On Cloud Nine

Making improvements to a sound foot can be very intimidating. Two years ago my daughter, Claudia, approached me and asked why her mare's feet looked weird. It wasn't the first time she'd asked. I'd been wondering that myself for quite a while. We had 6 horses and they all had beautiful bare feet. I was obsessive with their hoof care. They all got trimmed every week. My technique was trim less off--more often. If the mustang is the model, I figured what I couldn't get from mileage I would get from simulated wear through trimming. I had 5 horses with little or no hoof distortion. It had taken a few years of 1-2 week trims to get there... but these horses all came with individual issues that needed correcting frequently if they were going to hold up in the long run. I'd seen way too many older horses in my line of work with screwed up feet ...they had no choice but to shift their weight from one foot to the next, all day, every day.

When I Trimmed these poor old guys they had to muster up all the heart they could just to think about giving me a foot for a few seconds. Getting through a full trim was agonizing for them. I always wondered how anyone could let them get that bad. I also vowed that I wouldn't be responsible for letting this happen to my own horses. Some of these horses weren't even that old, some not even 10 yet.
Claudia's horse cloud 9 was the exception to my frequent trimming rule. I just didn't keep her on the same schedule. I kept her on a 4-6 week schedule. I hadn't put much thought into why, other than the fact that her hoof walls grew at a slower rate than the other horses ( and she was perfectly sound with beautiful movement ) until Claudia asked me that question. "She just has weird feet" was my regular reply, however, this time I had a revelation. First of all, from the top her feet looked great. She received many compliments on her hooves. Claudia knew better. She paid close attention to my trimming and knew that there was much more information on the solar surface. She often came along with me when I went trimming and was never afraid to tell me when she thought I left the bars too long. She didn't like the way Cloud's frog lost definition at the apex or the way the bars were always impacted and rotten looking. I didn't like it either but she was the soundest horse in our barn. Her hooves were already short from the top, probably under 3", from the bottom...the distance from the apex of the frog to the breakover was sometimes under an inch. Her feet were size 1. Our vet even cautioned me on a couple of occasions with comments like " a little short on the toes, Dad" (but this same vet never looked at the bottom of her feet ). Cloud 9 had no problems going on long rides, even 1/2 day rides in really rocky terrain. My wife Stephanie found Cloud for claudia and always commented on her perfect pastern length and angles.

When it came right down to it, I was afraid to fix what didn't appear to be broken. I had a feeling her toes were too long and they needed to be gradually shortened. I told Claudia that I would have to add Cloud to my weekly trim list and that she might get sore for a few months and she'd have to use boots and pads and possibly not even ride her for a while. Claudia didn't say anything, she just walked away. The next day she came up to me ad said "Papa, I want you to fix Cloud's feet and it's okay if I can't ride her for a while". I said, " It could take several months" she said, "I want her to have good feet".

As I expected Cloud was a little "off" after a few weeks, even though we changed her footing to sand. Stephanie became skeptical of my assessment and worried that this always sound horse was now a little sore. I assured her several times that this would only improve her feet making them closer to what she was meant to have. This all made sense to me as I heard it come out of my mouth but I wasn't used to Stephanie not supporting me on hoof matters. I found myself running on faith, not certainty. I wasn't comfortable with that feeling at all. Claudia never questioned it. I think her faith was stronger than mine. Several months later I was trimming our horses one morning before work and when I picked up Cloud's feet her soles looked like they were falling off. Actually it was retained sole that was finally coming loose, after building enough new sole that it wasn't needed any more. She had at least 1/2 " of new concavity and her bars were healthy and followed the contour of her new sole plane beautifully. I couldn't wait to tell Claudia when she got home from school. When I got home from work I asked Stephanie where Claudia was. "she's out on Cloud", she answered. I went down to the barn and was getting Marie, one of our Arabian mares, tacked up to go look for Claudia and Cloud, when they came riding up. Claudia excitedly told me that she trimmed Cloud before the ride and that she was moving better than she ever had. I informed her that I had already trimmed her earlier that day. Claudia said, "her bars were too long". I looked at her feet and trimmed a little more off the bars. It seemed that they were finally releasing from being impacted for so long. We went for a ride and I welcomed Claudia and Cloud to the perfect feet club. From then on Cloud's hoof walls grew at a rate that was hard to keep up with. She ended up with even shorter toes measuring as short as 2 1/2" dorsally from hairline to breakover, with at least 1/2" of concavity at the apex of a well defined, rounded frog tip. We marveled at the way she moved on her beautiful feet that resembled slate blue wash rocks...Cloud was better than ever...and I had learned another valuable lesson from a horse, and from the girl that loved her.

Our Philosophy

Horses feet have evolved over millions of years to be a regenerative system. Constant movement over varied terrain maintains the balance of growth vs. wear, step for step. The result is an amazing hoof comprised of:

- super structures that thrive on use.
- Hoof function with an efficient break over
- and the ability to withstand and dissipate concussive forces with a heel first impact (this allows the horse to use his weight for him instead of against him. )

The current more traditional system for domestic horses is a degenerative system where there is minimal movement in a small damp stall, infrequent trimming schedules and/ or prosthetic devices nailed to their feet.

This results in the horse crushing his feet under his own weight. I believe horses were designed to have sustainable feet for their lifetime. I feel that we are responsible as the horse's caretakers to protect the natural wonder, the horse's hoof, that nature has provided for them.

Our Goal

To encourage the mustang foot on the domestic horse through proper trimming and care. The best foot your horse can have.

AND

To teach you how to manage risk in your horse or herd through lameness prevention and sound management practices, specifically focusing on hooves, through movement, footing, balanced trimming and diet.

Services include:

- Assessment

- Consultation

- Trimming

- Booting

- Footing

- Clinics

- Personal Lessons

- Horsemanship Training

- Lameness Prevention

- Rehabilitation

- Facilities Design

and Development