Episode 59 // The Hoof's Impact On Behavior: A Conversation With Alicia Harlov
In this episode I am joined by Alicia Harlov of The Humble Hoof, for a discussion about the
relationship between hooves and behavior.
Alicia Harlov is a full time hoof care
provider on the North Shore of Massachusetts, and a member of Progressive Hoofcare Practitioners. She also creates The Humble Hoof podcast, where she interviews equine professionals about factors that affect hoof health. She loves educating owners on how to grow the healthiest hoof possible and believes that getting a horse sound is often a matter of finding the right pieces to the puzzle.
We talked about how hoof pain can impact behavior, the importance of open communication with our hoof care providers, preparing our horses for the farrier, and so much more!
[00:00:00] Welcome to season four of the willing equine podcast, the podcast, where we chat about all things, horses and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.
[00:00:21] Hey guys, welcome back to another TWE podcast episode. Today, have a very special guest to introduce you guys to, Alicia Harlov of the Humble Hoof. Alicia Harlov is a full time hoof care provider on the north shore of Massachusetts and a member of Progressive Hoofcare Practitioners. She also creates the Humble Hoof podcast where she interviews equine professionals about factors that affect health health. She loves educating owners on how to grow the healthiest hoof possible and believes that getting a horse sound is often a matter of finding the right pieces to the puzzle.
[00:00:54] All right. Thanks Alicia for joining us today would you mind starting us off by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about you and what you do and what your specialty is?
[00:01:04] Sure. Yeah. So as you said, my name's Alicia Harlov. I actually was a public school teacher for the first 10 years of my professional career. And I had a horse that had lameness issues. He was diagnosed with navicular disease and I had heard from the vet that I basically had to, you know, put him in corrective shoeing, put him on NSAIDs, possibly look into injections and that he would just get worse until he had to be euthanized. And I'm a fairly stubborn person. So I decided I was going to see if there was anything else I could do for him. And that basically culminated in me changing my entire career, leaving teaching and becoming a hoofcare provider where I tend to focus on rehabilitating hoof-based lamenesses, whether that's laminitis, founder, navicular and getting those horses to grow the healthiest hoof possible for them and getting them to move comfortably, ideally get back into work or do whatever the only owner wants to do with them by addressing a lot of other factors, not just, you know, what I'm taking off the bottom of the foot. Yeah.
[00:02:11] And do you consider, I mean, you're a farrier, would you, do you do any metal shoes or you mostly do barefoot trimming? Could you explain a little bit more about your approach and like how you go about doing that?
[00:02:23] Sure. Yeah. So I don't work with any metal. I do some glue on composite shooing, which basically is a more flexible option for protection on the bottom of the foot. But I would say that 90% of what I do is barefoot trimming or fitting a horse for boots and pads for extra comfort and protection. And basically the way that I can get a horse most comfortable barefoot is involving the owner as much as possible and addressing factors that the owner can change for the horse to get that horse more comfortable, whether that's their diet or their environment or watching their movement and seeing where else some issues might be coming from. Because really, I mean, a hoof care provider sees a horse, you know, what, 10 times a year where the owner might see the horse every day. So I want to make sure the owner is, you know, knowledgeable in what they can do to gain a healthier foot.
[00:03:19] That's really great. I know from my personal experience that I was having some chronic thrush issues with my horses and I mean, I was doing everything right. And it was really frustrating me, especially because I don't see my horses every day. So, you know, a lot of the treatments for thrush where like you put this on every day or like twice a day or something like that, I'm like, I can't do that. But then it turned out that it was actually a diet based issue. My iron and my copper and zinc were all out of whack and out of balance. And by changing the, that balance and getting the ratios right, I saw all my thrush issues went away within, it was probably 60 days or something. I didn't have any more thrush and I've barely had any since then. Now, obviously. The horse is unique and every diet is unique and everything. I'm not saying that's the only answer to thrush, but for my particular horses, in my particular case, I definitely saw that that was just one experience that I had where diet had such a huge impact on what appeared to be a hoof issue was actually a diet issue. And that's just one example of so many that I have and so I love that you bring that up about the diet.
[00:04:27] Oh yeah, absolutely. I'd say the diet is probably, you know, 90% of hoof issues and people just don't realize it because, you know, we're we feed what we've always fed kind of thing.
[00:04:39] =Yeah. And we tend to just, you know, go with whatever the barn is, feeding, which I realized that some people are kind of stuck with what is provided in their area and such. I just remember growing. Like I had horses. I had horses for so many years before I independently kept horses. So I like owned them, but the barn really managed them and it's whatever they fed. Like people would ask me, what do you feed your horses? I don't know. What's the barn feeds them. And it's been more as an adult horse owner and caregiver that I've learned a lot more about nutrition and I've been very detailed about that. Like I send off my hay for analysis and I have a nutritional consultant come in and analyze that and look at that and then help me create like a custom mineral balancer for my hay specifically. And just anyway, it's doesn't sound, it's not as hard as it sounds, like it was actually pretty easy to do and not very expensive. So I highly recommend that to anybody that is interested, but that's just one area that has such an big impact on the feet and also in behavior, which we're going to dive into soon as well. But what are some, I'm curious, what are some other areas like big areas? Like if you were going to talk to horse owners as a general group, what are some of the primary areas you have them start to look at first?
[00:05:51] So we've got diet. What are some other ones. I would say the two biggest factors, the one we already talked about is diet. And then after that, I would say movement in my area, I'm in the Northeast of the United States and a lot of horses are in stalls. I mean, some horses are in stalls 16 hours a day or more, and that has a huge impact on their hoof health. Cause it's like us, like if we, you know, are sitting around all day, we're our muscles and our tissues are going to atrophy. The hoof is a structure that needs stimulation to gain strength, just like other organisms. So that hoof, the more it moves over varried terrain, the stronger it's going to get and coupling with that environment is really important.
