Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Baby Boomer Dreams of Arabian Horses - The Legacy Continues - The Second Foal Crop Part 6

Part One of the Baby Boomer Series

Part one of the Second Foal Crop
So now that we knew what was causing the young Arabian horse to stay down on his fetlocks in his rear legs fixing it seemed to be possible. The problem was really how. My vet made some calls to university vet schools for recommendations. While their suggestions sounded plausible, it turned out easier said than done.

The idea was to make a "shoe" for the foal out of plastic. It needed to stick out behind the foot far enough to block the colt's ability to rock back and stretch those tendons. A foals hooves are too fragile to nail a shoe in place. So whatever we concocted was to be glued in place.

While the vets are the ones who decided how to treat the problem, it was up to me to find a farrier that could pull it off. The vets made it sound matter of fact but my farrier was not so sure. He came out with this sheet of thick plastic of some kind to make cut out shoes. He shaped them to what he understood the vet's instructions to be. Then across the front thin strips of plastic were glued perpendicular to the shoe. These were to glue the shoe onto the foal's foot.

These little plastic fashioned shoes went on pretty easily. It was staying on that was the problem. That and they were not far enough out behind the horse in back to prevent him from rocking back if he really tried. But that point didn't matter much because the shoes didn't stay on for even two hours. So it was time for plan B.

Farriers like everyone else have their legends. Sometimes those legends are bigger than life and sometimes they are real. In my area our farrier legend goes by the name of Fred Starr. Definitely bigger than life and with an ego to match, Fred has been doing horses feet forever, maybe longer and his is known for pulling off miracles.

I've know Fred since I first worked at Feature Farm. What I didn't hear about Fred from Fred, I heard from other people. I don't think that there is a farrier in Washington state who hasn't heard of Fred Starr. Some are cranky about it but most recognize genius when they see it. Fred is looked up to even though it hurts sometimes, if you know what I mean.

So when my regular farrier failed at his first attempt in a project he really didn't feel comfortable with in the first place, he immediately said "I think you should call Fred Starr." Actually, I was quite relieved, if anyone could fix my problem, Fred could. I didn't want to hurt my regular farrier's feelings but Fred, well, Fred is THE best.

So I called up Fred and asked him to come to my little farm, knowing that his usual stomping grounds are the big fancy show barns. But Fred never could resist a challenge, that's part of the reason he is such a legend. He was intrigued by the possibilities this problem presented. An appointment was made and I had a little hope.

When Fred showed up, he had two of his farrier friends from the Emerald Downs Racetrack in tow. Only then did I realize that Fred was really worried about this colt. But when he first laid eyes on him, I could see the relief wash over his face. The colt wasn't down nearly as far as he had pictured in his mind. He had seen bloody stumps in his mind when Image wasn't even missing much hair.

So the condition of the colt was better than Fred had imagined but the problem was a huge one. So Fred studied the colt. He picked up his feet, flexed them and put them down. Only to repeat the process over again and again. Sometimes he would tap the front of the colt's toe with his fingernail. The wheels were turning and they turned for a really long time.

Finally Fred said he just didn't feel comfortable gluing a shoe onto that foal's foot. He was afraid the glue would cause more problems than it was worth like tearing the hoof wall right off. He had to find another way so he looked and looked and tapped and flicked some more.

Finally he looked up at his farrier friends and said "Do you think I can nail a shoe onto that fetal horn? That's what this is here in front. This colt has been down enough that he's never worn this fetal horn off of this foot. It's here pretty solid, not shredded at all, nice and hard. I don't think we'll need them on long and I think it will hold up."

The farriers from the track nodded. Then they each took at look and tapped and flicked and nodded some more. They asked Fred what he had in mind and he laid out his plan as they nodded and tapped and flicked some more. "Yupe, it just might work."

So Fred Starr went to his truck and pulled out a piece of aluminum plate. He cut that plate into pieces about six inches long and two and 3/4 inches wide. Then he turned on the forge and shaped those plates and smoothed the edges. He pounded and bent toe clips across the middle of the front. He finished them off punching cute little nail holes. He probably spent an hour fashioning those little flat shoes for Image.

The next trick was getting them on the colt. While the horse and I had worked out our issues, Image wasn't sure what to think of these three strange, large men in his stall. When they decided they were ready to really "catch him up" he headed straight towards me for safety. It didn't take him long to figure out they didn't want to hurt him but he still wasn't so sure about being cornered by these three big blokes!

The guys were all tickled by the attitude on this colt. It didn't take long and the horse realized he had made some new friends. Once that part was finished, nailing the shoes on looked like it was going to go pretty smoothly. The trouble came when the first one was on and the colt realized he couldn't rock back anymore. There was no way he wanted that shoe to take away his little game. It took a bit of a tussle to get that second shoe tacked on. Once the colt realized he'd lost this battle, he stood quietly until they had it secure.

Then it was time to turn the horse loose and see what we had. For the first time since his birth the colt was walking upright where he belonged. To say that Fred Starr was pretty darn proud of himself was an understatement. He'd been so concerned that he wouldn't be able to help but hadn't wanted to admit it. Now he was bursting at the seams with pride and actually so was Image.

Once the colt realized that little clicking sound was from his new shoes, he thought he was pretty hot stuff. Well, actually, he thought he was even hotter stuff. He strutted his stuff just like he had for the photographer, Jeff Little, and his wife.

Fred studied the colt walking around on his original Fred Starr's for a bit. Then he checked the fetal horn for stress at least a dozen times before he decided that it really was going to work. The fetal horn was going to hold the shoes as the shoes supported those weak fetlocks. Now we just needed enough growth for the colt to grow into those stretched tendons.

To be continued............

The Second Foal Crop Part 7

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  1. Very innovative of Fred! Poor Image I can just imagine the look on his face when he realized no more "game".

  2. This is very interesting indeed. Thank you for sharing. Can you post a picture of the feet with these shoes in place?

  3. Cheri,Fred was awesome. And the look on Image's face was priceless.

    transylvanian horseman, sorry we did not take pictures of this. We really should have done before and after pics so that Fred could submit them to the farrier's journal but we just didn't think about it at the time.

  4. I can see why you fell in love with this little guy, these photos are wonderful, you can just see his character in his expression.

    Those little shoes are ingenious, I look forward to hearing the next in this little saga.

    (((Hugs))) hope you are starting to feel better.


  5. oh my, the look on that foals face is just precious!

  6. Wow, how fortunate you are to have found an innovative and expert farrier.

    The look of the little guy's face when he realized something was different, I agree, is priceless!!!

  7. Glad you had a legend handy to help out! Image is a doll...such a cutie patootie!