Transition Tuesday's Back Y'all!!

Ok well it's not exactly Tuesday but it was written on Tuesday so technically I'm not too far off. Kevin Myers began the series, Transition Tuesday, some time ago. Kevin chronicled not only the transition from shoes to barefoot with their horses, but also the transition for himself and Rusty. It was informative and sometimes hilarious. Unfortunately, you won't be reading about the greased pig effect of silicone and Gloves during MY transition, but I hope there will be something of use for someone! 

While I know most people who read the Easycare blogs are already barefoot and well on their way to success, there are others who have yet to or have just made the decision to yank the shoes off their horses. It's a scary decision if you're new to barefoot/booted riding, but once made, rarely will you go back. The decision is much less scary when you've done it before, but there is still a little anxiety as to how this particular horse at this particular time will handle the transition. 

nero

Meet Nero. 

Nero is a 9 year-old CMK gelding. He has 1,820 endurance miles. All shod. He is in his prime and absolutely *loves* his job. I'll be taking Nero on for the next year, and hope to add many successful endurance miles to his record. Of course, these miles will done booted. I can only hope to do this fine horse justice. 

Nero came to me in shoes, set about six weeks prior. He was off, right front, with no discernible reason. Upon close inspection, I came to the realization that I couldn't really fault his shoe job. While I obviously don't shoe my horses, if I did, I would want their feet to look like Nero's. His heels were nice and open, the shoes were set wide, and his break-over was very nice considering he was six or more weeks into the set. Setting the foot down, I noticed that there were no flares and his coronary bands were very straight and not pushed up like I see a lot of shod and even barefoot horses. This says a lot for the trim he was given prior to shoeing. 

nero

That all said, I could see exactly what we'll be working toward! Given that he was so many weeks into the shoes, he had a lot of foot growth. It is amazing to look at a hoof that hasn't been trimmed in that long and see how much growth there is! I can totally see why people new to barefoot worry about the "look" of a barefoot hoof. It is so much shorter, overall! I will be sorry to tell his mom, but our boy will be a bit shorter when this is all said and done! That's ok, he's a little tall for me anyway :) 

nero
shoes

Unfortunately, none of this gave much reason for his lameness. I could only hope pulling his shoes helped, but at least I knew pulling them wouldn't make him more lame, or I hoped anyway! Luckily, I married the right guy for this job! My husband, who is an equine veterinarian, came out to take a look at Nero and help (help meaning do) pull his shoes. He noticed right off the bat that there had been a nail set on the outside of the right front, much higher than the rest. Nero was obviously uncomfortable when pulling that side of the shoe off, and settled when the nail came out. He also had some slight separation of the white line at the quarters, and had a funny looking crack along the toe that may have had too much pressure from shoe and dirt, and could have been causing some soreness. At this point, it's all speculation. Time will tell. 

nails

nero

After pulling Nero's shoes, I very lightly rasped the walls to round them, and headed back to the round pen. While I know he needs a trim, I like to give them a bit of time to settle without changing everything all at once. As for that day, wouldn't you know Nero was SOUND! Sound and sassy - a great combination! He was turned out on the hills with the other two boys the next day, and I will be doing a real trim on him in a few days.

While this isn't the best time of the year to transition due to the fact it's about the freeze and get REALLY hard, we'll do our best! Throughout the winter, I'll be writing once a month about our experiences getting Nero going from shoes to boots and hopefully completely barefoot as he lets us know he's ready. This is the fourth horse I'll have transitioned from shoes to bare, hopefully the fourth SUCCESSFUL horse! This horse has incredible feet and incredible abilities as an athlete. I cannot wait to see what Nero can teach me through the process. 

nero

Stay tuned for more Nero. I can't get enough of this face, can you? 

nero

Next time: why you should buy Easyboots instead of crack. Oh yes. There are many reasons. 

Happy Riding! 

~ Amanda Washington
SW Idaho 


Darn, I Wish My Horse Didn't...

Have you ever thought, "I have spent umpteen hours transitioning my horse to barefeet, fitting him for boots, fixing his body, tweaking his diet, saving up for the best tack, and yet he still" (choose from the following):
  • Shoves me for attention; or
  • Won't stay out of my space; or
  • Jerks his feet away when I am picking them; or
  • Snaps at me, when I put on the saddle (make sure there isn't pain); or
  • head bobs on the cross ties, etc.

Most of us have at least one equine behavioral peeve that we would love to get rid of. And no matter how much you love your pony, having your horse turn into a giraffe during bridle time is just no fun. Yet most of us never take the time to train away these nuisances. For some, it's easier to smack and yell at the animal; but the next day, the behavior is still there. For others, we just don't know how to train him to stop it or chose another pleasant behavior.

Peanut learns to trust again.

Peanut learns to trust again.

