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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Saturday, January 23, 2010

An Exercise in New Year's Resolutions

I did in fact go back and delete my last post after having second thoughts about it. I know it's been requested of me to write about my awesome job but that's not what this blog is about, and shouldn't be. I certainly did not mean to gossip about my boarders by sharing that last story.... it really just was too funny and I wanted to spread a little joking cheer. In retrospect, not particularly appropriate of me! Won't happen again. If you want to know about the hijinks that ensure while trying to keep 31 horses, 23 owners, 2 cats, 4 trainers, and 4 staff members happy all at the same time, well... you'll just have to get to know me personally!

In other news, I've been doing my best to integrate my New Year's resolutions into my daily life. These are all, for the most part, life changes versus one-time events, so I've been playing with them and doing my best to make my life and my world a better place. As a refresher, here are my 2010 resolutions/goals:

Travel as much as I can – Madagascar/Egypt/? At the end of the year
Complete the 100 Pushups/200 Situps/25 Pullups/200 Squats challenges
Learn how to run barefoot and compete in a 5k barefoot (maybe!)
Do yoga once (or twice) every week
Eat healthier – buy fresh food every week and learn to MAKE IT
Save money for other things than the necessary – shows, and breeding next year
During the winter, ski every Wednesday that weather allows
Complete Metro's scrapbook
Have a poem published
Finish Patrick painting

Well, so far I've done my very best to ski every week, but it's quite a bit harder than expected. Unfortunately for me, Connecticut is on the temperate end of New England, so while my sister is up skiing in Vermont and Maine all weekend every weekend, I struggle on my one day off to get out to our tiny local hills. I went skiing two Wednesdays ago and the hill I went to SUCKED! The snow was terrible, there were only two chairlifts open, and I got SCREAMED at by some maniac chairlift operator when I didn't put the bar on the chairlift down. (Seriously? Is that a rule now? I thought it was a suggestion.) Last week I wanted to go on Wednesday, but I didn't actually have a day off last week, so that didn't work. This week, I've had to contend with the fact that it's been 40+ degrees all week, so ALL the snow is gone. Can't exactly ski with no snow! I HAVE done yoga every week though, which is great. We have a very nice small studio in town that has classes every evening, and while I was doing a very intense hotroom Vinyasa class, I also tried a few Naam classes with my roommate, just because it's always more fun to exercise with a friend. Our Naam class is.... not like any Naam yoga I've ever known. We do lots of chanting, obviously, but we don't really do much in the way of actual yoga poses. Lots of fitness stuff, but it's just not... yoga. It's a bit weird, but actually quite tiring, so that's good. On the barefoot running front, I've been researching a bit and I do agree that I want to get a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. A lot of barefoot enthusiasts say that getting a transition shoe is not ideal if you're going to run fully barefoot, but I'm not quite sure that I DO want to get to that point just yet. It's the same idea as getting hoof boots in my mind. Movement is critical to creating the bare foot that you want, and if you have a hoof in transition, forcing the horse to hobble painfully over rocks just isn't fair. That foot will come in time, but you need to help it get there. Same with barefoot running. If I'm hobbling over rocks with my pathetic feet that have been wearing shoes since I could first walk, I'm not going to get very far am I? My feet need to strengthen, and I need help getting there.

An interesting comparison: here are some healthy bare human feet versus unhealthy "shod" human feet, and healthy bare hooves versus unhealthy shod hooves.


Don't be fooled by the width of the shod foot. That is a hoof plagued with paper-thin, pancake-flat soles, serious flares, and a very contracted heel. Nothing at all like the rock-cruncher on the left.
As you can see by both the human and horse examples, the foot will adapt to compensate for improper footwear, and will also adapt to a more natural lifestyle if given the opportunity. To what extent it will adapt is dependent on everything - environment, exercise, diet, proper trim, genetics, etc. But every foot can change in some way, shape or form.

EDIT: I forgot to add in one more thing, and it's very important, maybe the most important part of the whole post. It is quite clear to me that if you were to take the unhealthy "shod" foot in that picture and set it to walking around barefoot, aside from the obvious pain factor from those weak, uncalloused soles, that foot will never turn into the big wide one pictured. Why? Because more likely than not, that unhealthy foot has been crammed into shoes ever since it was young. It's similar to the very outdated foot binding custom: a young, growing foot will become permanently deformed if forced into something unnatural. Countless doctors agree that improper footwear for children can be exceptionally damaging and unhealthy. And now here's a thought: what about that idea of the tiny, boxy Quarter Horse foot? The eternally crappy Thoroughbred foot? Quite obviously, genetics DOES play a part in this, but you don't see crappy feet in ALL QHs or TBs. You DO see a lot of crappy feet in OTTBs and QHs who come from young sport backgrounds. Those TBs get shod for the track when they are long yearlings. Those halter, western pleasure and other young western sport type QHs get shod when they are weanlings, and I've heard it's desirable to encourage a horse to put out the tiny, upright boxes that seem to plague our QHs today. I certainly hope that's not the real case. Regardless, those young feet are not done growing, and do they get the chance to develop a thick digital cushion, a dinosaur hide frog, thick walls, and a tough sole callous? No they do not. If you have a completely outstanding farrier, the damage probably won't be huge. But unless your farrier is God, it's quite possible that the fast growth of young hooves will quickly outgrow their shoes - but be unable to adjust for their size. They'll be stuck the way they are. Actually, Bowker did a study on this, dissecting hooves that had been kept bare and hooves that had been shod at a young age, and he found that the internal structures of the feet shod at a young age were essentially "frozen" in a state of immaturity - they were permanently stunted. (If anyone has a link to that study, let me know so I can put it up here.) This is why I think a lot of people won't - or even just can't - take their horses barefoot and expect them to be able to perform. Those feet were deformed when they were still growing, and never had the chance to develop what they needed to make it in the natural world. A majorly "deformed" foot taken bare will change for the better if given the opportunity, I assure you. But will it ever really be fully barefoot and sound and comfortable on all types of terrain in all situations? Maybe! But, maybe not. I wish we could take two cloned TBs, put them in the exact same diet, exercise, and turnout program, and shoe the one and leave the second barefoot, just to see what would happen. THAT would be an interesting study.

