Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting Ahead of the Thought and Farrier Questions

My daughter rode Maisie outside today and they got some good trot work done. I came to the barn a bit later and rode Maisie again. Our work didn't go too well initially - she was wanting to rush at the trot and got fairly revved up, even offering to buck once, despite circling. I asked my daughter to get back up on her for a bit to show me what she'd been doing that was working. My daughter emphasized that, with a horse like Maisie who tends to get excited and worked up, it was important to do something as soon as she starts to think about speeding up, even before she actually does it - getting ahead of the thought as it forms is easier that dealing with the action once it's underway, as she then tends to get more and more excited.

So, my daughter would trot with fairly short reins but not a lot of contact, looking for a slow - in fact very slow - trot. We're not worried about head position or softness at the trot yet - first we want her to self-regulate her pace. One thing at a time. As my daughter said, at this point there's no trot that is too slow - adjusting for forward with Maisie isn't an issue as she's all forward all the time - no leg is required. We want Maisie to self-regulate her trot, and to also respond to a soft half-halt. As soon as Maisie thought about speeding up - but before she actually did so - it is possible to feel this but it's hard to describe - my daughter would circle her in a small enough circle to cause her to think about her feet and about rebalancing, and would continue to circle until the thought (again this is a matter of feel), not just the feet, was slow and soft. There was no hanging on her mouth or bracing against her - just giving her a chance to figure it out on her own. Then straight again until the thought of rushing formed again, and repeat. The circles I was doing were also too large, allowing her to continue to rush and build momentum - they needed to be about 10 meter circles to work well. This can be hard on her stifles, but she's coping well.

I got back on and was able to work with her successfully in both directions. Today, we didn't put together long strings of correct slow trot, but I rewarded her for being able to take 8 or so slow straight steps in a row in each direction. Tomorrow we're work on being able to do longer straight stretches and a 20-meter circle without rushing. It's lovely to have a horse with so much forward, but sometimes it's a challenge.

* * * * * *

Cheyenne in a comment yesterday asked a question about the picture of Dawn's shoe - she notice that it had four nails on each side and also didn't have a toe clip. Since the farrier came to trim Noble and shoe Dawn this morning, I took the occasion to ask him some questions. Those of you with farrier experience (I'm thinking of you, Mrs. Mom, if you're interested), please chime in with comments/thoughts/different ideas if you have them. My knowledge of farrier issues is limited - I know what I know because I've dealt with it, but that's all and there's plenty I don't know.

Here are some of the questions I asked, and his answers as best I can remember them (all inaccuracies are my fault):

Why would you use 4/4 nailing, or 3/4?

He said this was very much a matter of farrier preference, but that he would not use 4/4 nailing with a horse with long narrow feet - the last nails would be too far back towards the heel. Dawn has very broad, round feet, and so the 4th nail isn't too far back and provides some extra insurance against her taking her shoes off (it didn't work this time), and at her last shoeing her walls were a bit crumbly and the extra nail was indicated. He often does 3/4, alternating between shoeings with the 4 on the outside or inside.

Toe clips?

He says when he was starting out as a farrier a number of years ago, he was taught to do toe clips in front and side clips in back, but now rarely does toe clips. Since the toe tends to grow much faster than the heels, a toe clip tends to move the shoe forward as the foot grows, resulting in heels that spread over the shoe margins. He also says that toe clips tend to break off, making the shoe unusable for a reshoeing.

When does he use side clips?

When a horse like Maisie has squared off toes (as she does in front with her Natural Balance shoes to improve her breakover), the shoes tend to want to shift backwards with usage, and the side clips help stabilize the shoe.

He also said that shoeing is a trade-off - in order to shoe you do damage the hoof wall. He said that a horse shouldn't be shod unless there's a reason due to how the horse is being used or due to specific issues of hoof structure and quality - if a horse can do well barefoot that's preferable. My relationship with my farrier has developed and improved over time, for which I'm grateful. He's also willing to come and do Maisie at her new barn, which will make my life easier as he's familiar with her quirks and special needs. I appreciated his taking time to answer my questions, and thanks to Cheyenne for starting this off!


  1. My farrier only does four nails in each shoe and says the same thing...the hoof flexes at the heel, so avoiding putting nails there is good shoeing. He uses side clips on the front shoes because we have a rocker toe.

    Good shoers think alike! (And he's fine too that if a horse CAN go barefoot, it's OK by him.

  2. I will have to try your daughter's suggestions with Panama -- getting ahead of the trot. He has a naturally fast trot -- not because he is excited or worked up, just the way he moves, but I'd like it to be a bit slower. He also has Maisie's problem of speeding up, which makes it all that much worse. I will have to try getting ahead of the thought and see if that works!

    Regarding shoeing, I am lucky enough that Panama hasn't ever needed them (and by the look of it, may never unless he develops problems down the road), so I know next to nothing about shoes. I didn't even know there was a difference in the number of nails! As always, thank you for teaching me something new (and thanks to your farrier for teaching you first!)!

  3. Just got in from work! Grabbed the laptop, and read re the shoes. How interesting! My own farrier, shoes with two toe clips on the front and back, as I explained. However, I have a tearling Appaloosa x, she has really hard feet. My farrier was talking just recently anout keeping her barefoot. I have my doubts. But willing to try. On the subjecy of a horse "running on"?

    My full time riding horse, Gracie! Has had a tendency to want to speed up when in trot/jog, and especially in canter/lope. The circling has seriously helped. But if she can she will try and get away with it!
    Yet my other horse doesnt even try? Still, Gracie is the one with character! She is the one that loves to out on her own, with me, covering the hills and moors here.

  4. Kate, what a useful, interesting post about your work with Maisie.

  5. Cheyenne, if there are 2 clips per shoe then they aren't "toe clips" - by definition a toe clip is a single clip at the front center of the shoe.

    As for the nails on the pulled shoe - you can see that the 4th nail is placed at the widest part of the shoe. The farrier should try to refrain from using nail holes that are BEHIND the widest part of the shoe, but there is no harm in using all the nail holes up to the widest part of the shoe. The part of the hoof behind the widest part flexes with each stride (the heels flexing in and out) and nails behind the widest part of the shoe interfere with the natural flexing.

    As for speeding up in the trot - this usually comes about because the rider is trotting endlessly (either in a large circle or going large around the arena) without asking for anything else. Don't do that! Circle, make serpentines or figure-8s, do voltes (small 1/2 circles and back to the track, changing direction) etc. If you are constantly giving the horse something else to do and think about, and asking for maneuvers that require the horse be balanced, speeding up will simply stop happening. Then you can reduce the number of transitions you ask for, but always be read to throw one in if the horse starts to speed up.

  6. I am not a fan of 4/4 or 3/4 nailing. I prefer to see 2/3 or 3/3 with relatively small nails if possible. Whenever I have horses come in full of nails most of the time the quality of their hoof walls reflect it. I am also not a fan of clips at all though I do see them as a necessary evil in certain situations with certain horses.

    I go out of my way to try and keep my horses barefoot, even my riding/ocmpetition horses. I have evented, done lower level dressage and shown in the 4' jumpers so far with unshod horses. Two of the horses had been previously declared unable to go bare if being ridden. That said a farrier that is truly good enough to trim a bare horse in heavy use with less than ideal feet is an exceedingly rare find. I spent 10 years searching for one and went to a farrier school myself to learn as much as I could. All that said Sky will probably wound up shod in the long run, currently she is sporting the awesome glue-o boots from easycare (no hardware at all, just a rubber shell) with pour in Sole Guard pads up front. I love it, shoes with pads and no nail holes or shoes to worry about!


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