Peanut, a Palomino TWH, was so severely harmed in training that he refused to let anyone touch his head. He failed Field Trial Training, returning home with deep halter/bridle sores. When Sara met him he was beyond head shy. It took one week with a few, short lessons each day of clicker training to turn Peanut in a halter-lover. By the end, he offered to drop his head into the halter! Peanut is Sara's first and only horse.

Whether you are into barrel racing, classical dressage training or something in between, I have found that using a marker signal, click, combined with positive reenforcement, a treat, to be a skillful way to work with horses. Coined Clicker Training is the go-to tool in my equine training tool box. You can use clicker occasionally, sometimes or all the time; you chose. There are ways to tell you horse, "We aren't playing clicker now."

Panda, the seeing eye mini horse

Panda's job is a guide (mini) horse. She was trained by Alex Kurland. Her story is now available. All her photos by Neil Soderstrom.

When I found my Sunny (OTTB) at a rescue, I realized pretty quickly that he knew next to nothing. He loved people and wanted to be with them. Beyond that, he was a blank slate. Like so many racehorses, he was muscled and threatened, not trained. A pocket pony was just what I wanted this time around, a best friend. But, a friend with manners and one who lived by the ground rules.

I had some clicker experience training my last rottie, Lily. But as we all know, horses are not dogs. I called my friend, Katie Bartlett, requesting that she bring me up to speed in equine clicker. Katie has been working with Alex Kurland for over ten years. In my opinion, Alex is the premier clicker trainer of horses. She teaches throughout the world and her kindness and patience with horses is without bounds. Just seeing some of the horses she has brought back to sanity will warm your heart. No horse is too far gone. Her introductory DVD will give you a clear understanding of her training style. Whether you are a 50 year old first time horse owner or a competitive rider with a couple of challenges, this training can help you find solutions that work for you and your horse.

I am delighted to say that both Katie and Alex have barefoot horses too. Katie trims her eight equines that range from a mini to a Shire.

Alex often uses people as horses for demonstration purposes.

In a 2008 clinic, on the right, Alex Kurland, as Human, demonstrates a cue that carries through much of her clicker training. In the foreground, as Horse, Laurie Higgins.

A year ago, Katie agreed to take on a pony, Stella, from a rescue. The rescue could not adopt her out because Stella's answer to everything was rearing. Punishment only upped the ante. One of the reasons that clicker training works so well with difficult horses like Stella is because it changes up the game. Clicker training was unfamiliar, more like a game. Stella was glad to play. She had no bad memories of touching a target, for instance. As time passed, more typical horse behaviors like foot care and leading were reintroduced in the context of the now familiar clicker training. These days, Stella is handled like the a regular horse; she is back on track to becomeing a model citizen.

The new, beautiful Stella

Many positive behaviors are demonstrated in the new and relaxed Stella. Relaxed trot. Head at withers or lower. Soft eye. Nice bend on the circle. Previously, any long lining or longing activated her rear response. Look at her now.

It occured to me when watching the new movie, "Buck", that the spoiled stallion that was sent home to be euthanized, could have been saved. With the right, patient person, clicker may have been an alternative.

Clicker was an overlay for teaching my horse ground manners, ground work, in-hand, trail riding preparation, and now, classical/kind dressage. Although surrounded by some of the top riders and trainers in the world (based in nearby Unionville, PA), I decided against sending him to a professional. With the help of Katie, Alex and other resources, I decided early on that Sunny and I would do this together, slow though it might be. Clicker training made it possible for me, an ordinary horse lover and owner, to turn a racehorse into a well mannered companion horse. For us, 'training' continues to be an ongoing process.

Backing with a rein lift. No pressure.

Here (2008), Sunny is backing from a lifted, near rein cue. There is no pressure on the bit. The movement is offered by the horse, not demanded by the person. Introduced first in-hand, I then re-taught it from the saddle. Now, 2011, he easily reads my body language when working in hand or at liberty.

Every journey begins with the first step. For Clicker, the first foundation exercise is Target Training. I think of targeting as a chance for the owner and horse to learn a common language. The second lesson is teaching good food manners. In typical Alex humor, she calls this lesson, "Quiet while the grown-ups are talking." There are a few more foundation lessons that will help turn your horse into a well mannered, curious learner and turn you into a stellar trainer. After that the sky is the limit.

The Foundation Lessons:
  1. Targeting.
  2. Quiet while the grown-ups are talking.
  3. Head Down, the calm down exercises, taught several ways.
  4. Backing.
  5. Happy Face, ears forward for grumps,
  6. Mat work, the clicker form of ground training.

The first offer of a target.

The first offer of a target.

