Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2 Weeks. 237 Hooves: The Triminologist-in-Training Challenge

(Post copied off where I originally posted it; on the Equinextion Online Forum Academy (EOFA) blog) 

I just completed the Trimmer 1 & 2 Fast Track course and am here to document my experience.

Let's start the very beginning! (♫ A very good place to...!♫) 

My flights went from Rochester NY, to Chicago O'Hare, to Calgary International Airport in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 
I was so excited when I arrived! I hurried through customs (hint: mark "study", not "business" to avoid a huge hassle) and on to baggage claim.

Baggage in hand, I stepped out the door to find one of the course team members standing right where she texted that she would. Meet and greet with the 3 team members was followed by a Starbucks visit paid for in Canadian loonies, and then we waited for Lisa, who arrived shortly. We piled our luggage in the back of her truck along side her trusty side-kicks (Pinto the Jack Russel Terrorist mix, and Bruno the long-haired Shepherd), and got in for the three hour ride to her humble abode in Medicine Hat.

Where I come from, we have lots of hills and valleys, wooded forests and ponds. The countryside between Calgary and Medicine Hat was simpler: flat and flat, flat and even flatter, with ginormous pastures. It was captivating and beautiful.

Upon arrival, I flopped onto the bed in one of her guest rooms, the 2 hour time change catching up with me, and was out. And so it all began. . . 

Monday was our first day. Lisa sat us down for a grueling questioning (just kidding. It wasn't that bad!), and this we followed with a trip to some grocery stores and the farm where her horses were at. Four of the horses there were handled and trimmed, to various degrees. It's too bad we didn't take before video footage to compare to the end of the course... because I was slow and painfully awkward with the tools. Damn you left hand! By the end of the course, I gained considerable speed.

The climate in that pocket of the world is dry. . . We often heard "It doesn't rain here," although our course team had a bit of trouble believing that. . . as we had quite a few days of rain! In any case, they apparently really don't get much rain, so pastures have "wind walls" (pretty self-explanatory) as opposed to run-in sheds. Lisa had lots of fun facts to share with us about the land and animal habitation, etc. I suppose if you're coming for course from somewhere close by, this all isn't that exciting. But for this New Yorker, it was fascinating!
The first Monday-Saturday of course included visits to different farms every day, where we trimmed different horses, ponies, and donkeys in different environments and learned how the different environments affected the horses. We trimmed the horses in exchange for snack food and meals. . . Which was awesome in my opinion 

Lisa is a great teacher; very knowledgeable. In the evenings, she shared stories of her experiences and explained things to us that we were having trouble understanding... namely, heels and bars. Heels and bars are not simple; not something you can learn through a 2D picture or movie online. Many times Lisa would take the rasp in our hand and angle it just so, which resulted in an "Ohhhh!" of recognition and we would go along just as happily, filing away. The great thing is that everything we learned, made sense. It helped a lot to have it explained to me how a certain shape of the hoof causes pressure to shift in different places and to different locations. Everything was clear and logical. 
Meeting new people and visiting new farms was a pleasure, as we traveled along in Lisa's trusty 'racetruck', which was quite comfortable. Saturday we headed out to a ranch a good distance away in what seemed like the 'middle of nowhere'. We trimmed a handful of horses in the morning, stopped to have a delicious barbeque lunch, and kept on with the trimming. We had the pleasure of experiencing the transforming powers of equinextion trim for a horse that, pre-trim, arrived in pain, barely able to stand on her 4 legs, let alone her three so that one could be up for handling. Lisa trimmed her with us on standby with tools so that it would be as quick as possible. By the end of the day, the mare who could barely stand comfortably before was cantering in her pasture, happy as a clam and ready to join the rest of the herd. 
Below: Photos of the farm animals from Saturday

Sunday was our day for R&R. . . & laundry . And so, Trimmer 1 came to a close. 

And on with Trimmer 2! Honestly, I am sitting here trying to remember Monday of Trimmer 2, and I'm failing. So I will just continue on with the most eventful experiences.
One morning we found ourselves trimming the hooves of a cute (rotund!) mini named Tabasco. 

His feet were very overgrown... sort of like tubes, but flat, kind of. Certainly they were bent out of shape. Lisa trimmed him up very well; see below:

We followed that mini up with a saddle horse gelding who came to us quite lame in the very back of a huge pasture. I went out to get him and videoed his halting gate. His hooves were super overgrown and misshapen and chipped off in places. He was no where near 100% sound post trim (his lameness issues extended beyond his hooves), but definitely better than he was before, and I'm sure with movement he would only improve. I would venture to say I saw a 50% improvement. 

Another day we trimmed a handful of horses in Echo Dale, a park of sorts in the Hat. There, banks of the South Saskatchewan River meet sharp cliffs that rise up to the sky. The view trimming there was breath taking! What a place. 

My new dream home

There was a wide range of horses that we encountered over the course of the two weeks. Big and small, back yard ponies and jackpot winners, jumpers, barrel racers, trusty trail mounts and homely pasture pets. We learned something from every one of them, not just by looking at their feet, but by looking at their eyes and taking note of their personality. They are all just as different as one person from another.
We also gained experience and tips from Lisa in dealing with ill-behaved equines. . . no serious injuries acquired during course week. 

The equinextion experience encourages you to broaden your horizons in horse care. . . and change your mind about what is acceptable in the horse world and what is not. Everything I learned was thought provoking, but not shoved down my throat. I am well aware that some of my practices do not align with equinextion standards. . . but given the time and space now to mull it over, I'm planning and revisiting my horse care protocols and looking forward to changes I want to put into place soon. Sometimes change is necessary, regardless of whether it is comfortable, convenient, or 'politically correct'. I believe the horse world today is in need of change. 
We all know "two wrongs don't make a right". Well, neither do hundreds of years of 'wrongs'. 

