Friday, December 19, 2014

Millwater's FARRIERY: Horseshoe Repair for Horseowners.

   Hope you're all having a very merry Christmas season!

   Over the years, I've heard from many horseowners that their access to truly competent horseshoeing is limited because the quality farriers are too far away and don't want to make the trip for small barns.

   What people may not comprehend is that pro farriers build their practices on providing reliable service to their customers, and that goes beyond just the scheduled shoeing days.  No matter how well a horse is shod, there will occasionally be a loose or thrown shoe.  (In fact, shoeing approaches that sacrifice proper support and protection to make the shoes harder to lose are a major source of the "evils of horseshoes" concept.)  So the farrier isn't just thinking about whether he should drive out to you place to shoe your horses, but also whether he'll be able to get out in a timely manner to do patchwork.

   One thing that makes it easier for a farrier to say "yes" to a remote client is the knowledge that he won't be asked to warp his schedule out of shape to come tack one shoe back on.  Horseowners capable of doing their own patchwork are not only attractive clients for dedicated farriers, but also can travel with their horses knowing that they won't have to rely on some stranger if their horse manages to hang a shoe away from home.

   And patching a shoe doesn't require a professional farrier's rolling shop.  A simple, inexpensive kit is sufficient...

   Nor does the task require the skills of a journeyman farrier.  With the hoof already trimmed and balanced, the shoe already fit, and the nail paths through the wall already established, flattening the iron and tacking it back on is well within the layman's capability.

   This sample from MILLWATER'S FARRIERY: The Illustrated Dictionary of Horseshoeing and Hoofcare is assembled from several of the book's 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).

.PDF files at links.  

   Be forewarned though...  This is the kind of capability that can make one perhaps a little TOO popular around the stables or group trail ride.

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Millwater's FARRIERY: 20 Years of the Farrier's Dictionary...


   Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and are progressing into a merry Christmas Season!

   2014 marks the 20th anniversary of Millwater Publishing's dictionary of farriery publications. It started with just a humble, saddle-stitched glossary with pen and ink diagrams and daisy-wheel generated master copies...

   Since then, there have been many updates, expansions, and upgrades in production.  Now it's a perfect-bound trade paperback or glossy hardcover with photographic illustrations. The content has evolved into more encyclopedic form, with extended articles and lots of cross-referencing for efficiency.  Covering ground from basic horsemanship to advanced farriery, with a focus on practical application. 

   It makes me a little embarrassed to look back at some of the early editions.  But they do serve as interesting markers to the eras in which each edition was published.

   The current edition is designed to be a handy reference for horseowners, students, farriers, and other equestrian professionals.  

   I usually post promotional discount codes for the hardcover version on the Millwater Publishing FaceBook Page and Twitter feed.  (I don't make those up.  I just report 'em!)  

   Right now, Amazon is doing 30% off the trade paperback if you use checkout code HOLIDAY30

   And, to celebrate 20 years of the lexicon project, I'm going to do them one better for Black Friday through Cyber Monday with 50% off the trade paperback when you ORDER DIRECT and use check-out code RXYKQG6P





Monday, March 24, 2014

Prophet's Thumb Farm: Why Quargians?

   I have always loved the classic, ranch/performance type American Quarter Horse.  About as close to the perfect balance of power, speed, agility, soundness, energy, sane disposition, and beauty that can be achieved in horse breeding.  Resulting in an animal of great versatility.  The best horse there is for a number of things, and pretty darned good at a great many more.

   But the classic Quarter Horse has a shortcoming, at least in the eyes of many in the horse world.  The best Quarter Horses have always been around 15 hands, give or take a couple inches.  There is frequently a demand for taller horses, for reasons both practical and not.  Too often have I known people to look at an excellent Quarter Horse and say "he'd be perfect, if only he were a hand taller!"

   So, naturally, breeders have been trying to produce extra-tall Quarter Horses for many years... Which gives us some problems.

   First, the very concept involves warping the Quarter Horse out of his traditional standard.  A Quarter Horse has no more business being 16+ hands tall than a fish has being covered with feathers or a cat has wearing antlers.


    It's sad to see an over-sized "Quarter Horse" with all the agility of a school bus getting dusted at the barrel races by a Welsh/Arabian pony who is closer to the traditional Quarter Horse standard than his AQHA registered competition.

   Second, since selecting for height means neglecting other factors, the result is often far from the scaled-up Quarter Horse people wanted.  I've seen 17+ hand AQHA registered horses, and they usually look like they were assembled from leftover camel parts.

   Finally, breeding Quarter Horses for height often means out-breeding to Thoroughbreds.  The AQHA enables this (via Appendix registry) to allow TB athleticism and refinement into the American Quarter Horse breed.  But it also happens that TBs are on-average considerably taller than Quarter Horses, and there are quite a few really tall TBs around.  So much Appendix breeding is done just to get tall Quarter Horses...  Problem is that TBs aren't bred or known for long-term soundness.  They're race horses.  So the best ones have a career of only a few youthful years, with a professional crew of grooms, vets, and farriers holding them together by constant effort.  This is the polar opposite of the traditional Quarter Horse's expected decades of low-maintenance service.  Add to this a certain level of incompatibility between the Quarter Horse's powerful musculature and the TB's lightweight hooves, joints, tendons, and ligaments, and perhaps you begin to see the problem.

   I don't know if there have been any scientific studies to back this up, but as a farrier I observed that, for every inch of height above 15-2 in a Quarter Horse, there is an exponential increase in the probability of unsoundness.  I doubt it's a coincidence that the trend for 16+ hand AQHA horses in the '80s corresponded to the Quarter Horse, once renowned for soundness, becoming known as a breed for which support shoeing, isoxsuprine, bute, and neurectomy were considered almost normal!