Target Training is how I introduced clicker to Sunny. At its most basic, the target is something you want the horse to touch with his nose. I offered a target, my home-made wand: a short dowel with a tennis ball on the end. TThis toy/tool has no bad associations. When Sunny touched the target, I clicked and rewarded him. The click means "Yes, that's the behavior I want," and the food reward, reinforces the behavior: click and Treat (C/T). Most horses are curious and learn quickly. Everyone I have met is astonished to meet the genius hiding inside their horse.

Target the bag

Can you touch and grab the oat bag?

Of course, initially these horses didn't know the click meant "Yes!". It was just a noise. During the training of the first foundation exercise, targeting, they figure it out. The click is fast, simple and can't be confused with words or other noises you use. After a few weeks, when each horse is clear about the new language, many of us change from the mechanical click you buy at the pet store to a mouth cluck. I get a cluck by putting my tongue on the roof of my mouth. My click is always with me. 

And bring it to you!

Can you bring me the oat bag? Floppy oat bag on windy day: Desensitized. On occasion I can get him to pick up trash on the trail and hand it to me!

As for the relationship between clicker trainers and their horses, attend a clinic sometime. Never have I seen a workshop where every single gelding drops as he works on a lesson. The horses are relaxed and happy.

Along the way, we introduce a cue. A cue initiates behavior. I say "Touch!" (voice cue) when I offer the target. I am putting targeting on stimulus control, "Touch the target only when I ask you to." If you touch when not asked, I won't C/T.

Another foundation lesson: Mat Work - the Clicker form of ground tying, and more.

Tessa's first ground tying lesson.

Diane as Human and Tessa on the first Mat Lesson. She spent a lot of time pawing but now is a stellar student of the mat at liberty.

Tacking up. What a great use for the Mat Lesson.

Here, Sally, the owner, demonstrates a very practical result from the Mat Lesson. Her OTTB, Molly, was a terror to groom and tack up. Assured that Molly wasn't in pain, Sally began daily mat exercises. What pleasure she is now. Note the attentive ears as Molly supervises Sally.

There is another practical result of targeting that might be useful this winter.

Did you drop something?

For those of us who can't mount our horses, how great is this? "Glove please," and point. He hands it to me.

One example of Free Shaping: How Many Things Can You Do with a Barrel? One C/T for each original behavior. Tell me that doesn't blow your mind.

I can push it. And target with my foot.

Practical Application: If we see a monster on the trail, I may ask him to play the same game. He touches the monsters every time.

The absolutely critical lesson on food, Quiet while the grown ups are talking, wherein my horse learns that I am not a grocery bag to be searched. Nor am I a vending machine. When you push my buttons (literally), I will not dispense food.

Horses, like children, can learn food manners. How many people have said, "Don't ever hand feed your horse." Oh Please! Even the greediest horse who inhales your entire arm, can learn table manners for heaven's sake.

This is also first taught behind a stall guard or an enclosed place where the human can control the space. I click and treated for head straight ahead, or head away from me. Over time, I raised the criteria to having his head forward, straight ahead, ears forward.

Because Sunny was excitable in the early days, I added Head Down, the calm down position, to his Grown Ups work. Now whenever I am talking or even just standing still, I have a subtle cue telling Sunny, hang out in your own space. If I want a particular head position - head down or arched neck - I can cue that. If I want feet squared I can cue that. What I do not have is a horse checking out my pockets!

Were are those dang treats?

In the very beginning, 2004 my curious horse during The Duct Tape Lesson. While I took a break to assess our progress, Sunny decided to search my treat pack. Sneaky little bugger.

There are DVDs and articles teaching Grown Ups with the training steps broken down. I encourage you to educate yourself on this one. I hope you won't wing it or ad lib in early clicker training. Frustrated horses are not happy horses. 

My challenge this winter is to work on the foundation lesson "Happy Face (ears forward)". For some reason Sunny's are more often back. Maybe that's how he concentrates? Regardless, it's not pleasant looking and I want people to like him, not fear him!

Rosie offers Happy Face, with the left ear forward.

Rosie learned to put her left ear forward on cue. Doesn't she look pleasant? The pre-Happy Face Rosie was scary. Trainer Katie showed me the cue, a gentle touch behind the ear, for the photo. In reality, Katie can now just look at that spot to cue Rosie.

Common Concerns about Equine Clicker Training
(1) Recently a vet told a friend of mine that he hated clicker training because it turned horses into Pavlov's dogs!
He didn't think it was normal for horses to offer behavior. As you read above, stimulus control is something we teach from the beginning in lesson 1 and 2.

(2) When I reward my horse with treats he gets pushy and nippy.
Thus the reason for "Grown-Ups", lesson two. I am sure your kids were not the best dinner partners at their first restaurant outing. Well just like kids, horses must learn table manners.