[00:06:33] Like if they're standing in dirty paddocks and I don't mean mud, I think that mud can actually be kind of a good stimulation if it's packed into the foot and it's not, you know, filled with manure and urine. It's when you get that nasty, those nasty microbes that they can eat away at the hoof tissue. You know, there are so many factors that affect hoof of balance and comfort. Everything from their saddle fit can affect their movement, which affects how the feet were or their teeth, their, you know, how comfortable they are in their mouth can affect their entire body bodywork throughout their body, their confirmation. There's so many things that we can look at and I think it's a disservice to the horse to just look at the hoof when there's so many factors that affect how that hoof is growing and how the horse is moving. And that's partially what I try to get owner education on it. It's hard to get into one podcast interview because there's just so many things that we could talk about that can affect the feet.
[00:07:32] For sure. And it's all a big cycle too, because I was actually just talking to somebody about this, where I have a horse that she's high low. So one foot is like really high in the heel and the foot is really high and tight. It's not a club foot, but it's just high. And then the other one's really low and flat. And so it's very circular in the way that it's impacting her movement and her body, but that her body and her movement are impacting the perpetuation of the high low, and then it just keeps going round and round and round, and so you have to jump in there and start working on both sides of the equation to start to see a huge change going forward. And, you know, obviously confirmation comes into play and there's only, you know, you can't just totally switch the feet that are on the horse or the confirmation of the horse. You know, they're born a certain way too, but that's just another example of how it is so, like you said, so integrated, it's all connected and there's not just hoof problems and there's not just movement problems and there's not just saddle fit problems.
[00:08:30] It's all connected. And I love that. And even, I think people don't even think about the dental impact. Like the feet can impact the teeth and the teeth can impact the feet and also the rest of the body. So it's such a cool way, but also can be so overwhelming how connected to everything and this is why having a team, your care provider team for your horse and have all those professionals on board is so important.
[00:08:53] Yeah, absolutely. And it can be a rabbit hole, honestly.
[00:08:56] Very cool. Well, I would love to ask you about. Some of the common behavioral symptoms you have seen for your clients' horses that have been directly linked to hoof pain or balance issues. And so I'll give you an example of kind of what I'm thinking of. And this is one of the reasons I started thinking about reaching out to you and I've talked to my trimmer about this too. I have a client's horse where we were seeing a lot of aggression and reactivity and to the point where the horse was physically attacking people. And it's it it presented as a behavioral problem, meaning that everybody looked at it as like, something's wrong with the horse's training. We need to fix this training wise, but the longer I worked with her, well, actually it became pretty obvious right away. Cause you can just take one, look at her feet and kind of see what was going on. But she was in a lot of pain on her feet. Her feet were very flat. She has very thin soles and she could barely move on them. And so she was very sensitive and sore as she was walking around. So when I started looking at that in combination of when her reactivity was. Meaning the time of day and like the environment, the situation, most of her reactivity started happening when she didn't want to move, but she was feeling threatened, but she didn't want to move because her feet hurt. So she was trying to prevent, like she was trying to change the situation so that she didn't have to move, but also protect herself. So instead of having a flight response, so like moving away or fleeing, like most horses will usually opt for initially, she was very. incapable of doing that because of the amount of pain that were in her feet. So instead she would opt for a fight response. So defending herself physically, and it came across as aggression and behavioral issues. And some people might even go down the road of like disrespect and dominance and all that. And it wasn't any of those. It was purely coming from her foot pain and how her feet were really hurting her. And so this was a behavioral fallout kind of from that pain in her feet. And so we've been working on her feet. We have changed her diet. We've changed her trims. She's on a shorter trim cycle. Now she has a new farrier, new trimmer, and we've been working on the end. Gradually it's getting better. Of course, with hoof stuff, it takes long time to see that full transformation, but her behavior has improved dramatically since improving her hoof care. And so I'm curious if you have any examples or cases, you know, obviously you don't need to name names or anything, but just that kind of come to mind or some different behaviors that maybe my listeners could watch out for that may be linked to the hoof problem.
[00:11:38] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, before we even look at hoof appointments or farrier apartments and the behavior there, which I do have examples of too, when it comes to just seeing your horse in the barn and interacting with your horse, or even, you know, watching your horse in turnout. If I see a horse that's in a herd and it's the horse that tends to walk when the other horses are trotting or the horse is trotting when the other horses are cantering or the horse who seems lazy or the horse who, you know, might be hesitant when you're riding or might, you know, be a kick ride where you were owners are saying like, oh, I just, you know, it's like, it's like riding a tube of toothpaste. I have to squeeze them all the time. These are horses that I in my first thought, and obviously this is a little bit of, you know, because, you know, when you have a hammer, everything's a nail, right. But if people are telling me this, I'm like, oh gosh, like do their feet hurt. Because I so rarely think that horse behavior is It's it's so rare that things like that are behavioral. I should say to me, a lot of times it's pain. If a horse is acting in a way that is aggressive, like you were saying, or in a way where they don't seem motivated to do something that maybe they liked to do before, I assume that there's some kind of pain going on and I want to give them the benefit of the doubt with that when it comes to hoofcare. If I see a horse that won't pick up its feet or is difficult with picking up its feet. I think a lot of owners assume their horse is quote, unquote being bad or their horse is just not listening or not willing to do it. I assume if a horse won't pick up its feet when I ask and it has, you know, it knows what I expect of them and it's been trained in the past to pick up its feet, I assume they don't want to put all of their weight on that opposing foot. So if I go to pick up the left front and the horse is hesitant, I assume maybe their right front hurts. Maybe they don't want to stand on their right front foot. And you know, my response to that is usually to grab like a Surefoot pad or some kind of pad to put on the other foot. If I put a pad under the other foot and they pick up that left front right away, then we can rule that, you know, it's probably pain something going on in that hoof that's causing them to be unwilling to pick it up. A lot of times when, you know, you go to pick up a hind foot. And they're like if a horse wants to kick out at first or something where we feel our first instinct is, oh, this horse is dangerous. After I get past that whole, you know, my own preservation instinct, I assume that that horse has some pain somewhere. Maybe there's some hock pain or stifle pain, or there's something in their SI that's bothering them where they don't, their range of motion is limited. I think that a lot of what we see as an unwillingness or, or quote-unquote bad behavior for the farrier, I think is pain-related one example. I was working on a two year old warmblood and she was very large. She was like 16, two or three at just two years old.
