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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Friday, January 9, 2009

Riding the Shod (and Previously Foundered) Horse

The other day, I had the pleasure of getting on one of the client's mares, a warmblood of some sort who is confirmed at 4th level but who spends most of her time trucking her novice mother around in a very sweet and patient way. This mare has a whole slew of problems - she's on Pergolide ("well we're not really sure why but she's not lame so we're not going to take her off it"), Safe-Choice feed ("well she can't have any large amounts of carbs"), isn't allowed treats of any sort (same reason), and has quite a fancy shoeing job, complete with pads and Natural Balance shoes, because at some point in the past she foundered for some reason. Personally, I think her feet look kind of like remedied shit, but apparently they shelled out hundreds and hundreds of dollars to have this very special shoe job in conjunction with radiographs and a vet opinion and everything. Her frog almost reaches her toe in a very long, narrow point, and her sole is almost convex, protruding beyond her frog. First thing on this mare that I noticed was how seriously stilted her gait felt - she jabs the ground quite hard with both front feet, and I'm not going to say it was teeth jarring, but you could feel how there was absolutely no shock absorption there. You could feel that her feet hurt. She was a wonderful, lovely ride, but wow, all three gaits.... a bit jarring, and I felt very bad for her. She is very well trained, and perhaps I will get to sit on her again at some point and do some fancier things (we did some really awesome leg yields.... whoop de do), but oye, those feet. And it's obvious that somebody very skilled worked on those feet too.

Gogo, on the other hand, feels like Rena's complete opposite, and it was no more obvious than on our hacks out yesterday and today. Today's ride was on pavement the whole time (the rest of the WORLD is covered in about three inches of ice, NOT kidding), and the sun was gorgeous and bright. Everything was beautiful, everything was glistening, and every fiber of Gogo's being felt like it was on fire with the sheer joy of just being outside. It was 16 degrees when we set out at 9AM, and as we climbed higher into the hills, the wind became wilder and icier. Still Gogo steamed on, the perfect, well-oiled machine. Her body felt so remarkably pain-free compared to Rena's. Rena felt so stuck... her energy flow was so blocked due to her achey feet. Not Gogo. Her energy recycles itself through her whole body, and she maintains her own joyful tempo, never speeding or slowing, just marching, marching on. Two hours into our walk, she was still marching at the same speed, not a hint of tiredness about her. Her legs swung in their own rhythmic arcs, each setting and lifting like a piston, landing hard and absorbing that energy all the way up through the hoof capsule, the tendons and ligaments in her lower leg, the muscles in her upper limb, the joints where everything articulates in her entire body.... the way the equine machine is designed to work. It was almost like her feet were drawing their own source of energy from the pavement. They just feel so free, so uninhibited by iron and poor farrier jobs and pain.

I tell everybody my horse has five hearts instead of one. One is in her chest, and four of them are in her hooves, pumping blood back up through her entire body, increasing her stamina and strength, bringing nutrients and oxygen to every last bit of tissue she has easily and efficiently. Her chest heart doesn't have to work so hard because her unfettered feet are sharing the load, so her recovery rates are quick, her stamina is unparalleled, and her body is never sore or tired. Everything in nature works in a perfect circle when it is in harmony, and the body is a beautiful example of this. From the air molecule that enters the airway and travels throughout the entire body until it can be exhaled, to the blood cell that circles its way from the heart to the far reaches of the body and back again, the energy flows within itself and sustains itself. Dressage in its perfect form is also this same circle - the rider creates the energy within the horse, and the horse sustains it in a big circle, starting from the hindquarters. The thrust begins there, where it then travels over the back and through the rider's relaxed and supportive contact, out to the horse's mouth where it is then captured and redirected back to the horse's hindquarters, where it will then continue the circle.
This, my friends, is why I don't understand why people insist dressage horse need to be shod. A lot of dressage horses I see are SO blocked in so many ways, be it rider issues, saddle issues, or feet issues, and as soon as a rider is crooked, a saddle is pinching, a bit doesn't fit, or there are ouchy feet, the flow of energy is broken, and the circle collapses. The truly free-moving horse is a wonder to behold.

Riding the performance barefoot horse is like nothing else. She is so quick and light on her feet, so nimble and agile and supple and smooth. She jumps so high and so easily, and lands so softly and with such shock absorption and traction. Her feet hold the ground so well. She springs off the grass, off the dirt, off the pavement, off the rocks like she has wings. She absorbs everything so smoothly, so easily. Every movement is easy, every moment is a joy. She moves out, she comes back, she never fatigues and never has muscle tiredness the next day. Her recovery rates are astronomical, and her eyes are always bright.

Here's one person who is never going back to shoes. Not after this mare. Not after what I've felt while riding her.

It's really like nothing else I've ever ridden in my life.


dp said...

After Tonka's (so far) successful rehabilitation I would never ever ever considering shoeing a foundered horse. Ever. I think people do it because it is advertised as a quick fix, but there is no quick fix for founder -- only careful management, time and patience. After 12 months of one-step-forward and two-steps-back in terms of his movement and his pain we are finally seeing a horse who can trot big and sound on pavement. I expect that he will be a new fellow in another year.

Andrea said...

I bet he will! I've never directly been involved with a founder rehab of any sort.... I'm interested to get up close and personal at some point so I can really see the changes made. It's so much more than just trimming or shoeing, and people just don't seem to get that.

Funder said...

What a lovely post, Andrea :)

I'm thankful that I've never had to deal with a metabolic founder, and I hope I never have to! Padded/stacked gaited horses are mechanically foundered, but correcting that is a piece of cake compared to metabolic founder.

dp said...

That should have been two-steps-forward and one-step-back, but you catch my drift.

And yes, metabolic founder is a disease of the whole horse, not a disease of the hoof. People just don't get it.