Having stellar table manners is a hallmark of a well trained clicker horse. In one advanced lesson, the horse learns to refuse a treat from your hand until cued. Alex demonstrates this exercise with Robin in one of her DVD's. "You can not force me to eat that carrot," Robin seems to say as he arches his neck in 'the dressage pose' and steadfastly ignores the food until cued. In another exercise, a horse at liberty will walk, trot and canter to his person without eating anything from the equine buffet table he must pass. That's Clicker Olympics.

(3) I don't want to click and treat (C/T) all the time.
Depending on your situation, there are different ways to handle this.

In one case, as the behavior advances on cue, you can select just for quality, C/T the best offerings and slowing fade the C/T. I still go back to basics every now and then for a 'tune up' but I don't C/T every cued smile, yawn, Yes, No. That's the old stuff.

Most of us create a 'keep going signal': That's great and please keep doing it.

Or what if I C/T only when we are working in the ring but not when we hack out. Early on, I can teach the horse that we C/T in some places but not in others. (Note unlike kid training!)

(4) I don't want a Trick Horse.
While it's true that I couldn't resist teaching my horse a repertoire of tricks during his 1 year rehab from a torn suspensory, it doesn't mean that you must teach tricks. It is fun though. I know that Sunny loves to make me laugh with his slobbery kisses!

The Laugh, on cue.

First Trick: The Laugh on cue. An aside, here Sunny is dark bay in this recent summer photo because he has had his minerals balanced according to his diet. Thank you Dr. Eleanor Kellon for your online course.

The Yawn.

One of My Most Challenging Tricks to Teach: The Yawn on cue. Here Sunny hasn't had his minerals balanced. In the summer, he used to become a dull, blood bay without adequate copper and zinc.

(5) My horse is prone to laminitis and follows a special diet. This is very common. There are many treats you can use for these horses that are low in sugar, like Alam and hay stretchers.

Red practices Head Down.

Red demonstrates a perfect Head Down, a calming stance taught unmounted and mounted. Red is a Quarter Horse x Belgium. Hay stretchers are a healthy reward.

I hope you will check out this positive way of training. It's fun for you and your horse.

Favorite Resources to Get You Started
Peanut in Head Down, on a mounting block.

When cued to Head Down, Peanut drops like a rock and stays and stays and stays. He has the best Head Down I have ever seen. And doing it on a platform, well, that's just The Nut!

Until next time, Happy Trails!

Dawn Willoughby
, new grandma of Matilda Wednesday Villegas. She is getting Panda, A Guide Horse for Ann for Christmas.

Fixing Under-Run Heels

Like most people, I used to depend on my farrier to keep my horse trimmed and did barefoot trims every 6 weeks. Living in Washington, there isn't a big choice of farriers with barefoot trimming experience. Some say they know they barefoot trim, but not all of them do. My mare soon developed under-run heels, so I kept looking for the perfect farrier to deal with this.

Before

Before.

I eventually decided to do it myself. I'm somehwhat of a perfectionist and so I read every book I could find and I and watched every video I could find. Now, a year and half later, my mare is getting perfect feet. We've gone thru a lot together, but I would just read about how to deal with the issues I was having.

After

After.

Education is amazing. We are now in a Size 1 Boa Horse Boot and before she was a 0. Pictures are before and after, and we are still at it.

Name: Shellie
City: Oakesdale, Washington, USA
Equine Discipline: Trail
Favorite Boot: Easyboot Glove


Thinking Outside the Box (Or is it Bottle?): A Glove Twist/Loss Solution

Are you still twisting those hind hoof Gloves, or, worse yet, losing them completely? Even with the proper use of Mueller Athletic Tape and a good trim and boot fit? I do... Why? Well, look at my mare's legs in the pictures, and you will see why! She is a great horse, but took the philosophy that a little cow-hocked is fine in a horse, and ran with it a bit too far. Thus, she toes out a good bit and with her nice, Morgan/QH rear end (wish her brains were there too: lately the Arab half has come out on that end), she powers along with a good twist to her hind leg movement.

This means every boot (EC styles and competitor brands of all kinds) has not stayed straight on her hoof, and can come off altogether at a canter. Glue-On boots solve that for multi-day rides, but for a single day ride, I don't want the hassle or expense. So I had to come up with a solution for her. I tried varying ones (Goober Glue, Vet Tech products, etc) and finally found a cheap and fairly easy solution: a bottle of Gorilla Glue and some athletic tape.

How it Works
1) Use athletic tape on the hoof as you usually would (see how she toes out? Add a "twist" with every push off of the hoof, and you have a lot of torque on the boots).

GG1

2) Put on the Gloves as usual. I put power straps on the inside here, but also use them on the outside. With Gorilla Glue, the boots are totally re-useable. This is the fourth gluing on these particular boots.