[00:14:30] Oh my goodness.
[00:14:31] And yeah. Yeah. And she was, she's a beautiful mare. I mean, she's just really a nice, nice horse and she wasn't inexpensive. She was, she was a bought as a show, worse and will is a very pricey horse. She came right off the trailer and cause she had been shipped. The owner messaged me right away when she got her and she's like, oh, she's so great. And she looks like she has really nice feet, but she won't pick them up for me. And I was like, okay, well she's young. Maybe she doesn't know what you expect of her. You know, they hadn't trained her at all. She had just been halter broke, you know, she didn't have any training otherwise. And. I trimmed her for about a year and every single appointment. I mean, you'd pick up one foot and she would just want to fall on top of you. And she would lean and she would pin her ears and she would, you know, tense up her face and just get very, very anxious about the entire experience. And I was trying to give her breaks and just, you know, let her know that it was okay as a safe place. I wasn't gonna make her feel trapped. I wasn't going to hold her foot for longer than, you know, she wanted. But she kept fighting me and fighting me. And eventually we went down the diagnostic route, you know, the owner finally contacted the vet and this mare, I don't know how, I mean, at like three years old, she had rotation in both front feet. So she had foundered. Yeah. And externally her feet were okay. I mean, she had, she didn't even really have event lines, which is one of my first signs to say like, oh, there's some laminitic issues going on. She had, you know, very wide kind of platter type feet, but part of me was saying like, oh, she has, you know, these flares because I'm not able to bring her foot in as much as I want, because I'm trying to, you know, respect her time in her trim. and I'm not, you know, trying to be selfish and how long I have her foot up, but really that one year that we thought it's because of her training issue, it's because she's a baby, it's because she's big and she's young. And she doesn't know it was all, she had laminitis the whole time, which is so sad to me that we didn't get it earlier.
[00:16:30] That reminds me so much of a warmblood I had a long time ago and long story short, he ended up being euthanized from chronic pain and behavioral stuff. He was self mutilating and it was just really bad. And that's a whole nother podcast episode and he we did a necropsy on him or autopsy, whatever. He had foundered in all four and nobody knew. And he also had DSLD, which also we didn't know. And it was just like, of course this horse was just miserable to be around. He was miserable. He was in so much pain. He was just suffering. And we had no idea. I mean, we had some idea about the other pain, but not about those. So it was just like extra on top of it. And that's just so wild. And also that story that you just shared really reconfirmed my I'm very passionate about getting regular x-rays and just making sure it radiographs, making sure that we're, we're good everything's on track. And that's just, that's a crazy story, especially for such a young horse.
[00:17:31] I know. Yeah, it was, it was really, I mean, we found the answer and the mare is much more comfortable now and she's doing well, but it was just, it was sad to me to realize that, you know, I had this, you know, nagging idea in my brain. Like, I think she's in pain, but the owner was like, no, she's just, you know, she's just young and she's a baby and she can't be in pain.
[00:17:53] Like, look at the way she trots in the paddock. I mean, she, she moved beautifully. And I just, I think that there sometimes horses are more stoic than we give them credit for it.
[00:18:01] 100%. I completely agree. I have. And I just shared about this on one of my previous podcast episodes, but I have a young mare she's six now. And she's had on and off issues with the farrier. She's doing really well. I happen to have a unicorn of a farrier, meaning that she's just super patient and helps and does all the cooperative care stuff with me. And she's just amazing and has excellent barefoot trimming skills and works with founder cases, all that.
[00:18:29] Anyway, she, we had been working really intensely on her training and she's had really good training from a very young age and everything's been going great, but she was still having like on and off issues and it would come and go. And it wasn't always trackable. Like I couldn't figure out what the triggers were for some of her issues and why she was getting sour a little bit about the trim. So her facial expression would change and she would move away. And it was weird because sometimes she would, and sometimes she wouldn't, meaning like some days she was great, just standing there. No problem. And then someday she was having a problem. It turns out though that she has PSSM, which is a muscular condition that really impacts their ability to stand for, of trims because of the pain in their muscles. And that's just another story that goes along with, with what you were saying, where there there's so much that can impact their ability to stand for the trimmer. And it usually is pain-related when they're not able to, with good training, like let's say they've had good training and the owner's been consistent and you've inconsistent and everybody's really patient. If it's continuing to perpetuate, if there's continuing to be issues, usually we need to start looking for pain somewhere in the body, because horses are pretty easygoing and want to do the thing we want them to do usually. And I completely agree that giving them the benefit of the doubt, looking for what's causing their reluctance to stand for the, for the trim for the farrier is where I always recommend going. And, and we go back to pain versus behavioral. Behavior always has a cause. There's always a reason for why the horse is doing what they're doing. Sometimes it's a lack of understanding and a lack of clear training. But a lot of times it's either coming from pain is coming from a past reinforcement history. It's coming from something else in the environment. So it could be stress or anxiety or whatever, you know, their companions too far away, but there's always a cause for the behavior. So it's not just like the, the horse woke up that day and was like, I'm just not going to be good for the farrier today. So there's always a cause. But most of the time, or a lot of the times, I should say, like you mentioned, if it's continuous and it's, despite our best efforts, they're continuing to have issues, it is going to be pain-related. So I love all those stories that you are, those examples that you shared, there's such great and very common, unfortunately, examples of what could be causing the issues.
[00:21:03] Right. And I mean, I tend to probably gravitate more towards pain when it might not always be pain, but I would rather rule that out and know that we have a comfortable horse to start with.
[00:21:13] For sure. I agree. Okay. So questions now is when when we're in a farrier appointment. So let's say I'm a horse owner and caregiver, and I have called you for an appointment. And I want you to come start working with my horses. What are some of the things that you would like to tell me? And then through that, it would be all my listeners of different ways that horse owners could prepare their horses for farrier appointments and some of the behaviors that you would like to see the horses do during the appointment. So, and what's your ideal clients, basically your ideal horse to work on? What does that look like with specifics? Because I know we can say like, okay, they, they're just easy to work on. That's kind of a general in this, in subjective, I'm looking for more, like, how would you like them to stand? Where would you like the, the handler to stand? Would you like there to be a handler there the whole time? How would you like them to prep it before you get there? Do you want the feet washed off, you know, stuff like that. Do you have some things that you could share with us that would help?
