From Endurance to Dressage
Farrier Friday on Thursday
I love farrier day; it's almost as good as filling up the barn with hay. Or leaving the feed room stocked with feed bags. Or even walking away from a clean stall. Taking care of our horses provides plenty of opportunities for feelings of satisfaction. That's what I love about Farrier day; it's a fresh start.
My boys are done every six week without fail. And sometimes I try to get them done at five and a half weeks. Whether it happens or not, I don't like the thought of dramatically changing my horses's hoof angles. I am pretty sure it takes more than six weeks for them to feel the difference, but I am not taking any chances. Silly, I know. Even so.
Izzy's feet aren't at all complicated. Not much happens to his feet. Speedy, on the hand, is a bit trickier, although my farrier would disagree. Speedy is barefoot all around, and frankly, he almost doesn't need to be trimmed. He keeps his feet pretty evenly worn down just by walking around his paddock every day. With his proclivity for abscesses though, I like my farrier to keep a close eye.
When the farrier texted yesterday morning that he would get my boys done that morning, I asked him to check out Speedy's left front for signs of an abscess. He assured me that they would dig it out if they saw anything (he always has a helper). He agreed to text me if they found anything. I completely forgot about it until I arrived at the ranch later in the day and saw hoof trimmings on the ground. No text must have been good news.
I scraped out all of the mud from Speedy's hoof, the one that had had an abscess, and saw that it looked good with no drainage hole. I took him into the grass to graze (and clean his feet on the wet grass) and then I trotted him out on the long dirt track just outside the pastures. His trot out was big, bold, and too quick for me to keep up. As he dragged me along, I tried to watch for a head bob, but he was simply too eager to move out for me to keep up.
I ended up trotting him out several times, and not once did I notice even the slightest of a head bob. Until I see something that proves otherwise, I am calling this abscess resolved. It only took seventeen days.
Speedy should be good to go for a lesson this Saturday.
Given how "expensive" a visit by the farrier is - I use quotes because my farrier is actually quite reasonably priced compared to what my friends on the coast are paying, it strikes me as odd that it is a check I enjoy writing. To every equestrian, a freshly trimmed or shod hoof is a satisfying sight. My farrier came out yesterday, so I was eager to see how shiny and new both boys' feet looked.
Like many of you do, my boys get done at six weeks on the dot, or maybe a day or two early. Never late. I don't want the angles to have the opportunity to change, so they get done like clockwork. Speedy gets a trim all the way around, and Izzy gets shoes in the front with only a trim in the back.
While I am sure my farrier is quite skilled, my two horses have such easy feet that he gets the job done quickly. Neither horse has any special needs; their feet are hard and sturdy, hold shoes well (in Izzy's case), and never need more than a little trim and some work with the rasp. With my boys, the farrier's hourly rate is higher than with most horses since my boys are so quick and easy to do. It's okay though; he's worth every penny. Finding a qualified and reliable farrier is like winning the lottery, maybe even better.
Maybe that's why when the farrier comes out I feel like I can throw Benjis around like they're dollar bills.
While I feel like I know more about horse physiology than a lot of riders, I definitely don't know everything. I don't even know a fraction of everything. One of the (many) things that I didn't know was what a quarter crack actually is. Of all of the parts of the equine body to learn about, hooves are the one thing that I don't totally geek out about unless it comes to abscesses. I dig those.
Near the end of last week, I think it was Thursday, I looked down at Izzy's feet like I always do and gave an involuntary wince. Crap. There was a pretty long crack growing from the bottom of Izzy's hoof towards his coronary band. It didn't look good. I immediately shot a couple of photos and fired them off to my farrier with the message, Should this be something to worry about?
I know just enough about hooves to recognize that it was a crack in his quarters. Wouldn't that make it a quarter crack? Every rider knows that quarter cracks are definitely not good. I have a really good farrier, so rather than consult Dr. Google, DVM, I waited for him to respond. He told me not to worry, but that he would be by to clean it up. That was a better reply than I was hoping for, but still.
As we were nearing the end of my Saturday lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, I saw my farrier pull up. Rather than drive down to where he usually works on the horses, he stopped right outside the arena and waited for me to finish. Since it was just going to be a quick touch up, I didn't even bother to untack. I led Izzy straight from the arena to the truck.
Izzy only wears shoes in the front - long story, so the crack was on a hind hoof. My farrier took out his nippers and snipped away the hang nail. He did some work with the file and then repeated the process on the other hoof. As he finished, I started asking questions. First, I wanted to know if it was a quarter crack. For the first time, someone was able to give me a brief, but very intelligible explanation of what a quarter crack really is.
He explained that while this crack did appear on Izzy's hoof quarter, it wasn't an actual quarter crack. Quarter cracks begin at the coronary band and go downward. In his words, the hoof wall at the coronary band is paper thin which makes it more susceptible to splitting and cracking. Speedy damaged his coronary band pretty severely a few years ago, and it did take quite a while for the damage to grow out. Even that injury wasn't an actual quarter crack; he ripped his coronary band open on something.
My farrier explained that the heal quarter is actually a thin part of the hoof and is made to chip away. As it chips off, it allows the horse to even out the rest of the hoof wall. For wild horses, this is a normal and natural process. While Izzy's hind feet were just trimmed three weeks ago, we had a deep, soaking rain a week or two ago which softened Izzy's feet. While messing around in his paddock, he probably caught the quarter of his hoof on something which tore it open without knocking it completely away. It was a lot like a human hang nail.
