Saturday, March 5, 2011

Out With the Old and In With the New?

I found it incredibly hard to answer the incoming call on my cell phone Thursday night. What had been a fantastic moment of awareness and a good ride, suddenly my stomache was flip flopping, knowing the inevitable conversation that was about to unfold. The caller ID read the name and number of the farrier I had been using. I really liked the guy, he seemed knowledgeable, was friendly, accommodating, and gave great advice for some of Milo's ailments. But after my last lesson with Sarah we had determined that his feet were not where they should be.

When I first started working with Sarah about Milo's saddle fitting issues, muscular tensions and so forth, she did not like the way his feet where, primarily, she thought his toes where too long. She even credited his lameness in his hocks due to poor angles in his hooves. Not wanting to give up my farrier and the relationship we had, I opted to talk with him instead about my concerns. My farrier obliged to my requests, taking more toe off the front. This pleased Sarah when she next saw him and we seemed to have Milo in a good place again.

So frustration sank in at my last lesson. I had mentioned in the blog post that his ribs were out yet again, and it has become a maddening puzzle as to what is causing this. When he is ridden in a saddle it is in one that properly fits. When I ride him, I am in correct position. I continue the small ground exercises Sarah have shown me to help keep his ribs in place. And yet, every time she sees him, his ribs are out and needing an adjustment.

I had already been quite displeased about Milo's feet at this point. I felt my farrier was starting to lapse back to his old ways, and was not doing a very finished job. Milo toes in on the front, but it was becoming quite excessive, and his hind hooves were flaring out quite badly after only 5 weeks post trim.

Feb 16 Left Front

Feb 16, Right Front
I was not at all pleased with the way his feet were looking. I didnt take a good photo of the hind's flaring at the time, but it was noticeable, and not good.   I guess my feelings were that he was bearing most of his weight on the sole area, and not heel-to-toe. 

After my lesson, I expressed my concerns a bit with Sarah about his feet, and she immediately assessed them and noted she did not like the way they looked either. She once again recommended me to her farrier. We left the lesson, still a little stumped to why his rib kept going out. 

Then the next day I got a phone call from Sarah. She had been thinking about his ribs, his angles, etc and came to the conclusion that the only reason why Milo's ribs could be still going out was due to poor trimming. She assessed that this is the only remaining constant throughout our work with him; its the only variable that has not changed. "Have [farrier] look at him." Sarah finished by saying. 

I hung up the phone and sighed. It did make sense, it could be the culprit to the ribs. Its the only thing left that hasnt been addressed. I made the appointment with her farrier, and waited. Waited for what Im not sure. For my current farrier to call, ready for his next visit with Milo? For me to just call him up and tell him not to come? I was nervous of the conversation that had to happen. 

Meanwhile, I talked with others about this other farrier, and their thoughts and opinions on him. I have seen almost all of the horses under Sarah's care, and I do agree their feet look great. There are two fellow boarders who use this farrier, one of which I was able to talk to about him. Naturally, she had nothing but good things to say and highly recommended me to use him for Milo. Then theres Melissa and Grace, and I know Grace's feet always look great too. Then there are the select handful of people that have warned me to stay far far away saying he takes off far too much toe, and has even caused a horse to come up lame. Could me tall tales I suppose, as neither one of them actually have personal experience with the man, only making their assessment on what they have heard. 

I decided that there was a rather large band of people and horses whom I trust and consider highly knowledgeable. To make an informed opinion about this farrier could only be through talking with him, and seeing how he addressed some of Milo's issues. 

The phone was still ringing. I really wanted to hit ignore, but the responsible part of me make me flip open the phone. Darn responsibility. His cheerful voice sang out of the speaker, and he said he was due to come trim Milo Friday. "Um, well, yeah, I um, I have another farrier coming tomorrow." Silence. "I need to try something new, and um.........I will let you know how it goes and if I need you again." Silence. "I know I have a bill to settle with you, can I bring it by your house, or .... ?" He replied yes, I could bring it to the house. Then it was over. 

My previous feelings of affirmation and pleasure from a good ride quickly vanished and I was slumped over in the drivers seat racing down the dark and wet highway. A phone call to a close friend only made matters worse as she groaned and warned me about the farrier saying he was going to ruin my horse's feet. Her disapproved tone made me wonder if this was a bad decision. But when I talked with Sarah via FB the next day, she asked if her farrier had seen Milo yet (Sarah was gone on vacation for two weeks) to which I felt better, reminding myself why I decided to try this guy. 

The day came, and I met the new farrier in the pouring rain outside Milo's pasture. He seemed nice, knowledgeable, if not a little quirky. I spoke with him on some of he issues Sarah and I saw, and he quietly wiped off Milo's muddy feet. We spoke of his conformation, the "interesting qualities" that he saw, and how he felt that his feet could be effecting his ribs.  He seemed the type of man who spoke when spoken to, making me feel a little awkward. But why should I? This man had never seen or met myself of my horse before, what did he have to say, rather then assess the hooves and structure in front of him?