GG2

3) Gather your tools: Gorilla Glue, flat head screwdriver (smallish is better), gloves for your hands, and more athletic tape or duck tape if you prefer.

GG3

4) This is where it can get tricky if your horse is new at it. Having a helper hold up one of your horse's front feet to keep them from picking up the rear one or walking off can help until (like my mare) they figure out you want them to keep the foot down and still.

Insert the screwdriver between the hoof wall and the boot, gently prying hte boot away from the wall and exposing a gap. Start near the back where the gaiter attaches and work all the way around the hoof (see photo below).

GG4

5) Insert tip of the GG bottle into the gap, and squirt glue down into the boot. You will figure out with trial and error how much you need. Just like with Adhere and Glue-On boots, some horses need more or less. Try at home before you go to an event. Do this all around the boot from gaiter edge to the other gaiter edge. I have not needed any in the rear of the boot so far, and a little will flow back there anyway on its own. Using two hands works best. I had to take a picture with one hand, so had to figure out how to balance the bottle and screwdriver in the other.

GG5

Below is a close-up of the glue down in the gap. GG foams up as it dries, expanding and thus filling in some of the gaps that cause the rear boots not to fit as well, as well as providing 'stick factor'.

GG6

6) Take your roll of athletic (or other) tape and wrap it around the top edge of the boot, all the way behind the heels and the front. A few times around is usually plenty. This helps keep things in place while the glue dries (it takes a few hours) and puts a little pressure on the boot to help the glue foam into all the gaps, instead of out the top of the boot. You can see the foamy old glue on the outside of the boot.

GG6

Both feet finished and waiting to dry. Do this after a ride or anything else that will cause your horse to move around too much. Remember, it takes a few hours to really set up nicely, and you don't want it to set up twisted on the hoof. I do this the night before an event and just leave the gaiters loose overnight, then tighten in the morning.

GG7

Removal and Cleanup
Removal works just like with Glue-Ons. Using a flat-head screwdriver and a rubber mallet, carefully pry the boot away from the hoof. This works best if you stick the screwdriver head between the hoofwall and the athletic tape. Once you get the boot off, just pull the tape out of the boot, which removes most of the glue.

I actually like some of the glue to stay in, as it creates a custom shimming in the boot, so I can use the boots on training rides with minimal twist and no glue. Just mark the boots so you know which goes on the right and left hoof. The glue comes out pretty well, and it is 'softish', so leaving some residue in the boot (even on the soles) doesn't bother the horse.

This was a shot of the boots after three gluings, just before I put them on for this one.

GG8

You can see how the glue and some left over tape has lined the inside of the boot, making it somewhat of a custom fit boot.

GG9

And the other boot: much less glue stuck to this one. You can see the power strap a bit better on the inside as well.

GG11

I hope this helps a few of you. It works great on my horse, and we tried it on a little gaited horse that also twists off Gloves. It worked great for her too!

Natalie Herman

Front Pastern Gaiter Rubbing: A Simple Solution

Submitted by Natalie Herman, Team Easyboot 2011 Member

Now that the new, cotoured, double layered gaiters are on all the Easycare hoof boots, pastern rubs should be a thing of the past, right? Well, not on all horses. Some still get rubs, and almost all of them seem to be in a different spot than where the old gaiters were rubbing. They are no longer on the sides of the pastern, but on the front. Why? My theory is the rolled and sewn edge.

This seemed to be the cause in the old gaiters, and the new gaiters addressed that by double layers and no rolls. So I figured, why not do that to the fronts of my gaiters too? At least, until we get even better gaiters that have this option built in. Here is what I do, and you can do as well, to solve the little problem. So far it has worked great, and no more rubs!

old gaiter

Rolled and sewn edge of gaiter.
  1. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut and pull out the stitches all along the edge of the gaiter and around the bottom 'corner'. Then peel apart - the layers are also glued together.
  2. Cut only the 'top' layer (leaving a bottom layer sticking out past the top, just like the new gaiters do all around the top of the gaiter edges.
  3. Cut a tiny bit of the 'bottom' layer if needed (from the rolled stitching, it tends to bunch up and not lay flat: cut off this 1-2mm.
That's it: you are done. Simple, huh? If you are worried about stitching coming undone, then you can glue the threads down. I have yet to have the rest of the gaiter come apart, since it is glued as well as sewn together.

cut edge

This shows how I cut the top layer to near the velcro, leaving a bottom layer sticking out.
cut gaiter
    
And from the inside: nice and smooth.
gaiter edges

Both sides finished. Smooth and easy to overlap if needed for small pasterns, nothing to rub on now. Works great! The left on is the same width as the right one, just a bad angle in the picture. I did not cut anything off the bottom, except right at the corner as you can see in the right one.

I hope this helps those of you still getting a few rubs. Even on my white-pasterned horse this does great.

