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Kate
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Hello Dr. Deb and fellow students

I have only recently discovered this website and am thoroughly enjoying it and this forum.  It is very refreshing!   

I have a puzzle.  My horse is a generally OK chap in all aspects of ridden and ground work; he is a pleasure to be around.  However, there are certain aspects of human requirements that do not sit so well with him; he is by nature a suspicious boy and is not a fan of new things or strange people (or things involving him getting damp!) His strategy is to remove himself until the thing goes away.

I think along his life experience (he is about 15 – I have had him since he was 2ish) he has learned that he does not have much defence against people and what they say generally goes.  With run-of-the-mill things, such as cleaning his eyes or sheath, or the farrier, this is not a problem as what is happening to him IS ok, although he doesn’t like it much.  When it is done, he feels fine and quickly moves on. 

He has had his teeth done intermittently over the years, always being a bit scared but not overly endangering anybody.  However, a new dentist (at this time, I was with a vet who did not rasp teeth) wanted to do a lot more work on him and took a very long time to do the job.  Ru was not OK with this at all and found the process extremely upsetting.  But he did not do much to express this fear / anxiety, only walked backwards until he reached the wall where he sort of slid down it, like his legs had lost strength.  But because he was not thrashing about and essentially standing still, the dentist finished the job.  Afterwards, he was very subdued and not keen to go into the place (the field shelter, which he loved before) where it happened.  I gave him time, didn’t make a fuss and when he was ready, he returned to his normal self (about a week).  I really was not happy with this, as I think it is my duty as his human to look after him and only expose him to things he has been set up to be OK with.

I no longer use this dentist and have a new vet who does rasp teeth.  Ru is now sedated for the job.  I made this decision based on a conversation with the new vet, describing how he behaved with the dentist and the vet agreed he should not be put in that situation.  There are other horses in my stables who are sedated to protect the vet; he is sedated to protect himself.  This situation works (? – it could be better though)

I have obviously let Ru down by not making sure he was happy to have me handling his mouth before all this happened.  I have tried since to work with his lips and gums, but he shuts down and is very tight, not just his mouth but his whole body.  I don’t blame him! 

My question is: can I ever expect him to be OK about this process? Am I best to keep persevering with working his mouth with the hope that one day he will accept it and stop looking at me like I am trying to remove all his teeth with really big pliers?

I can’t think how to turn it pleasant for him: he won’t even take treats, which I’m not keen on giving him as he usually gets over-excited.  His birdie is firmly locked away until I move on to something else.  I would like to get him to the stage where he was ‘yeah, ok, get on with it’ rather than ‘absolutely not.’ 

I feel this is his suspicious nature – in all other aspects of horse-care, I have been right and his suspicions unfounded, but here HE was right, and he won’t let go of that.   


Any suggestions or similar experiences are gratefully received!

Kate

DrDeb
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Kate, your post sharply reminds me of how easy it is for me to lead people over the line from useful metaphor to damaging and useless anthropomorphizing.

To "anthropomorphize" means to project human motivations, thoughts, and emotions onto the horse.

In short, Kate, I take this to be my own fault; it is one of the dangers that I knew I would face when I wrote and published the 'Birdie Book.' There isn't much I can do to correct it, either, at a distance as we are.

What I am telling you is that you don't understand Birdie theory really at all. Whenever a reader does not grasp what is being said, it is due to the author's shortcomings.

This in itself would not be so bad, but when the reader steps over the line into anthropomorphizing -- what psychiatrists call 'projection' -- a form of narcissism -- then it is not mere misunderstanding but actually dangerous. Because when the owner or handler anthropomorphizes, Kate, what is liable to happen is that 'little pooky' or 'naughty little muffin' gets a slap on the wrist, usually way too little and way too late to be effective. The person cannot bear to put real, effective manners on her 'child'.

Let me put this another way. Horses do not meditate plots. They do not hold resentments. They are not suspicious; only unsure because their owner/handler has not explained whatever the situation is to them in a way that they can understand. And of course, when the owner/handler anthropomorphizes, they never DO explain it in a way that the horse can understand, because who they think they are talking to is not a horse, but a child or some kind of animated stuffed toy. There are 'no boundaries' between the narcissistic owner/handler and the imaginary and imagined horse; unfortunately for the poor horse, they are locked together as one.

Now Kate if you have heard this, you can change. Your first dentist did nothing wrong; he did a workmanlike job of a type (manual equipment, no drugs) that is now becoming somewhat old-fashioned. He pushed the horse back into a corner of the stall and the horse walked backward and then leaned on the wall. That is absolutely normal procedure in that style of dentistry. None of that was anything so bad that the normal horse cannot deal with it; what really happened was not that it scared the horse, but that it scared YOU, and then you project that onto the horse and tell yourself, your vet, and me the story in that form. 

You are not responsible for every tiny change of feeling your horse has, and many of the tiny changes you think he goes through I doubt he even has. Your vets and your dentists tolerate you, Kate, and I've seen this many times -- because customers like you are often cash cows. When the person misunderstands the horse a lot of the time, they are not likely to be an effective rider, and riding is therefore not likely to be anything but scary. So narcissists at the barn generally become 'nurses' who require their horse to have something wrong with it most of the time -- this gives the nurse a reason for existing as well as an excuse for not riding -- and it also puts cash into the pocket of the farrier, the dentist, and the veterinarian. But again, Kate, if you have heard this you can change.

The first step in making a change is to back off and learn what kind of an animal a horse is. Horses are livestock. My best advice to you here is to try an exercise: stop calling your horse by name. Try this for a month. Call him by what color he is: whitey, graylee, blackie, reddy, painty. This will give him some breathing room and a chance of being able to tell YOU a thing or two about who he is.

The most essential thing to know about a horse is that it is separate from yourself. It is an animal that belongs to a separate species. The human lineage and the horse lineage diverged from each other well over 50 million years ago. Much of what a horse is, is so different from what we are as to almost be alien. Mentally, emotionlally, and in terms of the way they perceive the world, they are really, really different from us -- and you will never, and not even the greatest horseman on earth has ever -- fully bridged that chasm.

You will certainly never bridge it by insisting that the horse be like you, think like you, have the same motivations and reasoning that you have. You're going about it backwards, Kate. Instead of demanding he come where you are, you have instead got to begin being willing to go where HE is. I would hope all students would become vitally interested in this. A horsewoman is half HORSE. A horsewoman does not demand that the horse be half PERSON.

I would also, since you are a citizen of the British Commonwealth, tell you to go find a copy of 'The Henry Blake Reader' or any book by Henry Blake. He is a wonderful British horseman whose work I find stimulating and admirable. Read all the Henry Blake you can find....he will teach you to appreciate and love horses for what THEY are, not for what you so much hope they will be.

This response may not have been just what you were looking for, Kate, but as I mentioned at the outset the blame is really to be placed upon me. When I find a better way to explain to people what the Birdie really is, then maybe I can serve you better. -- Dr. Deb

kindredspirit
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DrDeb wrote:  I would also, since you are a citizen of the British Commonwealth, tell you to go find a copy of 'The Henry Blake Reader' or any book by Henry Blake. He is a wonderful British horseman whose work I find stimulating and admirable. Read all the Henry Blake you can find....he will teach you to appreciate and love horses for what THEY are, not for what you so much hope they will be.



Dr. Deb,

I found a book titled Talking With Horses by Henry Norman Blake.  Is this the same author?

Thank you, Kathy 

 

DrDeb
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Yes. That's the one most commonly available in America.

Jeannie
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Dr Deb, 
        The above description of a person anthropomorphizing a horse could well be someone I know.

     She has read many of your books, been to talks of yours, and while she seems to understand the theory very well, is unable to manner her horse in even a basic way.
   
    I think of it as " cook booking" something--- there are the instructions, and then there is the actual doing, which requires reading the situation and reacting with correct judgment. Also seeing what is working and what is not and adjusting accordingly, and some people live so much in their own heads that they talk themselves into believing their own thoughts about what is going on.

          Her first two horse didn't work out, and the third constantly has medical issues, which turns out to be convenient, since that becomes an excuse for the spoiled behavior.

      She asks me to help her with the horse, and in fact the horse is quite easy to work with once she understands that none of her usual nonsense is going to fly. I try to break it down into really small, concrete steps for the owner to work on, but it is clear that the horse only does it if she feels like it. The other day she spoke with a bit of pride about how many opinions her horse has.

         She is currently trying to get the horse to leave her foot on the hoof stand long enough for the trimmer to get a swipe at it ( " it hurts her to put her foot on it for very long" ). She said she waits until the horse is really relaxed and ready to do it.
  
 To be quite honest, I don't know what she is talking about most of the time. A couple of days ago she brought her horse over and attempted to lunge it. The horse raced around crookedly, pulling and kicking out at her. After a bit she  stopped, came up, and declared she didn't like using the lunge tape she had borrowed, instead of rope.I was speechless.
                                       Jeannie
                                            

DrDeb
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Yes, Jeannie -- there's one at nearly every barn. They are often frustrations to caring teachers, because at some levels they are usually quite intelligent and certainly give evidence that they want the best for their horses.

But they have an excuse for everything rather than a plan -- in other words, if the horse doesn't "want" to put their foot up on the block, that must be because it hurts them. Rather than saying, OK my horse doesn't know how to put her foot up there or keep it up there; what can I do to change that, to teach her how to do it?

