Friday, December 14, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Project Lexicon...

Project Lexicon... About Millwater's Farriery.
"The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms."

   Many years ago, when I was stumbling up the path from being a 'guy who shoes horses' to becoming an actual farrier, I started taking the trade journals, attending clinics, and doing the best I could to expand my understanding of art and science. Problem was that writers and speakers often threw around references and expressions, assuming that everyone was already familiar with them. ...Some of us weren't!

   I wire-brushed the devil out of the bottoms of a lot of hooves trying to get them clean enough so that I could see the "dot" that Duckett fellow had discovered, which some magazines mentioned, but didn't explain.

   Then there were the articles and lectures from veterinarians and academic researchers. They like to use a lot of ten dollar words just to show-off. But, when you think about shoeing horses, even simple terms like "up", "down", "right", "left", "front", and "back" can be confusing due to the fact that we look at things from so many different points of view. Sometimes the fancy terminology really was more precise.

   Even 'plain old' horseshoeing language caused confusion. I recall an early contest where there was a rather heated argument between the judge and a contestant over "heel calks", "corks", and "blocked heels"... Then there was a clinic where I found myself exchanging confused shrugs with a few other tarheel farriers as the lecturer explained that "Over eighty percent of the pleasure horses in the show ring speedy-cut at the passing gait."

   By the early 1990s, it had gradually dawned on me that there ought to be a glossary of farriery.   I'd successfully written for several major equestrian magazines by then, so I decided to give it a go.   In 1994 I published The Pocket Dictionary of Farrier Terms and Technical Language.  It sold-out pretty quickly, even as better authoring tools became available to me, and a lot of new terms that needed to be included became apparent.  So, the following year, The New Dictionary of Farrier Terms and Technical Language was published.

   There wound-up being eight editions of the New Dictionary between 1995 and 2010.   Each featuring new terms, refined and expanded definitions, more and better illustrations.

   Initially, the focus was on the sort of scientific and specialized jargon you can't look-up in Webster's.  But, over the years, I realized that there were a lot of horseshoers with impressive technical knowledge and skills who had somehow managed to skip over some fundamental basics.   I also discovered that many of my readers were other equestrian professionals and horseowners.   So I began expanding the scope of the Dictionary to include the "foundation" terms needed to support the advanced material.

   Terms evolved into topics.   Definitions into articles.   With the tenth print version of the lexicon, it has grown into something new.  An encyclopedic dictionary.  A cross-referenced collection of interlocking entries designed to allow readers to come in at any level from prospective student or interested horseowner to established professional, and go up, down, or sideways as their reference needs dictate.

   It was on the advice of two veterans of farrier publishing that I added my name to the title of the tenth lexicon.  I was a little reluctant.  Even my hubris has limits...   But it ultimately made sense.  The transition to an encyclopedic format, centered on articles rather than mere definitions, meant that the book would reflect my own experience and approaches more than the previous works had.  This will probably elicit some criticism, as I do tend to develop some unusual techniques...

   As I was finishing-up with shoeing a rather tricky therapeutic case, I mentioned to my wife that I was going to have to work on finding a way to explain a "trick" I'd used for an article.

   She said "You can't tell other people how to do that!"

   "Why not? You know it works."

   "Yes," she allowed. "But nobody but you can make it work right."

   I'm pretty sure she's mistaken on that point. But she made me put-in a disclaimer anyway.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Discounts...

   'Tis the season...  Wood stove cracklin' Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby on the radio, and Christmas Season discount time for Millwater's FARRIERY: The Illustrated Dictionary of Horseshoeing and Hoofcare...

AMAZON has the trade paperback version at 15% off, free super-saver shipping also applies!

Or you can order direct and get a 25% discount by entering code "YPLFZ3CT" during check-out.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Horseshoe Repair...

   Well, we're now in Thanksgiving week, so the holiday season is fully upon us.  So how about I get a little generous with this entry and post a sample that the equestrian set might find useful...  Especially when they're getting ready for a nice Autumn ride and find ol' Dobbin has done a mischief to one of his shoes!

   This sample from MILLWATER'S FARRIERY: The Illustrated Dictionary of Horseshoeing and Hoofcare is patched-together from several of the books encyclopedic entries, and gives an overview of how to fix that thrown, loose, or bent horseshoe for horseowners.

   Of course, the book is designed for cross-referencing, so you don't quite get the full effect here. And the illustrations are much higher resolution in print (downgraded to keep the online file smaller).

   For starters, here's the "tool kit" all horseowners should have handy for hoof maintenance between farrier calls...

   And here are the sample pages on horseshoe fixing from the book. (.PDF file.)

