Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Racing

Cloud's Honor Riding

Cloud's Honor Riding

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Shoeing Technique for Horses with Thin Walls

Blacksmith, Arthur Lisi has been applying this technique to Thoroughbreds coming off the track to Leighton Farm.  Horses who either have thin walls naturally or have had their walls damaged through improper shoeing are experiencing very positive results.

There are many who say that Thoroughbreds and retired Thoroughbred racehorses in particular have bad feet.  There is much evidence to back this up, but like any blanket statement, there are many exceptions. 

Not all Thoroughbreds have bad feet, in fact many have exceptional feet.  What is important to understand is why so many people hold this belief and what is it about Thoroughbred feet that makes them bad?   

In general, Thoroughbreds have thinner hoof walls and soles. Add to this the fact that while they are a racehorse, they have spent much time in an environment with wonderful footing in and out of the stall. 

What this means is that like the child who has worn shoes all winter and now runs outdoors barefoot must spend some “ouchy” time toughening up their feet, so must the retired racehorse.  This article addresses the other factor—thin walls.

Art says, “We have to admit that we are causing the horse pain and discomfort when we nail into a thin hoof wall.  Even if the nail does not push outside of the wall, it puts pressure on the sensitive lamiae of the inner hoof. “ 

If the horse jumps or fidgets when the blacksmith is nailing the shoes on, the horse is telling you the nails are too close.  If the horse stands quietly, the nails are good.   

Art says, “Listen to the horse.”

The hoof wall expands and contracts with each foot fall.  Even more so with a thin wall.  This “works” the nails back and forth more. 

This mare’s hoof walls are too thin.  The technique outlined here will give her what she doesn’t have, adequate buffer to protect against the movement of the nail.  Each step she takes, she can feel the movement of the nails in the hoof wall.  

Art Lisi builds out the hoof wall so it can support the nail being driven into it.  

If you examine the picture above, there is not adequate room to drive a safe nail.  The two red arrows on the right demonstrate the very thin walls.  The red arrow at the bottom with the white circle shows the thickness of the nail with regard to the wall.  You can also see previous nail holes that were either in the white line or  actually “quicking” her. 

 Before beginning, a word of caution: It is very important if the horse has close or bad nails that you do not patch over them with the acrylic because the heat produced while drying will fire up the abscesses that want to happen in response to the bad nails.  If the horse is very sore or has been quicked, it is best to pull the shoes and wait until the feet calm down.


Now lets get started with Art’s technique.


1.  Be sure hoof wall is dry and clean.  Just rough the surface  with a dremmel so the acrylic will adhere to it.

2.  Drill pilot holes to accurately place the set nails.  This is done so that the hoof wall does not crack from the nail pushing through the wall and to prevent quicking the horse.  The forward most nails are the safest spot.  These nails are set very low on the hoof.  They would never hold the shoe on, they are only there to hold the shoe in place for the acrylic and subsequent nailing into it.

3.  When driving the “set nails”, if possible, catch the corner of the wall.  This is dependent on the thickness of both the wall and the nail being used.  Art feels that small nails should always be used on Thoroughbreds. 

 4.  Next you must prepare the acrylic you will used to build up the hoof wall.  It is important to add an adequate amount of chopped Composite Cloth to the acrylic.  This step provides the added strength the acrylic needs to support the nails and the natural expansion and contraction of the hoof wall.  Without it the acrylic will crack.

5.  ***When applying the acrylic you must use a little imagination.  Be sure the width of the acrylic will be enough to take the nail. Enough thickness that when you clinch the nail down it is not pulled into the sensitive part of the hoof. 

Avoid getting acrylic on the sole.  It creates an uneven surface when the hoof hits the ground.

6.  Wrap the hoof in plastic wrap and move on to the next foot while each hoof dries.

7.  Nail the shoe on as you normally would, but through the acrylic or "built up hoof wall", instead of the horse's hoof wall.

8.  File as you normally would.

9.  You can do a bit of clean up with the dremmel for athletic purposes.

10. It takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours to be completely dry.  Use black shoe polish to get rid of “obvious” look.

 I would just like to say that Art has taken horses with lameness that cannot be diagnosed and made them sound with this technique.  He has also improved the movement of many more.  I believe this is something that can be done to improve countless Thoroughbred's performance both on and of the racetrack.

Download a version of this primer on Art's shoeing technique.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Never fight unless you want to make a better warrior.....