In some cases, I can trace a history where the person has been beaten up so many times by riding instructors -- it's just abuse, no different really than spousal abuse -- that the person just kind of goes through a change where they make up imaginary reasons and that becomes their defense. This is also a 100% universal pattern within the alcoholic household and with the adult childeren of alcoholics. In an alcoholic household, the children are taught early on that "everything MUST be perfect." At all costs, they must give the impression to visitors, teachers, their minister, or other outsiders that everything is just absolutely FINE and NORMAL in their home.

This is in the teeth of the truth, which is that almost nothing is either fine or normal in their home -- their home is extremely dysfunctional. So you see the similarity to the horse hobby/industry -- how many horse owners do you know who are "on show" all the time? Who come to a clinic and can't get off that, who spend the first two rides in a five-ride clinic trying so hard to "show" me what their horse can do that they don't hear even a single instruction or suggestion? And this in the teeth of my telling them directly: I don't care to see what your horse can do, honey, I already knew what your horse could do within two minutes of when it first walked in here. But they have told themselves "I am just fine" or even "Gee I'm great" so many times that they are often not only astonished, but really offended, when I tell them that they are lucky so far that the horse hasn't broken their neck.

This is where we get down to the last prayer -- one does not want to pray this prayer, but I am willing whenever I come to believe that it is the last resort for a given person. And that prayer is that their horse goes ahead and breaks their leg, and they get a nice long layup in the hospital, and an enforced opportunity to come clean with themselves and God, and start over fresh, as clean as new snow.

Now the other day when I wrote the reply to Kate, I toddled off to bed directly after, and lately as my bedtime reading I have been enjoying the "Unspoken Sermons" of good old George MacDonald. Just wonderful stuff. But sometimes it's more wonderful than even I am prepared for. I allow myself one sermon every couple of days -- the archaic expression makes it slow reading sometimes, and plus everything he has to say, whether you agree with it or not, is worth chewing over several times. But here is what I read in his sermon on "The Inheritance":

“….That the loveliness of the world has its origin in the making will of God, would not content me; I say, the very loveliness of it is the loveliness of God, for its loveliness is his own lovely thought, and must be a revelation of that which dwells and moves in himself. Nor is this all: my interest in its loveliness would vanish, I should feel that the soul was out of it, if you could persuade me that God had ceased to care for the daisy, and now cared for something else instead. The faces of some flowers lead me back to the heart of God; and, as his child, I hope I feel, in my lowly degree, what he felt when, brooding over them, he said, ‘They are good;’ that is, ‘They are what I mean.’

But how can any share exist where all is open?

The true share, in the heavenly kingdom throughout, is not what you have to keep, but what you have to give away. The thing that is mine is the thing I have with the power to give it. The thing I have no power to give a share in, is nowise mine; the thing I cannot share with everyone, cannot be essentially my own.

I do not say we must, or can ever know all in God; not throughout eternity shall we ever comprehend God, but he is our father, and must think of us with every part of him—so to speak in our poor speech; he must know us, and that in himself which we cannot know, with the same thought, for he is one. We and that which we do not or cannot know, come together in his thought. And this helps us to see how, claiming all things, we have yet shares. For the infinitude of God can only begin and only go on to be revealed, through his infinitely differing creatures—all capable of wondering at, admiring, and loving each other, and so bound all in one in him, each to the others revealing him. For every human being is like a facet cut in the great diamond to which I may dare liken the father of him who likens his kingdom to a pearl. Every man, woman, child—for the incomplete also is his, and in its very incompleteness reveals him as a progressive worker in his creation—is a revealer of God. I have my message of my great Lord, you have yours. Your dog, your horse tells you about him who cares for all his creatures. None of them came from his hands. Perhaps the precious things of the earth, the coal and the diamonds, the iron and clay and gold, may be said to have come from his hands; but the live things come from his heart—from near the same region whence ourselves we came. How much my horse may, in his own fashion—that is, God’s equine way—know of him, I cannot tell, because he cannot tell. Also, we do not know what the horses know, because they are horses, and we are at best, in relation to them, only horsemen. The ways of God go down into microscopic depths, as well as up into telescopic heights—and with more marvel, for there lie the beginnings of life: the immensities of stars and worlds all exist for the sake of less things than they. So with mind; the ways of God go into the depths yet unrevealed to us; he knows his horses and dogs as we cannot know them, because we are not yet pure sons of God. When through our sonship, as Paul teaches, the redemption of these lower brothers and sisters shall have come, then we shall understand each other better. But now the lord of life has to look on at the wilful torture of multitudes of his creatures. It must be that offences come, but woe unto that man by whom they come! The Lord may seem not to heed, but he sees and knows.

To those who care only for things, and not for the souls of them, for the truth, the reality of them, the prospect of inheriting light can have nothing attractive, and for their comfort—how false a comfort!—they may rest assured there is no danger of their being required to take up their inheritance at present. Perhaps they will be left to go on sucking things dry, constantly missing the loveliness of them, until they come at last to loathe the lovely husks, turned to ugliness in their false imaginations. Loving but the body of Truth, even here they come to call it a lie, and break out in maudlin moaning over the illusions of life. The soul of Truth they have lost, because they never loved her. What may they not have to pass through, what purifying fires, before they can even behold her!”

The complete 3-volume set of George MacDonald's "Unspoken Sermons" (middle 19th Century Scotland) can be downloaded for free by using these links:

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/macdonald/unspoken1.html

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/macdonald/unspoken2.html

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/macdonald/unspoken3.html

 

 

Kate
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Thankyou for replying.  

I rather think I should not have used the word 'suspicious'. Perhaps this is not an emotion in the horse's repetoire? I used it as I felt it best described his behaviour.

I have found a copy of Henry Blake's Horse Sence, expecting delivery any time soon.

There is a lot of food for thought in your reply, Dr Deb, thankyou. I find anthropormophising hard not to do, as I seem to see so many similarities between equine and human emotions: I am not trying to turn my horse into a human, but trying to gain toeholds of understanding.

Two questions for clarification - when I described my horse backing into the corner, he did not do this in the same way the other horses did. This is why I used this story as part of my question. He really did appear to 'collapse', and it is something he has done once before in a different (but similar) situation, where he went all the way down to the ground and just lay there. At risk of anthropormorphising again, it looked like, in the face of a frightening situation, he gave up any thought of self preservation and was going to lie down and let it happen. Like he could not / thought he couldn't protect himself. Do you think that this is really what happened?

The second is you suggestion of not using the horse's name. I have assesed the time I spend with him, and I rarely, if ever, talk to him as I would to a person. I say 'hello', but then so does he (or at least makes a noise I interprate as hello). So if I am at the field with no other people (which is normal), I don't call him anything. I appreciate his name is irrelevent on this forum (as is mine, in that case), but he is a large part of my world. Please could you expand on you suggestion of not using the name, as I can't at the moment see how this would change/improve things for me.

Thankyou

Kate 

DrDeb
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OK, Kate, I see from this that you can hear my real intentions, and that you do sincerely want to grow into a real horsewoman.

The purpose of asking you not to call your horse by name has nothing to do with how much you speak to him. True, I would prefer that people not babble to their horse -- like they do to babies or toddlers. Or sometimes people talk to their horse quite loudly, mainly so that other people will overhear them telling the horse GOOD BOY GOOD BOY, which is just a sly way of praising themselves -- and I'd always prefer not to hear that, either, of course.

So you can talk to your horse normally, just don't call him by name. Most of the ineffective horse owners that I know have horses with names that are either pretentious or cute -- 'Destiny', 'Chauncey', 'QT', 'Meadow Muffin'. Contrast this with the farmer I met last September in England who had come to our dig at the Roman fort of Vindolanda with his granddaughter, as a volunteer. This was one of the volunteers I enjoyed the most; very enjoyable to eat lunch with this older man, who would talk about getting his lot of chickens ready to slaughter, or treating his cows for pinkeye, or breaking in a colt, which he had done many times and always produced good safe workmanlike rides. There are lots of men and women like this old guy was: perfectly sensible, totally effective -- and their horses will have names like 'Billy', 'Tom', 'Old Grey', 'Tucker'.

Do you get the difference? The idea is to DEPERSONALIZE them, to distance yourself from the animal and thereby to give the animal some breathing room. The farmer, especially the small-scale type of farmer that England still has so many of, who raises a couple of hogs each year and slaughters them himself, has a completely clear-eyed grasp of how utterly different are animals from ourselves. You better believe this farmer cares for his livestock. But he ALLOWS them to BE livestock. This gives the animals the most happiness and the most freedom through whatever lifespan they are destined to have.

I understand that your horses may be a big part of your life. For which of us are they not? But your attachment to them is, to begin with, way too "sticky". Let's see if by doing this exercise -- you pick out some totally emotionally neutral name, and naming them by color is an easy way to do that -- and you address that horse, and you think of that horse, for one week only by that name.

Make it be just as if you had sent the animal to the auction and he had there been bought by that old farmer I met at Vindolanda. He would have called him 'reddy' or 'graylee' -- which is as much as saying, "I don't know who you are, horse, or where you've been before you came to me, and I don't really care, because whatever is wrong with you, I am certain that I can guide you firmly and clearly enough that it will change." Notice how the farmer is not into telling stories about Muffy's history! He lives and he works entirely in the present -- which is the only place the horse ever is!