   Wishing y'all a fine feast, and hoping you've plenty to be thankful for.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

MILLWATER'S FARRIERY: 2012 Wrapping-Up...

   Hard to believe the holidays are almost upon us again.  Impending Mayan Apocalypse Doom notwithstanding, it's been a pretty good year.  Our home dairy project has worked-out, and the raw milk has me healthier than I've been in many years.   We're getting ready for the big draft horse sale.  (Always more exciting when you're actually looking to buy one.)  And MILLWATER'S FARRIERY has done nicely in it's first year.

Not the first year for the Dictionary in general, of course.
Just for the new, encyclopedic version.

      It's kinda' funny in this era of modern distribution to see royalties coming in Euros and Pounds instead of just plain old Dollars.  I reckon it really is a global economy now.  

   I'd like to thank all the readers on both sides of the Big Pond who've made the book a success.  I hope you have found it useful.

   I'll be posting the discount codes for the holiday sales here and on FaceBook as they become available.  But those of you who want the hardcover version can get a deal on the promotional copies that are usually available on eBay.  Even the holiday e-coupons probably won't match the price there.  Come to think of it, the trade paperback is also there at a discount...  

   For those of you who like to stick with Amazon, they have the paperback at a 10% discount right now as well.  (I have no idea how long it'll stay that way.)

   Finally, although I've been seriously distracted and busy in meatspace lately, if anyone out there has a farriery topic they'd like to have addressed or revisited on this blog, just let me know!

. . .

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: The Frog and Hoof Flexing...

   Happened to have PBS on the other night, and the late, great Victor Borge was on talking about the history of the piano...  In particular, how it was a horribly boring and monotonous instrument until somebody came-along and invented the cracks (between the keys).

   That reminds me of an aspect of the equine hoof.  Specifically, the frog.  There are so many theories and myths about the frog.  How it acts as an extra heart. (Nonsense, directly anyway.  It hasn't got a lot of blood capacity.)  How it must bear weight for healthy hoof function. (Tell that to the countless 'desert-footed' horses who go rock-solid decades without frog loading from beneath.) Etc., etc...

   One question folks don't seem to ask is why does the hoof have a frog in the first place?  Why didn't Nature just make the whole hoof a continuous case of hard material like the wall?  Why make part of the hoof out of relatively soft and vulnerable material?

   The answer I see is that the hoof didn't so much need the frog, as it needed the hole the frog covers.  That 'missing' pie slice out of the hoof is like the cracks in the piano keyboard.  If the hoof wall was an unbroken circle, it could scarcely flex at all.  It would have to either withstand all the stresses in full sharpness of impact, or suffer structural failure.  In fact, I have too often observed that, when the rear of the hoof is immobilized through improper shoeing, the wall tends to crack right down the toe.

   Something's gotta give, so Nature installed a flex-joint by taking-out that wedge of horn at the back of the foot.  But she couldn't leave the 'guts' of the foot wide-open, so she put on that leathery cover... The frog.  While she was at it, she made the skeleton in the posterior of the hoof out of cartilage, to allow that flex-joint to be used to good effect.

   Of course, just because design allowance has been made for flexing under stress, that doesn't mean more flexing is always better.  The springs on a car are supposed to cushion the ride, but you don't want every bump in the road to cause the vehicle to bounce like a pogo stick.  And, while bridges are designed to yield a bit to the wind, sometimes the concept can go a little too far.

   Likewise, a healthy hoof doesn't (and shouldn't need to) distort a whole lot under normal conditions.  Many of the things people do to 'encourage' hoof flexing, like soaking and dressing, just cause structural weakness.  Think of the hoof as spring steel, not silly-putty.

   The notion that having the frog on the ground in necessary for 'expansion' and proper hoof function doesn't really hold water either.  Heavy draft horses almost always have big, loading frogs. But many of the soundest light horses have fast exfoliating horny frogs that never load against firm ground.  Trimming such a horse's heels down to the bulbs to try and get the frog on the ground will only create a broken-back axis and ultimately lameness.

   The frog can be recruited to bear considerable load when needed.  In fact, when we get hooves that have OVER-expanded (which is to say collapsed and pancaked-out), pushing the middle of the foot back up via frog pressure from a heartbar shoe is an effective way to intentionally contract the foot back into shape.  Precisely the opposite of the "frog pressure creates expansion" assertion.

   As a general rule, farriers attach horseshoes to the anterior hoof wall, which is in-turn attached to the rigid coffin bone, leaving the posterior, cartilage-supported, part of the hoof to flex as needed.

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. . . 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Need Some Summer Reading?

