Because I Say So!

Domination, intimidation, confrontation, anthropomorphism – and the effects on your horse.

In this article, we will briefly explore how our ‘frame of mind’, interaction and communication styles affect our horses – mentally and physically!

Watching a young father today with his unruly but content and curious toddler at our local Wholefoods, I remembered a standard sentence that I heard when I was a child: “Why?” “Because I say so.”

The memory triggered number of other phrases that people in my generation will still be familiar with:

  • Don’t talk back.
  • Children should be seen, not heard.
  • ….. the list goes on.

Not blaming the generation of my parents here, who learned their parenting skills from a generation born into monarchy. Not listening was utterly ‘un-Prussian’!

What I am saying in a nut shell: We all know that what we learned to be true at some point, may no longer serve our higher purpose and we can unlearn and relearn to better meet our own and others’ needs – including our horses!

One of those things many riders and horse people need to desperately unlearn and relearn – in my opinion – is the way they interact with horses.

Negative Effects of  Confrontational and Threatening Interaction

Ever walked down the street and heard a sudden crash from a car accident? How did your body respond? You went into ‘defense mode‘, preparing to fight or run. Horses and other mammals respond very similarly – with ‘hyperarousal‘. scared-horse-200x132

Here from loom, S. L. and Farragher, B. (2010) Destroying Sanctuary: The Crisis in Human Service Delivery Systems. New York: Oxford University Press. (pp. 102-106)

“Like other animals [like horses…], humans have formed a highly effective protective system that evolved in our original evolutionary environment when human beings lived in small groups of family members and were threatened by hungry predators. This defensive action system is a total body mobilization, driven by powerful neurochemicals that flood our brain and body. To survive, we must pay attention to any information from the environment that might help us, so many of our senses become more acute—eyes dilate, hearing improves, smells sharpen. Whenever threatened, our attention becomes riveted on the potential threat, and we become hypervigilant to what is going on in our surroundings. … This state is called “hyperarousal” (Horowitz 1986). Below the level of our conscious awareness, we choose appropriate survival-based action: fight, flight, freeze, appease. If we survive the threat, recuperation follows, which is characterized by rest and isolation, wound care, and gradual return to daily activities (van der Hart, Nijenhuis et al. 2005).”

Confrontational Interaction with our horses keeps the horse in a constant state of hyperarousal. This does not always show up as a ‘hot’ horse. The following can be indicators of chronic hyperarousal:

  • Shut down and dull, perhaps ‘lazy’
  • Shut down and occasionally explosive/unpredictable
  • “Rude” – another way of being ‘shut down’ (walks right over you, pushes into you, just wants you to ‘go away’…)
  • Aggressive (bites, kicks, aggressive toward other horses)
  • Tense (stiff movement, holds breath, grinds teeth, leans on bit or gets behind bit, etc.)

Possible long-term health problems resulting from chronic hyperarousal (examples):

  • Arthritic changes (namely in the vertebrae from staying stiff under saddle)
  • Ulcers and chronic teeth or TMJ problems
  • Stress on muscles, tendons, ligaments and resulting injuries (from lack of suppleness, chronic tension)
  • Possibly Insulin Resistance (see source below)

Your frame of mind – and how it plays into your horse’s mental and physical soundness

Our ‘frame of mind’ determines our reality, to a great extent. It provides basically the color glasses we see the world thought. We will then also behave and communicate according to this ‘frame’ and draw respective conclusions.

Example: If I am a surgeon, I will look at every wart as something that can be removed surgically. If I am an herbalist, I will think of a tincture to apply.

When entering the barn – have a ‘horse lovers frame of mind’. And to love the horse means to strive to understand the horse’s nature and actively work to meet its mental, emotional, and physical needs!

