Somewhere there must be a magic land where all the horses are placid and free of joint pain, where they stand serenely for long periods of time while you evaluate ratios and map out and mark up the hoof with your Sharpie marker. These horses like nothing better than to rest their feet in that comfy Hoof Jack while you fine-tune their hoofs according to strict protocol. I've heard they even sing to you while you work.
One day, my fairy godmother will wave her wand and transport me to this Shangri-La. In the meantime, it appears that I am living in the Real World.
I recently put an ad the in the local free paper, and to my surprise and delight, I received several calls. One was from a lady with a laminitic pony, whom I referred to my friend who is experienced with hoof rehab. Another gentleman called to ask me to trim his 4H heifers, a job I was forced to turn down. However, two calls lead to appointments.
One was a middle-aged QH mare with a very nice owner. The mare was extremely overgrown, with layers of false sole and very long toes. However, apart from that her feet looked relatively healthy. She was rather stiff and found it hard to keep her feet up for long. However, I found that if she put one foot down, she would be quite willing to pick up a different one - so I gradually worked my way through, going from foot to foot and back again. The Sharpie marker, however, remained in my pocket. The owner was very glad that I was patient and sympathetic, and she thought that next time it might be a good idea to dose the mare with a little Bute beforehand to make it more comfortable for her. The owner even paid me $10 more than I asked for!
The next call was an older gentleman who had acquired two horses for his granddaughters. No one had "fooled with" the horses for a long time, but the granddaughters had recently moved in next door and were now keen to get started. He warned me over the phone that they might be difficult to trim due to their lack of handling (the horses that is, not the granddaughters). When I arrived, I found that one of the horses was a 30-year old TB mare, and the other was a 14-year old Appaloosa gelding. I asked their names, and the owner said, "I think they call him Sno Caps." He said they called the mare Winnie. I started with the old mare, and she turned out to be perfectly sweet about the whole thing, which surprised her owner. Despite an 18-month gap since her last trim, her feet weren't too bad as she'd worn them down pretty well. Once again, however, her age and stiffness meant that I had to be quick and dispense with some of the niceties. Although I know that the Man Himself (that would be Gene Ovnicek) would not approve of all this Sharpie neglect.
Next up was the Appaloosa gelding, who despite his juniority (a new word!), was stiffer and more uncomfortable than the mare. I felt bad for him, as he seemed to have some real joint issues, and I could hear him creaking. The owner blamed his reluctance to lift his feet on "laziness," but he was really trying to cooperate, and as with the QH mare, I found that if I let him have a rest whenever he wanted, he would be willing to give me that foot again later. I would like to have spent a lot longer on this horse, but he had really been a trooper about letting me accomplish as much as I did, and I felt that it was too much to ask him for any more.
With all three horses, I found that if I indicated which foot I wanted, they would pick it up of their own accord. I also found I was less alarmed by, and more able to deal with, sudden reflexive kicking motions in the hind leg - something which the TB and the Appaloosa both did once or twice. Because they had been so cooperative all along, it seemed clear that the movement was an attempt to relieve pain or tightness and was not aimed at me.
The TB/Appaloosa owner said he'd call me in four to six months! I suggested that even though his horses were in surprisingly good shape after 18 months, it would be a good idea to trim more often so that the hoofs stay in more consistent balance. He conceded that it might be a good idea. I hope he calls me sooner rather than later, as the Appaloosa especially could use some help.
I have no photos of these horses or their feet to post. So instead I will close with a shot of what the teeth of a certain Miss Bridget did to my cleverly constructed temporary fencing solution.