   Wow, Summertime really has come-on strong here lately.  So, if you are wise enough to chill-out in the shade when the temps are going into triple digits, and can use a little reading material, here are some current deals on the hoofcare encyclopedia, Millwater's Farriery...

   The hardcover can be had at an 18% discount if you use the coupon code CAUGHT at check-out.

   Amazon has the trade paperback for 10% off.  The book qualifies for free super-saver shipping with Amazon, if included in an order totaling over $25.

   Promotional copies are usually available on eBay with "buy it now" deals well below list price as well.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Down and Dirty Bar Shoes to Git-er-Done!

    The first thing a horseshoer in this day and age might ask is  "Why would I even want to fabricate bar shoes when there are godzillion prefab bar shoes to choose from?"

   Well, it wasn't that long ago that we didn't have such a great selection.  And, the way things have been going lately, you never know how many of your favorite shoe manufacturers might go the way of the dodo, or at least be driven to streamline their offerings in times to come.

   But, even while there are prefab bar shoes available, there are some advantages to making your own.  One is simple inventory.  If you keep a supply of several different bar shoes in five or six sizes each, it adds up to a load of shoes pretty quick.  More stuff to haul around in your rig or to eat up space in your shop.

   Another advantage to making your own bar shoes is nailing.  Most horseshoers have a favorite keg shoe they use more of than anything else, and nailing this shoe becomes fast and accurate second nature.  Switching to another make of shoe, especially on a horse who may be sore (which is why he needs the bar shoes, right?) will make precise shoe placement and expedient application that much harder on the squirming, unhappy critter.  If the bar shoe were based on your favorite keg shoe, it'd be easier.

   Fitting prefabricated bar shoes can also be somewhat difficult, especially with heartbars, which are hardest to shape well with the tongue plate in the way, and tend to be needed in cases where a precise fit is even more essential than usual.

   Like a lot of horseshoers, I first started making bar shoes by selecting a keg shoe a couple sizes larger than the horse would normally wear, then turning the heels in to forge-weld them together.  This approach had some serious shortcomings.  Keg shoe stock gets thicker and wider as sizes go up, so the resulting bar shoes would be excessively heavy.  The nail holes would also be shifted too far back, and set too coarse.  And, if the horse already took the biggest size of keg shoe in the box, there were no bigger ones to make bar shoes out of.

   For a number of years, I got into the habit of forging all of my bar shoes from bar-stock.  This was quite an improvement over using an over-sized keg shoe.  But it could be a bit of work, especially in the busy season.

   One Summer evening, while I was catching up on some forge work in the shop, the wife came out and said we'd had a call from a customer whose mare was in eggbars, one of which had been lost out in the pasture, and needed us to swing-by and fix her up a few days ahead of schedule.  Knowing we'd be pushed for time the next day, and being ready to come in from the shop that evening, I decided to try a short-cut.  I grabbed two pair of my favorite keg shoes (St. Croix Rim Lites), used my V-hardie to cut off one pair right behind the toe-nails, and riveted the cut-out toes across the heels of the whole shoes to form the "O" shape.  One welding heat to just lightly tap the first joint together without buggering-up the other side.  Second welding heat to fully weld and shape the other side. A third heat to finish-up the first side.  In no time, I had a pair of eggbars ready to go.

   When I applied them, I discovered that these eggbars were easier to make final cold-fitting adjustments on than my handmades, and were all-around quicker and easier to get on the horse.  And, once the horse had polished them up a few days, the horseowner thought they were prettier than my hand-forged irons.  (Kinda' hut my feelings, that!)

   It wasn't a great leap to figure out that, by inserting the cut-out toe across the heels of the whole shoe, but facing the other way, I could whip-up straightbars just as easily for performance horses who needed a bit of extra support and stability, but would likely step-off eggbars.

(Worn shoe.)

   Of course, this left me with a bunch of partial shoe branches lying around.  Then it occurred to me that, if I crossed 'em, welded them together, hooked out the "heels" a bit, and punched rivet holes, these would make great frog plates for heartbars.  This is particularly handy, as horses in need of heartbars are often in no shape to stand around having their feet messed with for very long.  This way, I can just cold-fit a pair of keg shoes in a jiffy and let the horse go rest while I forge-weld in the pre-made frog plates.  When we go back to the horse, all I have to do is fine-tune the plate pressure and nail-on.

   They may not be as impressive as contest-winning handmades, but the horse is just going to grind the things into the mud and manure anyway.  When it comes to getting the job done, these humble bar shoes are as good as any.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Default Horseshoeing...

   Okay.  Obviously no real farrier shoes every horse the same way.  Each animal is an individual with different conformation, soundness issues, and performance needs.  But most farriers do evolve a baseline shoeing approach, then adapt from there to suit the case at hand.

