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toe-first striking
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JulietMacie
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 Posted: Sun Jun 30th, 2013 10:48 am
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It looks to me like my mare is toe-first striking. Would you agree? if so, I read in your Equus column about using padded boots to correct the problem, but I have many related questions...first of all, why is she doing it? is it the way I'm riding? is it her reaction to having sore heels from thrush maybe? For treatment, should she be trimmed in a special way? do I put boots on all four feet? what do I pad the boots with and how much padding? how long does it typically take to correct this? should I stop riding until she's "cured"? I also have pictures of her feet that I can post if they would be helpful to review. THANKS!

Attachment: macie_trot.jpg (Downloaded 1127 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jul 1st, 2013 04:41 am
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Juliet, all of your questions are good questions. First we do need to see your photos of your horse's feet. Then we need a description (you can post that when you reply to this) of "how" you ride, i.e. to begin with whether so-called Western or so-called English. You might also let us know whether you show or not, or are otherwise in some manner using this horse to chase after a prize, and if so, what prize.

It's good that you're using the series in Equus to ramp up your ability to see what the realities are with your horse, and what you can do to turn those realities into the best possible outcomes. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Mon Jul 1st, 2013 02:25 pm
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Thanks Dr. Deb, I'm attaching recent photos -- if they're inadequate, let me know and I'll reshoot. I ride "so-called" english. My horse and I are working on fundamentals: suppleness, straightness, tempo, but always on our overall relationship and communication. I don't show; my only goal is to have a solid and satisfying partnership with my horse--no matter what we do together. I also do a lot of liberty work with her such as liberty lunging, companion movements and "tricks" such as mirroring my movements (bowing, spanish walking, putting front feet on the mounting block). I work with her about an hour a day, about 4 or 5 times a week. Thanks in advance for your reply.

Attachment: macie2013_hindfeet.jpg (Downloaded 1072 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jul 1st, 2013 07:16 pm
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OK, Juliet, I've copied out and marked the sole views of both the forefeet -- as you can see, a line connecting the buttresses does pass through the widest part of the frog, so you can feel happy and confident that your farrier is doing a good job of maintaining Macie's feet in A-P balance. This is also evident from the relatively erect orientation of the tubules at the heels and quarters.

Your idea that the horse might be having some pain in its heels is the next thing to consider. Pain in the rear part of the foot could come from thrush -- does the horse actually have thrush? It doesn't look like it -- is she kept in a stall on wood shavings or sawdust, and does the stall tend to get rather wet? We don't know where you live and that will also make a difference, i.e. South Carolina vs. Arizona.

Apart from thrush, heel pain is commonly caused by corns -- none of those evident either. It could come from abscesses in the bars or the quarters -- has there been any evidence of that?

Do you ride the horse on stony ground, real hard ground, or lime/gravel roads, as are so common in rural Kansas and Missouri? In a barefoot horse, this could easily cause bruising, and there is in the photos actually some evidence of that. If that's what's going on, there's a simple solution -- you need to get shoes on the horse.

Apart from these suggestions, there is also navicular disease that certainly does cause heel pain. Have you had XRays of the feet taken at any time? Helpful to have a comparative set, i.e. images taken several  years apart.

Now as you work through all these possibilities, I also need to ask you to post a couple more photos: 1. Of the horse, taken from the side, wearing the saddle you usually ride in; and 2. Of yourself, riding the horse at a trot. That will allow us to get down to cases in evaluating whether Macie is toe-striking because either your saddle, or your riding technique, or both, is causing her to stiffen her back. -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: Macie Fore Hoofs Sole View Forum cprsd.jpg (Downloaded 1063 times)

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Mon Jul 1st, 2013 07:38 pm
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Thank you so much. I'll respond to your questions now and post the photos you requested as soon as I can. We live in Western Massachusetts (please come and do a clinic sometime!!!). Macie lives in a stall that has equifoam flooring (cushy) with wood shavings in half of it for her toilet area. She's turned out about 9 hours a day in a 1/2 acre paddock. It's been a very wet spring and early summer, but her paddock drains pretty well and she's almost never standing around in mud. She's never had any evidence of abscesses -- nothing that has come out in a visible way. The only thing I see is that the last few trims, when the hoof wall at the toe is trimmed away, there's a visible but thin line of bruise between the wall and the sole. I ride her almost exclusively in an arena with a sand footing. When we ride outside, we're almost always at a walk or a slow trot and it's never for very long. I've never had her feet x-rayed, but will do that--all four? or just the front? Thanks again and I'll post those pictures soon.

