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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Good for horses!:
Good for you!:
Grow it at home!:
Most seems to be grown in the UK:
What is this? Is it for real? Is it safe to buy chemicals from China?:
The Government says so! It must be true!:
This supplier is in the U.S.:

More Laminitis

On Monday, I went to work on two horses who had not been trimmed since October last year. The mare was doing fine, but the gelding had waaaay long toes and was recovering from an onset of laminitis about a month ago.

You could see the "event" about 1/2" down from his hairline in both fore and hind feet. However, the hind feet, growing as they do, did not have nearly as much damage as the fores.  This horse would surely have suffered less if he had met the spring with short toes.

I quizzed the owner about his history. He is in his mid twenties and started suffering from laminitis every spring in his mid teens (as well as at other times, although never in the winter). Last spring (2012) was the first time he avoided laminitis.

When I saw him for the first time in January, 2012, he had the flat feet typical of a laminitic horse, as well as a lot of abscessing going on.

The spring of 2012 brought no laminitis, although when I saw him in June (this owner doesn't call me often), his toes were super-long again. He was doing fine in October, although very long again.

But, uh oh, this spring brought another attack.

What was different? There were no apparent changes which lead to the onset of laminitis. As to the improvement in the spring of 2012, there are two possible causes. One possibility is that the January trim put him in better shape to deal with any laminitis issues. However, given the rate at which this guy grows toe, it's unlikely that a January 6 trim would have provided him with short toes by the beginning of growing season in March.

A more likely reason is as follows. In the late summer of 2011, he acquired a pasture buddy - a young mare. The added movement induced by having a playmate can't be the reason for his doing better, or else he would have stayed sound this spring. But here's what was different ... in their pasture, there's a pond where lots of watercress grows. The gelding had never gone into the pond when he lived alone, but the new mare had no qualms about wading in. The gelding followed her example and discovered all the yummy watercress growing in the pond. It was too late to affect him in the spring of 2011, as the mare didn't arrive until the end of the summer, but he ate watercress in the spring of 2012 and was sound for the first time in years.

However, the two horses ate so much of it last year that not much grew this spring, and the gelding got laminitis again.

After hearing all this, I came home and googled - apparently watercress is a known "phase 1 enzyme inhibitor," and of course matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) is the enzyme which is a major factor in laminitis.

So - aha!?

Although I know that MMP is an enzyme, I don't know whether it is a "phase 1" enzyme. However, it seems like there's a likely connection. My unscientific and haphazard googling suggests that that MMPs are thought to be a factor in certain kinds of cancer. Also that watercress is thought to be a cancer preventative/healer due to its enzyme-inhibiting qualities.

I called the owner back with this information and suggested that she might want to try and husband her watercress by maybe closing off the pond at certain times to allow the watercress to recover so that there's enough growing in the crucial spring months. The owner is now committed to regular trimming for her horse, and I'm booked up to come back again in 6 weeks. I also left her with an old file and showed her how to keep the toes off the ground, as I think any laminitic episode is made so much worse if there's any leveraging on the toes.

How do you feed watercress to your horse? I imagine horses have to eat a whole heck of a lot for it to work, so buying it from somewhere seems out of the question. And who sells bulk watercress anyway? Most pastures don't have ponds. I wonder if there's any kind of substitute.

On that note, I have another client with two horses who are at risk for laminitis. She has ordered some For Love of the Horse MMP Stop formula to keep on hand in case either one of them start to show signs. I'm very happy about this, as for one thing I've been hoping for someone who wants to try this product, and for another thing, it puts my mind at rest somewhat, knowing that there's a potentially effective remedy on hand for these horses if they get laminitis. One of them is a recent rescue. She has had very poor nutrition in the past, and as a result has had sluggish hoof growth. She has flat, shallow feet, with a hairline "ditch" - which makes me think she's had laminitis in the past, but from the appearance of her hoofs, I don't think she's had an episode in the last year. Now that she's getting proper nutrition, her feet might take off growing, and I want to be sure that it's the right kind of growth. The last thing she needs is an acute episode, which may be a concern now that she's on grass and getting fed properly after a couple of years of near starvation.