[00:22:25] Sure. Yeah. I mean to start, I would say that. In terms of having the owners at the appointment. If the horse I feel is a horse that is comfortable with me and I feel safe working on the horse I'm okay if the owner is not there, I know that's not true for all hoof care providers. But there are horses that I've been trimming for four years or, you know, a handful of years. And I know them really well. And if our schedule doesn't line up, I'm happy to go in and, and trim them without the owner there. Those tend to be horses where, you know, I can take them out of their stall and whether I have them, you know, just ground tying and standing there, or I, you know, put them on cross ties. I put them there and they're happy to stand. They'll pick up a foot when I ask for that foot. Without, you know, Feeling like I have to continually, I don't want to say fight them to get their foot up, but you know, not feeling like they're going to be fighting me with their foot in the air. The horse, it's not yanking its foot back and forth. That's really, really hard on our bodies as hoofcare providers. I can say that if I have a whole bunch of horses in a day where there they're not moving their legs. They're not yanking back and forth. They're not slamming their feet down. I can trim, you know, 15 or more horses in a day. But when I go and see horses, where, and it's not always their fault, sometimes it's pain-related and they just slam their foot down. Cause they can't hold it up anymore. And they've been taught not to give too many warnings in terms of them wanting their foot back because they've been, you know, maybe reprimanded in the past. So if they suddenly suddenly slammed their foot or suddenly yanked their foot and it yanks on my body, I can maybe do five horses before my body feels the same way it does as trimming 15, that don't yank on me. So it's a big, big difference in terms of having their foot in the air. I'm one who is very I don't want to say forgiving, but I'm very understanding when it comes to horses needing breaks. And I'm okay with that because all horses are at different you know, levels of comfort and at different stages of their training, but an ideal horse. I want that foot in the air for about two minutes. And that can be a lot. It can be a lot to ask of them in terms of their attention span. It can be a lot to ask in terms of their comfort. And some, some feet need more time, but I would say that like two minutes gives me plenty of time to look at the foot, assess the balance thing, you know, consider their confirmation, consider their sole depth of where their bars are, how their frogs look and then start to, you know, nip the wall or, or rasp before I want to put the foot down and then consider another tool or watch their movement again. You know, typically when I get to an appointment, the first thing I'll do is watch the horse, you know, walk up and down the aisle before I, before I work on them. So it has to be a horse that's willing to, you know, walk without getting jiggy or trotting or getting upset, you know, a horse it's like led comfortably by me or somebody else. And in terms of their hind legs. Cause I'm, in my mind, I've been thinking of their front feet this whole time. In terms of their hind legs I, I know that some horses have a hard time holding up behind, like, especially if there's arthritis, I don't mind resting a hind foot on the ground and, or on my boot, if it, if the horse is safe to do so and trimming their foot that way. But I am usually unwilling to work on hind feet if the horse's response is to kick out. And that's just because, you know, this is our livelihood and one kick can put us out of work for months. Or, you know, there've been hoofcare providers that have died from, you know, one kick. And I tend to see that more, I've been kicked to the ground by a hind foot. And I know that front feet can be dangerous too, but I tend to be more cautious with hind feet. So. You know, horses that are willing to at least hold their hind feet up behind them without kicking out sideways or, you know, kicking at me. But also an ideal client for me, would be able to pull their hind foot forward sort of under their belly so I can rest it on the hoof jack. And that tends to be where I get the most nervous because when I'm pulling the hind foot forward, I'm in a position where I can't get away quickly if they kick out sideways. And that's the only time I've been hurt is pulling a hind foot forward like that.
[00:26:45] And I guess I, I missed this part with the front feet, but also with the front feet. I prefer at the end of the trim to pull that front foot forward on the hoof jack and finish that hoof from the top. And a lot of horses, I would say at least 25% of the horses, I see really struggle with pulling their front feet forward. And I think some of it is a tension thing. Like their tendons are, their ligaments and their muscles higher up the limb are just too tense and it's uncomfortable for them. Like I said, going back to pain, it's uncomfortable for them to have their foot forward. I think for some horses it's a balance thing. They haven't been asked to pull their front feet forward. And so they're not quite sure what I'm asking of them. They're not sure how to balance with one leg out in front of them. But usually I want that foot pull forward on the stand for 30 seconds. If they stand quietly with their foot forward for 30 seconds, I can usually get done what I need done, but some horses will put their foot forward on the stand and then try to stand on my stand or, you know, like push their foot too far forward and slip off of it or rock back and forth. And all of that requires us as hoofcare providers to then have to compensate in our bodies. Like if a horse is rocking on the stand, I'll usually go with them and continue my trim. But it means that I have to brace myself in different ways, depending on their body. Which again is, you know, it causes fatigue in our muscles, but it also means that there's more of a risk of, of a slip or something where the horse suddenly loses their balance. And then there's a risk of injury there too. So those are the things I can think of off the top of my head, but I'm not sure if there's another if there's something else that you have a question about in terms of where they, their feet should be, or yeah.