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Wed Jul 3rd, 2013 12:59 am
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more photos... still working on the x-rays.

Attachment: macie_ride41.jpg (Downloaded 1028 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jul 3rd, 2013 01:21 am
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Juliet, this is excellent that you care enough to be willing to go to the trouble to get the right pictures taken, and then stand up to whatever needs to be said just as you would if this were one of my riding clinics (which are, like this Forum, also open to public view).

First thing is that I doubt your problems stem from the saddle, which looks to fit your horse well. If you can report back to me that you've never seen evidence of dry spots or rubs on either the withers end or the loin end, or the hairs rubbed crisscross-wise over the loin, and no girth galls, then you pass on this.

As to your riding: the first thing is that in the world where I would like to invite you to function, there are no such things as 'levels'. Therefore, it will not be allowable for you to say 'well I can't do what you're telling me to do because I'm not at that level yet.' Such a statement can only be made by a lunatic or an indoctrinee....when you think about it. And none of MY students is ever going to be either of those, if I can do anything about it.

I am pleased to see you riding in what looks like a Josh Nichols sidepull; if it wasn't made by Josh, that's not the point, only that it is designed like his are and therefore is of good quality and fits and functions well.

So you pass on tack except for one question -- do you ever feel when riding in this saddle that you're in a continual battle to get your feet underneath your butt? Do you catch your legs swinging forward, or does anyone ever mention to you that you're sitting with your feet out in front of yourself? This is not a giant problem necessarily -- we can work around it if necessary -- but I need to hear what your own observations are.

Then beyond that, I am going to approach this dialogue with you by asking you to make just ONE change at a time. And the first change I want you to make is this: I want you to carry your hands correctly, which is to say, that unless you are actually using your hand to indicate a turn -- i.e. using the 'first position' or opening rein of the French school, or doing something else momentarily with one of your hands that would necessitate a rather big gesture -- then I want both of your hands to be in the 'home' position. The 'home' position is an imaginary 'batter's box' which lies directly in front of your natural waist.

You will probably need a friend to help you with this at first, so ingrained is the habit in most people of carrying their hands wrong. When I was with George Morris at the USET event this past January he was even mentioning that carrying the hands low is now a fad in some circles. But I would challenge you to find even one single picture of any great rider -- other than Henriquet, who is a goofball who is all mixed up about what Baucher said and meant, and not a great rider anyway -- but you find me one single photo of Nuno Oliveira or Angel or Rafael Peralta or Alvaro Domecq or Ray Hunt or Buck Brannaman or Harry Whitney or Etienne Beaudant or Tom Bass or Arthur Konyot or Lendon Gray, where they do not have their hands in the position I'm asking you to get used to carrying them in.

Your friend, then, will accompany you to the riding area and he or she will be under orders to bark at you EVERY SINGLE TIME they catch you with your hands other than in the correct position, except as noted above, when you need to open the hand briefly in order to more strongly indicate a turn.

The report I want to hear back from you as a result of this -- let us say you give it a week to get yourself into the new habit -- will be what effect this ONE little change seems to be having upon your seat, your balance, and your ability to give aids cogently in general; and if there are any noticeable changes in your horse.

As to your good mare, you will notice that the photo catches her in the act not only of toe-striking, but also of going crooked; she's throwing her quarters to the left. Well, be comforted my dear: most horses do both of these things, and the cure for it will mostly lie in improving the way you ride. The mare, herself, has a lot of good things going for her. So much is contained in that little word 'way'. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Wed Jul 3rd, 2013 02:41 am
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First I need to say how amazed and grateful I am that you do this! what a boon! Okay, to work: I've never seen any evidence of saddle rubs. I looked long and hard and paid way more than I intended to for this saddle and I believe it fits her well. The bridle is a Buckaroo sidepull and I've been using it for about a year. As to my legs being out in front of me, I have to admit that I wasn't aware of this until I looked at these pictures and my coach/trainer hasn't commented about it, but I'll try to be more aware of this. Now, my hands--I totally see what you mean and I'll look for a friend to perform the role of "barker." I'm eager to see what changes this adjustment might bring. The idea that something this simple might have noticeable impact is pretty exciting. I'll report back after a week or so. ps. do you still think I should do the x-rays?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jul 3rd, 2013 06:38 am
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Juliet, having a reference set of XRays for any horse you intend to keep for the long haul is always a good idea. The front feet would be more necessary than the back feet, because most lamenesses affect either all four feet or else only the front feet.