“Lasting success can only be achieved, if the heart and soul of all superiors and subordinates [instructors and pupils] is filled with the joy of riding and the love of the horse.” (HDV12 German Cavalry Manual on Training Horse & Rider, Xenophon Press)

Part of our ‘frame of mind’ is composed by things we learned throughout our life, meaning learned behaviors that become – sometimes deeply ingrained – habits. This includes attitudes relating to interaction with others and the respective communication style.

Example: If I have learned that I get ahead at the work place by behaving in an intimidating and dominant manner and that this is the way to get results, I may behave similarly at the parent teacher conference (or at the barn!).

Houston – there is trouble!

Over the years, I have observed many kinds of unhelpful and downright harmful interaction with horses, resulting in behavior and performance problems and unsoundness:

  1. Confrontational behavior
  2. Demanding obedience
  3. Intimidation
  4. Punishment
  5. And the greatest sin of all: Anthropomorphism (meaning subscribing human traits, feelings, thought patterns, motives, etc. to your horse)

Number 5 is key here: Perhaps it is possible to be a tough one to deal with at work or at home, if your ‘frame of mind’ at the barn is that of a person, who realized that the nature of the horse demands a completely different set of skills and attitudes, namely:

  • Non-confrontational interaction
  • Asking for cooperation
  • Non-threatening behavior
  • Punishment only as immediate response to dangerous behavior (the very rare exception)
  • Deep understanding of the nature of the horse as a prey animal that lacks a human’s ability for cunning, strategizing, manipulative, intentionally malicious behavior.

Anthropomorphism (treating your horse as if he/she was a human) sets you up for the following interaction patterns that are not only unfair but also extremely stressful to your horse (examples):

  • Untimely and unwarranted ‘reward’ and ‘punishment‘ – often long after the fact, something a horse cannot relate to.
  • The habit of assigning human-like motives and strategies to horses. Horses live in the moment. They did not ‘plan’ to do anything more than 3 seconds in advance!
  • Expecting your horse to ‘understand’ what you want. (He knows exactly what I want, but doesn’t want to do it.) If your horse understood, he/she would be happy to do it, if you set it up right and strive to understand yourself. Example: Riders, who kick their horse’s sides and shoulders because ‘the horse doesn’t WANT to give me his shoulder’ should be flogged, tarred and feathered. Because that is what that feels like to the horse.
  • Constant nagging, tugging, pushing, jerking, yelling, as a response to perceived ‘misbehavior’. This includes making annoying ‘eh, eh, eh’ sounds!
  • Treating your horse like a pet and interpreting disrespectful behavior as ‘cute’ or as a sign of ‘intimacy’. Your horse needs to know you will keep him safe. Let  him know you are doing that by setting boundaries.
  • Being inconsistent and spoiling your horse. You are puzzling your horse! A spoiled horse is a dangerous horse. Create consistency and predictability in every interaction.
  • The list goes on…

When looking at your horse – see a horse! Do not transfer the way you understand humans and the behaviors, expectations, interaction and communication styles you may have with humans to your horse!

4 simple steps to improve interaction and relationship with your horse

  1. STOP THINKING OR SPEAKING OF YOUR HORSE AS IF HE/SHE WAS A HUMAN!!!

If you have developed this habit, it takes practice to break. For the next week, simply observe how you think and talk about your horse. Does it sound like you are talking about your favorite nephew or some bully in class? Take a deep breath, acknowledge you ‘anthropomorphized’ your horse, and move on. After this first week, you will feel the NEED to change this.

  1. ASK – DON’T TELL!

Start by changing your vocabulary around that.

I worked with my horse all morning.                NOT I worked my horse all morning.
I am asking for a rein back.                                  NOT I am making him rein back.

Later, you can expand on that by framing every request to your horse in an ‘ask’, not a ‘tell’.

  1. DON’T THREATEN YOUR HORSE

You may think you don’t…. But many of us do. Example: I recently stood next to a horse in conversation with the owner, the working student was holding the horse. The working student incessantly jerked on the lead rope/halter every time the horse so much as breathed. It was clear that the expectation: BEHAVE was communicated in a manner that horse must find threatening. This is a hard habit to break as it requires a lot of awareness. My tip: Read the original horse whisperers (Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt). After that, you may find more wisdom in modern horsemen/women but you will know what to look for.