[00:28:39] So those are all excellent. I love how you mentioned the amount of time that is necessary to hold the foot for. You know, just the different positions. And I find this was something that I didn't think about enough when I was working with my horses initially with the farrier because I'm thinking, oh, my horse picks up their foot and let's, we cleaned it out and I put it down and it's fine. Everything's good. So they're ready for the farrier? Well, that's not the case because one, you need the foot for a whole lot longer. And two, you put it in way different positions than I'm going to actually clean a foot out. And I'm never going to bring the foot forward to clean it out. That's just ridiculous. And then three is going to be, you're gonna use a whole lot of different tools that I would never use. So like the rasp and Clippers or whatever else you're going to use. The, so those will be unfamiliar and unfamiliar sensations to the horse that they need to be prepared for ahead of time. So that they know what to expect during the farrier appointment. And a lot of horses are really under-prepared for the farrier, but just because the handler, the owner, whoever can pick up the foot and put it back down, we assume they're okay. It's going to be okay for the farrier. And the other thing that I have found even more recently with my own horses my trimmer started resting. So I'm trying to figure out how to visually explain the, explain so you can visualize it. I'm sure you do this too, where you kind of lower the leg part of the way, and you're holding it more by like the cannon bone than the fetlock to let the foot tip down. So you can look at the balance from the underneath part. Well, we don't ever hold their feet like that to clean them out. So they're kind of weirded out. They're like, are you putting my foot down or are you holding in? And so a lot of them will just throw their foot down when you do that, because they assume that that means you're done. And so we need to as trainers and caregivers, we need to prepare our horses for all of those different positions. So I always recommend to people to watch a farrier work. So watch them, watch their rhythm, watch all the different positions they put the horse in, even video them. Obviously ask permission first and so that you can go back and analyze, okay, my horse is going to need to be able to do this particular behavior for this amount of time. And I need to train that ahead of time. There's, there's so many different things you guys do in so many different positions that we never do is just general care. And so then what ends up happening is the horses one don't get enough training ahead of time. And then two, the only, it only ever happens every you know, at most, like I have a couple horses on a three-week trim cycle, but most horses it's more like five to six. So then they get to practice it once every five to six weeks. Well, that's not enough to keep up the, either the muscle memory or get enough practice or to be comfortable with it. It's just not enough. So we need to be doing it in between appointments as well. But going back to that time thing, that's super important too, because again, duration, I don't ever usually hold, or I don't usually hold a foot for two minutes straight unless I'm medicating it for some reason. So again, we need to practice that before our farrier appointments.
[00:31:34] Right. Yeah. And there was something else that you had mentioned that, that made me think of you know, th the most feral equines that I typically come to are usually ones donkeys that have been rescued actually in my area. We ha we tend to a large donkey rescue that gets in a lot of donkeys. And one thing that I will give to owners, and I'm sure I'm positive that there are farriers all over the world that we'll have, this is just an old, dull rasp. I mean, I go through a rasp a week usually, and I just keep the old ones in my truck. And if an owner has a horse or a donkey that isn't used to tools, I just hand them an old rasp. When I say, you know, this animal is more comfortable with you than they are with me. If you, you know, get them happy to pick up their feet first, but then, you know, every once in a while, just take that out and just like, you know, gently tap their foot with it. Or like, you know, don't really rasp unless they really want to, but you know, don't really trim, but maybe get them used to that sensation of like, oh, there's going to be a vibration on their foot because that is an odd feeling if they don't know it. That I'm sure that there are farriers that if you ask your farrier, if they have an old rasp, they'd be happy to give up.
[00:32:47] Yeah, actually I have one, I have actually a couple, I think from my trimmer, I she just gives them to me afterwards so I can work on my guys in between. And sometimes I do keep up with their trims in between, you know, obviously she showed me how and what they specifically need, especially with my younger guys or my guys that are new into my training program. And so, you know, maybe she was able to work on them, but not as much as she wanted to. So I'm kind of keeping up in between. So there's definitely a lot of in-between stuff that we can do. It's just a matter of getting just enough training to do it right and safely, and then they can really help your horse, like to do it in between. And you brought up the, you know, the horse being, or the donkey being more comfortable with the owner handler versus you. And this is another area where, especially with one of my horses in particular, actually two that are coming to mind. The individual human that is working with them or handling them is the make or break for the experience. So they will let me do all of the hoof handling I could even trim. I could do all that. I'm not educated enough to be able to do the trims, but in theory, I could do all the trims myself. However, if I bring a new person in and all of a sudden they don't pick up their feet. They can't do anything because they're too fearful about having that second person there that they don't trust. So this is another area that I recommend to horse owners. You know, get your friends involved, get your family members involved, get your spouse involved, get the neighborhood kid involved. Obviously as long as it's safe, we're going to do this very safely and gradually, but teaching your horse that other people are going to be safe and that they're going, it's going to be a good experience for them. It's so important before your farrier arrives so that you're not surprised, both of you guys, when all of a sudden the horse that could pick up their feet is no longer picking up their feet or is now moving away or kicking out or things like that. We want to avoid that obviously during an actual appointment itself. Great.
[00:34:46] One thing you mentioned about the bringing the front legs forward, I love that you brought that up. I have a couple of experiences with that, where I do find that that's one of the toughest positions for quite a few horses, bringing the front legs forward. I have one horse that has EPM. And so she really struggles with bringing her front legs forward onto the jack. She will fall forward and it's just because she doesn't have. Like, even when she's moving on a general basis, she's just walking around or living her life it's like, there's no ability to hold herself back. She just kind of barrels forward and it's a lack of proprioception. And so, you know, just self-awareness and also having the right muscles and all of that. So when I bring her front legs forward, she has such a hard time keeping her weight back. It helps if I put some sort of barrier in front of her. So like, we'll do her whole trim in front of a fence so that she visually sees, oh, I can't go forward. And that helps a lot. Obviously this all needs to be done very safely. We don't want to trap anybody between the horse that may or may not be falling forward and the fence. So that has to be done very carefully. But then I also have my mare that has PSSM. When she was having farrier problems or when she does have flare ups, that is the area that it becomes the most problematic. Usually I find horses are more fearful about their back, ends, their back legs being picked up and taken care of. But she was having the most trouble with her fronts and it was because her chest and her, all of her muscles and her front end were so sore and tight that trying to bring that front leg forward was really painful for her. So that has been a very interesting experience on how to help her out with that. And this just goes back to if your horse is doing something and you've done a lot of training and work, then we need to go look at pain, being the cause something as simple as bringing the leg forward could actually be uncomfortable for your horse. Could actually be a cause for pain.