I was only asking about your feelings on having your legs out in front of you, because this is one thing that a still photograph sometimes cannot convey. If your coach/riding friend has not mentioned to you that your legs swing, we can leave that alone for the moment.

So your sole concern right now would be to gain the habit of carrying your hands at the level of your natural waist, and to notice what effect this may have on (1) your position and your feeling of ease of balance, and on (2) your horse, especially with regards to the level at which she offers to carry her head.

If you want a little leg up on this, use the Google advanced search function to scan this Forum content with the keyword "waterfall". -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Fri Jul 12th, 2013 11:58 am
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Hello again. I've been working on my hands and doing some reading on this website, both in the forum and the knowledge base. ( so much to learn--it's thrilling). I have to confess that I've tried to do more than just hands-- I've also tried to eliminate using both reins to slow and have instead focused on turning using one rein to make slowing, balancing circles. Carrying my hands at waist level has seemed to cause Macie to carry her head lower and be more relaxed in her neck. For me, it helps me somehow feel more tall and centered-- more able to... I'm not sure how to describe it. Maybe just "more able" sort of says it. Tempo is a big issue for us. At the trot it's really difficult to get her to slow and when I can ( by making small circles) she only maintains this nice pace for a few strides and then breaks to a walk. What next? And what about toe-striking? Should I not worry about that (maybe I have bigger fish to fry)? Thanks!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jul 12th, 2013 11:11 pm
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Juliet, you've been learning quite a lot, obviously, by simply doing ONE thing which I have suggested. The connection you've made is that carrying your hands properly causes your horse to (a) relax through the neck and (b) carry her head lower.

These are indeed the usual effects which occur when the student does as the coach asks her in this area.

Now your reading has also led you to realize that pulling back with both hands at the same time is the wrong thing to do, and this goes along with what happens when you carry your hands low, i.e., both of these bad habits provoke your horse to brace the muscles of its neck and carry its head higher and with the nose stiffly poked out to the front.

Your reading, and then your own subsequent experiment with actually trying it out, has shown you that pulling back with ONE hand at a time, i.e. causing your horse to go in a circle, has three effects: (a) it causes her to slow down, (b) it causes her to relax her neck muscles and thereby to be able to flex and curve her neck, and (c) it helps her to regain her balance.

Horses rush BECAUSE they have lost their balance. And when they lose their balance, they also stiffen their neck and their torso and their limbs, indeed, exactly what you also would do if you were walking along a balance beam like Nadia Comenici, and you felt yourself beginning to lose your balance: you would stiffen your arms and your neck as part of a reflex that protects you in case you do actually fall.

Now, when YOU ride out of balance you also throw your horse out of balance. And to carry your hands too low is exactly to ride out of balance. This is I believe what you are trying to express when you describe how it makes you feel when you carry your hands correctly: it makes you feel like you are in better balance.

Now it is time for you to work on the next ONE thing. I want you to spend the next several rides "counting cadence". Again, you'll need your friend to help you out, not this time because your body isn't going to want to do it -- there's no problem on that with this usually -- but because you'll be rather bad at it at first and you need your friend, therefore, to be a "talking mirror" because YOU are not to be allowed to look down. Not at all, not even one little glance down. Where your eyes belong is aimed out over your horse's outside ear, with soft focus, but you still see the ear in the bottom of your field of vision.

So you go out and set the horse into a walk and you start calling out when you feel the front feet hit. You call, "left, right, left, right" and so on, and KEEP IT UP LOUD enough so that your friend can clearly hear you. If you call "left" when it really is your horse's left forefoot hitting down, and if you call correctly several times in a row, your friend is to tell you so. If you call wrong, then your friend should "take over" and call "left, right, left, right" correctly while you are silent and you listen to your friend. If you've been wrong several times, you'll use your friend's calling out to try to relate how your horse's body feels under you with when she says "left" or "right".

You are to call cadence for two minutes at a time. If your friend has been calling, she should call for perhaps thirty steps, and then she will say, "now you take over and call". You then call for another two minutes. And you keep alternating with your friend until you get to where you are 100% correct a time or two. After that, you will call cadence for one minute running, every five minutes and you have your friend time this out on her watch. You do this for the entirety of a one-half hour ride, i.e. after you get your shit together so that you are 100% correct a couple of times, you will then have the opportunity to call cadence for one running minute perhaps ten other times in that ride.

After the first ride, you will call cadence at the walk for the rest of your life for not less than two minutes per ride.