He didnt do a whole lot that I could tell to the front hooves, but did address the toes-in in a clear way that made sense. Now I know you cannot just go about chopping off the inward toes to make the hoof appear symmetrical. But I guess I was expecting a little bit more adjustment to them then were made. However, he said smartly that if you look straight down Milo's legs, you will see that the knee to the fetlock, the fetlock to the hoof are not in alignment. The fetlock comes outward from the knee, and the hoof points back in, basically you could say, zeroing out the faults. It might not be visually appealing, but it doesn't mean unsoundness. Milo is base narrow, he continued, but nothing terrible. However, if necessary I could work greater on creating muscle in his chest to help broaden him out a bit. 

While this isnt the greatest of photos, and surprisingly Milo isnt standing on the front as near together as usual, it does show the "crookedness" in Milo's front legs, and how it compensates for it.  
Next, he moved onto the rear hooves, where he obviously quickly noted the flaring. The only difference he did to what the previous farrier did was to take off some heel from the inside rather then the outside, as well as leveling out the the wall on the inside as well. Then of course taking off the flaring and trimming just a tad. He said this could be quite beneficial for Milo this slight difference because it now would allow Milo to bear weight evenly on both sides and should stop from flaring. That seemed to make sense to me as well.

So visually, you probably cant see a whole lot of change, and I was glad to see him not hardly touch his toes, as that was a real concern given to me by those who dont like the farrier, saying that he is known to "chop off the toe" or "try and fit the hooves into a teacup." I didnt personally see any of that in my meeting with him. We scheduled the next date, and he wanted me to be sure to contact him if I saw any dramatic changes, although he didnt feel that would be the case. 

I took before photos of all four hooves before he arrived, but failed to take some afterwards. I might try though on Monday, and if there is any sort of noticeable changes, might post to here. 

So, have you had to tell a good farrier goodbye? What are your thoughts on how this new farrier addressed Milo?


Story said...

Coincidentally, we are thinking about calling a new farrier today. What's super awkward? My current farrier is also my trainer. But the fact is, Dee has some things going on with her feet and I'm not seeing any improvement. What do you do? Mostly I just want another opinion on what I think I'm seeing. Maybe I'm just a hypochondriac for my horse like Husband says. Maybe I'm not.

You know, the farrier thing (also vets, trainers, coaches) is so hard. Word of mouth doesn't even help. It seems like for every person who tells you this-that-or-the-other professional is great, more people will come along to tell you they are the worst in the universe. Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe it.

paint_horse_milo said...

Story you and I always seem to be on the same page with things in our horse lives! Its crazy. Ive come to the conclusion that I will listen to what other people have to say about a professional, but make my decision through my own relations with the person. It makes no sense to discredit someone simply because someone else said they didnt like them. If I had listened to people saying that, I wouldnt have started with Sarah, and thank God I didnt listen because that was one of the best decisions I have made to date.

I hope your situation doenst become too awkward with your trainer/farrier. But as a professional, he/she should be able to understand and let you make your own decisions about your horse.

BTW, I posted a link to that episode with the rollbacks on your last blog post.

Rising Rainbow said...

I am not an expert of feet. I feel like I know nothing in the big scheme of things but having had the twins, I saw lots of corrective work. I know there are two schools of thought about where you take that extra heel off and obviously now you have seen both of them since the new guy did the opposite correction from the former guy. I suspect if his hinds are responsible for those ribs, you will know soon.

Story said...

Thank you for the link to the rollback exercise, Nina! That sounds like it addresses my troubles with rollbacks very well! I'm always being told to slow my cues down. I like how he breaks the process into very distinct steps. Very helpful.

An Image of Grace said...

Any time I make a change with my horse I look at other horses who have experienced the change I am looking at. When I changed farriers I kept noticing that all the horses he shod and trimmed moved better than my horse at that time. Their hooves looked "correct" to me. I now know that he is a major contribution to why my horse is sound. I am willing to turn away from the nay sayers in order to do what is best for my horse. Years later I could not imagine having anyone else shoe my horse. Between him, Sarah, Peggy and Dave I feel like I am surrounded by the best possible team out there.

CedarCreek Performance said...

In all it's applications, balance is a very subtle thing, miss Nina.
You are so intuitive and thoughtful, I love it.
;-) S

paint_horse_milo said...

Melissa and Sarah, you both are some of the most influential and knowledgeable horsewomen I know. I love having the both of you to confer with.

in2paints said...

I'm a wimp when it comes to telling people good-bye. I don't know why it's such an issue, especially since there's a reason I'm doing it, but it's still hard.

You've got to do what's right for Milo, and the fact that you even explained what Milo needed and what he wasn't doing and he opted to just go back to the way things were, just confirms you're doing the right thing.

Hopefully the new farrier will be good for Milo!