   I developed a preference for rim (full swedged) shoes early-on.  They provide good traction on a wide array of surfaces without the ligament and joint punishing effects of calks.  When the St. Croix Rim Lite came onto the market, it soon became my 'go-to' keg shoe, and remains so despite about a zillion fancy new shoes that have been introduced since. (Although I do use some of these on occasion.)

   The St. Croix Rim Lite has some pretty handy features.  One of which is that it is... well... light.  I've always tried to keep shoes as light as would get the job done in a practical manner, and this shoe is just about right.  Thick enough to last for one reset on most horses who actually need shoes.

   The shoe also has a sort of rolled outer edge, especially at the toe.  This makes it work like a hybrid of rim and half-round shoes.

St. Croix Rim Lite horseshoes...
Center = Fresh out of box.
Left = Shaped for typical fore w/ rockered toe.     Right = Hind shaped.

   Something most don't notice is that the St. Croix Rim Lite isn't a true rim shoe out of the box... It's a barrel shoe, with the outer edge being more pronounced than the inner.  But, if one hammers the hoof-facing side of the shoe while leveling, the inner edge gets pushed down to the anvil face, level with the outer.  This leaves the hoof side of the shoe sloped away from the sole, making it easier to apply the shoe without needing to trim away extra horn to prevent sole pressure.

   Front shoes I usually fit plenty full from the heel quarters back, well-boxed to prevent being stepped-off.  Unless there is a particular reason not to do so, I like to fit front shoes on riding horses* with rockered toes.  This improves efficiency of movement, decreasing stress on the hoof capsule, as well as the tendons and ligaments of the foot and limb.  It also provides much the same utility as a clip, keeping the shoe from being driven-back on the hoof.

   One complaint about keg shoes in general is that most of them are designed so that the fourth nails back are behind the widest point of the hoof, especially when the shoe is shaped for a front foot...  Fortunately, there's no rule requiring farriers to use every nail hole.  I often go with six (on riding-size horses), and omit the rear holes.  In other cases, I'll use seven nails, including the medial fourth hole.  The way I shoe, few horses will pull shoes while going forward.  But they will sometimes step on the medial heel quarter of one front shoe with the other front hoof while stomping or shuffling around.

   On most horses I apply the Rim Lite more-or-less with a flat perimeter fit to the rear hooves.  Usually rather long at the heels for extra support, like a more subtle form of extended heels.  Horses produce their forward impulsion by driving off the toes of the rear hooves, so it is generally counterproductive to ease breakover too much in the hinds, especially in performance horses.  But for animals with short-body, long-legged conformation, it may sometimes be wise to fit a squared and/or set-back toe, sacrificing a little drive power to avoid damage to the front feet from forging or overreaching.

   As with fores, I often go with just the front six nails in hind riding horseshoes.  When I opt for seventh, it's usually the lateral heel nail.  This seems to counter most problems with horses who tend to torque the foot and shift the shoe side-to-side.  I rarely find clips necessary with flat Rim Lites on horses with reasonably normal limb conformation.

   * Draft horses working in harness are a different story in both the way they move and shoeing needs.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Continuity...

   I hear it all the time in meatspace. See it posted on the equestrian forums...  Someone's good old farrier is retiring, and they're having difficulty finding a trustworthy replacement.

   As I deal with the effects of *ahem* middle-age myself (long gap between blog entries and absence from message boards due to yet another surgery to try and fix the wonky peeper which makes extended screen reading a real head-splitter), I'm looking around and seeing a number of old friends and respected leaders in the profession slowing-down, having to hang-up their aprons, or going to that big shop in the sky...

How the-  WHEN the heck did THIS happen?!?!

   Fortunately, there's some considerable fresh talent coming-up.  But when one of the better old guys is no longer available, it can be quite a problem until the horseowners can weed through the younger shoers to get past the wannabes, all flash and no substance hotshots, and gung-ho transients to find the good, solid farrier of tomorrow.

   In the old days, this was less of a problem due to apprentices.  As the old master farrier slowed-down, his apprentices took on more of the load (becoming journeymen along the way), and eventually the torch was passed in such a manner that there was no great gap in service.

   We've tried to re-establish farrier apprenticeship in the modern era.  I was on the American Farriers Association's Apprenticeship Committee for as long as it lasted.  We had some of the top farriers in the country enlisted as masters, but the program never really took off.  Too many regulatory and liability issues for formal apprenticeship these days...  And, an apprentice with a shoein' school diploma and a CF level certification has more credentials than the average horseshoer in the field, so it's hard to convince him to continue as a subordinate very long.