You come back to us in a week, Kate, do please, and tell us how this goes and whether you were able to let go of sticky-smarmy attachment, and what you learned or insights you gained thereby. And you have my great thanks for being willing to work at this, even when you yourself do not necessarily see how great the benefits are going to be. -- Dr. Deb

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DrDeb wrote: The purpose of asking you not to call your horse by name has nothing to do with how much you speak to him. True, I would prefer that people not babble to their horse -- like they do to babies or toddlers. Or sometimes people talk to their horse quite loudly, mainly so that other people will overhear them telling the horse GOOD BOY GOOD BOY, which is just a sly way of praising themselves -- and I'd always prefer not to hear that, either, of course.



I dislike to hear the GOOD BOY GOOD BOY thing too. I have always thought it was being said to these horses as a kind of insurance policy - the rider hopes they will BE good if they are told it often enough!

It desensitises the horses to the word GOOD too - which I find to be a very useful word indeed -  if used when appropriate and when a horse actually IS being good!

On a lighter and slightly related note, I also think horses live up to their names - or down to them. Maybe this is silly, but I would find it hard to buy a horse called Satan or Diablo or one with a name that suggests a difficult character. Sentimentality and degradingly silly names are inappropriate for horses names in my opinion too.

Joe
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Jacquie:

Whilst in college, I worked at the school stable.  We had there a mare named Jezebel.  Frankly, she was an unpleasant animal who worked well.  However, few people got to find out about her character, because they recoiled from the name (not my doing, just to make that clear).

Joe

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Jo

Yes, I agree you cannot be prejudiced against a horse simply because of his or her name, but I can understand why it may be off putting. That is why I think that naming a young horse is a responsible undertaking and names should be chosen with great care - the animal may have to bear the consequences of that name for its whole life, and I admit that certain names do make me feel 'put off'  and some names are in my view just insulting or undignified for the animal. I would never be put off by a horses name to the point where I would not ride the horse, but I might think twice about buying that horse, - I suppose in case he had earned the name for some reason. I dont think I would worry about the name 'Jezebel' personally, though I can see it is likely to cause a reaction with  some kinds of religeous people. How about this then - a lovely powerful skewbald feathery cob, 15hh and a beautiful looking animal - called Munchkin! Surely that is just an insult? I blame the breeders - maybe he looked like a Muchkin when he was a tiny foal, but surely they must have realised he will become a big adult horse one day!

I was shown a tiny hairy dark grey, sweet looking, rotund childrens pony once to buy when my children were very small and he was quite young. He would have been exactly the right size for them but I declined buying him as his behaviour was appalling, but his name, once I was told it, pushed me a step even further away from buying him. His name was Diablo. Who would call a sweet tiny pony foal Diablo? Did he earn this name or did he live up to it? I  distantly knew the people who did end up buying him and he remained, wholly unsuitable and dangerous as a childrens pony, bolting flat out regularly and bucking their children off frequently - he lived down to his name for sure, poor pony. Why give an animal a name which may prejudice future handlers against it?

Allegedly  in UK, it is unlucky to change a horses name, though I have in the past re-named  a pony I bought - he was called Solo when I bought him, but it just did not seem to suit him in my view. Oddly, when I researched his past a bit, it turned out that I had changed his name back to his original one - so he had already been re-named once when I bought him! All very silly trivial stuff really.

Last edited on Thu Mar 11th, 2010 08:13 am by Jacquie

Joe
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Jacquie:

We certainly agree in principal, although there is a bit of backhanded humor in some names -- like the big munchkin you mentioned, or a very powerful 17 hand T-bred I saw go at a breeders sale about 30 years ago.  This big bundle of coiled power was named "Motor Mouse."

Here in the States, we don't worry too much about changing names, unless there is a lot of registration bother to go through. Sometimes, too, we just ignore the registered name and call the animal what we please -- and that may change and get more emphatic on some days...

A good friend has a superb French Brittany working bird dog.  The beast has a yard-long name in French, that starts out Avis d' something something something. My friend originally called him Avis.  Alas, here in the US of A there is a car rental company called Avis.  It is the second largest, and has a long running TV ad campaign to the effect that, "at Avis, we're number 2 so we try harder."  My friend got sick of  hearing "number 2," and "try harder" witticisms, so he just started calling the dog "Bob."  Bob seems perfectly content to be Bob. 

Joe

DrDeb
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This is an amusing discussion -- kind of not what I was originally telling Kate, the advice there being so that she could try an easy exercise that would serve to help her distance herself from her horse, to unplug all those sticky suckers that are snaking out from herself and suffocating the animal. I notice we have not heard back from Kate -- when the person is deep into it, perhaps the exercise is not in fact so easy; but I do still hope to hear from her again, whatever she has to say.

The point I think that you guys are making is that names that people assign to animals tell us more about the person than the animal. The animal is what he is, or tries his best to be. So when we notice that somebody narcissistically suckers on to an animal, they often give him a name that (unbeknownst to their conscious self) reveals what they are projecting onto that animal, or what their "hidden" (not so hidden!) obsessions are.

My very favorite example of this is a story from my childhood. My parents back then were friends with another couple. We were all of the middle class, none of them college-educated, my dad and the other man were blue-collar workers both engaged in the same trade. We lived in middle-class neighborhoods where the houses were not overly large and where it was not uncommon for people to park their cars along the street. There would be a street-light on the corner and sometimes, late on a Friday or Saturday night, being as there was noplace else for them to go, you could look out the window and there would be a couple of teenagers holding hands and smooching under the light.

Now my parents would remark on this and sometimes 'tsk tsk' it, but the other couple took it to a whole 'nother level....they would vigilantly scan for it, sitting by the window with the curtain pulled back just enough to peep out, and when they saw them smooching the wife calling the husband or the husband calling the wife to the window, 'look see! they're at it again!' And you knew from the vigilance and the excess of interest that they were not doing this because of concern for the moral well-being of the young people. What it really was, was it was thrilling to them, a spur for their own sex later in the evening; it was voyeurism; it was pornography by projection in their imaginations.

At a certain point in our acquaintance with them, this couple got a lovely little dog -- a small male Schnauzer. Now this is the kind of dog where they typically dock the tail, and the animal is so made that the root of the tail sticks straight up all the time. And although they have that fine, curly kind of hair, the rear quarters are not covered over by fur, so that between this and the erect tail, the animal's anus is always visible.

And so, because it is a German breed, they would tell people that the name they used for the dog was a simplification or an American pronunciation of a common German name; but if you knew these people, you really knew it wasn't that. The dog's name? "Hiney".

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Jineen Walker
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Hi Dr. Deb

I wanted to put my reply here, as what you asked Kate to do, I ended up doing this past January and February with my national show horse, who I was trying to figure out a sugar/ supplement/behavioral problems from the hormonal mare thread.

So after being the best horseman I could be with food and turnout, however, I've already learned not to follow the norm, as you rightly suggested, I finally reached what I would consider a base line for this horse. There was no change in his behavior. He was erratic in his behavior, always on extreme high alert, always spooking, not focused. Unfortunately for the both of us, it made me mad, which I know made things worse. I kept remembering all the things we did together, and all the places we went over the past 20 years. What had changed, and what was different was what I needed to know. What did I do wrong in training him, and I took it as a personal failure.

A long time ago, he gave me the gift of looking to me, or in your terms, put his birdie on me, before I knew you. I was always there supporting him. He would be exactly as you would want standing at the end of his lead. He would still spook, get unsure, but I could reach him and get with him. He learned to look to me and not be herd bound ect. He always needed consistent work and mental challenges. Now I didn't do anywhere near what I used to do with him. I expected him to never again need to be supported. I didn't realize that his emotional training could back slide. I just thought of physical terms. I was also expecting him to be like the other horses I have, that are more naturally laid back. I was angry at him for all the time I've put in to him, and he isn't calm and settled like old Muffy, or solid as Sears.

I stepped back from him to give us both breathing room, I let it all go.
As I did, I was able to really look at his history and see that this is who he is, and has always been. Insecure, fearful, worried. So what did I do before that I wasn't doing anymore to help him? Why was he so good at times, and now so on high alert?

I was expecting him to be okay for me, and to be there for me because I was too distracted with other things. I wasn't challenging him or directing him, I wasn't in the present with him, I was in the past when times were good, and thought I had the same moment now. Being angry with him made me unstable to him, and him even more insecure.

Now I believe I know why. I haven't ok. I was looking to "fix" him, the situation, ect. though I know it all is important, but it first had to be me. One thing that had to be fixed was me being ok with him not being ok. He is a horse and he is acting this way. Now what?

I needed to be the one directing again, not reacting to his spooking. I can't control that he is scared, that he feels the need to be on alert. But I can be okay, so that when I do direct him, he senses calm leadership from me, and settles again.

Now I don't care that he is scared, that he is distracted, that he is reacting. It is him, not me, not what I did or didn't do. I treat him as he is someone else's horse. No emotional attachment. I notice that he isn't ok, and I don't care. I direct him, I try channel his focus forward. When he constantly calls to me, I hear it, but it doesn't matter to me. I make sure everything is as best as I can do, and hope that his birdy comes back off of me, and that he sucks his thumb again.

