I had been hearing about this "barefoot" stuff for the last couple of years and I'd read about it pretty seriously off and on throughout the Winter 2006/2007. One sunny day in early March 2007 I decided to go out to the barn and really LOOK at my animals feet. I discovered our mules had advanced thrush that had not only ate away at the frog, but had invaded deeply into the digital cushion. Being the overprotective critter mom that I am, I was mortified. How could I have let my animals feet get in this condition. After all, I'd had the farrier out FAIRLY regularly, provided them a nice barn to eat in, fed them the best hay and supplements money could buy. What had happened?!?!?!? Read about Thrush.
My journey much deeper into the natural hoof care movement began. I researched the natural hoof care websites and found the treatment I would embark upon. It involved thoroughly cleaning the hooves, frog and all, and then soaking them in something called White Lightening. Read about White Lightening and how to use it.
On top of the thrush woes, our mules heels and toes were much too long. I found a couple of natural hoof care practitioners to come provide the mules with their first "set-up" trim, (Mike Mott-local-retired) and (Karen Reeves from Klammath Falls, who owns and trims mules & horses) and get me on the way to natural hoof care. Mike and Karen, was/is respectively, associated with a natural hoof care school in Oregon. Karen is an active instructor at the school and has her own trimming business in the Klammath Falls area. She and her husband Aaron own three mules (raised from foals) and two horses. Her client base includes horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and minis. Of course the next thing I did was, you guessed it, I registered for a 7-day intense learning opportunity at the Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care in Jacksonville, OR May 2007. I could hardly wait to go. Iresearched everything I could while waiting for the time to come to go to school. The Oregon School of Natural Hoof Care is a wonderful school with many information packed days and hands on trimming. Our days didn't end at 5PM. After supper, we went into the evening watching educational DVD's from bare hoof trimming pioneers such as Gene Ovnicek, K.C. LaPierre, (Pete Ramey's DVD's weren't out yet), and equine lameness researchers Dr. Christopher Pollitt of Queensland University in Australia and Dr. Bowker of Michigan State University. We had lots of Q&A time with Cheryl Henderson and her team of instructors. In the photo above left, in order left to right: Barbara Taylor, Sue Dreger, Alexa Cook, Cheryl Henderson, Emily Sisson. Photo to the right, in order left to right: that's me at school in Oregon working with a burro. They're sure cute little buggers :>)
When I returned home in May I continued trimming our two mules myself and helped a few friends with their horses. I found it VERY rewarding to be able to take overgrown thrushy hooves and sculpt them into things of natural beauty (Natures Hoof). But the best part is the increased overall performance of the animal and their comfort. Take a look at the before and after pictures to the right. This is just one example of what can be done to correct improper hoof form. ( For more pics) You can't carve it into the foot. You must sculpt it in such a away as to encourage proper growth so nature can repair itself over time. Results vary depending upon the beginning condition of the hoof, the amount of effort put into proper care, and adapting the environment to promote proper hoof development. It all starts with the first trim. Give me a call when you want to explore the possibilities with your own animal(s).
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