Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Hoof Trim is a Huge Success!

Wow! That's all I can say. Wow! Denise Field has a wonderful way with horses. And wow! Angel has come a long way. Wow!
Today was the first serious attempt at handling Angel's feet, with the eventual hoped-for result being the ability to safely trim her feet. Denise Field of In Balance Equine had offered to work with Angel and trim her feet. I was not sure how this would go and had very low expectations. Angel is still extremely wary of strangers and she takes quite a while to trust someone new. So Denise and I agreed in advance that today would probably be a "get-acquainted" session and the goal would be to handle her feet. Next time we might go for an actual trim.

Denise asked to start the session without a halter, just getting to know Angel. Angel was not sure about relating to a stranger. She frequently walked away and at times, disrespectfully turned her butt to Denise. Denise was quiet, calm and requested that Angel turn her beautiful head towards her and not swing her butt so rudely. Denise just followed her around the paddock, asking Angel to pay attention to her.
After a while, Angel relaxed a bit and seemed to accept that Denise was not intending to hurt her. Angel was still wary, but she did not seem to be so afraid. Then Denise haltered her and asked Angel to move a little bit at her request. Angel complied reasonably well. She actually accepted Denise's invitations much more readily than I expected and behaved herself much better than I expected. Both Denise and Angel exceeded my expectations today!
Denise waited to put the halter on until she thought Angel was ready. You can see by the expression on each of their faces that things were going well. Denise runs a small horse rescue called Horses In Need. She has a lot of experience with abused and rescued horses, and her calm and confident manner showed a lot of experience with horses like Angel. After the halter was on, Denise continued just as she had before, following Angel around the paddock. She began handling her legs and feet more, and asking Angel to lift and hold her feet.
Sometimes Angel did not want to hold her foot up and she swished her tail and expressed her displeasure. But she was no longer afraid, she just didn't like it. There was a very clear difference and Denise treated the attitude differently than she did the fear.
Denise gradually got a better and better response. Angel stopped walking off, stopped pulling her foot and began to agree to stand still while Denise handled her foot. Angel stopped swishing her tail, stopped turning her butt and seemed to agree that it was OK for Denise to hold her foot in the air.
Then Denise brought out the first tool - a hoof pick. She allowed Angel to smell it and touch it with her nose. Denise cleaned both of Angel's front feet. To my amazement, she said Angel did not have thrush, even though her feet had not been picked out in more than four months. We had not planned to actually trim any feet today. But Angel was being so cooperative, Denise decided to try to trim a little bit off the front feet, which were quite long. So she came back with nippers, a rasp and gloves. Angel was a little concerned about these new tools.
But as you can see in the photo, her concerns quickly melted away. By the end of the session, Denise had cleaned and trimmed both front feet. Denise and I were both extremely pleased! She handled Angel's back legs quite a bit, down to the hoof. But we are going to save the back feet for next time, when Angel has had more of a chance to develop trust in Denise. I know from her work with Debbie Krimsley that Angel gets progressively more relaxed, the more times she meets someone. So I think giving her another opportunity to spend time with Denise before lifting the back feet will be safer and more productive.
Here is how the session ended. Two front feet cleaned and trimmed. Two back legs handled safely. And a calm and happy horse. It doesn't get much better than that!

I want to express my very sincere gratitude to Denise, who is donating her services to Angel. Denise has a wonderful, quiet way with wary horses and she really won Angel's trust. And it was wonderful to see how far Angel has come. She has made tremendous progress in her willingness to give human beings another chance. The white scars on her back are more and more visible and I do wonder what gave her those scars. Regardless of her past, Angel seems willing to believe that humans might be trustworthy after all.

You can reach Denise Field at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shedding Season!

Angel arrived fifteen weeks ago today. She was skinny, scared, mistrustful and kicked rather often. During the past fifteen weeks, she has gained approximately 300 pounds, has stopped rearing and she has not been observed kicking in over a month. She is becoming friendly and calls out a greeting whenever she thinks it might be time to eat. Yesterday she allowed Debbie Krimsley to handle and work on her forehead, jaw and poll. Now, instead of rearing when she is frightened, she vigorously bobs her head up and down, but her front feet remain solidly on the ground.
Angel is in the middle of shedding season. She looks rather like an old moth-eaten velour jacket at the moment. She still has strange ripples in the hair on her neck, which look like really cheap velvet, in a strange and "wrong" sort of way. She has a coat that I have not seen on a horse before. It is the wrong texture, is dull and coarse and just looks "wrong." Fortunately, she is shedding a lot, and I am eagerly waiting to see if the new summer coat that comes in will look better. I am hoping for a sleek and shiny, healthy copper-penney look. But since I don't know how long a horse must have good nutrition before you can see it in their coat, I don't know if her summer coat will look better or not. At the moment, she just looks like an old velour stuffed animal with half of its fur rubbed off.
The two photos above were both taken on April 9, 2011. The photo at left was taken on Dec. 9, 2010 when Angel had recently arrived at the Animal Shelter in San Martin. I feel like Angel is making good progress. She had another very successful bodywork session with Debbie Krimsley yesterday. Angel was more alert and aware of her surroundings during this session, but she was able to hear sounds and observe sights without feeling the need to move her feet. She stood very quietly and very still while Debbie worked on her, even though her ears and eyes and head were moving a lot, taking in the activities around her. Debbie got to touch and start working on places she had previously not been able to touch (including her forehead and under her jaw).

I am sure that Angel was disappointed to notice that she was receiving less food this week. As I was grooming her and trying to get that yucky old hair off, I realized that I can no longer feel any ribs! And the point of the hip that used to protrude prominently is now soft and rounded. So I cut back her feed to two flakes of alfalfa and about 3 lbs. of grain per day. (For the past four months she has been eating 2-3 flakes of alfalfa and 4-8 pounds of grain per day!) I plan to start exercising her a little bit more, but not a lot. She is still taking very shallow breaths and her breathing doesn't seem "right" when she runs. I am hoping with more time to relax and more of a sense of safety, maybe she will be able to breathe more deeply and use all of her body more properly. We have time, there is no hurry.

One evening last week I was grooming Angel in her pen. It was the end of a long day and I was using a shedding blade to try to hurry up the shedding process. Angel was standing quietly, without a halter and without food, just enjoying being groomed. The night was dark, but the barn lights were on. After I had been grooming her for about thirty minutes, I was a little startled when I looked around and saw that she was standing in front of an open gate! Apparently I had not latched the gate properly. Angel had pushed it open with her nose, and the gate was standing open in front of her. Since I did not have a halter on her, she could have left at any time! But she chose to stay and be groomed. I'd like to think she decided to stay because she enjoys my company. But I think the truth may be that she is as tired of that weird-looking, icky old winter coat as I am, and she just wanted me to get it off of her as soon as possible.