When my farrier trims Izzy, he always adds a slight arch to the hoof wall which keeps the quarters from resting on the ground. This way, it doesn't tear off like Izzy's just did. When Speedy injured his coronary band, the vet and farrier did the same thing to aid Speedy's healing. For a regular trim, the arch is much flatter than the one they did for Speedy.
Even though Izzy's hoof now has a pretty good chunk missing, my farrier assured me that horses do just fine with even bigger hunks missing. Damage to the upper part of the hoof is much more serious than anything below the midline of the hoof.
Izzy's not lame in any way, and knowing how quickly Speedy's hoof changed from day to day, I bet this grows back in before my farrier comes in three weeks. And if it doesn't grow in completely, my farrier won't even have to add a new arch; it will still be there.
Thank goodness for good farriers.
I don't get to see my farrier very often because he typically comes in the middle of the day, and I am usually at work. For this month's visit, I of course was able to be there. It was great to see him, and even better to pick his brain.
Both of my horses grow a fair of amount of foot which means my farrier comes every five to six weeks. Longer than that and we start to have problems, and not just with pulled shoes.
My farrier is an integral part of Team Speedy (and Team Izzy, too), so when he talks, I listen. The truth is he never has anything critical to say. Either I am doing things right, or I am just blessed to have horses with good feet. It's probably a combination of the two, and having a great farrier hasn't hurt either. My farrier is well aware of Speedy's PPID diagnosis, so he understands why I have a lot of questions regarding the health of those feet.
A week or so ago, I tried to use EasyBoots on Speedy, but I just couldn't get them on. These are the same boots that I've used on him for years. I hadn't tried to put one on him since ... well I can't remember when, but it's been at least four years, maybe more. No matter how hard I pried and wedged and twisted, that boot just wouldn't go on. I eventually flipped the boot over and measured it against the bottom of his hoof. To my surprise, his hoof was wider than the boot by at least a quarter inch - all the way around. I gave up, and Edyta rode him barefoot.
I asked my farrier about it, and he explained it like this. Without a shoe holding Speedy's hoof wall in place, the wall has been able to expand and spread out. Not in a pancake way, mind you, but in a more supportive way. My farrier is really happy with how Speedy's feet have changed over the five years that he's been taking care of my horses' hooves. It was this farrier who suggested Speedy's earlier lameness issues were a result of him whacking himself with shod feet which was causing bruising. Once we pulled Speedy's shoes and his feet adapted to being barefoot, those random lameness bouts never returned.
Barefoot is not for every horse, of course, but it sure is convenient when it works. I got so tired of Izzy pulling shoes that I eventually rode him barefoot for a while. Sadly, his front feet just couldn't handle it. He wore them off to a diamond shape month after month which left him unbalanced in his movement. We compromised by putting shoes on the front feet only. He still pulls one every now and then, but leaving him barefoot in the back has worked out really well.
While my farrier's assistant was trimming Izzy's hind feet, he leaned around and asked if I've been doing much riding. Every day, I responded. He laughed and said that he could tell. Izzy didn't have anything to trim in the back, so he just ran the rasp around to smooth things up a bit.
Last month I wrote a post showing how the mystery hole in Speedy's foot was growing out. Just as I'd hoped, the last bit of the hole was long gone before my farrier even had a chance to trim it this week. The red circle shows where the hole was just five and a half weeks ago.
A good farrier is really worth his weight in gold. I am lucky to have found one that's both knowledgeable and reliable. He's also a really nice guy. If you're local and you read this post on Facebook, leave a comment about your own farrier. Even if you're not local, tell us how great your farrier is no matter where you live. I think we need to toot their horns a bit.
Update: The Hole in Speedy's Hoof
Back in February, a hole appeared out of nowhere in Speedy's hind hoof. It was one heck of a magic trick; one day his hoof was whole, the next day there was a hole in in it. Abracadabra.
I poked it, I took a stiff brush to it, and I doused it with Betadine. The next day, it looked nearly the same. I watched it for a few weeks, and then pointed it out to my vet when we were there two weeks later for a routine visit.
I think Dr. Tolley is an amazing vet, but I wish he didn't get quite so excited by all of Speedy's weird ass issues. I am fairly certain that when he sees my name on the schedule, he rubs his hand in glee knowing that I'm bringing in something strange and unusual.
Dr. Tolley whipped out his Dremel and went to work. His initial diagnosis was White Line Disease, but he wanted confirmation from my farrier. Thankfully, Speedy's white line came back clean which meant crisis averted.
Even though there was no sign of White Line Disease, I still treated it with daily swipes of Tea Tree Oil to prevent any issues to his White Line. About two-thirds of the way through March, the hole was looking quite good. It was clean with no sign of infection, and it looked as though it might come off with the next trim.
My farrier was back out for a new trim on Friday, April 3. My fingers were crossed that the hole would be gone after the trim, but Speedy just didn't have quite enough toe to remove. Both horses were a few days past five weeks growth. My horses just can't go longer than six weeks - Speedy's toes grow really fast, and Izzy often starts pulling shoes after the fifth week. For this trim, I had my farrier out a bit early to avoid this week's bad weather.
Given that the hole was at the top of the bottom third of Speedy's hoof wall just two months ago, I am delighted with how quickly the hole is growing out. By his next trim in May, the hole should definitely get trimmed away. It will be a miracle if we have no more hoof issues between now and then.
And Universe? This is not a challenge. We're dealing with enough weird ass crap right now. Ain't nobody got time for something else.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: