It was November 2015 – and in Australia we were entering summer.. this summer of 2015/2016 will be remembered as The Summer of Hooves!!
While I was doing the cone circle and rope handling work with Magnum, I had also started on asking Magnum to lift his front legs, then I warily moved to the hind legs, running my hand along his back – then down the leg. I said ‘foot’ while touching the leg (as I had done for the front legs) and he shifted his left hind – click and treat! Eventually he would lift it higher and higher and I started to rest the hoof in my hand. I was a bit nervous as I had seen him give a very swift sideways kick to the other horses sometimes – I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of that!
After my trip away, I was determined to do this… I had to….No one else could do it for me and Magnum’s hooves were out of control. When I truly set my mind to something, and drown out all the negative voices, I can usually follow through.
I had to not only learn how to trim hooves, I had to teach Magnum about the hoof stand and how to keep his hooves on there while I worked on them. I was at the base of Hoof Mountain – the only way up was one small step at a time!
I ordered a hoof stand, farrier tools and Pete Ramey’s DVDs on the hooves and trimming.
Doug and I were about to spend the summer with Pete – who each night talked to us about hooves. I played the DVDs on my computer and I think Doug couldn’t help but learn about hooves with me – as Pete’s voice wafted from my computer through the summer air! We heard about collateral grooves, lamellar wedges, mustang rolls, frogs, bars, soles, P3, under run heels, contracted heels, laminitis etc. etc.
I became a bit obsessed – I talked about it morning, noon and night, not just to Doug, but to anyone else I came across! I was a bit like Forrest Gump’s friend Bubba – talking about shrimp!
As well as talking about it, each day – morning and afternoon – Magnum and I did something towards the start of hoof trimming. First, when the HoofJack arrived, we worked on putting his front left leg on the stand, then the right front leg. We were starting the slow climb to the top of Hoof Mountain!
When I saw the underside of Magnum’s hooves the first time, I cried – for him – and for myself. How was I – an absolute beginner – going to tackle these overgrown, neglected hooves???!!! Here are some photos:
Front Left at the Start – and after 6 weeks
Front Right at the Start – and after 6 weeks
I was happy he had taken to the HoofJack. In fact he would nicker when I brought it out! I had made sure he was on a high rate of reinforcement. I wanted to make the experience enjoyable from the start. I also wanted to make sure he would stay with his foot on the HoofJack. He wasn’t tied up (which would be useless for a horse like Magnum anyway) – but even if I could have tied him up – I wanted him to be a totally willing partner in the hoof project.
I started with using the hoofpick – brushing his hoof and tapping with the pick – click and treat…. I gradually progressed to cleaning the hoof – then it was time for me to learn how to use the nippers.
This was easier said than done – apart from me never having used nippers, Magnum has very tough, thick hooves…. it wasn’t going to be easy. First I had to introduce the nippers. Once again it was a tap on the hoof and a click and treat. It progressed to a ‘pretend nip’ on the edge of the hoof.
But now it was time to try some proper nipping. I was anxious – not just about my ability to cut into the thick, ragged hooves, but I would have to brace myself for Magnum’s reaction – would he panic and take off – had I prepared him enough? I made sure I was in a safe spot – well as safe as you can be while trying to trim a hoof!
If I use the Hoof Mountain analogy, I felt like I had come across a steep cliff on my way up the mountain and it would be a difficult and dangerous climb…
COMING UP – BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS …… AND PETE!
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