  1. OBSTAIN FROM PUNISHMENT

This is a tough one. The horse was ‘bad’ (anthromorphism) and needs to be punished, isn’t that so? Don’t we hear trainers say – time and again – “Don’t let him get away with it!” or worse “Whack him!”. We don’t want to be bossed by our horse, we don’t want him to get the upper hand and ‘push our buttons’. Right? Wouldn’t this make us look stupid or incapable? No worries… The only worry you should have is how you look in the eyes of your horse. Don’t punish. Redirect, start over, reward.

Exception: My rule is, if a horse shows learned, dangerous misbehavior such as biting humans, I do punish swiftly, clearly, without anger (that’s tough) and without letting this moment linger on. 1 second punishment, the next second we simply move on – on a good note.

IN SHORT

  • Horse are horses! Do not interpret horse behavior within the frame of mind applied to human beings, who have completely different needs, behaviors, motives, and agendas.
  • Learn non-confrontational interaction with horses!
  • Don’t threaten your horse! (Get help in identifying what these threatening behaviors are!)
  • Don’t punish your horse! (Redirect, start over, reward. Exception: Learned, dangerous behaviors!)

The reward:

  • A better relationship with your horse.
  • A more willing horse.
  • Better performance.
  • Often, improved health and soundness due to a more relaxed body and mind.

Enjoy your horse!

SReinhold_sm

Stefanie Reinhold
www.ReinholdsHorseWellness.com

Sources:

Anthropomorphism

Horse Behavior – A Review of the Human-Horse Relationship

Stress as possible cause of insulin resistance

 

 

 

 

Can You See the Real Me?

“Riding is not about “riding”.  It is about everything that happens before we even get to the mounting block.”

A guest blog article by Horse Behavior Specialist Anita Kush

In my practice as a coach to horse owners and trainers, who seek a more mindful connection with their horse, I come across many, who have become caught up in a vicious cycle of unfulfilled expectations, shattered hopes and dreams, disillusionment, and more – albeit adjusted – expectations. The way out of this cycle is to start by asking ourselves the right – and perhaps uncomfortable – questions.

[Now, please take some quiet time, read each question, pause after the question, answer it for yourself, honestly. Then move on to the next …]

When we arrive at the barn, what do we really see?  Is it what is before us?  Or is it our vision of what we want to be or achieve?  And is our horse – our colleague in this endeavor – a partner or a slave to our ambitions and desires?

Is our goal predicated on a picture in a magazine, a moment frozen in time, a video, an idea, a concept, a wish, a book telling us that – yes – we too can look like and be THIS…if only we will follow a certain method or buy a certain product or gadget…

What is meaningful horse work?  It is work that is considerate, fair, helpful, firm (when necessary) and facilitates long term understanding in relationship  of the two parties involved.

Wscared-horse-200x132hat is the difference between “disobedience” and learning? Is it possible that what we interpret as disrespect or unwillingness to perform certain tasks, may be in reality lack of understanding? The horse showing us what he knows and that he is unable – not unwilling – to fulfill the request?   Or that perhaps our question isn’t clear. What is accomplished by demanding that certain things happen – even though it may be physically or emotionally impossible for the horse to comply?

What is the process of learning that we need to understand?  Making mistakes and struggling means: Your horse is trying to figure out a way to accomplish what you are asking. He is not avoiding the question!

“Remember, it is not about the task, it is about how we come to it. Is it with willing cooperation or grudging resentment?  The choice is ours.” (Anita Kush)

Riding is not about “riding”.  It is about everything that happens before we even get to the mounting block.  Getting on is the culmination of the totality of the relationship between you and your horse.  No gadget or video can give you the answer. There is no one size fits all method or equipment.  See beyond mechanics and arm yourself with deeper knowledge.