[00:36:44] And, but the other thing I want to bring up because this, you know, most of the people that are listening to this episode are going to be exploring or considering, or actively using positive reinforcement, which usually involves food and feeding during farrier appointments, maybe a thing that's happening. I know from my appointments, it does. And one thing that can really help with that falling forward, the stepping forward and pushing into that, jack is your feeding position, how you're feeding. I find that a lot of people feed too far forward and are actually encouraging the horse to come forward, which then sets their motion forward. And then you're pushing on the jack and then everybody just tumbles forward and then it's dangerous. So choosing how you're feeding and where you're feeding, it can really set your horse up for success and help prevent them from doing those different motions that you're not looking for. And so we have to be very cognizant of where we're standing and what we're doing that is either helping or hindering our horse during the appointment. And that's just something you guys can consider even maybe record, like I am a huge fan of video recording. So video record your farrier appointment. It's not, you know, maybe you're not recording it because you don't think of it as an active training scenario, but it is it's 100% an active training experience for you and your horse and your farrier. And if you record it, you can go back and kind of analyze, like, what was I doing to help or hinder this situation? How can I better set my horse up for success? How can I set my farrier up for success? Because we want them to be happy and safe and healthy and want to come back to, so that's a huge part of it as well. Anyway, that was kind of a tangent I went off on, but that was just everything you mentioned made me think of that, of how we can really, there's so many different factors that go into this that can either make or break the situation for either the horse or us. Cause it can be very stressful for us as a handler and owner, but it also for the farrier, you guys are in a very risky position and I would hate for something to happen because I don't want that to happen to you being the farrier, but also for, you know, that's just, it's not good for anybody for something bad to happen. So yeah.
[00:38:55] Yeah. And actually, you know, as you were saying that about. All the ways that you can address or, or things you can look for when pulling their front feet forward. And the ways that we can address that, I was also thinking about how a lot of owners don't have hoof jacks, and that's a tool that we use and it's an expensive tool. So I don't expect owners to buy it, to prepare their horse, to use it but in terms of pulling the foot forward, the front feet forward, you know, find a mounting block or like a tree stump, anything that they can sort of rest their foot on. I tend to, most of the time put their frog on the the the hoof jack so that their, their frog is taking the weight. I just do that because a lot of the horses that I'll come to that are rehab cases have thin soles. So I don't want them resting on their soles, but if you can find something where they don't mind resting that frog somewhere or putting their foot up just so that it's something that an owner might be able to pull that front foot forward and hold it. And that horse is okay. But then if you put that foot on something, they're not sure what they're supposed to do. I think. Because they just don't have anything keeping it there, if they're just wondering what's going on. So yeah, if owners don't want to buy a $200 hoof jack, they could find something of a similar height and just get their horse used to, to resting on it and keeping it there for a little bit.
[00:40:12] Yeah. That's a great idea. I happened to have a hoof jack, but I have a lot of horses that I'm working with. So it's beneficial for me. And I specifically work on hoof handling issues quite a bit, so it just ended up being an investment into what I do. But for the average horse owner, those were all really great recommendations for just practicing, bringing that foot forward and resting it on something. There's lots of ways that we could do that.
[00:40:32] Okay. So I have a question. So I do have a couple horses, like you mentioned, where we've got arthritis or maybe they're young and unbalanced, or maybe we've got EPM or whatever, which I can only do so much training. Like a lot of it comes down to physical limitations. How do we help you as a farrier from a trainer's perspective? Like, so what is something that we can do to help the situation when a horse is going to need to have their foot put down quite frequently or does move around a little bit more than either of us would like, you know, cause at some point there's only, there's only so much we can do. So how do we help improve that situation from our end of the equation?
[00:41:15] Yeah. I mean, I'm really big on communication and I hope that most people listening would be too, you know? But I ask, I ask the owners or anybody who contacts me in wanting to be a new client. I asked them to just let me know if they have any concerns about the appointment or anything that they think could come up as an issue. And I know some people are worried about telling a potential new farrier that their horse struggles with hoofcare care appointments, but it's better to let the person know then to have them show up into a situation that they might not be prepared for. Mostly because if I have somebody that contacts me and says that they have a horse that, you know, is a rescue or is it it's young and might need extra time in their hoof care appointment, I can budget that time. And then I don't feel rushed because I, I feel like if I feel rushed because I budgeted half an hour for this horse and it's going to take an hour my, the horse can obviously sense that I'm thinking about the time and I'm thinking about my next appointment. And I'm thinking about how I'm already running late. And that's going to make me a lot more tense probably because I'm also a little bit of a Type A person who wants to stick to my schedule. But if I walk into appointment an appointment, knowing, okay, I'm going to take as long as it takes. So for example, if I have a horse, that's a rescue and we don't know anything about how, well they are for the farrier. I might put them at the end of my day and then I don't feel rushed. Like I don't feel like I have to get to another appointment after them. And that just changes my entire demeanor with the horse. And you know, that saying about how, you know, if you take, as long as it takes, it takes less time or I'm going to totally bosch. But you know, the, the second that we start to amp up our energy because of feeling anxious about how long it's taking, it's only going to take longer. So that's one thing is just communicate with your farrier, let them know your concerns. And also I have some owners who, when I get there, I'll ask them to show me how they pick up the horses feet. And this is twofold for me. One it's showing me if there are cues or things that the owner does that will help me in communicating with the horse better so that I'm asking them in a way that that horse feels comfortable or in a way that that horse knows what to do when I ask them to pick up their feet. But it also shows me that this owner can pick up all four feet and that horse isn't kicking them or, or reacting. And then I feel safer. Just knowing that, you know, they've done that. And if they haven't, if they can't pick up the feet I mean, typically I ask them to tell me that beforehand, because I can refer them to a trainer in my area who's really good with helping them with that. Because I'm, I wouldn't say that training is my strong suit and I know how important it is and I don't want to teach the wrong thing. But I would say the biggest thing is communication. And then being willing to show the farrier, what you have done and being willing to communicate with the farrier in ways that they can safely pick up the feet. And also, and I hate to mention cost, but being willing to say like, I want to budget, you know, an hour or an hour and a half of your time to work and make this, you know an experience. You know, if the horse really needs all four feet done, cause they're severely overgrown and it can't be done just, you know, over a few cycles, say I'm willing to pay for, you know, a little bit extra by the hour, maybe like an hourly rate instead of just the cost of one trim. Because then we, we know that we're not going to go and, you know, and I hate to say it, but like our time is a valuable thing for us too. And we're, I'm more willing to pick up a client and say, yeah, I will spend as long as you want. And I will be as careful, I mean, I'll always be as careful as I can be, but I'll be really respectful of both of our time. If I know that, you know, there there's a potential that it's not going to be assumed that we're going to spend that much extra time and not be compensated for that. And that's very rare that I do that. I usually try to make sure that, that I'm not making it cost-prohibitive for owners who are just trying to get hoofcare done. But that's something else to consider too.
