Monday, September 26, 2016

Famous Amos - part two

I know everyone wanted pictures of Amos, but you will have to wait a few weeks.  This is the only photo I remembered to take and, as you can see, Amos was on a mission.  That is Levi to the left.

I do have some pictures of Amos' feet though.  This is what they looked like when I met him....

8/28/16

These shoes were reset just a couple of week before this photo was taken and you can see how long and distorted this hoof is.  This is fairly typical of a horse who has been shod his entire life.  The foot is long with weak heels, the toes are too long and the back of the foot is poorly developed.

Here is the other hoof after I had pulled the shoes....

After pulling the shoes, I did not touch the feet.  We left Amos barefoot and left the feet long so that he could wear them down naturally.  If I had trimmed them right off, I would most likely have made him sore.  I wanted his feet to wear down and toughen up naturally.

This photo was taken on 9/16/16.  I know it is a crappy photo, but you can still see that the foot is much shorter and already getting stronger.  If you compare with the above, you will see that the nail holes that were about an inch above the ground are nearly gone in this shot....

This was taken on 8/28/16 just after the shoe was pulled.  Notice how overgrown the hoof looks and how atrophied, narrow and poor the frog is....

Same view on 9/16/16, you can see that the foot has already widened a bit....

8/28/16  These next photos are, perhaps, the most telling set.  The heels and the frog should be at the same level.

You can see how much excess height the foot has and how the frog will never touch the ground.  This frog is terribly weak and contracted.  There is also a bad thrush infection in the central sulcus.  That crevice in the back should not exist, yet it is over and inch deep.  The sulcus thrush causes a lot of damage to the back of the foot and is very painful.  I can make this horse flinch just by pushing on this area with my thumb, imagine what walking on it would feel like.

9/16/16  This is what just a couple of weeks of no shoes has done for Amos....

It was at this point that Dave called me and told me that Amos was getting to be tender-footed and ouchy on stones, which came as no surprise.  The excess hoof had worn away and that weak, painful frog was finally starting to touch the ground.  This is a good thing as the frog cannot heal and grow without stimulation.  However, we did not want Amos to become lame and we did not want him to have to stop working.  Exercise is the best thing for these feet, but not if it makes him sore.

This is the Catch-22 conundrum of transitioning a horse from shoes to barefoot, especially an older horse who has never had the chance to properly develop the back of the hoof.  That frog is too weak to support the horse, yet the frog needs to work in order to grow healthy.  It has already improved with the added blood-flow provided by being barefoot and Dave has been diligently treating the thrush, which has also improved a great deal.

This is where shoes usually come in.  Most people would have shoes put on which would raise that frog off the ground and temporarily alleviate the pain.  The foot would grow taller and narrower, pinching the frog and making it sore so he would need new shoes and the foot would grow taller and narrower....eventually we would be right back where we started with that long, weak foot we saw in the first photo.

In order to break this cycle and still keep Amos sound, we opted to try Easyshoes on Amos and Levi.  The shoes offer most of the same benefits as the hoof boots without the hassle and frustrations of hoof boots.  Unlike steel shoes, the Easyshoes are flexible and allow the hoof to expand and contract as it should while also providing sole and frog stimulation.  They should encourage the frog to continue to develop while protecting it at the same time.  They are a good choice for transitioning a horse to barefoot.

9/16/16

We hope that Amos will be able to go happily barefoot at some point.  I believe that he has inherently decent feet that will improve given the chance.  However, there is always the question of how much the inner structures of the hooves can improve in a horse at this age.  Given the progress Amos made in just a couple of weeks out of shoes though, I think he stands a good chance of growing a healthy bare foot.





Friday, September 23, 2016

Famous Amos

I have started doing some farrier work for the guy who used to own Ben.  Like so many horse owners in this area, he is frustrated by the farrier care available.  He is trying to do the right thing for his animals, but it hasn't been working well.  We got to talking, as horse people always do, and one thing led to another and I find myself doing farrier work for him.  I never intended to become a farrier, but it seems like I have been doing an awful lot of it lately, despite my intentions.  Isn't that always the way of the world?

There are two new horses, Amos and Levi, that I am working on now along with a handful of donkeys.  Amos is the one who's feet I remembered to take pictures of so he is the first one to talk about.

Amos is in his mid twenties and came to live in his new home this Spring.  He is a Standardbred who likely started out his career many years ago as a harness racing horse.  From there, he went to the Amish and has been a hard working cart horse his whole life.

The Amish I have met are generally like most people, some are really nice, some are really awful and most fall somewhere in between.  Some Amish love their animals and take great care of them.  Many Amish have animals only because they have to.  For the later, caring for their horses is the same as me caring for my car.  I tend its needs and maintain it well, but it is just an inanimate machine to me.  When it gets too old to do its job, I'll ship it down the road with little care about where it ends up, which is basically what happened to both Amos and Levi.

Amos came here severely underweight and emotionally shut down after a lifetime of being used like a machine.  He has been slowly, but steadily putting weight on and coming out of his shell since arriving at this farm.  In his mid twenties, he is finally learning what a cookie is.

I have always felt that Standardbreds are rather undervalued horses.  They tend to be good-natured, stoic, even-tempered horses who have a lot to offer.  Unfortunately, they often come off the track too crippled to work.  Those who make it through their racing career intact don't always make the best riding horses because their gaits are not terribly comfortable, especially the pacers, so they are not desired as riding horses.  They don't have the exposure or cache that the OTTB's (Off Track Thoroughbreds) have gotten in recent years and most horse people will turn their noses up at the mere mention of Standardbreds.  One of the few places left for good driving horses in today's world is with the Amish.  Most Standardbreds leave the race tracks to either go straight to the Amish or onto a slaughter-bound truck.