Here's a link to some watercress info:

I wish I had studied more science in school.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


The learning curve in my trimming practice has recently been taking a turn for the steeper.

Normally when someone calls me with a severely laminitic horse, I just tell them to call my friend Sue, who is Very Experienced with these problems. However, the other day, a new client called and didn't tell me in advance that his two mares (sisters) were suffering from a bad bout of laminitis. So I had to deal with it.

The mares were having a very hard time walking - you could see the "ouchouchouch" at the moment when they had to break over their toes in the front. They had the tell-tale "ditch" running around above their hairline, showing how compromised their feet are - the end of the digit sinking down inside the hoof capsule.   (An ideal foot has a "muffin top" bulging out above the hairline.) Their toes were very overgrown, and taking them back did help, but I was afraid to go too far, as without x-rays you just don't know for sure where the tip of the coffin bone is lurking.

The two mares had no problems with their hind feet - which shows how much laminitis is affected by mechanical factors - that may be because as there's much less leveraging in the hoof wall of the hind feet, the weakened laminae don't come to grief in the same way. I assume that the chemical situation does not differ fore and hind.

The owner is nice, and good with his horses. But he's used to paying an Amish guy $15 per horse for a trim, and so my price is already a bit much for him, never mind me wanting to come back every two weeks to work with the mares until they're sorted. I went back once at half-price, but I fear he may not have me back anytime soon again. I also feel I missed an opportunity to really educate him about the nature of laminitis. As my friend Sue says, half the job is education.

However, the experience had some benefit for me, as it finally made me go out and buy 2" thick roofing insulation foam and Gorilla tape to have on hand for any future encounters with badly laminitic horses.

And I learned something interesting. These mares get laminitis every spring, as do their mother and another sister (who live elsewhere). So this year their owner decided they would get no spring grass whatsoever. (He does know that grass is a factor.) He kept them in a bare paddock with not a single stick of green anywhere in reach.

And they got laminitis worse than ever.

The worse part makes sense, because the paddock is very small, and the mares were therefore not able to get much exercise and movement, which exacerbates the problem. However, why did they get laminitis at all? So here's what I've been wondering: is there a light trigger?

Horses produce matrix metalloproteinase, which temporarily loosens (or whatever the technical term is) the laminar attachment in order to allow the hoof wall to grow past the structures underneath it, to which it is attached by the laminae.  Of course, the more hoof growth, the more MMP is needed. Fructans in the grass causes a rise in MMP production, and if the chemical (or whatever the technical term is) isn't dissipated (owttti), an excess of it will cause runaway detachment of the laminae.

When spring comes, bringing with it greatly enhanced nutritional opportunities, it's a good time for the horse to grow a lot of new hoof. So it makes sense that the sugary grass of early spring would trigger a lot of MMP production to allow for the extra growth. And might it also be the case that increasing daylight, which triggers shedding, is a signal to step up MMP production too?

Whatever the cause, I'm thinking let's everybody start spring with nice short toes.

Question:  has anybody out there had any experience with this product: MMP Stop, made by For Love of the Horse? I'm longing to know if it works. I tried their UVeitis formula, and it really worked. If their MMP Stop formula works, it could be a great boon to some people.

P.S. In case anyone is wondering about the roofing insulation and Gorilla tape, here you go:

Sunday, May 5, 2013

More Fun and Games

Today, I went out to the pasture intending to work some more on George and Bridget's stand-stay. But it just wasn't working out quite as well as it did the last time. I eventually realized that the difference lay in the fact that the first time I introduced this, I was all motivated to instruct George and Bridget to behave in an appropriate way when I wanted to give out treats to all four horses; and standing and staying was part of that. Today, however, I went out with the intention of just "practicing" their stand-stay. To practice it mindlessly caused - not so much them as - me to lose focus and direction. If I had focused on making sure that everyone (i.e. George and Bridget) behaved nicely while I handed out treats to Rose and Chloe, I feel that things would have been clearer. By the time I realized this, I'd run out of treats, and so I put the issue aside for another time.