Remember that I waste nobody's time. Therefore, you are not to forget to carry your hands correctly, and if you need to pull backward at any time, you do it with only ONE hand at a time -- these being the earlier lessons, they are not to be wasted or forgotten, but instead you are building upon them.

And yes, dear, you are getting the idea that you DO have a number of other "bigger fish to fry". Your initial question is not being ignored, however; you will remember in the article that you read, it said "most horses toe-strike worse when mounted." There is a reason for this, and that is, that most riders in fact do not ride very well. That's what we're attempting to change in your case, because you are open to it. -- Dr. Deb

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Sat Jul 13th, 2013 12:41 pm
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thank you thank you thank you! I'm on it! will report back in a week or so. -- Juliet

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Tue Jul 16th, 2013 04:08 pm
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I'm ready to report earlier than expected because I aced this! I'm right 100% of the time right from the start. Am I ready for my next assignment or should I do more practice calling cadence first?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jul 16th, 2013 07:24 pm
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OK, that's great Juliet. Now, what you do with your newfound "good feel" or "accurate feel" is this: you are going to learn how to do "down" transitions properly.

Set your horse into a good, marching-type walk. A horse of your horse's height should proceed forward at not less than 5 1/2 mph. If you permit the horse to just laze along or dog along, then there won't be the quantum of energy that you need to both keep the animal's attention and produce a quality transition. At too low an energy output, the transition will be much less meaningful and of much less training or athletic benefit.

So you march forward, for let us say half the distance around the arena assuming you are riding on the track.

Then, when the horse seems happy and is marching along well but contentedly, you "warn" her that you are going to ask her to halt. You do this by (1) checking to see that your hands are up where they belong; and (2) moving ONE arm back, or even closing just the fingers; enough to tell the horse that "something is about to change -- pay attention."

When she flicks her ears or you otherwise know that she has "heard" this, you then move your left arm back/close the fingers of your left hand with the picture in your mind that you are not using that one hand to slow the horse down, you are not using that one hand to stop the horse; what you are to picture is that the rein in that hand has a loop on the far end, and that loop goes around your horse's left knee. So what your hand is doing is inhibiting the ability of that left knee to swing forward.

Now, you haven't wasted your time counting cadence either, because you'll be stopping the left knee with your left hand on the count of "left" or "one", and then you'll totally switch over -- so that there is NO pressure in your left hand -- and then on the count of "right" or "two" you will inhibit the right knee.

You will then alternate this, left and right, in time with the forward swing or attempted forward swing of the knees, until you have inhibited each knee one to three times, which is usually enough to cause the horse to come to a complete stop.

This is how a HORSE stops. Notice that it is absolutely not the way a CAR stops. With a car, you apply the brakes to both front wheels at once. If you do that with a horse, who progresses by stepping not rolling, then you are the one who is to blame for provoking your horse to brace its neck, because what you are really doing when you address the horse's head in a down transition is telling the horse to stiffen up just the same as if it were a car made of steel and iron.

Now you practice three or four of these one-two, one-two kind of stops, and then I would have you add one additional thing: just as you will know when you are warning your horse that  you are about to ask her feet to stop that the horse has "heard" the warning, you also know when you are actually stopping her when the moment comes when she commits to stopping. Because no sensible person can possibly believe that it is the reins that stop the horse, or the bit; not even when they are used properly, as described here. What stops the horse is the horse deciding to stop or willing to stop. The reins and bit are merely tools of communication.

So you will be communicating and your horse will hear you and she will tell you and you will know it when she means to stop. And at the very moment that you know that she means to stop and has committed to stopping, in that moment you are to push both of your hands forward so that the horse stops on reins that you have already made to be slack. She will stop within the slack.

Note, again, how different this is from operating a CAR: there, you had better keep your foot on the brake all the time had you not! But absolutely NOT to do this with a horse.

So you practice this another three or four times until it works every time, and you will then, I think, notice some differences in the hindquarter or how the hind feet and the horse's neck and back feel to you. Please report what these observations are, and then we'll have the next lesson pretty soon again I think, after that. Have fun. Cheers -- Dr. Deb  PS I hope some of the rest of you, who also want to learn how to ride, are paying attention to this. -- DB

JulietMacie
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 Posted: Wed Jul 17th, 2013 01:25 am
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Thanks! I'm excited to try this. Getting Macie to slow or stop has always been an issue and I know I've made things worse by pulling back on both reins. It's amazing (maybe the right word is "shocking") how pervasive this "technique" for stopping a horse is and how badly it works! I'll report back soon. --Juliet


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