[00:45:24] I think a lot of owners and I love that you brought that up cause that's often a recommendation I give to people who are worried about how long it's going to take and that the farriers will rush. I've I've worked with a lot of farriers throughout the years, and I understand that they're doing it a per head kind of per horse situation. That's how their business runs. That's how the industry runs. I kind of wish it would change, but you know, I talked, I talked to them about providing that information to their farrier and just be like, Hey, if it takes longer than the average horse, I will pay you for your time. And like, as if it was two horses or three horses or whatever, that's not a problem. And I think a lot of owners are very willing to do that for a farrier that will be very patient. So it works together. It becomes this mutually respectful and understanding relationship that works out really well. And then the horses, they pick up on it, they pick up on how, what our dynamic is with our farrier and what we're feeling during the appointment. So if my, if the owners are stressed during the appointment, the horses are gonna pick up on that. And if the farrier stressed during the appointment, the horses are gonna pick up on that and it's gonna make it go terribly. So going back to the kind of that saying that I think I would botch just as much is, if you give it plenty of time, if you set a lots of time and you have no agenda and you're just like, it takes however long it takes, then it will go so much smoother and you'll end up being a much faster than anybody expected it. I can't tell you how many times that has played out. Just so true. It's so accurate throughout all of my experiences with training, with hope handling with anything.
[00:46:57] So that is a really great recommendation you gave and the communication aspect is so important and like understanding the horse's cues. And this is something that I really try and drive home for people because. And this goes back to that recommendation. I had like, watch your farrier work, like on a different horse. If they'll let you watch them work on another horse, whatever they, you know, hopefully that works out. That would be so valuable because then I can see, okay, how does my farrier move? How, which foot do they do, in what order? Like, do they start off with the front and then go to the back and then go around that way? Or do they do both fronts and then do both backs. And then which one do they usually start with? How do they pick up the foot? How do they stand? How do they lean over? Where do they put their hand underneath the foot? How did they hold it? How long are they holding the foot up for? In what position are they holding? It's just like all of these different little nuanced things from the horse's perspective, these are all cues, they're all cues. And they are all very, very meaningful. They're very important in this goes to how horses think and how they categorize things. We just, our brains work differently. So we tend to say, oh, they're picking up the foot. They're picking up the foot. You picking up the foot versus me picking up the foot. We're just all on the same page. We're just doing the same thing. And we don't pay attention to those little tiny nuances or horses. On the other hand, if you lean over six inches and then I lean over 12 inches, those are two totally different actions. And that is it's that nuance to them. Now, most horses can generalize quite well, but especially with when you're working with a fearful horse or a young horse, they haven't learned to generalize quite as well yet. And or have a hard time doing it, or just don't feel safe when something changes. So paying attention to those little things is so important.
[00:48:44] And then finding a farrier that will be willing to modify what they do to help your horse is this is another reason I call my farrier a unicorn farrier because I have a couple of horses, but one in particular, you don't touch her leg. You don't touch your body. You don't touch anything. You stand by the foot you want and you say pick up and she picks up that foot and holds it there. Then you slide your hand underneath her foot and then she'll hold it there as long as you want. And she is the most amazing client, meaning the horse is fabulous for my farrier. My farrier is always raving about how good she is. But if you were to, walk up to her and touch her body first and run your hand down her leg and then pull up the leg, she would be very upset with you. And so but I had to teach my farrier how to do that. And she was very willing to do that. And that is also a rarity. So that's all, again, going back to that communication point that you brought up is so important.
[00:49:40] Yeah, absolutely. And in one other thing I didn't mention before too, is just because horses, like you said, are going off of our energy, our demeanor, our tension, our anxiety, like, just assume that I know this sounds probably too optimistic or happy-go-lucky, but just assume that it's going to go well and just have that vision in your mind that this is going to go well, and we're going to deal with whatever comes up, because I know the times where things have not gone well, have been times where I walked into it, dreading it or feeling like it wasn't going to go well. So just have a little optimism in that and just realize that, you know, whatever comes up, you can troubleshoot it together.
[00:50:19] I had a horse that had kicked out at a farrier or this farrier that I work with now once. And I knew after that experience that she would be inclined to think that the horse would kick out again in the future, which is a reasonable thing to think because she didn't want, so what's to say she won't do it again, which any horse could kick, but you know, once you've experienced it, you start to become a little bit more cautious. And then our nervous system starts responding accordingly and we're on like self-defense mode. So what we started doing, because I didn't want her to be in that mental space. I didn't want her to be concerned and really anxious and worried about it. Even though she's been around tons and tons of horses, we're all trying to take care of ourselves. And that's a natural survival instinct. And you guys, like you said, a job to do, and it's your livelihood. And one kick could mean a lot of damage. And so what we started doing is I actually would go and pick up her foot for the farrier and hold it temporarily, make sure everything was okay. And then she would come and step in and take the foot from me. And that helped everybody stayed really calm and relaxed and to be kind of in that optimistic mindset, like, oh, this is going good. The horse is okay. And everybody was much more relaxed and the appointments went so much better for after that. And now we don't need to do that anymore, but we did that for the first couple of months after that, that incident. And so that's just another, that's an example of something maybe owners could do to help the farriers out. And it kind of ties into that example you gave of like the owner showing you that they can pick up their feet and how they pick them up, et cetera. Right. Yeah, exactly. Okay. So how can. Owners and caregivers talk to farriers about handling the horses and what to do in situations should it go poorly? So like ahead of time, you know, I guess we're out coming from a perspective of, I do a lot of rehab work. I do a lot of retraining. I work with a lot of horses with really bad experiences with farriers and hoof trimming and have handling in general. Sometimes it's on the, from the owners or previous caregivers, and sometimes it's from the farriers and it is super important to me, really important to me that whoever is working with this horse from this point forward, when I'm there and I'm interacting and I'm taking care of the situation that they don't accidentally take over or unintentionally or intentionally take over the situation and make the situation worse. Should things start spiraling downhill. So should the horse start yanking away their foot, should the horse get anxious and start to move away, what do you think would be a good way to approach having that conversation with the farrier before they start working on a horse? If that makes sense.