And since its been since the middle of Febuary that I started working with him again, I will tell you that both of us have improved. Of course he still spooks when the snow slides on the roof, so what? This is what this horse does. He spooks, he runs ect. He is afraid to be alone. He isn't my best friend who shares a long history with me. He doesn't do things to make me look like a fool, or that I'm an idiot. He knows and remembers some things. And fortunately for me I can change his opinion of me back to one of a leader. It's really nice to hear him breathe a sign of relief when he does come back to me. He will never be solid as Sears, but if I can at least get his focus back like this, I think that this is normal for him.
Now, Dr. Deb, fill in for me please whatever I may have missed, or be wrong with.

Jineen

rifruffian
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Jineen I found that an interesting post to read; even though I can't agree with it entirely. Especially your penultimate paragraph starting.....' Now I don't care '.........I found that passage a bit hard to swallow.

For those of us who own just a single horse or possibly even two, when the question arises....why is my horse not OK.....a relevant follow up question is...' am I ok'?

There are many aspects of our lives that can put us in a confused or stressed state for example bereavement, relocation, financial pressure, divorce. These and similar can leave a human in a day to day state that is definitely not OK, and maybe so for a considerable period of time. My opinion is, that can easily transfer to the horse.

 

 

Last edited on Sat Mar 13th, 2010 09:23 pm by rifruffian

DrDeb
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Rifruffian, I don't think Jineen means 'don't care' exactly the way you're interpreting it. There's a difference between 'totally not caring about something' in the sense of not being at all interested in it, and 'not caring' in the sense of 'not letting the horse's reactions get to you.' That's what the whole import of her posting is about: the word for this is detachment.

Jineen does not articulate the underlying problem -- that problem with herself that is powering the whole situation -- but she comes so close to it that I think it's OK if I fill it in now. We have to ask what was driving Jineen to be angry when her horse stopped performing and focusing well and reliably -- when he, as she puts it, 'backslid'.

What that factor is, is this: when Jineen was initially training this horse, Jineen was packing a hidden agenda. That agenda was: OK, horse, I'm putting all this time and effort on you, I'm feeding you and cleaning you and providing you with a good home, and IN RETURN FOR THAT YOU OWE ME.

This is so common as to be almost universal in the horse-owning community. For that matter it's almost universal in the human community! The parent says to the child: I gave you life, I fed you, clothed you, cared for you when you were sick, saw to it that you got an education and NOW YOU OWE ME.

I know of no factor more likely to cause any child who has any amount of backbone to flee as far away from that parent as she can, at the earliest possible moment. Because, of course, it is a horrible lie: no child owes the parent anything of the kind that the parent who is trying to collect that supposed debt is trying to collect. What the child owes the parent is respect and honor. She does not owe them money, time, or to be their slave-bound caretaker in their old age. To be sure, if the parent reaches old age and needs help, because the parent himself does not have the means to pay for home care, then the children should step in to help work out a way for the parent to have a decent life. But that is quite different from the child who has absorbed the false belief that she should live at home or devote all her money and time to caring for the parent. Another variant of this is that the parent says 'you can't be an artist, we will only be satisfied if you become a doctor', or 'the only acceptable husband is a doctor', and the child collapses under this pressure and does as the parent demands. What depths of neurosis, buried anger and resentment, does this imply and engender?

The distinction I am making is between humane consideration and respect that are given voluntarily and rationally by the child, vs. the kind of demand coming from the parent that strangles, twists, and diminishes the life of the child.

And this is the analogy I want you-all to make with your horses. What the animal owes you is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ANY TIME. As soon as the idea creeps in there that the horse "owes it to you" to "remember what he has been taught" -- or as soon as we hear you cry "he SHOULD know this!" there will be the following results:

1. Like Jineen, you will become angry when the horse fails to perform -- because as she observes you are taking it personally -- and why you are taking it personally is because your ego is FAR too tied to what the animal does or does not do. You lack detachment -- you fail to 'not care' enough.

2. Because you're angry and feeling diminished, you're likely to go after punishing the animal for non-compliance or non-performance. You'll go after him with the whip or the rope or the toe of your boot or a length of chain or a club, or be reefing on him or clubbing him in the mouth with the bit or maybe it will be the "bloody spur" lesson. And there will be only one possible result from any of this: the animal will become another notch less able, less ready, and less willing to perform or comply. He will love you less and he will trust you less and he will want to be ANYWHERE BUT where you are, because he does not go by punishment -- no horse has the slightest understanding of punishment -- so what you're offering is punishment but what he is apprehending is what you are TEACHING him because that is the only mode by which he can take you in!

3. So you will miss every opportunity, if nonperformance/punishment is your mode, to re-educate or educate. "Educate" is not on the punisher's priority list, not on their "to do" list -- "train" will be, but "educate" will not. It cannot be: because punishments as well as training address the body of the horse. Training is repetitive and routinized, because the underlying belief is that the horse must be mentally very dull, because obviously he forgets what he was 'supposed' to know. So instead of it occurring to the ego-bound punisher that what he needs to do every single time the animal tries to comply is RELEASE; instead what he will do is REPEAT TO REINFORCE -- one of the greatest mistakes that can be made. There is only one thing that asking a horse to repeat something he has just done well can mean to him: that is, that he has done the wrong thing!

So you see, when your ego is in it too much; when you're sticky-smarmy, oochie-smoochy -- you're not able to fulfill your proper role, which is not Mommy Dearest but to be a teacher that your horse can enjoy and respect. This is the key to turning it all around: the good teacher does not get intimate past a certain point with any student, and the good teacher knows she is not the student's Mommy. The good teacher knows and is confident of her ability to convey all that the horse will need to learn, beginning from and building upon the smallest details. The good teacher teaches one thing at a time, then steps back to allow the horse to put one and one together to make two. She asks the horse to show her what he knows, and when he gets even one thing right, she praises that and builds upon that, and ignores the other parts in the knowledge that they are on their way to fading out all on their own.

This is what 'caring a great deal' looks and feels like. But the teacher must be detached to allow that caring or that love to be operative! Loving the student cannot mean demanding that the student love you!

Only the handler or rider who is detached will be able to react instantly when the horse is about to do something he shouldn't. Only the detached rider -- the one who is not living inside herself all the time, making up stories about reality instead of living in reality -- only she will be aware, almost as soon as the horse himself is aware, that something is bothering the horse and liable to cause the buildup that finally results in spooking. Jineen's horse is spooking now because she's not in there early enough to perceive the buildup, but at least Jineen knows not to punish him for the spook that she herself set up and permitted. -- Dr. Deb

Kate
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I haven't replied quickly as I've been away - student exchange to Norway, an amazing place, but no internet where I was.

It has given me plenty time to think though, away from my horse which I feel has been the best place to do it. To begin with, I struggled to see myself as the person in descriptions at the beginning of this thread. But now, with some distance, I think I can see the point.

I have a few thoughts I would like to share. The first is the purpose of having horses: as a horse-owner in the UK who does not compete, there is no purpose for me to have a horse other than I like them. This is not really a good reason as it is all to easy to fall into the trap of the horse being a 'baby', needing cosseted and waited on hand and foot. To compare to a working horse, for example a cutting horse or a hunter, the horse must be a reliable working partner who will respond to instruction without hesitating or baulking.  If in day-to-day activities, the normal is for the horse to be number 1, influencing and even making decisions himself about being caught, picking up feet, standing still etc, then the horse cannot be a reliable partner in the 'job', whatever that may be.

So I need a purpose other than 'I like him'. I have dabbled in Western, Trec (not sure if that has reached the US - it is a hybrid between long distance and competitive trail riding) and dressage. The key word is 'dabbled' - I have never committed, which is kind of what I have done with the horse, substituting my interpretation of love and friendship for a good working relationship, which is what horses have with each other.  I often go up to visit my horse with no other purpose than bring him in, give him some ponynuts, and put him out again. I can now see how unhelpful that is in terms of expecting him to then perform on the days I do want to do things. It comes back to what do I normally do? I feed him ponynuts and scratch his itchy bits. So that is the reason for the rougher patches in our relationship and that is the bit that has to change. I need to change what is normal.

I am also very lucky with the horse that I have got. He fills in a whole lot more than I have realised, allowing me to be soft and non-directional one day and purposeful the next.  For me, he is reliable and steady, but for him I must be as changeable as the weather. This is not fair!  

This is still work in progress, but thank you, Dr Deb, for giving me a hard enough prod to get going.

Kate

kindredspirit
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The thread on Freedom where Dr. Deb replied on Sept 23rd 2009 fits well here.  Here is the link: (I think) http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/view_topic.php?id=481&forum_id=1&highlight=dressage+show

She talks about being the horse's teacher.  I found this to be very profound and it really spoke to me.  Maybe it will speak to you as well.

Kathy

Kate
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Thank you Kathy.

It was indeed very thought - provoking.  I am finding so much about horsemanship and horses is as much (if not more) mental attitude and flexibility. Simply changing one's views and thought processes seems to have a big impact on physical results! 

Kate

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O my gosh

I just witnessed this morning one of the EXACT things that are to be avoided while tending a horses teeth.