Amos had come to the end of his usefulness to the Amish because he has gotten old enough to need a bit more than bare minimum care.  He was bound for a final, one way trip to Canada when Dave bought him a few months ago.

Dave uses Amos and Levi for pleasure driving a few times a week.  He greatly appreciates Amos' steady, rock-solid work ethic and Amos is greatly enjoying learning about cookies and kind words.

To be continued.....

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mr. Himself

Several have wondered what Mr. Himself thinks about having Ben around.  There was even the suggestion (gasp!) that I might have forgotten about Himself.  Trust me on this one:  that. is. not. possible.  EVER.

I would like to be able to say that Ramsey was thrilled to have another donkey - another gelding - here to play with.  But, not so much.

He has gone through several phases and even contemplated stealing the keys and running away.

After a bit more thought, he has decided to stay.  For now.

Ramsey's reactions to Ben have progressed down a distinct path.  Something along the lines of:

  • Fearful trepidation.  Followed by:
  • WTF!!!! Seriously Ma, WTF????  Followed by:
  • "If I don't see him, he doesn't exist."  Followed by:
  • "OK, he exists.  What am I supposed to do about it?  Followed by:
  • "I hate him, make him go away."  Followed by:
  • "OK, he is here.  I accept that.  I'm not sure what to do about it, but I am resigned to my fate"  Followed by:
  • Tentative gesture of friendship from Ben.  Followed by:
  • Befuddled acceptance from Ramsey.  Followed by:
  • Tentative gesture of affection toward Emma from Ben.  Followed by:
  • "Hey wait, is that my MOM he's talking to?!?  That's MY mom!  Followed by:
  • "I hate him.  That's MY mom and MY person and MY barn and MY UNIVERSE!!!
So, Mr Himself has rather got his ears bent out of shape.  He is terribly jealous and rather befuddled, much like a young child who has suddenly gotten a new and unwanted sibling.  Ben has been understanding and stoic for the most part.  He generally pays no mind to Ramsey's quandary and works to avoid conflict - except where food is involved.  Ben does like his food and will not back down from it just because one spoiled and confused little donkey tries to tell him too.


Before you start feeling too terribly sorry for little Himself though...I am trying to spend a bit of extra time with him and help show him that Ben is OK.  I also think that this is good for Ramsey even if it is a little hard.  He has been rather sheltered here and he has never met any other donkeys.  I think it is good and important for him to learn how to get along with others.  I wish he could have been around more donkeys when he was a baby, but that was not possible.

It is good for all animals to get used to the wide world and I worry that mine don't get to see enough of it.  It is fine as long as their world does not change, but all worlds change eventually and it is better if they have the skills to face it.  Given time, I think Ramsey and Ben may yet become friends.  I hope so anyway.

They are still thinking about it.

The nice thing about donkeys is that they do think about it.  They are not entirely happy with each other yet, but they are willing to share space without any real squabbles and they are getting better about sharing food.

As for Mr. Himself.....he may have his ears bent out of joint just a bit....

But it hasn't entirely ruined his world and it isn't keeping him up at night - or afternoons.





Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Dog Daze

FB keeps asking me why I haven't shared any photos of her dogs lately.  Generally, it's because most of the pictures end up being the proverbial proof-of-Sasquatch photos....

See - Bigfoot does exist.

Then, there are the typical Border Collie photos.  Border Collies do tend to believe that cameras will steal their souls and they act accordingly when one is pointed at them...

Except for the BC's who are so caught up in their "jobs" that they don't notice the camera. They usually don't hold still long enough for a cheap camera.

That leaves the Mexican-stand-off pictures.....

With the crazy, fixated, Border Collie stare.  I get a lot of those.

Then there's Bess...


What more is there to say?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Half Full or Half Empty?

For those following the honey bee saga, there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that one of the hives is so full of bees it is bursting at the seems (especially when it is 90 degrees and 1000% humidity)...

The bees have been making honey recently, which I know because the air smells wonderfully of honey all around the hive.

If you look closely at the bees on the bottom board, they are lined up facing the entrance, butts in the air and beating their wings furiously. They do this to create a breeze inside the hive to cool it and to move air over the nectar they have gathered so that it will ripen into honey.

It wouldn't seem like a few bees fanning their wings could do much, but if you were to put your hand in front of the hive entrance, you would be able to feel the breeze they create.

 A very busy, very full, very beautiful hive.

I opened the hive very briefly, just to give them some more hive boxes so they will have more room to hang out and to (hopefully) make more honey in the fall Golden Rod bloom.

These bees are quiet, productive and easy to work with.


We've had a terribly hot summer and last weekend was just brutal, which is why everyone was hanging out on the porch all afternoon.

As for the other hive....it is dead.

I don't know what happened to it, the bees are simply gone.  They left behind two frames filled with fresh eggs and larva as well as the beginnings of their honey stores.  There is no sign of disease, they had fresh eggs so they could have tried to raise a new queen if the needed to and they had food.  But, there is not a single bee left in the hive, alive or dead.

And that is the way of beekeeping - joyous, vibrant, frenetically, beautifully alive.  Or not.