   Still, informal apprenticeships, or mentor relationships, are sometimes workable.  If horseowners will allow them.  The understandable inclination for them is to want their established farrier to be the only one to work on their horses' hooves, which makes it hard for the apprentice to progress very far.  But if folks will trust their veteran farrier to judge how much the apprentice is competent to do on each horse, the eventual pay-off may be a familiar, well-trained young farrier to step-in when the old guy gets sucker-punched by Father Time.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Livin la Vida Amish...

   As with the old Chinese curse, we are living in interesting times.

   Between rising prices, and the proliferation of grossly unhealthy additives, substitutions, and GMO Frankenfoods in grocery store "food" products, a lot of folks are looking towards some level of self-sufficiency.

   Fuel and equipment upkeep costs are motivating some small farmers to revisit really old-school approaches...

   Our latest distraction here has been getting old-fashioned production of real, unadulterated milk flowing.  (Once you discover fresh, creamy, raw milk from a grass-fed Jersey, you'll want to punch the grocer right in the nose for passing-off that bleached and boiled, watered-down sewage in plastic jugs...)

Around here, THIS is a milk "by-product".

   Draft horses seem to be gaining in popularity in recent years.  This may have started-out with folks wanting to breed them to performance stock to develop American sport horses.  But more and more, folks appear to be gaining an appreciation of draft horses for what they are...  Which means even veteran horsemen have to learn a whole new world of things, like collar fitting, harness types, and so forth.  And, of course, farriers have to become conversant in these new things as well.  Farriers have always been expected to know a good bit more about horses than how to mount them on iron.

   This is why some fundamental draft horse and harness information worked its way into Millwater's Farriery: The Illustrated Dictionary of Horseshoeing and Hoofcare.  The big critters are part of the scene on our farm too, and doing what they were bred for.

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: In Review...

   Bob Smith of Pacific Coast Horseshoeing School was kind enough to review Millwater's Farriery: The Illustrated Dictionary of Horseshoeing and Hoofcare for the recent issue of the American Farriers Journal.

   The blurb from the review is "An excellent reference for shoers, owners and farrier students..."

   He also observed that the dictionary had evolved into a "mini-textbook" of farriery.  Something I realized myself as I was putting it together. 

   This actually gave me pause at the time...  After all, we are blessed with some really great, full-on farrier textbooks in this day and age.  It was certainly beyond the intended scope of the lexicon project to 'compete' with them.

   But the massive textbooks from Butler and Gregory are designed for dedicated students going through training at the better farrier schools on the way to careers as professional farriers, and retail for several times the list price of my book...  I know a lot of people interested in farriery aren't starting-out at that level.  Especially in times like these, I figured there was a place for an entry-level primer rooted in the fundamentals.  Something to get the prospective hoofcare provider (or horseowner who has to resort to doing their own) started so they can find out if it's really for them, then they can move-on to the more advanced training and texts appropriate to their chosen career paths.

   Smith did bust my chops on the "selected resources" appendix of the book...  And not without justification.

   I included Crudoir on the "periodicals" page.  At the time the review was written, all there was of the magazine was a webpage announcing the upcoming launch...  Since then, that has been replaced with an announcement that they've given-up on the plan for a new magazine as-such, and are going "another direction".

   Well, that's the peril of reference book publication.  Even in this modern age of fast publishing tech (and believe me, it's like greased lightning compared to the 'good old days'), I still had to put the content to bed and shift to formatting and set-up long before the actual release.  I'd been in-touch with the intended publisher of Crudoir, and she was in-earnest about making the magazine a reality...  I didn't have the option of waiting to see if it caught-on, so I included it.  Actually, I figured that even if it didn't fly, it'd be an interesting footnote in the future.  Henry Heymering's bibliographic history tome On The Horse's Foot cites a number of publications that are only known due to their being mentioned in old reference books.

   Then there was the fact that, with the folding of so many other farrier periodicals, the American Farrier's Journal is effectively the Last Man Standing.  Frankly, I had to stretch a little bit just to keep AFJ from being completely alone on the page! 

   As to the weakness of the "Internet resources" page, he's got a point there.  In truth, that section is almost vestigial.  Left-over from earlier dictionaries before Google was built right into all our browsers, when you actually needed to know a URL to get to a resource.

   I certainly didn't intend to snub the AFJ website in this section.  Since a URL was included on the "periodicals" section, where AFJ was at the top of a far less crowded page, I figured putting it in the "Internet" section was kind of redundant. 

   With the ever shifting sands of the Internet, I'm also a little reluctant to reference new Internet documents, as they have a nasty tendency to get moved or gone as websites get 'updated' and redesigned.  My personal favorites/bookmarks lists attest to this with tons of now '404' links.