The horse was subjected to a 'horse dentist' attacking her mouth with rasps and with power files, with her mouth wearing a gag to keep it open. She put up with it for a little while, then took to voicing her fear by rearing and plunging around the stable dragging her dentist with her. This made the 'horse dentist' very angry and he started to yank her around, hit her and call her names.  

This mare is a pitiful site and came to the care of a girl in the yard where my horses are boarding with a history of abuse and malnourishment. The mare has been at the yard for around 2 weeks under the care of this girl, who stood and casually watched from the other side of the stable door, giving no assurance to the horse whatsoever, apart from an occasional verbal call for her to cam down.

Incredible. I had to walk away as it is none of my business and I only saw it happening cos the mare is stabled near mine and I was winding up some polo bandages while this was going on.

It contrasts with when my own horses teeth were rasped by my vet only two days ago, and he had a little intravenous sedative (which, to be honest, he was not totally relaxed about, but was not hugely disturbed by this either and the vet was very skilled and gentle in his method) and he then stood like a lamb while the sharp edges were rasped off. I held him  and talked to him and positioned his head and he was not stressed at all.

What horses have to put up with sometimes is incredible.

Last edited on Fri Mar 26th, 2010 01:23 pm by Jacquie

Delly
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My business or not - I would have intervened. In my country every year there are deaths of young children and babies let alone many animals from cruel abuse. Many could have been prevented if people had intervened.

DrDeb
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Jacquie -- I agree with you in being sorry to hear of a horse being beaten up because it was unable to cooperate with a practitioner. The dentist's behavior was primitive, self-involved, and unprofessional. Whether YOU said anything or not -- certainly, the horse's owner should have. You are not responsible for anyone else's property, but the owner is responsible here and in the hereafter.

I do, however, want to add some points of correction and information to your post. First, you make it sound as if the gag used were a bad thing. This is an old, incorrect, and destructive prejudice that needs to stop right now. It is not possible to do competent equine dental work, either a full manual and visual examination, nor treatment, without the use of a gag/speculum.

Of course, the speculum should be of a modern type and correctly applied for the patient's presenting conditions. "Of a modern type" means that the rachets located on the sides of the gag, that actually work to hold the plates open, should number many more than four. The old four-click gags are hard on horses because there is too much space between clicks. They give too little flexibility; if the horse's mouth isn't open wide enough at 3 clicks, for example, and the practitioner needs a wider gape, it can happen that the animal is too stiff or wrongly conformed to be able to do four. If the speculum is then opened to four clicks, it will make the jaw muscles sore, and in extreme cases can cause or contribute to fracturing the coronoid processes of the jaws (which means the death of the horse in all likelihood).

Modern gags/speculums have many more than 4 clicks -- usually at least 10. This permits much finer adjustment, and far greater safety and comfort for the patient.

The second point that needs correction in your post is that, evidently as you observed, the practitioner was not using drugs. Jacquie, it is not legal in either your country or any other worldwide for a non-licensed, non-veterinarian to inject "chemical restraint" via an intravenous (IV) injection. There are unfortunately a certain cadre of equine dental practitioners who are not licensed and not veterinarians, who obtain dermosadan and other chemical restraint drugs by illegal means -- generally from a licensed veterinarian who has a way to hide the outgo on his books and who wants to make some quiet money on the side. Generally the boys who perform injections before they do their dentistry are quite competent about getting the drugs in. What makes their behavior both dangerous and reprehensible is that, having no training whatsoever in pharmacology, if a problem such as an allergic reaction or overdose symptoms develop, there is no way to back out of it or help the horse. It is the willingness of this minority of "hard ball players" in the equine dental world that has primarily held up the mature reconciliation and negotiation of a way for non-veterinarian equine dental practitioners to work on horses as an independent profession. In other words, in their quest to be completely independent of veterinary supervision, the boys who inject have done nothing but make themselves into little boys playing in a sandbox with they know not what. They are not behaving as responsible adults or as caring professionals, no matter how much they tell you that they "care" about horses. What they really care about is having their own way while taking home as much money as possible. This is what really irks the veterinarians who have gone after these boys in every way they can think of -- because the injecto-boys are unwilling to network, do not know how to network, do not understand or care to understand the network by which every medical professional lives, which is referrals. The unwillingness to network or make referrals, to work within the "medical community", causes the injecto-boys to be economically threatening to veterinarians -- since they take clients who would otherwise have to pay for the veterinarian to do the injections, or else bring their horses to a clinic where injections are given under the vet's direct supervision. It also causes the injecto-boys to be dangerous, nay impossible, for the vet to work with, because he can't take the chance of putting them on his insurance.

The fantasy that the injecto-boys live under is that they can be "independent", when every single other person in the medical community, including not only the vet, but also the vet tech, the vet assistant, the massage therapist, and even myself as a teacher, have to carry huge amounts of liability insurance just in order to work. There are in addition well-recognized, well-trodden legal means by which a customer can obtain reparation from the vet if he malpractices or makes a mistake. Likewise there are well-worn legal means to punish the "peri-veterinary" professionals as well, indeed, anyone who is required to carry insurance. So out of one side of their mouth the injecto-boys are saying to the customer, "see we'll save you money", when what they really mean out of the other side of their mouth is "see I've saved myself quite a chunk". There is no way that any workable bargain between non-veterinary equine dental practitioners and the licensed veterinarians can ever be struck when we are held legally liable but the non-licensed practitioner can escape the same degree and kind of regulation. We all must be regulated -- there is no such thing as an "independent profession" in that sense.

All of this is extremely unfortunate, because the injecto-boys are, as I said, a minority. There are many other non-veterinarian equine dental practitioners who are highly ethical and professional, and whose work is superb. They use power tools as well as hand tools correctly, and the array of equipment in their kit is numerous, specialized, and designed specifically for use in the equine mouth. So this is another point on which you need to be educated, Jacquie: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the use of power equipment, so long as the practitioner is appropriately skilled and knowledgeable.

Finally, I want to remind you that although your own horse may need no more than "floating", which is to say symptomatic treatment, if he's beyond 8 years of age and has never had anything more done or thought of than floating, I would say you're very likely ignorant, and your vet is also ignorant, of far more serious problems that are present. Remember, Jacquie, that a survey done about 10 years ago of all the vet schools in the world, asking them how many hours in their graduate curriculum were devoted to instruction in equine dental. The total range was from 4 hours to 4 days. Whereas the best nonveterinary equine dental practitioners are required to have minimum 250 hours of apprenticeship and laboratory time, plus classroom instruction in anatomy and oral biomechanics, plus (for more than minimum certification) a written thesis. This equates to what the Royal Company of Farriers requires of their men.

So that the practitioner you observed abused the horse is extremely unfortunate and I think, untypical. Most guys who do this work every day, especially if they do it without drugs/chemical restraint, are pretty fine horsemen who can insinuate the tools in there without getting the horse too braced up. Normally when dentistry is done without drugs, the horse is pushed back into a corner; he will walk himself back there, because there's no way to help the fact that the dentist is pushing on its mouth as he does his work. When they get their butt back in the corner of the stall, it's up to the dentist to go in, do about as much as he figures the animal is going to be able to take in one bout, and then let them down for a while.

It is also, we must note, impossible to do accurate work with power equipment without the use of the chemical restraint drugs. The power cutters are incredibly sharp, so that, with the un-drugged horse liable to sway around, object, or move, it's very difficult not to nick the tongue or cut more tooth than would have been good. I would therefore hope to see the owner of this horse make contact with a better dentist -- and on this you would have two choices: either find a veterinarian who is trained in MODERN oral biomechanical theory and the proper use of power equipment, or else find a lay veterinarian-veterinarian team -- either practicing out of a truck or requiring you to go to the clinic. There injections can most safely be given, the horse can be drugged so that he stands still and relaxed for the procedures, precision work is guaranteed, and there is the least chance of problems in the week following treatment.

I would also like to say that I would prefer not to see a chorus of 'yeah isn't horse abuse awful' in this thread or any other. Yes, we all do think it is awful. But I am not eager to see this space used to promote judging the actions of a man that we were not there to observe. He may have had more going on in that situation than Jacquie would have known about or been able to rightly understand. -- Dr. Deb

Jacquie
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Oh I dont think gags are bad at all - my horses have all had them used to have their teeth rasped nearly every time. Dont know where you got the idea I thought that they were bad from. I obviously dont convey well in written word! I do think it is not a great or clever thing to have a horse wearing a gag and plunging around in a confined space. This is a big lump of metal that you would not want slammed into your face. I know another horse dentist in this area has recently had his jaw broken badly by the horse slamming into  his face while wearing a gag. Obviously he had another horse who objected strongly - just like the horse I observed, except this dentist was less nimble I suppose.

I am perfectly well aware that an equine dentist is not allowed to use an intravenous injection to sedate a horse.  This is one of the problems with using one in my opinion.

I am also perfectly well aware that vets dont have a lot of time spent in vet school on dentistry. My vets are both lovely experienced and well up to date people with years and years of experience at rasping teeth using power tools when needed and using hand rasps otherwise. Thats why I chose to use them. some equine dentists do seem to turn rasping teeth into an art form however. It is possible to over rasp as much as under rasp and I dont know about USA of course, but many equine dentists in UK do over rasp teeth. Despite  the qualifications, study time and apprenticeships they are not always very good at the job here in UK.