Instead, we just started goofing around. I played with George with the game of choosing between pinkie and thumb, each one standing for something. (You have to watch the video.) I have absolutely no idea if he had the slightest notion of what the heck we were doing, but he was pretty engaged. I also played drawing on the ground with a thick stick, which made George want to play at chewing the same stick. And we (that is me) put sticks in a bucket, and George took them out. And of course I had to spend time scratching him.

George has a new way of being with me, which is that he comes up head first and drops his head and stays in that position for a while. He still does his sliding alongside maneuver too. Another new thing is that he is more worried about the proximity of Bridget. When he was with me today, he kept giving her the evil eye, and a couple of times he left to run her off. Whereas in the past, he had supreme confidence that she wouldn't dare interfere. I notice lately that the two of them seem to be getting a little closer. One time I even caught them fraternizing over a fence without me standing in between them. I wonder if this rapprochement is making George more susceptible to Bridget or giving Bridget more confidence in her demeanor towards him.

George finally got tired of playing and picked up Rose and left. Which allowed Bridget to come over. She offered me her legs and was very interested in me talking about them, as in, "Yes! That's your right leg! And now, look! You're picking up your left leg!" We also discussed her ears and her nose and her mouth. The fact that she didn't turn her butt around to be scratched evinced her high level of engagement in this naming activity. I had the grooming box out with me, and of course Bridget had to empty it out and chew the contents and try to pick up the empty box.

I must try to think of some other interesting activities they might enjoy. I think they might get a kick out of a tarp.

Two Miniature Stallions

I was warned that the two little horses were not very good about getting their hoofs done. Often when people say this, it turns out fine, and sometimes when things don't go well, they say, "He's never acted like this before!" So the best thing to do is to go in with an open mind.

The first little guy was the more dominant stallion. He was cute as a button and listened attentively, peeking at me with impish eyes from beneath his huge Thelwell shock of forelock. He assayed a couple of playful nips, and when I put his forefoot up in front of him on the pillar, he thought this was a handy aid for standing up on his hind legs. In both cases, all I had to do was to say, "Silly boy, we're not playing that game right now!" and he cheerfully altered his behavior.

His cousin, best buddy, and pasture mate behaved differently. He had that slightly Eeyore-ish demeanor of the lower-ranking horse. As I worked on him, he struck at me a couple of times with his mouth, in a manner nothing like his cousin's playful nips. He didn't actually bite, and I don't think even opened his mouth. It reminded me of when Rose tries to convince Bridget that she's going to bite her - she puts on the most intensely peevish face she can muster and snakes her head at Bridget. Bridget is never impressed and either ignores Rose or backs into her in a very bossy-boots kind of way.  I spoke sharply when the little stallion struck at me. I probably didn't need to, and perhaps should have dealt with it in a different way, but it felt like the most directly aggressive gesture that any horse I've worked with has ever made. Just like his cousin, the little guy settled down and let me work peacefully. Next time I'll try to connect with him a little better before I start working. I probably invaded his space a bit too forcefully. But I'll also be more vigilant, as I do not want to receive a bite, mini or otherwise!

These two little horses, like many of their kind, are - for the most part - inquisitive, engaging, confident, comical, affectionate, endearing. I wonder if all these positive characteristics are evidence of the way minis are treated. Their diminutive stature makes them so unthreatening that people don't shut them down or react to them with fear. It's not that they don't teach them manners or that they let them get away with murder, but rather that they correct them the way you would your child - gently. When the first little Mr. Stud wanted to nip and rear, my equanimity was not at all disturbed, and I could remain unruffled and friendly while asking him to stop. I was told that when the horse was younger, if his owner turned his back, the horse would try to mount him. The owner would then calmly turn around to face him and hold onto his front feet for a while, which was tiresome for the horse, and so he gave up the bad habit. If a 16:2 hh horse did that, the human's stress and fear levels would almost certainly shoot up, causing them to react unpleasantly. So while the large horse learns to be more constrained and reserved, the minis' exuberance is not dampened in this way.

We just have to figure out how to allow our full-size horses to express themselves freely, without causing us GBH in the process!