[00:53:02] Yeah, no, I know what you're asking and I don't know that I have like the best answer because I think sometimes it comes down to finding the right fit in terms of, a hoof care provider. Because when I think about when I wasn't doing my own horses feet, I was just an owner there were definitely farriers that were more willing to accept like feedback or information in terms of like, this is how this horse does best. And I want to set this appointment up for success and I really want it to be a good experience for the horse, but I also want to keep you safe and have it be a good experience for you as the farrier. And these are the things that we do with this horse in order to make them comfortable. And, you know, would you be willing to do X, Y, and Z to make sure that this is a good experience? And there are a lot of people who are more than happy to accommodate, because obviously we want it to go well, we want it to be a good experience for the owner and the horse, and we want to keep ourselves safe. But I do think that. There are some who, who may be less you know, willing to kind of step outside the box or do something that is outside of their normal comfort zone in terms of, you know, getting the job done. So I do think having that conversation ahead of time and saying like, this is, this is a horse that needs some extra care and consideration because of X, Y, Z in the past, or because of arthritis or because of PSSM, like you said, or because of a pain issue. And can we sort of work to make sure that this is a really good experience and some might might say like, oh, well, that's not really, I mean, I I'm, I have heard this before that, you know, there's some is like, oh, I'm, I might not be the farrier for you because that doesn't fit into their business model or their, their way of doing things. And it can be, it can be hard to find someone who's a really good fit and who's really understanding I mean, I hate to say it, but it's part of the reason I got into hoofcare is I had, I still have a Mustang who is still partially a little feral. I mean, he's wonderful. And I love him and I adore him, but he needs a lot of patience and a lot of care. And he is one who did kick the farrier. When I, before I did hoof care and you know, I had to work with a few different people. Before I found a few who were able to help me actually care for his own feet myself, because ultimately he is the best with people who are handling him pretty much, you know, daily or multiple times a week. And that's just the kind of horse he is and I'm okay with that. But ultimately I think it comes down to having that conversation and finding someone who's a good fit. So I'm not sure it really answers your question. But I think that's sort of my solution.
[00:55:39] That's good. I would be super respectful of a farrier that said I don't, I don't think we're going to be the right fit. I would rather have that conversation upfront and have them tell me that than to get a couple of appointments in, or even the first appointment in, and then have them do something that I don't wish them to do and regret it later. And it just not set everybody up for success. And then just be one more experience that that horse has that wasn't pleasant or the way that we had been training it or whatever. So I think again, just open dialogue is really important and maybe even giving your farrier space, like in the way you're communicating, like giving them an, a door to say like, or a way to say this, isn't going to be good. So maybe say, Hey, you know, this is how I would like to do it. If you're not sure maybe we could experience it together. And if you're not comfortable with it, just let me know. No hard feelings. 100 percent we're going to be okay. And we'll just go our separate ways and that's fine. I feel like that would be great if both parties could have that open dialogue and feel safe enough to communicate that with each other and feel confident in what they do and what they don't do. And that's okay for that farrier to not be comfortable working with a horse that is going to have a hard time. That is 100% okay. For somebody to say, and to make that part of their business decisions. Like they're just not going to work with difficult horses that is 100% within their rights to do. And I would rather them make that decision than to get themselves in a bad spot and then regret it later, you know?
[00:57:14] Right. Exactly.
[00:57:16] Okay. Well, I have really loved this conversation. I think we could probably keep going on forever. There's so many different areas with hoofcare and behavior and how they overlap so much. And you know, I'm coming at it from a trainer behaviors perspective and you're coming at it from the hoofcare provider perspective and you know, as much as we have two different jobs, so to speak, we overlapped so much in what we do, because you need my services to help your horses, that you're working on, be good and safe to work around, so you can do your job and then I need your services and what you're good at to help my job, because I can't tell you how many times, just like going back to that example with the horse that was dangerous to be around. I could train all day long, but the horse was in pain. I can't fix that, like training, isn't going to fix pain and I need a really good hoof care provider to help that horse so that I can then do my job, which is the training part and rehabbing all that and helping them feel safe around people again, but we really have to support each other and that goes back to that, having that support network for as a owner, as a horse care provider.
[00:58:30] So each of you guys that are out there listening who have your own horse. You need your team members to help you and your horse be the best you can be together and have that relationship. And and we're just two different professions that help out with that. And so I love these cross profession conversations and how we can help horse owners and caregivers really give their horses the best experience and the best life possible.
[00:58:55] Yeah, absolutely.
[00:58:57] So Alicia, how can people learn more from you and get in touch with you and just ways you share information and how can they connect with you? Sure. Yeah. So my social media name or my business name really is The Humble Hoof. And I have a podcast by the same name and the podcast is interviewing hoofcare professionals or actually horse professionals around the world in regards to hoof health, soundness any, anything that can basically affect their feet and their ability to get their feet done, their soundness, their comfort. And that is, you know, you can listen to on any podcast app under The Humble Hoof. It's also available at, on my website, The Humble Hoof.com and there's a way to contact me through there. If people have any more questions in regards to basically growing the best hoof possible is what I tend to focus on, for training staff I'll default to you, but yeah.
[01:00:00] Well, thank you so much, Alicia, for joining us and sharing all this valuable information with us. I look forward to looking into more of your resources. I know I've been an avid follower of your podcast and other social media platforms for a while now. So I'm very, I'm excited about future content and stuff you share. And thank you again for coming on the podcast and we'll chat later. Thanks. Yeah, thank you so much.
[01:00:31] Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you'd like to learn more head to our website, the willing equine.com, where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram, TechTalk YouTube, Facebook, pretty much everything.