I digress. Anyway.

In this miserable, crappy Connecticut winter weather, I am really looking forward to trying on a pair of VFFs and am dreaming of a warmer, drier springtime.


As for Gogo, it's becoming quite clear that I've likely bitten off way more than I can chew financially for the upcoming season! Sure I want to do Holsteiner approvals in the fall and all the bigger events and the AECs and some dressage shows and some jumper shows and a competitive trail ride and hunter trials and hunter paces and OH MAN! that is a lot of stuff. Toooooo much stuff. WAY too much stuff. If I really want to breed her next year, I need to budget for it, and that means not being ridiculously extravagant this year. I certainly am bringing in three times the money that I was (not that that's a ton, but hey, it's a start), but that doesn't mean I can throw money wherever I want it. So, I'm going through my show schedule and scaling back to just include the most important things. The schedule is not complete yet - this is just events and a couple possible schooling dressage shows - but I am not planning to do any competitive trail rides, jumper shows or too many other things. Holsteiner approvals may not happen this year either... it's so many hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

April 18: Mount Holyoke Schooling Dressage Show (CT) First 4, Second 1
May 1: Once Again Farm Schooling Dressage Show (CT) First 4, Second 1

May 29: Mystic Valley Hunt Club HT (CT) (Novice)
June 25 - 27: Groton House II HT (MA) (Training)
July 10 - 11: ENDYCTA/Old Chatham (NY) (Training)
July 24 - 25: Fitch's Corner HT (NY) (Training)
August 5 - 8: Millbrook HT (NY) (Training)
August 14 - 15: GMHA HT (VT) (Training)
September 09 – 12: American Eventing Championships (GA) (Training)
October 2 - 3: University of New Hampshire HT (NH)
October/November: Cap in with Wentworth/Tanheath
October: New England Hunter Trials (Novice)
November 12-14: 2010 Equine Affaire Versatile Horse & Rider Competition

Italicised are the possibilities that I haven't decided on yet. Not included here are any potential hunter paces I want to do. There are TONS to choose from, so I haven't decided yet which I'd like to do. I am happy to report I have a whole slew of eager boarders who would love to join me in these endeavors, so I will have riding buddies, partners and support! Hooray!

As for the events - the real meat of the season - I am planning on starting the season with Mystic's very easy Novice, just as a pipe opener. If all goes according to plan, I do want to make Groton House our first Training. I considered doing the spring GMHA at Training, but it's in early June, and I just don't think we'll be ready by then. So we'll do what we did last year with Groton House - cross our fingers and hope that we'll get in!

Really what I'd like to do is one of those schooling dressage shows just to get her off the property, then go into the eventing season strong. Whether or not I will do Old Chatham entirly depends on how she feels, and how she does at Groton House. Once again, my brain has exploded seeing that every other level has their Area Championships in the fall.... but the level I want to show at? Yep, gotta be held at a spooky venue in JULY! So quite possibly, I will not be attending Areas this year. It just depends on, well, everything.

Gogo is feeling good, strong, and sound under saddle. One of our boarders commented yesterday on how perfectly even she looks behind, much to my happiness. She also mentioned while watching her from behind that she could also tell her evenness from just how evenly her tail waved back and forth while she was trotting. Love that!

Gogo would also like to say that she is REALLY looking forward to springtime and galloping again:

That's a "PLEASE!" face if I ever saw one!


Funder said...

Really interesting pics with the "unshod" and "normal" human feet! I wonder if that's why so many people walk like ducks, with their feet pointed out instead of straight ahead? I have always worn shoes that fit my big wide feet, and mine look pretty good - no squashed toes.

Glad you're doing yoga! How is the cooking and eating real food thing coming?

Dressager said...

I walk barefoot so much, except when I'm at school or the barn (I would say public but I really don't go see movies or shopping all that much anymore, call me antisocial but my horse is so much more fun than most others lol) and I have lots of calluses. I'm probably the only girl at school who doesn't wear heels, let alone be able to balance in them without looking like a newborn giraffe.