Its not a chorus of 'horse abuse is bad' its a recital of the very things this thread was warning about - or at least was trying to educate to avoid happening.

I cannot intervene with another horse owner who has chosen to pay a qualified person to carry out a task just because I dont happen to approve of his methods.  If she thinks this is OK and pays this man, then that is her choice and her business and certainly not mine. I dont happen to approve of the way she rides her horses either, but that is none of my business either. Her horses that I have seen have all ended up becoming commit ed buckers  -  and she can only brag about her skill staying on them. It is best to walk away and say nothing witht his kind of personality.  She would not be the type to be prepared to listen anyway. What was happening was appalling to my eyes, but I am not in charge at this barn, - just another paying horse keeper there.

If she were in my own yard, however, that would be very, very different.

I would, of course,  politely ask her to leave.

Last edited on Sat Mar 27th, 2010 05:48 pm by Jacquie

DrDeb
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Jacquie, I wouldn't ask the person to leave; I'd try not to look down on the person or judge them. I would instead:

-- Sympathize with her choice of a dentist who is at least trying to play by the rules so far as using injectable drugs go, BUT

-- Guide her to a more qualified practitioner, particularly if her mare isn't broke enough to tolerate dental work without drugs.

I totally agree, a horse that slings its head around while wearing the speculum can clobber somebody. It's dangerous. But the situation arises in the first place out of complex causes, one of which is the owner's failure to have gotten the mare sufficiently broke before attempting treatment. I suspect it to be similar to the owner who doesn't know how to get a horse started on picking up its feet, so calls the farrier and just "expects" the farrier will get it done. Well, if that was the expectation, I would be inclined to think that the dentist approached it the same as the farrier would, but might have gotten struck in the balls for his pains (and you walked in on the scene just in time to see his reaction).

Another factor is the practitioner being absolutely caught between a rock and a hard place; if he plays by the rules, he has to somehow restrain the horse in order to work on it; or else he must break the rules and inject drugs illicitly, which is (as I mentioned before) dangerous to the most important individual here, the horse being treated.

As I was trying to indicate in my previous -- and this is really the main point that would make this part of this thread worthwhile reading for anyone at all -- WE ARE ALL LOSERS in this situation so long as skilled layman-dentists are unable to do their work, under regularized agreement, with training and certification acceptable to all, so that the veterinarian and the lay dentist can both find their proper place in the equine-care community. If the layman dentist lost his temper and acted unprofessionally, that might be because he isn't in fact that skilled, has not in fact had a high enough level of training, and should not have been available for the horse's owner to call upon. This is where the change has to be made, because until it is made, there will remain a large number of vets who don't want to do dentistry or whose idea of it is fifty years out of date; along with a large number of laymen who have the skills but lack the drugs. This has been said before, but let me repeat it: if every veterinarian now in practice turned his whole effort to doing nothing but equine dentistry from this day forth, there would still be more horses who need treatment than can be seen.

So Jacquie, I really do not mean to be short with you -- I know you meant well by posting your report about this situation. But how I got the idea that you don't approve of specula, along with how I got the idea concerning all the other things I responded to, was by reading your post. And if I got that impression that way, then I have to assume others might also; which obligates me to speak up, because I have been in this controversy a long time, and I recognize the very things you have said as being wrong objections and wrong ideas commonly held.

Someday maybe you can come to California and take one of my carcass classes, where we do quite a bit toward a better understanding of how the horse's mouth works and what equilibrative or "full mouth" dentistry means. So for example, the reason your horse has "points" that periodically need removal by floating is because there is something else wrong with his ability to chew, something that is blocking or inhibiting the full lateral excursion of the lower jaw. Points are always symptoms of some greater problem; they never occur just by themselves or idiopathically; they do not "grow" but they do certainly develop and re-develop until the true underlying cause is found and removed. When the person understands what I have just said, they will be able to select an effective equine dentist. -- Dr. Deb

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Hello Dr Deb,

This is an interesting discussion, and I have a question about 'full mouth dentistry' pertaining to my old Arab.

Some years ago, when the horse was about 17, I had him attended to by a young, enthusiastic Dental Technician, who had recently been on a number of dental courses, many in America, she had a string of letters after her name, and seemed qualified to the hilt. The horse had had regular (annual) dental check ups, and had his teeth floated previously by both a vet and two different Dental Technicians that I had employed over the previous 13 years in my ownership. He was in good condition, had no trouble eating, did not quid, was a pleasure to ride, and felt comfortable in his mouth when ridden, ie, I did not feel that he had an 'issue' in his mouth.

She spent at least two hours with my horse, under sedation (administered by a vet), most of it with a speculum on and his mouth wide open, using her power tools. She explained that he had a wave mouth and that every arcade was different to the others, and that his incisors needed attention as they sloped from one side to the other, so she nipped the vertical height off one end of the lower teeth, and the other end of the upper teeth.

The horse could not eat for two days after this treatment. Of course, he did recover, but I did not feel that the intervention made ANY difference to his condition, eating habits, or feel when ridden.

I felt uncomfortable with the extent of the work she had done, so have used a different Dental Technician for the past 7 years, and in all this time, every year, he has checked the horse, and said that there is nothing he can do, even if he needed to, as so much enamel was ground away there is not enough left to work with.

In my previous life as a Human Chiropractor, I knew only too well the ramifications of dentistry, especially extractions and orthodontic interventions on the functioning of the cranial - spinal - pelvic complex of joints. I also knew that some people could be extremely functional in spite of marked dental compromise.

My question then, is this: did this lady, in her youthful enthusiasm, do far more than was necessary for this horse?

I wonder if it is really necessary to level everything up and make everything symmetrical just because you can. I feel that the treatment put the horse through two days (at least) of extreme pain to make little or no noticeable difference in the long term, apart from grinding away too much enamel. As a layman in dental terms, this experience has made me steer clear of such 'full mouth dentistry'

I look forward to your, and other readers, thoughts

Dorothy

 

kindredspirit
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There is a dentist here in the US, who talks about the importance of the incisor. (front teeth right), and how that affects the TMJ, and whole body etc. There is a 5 min video clip on his website where he talked about this, that I just watched for the first time this morning.  I would like to post the link here if that is ok.  I have heard good things about his methods and teachings.

Kathy

 

Dorothy
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Hi Kathy,

Dr Deb has talked in a previous thread - I cannot remember which - about the importance of attending to the incisors (front teeth) when they occlude before the molars do - in this situation the horse cannot grind properly because the molars do not contact sufficiently, and the incisors do need to be shortened.

I will see if I can find the thread!

Dorothy

PS its 'Equine Dentistry and Other Stuff'

Last edited on Sun Mar 28th, 2010 07:02 pm by Dorothy

Jacquie
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DD Its not a question of looking down on anyone or judging them at all, - I really don't do that, but I don't feel I can make any difference to this persons approach to her horses by saying what I think. She is very closed and a highly confident personality who I superficially like as a person, though I don't know her very well. I don't think I am the person to talk to her about this. I am fully aware that this is likely to be my failing of communication abilities and perhaps also my depth of knowledge too.  Clearly I am not always good at communicating in written word what I am thinking, as I am often misinterpreted or misunderstood on this forum, and maybe my communication verbally is also not always as good as it could be -  and I am perfectly OK with admitting that as a failing of mine here.

In short, I just don't think she would take my guidance or suggestions at all and I think her personality suggests that she may not take much guidance from anyone who she did not admire, which would have to mean they were competing and winning at 'the top'. 


I am not competing at 'the top' and I am a sensitive soul, so I walked away from the conflict I know it would cause to raise issue with her.

Last edited on Sun Mar 28th, 2010 07:00 pm by Jacquie

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Kate wrote: Thank you Kathy.

It was indeed very thought - provoking.  I am finding so much about horsemanship and horses is as much (if not more) mental attitude and flexibility. Simply changing one's views and thought processes seems to have a big impact on physical results! 

Kate



This is a timely thread for me, with more than one epiphany. When I got my horse, I expanded her barn name of Ruby to Ruby Tuesday, since the Rolling Stones were a part of my teen years and I thought it was a cute name.  I have also made excuses for her behaviour, like her not standing still in the grooming stall because it probably reminded her of the starting gates at the race track.  While I know cognitively it is not useful to attach emotions to my work with her, it has been difficult for me to put that into practice.

Today I went out to the barn and my horse's name was Red.  I was very clear (and unemotional) about expecting her to stand where I planted her until I told her it was OK to move.  I had to reset her a few times but did not get upset or frustrated about that.  When we did other groundwork in the arena I focused on being clear about what I wanted her to do and on the timing of my releases when she did it.  We went into the 'scary' end and worked a lot there.  I concentrated on having her pay attention to me and waiting on me instead of her anticipating what we were going to do.  I was directing the whole show this time.

What happened was that she was calmer than usual and there was a lot of licking her lips.  She didn't do much of the leaping around and almost rearing she sometimes does when my frustration with her 'not listening' jumps my energy up.  I didn't get upset when she didn't do what I intended.  I revised my approach or broke it into smaller steps.  The absence of emotion helped me to learn how to be a better teacher for what my horse needed.