Natalie Herman

Removing Easyboot Glue-Ons After Tevis 2011

Bernd Jung from Hufcheck in Germany recently spent ten days with the EasyCare staff at our R&D location in Colorado. He came to help take photos as part of our 2012 photo shoot. While he was here, he made a video of Garrett Ford removing the Easyboot Glue-Ons he used on The Fury at Tevis.

Bernd introduces the video in German, but Garrett's removal explanation in English starts at the 43 second point.

Garrett Ford removes Easyboot Glue-Ons

So if you want to see the process of glue-on boot removal first hand, Bernd and Garrett have done a nice job of explaining each step.

Bernd's company, Hufcheck, is the exclusive dealer in Germany for EasyCare products, and has just launched a new online store designed for customers and distributors. The store has a number of unique features, including the ability for the user to see exact quantities of product available. Brian Mueller discussed the new store as well as the other services Bernd's company offers in his Dealer News and Tips blog last week.

If you would like to see step by step videos of Easyboot Glue-Ons being put on a horse's hoof, go to the Videos page of the EasyCare website.

Kevin Myers

easycare-marketing-director-kevin-myers

Director of Marketing

I am responsible for the marketing and branding of the EasyCare product line. I believe there is a great deal to be gained from the strategy of using booted protection for horses, no matter what the job you have for your equine partner.

The Worst Feet in the Barn

For several weeks, Lisa talked about the horse with the "worst feet in the barn". I couldn't work on him right away because the track farriers had just put shoes on his feet.  And so I waited patiently to see the worst feet in the barn.

Finally the day came when we could pull his shoes, and I could get started on my new project. Banfish, who is two now and is only doing light work at the track, had been sick when he was a foal. The sickness affected his entire body, including his feet. After months of love and attention, Banfish fully recovered from his illness. Except his feet were still a mess.

Banfish

The track farriers put shoes on him as they always do, but in time he developed a quarter crack that spread all the way to the hairline. To correct the crack, glue was applied to the crack and the metal shoe was cut so that it stopped just in front of the crack. Yes, that's right. The shoe itself went from one heel, around the toe, and stopped just in front of the quarter on the other side of that foot. No shoe under the quarter or heel on that side of the foot.

side

Pancake foot with no heel
- September 13, 2011.

When I removed Banny's shoes, I quickly agreed that he had the worst feet in the barn. Unsurprisingly, his heels had been lopped off to accommodate the shoe. To my horror, however, I also found that his soles were in fact the very opposite of concave; the bottom of the foot was thin and bulging at the toe. Yikes!

Top

I always air on the cautious side when I am presented with a long toe or long heels. In this case, Banfish had long toes with no real attachment of the hoof wall.

Side down

He still has quite a lamellar wedge when my first trim is complete, but I know that I'll be coming back soon for another go-round.

Front

Amazingly, Banfish showed little discomfort as he walked on dirt or sand with bare feet. Nonetheless, he got his own pair of size 2 Epics to protect those unique feet.

Several days later, I met the vets at the track for x-rays of Banny's feet. Although I don't always get the luxury of seeing x-rays, boy do they help when I can get my hands on them. And so I removed another inch off of his toes and swapped out the size 2 boots for some 1's!

Banfish has been barefoot and using his Easyboot Epics for the past two months and has shown some good improvement during that time. Although he began by wearing his hoof boots on the track and on the walker, he was able to begin some barefoot work within just a few weeks of beginning his new "program". To keep the quarter crack from spreading, I gave him exaggerated pressure relief at the site of the crack.

Ban bottom side

November 7, 2011: some heel has grown, and his foot is slowly becoming more concave.

Ban front november

His lamellar wedge has been greatly reduced, and his foot is looking much less like a pancake. Although the bottoms of his feet are much flatter than I would like, he is totally sound barefoot on the barn's dirt floor and in the track sand. He is still too sore to walk at all on any hard surfaces such as concrete.

Ban side november

Banny side angle - November 2011.

The healthier hoof has grown to about 1 to 1 1/2 inches below the coronet band.

As you may know, I tell clients that I will only trim their horses if those horses are being fed a dry pelleted food. I cannot make such demands at the track, because (unfortunately) it has been shown that racing horses need the extra energy (sugar) in the sweet feed to perform at their best. And so it is particularly interesting to note that Banfish has made such improvements despite being kept on a sweet feed diet. Keep in mind that the sweet feed fed to racehorses is very different from the typical $5 sweet feed found at a backyard barn. Although racehorse feed is covered in molasses (the real problem), it is also composed predominantly of vegetable oil, beet pulp, and other ingredients found in a dry pellet.

Banfish has been feeling great. So great that he tried to run away with the rider! With this new attitude change, he's been sent back to kindergarten to learn his manners and his steering.