The horse has all the answers! Look at the horse in front of you: He’ll always tell you the truth and live up to your expectations. Learn to expect what you want to see – a non-confrontational, cooperative and mindful interaction with your horse!

anita

Anita Kush

[If you are interested in a consultation with Anita Kush, please see her bio here or call +18477910494 or email caprioles at hotmail dot com.]

Get Your Groom On: A product review of sorts

It is always great to hear when someone gets good results with some of the How To’s I provide. Especially happy about this blog post about grooming with ‘elbow grease’ instead of chemicals. Enjoy!

Now, that's The Spot!

As I’ve mentioned in the last couple of posts, I’ve been grooming… a lot. But, to be completely honest, I do enjoy it and it kinda of meditative for me.  It’s especially relaxing after a long day at work and I can just zone out while currying and brushing.

waxon

I’ve noticed however that grooming isn’t something people like to do, or something people do at all anymore. More than often I see people brush their horse’s saddle area as if they were feather dusting a porcelain tea cup and call it done. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m running really short on time, I’ll usually just give a quick once over so I can be on my way.  As a kid and learning how to ride, grooming was taken seriously and your horse had to be nicely groomed or you’d get yelled at by your British Horse Society trainer. So, good…

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What Exactly is Dressage? Or “How fancy are your pants?”

“Does Dressage Need a Makeover to Attract a Mass Audience?”

Rider
Felix Bürkner – classically correct in ‘fancy pants’. The occasion: A costume ball in the 1920’s. Image courtesy of equivox.de.

This headline appeared in social media this morning, linking to an article by a British horse magazine. Below it, a young rider in a purple dressage coat, lavender pants, horse decked out in matching colors. Frankly, I don’t remember what exactly the horse looked like, apart from the colorful accessories.

Now, thinking about that question again, all I remember in my mind is the rider’s flamboyant outfit. Reading through the ‘yeah’ and ‘nay’ comments and opinions of others, I simply can’t come up with an intelligent answer, in spite of sipping on a decaf soy latte.

But, wait a minute… Is this even the right question to ask?

“There are no right answers to wrong questions.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Whenever there is the need for analysis, there is a need to ask the right questions and confirm the definition of the substance at stake (IT project managers will agree here).

In other words, if we want to determine whether a change needs to be made, let’s make sure we are all talking about the same thing. What exactly are we talking about? DRESSAGE, you will say.

What Exactly Is Dressage?

And where do we find the correct definition?

Logically, we would turn to the ‘rules we ride by’. The ‘rules’ are the FN Principles of Riding, which in turn are based on the pure and unadulterated classic German riding theory and source of today’s “Training Scale”, the HDV12 German Cavalry Manual, last edition of 1937. Let’s see how the HDV12 defines dressage:

“In order to be able to fulfill all requirements that military duty demands of a war-ready cavalry horse, the green horse’s body needs to be systematically developed by means of gymnasticizing, and the horse needs to be carefully educated. Both elements combined are called dressage.” (HDV12 German Cavalry Manual for Training Horse & Rider, 1937)

This makes a lot of sense. So Dressage is a means to an end, not an end itself. Horsemen, mostly in the cavalry, culminated practical knowledge over centuries, learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating an able and willing equine partner, documented this and it in the form of an Army Regulation.

“…The goal of dressage is to school the horse to the optimum performance level and to make it obedient. This goal can only be achieved if the horse—while maintaining and developing its natural [mental and physical] disposition—is brought into a form and posture in which it can fully develop its potential. In such form and posture, the horse will be able to prove equal to the demands of service for a long time.” (HDV12/1937)

Aha! So the goal is to create an willing and able equine athlete, who will stay healthy and usable for a long time! In 2015 speak: ROI (Return On Investment), folks!

In the context of preparing the horse for a partnership in military service (end), dressage was the systematic schooling (means) needed to create this able military steed. Not an end in itself.

