Monday, January 30, 2012

Trimming a Mustang - not easy as pie

Trimming a Mustang - Not quite as easy as pie

Cimmaron is a rescued wild mustang that I have been working with over the last couple months. I have been working to tame her so that I can help her.

Cimmaron has lived a comfortable life for many years, until the last year or two when her hooves began to grow and grow without chipping off. Wild horses don't have farrier treatments - instead their hooves chip away and wear naturally because they travel over rocks and hard ground during their travels from grazing space to water and beyond.

It is when horses don't travel on hard ground to wear away their hooves that they need us to step in with a rasp and nippers to clip and file their hooves. Horses hooves are just like our nails - each is different and some of have soft, others have really hard, but if we don't keep them short, they can grow, and grow until they get super long, twisted, and even deformed at extreme lengths.

That's what happened to Cimmaron. Her hooves weren't wearing down naturally, so they just kept growing and growing until her hooves started to twist and become deformed. She had an 'emergency' trimming done in the fall. The veterinarian used a tranquilizer gun to sedate Cimmaron enough that she went to sleep for a few minutes so the farrier could quickly trim at her hooves. Her owner described it as traumatizing for Cimmrron because she was shot with the tranquilizer a couple times before it was a enough to get her quiet, and then she was flipped on her side and tied up so she couldn't injure the vet or farrier. Her hooves were so awful, that the owner considered it an 'emergency' trim to help Cimmaron because she had become lame from her hooves being so overgrown. There wasn't time to get her tamed - she needed her hooves done asap.

Getting her feet done in the fall gave me some time to get Cimmaron's trust before she needed a trim again.
On Monday January 16th, I cam prepared to trim. I had been working on poking Cimmaron's neck, touching her legs and body, and building some basic trust. I have put a halter on Cimmaron before and done some basic leading, but she tends to get more panicky with a halter on because she feels trapped - so to help keep Cimmaron relaxed I wanted to trim her hooves without needing to put a halter on and trying to hold her still.

I made huge progress with Cimmaron - now her owner can even brush her with a curry comb - but her hooves needed a trim. I knew Cimmaron wouldn't be 100% relaxed with the idea. We also didn't want to call in the vet because we didn't want Cimmaron to go through the same experience of getting shot with the tranquilizer gun.

Instead I had the owner pick up a tranquilizer needle. I didn't need Cimmarron to be sleeping, but I wanted to give her something to help her relax, to keep us both safe, so I could help her before her hooves got worse.

I arrived at the farm, with my farrier equipment with me (I am not a farrier, but I have learnt to trim my own horse's, and because Cimmaron likely wouldn't trust a different farrier I planned on trimming her hooves). I met up with owner, and took the tranquilizer.

Cimmaron was waiting for me in the large indoor shelter. I approached Cimmaron and started rubbing and pinching her neck to prepare her for getting a needle. Once I felt she was ready, I poked her with the needle - before I could inject the needle she moved away. She didn't run away or get frantic, but she twisted her neck away from the poke and took a couple steps away before I could inject. This wasn't great because now she was a bit nervous about me approaching her neck, because she was worried I would poke her again.

I decided to call the vet and ask if I could inject in any muscle. Luckily the vet was available and told me I can inject in any muscle - usually they do the neck because if it abscess's later it won't make the horse go lame, and usually it is an easy place to give. It is always good to check with a vet for any medical advice if you are unsure.

Knowing that I can give the needle in any muscle, I decided to inject Cimmaron in the rump (bum) - this is because she can twist away as easily, but mainly because she was nervous about me poking her neck, so the last thing I wanted to do is gain her trust and then poke her there again.

I prepared Cimmaron by rubbing and poking her rump, and when I was ready I quickly injected the tranquilizer. She did step away, but it was easier to keep the needle in and inject the fluid. Cimmaron wasn't horribly upset by it - she moved away, but she didn't run, and she still allowed me to rub her afterward.

I spent the next 20 minutes waiting for the tranquilizer to take effect. In the meantime I rubbed her rump and neck to make sure she still trusted me, and then I started rubbing her legs to get her comfortable with that.

Once she seemed really relaxed I brought my farrier equipment in and began with one of her front hooves. I slowly asked her to lift her hoof, and then rewarded her by putting it back down. Each time I would hold her hoof a little bit longer, until I was able to hold it up long enough to trim some of the hoof. I would put the hoof down to reward her, pick it up, trim some more and put it down.

Amazingly she was completely trusting and relaxed - she wasn't tied up at all, didn't have a halter on, and had only gotten enough tranquilzer to relax her, not completely 'knock her out'. There were a couple times when her balance would shift or she would get worried because I dropped a tool so she would walk away, and then allow me to approach her again. I know that if she really didn't trust me she was definitely able to move and get away - but she didn't.

I was able to trim all four hooves - the back hooves were the easiest because they are in the best shape. The front hooves are quite misshapen and were very difficult to trim. I did the best I could, and 2 hours later from when we began, Cimmaron had hooves that looked more like hooves.

It was a very exciting night for both me and Cimmaron's owner - Cimmaron wasn't traumatized and I was able to trim all four hooves. It just goes to show that if you give natural horsemanship a chance, you can make life better for your horse.

Cimmaron is going to need regular trims, so I will continue to work on taming her and then training her so that any farrier can do her feet and so she can get any other care she needs. I visit Cimmaron once a week, and last week I was able to pick up all four feet - no tranquilizer to help relax her. She is continuing to make huge progress in the little time we've had together (about 10 hours over the last few months).

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