Part medical treatment, part practicing for dress-up

hoof diagram

Every so often, Rocky gets a little thrush infection. Why this happens, I’m not sure, as his pen is cleaned thoroughly twice a day and he doesn’t stand around in wetness and he gets regular exercise and I clean his feet almost daily.

Thrush is a degeneration of the frog with secondary anaerobic bacterial infection that begins in the central and collateral sulci. – Merck Veterinary Manual

But he does have a tight, deep central sulcus on each foot, and that’s exactly the kind of place that anaerobic bacteria loves to colonize. He’s the only horse on the ranch that gets thrush regularly (every 2 years or so), and will have it even when the other horses in the same pen do not. It must be a Special Rocky Thing.

When this happens, it’s time to break out the CleanTrax thrush-buster
and be thankful for our Parelli studies. I have progressed since our last soaking and was better able to read Rocky’s concerns, address them, help him feel confident, and prevent any Incidents that would have increased his anxiety instead of dissipated it.

The first time Rocky had to soak a few years ago, he was frozen to the ground with anxiety about the knee-high soaking boots. (He didn’t like his shipping boots, either, way back when!) The second time he had more of a “The boots are pinning me to the earth so you better stand right here” attitude.

Today, he gave the waders that unmistakable “Oh, man, is this another one of those Parelli things?” glance and then pretty quickly ignored them. His buddy Stu was also having a preventative soak after several weeks of stall rest due to an abscess.


Rocky stood still almost the entire time, and after the first 20 minutes or so he let go his tension just hung out cooperatively, eating his hay and watching the other horses as they came for their regular trims or shoeings. When he did move, it was to deal with flies and not to get away from the boot. I clipped a savvy string to each boot to help keep it from falling down and spilling the precious solution.


What we do is have the farrier remove the shoes and trim the hoof like usual. We give Rocky a big hay bag, stuffed full. We then mix the CleanTrax in a gallon of warm water, put the high boots on two of the legs, and pour half the solution in each, and let it soak for 45 minutes. I clip a savvy string to each boot and stand nearby to ensure the boots stay up even if Rocky moves, and to pull them back up when necessary.

After 45 minutes, we lift each foot out of the boot and, without letting the foot touch the ground, wrap the foot in a Ziplock baggie and secure the baggie with vet wrap. Rocky can then put his foot down and give it another 45 minutes to process.  Meanwhile, we pour the used solution into a container, put the other two legs into the boots, pour the used solution back into the bags, and repeat the whole procedure. After all four feet are unbagged and dry, the farrier puts new shoes on and finishes the trim.

We pour the solution on the mats and sweep it around to kill any remaining bacteria, spores, and fungi. And we do all of this in the sun, as the various microorganisms cannot survive the UV rays.

If he can handle all that, I’m sure he’ll have no problem with a costume like this.


Categories: Health | Tags: | 1 Comment

Learning to float with the movement of the horse

I have in the past year learned to see the physical stuff with horses, the issues with balance and coordination and fitness and general wellness that lifelong horse professionals probably can’t believe isn’t obvious to all of us. But now that I can see it, now that I can evaluate my horses’ soundness and comfort on any given day, I have become fascinated by horse anatomy and how it all fits together.

The Horses Inside Out DVD has been a wonderful resource. So has Zen and Horseback Riding.

Riding Art offers some of the most effective illustrations I’ve seen for showing how horses balance, with and without riders.

horse balance

horse out of balance

In order for a horse to carry itself gracefully and most efficiently, it must be permitted to carry itself in a posture that allows for balance to improve. The rider must tactfully help the horse find the posture where the haunches are best able to help lift and carry the mass of the rider and the forehand. ~ Tonja Dausend, Riding Art

In Parelli, we learn about doing in our bodies what we want our horses to do in theirs. We engage our core, round our lower back, ride from our seat instead of our stirrups or our reins.

We practice “passenger lessons,” where we ask the horse to go forward and then we mirror their movements in our bodies without attempting to steer or lead them. If we don’t feel safe doing this, we find an instructor or a friend to play with our horse on-line with us as passengers. When you ride passenger without tension in your body, looking left when the horse looks left, bending your ribcage right when the horse bends right, you find that when you do in your body what your horse is doing in his, there is harmony between you. It is easier for the horse to carry you and easier for you to be carried.

When you ride a horse, balance comes, not from freezing your legs to the saddle, but from learning to float with the movement of the horse as you ride. Each step is a dance, the rider’s dance as well as the dance of the horse. ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, “Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior”

What has been cool for me is that I’ve always done pretty well with balance exercises, even after I lost fitness and found extra weight. My weekly session with Gabriel’s Yoga Therapy includes some intense balance practice, including several balance-related asanas and interesting walking-on-my-toes-with-my-eyes-shut-and-arms-extended-in-front-of-me exercises. Now that I am not tense with fear or vibrating with anxiety every time I mount a horse, I’m having more success in translating my good balance from ground to riding.

I have been hopping on River bareback when it’s time to go back to her pen, focusing on the gate, and thinking strongly of cookies. She has been willing and relaxed about this. Most recently, I rode her from further away from her pen than I had before, putting her in the creek bed so I could slither on from the bank. We rested in the (dry) creek for a while and I looked where she looked. I felt totally balanced and secure.



Looking at her ears instead of where she’s looking put some unnecessary tension into my body, and my left foreleg is in front when to mirror her my right foreleg should be forward. (I believe I was organizing the hackamore’s lead rope so that it didn’t fall under her feet, but still!)


We then climbed right up the side to graze on the lawn for a bit before heading back. The photos don’t show the steepness of the bank, but you can see from my body position (and if you look closely at the angle of her stifle and hocks) how deep and steep it was — maybe about a four-foot step, at that place. I’m holding on gently with my thighs and have a firm grip on her mane, but my lower legs are just touching her, not squeezing or digging my heels in. I visualized stepping my hind legs under me to push me up the slope.


Once we were level again, I sat up slowly and smoothly rather than jerk my torso upright. This is part of my focus on fluidity, realizing that I never have to hurry, that intensity doesn’t mean speed. Taking the time to get fluid first and then add in the speed later. And I looked where River was looking.



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