Dressage competitions, in turn, are merely benchmarking events. Here is where riders show how far they have come in their schooling of their horse, here is where this schooling is judged not against the performance of other riders, but according to the governing parameters: the Principles of Riding (based on the HDV12).

Let’s recap:

  • The original question was: “Does dressage need a makeover to attract a mass audience?”
  • We asked the question: What are we talking about? What is dressage?
  • We discovered the correct definition of dressage as a systematic schooling of the horse to create an able and willing all around equine athlete.
  • Dressage competitions are benchmarking events, where we are judged against the ‘rules we ride by’, which are the FN Principles of Riding (based on the HDV12).

Final Thoughts on Dressage, Right Questions, Mass Audiences & Fancy Pants

The ‘makeover’ question raises a lot of other questions in my mind.

Why do we need mass audiences? Why does dressage need to appeal to mass audiences? Who benefits from making some of the proposed changes or even making these concerns priorities?

First and foremost, dressage is or should be about the horse. The real question is a different one. It is time to take the officials by the horns and ask more relevant questions:

Are you or are you not basing the rules we ride by on the classical guidelines (HDV12)?

“Today’s FN Guidelines—the Principles of Riding, the official instruction manual of the German National Equestrian Federation—were developed on the basis of the H. Dv. 12, whereby the 1937 edition provided the main orientation.” Eckart Meyners in his foreword to the English edition of the HDV12/1937

The answer is therefore officially – see FN Principles of Riding – yes! That means it’s time that

Then, an unlimited number of athletes and spectators can enjoy dressage, knowing we are doing right by the horse. No matter what color your fancy pants…

Enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold
Stefanie Reinhold

Calming Signals: Are You Listening?

This article couldn’t have come at a better time, as I am preparing to post a series of articles about “Path to Performance(TM) – A 3-Step Process to a Willing & Able Horse”. Resistance-free interaction on the emotional and mental level is part of Step 1 and this article gives wonderful suggestions and food for thought. Thank you and enjoy!
“It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” ~Mark Twain.

Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

WMcalmingcueIf you are standing next to your horse and he looks away, do you think he’s distracted or even disrespectful? When your horse yawns, is he sleepy or bored? If he moves slowly, is he lazy? These are important cues from your horse, are you hearing him correctly?

When it comes to communicating with horses, some humans are a bit like a self-obsessed rock star who throws a temper tantrum and trashes the room, but then assumes everyone wants his autograph. By equine standards, we ignore those around us and begin by screaming bloody-murder and escalate from there. Part of respecting a horse is remembering that their senses are much keener than ours. We can whisper.

It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.  ~Mark Twain. 

Horses give us calming signals, just like dogs. Norwegian dog…

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World Leaders on Horseback~ Happy Presidents Day to My US readers!

Excellent article about world leaders of the past and their steeds.

The Flying Shetlands

George Washington, The First President

Since here in the US it is Presidents Day weekend, I thought that I would feature a few of our presidents on horseback as well as other world leaders riding horses as well. I took extra time to try and find all of the artists names, but unfortunately was not able to. If anyone  knows of any of the artists names or another leaders in paintings/sculpture, please contact me.  Thanks!

Here is a very interesting site that has a lot of info on the horses of the White House: http://www.whitehousehistory.org/presentations/white-house-horses/index.html

George Washington

George Washington and Nelson   “The Prayer at Valley Forge ” by  Arnold Friberg

friberg_paintstick.jpg

Andrew Jackson At The Battle Of New Orleans

Andrew Jackson was the major general of thTennessee Volunteers during the war of 1812.

Andrew Jackson on horseback, engraving by an unidentified artist, c. 1830.