Ride

Can we grow a truly healthy foot while still feeding the racehorse sweet feed? The verdict is still out, but with the improvements I've seen so far, I'm willing to keep up this experiment in hoof health and nutrition. We'll look at his feet again in a few months to see if the Easyboot Epics have won out over the molasses.

New EasyCare Hoof Boots And Direction For 2012

What's next for EasyCare and what will 2012 bring?

EasyCare, Easyboots and booted horses are coming off a very successful fall. The results of the 2011 Tevis Cup once again show that booted horses are competing and winning at the highest levels of equine sports. The Haggin Cup was won by horses wearing Easyboots in 2010 and 2011.

Jeremy Reynolds wins the Tevis and Haggin Cup

Reynolds Racing dominates at Tevis 2011. Jeremy Reynolds wins both the Tevis Cup and Haggin Cup in Easyboots.

New Segments
Although barefoot booted horses are competing successfully in many equine segments there are a great number of sports that either have rules that prohibit hoof boots or hoof boots are just not accepted by participants. EasyCare is looking at some of these segments and we are working on products that will give horses the ability to compete in these areas with success. These products will blur the line between boots and shoes.

New Products
In addition to the concentration on new segments we will introduce new products and sizes to our current user segments. Expect some of our better products to be crossed, resulting in hybrid products.

Product Reduction
We have a couple of different products that have run their course and they will phased out during the 2012 calendar year.

Approved shoes

The approved shoe sign at Delaware Park.

One of the segments we believe could benefit from alternatives in hoof protection is the race track industry. To further my research, I just completed a trip to Delaware Park and had the opportunity to get an inside view of the track industry. I had the opportunity to stay with Lynn and Mark Ashby of MarLyn stables. Lynn has been one of the leading Arabian track trainers for over 20 years and they also participate in thoroughbred racing. Lynn allowed me to tag along in the shed rows, be part of the workouts, see the feeding routines, and converse with the track farriers. The owners, trainers and farriers are excited about the new concepts.

What are your suggestions for EasyCare in 2012? Are you involved in an equine segment that could benefit from a custom hoof boot? We would love your feedback and ideas.

Garrett Ford easycare-president-ceo-garrett-ford

President & CEO

I have been President and CEO of EasyCare since 1993. My first area of focus for the company is in product development, and my goal is to design the perfect hoof boot for the barefoot horse.

Gluing Boots at Tevis for a 99.3% Boot Success Rate

The successes at Tevis 2011 were numerous: I summarized some of them in my blog on October 18, 2011. Arguably one of the most significant achievements was the high success rate of glue-on boots. It was drastically higher than in previous years, and we're proud of the 99.3% rate. 38 riders started Tevis in Easyboot Glue-Ons, and we are aware of only one boot loss of the 154 boots that were applied. Outlined below is a summary of the gluing process that led to that success.

Heather Showing Riverwatch

Heather Reynolds presenting Riverwatch for Haggin Cup, which he won.

1. Start with a well-maintained hoof
in a dry environment.
Each of the riders was asked to bring a horse that had been recently trimmed. We did almost nothing to the balance of the foot, heel height or toe length. But we were very careful about keeping the horse out of wet conditions, and we glued under a tent on blacktop, which helped us avoid the horse standing in water or in a dusty footing. The temperatures were very cool and it poured for most of the time we were there, so the conditions were very humid indeed.

Tevis Prepping

The gluing teams at Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn three days before the event.

2. Prep the hoof.
We started with a heat gun on the sole and hoof wall to combat the cold, damp conditions. We then roughed the hoof wall with the edge of the rasp and cleaned out any obviously exfoliating sole. We brushed the hoof walls and sole with a wire brush, then used the heat gun for a second time for about 20 seconds per hoof, or until the sole and frog looked dry.

3. Prep the boots.

We were obsessive about using boot shells that were untouched by human hands. Each rider brought their own set of boots, but if there was any sign of oily residues or dust or wood shaving dust, we traded the boots out for a new set that were still in their individual plastic bags. Using heavy duty latex gloves, we applied a bead of Goober Glue on the inside of the boot, where the boot shell meets the sole. We call this the Goober Goober Apron - and you can read more about it in the blog I wrote on September 6.

4. Apply the glues.
Working in pairs, Person # 1 applied Goober Glue directly to the clean hoof using a spatula, and held the hoof off the ground, while Person # 2 applied the Vettec Adhere to the inside of the boot shell, starting about half-way up the inside of the boot shell. I like to use a generous amount of the Adhere, about the thickness of a generous dollop of toothpaste on a toothbrush.

5. Apply the boot.
Person # 2 took the horse's leg, put the boot on the hoof by twisting the slightly, then placed the leg on the ground and picked up the opposite leg to attain maximum weight in the boot. A beat of Adhere was placed around the top of the boot shell, and regular checking of the tackiness of the seal was used to see how quickly the Adhere was setting up. If the the glue dried slowly, a heat gun was used sparingly on the outside of the boot.