   So, rather than distorting the great old Quarter Horse beyond recognition to produce unsound specimens with AQHA paperwork, we decided to go outside the AQHA system to satisfy the demand for something akin to a super-sized Quarter Horse.

   Starting with sound, highly athletic, well-bred Quarter Horse stallions, we looked for mares who could contribute the desired stature to the mix without introducing TB fragility...  And the best candidates we found were pedigreed, carriage-type Belgian draft mares.  They brought greater than TB height to the table, along with over-engineered hooves, joints, tendons, and ligaments. 

   The goal of this Quarter Horse - Belgian (Quargian) crossbreeding is to produce great American sport horses.  Essentially Quarter Horses scaled-up to warmblood size without the conformation and soundness drawbacks that plague so many big Appendix Quarter Horses.

And so it begins...


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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Internet Horse Experts...

   Despite my preference for coal forges over gas, trucks with hand-cranks over hypercomplex modern vehicles (and horse & wagon over both), I'm not a Luddite, really.  I was an early adapter to the Internet.  Mine might just have been the first farrier's page on the WWW, back when most of the horse-set didn't know what the Web was...

   But I somehow seem to have been outrun by the advancing technology, and fallen behind a new class of Internet Horse Experts.  While these brilliant prodigies have apparently developed the ability to fully evaluate, diagnose, and prescribe for various equine problems simply by looking at a digital photo on a flat screen, I still find myself often at a loss without the ability to get the full, four-dimensional observation, as well as additional data.

   In anticipation of foaling season, I've been watching some of the breeding/foaling forums and groups on the Internet.  Lots of people posting pictures of their mares' udders, and plenty of responses regarding how much longer before the mares foal.

   Makes me feel inadequate... After spending a lifetime around broodmares, midwifing generations of foals into the world, darned if I can look at a picture and tell you "Relax, you've got weeks to go!".  Maybe I'm getting senile, but I sure seem to recall knowing mares who had full udders several weeks before foaling, others who had pretty much no bag until just before labor, and still others everywhere in-between.

Take that out of town trip. Plenty of time before she foals!

   Of course that's nothing compared to the Internet Experts on hoof-care.  A couple of pictures of a hoof and they can tell you everything that's wrong and diagram a trimming approach to fix it.  Decades as a credentialed, professional farrier and my backward self still has to see more than a few angles, observe the horse in motion, and consider the animal's total confirmation before I can begin to seriously evaluate the situation and propose a trimming and/or shoeing approach.

   Silly me.  I really should catch-up on how to be a modern Internet Expert.


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Monday, February 24, 2014

Hard Facts of Life: Aging Horses...

   Thing about gettin' old and gray...  You might not get that much wiser, but you do get some perspective.  Especially when it comes to the lives of horses.  Some things that many horseowners today don't seem to realize, and need to come to grips with.

   Horses don't live forever.  Yes, they last a good bit longer than most house pets.  Improvements in horsekeeping and farriery have extended the useful careers of modern steeds.  But, sadly, they still get old on us.  Maybe not so obvious to the Hunter Girl whose equestrian career is limited to the few years between adolescence and going off to college.  But to those of us who've pulled foals into the world, then buried them at the inevitable conclusion of Old Age, the fleeting nature of the equine lifespan is all too apparent. 

She lived long enough to see the beard go white, and then some.
But the filly got her place under the hill a couple weeks ago.

   Too often owners are in denial about their aging horses.  The geriatric years can slip-up on us.  We look-up and realize that ol' Dobbin isn't up to the kind of use we need from a horse anymore.

   The worst and, unfortunately, probably most common response to this is to try and find the old horse a new home...  Craig's List and other sites are full of old and unsound critters being sold or given-away as "companion" or "light riding only" horses.

   This is irresponsible, and far from a kindness to the old horse.  At best, the folks willing to take the geriatric equine in probably don't know what they're getting into.  They're going to be dealing with an animal whose needs are constantly increasing, while his usefulness decreases.  And, kind hearted as they might be, they don't have a personal debt to the horse.  They didn't get years of faithful service out of him like his prime-of-life owner did.  The horse either winds-up back on Craig's List, or effectively abandoned somewhere to die of slow neglect.

   It's understandable, especially in the current economy, that people might not be able to provide cushy, long retirements for their horses.  (Yeah... We tend to do it here at Prophet's Thumb. But we're not paying board and such on each horse.  And we're just too damned sentimental.)

My faithful stallion, and personal mount for over a quarter century.
Sire of the filly pictured above.  In his last year of retirement.

   If you can't take proper care of your retired horses, perhaps you should heed the Horse's Prayer...

When my useful strength is gone, do not turn me out to starve or freeze,
 or sell me to some cruel owner to be slowly tortured or starved to death;
 but do thou, my Master, take my life in the kindest way...

   Yeah... There are few things harder on a horseman's heart than putting a horse down.  But two of them might be seeing an old horse nobody cares for anymore, or a good young horse going to waste because a decrepit pensioner is filling his 'slot' on a farm somewhere.

   Which brings us to the corollary...  Old horses eventually need to be replaced with new ones.  This is a particular problem in the equestrian world because there is so much lead-time in horse production.  You can't just whip-up a well-broke five year-old overnight like some consumer product.  It takes years of continuous input to get from a sparkle in the old stud's eye to a solid horse who can really earn his oats.  So it's a process that really needs to begin well BEFORE ol' Dobbin needs to retire.  But this requires horseowners to face the mortality of their beloved mounts, which may not be an easy thing to do.

Just to close on a brighter note,
Here are the stallion and his daughter,
back when their final days were still
far beyond the horizon.

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