United States’ 7th President, Andrew Jackson

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Caring for Your Horses’ Hooves

brushing a horse's hoofThe old saying ‘no hoof no horse’ gains special significance in the winter, when elements, cold temperatures and wetness can contribute to hoof decay. Here in the Midwest, this is a big concern.
In warmer climates, dryness and exposure to sand and rough terrain can also take a toll. Here a summary of factors that determine the condition of your horse’s hooves:

  • Genetics
  • Nutrition
  • Trim
  • Environment
  • Exercise

With these variables, there is much we can do to support healthy hooves in our horses. But one solution does not fit all…

What is a hoof?

a horse's hoof
The horse’s hoof

The horse’s hoof is the equivalent of the last two digits of the human middle finger, encapsulated by horn layers. When caring for our horse’s hoof, we are concerned with the outer layers: the wall, the sole, the frog, and also the coronary band.

The coronary band: The equivalent of our cuticles. This is where hoof growth starts.

The wall: The wall is between 5 and 10 mm thick and consists of three layers. The outer layer of dense horn acts as a barrier to the inner layers. If the outer layer is healthy and maintained properly, it prevents dehydration of the inner layers.

The sole: The sole can grow up to 10 mm thick. Its Keratin* is more easily worn down than that of the hoof wall.

The frog: Keratin in the frog and bulb is also softer than in the hoof wall. With every step, the horse’s weight expands the frog, which in turn presses the hoof wall outward. This is called the ‘hoof mechanism’, a healthy and necessary function of a natural hoof.

[Keratin: a fibrous protein forming the main structural constituent of hair, feathers, hoofs, claws, horns, etc.]

How a hoof stays healthy

With the three elements wall, sole and frog having distinct functions that interlace into one mechanism, there is a balance that we’d like to maintain:

  • The wall should stay hard and strong but resilient and not brittle.
  • The sole should be dry and somewhat flexible, but not crumbling or too dry and hard (think expansion).
  • The frog needs to be elastic and resilient but not soggy or rock hard to maintain a healthy hoof mechanism.

Step 1 – Determine the “Current State”

When striving to create and maintain a healthy hoof in our horse, it is first of all important to determine the current state:

  • Is the hoof soft and brittle?
  • Is the hoof hard and brittle?
  • Is the hoof dry and rock-hard?

Then we can decide what measures to take to help our horse maintain a healthy hoof. (For more important external and internal factors that determine hoof health see below.)

Soft and brittle hooves

soft and brittle hoof
An extreme case: A soft brittle hoof along with other problems

This is what is looks like: A soft brittle hoof will visibly disintegrate. Pieces of horn break of the hoof wall. The hoof is described as “crumbly”. If shod, the farrier will have a hard time keeping a shoe on this hoof.

Causes: Too much exposure to wetness without proper ‘barrier’. Exposure to manure/urine/wet bedding/mud. Hoof horn possibly genetically somewhat soft.

Repair: Avoid wetness! Dry bedding, dry lot without puddles. Clean hooves thoroughly with water and brush, dry with a towel, then treat hooves daily with a hoof ointment or oil without petroleum-based ingredients (no vaseline).

Maintain: Keep horse’s environment dry and clean hooves daily. Treat several times per week with a natural hoof treatment.

Hard and brittle hooves

dryhoof
A dry and brittle hoof with vertical cracks.

This is what it looks like: A hard and brittle hoof has lost its resilience and elasticity by allowing too much of the moisture of the inner layers to evaporate through the outer protective layer, mainly the hoof wall. It will show up as a hard, dry looking hoof with vertical cracks.

Causes: The outer layer of the hoof wall and sole does not act as a protective barrier and is stripped of its natural defenses. Harsh hoof treatments, harsh chemicals (shampoos, soaps), very dry environmental conditions, very cold environmental conditions. Hoof genetically predisposed to hardness/dryness meets unfavorable conditions.

Repair: A horse with a dry and brittle hoof can benefit from a bit more moisture. Standing in a puddle, hosing, soaking, spraying CLEAN bedding with a little water. Clean hoof daily with water and hoof brush, then dry thoroughly with a towel and apply a moisturizing, protective hoof conditioner (NO petroleum-based products!).