   On a side-note, I included contact information with the Press Release which was really intended in-case the folks at AFJ needed to touch base with me.  (Sort of traditional PR format.)  Unfortunately, I apparently didn't make that clear, as my farm land line and snail mail address got published with the review...  I rarely use the land-line, and can barely hear incoming messages due to interference from the electric fences...  And all orders are ultimately processed over the Internet anyway.  (I do not have a warehouse of books and mail packaging like the not-so-good old days.)

   If someone really hates to order over the Internet, they can ask at a brick and mortar book store.  They're not likely to have Millwater's Farriery in stock (as it's a specialty kind of book), but it is available through regular distribution channels, so they can order it.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Founder Frustrations...

    A recent posting over on the American Farriers Journal refers to "Hitting the Wall With Chronic Laminitis"...

   I can dig it.  Just worked on one I've been doing for many years.  They can be quite frustrating.

   The problem is that the malady isn't really in the hooves.  Heck, I can fix the hooves.  And have fixed them time and again.  Pushed the bone column back up off the ground.  Built-up a solid, thick sole.  Got the dorsal surface of the wall parallel to the front of the coffin bone.  Better feet by all measurements than many 'sound' horses are wearing...  Back to regular shoes or barefoot, and all is well for a while.

   Then "kersplat!"...  Sole goes flat.  Abscesses all over.  Hoof capsule warping all out of shape... 

   So I fix him again.  And again...  In time it becomes apparent that he's still stilt-legged, even when his feet are in good shape.  And he's starting to look like a skinny wooly mammoth in the Summertime.

   There's the rub.  The source of the problem is ultimately in the endocrine system, and the flexor muscles and tendons.  Put perfect feet on the legs of a horse whose flexor muscles are drawing up into balls, and with a pituitary sending out haywire signals to have the horse essentially poison himself, and the feet won't stay perfect long.

But people get a little upset if you try to take the nippers to these bits.

   Brain surgery to get rid of a pituitary tumor isn't really plausible with most horses.  Various drug, supplement, diets, and hormone treatments are tried, but they only work 'sometimes', as the nature of the condition is constantly changing.

   Deep flexor tenotomy can help... But vets are often reluctant to try it.

   So I just keep fixing the feet.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Eagle-Eye Revisited...

   I covered this once before, but the recent passing of J. Scott Simpson prompted me to bring it back.  In this day and age of endless argument over relatively academic aspects and vague philosophies of hoofcare, I really appreciate solid, practical solutions to the challenges of better shoeing, and few are more useful than the Eagle Eye system developed by Simpson.  This is why the system and each of the five patterns have had individual listings in the Millwater lexicon since the first version in '94, with attribution to Simpson, of course.

As usual, italic boldface terms in the entry are defined in their own entries.

   In other news, Amazon is running a sale on the paperback version of Millwater's Farriery.  At $16.20 (eligible for free shipping if included in an order over $25), they even beating the best I can do on eBay.      But that's fine with me.  The eBay listings are honestly just there to point the web-bots to the Amazon and MillwaterPublishing pages.  I'm better off having copies sell through Amazon.

   The current Amazon deal actually makes the encyclopedic Millwater's Farriery less expensive than its predecessor, The New Dictionary of Farrier Terms and Technical Language in its final (2010) edition...   Which is still available out there, so make sure you get the one you intended.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Distractions...

   Hey all,

   I've been a bit scarce on the Internet lately.  Trying to get everything caught-up and a bit ahead in preparation for being laid-up after another danged surgery.  And the weather hasn't been helping.

   If anyone has any topics they'd like to see addressed on the blog, or Encyclopedia sample entries they'd like to request, please feel free to let me know.

   Meanwhile, a 20% discount is available on the Millwater's Farriery HARDCOVER through 2/23/12...  Just enter "SWEET" as your discount code.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: On the Road Again... Not.

   Well, a lot of the boys are getting home from the International Hoof Care Summit in Cincinnati. Shan't be long before they're packing-up again to hit the American Farrier's Convention in Mobile.

   I don't get to travel to these things like I used to.  Used to be a frequent flier to the Bluegrass Laminitis Symposium, AFA, GPF, and even BWFA national conventions, and various other clinics and events.  I do miss it sometimes.  Learning from some of the great minds in the profession, both in the formal settings and, perhaps even more beneficial, in the many informal discussions between and after the lectures and presentations.

   Spending days soaking-up wisdom and techniques from Burney Chapman, Grant Moon, Edward Martin, Simon Curtis, Gene Ovnicek, and so many other farriers... Learning about the cutting-edge research and theories from Doc Redden, Jaime Jackson, and many other vets and horsemen...  Always had me coming home with a new enthusiasm for the profession, albeit perhaps a little too eager to try the latest thing on horses in my own practice.  Fortunately, I eventually learned to temper that impulse.  (Which in itself is something I try to convey to folks who get carried-away with the study, technique, or guru du jour.)