Ok, stepping off the soap box. . . Friday was pretty exciting! Cadaver day. After two weeks of well-behaved horses. . . and not so well behaved (Lisa wants a shirt made: No kicking! No grabbing! No biting! No nipping! No lipping! No leaning! etc) we enjoyed trimming hooves that only moved when we did (the irony: our backs hurt more sitting in chairs trimming than when we were under live horses! :P Lisa taught us well on how to protect our backs for trimming. . . My back never hurt during the two weeks. (Although, I'm young. . .)

Some photos in this post were taken by Steve Hoff, a course team member. Especially these cadaver photos, as evidently my hands were a bit too dirty for camera work.
Of course, digging into the cadavers was weird at first.... but then I decided to just make the most of the experience.

See? The bars can't be taken at face value

The system: Grab one of the five hooves, tape half of it, trim the untaped half, and pass it on to another person. No input from Lisa allowed. It was incredible at the end to line the feet up and see little difference between them all! A real testament to Lisa's teaching abilities. After those careful trims, we dissected them in various ways; to see bone structure, to see tendon and ligament structure in the legs, etc. I personally peeled the sole away bit by bit until I could see only the frog below the surface, the bars, and the rim of the coffin bone. Truly amazing to see it all laid out like that! What a learning experience.

My experience learning from Lisa was really awesome. You leave course with more than just an ability to trim horse's hooves, and trim them well. . . You leave with a greater understanding of the equinextion philosophy and why it works, as a whole. Beyond that, I personally really enjoyed getting to know the people I was learning alongside (and from!). We grew closer as we got to know one another (and shared many laughs!). I loved everything about the climate (whoot!- dry heat!), and just. . . everything. 

If you live and breathe horses, this course is for you. I'm very much looking forward to returning for Trimmer 3!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Greetings from the Hat (Warning: Picture Heavy Post)

Hello all! 
I'm currently posting from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.  

I arrived Sunday evening in Calgary International Airport, and drove home with the other 3 students in this trim course and our teacher to the tune of this beautiful sunset. 

Monday morning we headed to the piece of land where our teacher Lisa keeps her herd of horses. She owns three horses, and boards two more. Above, left to right is Jack, Sierra, Rico, and Soleil. We trimmed them all to some extent that day (some full trims, others partial). 

Above is Billy

The land here in Southern Alberta is flat desert land. In New York where I live, the land is hilly and green, mixed with forests. Here it is a pale green and brown, and flat, flat, flat. So queer to get used to! In between are what I call "inside out mountains", the proper term for which is "coulees". The land dips down suddenly, so as you look over the broad expanse you don't actually see it. Lisa's horses are pastured on land like this. It's hard to capture the steep incline of the coulee in the above photo where the horses roam, but it's pretty incredible. 

And there are cactus!

New York boots on Albertan soil. 

Above are the horses of the pasture next to Lisa's. The horses climb up and down the steep coulees.... so different, but very cool. 

Tuesday morning we went out to trim a couple palominos. Above are two of them, a mare and her yearling colt. 

After which we headed back to Lisa's farm to trim a mini and a miniature donkey there. I have yet to capture a good picture of "wind walls", but the above picture gives you an idea. Instead of run-ins, they have simple walls to block the wind, because there isn't enough rain to require rooves! 

I had the pleasure of trimming "Rico de donkey". He is so cute! I would totally take him home. Compared to the horses we had trimmed that morning who were naughty and mean, he was a safe fellow to work around. Due to his small stature, trimming meant literally kneeling on the ground beside him. When he'd get impatient, he would buckle the front that you weren't trimming and simply attempt to lie down on top of you or on the ground, which would obviously be a naughty thing to do, except he's so little his attempts don't amount to much and we could only laugh. He never kicked out or tried to bite. 

Such were the horses of day three, above, sans one that didn't make it to the collage. Nothing really eventful there. 

Hey look!

It's yours truly. Trimmin'.
Those were borrowed chaps, I am the proud owner of a burgundy pair now.

Day four, yesterday, found us in a field with 3 chestnuts and a bay mare. Trimming them went pretty uneventfully as well. Yesterday was the day where our lack of adequate rest caught up with us, and we were all tired and sporting sore muscles. Apparently day three or four is always like that during course weeks.

And today. Day five! We're gaining speed more now. 

This morning found us at a farm on the edge of a reservoir. We trimmed one f the two minis there. Most of the photos are of the mini we didn't trim, Spirit.

What a life, eh? They didn't need a fourth side to the pasture because the lake took care of that. Pretty neat!

Above is the mini we did trim, Lizzie, post trim.

After which we headed to a different farm with four horses and two donkeys. We partnered up to trim. First I trimmed Sterling, above. He was great with his fronts, but quite impatient with his hinds, so he took awhile.

Jimmy and Buffy, the miniature donkeys, looked on.

Sterling was followed by the stout (chunky), Joey. He was a cutie, and relatively well behaved. 
I'm coming to really love trimming. Farrier barefoot trims are relatively flat, as they are meant to be formed to have a shoe applied. The trim I learn is much more concave and carefully formed, so trimming is like sculpting. It's so interesting to learn how forming a hoof one way causes the pressure to shift a certain way, and why we form the hoof a certain way, based on the bone structure below the surface of the sole. Trimming in this style is truly an art form.

Joey was followed by Jimmy the donkey, whom I trimmed sans a partner. He was such a good boy! So far, I've met only nice donkeys, and it makes me want one some day. 
Trimming is a bit addicting, especially on the days when we have the pleasure of seeing the dramatic change in a horse after the trim. This stuff works. And steel horse shoes nailed to soles are not necessary, for any horse. 
I'll leave you with that.


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