Hosing the hoof can help moisturize.
Hosing the hoof can help moisturize.

Maintain: Clean and condition daily or at least several times per week to maintain the outer layer’s ability to lock in moisture. Monitor the hoof for signs of dryness and soak or hose when needed.

Dry and hard hooves

This is what it looks like: Dry and hard hooves (hooves like a ‘rock’) are often mistaken for healthy hooves. If you examine your horse’s hoof and the sole and frog present rock-hard and inflexible, this is–while it looks so clean and healthy–not a good thing when we think about the hoof mechanism. A healthy hoof mechanism requires a resilient and elastic frog and bulb and some elasticity in the sole and wall.

Causes: Horses with dry and rock-hard hooves are mostly kept in clean stalls, are shod, and generally well cared for. Genetics also play a role. That said, this is a clean, but not a healthy picture!

cleaning a horse hoof
Cleaning feet regularly is important.

Repair: Evaluate the horse’s trim. Is the horse carrying weight on the hoof wall, the bars and the frog? If not, consult with your (or another…) farrier. A shod horse can still have a healthy hoof mechanism to some extent! If possible, apply a nourishing hoof conditioner on the clean hoof several times per day. Spray clean bedding with a little water.effol_hoofoil

Maintenance: Clean hooves daily and apply a nourishing hoof oil several times per week. Soaking in water, standing in puddles, turnout in pasture and hosing can support hoof health for a hard and dry hoof.

Tips and Tricks

Soaking Hooves

To provide some moisture for dry hooves, cut a thick piece of felt in the shape of your horse’s hoof, soak it in water, place it in a horse boot (Easy Boot Trail, for example, or any therapeutic boot) and let the horse stand in it while you are grooming.

The low-tech version is to cut 4 pieces of an old wool blanket to size, big enough to wrap and tie around your horse’s feet. Soak in water, wrap and tie around your horse’s feet while grooming. (Be sure this doesn’t scare your horse and tie the pieces securely.)

Applying hoof oil

Laurel oil has been a staple in old-school hoof care for centuries and is ideal for the maintenance and to support growth of a healthy hoof. Massaging the oil into the coronary band and then down will improve the effect. You can use an old tooth brush to massage the oil into the hoof.

Hoof health from the inside

There are several internal factors that determine the horse’s hoof quality:

  • Nutrition – Adequate nutrition, roughage, minerals/vitamins, balanced rations are crucial for healthy hoof growth.
  • Genetics – Certain breeds tend to have certain types of hooves or typical hoof problems. Individuals also have their special genetic ‘hoof make-up’. Again, there is no one-for-all solution!
  • Laminitic changes and other health factors – The insulin-resistant horse, the Cushings horse, a horse that has foundered in the past or is prone to laminitis is also a horse with possible hoof problems. Consult with your vet and farrier, care and hoof treatments can support your horse but not ‘fix’ the problem.

Hoof health from the outside

External factors determine your horse’s hoof health to a great extent. These are factors that you can control:

  • Manure – manure disintegrates the outer layer of the hoof and can lead to brittle, cracking hooves or to fungal/bacterial conditions. Keep the horse’s environment as clean as possible.
  • Trim/shoeing – consult with your farrier to determine the best possible trimming/shoeing solution for your horse. If your farrier applies a ‘one for all’ solution, look for a different farrier.
  • Weather/environmental – While you cannot change the weather, you can change the way you maintain your horse’s hooves (above).
  • Exercise – The ‘equine couch potato’ will have a hard time maintaining a healthy hoof. Adequate exercise is one of the important factors when it comes to healthy hoof growth.
a healthy horse hoof
A healthy hoof takes care.

Maintenance – Clean hooves and apply a conditioning hoof care treatment. This is the equivalent of using hand lotion, cuticle oil, hair conditioner, etc. It is not the ‘fix all’ but a necessary component of good care.

As always, enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold

http://www.reinholdshorsewellness.com