   Of course, it was always hard to get away for cross-country trips.  Seems like horses have a psychic ability to know when their farrier is out-of-state so they can throw shoes.  It's frustrating for horseowners to call and be told their shoer is thousands of miles away when they need him NOW.  But their patience is rewarded with a real farrier who knows more about horseshoeing than how to lop-off a bit of foot and mount the horse on iron.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: Bute...

bute: Phenylbutazone. A non-steroid, anti-inflammatory drug and painkiller usually administered in oral form to horses. Although legally restricted to veterinary prescription, this drug is widely available and often improperly used to mask lameness which could be corrected at the source through appropriate farriery.

   Bute has been around in the horse world for a very long time.  Despite being a prescription drug, almost everyone has a jar or few tubes of the stuff handy.

   Sometimes I'm convinced the introduction of bute was one of the worst things to happen to horse care in America...  No need to deal with the actual cause of pain when you can just give the critter a bit of the wonder drug and make everything all better...

   Except that it doesn't.  

   Pain is Nature's way of telling Dobbin something is messed-up, and he shouldn't go stomping-around until it's better.  This is especially true in laminitis, where the mechanical stress of walking around can rip the compromised laminae and cause the progression into outright founder...

   It's hard to see our animals in-pain...  But that's what makes them lay down and keep still, which is just exactly what they need to do until the initial laminitis attack runs its course.

   Not only is masking the pain a bad idea, but bute itself may make the laminitis worse.  Laminitis isn't just a foot thing.  It's systemic.  And bute stresses a number of organs, and may enhance the autointoxication aspect of the laminitis attack.

  Then there are abscesses.  Encapsulated infections that sometimes cause intense pain until they are drained or rupture...  But using an anti-inflammatory like bute tends to slow the infection coming to a "head" and prolong the agony.  Bute can turn what would have been a rough couple of days into a chronic problem.

   Navicular and other arthritic/bursitis problems are one place where bute can be a help or a detriment depending on how its used.  Giving a sore horse bute to keep him going as he is will facilitate further damage...  But, once all mechanical adjustments possible have been made to prevent further injury, bute can be used to enable the horse to engage in restorative exercise.  (Especially useful if lack of mild daily activity was a causative factor in the lameness to begin with.)

   It's a bit troubling to me how many horseowners think bute is some sort of first aid...  Bute does not fix anything!  It's like giving a kid with a broken leg some whiskey and telling him to "walk it off". 

   Worse yet are vets who prescribe it so freely...  I suppose you can't blame 'em.  Horse is in pain or limping, and the client wants Doc to DO SOMETHING.  But temporarily feeling better isn't always conducive to actually getting better.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Millwater's Farriery: K.I.S.S.

   Hey! Hope everyone has had a great holiday season, and good start to this New Year...

   Now back to business. ;)

   There was a time, not all that long ago, when horseshoeing in many parts meant pulling a plain shoe out of the keg, opening or closing it a bit, hooking the heels in, nailing the sucker on, and lopping-off whatever hung over the edge...  If you wanted to get fancy about it, you could stick a sheet of leather or plastic between the shoe and hoof before nailing-on, or maybe even put the shoe on backwards for a 'bar shoe'...

Yes...  The 'good old days' kinda' sucked.

   The last quarter century has brought us to the opposite extreme.  Some farriers pride themselves in turning out hand-forged horseshoes that are gorgeous works of art.  Others love to use the latest modern products to assemble high-tech horseshoe packages worthy of Star Trek.  A lot of guys do a bit of both.

   Horseshoe fabrication skill is a wonderful thing.  And many of the newer products and materials can be very useful in some situations.  But I do think we sometimes have too much of a good thing.  Especially in times like these, it may not be wise to go with fancy (and often expensive) alternatives just because we can.  Especially when simpler approaches may work as well or better.

   I was using glue-on shoes back when that meant riveting a rim pad jig-sawed out of a polyurethane sheet to an aluminum or steel shoe, then using a paint-stripper heat gun to weld tabs around the perimeter to be affixed to the sanded hoof with glorified crazy-glue.

   Fortunately, both the shoes and adhesive applications have improved since then.  They can be quite useful in some cases...  But they are expensive and time-consuming to apply.  They also have functional drawbacks, either being prone to easy pasture loss (especially in muddy conditions), or encapsulating/sealing far too much of the hoof wall, preventing it from "breathing".