Dennis Summers and Lola

Dennis Summers and Lola, who won third place.

6. Wait patiently
.
We encouraged riders to linger under the tent for at least 15 minutes after the boot gluing was complete. Riders were strongly discouraged from riding the horse for 24 hours, in order to let the Goober Glue in the sole set up completely.

Go to the Videos page on the EasyCare website for the most current application videos broken down into various sections. Make sure you select the correct boot on the landing page in order to access the correct videos for the correct boot.

Kevin Myers

easycare-marketing-director-kevin-myers

Director of Marketing

I am responsible for the marketing and branding of the EasyCare product line. I believe there is a great deal to be gained from the strategy of using booted protection for horses, no matter what the job you have for your equine partner.

Solving the National Debt Crisis One Forest Service Horse at a Time

Submitted by Kris Goris

Catchy title huh? Let me explain how we are going to make this work: here in the Southwest (New Mexico and Arizona), the average price for a shoeing is around $90, a trim around $50. Let’s say your local Forest Service district has eight animals: horses, mules and in some cases a few donkeys.

These animals are shod on average every eight weeks. Let’s call the first four to six months a wash, since a proper trim needs to be applied every four to six weeks and we have to supply a pair of boots. After the transition period, however, we should be trimming every ten to twelve weeks.

Projecting out, we find that over the next 12 months, the savings amount to about $350 dollars per animal, times eight makes $2,800 per year per district, times 45 (the approximate number of districts in the Southwest region) makes for $126,000 in savings per year.
 
Alright, enough about figures. Bottom line: it’s all about the horses.

Kris & The Forest Service

By way of introduction: I used to shoe horses in New Mexico up until about seven years ago when I made the switch to natural hoof care. As a horse lover I do what I do for the sake, health and well being of these noblest of creatures. Unfortunately, there are no twelve step programs for people like me: we’re on our own.
 
I tried for a number of years to get a (booted) foot in the door with the local Forest Service districts. Having ridden with them on a few occasions I knew there was work to be done. As some of you know: it's tough enough here in the Southwest to convince a rancher or cowboy to go the barefoot route. A governmental agency is a whole different story altogether.
 
Last winter, I was given the chance with a few of the districts here and so I went to work. The general consensus, of course, was that it couldn’t be done. Be aware that we ride on granite here throughout the Gila Wilderness.

Marro Rears

Marro's rears.

I knew that the initial skepticism would give way to acceptance and recognition, provided I could transition their stock properly. To start, most horses were on stilts, meaning hoof capsules twice as long as what they should be, lots of side bone, deformed capsules, cracks, laminitic grooves, traces of founder and rotation: nothing unusual. The nice thing about these service animals is that they get most of the winter months off, so the initial transition period was to be easy on them and gave them time to heal up some before spring. The second trim was applied four weeks after the first one, then six weeks, then we were able to go a full eight weeks and now we are on a ten to 12 week trim cycle in two districts.

Some of these horses have logged between 200 and 400 miles over the summer months, no boots anymore either during the latter stage. I knew I had believers after the first three or four months since each and every one of those stock managers invited me over to their home to start their personal horses barefoot as well. Then a few of their neighbors started asking questions.
 
Well there you have it: if you want to grow your business and help out a bunch of horses badly in need: go talk to your local Forest Service rangers and stock managers.

Applying the Boa Boots.

Applying Boa Boots.

Winter is coming real soon. Set up a meeting where you’ll find that three or four people will attend, sometimes even their local farrier. Prepare a solid outline and make sure to have concise written material with pictures to leave them with after your presentation. Don’t forget to take a pair of Boa Boots as well as Trail Boots with you: show and tell has never looked this good.
 
Below are before and after pictures of three of the Black Range district horses.

Bear Before Bear After

Bear: before & after.

Songbird Before Songbird After

Songbird: before & after.

Crickett Before
Crickett After

Crickett: before & after.

Hint: equine feet will adapt to the terrain they live/work on and the workload they are subjected to. Nature proves this time and again and shows us great examples to follow. All we really need to do is help out a bit in the beginning and during the transition period. Thanks to EasyCare we have the means to what we do: the Boa Boots and now the new Trail Boots are tools we need.
 
My heartfelt thanks go out to Jaime, Pete, Tom and a few other pioneers in the natural foot care movement who have willingly given us the means to do the necessary research and due diligence, shared their knowledge and expertise, thus enabling us to educate ourselves and hone and perfect our craft.

It is not an exact science after all: it is an art. Horses remain our best teachers since they are all different and require a unique approach; it truly is a spectacular journey!
 
Kris Goris