Calluses are not attractive sure, but I love the fact I can run outside to get something without having to throw on shoes or take the dogs for a walk around the block bare. It feels so much more natural. I've got my tetanus shots, so I feel pretty safe!

That does explain why a lot of people walk with duck feet! It can even affect your spine if you wear crazy shoes (heels, improper fitting flats, etc.) a lot! How crazy is that?

Greta has the fattest frogs and toughest soles out of our trainer's group of riders. Probably because she's the only one unshod haha. And because she just got her shoes off in May, they'll get tougher.

Yeah... that was a run-on.

Good luck to you and Gogo this season! That schedule looks so exciting! Hopefully you'll kick butt all the way at the AECs this year!

Oh, as for awesomely healthy food, try Spaghetti Squash. It's a bit more expensive than actual spaghetti but it is soooo much more healthier. Add a pinch of garlic and a small glob of butter and it tastes awesome. And whole wheat spaghetti tastes really good too.

Val said...

The human foot comparison is jaw-dropping. I did not realize that feet could be that different. I do cringe at many womens' shoes for sale, especially the ones with the pointy, triangular toe. Seriously, is anyone's foot that shape? My feet scream if I wear anything other than flats with a nice rounded toe. I will give up fashion for the ability to wiggle my toes anyday!

Andrea said...

Edited to add one more point I forgot about foal/child feet and shoes!

Kelly said...

I think that the decline of foot health is something substantial. I think most of this has to deal with fashion, the expense of shoes, lack of education about bio-mech and the death of the local shoe store.

I didn't know what I was doing to my feet until I started to run about five years ago, and walk twice as much at work now.

I also wasn't measured properly for shoes in about 8 years. I assumed a size 8.5 general fit would do the job consistently. I was wearing out pairs in three months and my hip/back development was uneven.

Until I hit the shoe shop, had them watch me walk, seriously discuss shoe fit I didn't feel comfortable on my own feet. Subsequently, I toppled the mile time in my runs.

While I don't necessarily agree with barefoot, I agree that there needs to be a change in thought how we handle feet.

Union Square said...

If you walk barefoot in Florida you are beset upon by fire ants and various other nasty poisonous insects (and, in Ocala, stinging nettle), so it isn't really an option here - another good reason to move back to New York, in my opinion. Still working on that list.

I buy and sell racehorses and let me assure you, they go into shoes at WEANLING sales.

A spring foal, for sale at a Fall Mixed Sale, wearing beautiful sparkling little racing plates, is commonplace. I have seen some real disasters go through the walking ring at OBS, with their little toes boxed off (a sure sign that they were just pulled out of pasture and trimmed for the time, scraping all the summer mud flare off at once.)

I have two interesting half-sibling cases - one was trimmed regularly (by me, with a wild horse trim) from 3 months on. Her feet are amazing and if her trainers are wise they will never have to shoe her.

She's probably shod already, jogging around a training track this morning, but what can you do. . .

Anyway, her half-brother was wild and I gave him time to come around to being handled without panicking. I decided to let his feet go until I could handle him as gently as he deserved, and not induce a lifelong terror of farrier work. As a result, his feet were allowed to flare. He is now, at 9 months, nice to handle and trim, and the flare has been easy to fix, but I have noticed that his walls are a little thinner and more prone to crack than his sister's concrete hooves.

Woops that's a novel. There was more to your post that I wanted to comment on, too! Maybe later :)

Natalie Keller Reinert
Retired Racehorse Blog
Union Square Stables

Funder said...

Don't discount the hoof's ability to heal in some horses. Dixie was probably shod at 18-24 months, and she is totally sound at the trot (or rack) on gravel now. It's completely amazing, but it does happen sometimes.

Andrea said...

That's what I like to hear Funder! Success stories so people know not to knock it til they tried it!

Andrea said...

I changed that sentence a little bit - makes better sense now. I too have seen the horrible footed OTTB spring back to life with brand new beautiful rock crunching feet, but it doesn't always happen that way.

Frizzle said...

Here ya go --

And here's another Bowker paper --

And this is a summary of a Bowker clinic --

I've been spending the last few months studying barefoot trimming, as I have a 5 year old TB who came to me barefoot. I've had a complete paradigm sgift in the way I view horse hooves.


Ambivalent Academic said...

Hey Andrea - A peer-reviewed paper just came out in Nature on the biomechanics of barefoot v. shod human runners. It's not in print yet but it will be next week. I was going to send you the PDF but I can't seem to find your email addy. I don't want to put mine here for fear of the spammers but you can find it on my blog - shoot me a message if you want the paper and I'll pass it on.

Akhal-Eventer said...

Great post! I heard the same NPR program, thought about the correlations w/ barefoot horses, saw your post, and then got an email from a friend with a link to an article about a barefoot runner. . .all in the same day! I am thinking about getting some of those cool kicks! I am a runner and have the usual knee pain half-way through my run, shin splints that burn like mad, etc. I've always accepted it as part of the deal. But now I'm wondering why I never thought people could go barefoot, too. . .I guess because our feet seem so wimpy. But then again, there are runners in places like Kenya that are beating Olympic marathon time records by MINUTES and have never worn a pair of shoes in their lives!