   Despite having the glue-on option in my arsenal, I've learned over the years that it is possible to securely affix shoes to some of the most disastrous looking hooves with good old-fashioned nails.  Maybe having glue-on shoes handy has kept some of the newer guys from developing the particular skills it takes to hook solid nails through 'wishful thinking' hoof wall.  But a lot of the hooves that prompt folks to say "there's no way you can nail a shoe to that" wouldn't even be a challenge to some of us graybeards. 

   On a related note, we have modern hoof repair products like Equilox and Equithane, which sure are an improvement over the auto body and wood filler putties we used to resort to.  These newer adhesive/repair materials are often used to glue on shoes these days.  But again, they are expensive, and can be a bit of a hassle to employ, especially in less than ideal field conditions.  And sometimes they work too well... Sealing-in bacteria that turn into nasty infections.  Deft nailing technique, and a willingness to let the foot be a little rough-looking until a damaged bit grows-out, often make hoof fillers unnecessary. 

   A cousin to the modern hoof repair materials is the pour-in pad approach that is all the rage these days.  Must admit that it is kinda' nifty, and has practical application in a few cases.  But I'm not a huge fan of pads in general.  When they are called-for, conventional pads (Shock-Tamers are my favorite) with Sole Pack will do the job beautifully with less fuss and expense... And you don't have to worry about Dobbin' taking a foot away before the goo sets-up!

   Another "new" product that we were using many years ago is synthetic shoes, both polyurethane and rubber.  These actually worked just fine, and aren't outrageously expensive or troublesome to apply.  But, unless you plan to ride or drive on pavement a lot, they don't offer significant advantage over conventional shoes.  And replacing a single lost shoe can be a problem, especially if the horse is away from home at the time and the horseshoer who has to pinch-hit doesn't stock unorthodox shoes.

   That problem also applies to really exotic shoes like the Slypner system, which I used quite a bit of when they first came out twenty years ago...  Composite stainless steel "base plate" horseshoes with removable urethane wearing treads that could be changed by the owner.  (Flat, calked, and studded versions for different activities and conditions.)  They certainly look modern, and work okay.  But are a bit pricey and can be a real PITA to apply, especially if the horse has off-pattern hoof shape or tricky walls.  (You have to use the provided nails, which can be hard to 'steer' through the wall.)  Most clients didn't find switching Slypner treads to be much easier than switching threaded stud calks.  Frankly, must jumpers and lower level eventers do well in concave shoes with jumping-type welded jar calks, which don't need to be removed for turnout or casual riding.

   One thing I'm bound to catch a bit of flak for is my decision to focus on 'down-and-dirty' practical horseshoeing techniques and illustrations rather than high craftsmanship handmades in Millwater's Farriery...  Trust me, it's not because I'm unable to forge pretty specimen shoes.

   Like a lot of guys at the time, when I first started making bar shoes, I just used a keg shoe a couple sizes bigger than what the horse normally wore, turned the heels in 'til they overlapped, and forge-welded them together.  Since keg shoe stock gets wider and thicker as you go up in sizes, this made for excessively heavy bar shoes.  It also resulted in the nail holes being too coarse and too far back.

   These problems were solved when I started forging all my bar shoes from bar stock.  Got pretty good at it.  Had a lot of horses going on my fullered, hand-forged bar shoes there for a while...

   Then, late one Summer evening when I was wrapping up a long stretch of shop work, the wife came out to tell me that a mare I was supposed to reset the next week had lost one of her eggbars in the pasture where it was unlikely to be found.  Since this mare would trash her thin-walled hoof if left shoeless any length of time, I knew I'd have to get to her the next day, despite the busy Summer schedule.  But I certainly wouldn't have time to forge her a new pair of shoes in the field, and I was already worn-out for the day and didn't feel up to turning the shoes from stock that evening.  So I just grabbed two pair of #1 St. Croix Rim Lites, cut the toes out of one pair, then turned 'em around and jump-welded them across the heels of another.  Presto! Eggbars.

     The horse certainly didn't care.  She went as well as ever.  In fact, the conversion shoes were a little lighter than my handmades.  I wondered what the owners would think of my little "cheat", or if they'd even notice...  Turns out they did... And thought the new shoes were prettier than the handmades I'd been using!  (Bit of a blow to the ego, it was.)

   So, if the horse was happy, the owners were happy, and the job was a bit easier on me, why in the heck would I go back to using handmades?  To impress other farriers?  Heck, I don't work for them!

   While all the fancy shoes and materials are great options to have, and can be literal life-savers in some cases, the most practical and effective shoeing solution for the widest array of corrective and therapeutic problems is actually a correctly fit, conventional horseshoe, properly applied to a well prepared hoof.  

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