This past week saw a new arrival at the barn, a horse that a local vet asked Debora to check out and possibly take into the sanctuary. You can read her brief bio here. Debora said she’s been renamed three times, so she wanted to wait a bit and ask the horse what her name should be. I love that approach! It’s a mark of respect for animals that I wish was more prevalent in the world. So, pretty soon they decided on….Freckles! One of the things that Freckles needed immediately was a hoof trimming, and Debora called on Cody the farrier for help. Cody was able to come out on Monday and he got right to work.
I’ve never seen a hoof trimming and had no idea how it was done. It was pretty interesting. They lift up the horses’ leg and put it in a stand, pick out all the debris and trim the worst of it with giant clippers. Freckles hooves were so overgrown that Debora had him clip them a bit shorter than usual so when they grow back they will grow in straight up and down. After the clipping, Cody used an angle grinder with a special tool on it to do some finish work and smooth out the edges. Here’s a before and after of her back feet.
Freckles was pretty skittish so she had to be sedated to get this done. She ended up being pretty calm throughout, just getting a little jumpy at the end as the sedation started wearing off a little. Debora said the trimming doesn’t hurt and isn’t even uncomfortable. The angle grinder looks intense but all they feel is the vibration. Her feet will probably be a bit sensitive for a little while, but she’s going to be so much more comfortable now.
The other interesting thing that happened this week was a physical therapy session for Doc, who is recovering from a shoulder injury. Kari, a horse physical therapist, came to show us how to exercise him to help get his muscles and joints back in shape. She worked with him in the round pen, walking him over ground poies and cavaletti’s (very low jumps) that were placed around the perimeter. The goal was to get him to lift up his feet high enough to get him to use the muscles in his shoulders. Doc is a really sweetie and there were five or six of us standing around watching so I think he was liking the attention. Kari showed how to get him to move in the direction she wanted, and how to get him to walk, trot or lope just by how she looked at him and moved her arms.
Debora said if you want them to walk you look at their shoulder, if you want them to trot you focus on their ribs, and if you want them to lope you focus on their rear end. The horse responds to your energy focusing on different parts of their body. Fascinating! It really works, too. With very little movement Kari and Debora both got Doc to move around the way they wanted. If you want to turn the horse to go the other way around the pen, you get his attention to make him face you head-on, then you point in the other direction.
I was a bit nervous that they were going to ask me to try it since I have virtually no horse experience, but I was really there just to watch. Whew! :-) I may end up helping in the future but I have a lot to learn first. To that end, Debora taught me how to put a harness on a horse. I did that only a few times many years ago so I needed a refresher. I was going to groom Patches, who was in a pen with Freckles and was a little agitated. Debora showed me how to hold the harness and carefully ease it over her nose. You don’t fling things around with a horse, you know? :-) She also showed me how to get a harnessed horse to back up, just by gently shaking the rope and using your energy to let her know what you want. She said you have to imagine that you have a three-foot bubble around you, and that’s your space, and you let the horse know not to intrude on your space.
I love learning these basic horsemanship skills. I’m a lot more comfortable around the horses than when I first started, but I haven’t handled them at all, as far as harnessing, walking or tying up. All in good time!
Laura Weise is a Wings volunteer who lives in Stevensville and will be bringing you stories of life at the barn.