I have also finally accepted that, just like Jineen's horse, my horse is nervous and a worrier and will probably always be that way.  Unlike my first horse, an old schoolmaster, or my second horse, a former lesson horse, she cannot fill in for me.  It is therefore my job to convince her that I am a capable leader so she doesn't have to lead and it is my job to be aware enough of her to catch the worry early so I can diffuse it.

The whole experience today was really interesting.  The tweaking of my perception had a huge impact on both me and my horse and I felt more successful about what we did than I had felt in awhile.  I found the link on Dr Deb's freedom discussion very helpful, Kathy.  I felt more free today and I think my horse did too.  And Dr Deb, thank-you.  I did not realize how much stickiness was there.  Thank you also to all the other people contributing to the forum discussions.  My horse experience is certainly not as extensive as I would like it to be and I often find comments in different threads quite useful.

Philine 

Tammy 2
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This thread has been timely for me as well.  With this winter of us having so much drifted snow, I did not work with my horse all that much.  Now that spring has sprung, I have started to consistently spend time with him.  There have been times he has been very worried in my arena.  I only have an outdoor so there can be alot going on around us that he cannot see but can hear.  Kids riding motorbikes, neighbors using power tools and generally lots of activity.  So, I had to catch myself getting caught in a mindset of, you should be used to these things.  Why has all the wonderful ground we covered last year of getting you feeling so much better seems to have gone away?  Why are your thoughts flying away from me so quickly?  Why are you still showing signs of being herd bound and wanting to be with your friend up by the house? If I had an indoor arena this would be so much easier, etc. etc. 

Then, I took a step back.  It does not matter where we were.  It does not matter what we are doing tomorrow.  It does not even matter what we will be doing in 5 minutes because that is having an agenda.  What matters is how he is feeling right now and what I can do to help him to be with me and feel better.  So today, my horse has the name of Blacky.  I am going to be a calm teacher, I am going to think and I am going to get to his thoughts of being worried early.  I am going to work from where he is, not from where he was.  We are going to take small steps and do things that he can do and be successful at to build his confidence.  The horse that I will be teaching today will help me to work at getting my horsemanship better.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and experiences.  This forum is what helps me to step back and think.  It is so easy to get pulled back into the mindset "that he should just know this stuff".



Tammy

 

Last edited on Mon Mar 29th, 2010 03:21 pm by Tammy 2

kindredspirit
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Tammy 2 wrote:   I am going to be a calm teacher, I am going to think and I am going to get to his thoughts of being worried early.  I am going to work from where he is, not from where he was.  We are going to take small steps and do things that he can do and be successful at to build his confidence.  The horse that I will be teaching today will help me to work at getting my horsemanship better.


Tammy

 



Hi Tammy, it is good to hear your perspective! I left in the quoted area those so very important items you have mentioned. 

 I have a horse who lacks confidence, and for a long time I could not help him there, because I lacked confidence in MY ability to help this particular horse.  But MY help was what he needed.  A wise person said to me, if you just spent 10 mins 5 times a day working on getting this horse to feel differently you can get a lot done.  Well winter had been a long one here, but I did just that, took the good days and built on them, whatever it was I could work on and help my horse feel better.  Little by little chipping away at all those little spots that I knew needed clearing up.  And as you say, Spring has sprung and I am really excited about the foundation I have to build on with this horse because I spent so much time working on what he needed on any given day.    As Ray Hunt says: "They know when you know and they know when you don't know." And I think this one horse of mine is breathing a sigh of relief and thinking, she finally knows! LOL.  And I know more now than ever that I never ever ever stop learning.  Horses are the very best teachers, bar none!  So much to know!

Kathy

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Tammy 2 wrote:   What matters is how he is feeling right now and what I can do to help him to be with me and feel better.  



Tammy
 


I thought that was well said, also, Tammy.

Last edited on Tue Mar 30th, 2010 01:04 am by Tutora

Tammy 2
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Kindred and Tutora, thanks for your comments.  Kindred, you have reminded me of something Buck told at a clinic I audited. 

You cannot expect your horse to advance if you don't get out there and spend the time with him.  He said if someone were to pull up to your yard at the same time everyday with $100 for you, where would you be?  Well, you would be out there at the same time everyday to collect your $100.  Spending the time with your horse is, from Dr. Deb's the Birdie Book, money in the bank.

I think through the winter, our account went into overdraft.  So, I need to spend the time now to "earn" back the lost time.  This coming winter, I will be out there spending the time with him. 

Tammy


 

Jacquie
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DD by the way, I am curious that in your comparison between an equine dentists training and a farriers training, you say that farriers (and good equine dentists) have a minimum of 250 hours of apprenticeship.

This seems rather a short training time to me, for a farrier and must only equate to one year of part time work at the most.

My daughter was considering becoming a farrier for while last year, (she has since changed her mind) and in UK farriers must be apprenticed for 4 years and 2 months with a farrier registered with the Farriers Registration Council, which is the only recognised regulating body in UK for all farriers. The training farrier must hold a higher level of qualification to be allowed to take on an apprentice and it is illegal to shoe a horse for financial gain in UK unless you are registered with this body and hold a level 1, 2 or 4 qualification. The 4+ year apprenticeship comes after a one year course has been successfully completed to teach the students their blacksmithing skills, which they must pass with a sufficiently high level of pass or no training level qualified farrier would consider taking them on.

It seems as if UK farriers are trained for a lot longer than the farriers in USA. If so, I was not aware that there was such an enormous discrepancy in farriery training and I am quite shocked that the USA farriers have such a short training time.

Last edited on Wed Mar 31st, 2010 07:45 am by Jacquie

rifruffian
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Hi Jacquie just a question from me arising from the detail of your last post. You write that in UK we cannot shoe a horse for financial gain unles we hold the registered farrier qualification; agreed. But I infer from your post that it would be ok for the unqualified person to shoe the horse provided it was not for financial gain; I don't think so; are you sure ?

Jacquie
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Hi Riffruffian

There is a tiered approach to farriery qualifications and the lowest tier allows shoeing with no financial gain, but no more.

 

It is allowed to trim a horses foot without qualification, but horses are protected by the animal welfare act, so poor foot trimming resulting in lameness could be a prosecutable offence.

 

In UK it is not allowed for a farrier qualified anywhere else in the world to work on horses here for financial gain, though I am not sure if they can work on their own horses.

 

Here are some extracts from the Worshipful Company of Farriers. You can go on their website and check what level your farriers qualifications are, or find a new farrier if you move areas.

 

A Livery Company of the City of London, known as the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF), was established in 1356 during the reign of Edward III by the Court of Aldermen of the City. During the 1970s there was a desire from within the craft through the membership of the WCF and the National Association of Farriers Blacksmiths and Agricultural Engineers (NAFBAE) to introduce professional regulation of the craft in the interests of horse welfare. The Farriers (Registration) Act was made in 1975 and came fully into force in England and Wales in 1980 and in Scotland (except in the Scottish Islands and Highland Region) in 1981. The Act was amended in 1977, in 2002 to reflect the requirements of EC Directive 99/42 and again in 2008 to reflect the requirements of EC Directive 2005/36.  EC Directive 2005/36 concerns the freedom of movement of professionals in the European Economic Area (EEA).  From 30 March 2007 the Highland Region and Islands of Scotland were also covered by Section 16 of the Act and hence the Act is now fully in force in all areas of Great Britain.  

 

The Farriers (Registration) Act 1975, as amended, is an Act to:

 

“Prevent and avoid suffering by and cruelty to horses arising from the shoeing of horses by unskilled persons; to promote the proper shoeing of horses; to promote the training of farriers and shoeing smiths; to provide for the establishment of a Farriers Registration Council to register persons engaged in farriery and the shoeing of horses; to prohibit the shoeing of horses by unqualified persons; and for the purposes connected therewith.”

 

Under the Act the WCF was given the general responsibility for securing adequate standards of competence and conduct among farriers together with the advancement of the art and science of farriery and education in connection with it.

 

The Farriers Registration Council was set up to maintain a Register of Farriers and to determine who is qualified to register therein, to make rules with respect to the form and keeping of the register, to approve and supervise courses, qualifications and institutions providing training in farriery, to undertake the preliminary investigation of disciplinary cases through an Investigating Committee and to determine cases through a Disciplinary Committee.

 

Farriery is defined in the Act as:

 

”any work in connection with the preparation or treatment of the foot of the horse for the immediate reception of a shoe thereon, the fitting by nailing or otherwise of a shoe to the foot or the finishing off of such work to the foot.”

 

This means that “barefoot trimming” i.e. trimming that is not in preparation for the application of a shoe does not fall within the definition.

Areas in which the Act applies:

England, Wales and Scotland

Those who may carry out farriery: 

·        Registered Farriers

·        Approved Farriery Apprentices or persons attending a Council approved course

·        Veterinary Surgeons

·        Trainee Veterinary Surgeons working under the supervision of a Veterinary Surgeon or Registered Farrier

·        Persons rendering first-aid in case of emergency to a horse.

It is a criminal offence, with a fine of up to £1000 and costs, for anyone other than those listed above to carry out farriery.  It is also an offence for anyone other than a Registered Farrier to describe themselves as a farrier.

 

 

Interesting isn't it! I hope this helps clarify my earlier post.

