Has desperation ever driven you to try something new? When you’re well educated in your field and you’ve been at your craft for a long time it’s easy to become skeptical of new methods. That’s the way I was about horse whisperers twenty-five plus years ago until a situation put me at a point of need.
I had a horse with a problem and I was out of answers. It was a rare situation for me and I needed help.
I, nor the farriers, could pick up and hold my horse’s right hind foot long enough to trim it or even clean the debris from his foot.
It seems simple enough to correct. There are many restraints that could have been used BUT when an animal exhibits an issue like this, it’s only the crust of a much deeper problem.
The Horse’s History
He was a National Champion dressage horse who had earned Legion of Honor. He had a show record with a list of championships that took several sheets of paper to print. And all of this had been achieved by the time he was six-years old.
His history indicated not only had the horse’s hooves been cleaned daily, but during his show career he wore shoes that were nailed onto all four feet and changed every six weeks.
But his foundation, his initial handling, was wrong and in his early life he’d been mistreated.
It wasn’t that this horse tried to kick people. When someone held his hoof and he needed to have it back, he’d step forward and put all of his weight on the foot you were holding. If you didn’t let go he’d panic and step forward again until you did. It would have been stupid to attempt to force the issue because it’s root was fear.
I had a half-ton animal with a problem.
So why not just leave his hooves alone and avoid the problem?
A horse’s hoof is somewhat like our fingernails and toenails, only hooves house crucial parts of the horse’s structure. A horse’s hoof grows like your fingernails and they have to be trimmed every six to eight weeks. If hooves are left to do their own thing they become too long forcing the horse to walk unnaturally and out of balance. This can hurt their joints or make their legs grow crookedly.
Chunks will break off long hooves leaving cracks and potentially subjecting sensitive tissues to infection. Breaks can leave jagged edges that can injure the horse’s other legs.
To a good horseman proper hoof care is not an option. It’s a necessary part of keeping horses healthy and sound.
My farrier didn’t see the horse’s problem as a fear issue. He decided it was temperamental disobedience. The horse reached the point that he needed an IV injection of Dormosedan before we could handle his right hoof enough for a trim.
That meant scheduling the veterinarian at the same time as the farrier. Plus the vet had to stay during the hoof appointment incase the horse needed more sedative.
It was an expensive bandaid, not a cure for the horse’s situation, nor my desperation for him. The worst part was each time the horse had the sedative his system was severely depressed and afterward he hung his head, dripping in sweat with muscle tremors. It was unbearable.
A friend who lived in another state told me about an amazing trainer/cowboy she called Spud. He worked with horses in her college town. Spud also trained goats, dogs and anything else that crossed his path. It sounded weird and he was very far away, but I kept the information in the back of my mind.
Sometime later an acquaintance told me about her cousin the farrier. In the horse business everyone has a cousin who’s a farrier or trainer, so I was skeptical. I had already used the highest rated farrier in our area and he’d done nothing but make my horse worse.
She told me Rex, her cousin, was good with horses and had been learning from a man who also trained goats and dogs. My brain started sifting through files.
She waved a folded white paper in front of my face. “He’s giving a clinic in…” She named a nearby town.
I snatched the paper and sure enough it was the same trainer my friend had mentioned.
I decided nothing would keep me from auditing the clinic even though I was skeptical about a cowboy training method. Come on! The guy trained goats. But I was lured by the idea of a possible solution for my miserable horse.
Did Spud End the Desperation?
Perhaps another time I’ll tell you about the clinic and the process I went through with my horse. Today I hope you’ll see that desperation to help the horse drove me to the end of what I knew. I’d become stagnant in learning and there was more.
Desperation reignited the desire to learn and gave me a deeper approach to horsemanship.
Barbara Ellin Fox