost, as she’s not as “layered” in meat like my petit walrus, Stella, is.

Comparative feed chart

Why and how to calculate your horse's daily caloric intake

Your thirst perception is also diminished in cooler weather. Having ice water in the trough is even less appealing. We don’t want our horses to skimp on the water because it’s downright painfully cold to drink and “I’m not thirsty anyway.”

Depending on how cold your Winter will get, will determine how aggressive your tank deicing needs to be. You might be lucky, like me, and just need to break ice in the morning and add a gallon of hot water and let the day do the rest. Some people put a floating ball to break surface tension. Others need heaters, insulation wrapped around the tanks or practically have to build a walk-in greenhouse in their pasture, for the tank to capture light from the sun and be protected from the ambient temperature of the great (and freezing) outdoors. Some add salt (roughly a tsp per gallon) to lower the freezing temp of the water. You’d have to test the flavor and make sure your horses were finding it palatable! But for some, that has kept the water from freezing in moderately frigid temps. Probably not as dependable for people going weeks below freezing without break.

Or you can just throw a Husky in and let him do the ice breaking.

Aside from keeping your water accessible (no surface ice) and a slightly tolerable temperature, I like to also bring warm water to the barn in the morning and I pour it over their “crunchies”. If they get morning mash or any type, or pelleted feed, I like to make it toasty and mushy from the get go. I feel it helps with digestion to break apart the pellets and deliver them wet and near body temperature. They have never complained.

"Steaming crunchies?! Yes please!"

Another facet to bear in mind is water retention in a horse. Horses, like humans, need salt in order to retain water. Having a salt lick and a mineral lick around is not just a summertime need, it is crucial in the winter. My girls “liked” the multi-mineral salt lick they had in the Summer, but they “love” it now. I actually just replaced it.

Just like a horse’s weight can be “out of sight, out of mind” hidden under their furry coat, their hydration levels might escape notice. You can feel ribs and you can check neck tenting as a rough hydration gauge. Be a hands-on owner all year, but especially in Winter.

 

I don’t always drink tough water, but when I do, I paw through ice and guzzle it in sufficient quantities. Stay thirsty my ponies. Soon Summer will be back and we won't be able to keep them out of the troughs.

 

Holly Jonsson

easycare-sales-director-holly-jonsson

Director of Sales

Through a lifetime of "horse crazy" and the fortunate experience of riding nearly every shape and size of horse, I got to see a wide array of hoof shapes and sizes. No Hoof, No Horse is very true to me. I want to ensure that horses on every continent have a variety of footwear to pick from, to ensure the best match is found. I want your partner to be happy from the ground up!