 I started "Soul" free jumping last week.  Well we're not free jumping yet, she's going through the free jump lane with poles on the ground and jumping them.  The poles are still a source of great excitement, so she won't get a real jump until she accepts that they are just poles on the ground, not flaming hoops of fire.  Each trip through she is less impressed with cantering down the lane.  When she starts trotting, I'll show her a cross rail.  I am sure she's going to like this part of the training. 
Like all Thoroughbreds, she hates longeing, but is beginning to accept the fact that it is a daily chore.  I keep telling her, "eventually you'll like this", but thus far, she is not convinced.  Like all Diva's she is still arguing with me over who the boss is going to be today.  It is I, and she accepts that after a few "tests", but she still doesn't like it. 
When I ride her, she is very good to mount, but is still very braced in her body at the trot.  She is letting go a bit at the walk.  This is fairly normal at this stage, but she is more braced than most horses.  I attribute that to temperament.  All racehorses begin show training in this state.  It is because while at the track they are not encouraged to be supple laterally or horizontally.  A straight body is a fast body.  I am slowly working in suppling exercises, but this is a very difficult thing especially for an older racehorse so it's going to be baby steps to "unlock" her body.  I don't want her to begin to fight this:  a) she'll win and b) she'll begin to develop resistance to the training - and the goal is for her to "let go" of the tension. 
My overall opinion on her at this point is that she is a talented athlete, but she is tough.  The athletic part is a great thing because I do not think she will ever be suitable for an amateur rider.  She's going to need a professional level rider, so she needs to display professional level skills.  She will likely be a jumper - they are expected to be a little more "up" than Eventers or Dressage horses.  With her super uphill build and athleticism, she shows promise for the upper levels. 
Tiny increments of progress are the goal.  If I push her too hard, she will fight.  Even if I win the fight, she will become a better warrior.  I need her to understand that the human rider is now a partner, not a passenger.  Jockeys and exercise riders stay out of the way of the racehorse.  Those jocks who stay out of the way the best are the best jocks.  Shoemaker once said something to the effect, I can't make them faster than they are, but I can make them slower. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blessed Soul, Some Thoughts on Transitioning "Good" Racehorses

 Blessed Soul recently retired from racing at the age of 7 with earnings of $108,710 in 13 starts, averaging $8,362 per start.  That's a good racehorse.
Transitioning from racing to a new career can be more difficult for the good racehorses because they have an independent and strong sense of self.  They are encouraged and allowed to be dominant with humans as long as they aren't dangerous.  Aggressiveness is viewed as a positive quality. 
Then, suddenly, one day the humans begin to ask them to submit to their desires.  Have impeccable manners and be considerate at all times.  As racehorses we don't wish to dominate them. 
When I first began working to transition horses from racing to show/pleasure I found this kind of work suffocating.  I had been an exercise rider for 30 years and now I felt like I was micro managing the horse.  "Gees, do you ever leave them alone?"  I know how Blessed Soul must feel.  In the long run, once she realizes her only job is to do as the human asks, her life becomes much easier.  Most horses begin to relax and enjoy life like never before.  The transition period is the hardest because the horse who has always known she was a racehorse, now questions - "Who am I?" 
The good news is good racehorses are great and proven athletes, or they couldn't have accomplished what they did.
I know a little bit about second careers.  I was a pretty good exercise rider for about 25 years.  When I began to work with the show horses I had to go back to being a beginner.  I had to start over - at the age of 45!  That's not the greatest feeling when just a little while ago you were great at your craft.  Now you are a green bean.  Sure you know some of the stuff, but you are also stuck in your ways and need to "rewire" a lot of the reactions and muscle memory that served you so well during your racing career.
It's worth it though.  When the thought crosses my mind of how much better a show rider I would be right now if I had pursued that 35 years ago rather than becoming an exercise rider, I remind myself that every one of those countless horses I galloped taught me something I use every day.  Maybe I wouldn't be as good as I am right now if I had pursued only showing.
We'll never know because I did what I did.  I believe that much of what the seasoned racehorse knows is incredibly useful to the show trainer, just as the skills I developed are incredibly useful, once transformed to translated for show/pleasure purposes.  You just have to train the horse you have - the individual, rather than training the horse you want him to be or worse, the last horse you worked with. 
See him for who he is and begin there - you might be surprised what will happen if you give him a chance to "rewire" his muscle memory and problem solving skills as you put new "tools" in his "tool bag".