Gem's got really good feet. He is barefoot. Even as a newbie owner and horse person, I can recognize that he has strong feet. They are not perfectly shaped, but they are big and hard, with a healthy frog. I give Gem's feet a good clean every time I see him, before and after I ride him. I will run salt water (I use salt water for everything!) in the crevices of his frog if I think there is something funky going on in there and then use the pick brush. If you are thinking of going barefoot, you may find Sophie's blog, Barefoot Horse a great reference.
The terrain that Gem lives and works on is sand (arena), sand with some fine stone (paddock) and pasture. I sometimes walk him up and down the lane which is dirt and gravel. I walk him up and down the lane because it's a harder and rockier surface and I like the idea that his feet are experiencing all kinds of surfaces. I am a little obsessive about his feet. :-)
Today Gem got his feet done. I haven't actually seen The Farrier since last year. He comes every few weeks to the stables. You put your name down, he does your horse's feet and the bill is left with LA. Gem chips his feet all the time. When he is let out in the morning, he generally expresses himself through loping around his field and kicking up his heels. I am sure the rocks that are in his field take a beating from his antics. :-) While most of his chips are minor, in the early summer, Gem had two huge chunks out of his hooves from expressing himself while experiencing spring fever. It took three visits, three weeks apart for The Farrier to smooth them out.
I am having my stay-cation this week and decided to help LA out at the stables today. Ten horses had their feet done and 12 young riders were registered for riding camp. It was busy! But, it was a great opportunity to get re-acquainted with The Farrier. While LA helped the riding camp attendees, I held horses for him.
I am one of those people that puts The Farrier at the same importance level as my vet. They both play an essential role in the health and well-being of Gem. I am very fortunate that in my neck of the woods, I have the cream of the crop in both areas looking after Gem.
The Farrier always has a smile and enjoys company as he works. LA has 40 horses that need to be looked after and will not work with anyone but The Farrier. That reference in itself is good enough for me. But, I did take this opportunity to ask The Farrier if he attended any educational conferences. He attends two a year in Canada. I like the fact that he keeps current. On top of everything else, he is a kind man. Some horses he worked on outside (they like the distraction and it helps them not to feel trapped) and others he worked on inside. Some of the horses were fidgety, but he was patient. He spoke calmly and did not force anything. I once saw an old timer at another barn hit the horse in the belly with his hammer when the horse got fidgety....I didn't like this and was worried that this was the norm....and was relieved that it wasn't, when I met The Farrier. Whew.
I enjoyed being with The Farrier and handling horses that I wouldn't normally be around. It was cool to see how other horses behaved and I think it was good for my confidence. I also heard some great stories today. Most events happened when The Farrier was a newbie...he's much smarter now. :-) Here are a few:
Young stallion lunged at him as he was walking in front of him and bit his face! The top of the horse's mouth connected with his forehead and the bottom set of teeth under his nostrils. He had to go to the hospital and have the base of his nose stitched up. He still has a scar on his forehead....he was thankful that he still had a nose!
A gelding reared and struck out at him, hitting him in the chest so hard that it knocked him to the ground and left a horse shoe bruise on his chest.
Reining horses have long tails and a lot of owners braid them to keep them clean and pristine. Unfortunately, The Farrier once got hit so hard in the eye with a braided tail that it caused blurry vision for a few days. He now requests that all tails be unbraided prior to his visit.
He got body slammed by a scared horse. Ouch.
There is one horse that purposely whips his very long, very thick wiry tail in The Farrier's face. It hurts and makes it difficult to work. Smart horse. :-) Now someone has to hold the tail while he works.
Most of horses that I held were well behaved, including my Gem. There were two that had issues. The first was Gem's next door stall neighbour, an ex-halter Arabian, who over the last year has had mood swings and exhibited some aggressive behaviour. I think he may still be having back issues. I spoke softly to K. and gave him scratches on his withers and in his mane. "Is that a good spot? Oh yeah...you like that, don't you? How about here...?" It worked. K.'s anxiety melted away and he stopped fidgeting.
The other horse was DH. DH is just not a very nice horse and has something in him that makes him resent everything. He was giving The Farrier a hard time by pulling his feet away from him. As DH wildly swung his head up and down in the cross-ties, I tried to calm him down the same way I did K. It was hit and miss, but in general he would have short periods of calmness that would allow The Farrier to nail on his shoes.
The Farrier thanked me for all my help. I thanked him for the stories. So I didn't ride today. Instead, I spent the first day of my stay-cation at the stables, holding and whispering to horses and walking them either back to their stalls or putting them out in the pastures. My stay-cation is great, so far. :-)
What was I thinking....?