The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Two Cleveland Bay gelding brothers, both about 5 or 6 - each with a sore hind leg (stifle?) and reluctant to stand on three legs when one of the three is the sore one. One brother is in-your-face, friendly, and cocky. He goes along with the trimming cheerfully, but when it's time to do the hind leg opposite the sore one, he balks. He snatches. He starts to cowkick. The grapevine has already told me that this owner has been badly kicked (broken bone) by one of his horses. Could it be this one? Not taking any chances - the unfinished hoof didn't need much done to it anyway, so I tell the owner we're not going to do any more. The other brother is suffering much more. He has that anxious, pained look on his face that tells you the horse is in constant discomfort. When I ask him to pick up the leg opposite the sore one, he thinks long and hard about how he'll achieve this. He rearranges his balance, he cocks the sore leg at just the right angle and manages to shift his weight onto it, allowing me to finish the opposite hoof. After the trim, I thank him for being so helpful. He drops his head and stands with his face pressed against my chest. Brothers - but very different.

Maria is a 20-year old QH mare. She has never been particularly friendly and often looks sour. She frequently snatches her feet away. A few weeks ago I went to trim her for maybe the third or fourth time. This time, I paid more attention: why is she that way? The answer was obvious - the mare was in constant pain. I realized then that her impatience was very controlled. Despite being uncomfortable and irritated, she never snatched her foot violently, but always carefully - emphatically, yes, but never knocking anything or anyone in the process. She never cowkicked. What seemed like a slightly sour temperament was actually stoic endurance. (I think she suffers in her stifles, and possibly her back and/or hips.) The most recent time I went to trim, I was delighted to see a very feisty Maria being chased around the paddock by her owner. Perhaps the warmer weather makes her feel better. When I trimmed her, things went better - and this time I complimented her on her forbearance and long-suffering behavior.

Lightning is a very naughty, dominant, adorable yearling miniature horse. The first time I went to trim him was the first time (apart from when he was moved) that he ever had a halter on. We did not do any trimming that day. The first time I actually trimmed him, he was still drugged from being gelded. So my most recent visit to Lightning was really his first time. And he was not having any of it. He wasn't scared, and he wasn't sore. He was just: You Can't Make Me. I tried leading him around and making him back up. I tried patience-and-understanding. I tried cajoling. I tried getting stern. Finally we wedged him up against the wall of the barn, and I got hold of one of his feet, and I refused to let go, and pretty soon he was munching hay and standing like a pro. His owner felt bad that he'd made such a fuss - but I reminded her that the first time I "trimmed" Lightning's two older brothers when they were babies, all I'd done was work on picking up their feet - so I reckon he did good. He just has to learn that it's safe for him to temporarily loan his feet. After trimming Lightning, I worked on the older two, and they were smugly well-behaved.

Charlie had the kind of feet that make my heart sink. Long, curling-up toes, with a distorted hoof capsule. He's a very small pony, about 40 years old and lives in a clearing in the woods with a flock of charming goats (one of whom is his special buddy) and some feral rabbits. His owner takes good care of him, but the previous farrier for some reason had just let his toes grow and grow. Charlie may be 40+, but age does not prevent him from energetically rearing up whenever he's tired of cooperating. Which the first time I trimmed him was about every three seconds. And no wonder - with feet like that, it's next to impossible to stand comfortably on four legs never mind three. I hacked away for ages, and finally got something like a level landing for his forefeet. He was at the end of his tether, so I left the hind feet alone. They were long, but at least not distorted. I asked the owner to make an appointment for four weeks later. When I returned a few days ago, I was dreading another battle. But - hooray! - this time the little guy agreed to cooperate. I had to be patient and reassure him that he could have his feet back whenever he wanted, but he became quite helpful. Until - being a hardheaded little pony - he finally got fed up and reverted to his old tricks. Realizing that he'd just gotten tired of the whole process, I finally said, "Nope - it's two against one - your owner's holding the rope, and I'm not letting go of your foot, no matter what, and by the way you're hopping awfully agile for an ancient horse with a sore foot." And he capitulated. The owner then told me that the previous farrier had always had to just immobilize him like that, so I was pleased that we'd managed to get 7/8 done before resorting to strong-arm tactics. This time, the hind feet got licked into pretty good shape. The forefeet will need a few more months before the distortion grows out, but they're getting better. I felt in a really good mood after trimming Charlie.

Two inseparable Thoroughbred mares - getting on in years, rescued a decade ago from near starvation by a kind lady who has kept them as pets ever since. Sadly, her husband recently lost his job, and she is looking for another home for them as the family is finding it hard to support the horses as well as themselves. I felt so worried about them - how likely is it that someone will take in two superannuated horses? The two mares had excellent feet as the owner is religious about getting them trimmed. (The previous trimmer failed to return phone calls, so they called me.) They were friendly and affectionate - as I trimmed one, the other would stand close by, chewing on my hair or breathing down my neck. Friendly - but both quite feisty. One had a puffy fetlock and was just not-not-not going to let me pick up the opposite leg. She wouldn't let her owner pick it up either. Fortunately her hind feet needed hardly any work. I gave the owner an unemployed discount on the trimming charge. I hope things work out ok for them.

An anxious paint gelding who looks around constantly, ready to move off when he hears an unexpected sound. I'm working on maybe the third or fourth foot, when he hears a noise in the distance, or catches sight of something out of the corner of his eye. He tenses, pulls away, lifts his hind foot off the stand, ready to go - then he pauses, collects himself, and his hind foot - still in the air - reaches back to find the stand again. What more could you ask of a horse?