Tammy 2
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Hi Jacquie,

Here in Alberta, Canada the farrier program at the equine college is a 4 year program.  I am sure it is similar in the US.  In veterinary school, dentistry is very lightly touched on however there are extra courses that vets can take to become more skilled at that particularly.  The vet I use for my horses teeth is a vet and also an equine dentist.  It is his specialty and he mostly focuses on just dental care.

Tammy

 

 

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Hi Tammy

I think Canada often seems to be more similar to UK - in various ways. Sounds like your choice is a really good one then, with your equine dentist being a vet as well. Our vets do various specialist extra courses too and like you, I chose to use a vet for my equines dentistry. I have never had a cause to question that choice for any reason either.

I had one 11hh pony who lived to 40 and a 16hh mare who lived to 30 - (she is in my profile picture on this site) both equines enjoyed good digestive health for their whole time with me (12 years for the pony and 25 years for the mare) and stayed sound and happy with the bit in their mouths - the mare was ridden until days before the end of her life and the pony was ridden ocasionally very gently by very young children. The mare had a slightly 'parrot' mouth too - an overshot jaw, which needed careful dentistry throughout her life. The 40 year old 11hh pony actually had no incisor teeth left to speak of from about his mid 30s - they had grown right out and the few that were left were tiny useless little stubs. He had to be fed mushy food and access to nice long grass and he managed very well for about 5 years like that with no proper incisors at the top or bottom. He retained his condition despite this, though at the end it was his chronic liver failure which made us have to take the decision to have him put down.

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a very well known agricultural College in Alberta is a 1 year farrier course.  This is longer than many other farrier courses I have seen in Canada and the USA.   A GPA of 2.0 is required to graduate.  

Certfications don't necesarily mean anything as I have seen the poor work of many farriers that had graduated from accredited programs.  The proof is in the soundness of the horses they take care of.  

My one horse ended up with a year off to rest and recover from continuous shoeing with too long of a breakover.  Even after my vet did x-rays and sent a written report of what the horse required, the farrier refused to change.   He verbally said he would, then continued to do the exact same work as prior.  

I am very fortunate that my vet has extensive training in equine dentristy.   I have also paid a lot of money to vet prior to this one that claimed to be trained but really  had a poor understanding of proper equine dentristry.  The horse owner really needs to evaluate every person that participates in the care of their horses.  It is owner beware.

Jacquie
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Yes I agree -  it is owner beware!

It seems that there is no such thing as a level playing field globally in these skills of farriery and dentistry and it is impossible to generalise.

Tammy 2
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Sarah, you are probably right.  (I am sure we are talking about the same college).  However, I have read that they have expanded the course to 2 years recently.  Also, I was assuming that said person takes all the courses.  After the 2 years course, there is an Advanced Farrier Science course + one other that I cannot recall the name however it is to do with the bio-mechanics of the legs and hoof.  I cannot imagine how that would not be covered in the basic 2 year course but it is an "extra".  I believe Dr. Deb has visited this college in the past.

I have used a fellow fresh out of this college years ago that caused my horse to be sore for 2 weeks, even though I told him to not take too much off.  I also was recommended someone whom had apprenticed with a very well known farrier with a "good name".  The well known person was not taking on any new clients.  This person took way too much off to the point where I could not bring my horse into the barn as he was so sore, the hard cement hurt him badly.  For that one he was sore for almost a month.  The guy did not even return my calls.

It can be very difficult to find people that are good at what they do and take pride in it.  Luckily, I have found that guy.  He did make my boy sore once to which I had a discussion with him and it has not happened since.  I don't know if my horse's feet are misleading but my favorite farrier (cannot come to me as I am too far away) said to me when my horse was only 2.  "Do not ever let anyone take too much off this horse".  He obviously knew what he was talking about.  But with my past experiences, sometimes they just do not seem to listen to me.

I don't think anything can beat years of experience.

Tammy

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I think we are really lucky in the UK as our farriers are generally very good. My own farrier, Ben is a really lovely chap, who is competent enough to do remedial shoeing and is a nice person too. He is always on time, always good tempered and my horses do not loose shoes early and he has never made any one of my horses sore in the slightest. Thank goodness that when I move - which is happening soon - he will still be able to come to shoe my horses at my new house. I am definitely very lucky to have him to care for my horses feet. It does cost me £65 per set mind you - but even though there are farriers who are a little cheaper, I will stick with him because I know I can trust him to do a good job. Most farriers hot shoe here too and shape the shoe to fit the hoof somewhat, with an eye also on correction of the hoof shape and balance and provide adequate shoe support at the heels. I have my horses shod every 6 weeks by Ben and this seems to be an optimum time for them - before the feet have grown too long which might make them split.

DrDeb
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Jacquie and everybody -- sorry it's been a few days before I could reply -- I have been very busy getting ready for my upcoming trip to Australia. Ten thousand things always come up right before you have to fly, I don't know why that is!!

As to farrier vs. dentist training: Jacquie, they have no relationship to each other. Dentists and farriers are not trained at the same schools or academies. The "250 hours" that I quoted refers only to the non-veterinarian equine dentists who graduate from the one school where I used to work. This would be the minimum, for the lowest certification, and counts only time actually spent working in horses' mouths, i.e. the supervising journeyman does not "count" travel time, observation time, and so forth, when reporting hours for the apprentice.

The point is, and the whole reason I mentioned this, was to indicate that non-veterinarian dentists receive far more classroom instruction and far more practical hands-on learning and experience than offered by any veterinary college on earth. Some veterinarians -- I regard these persons as basically arrogant -- will try to say that they don't need to attend classes in cranial anatomy and oral biomechanics just because they hold a veterinary degree. This is as ridiculous as your general practitioner claiming that he is qualified to open a dental practice without having gone to dental school and gained a D.D.S. in addition to his M.D. Equine dentistry is a specialty, and all good veterinarians acknowledge this. I do not believe that a veterinarian who goes to a two or three-day certificate-granting course and purchases some additional instruments is qualified on that basis to perform equine dentistry. This is why we have the current strange and tragic dichotomy, that many "lay" equine dentists are vastly the superior practitioners, while only licensed veterinarians should be administering the drugs necessary to do precision work.

As to farriers: Yes, the British system of certification and training is widely acknowledged as the best in the world. Unfortunately that by itself also does not guarantee that the farrier is doing what I would want him to be doing. There are several problems with the system of farrier training in all countries:

1. There has been an over-emphasis on skill at the forge and in applying shoes vs. the farrier's ability to conceive and execute the primary necessity, which is an orthopedically meaningful and beneficial trim. It does not matter how beautiful the shoe is if it is applied to a foot that, although it has been leveled and dressed, is still  out of orthopedic balance.

2. All certification and training systems have "entropy" -- they're heavy, they're hard to move: meaning, old wrong ideas take a long time to eliminate. But my horse does not need, and I do not want, old wrong ideas applied to his feet in the here and now.

3. All new graduates are dangerous for the first decade after they receive their degree or certificate. I say this myself as a graduate. We are dangerous because we have received a degree or certificate, which tends to convince the recipient that he or she knows what he is doing. Wisdom, which comes only afterwards, teaches that all that the degree or certificate meant was that the people who ran the school were willing to sign their names on the sheepskin on the probability that the graduate would not actually kill a horse.

So Jacquie, there it is -- caveat emptor. The smart horse owner is an informed horse owner. This is why I wrote the 2003 "Inner Horseman" disk that talks about orthopedics in horseshoeing. It talks about the four worst sins in horseshoeing. It talks about what a normal foot actually looks like (you have almost certainly never seen a normal foot), and illustrates it to the nines. It gives complete explanations of stance and reciprocating systems that relate the limb to the body. It has wonderful clear 3D illustrations -- 13 layers -- of all the musculoskeletal anatomy of the distal limb.

Nobody is qualified to choose, hire, or supervise a farrier who does not know everything it says on that disk. I wrote the disk for your benefit, so that you could protect yourself and your horse. Because of course, you are the boss; you are responsible for supervising and questioning; and that's not only because you're morally responsible as the caretaker of the animal, but also for the very plain and practical reason that you are paying the farrier's salary. It is you who must see that you get what your horse needs.

NEVER simply turn any farrier or equine dentist loose on your horse, veterinarian, certified, string of letters after their name, or not. You have to confer, you have to approve the treatment plan. You listen to what they have to say, but they do not go ahead and treat without your explicit and informed consent, and if you don't know what a certain treatment is going to involve, you keep asking until that is made clear.

One of the grossest lacks in the farrier's education worldwide, and sometimes also in the dentist's, is they have not heard of "making a treatment plan" as being the step that must necessarily follow after diagnosis or assessment. When there is no treatment plan, there really ought to be no treatment. The practitioner needs to be able to see not only what needs to be done "today", but how what is done today is going to impact the animal in six weeks, six months, and six years. And you must be fully up on this, just as much.

And this is impossible for the practitioner unless they have a complete training in oral biomechanics and orthodontics, or limb biomechanics and orthopedics -- such as does not now exist anywhere, but is gained only by the few "through experience" or because they find a specialty course such as my limb and foot or head and neck dissection classes. And it is impossible, as I said, for you to adequately supervise operations upon your own horse unless you also at least read the disk.

Caveat emptor, in England as everywhere else. -- Dr. Deb




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