Friday, October 30, 2009

Reply to Sandy

Hi Sandy,

My email reply to you was being blocked and bounced back so responding here!:0)

Thank you so much for being a fan of Spencer's!

He's doing fine. I'm just focusing on his weight, he is NOT an easy keeper. He eats so much it's astonishing to me. While most the other horses are waddling around the pasture, I sometimes see his ribs if he moves just right. Ugh.

He's sound, although I don't know why. His feet need to be trimmed, although it's pretty amazing how well he maintains them on his own.

On my main blog, Hoofrecovery, I added a post about him conking me in the top of the head with his hind hoof while I was clipping the hair around his coronet band so I could get a better look at his overall hoof.

He didn't like the clippers, but he was standing for them okay. He showed is disapproval by bringing his hind hoof up to knock them away, but dummy me, my head was in his line of fire.

I still have a dent in the top of my head that's permanent!

I haven't worked on him since, mostly because I just haven't had time to get back out to work on him but I have him on my calendar.

He's really a good boy, he was just so ignored and abused for most of his young life, it's like working with a 2000 lb yearling.

That can be pretty dangerous!

A friend is going to start coming on Sundays to help me work with him using the clicker training method. I've done that with him and that's how I got him cooperative with one front leg, but she's had years of training practice using the clicker so I'm hoping she'll give me some new ideas.

Thank you again for asking about

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Here is Spencer doing what he does best. Eating!

He eats more than nearly all my other horses combined. I separate him usually from the rest the herd so he can eat in peace, (this is not where he lives, it's a paddock where he can eat hay (by the wheelbarrow load) and back out he goes on the 8 acre field or the 3 acre field we use to give the main pasture a rest for a few days. He doesn't live on dirt as some have suggested on another blog (fugly) that recently linked to this one.

By the way, thank you Kathy for your kind words. I appreciate what you said and that you linked to Spencer and regenerated some interest in him. I've just had a lot on my plate lately. On my main blog, I share a story about a recent injury that Spencer inflicted on me and well, I feel pretty lucky to be sitting here typing and lying not in a vegetative state in the hospital right now.

While we are on the subject of drafts, I'd really like to know why it seems okay to lop the tail bones of young draft show horses and it's still happening although few drafts are being used for farming as in the old days. I think cutting the end of a horse's spine (the tailbone) is one of the cruelist acts man carries out on horses, yet, we don't hear much about it. I'm so glad it wasn't done to Spencer. At least he didn't have to go through that horrific process.

Spencer's front feet have been trimmed a few times now and he's really maintaining all four of his feet pretty well. He ruptured a huge abscess out of one front foot a few months ago and that has finally grown out enough to snap the dead wall off. You'd have to know how abscesses progress to know what I mean by that, but suffice to say, he's growing out new hooves.

His weight is looking better I think. He dropped some weight after he came here. At which time he was gelded, and spent a couple months recovering from that, and he had his teeth floated by an Equine Dentist. Both procedures combined totaled just under $1000. Free horses? No such thing.

I believe that he lost some weight for those reasons and because after he was gelded, we pastured him with other horses. He became part of a herd for the first time in his life and he was/is constantly on the move. Also good for his feet!

Prior to coming here, he was always alone and had no reason to move around much so it was easier to keep his weight on, plus he was a bulked up muscled stallion. That all makes a huge difference I think.

I personally don't like draft horses to look like plow horses so I don't like to see him overweight like so many of them are. Especially if it's a draft a person plans on riding. Which I really hope to do someday. Would I like to see him carrying more weight than he is now? Yes, I would, as well as some muscling on his hind quarters, but we are working on that and he's still a young guy, so no rush really.

Do drafts necessarily eat more than an average horse? Probably not in all cases, but in his case, yes! Absolutely. And he probably will until he gets to a weight he can maintain. Yes, he get dewormed and vaccinated regularly.

His feet have been a very slow process, mainly due to a lack of time to commit to him lately, but we have been trimming his fronts.

Keep in mind please, that the trims that I've done on his feet are the first trims he's ever had done. His gone through 6 years of life with his hooves completely untouched. I've had him for his 7th year and have focused mainly on rehabbing his personality so I can get to his feet to help him and I'm getting criticized (by those commenting on fugly) for not going fast enough? That's ironic.

I have 16 other equines and a full time profession and horses that come and go here that I work with rehabbing their feet - see for an example of that. We also just wrapped up filming of my DVD - Basic Barefoot Trimming. Look for it to come out in the next few months.

I wish I had more time for him, but I don't feel too guilty as he's happier here than he's ever been in his life. He's a friendly, good boy now. Not a big, dangerous, mean-spirited draft stallion whose life was about to be terminated.

If anyone who believes they can do better with his feet than I have, you are more than welcome to come work with him as long as you do not abuse him in any way, and see if you can do better.

I welcome the help. Just keep in mind, he's adept at launching a kick with his hind leg the length of his body and he does it with as much force as a truck speeding along at about 80 miles an hour.

Am I exaggerating? Does it matter? Any takers?

I want to express my sincere gratitude to those of you who haven't passed judgement on my care of Spencer, but rather, have been nothing but supportive. You are all awesome!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spencer Today

I'm so sorry for not updating this blog. Spencer is doing fine. I haven't made much progress with his feet however. I've just been so overwhelmingly busy trimming outside horses, and working on my upcoming hoof trimming DVD, and caring for a rehab horse that just came in a couple weeks ago, Wisky. I got 2 of my boys trimmed today and I'm heading out to work on Spencer now. I just came in for some lunch.

Thank you for your interest and I'll update this post with some pictures asap!


Monday, June 1, 2009


You will never guess what happened today!

I invited Spencer into the paddock to go to work. I had lots of enticements, carrots, Winnie's cookies and sweet feed. All his favorite things!

I explained to him what we were going to work on...again. The same thing we've worked on for a number of hours. It has been baby steps, but he's made some small improvements with each session.

His devoted fans watched and gave him encouragement. They were shouting in their silent horsie way, "You can do this!" (Not really, they were complaining, I think, that they don't get all that cool stuff just for picking up their feet.)

Once again, we went to work. First I made the request. Which is normally followed by a quick peek of the bottom of his foot. I would reward each new try, but would ask for more, each time. He started getting it. He's so smart!

I really didn't expect to get what he offered today! No way! But this was closer to the hoof stand than we've gotten yet. Could it happen? Is there any chance he will set his big ol' ugly foot in that stand? Not likely, he hasn't even come close before.

But wait!

What's this!

It's in!




This hoof hasn't been touched since June, 2008. When I got the call to come trim a draft horse with terrible abscesses. He was drugged and it took two of us to hold his hoof on the stand. We got the job done, for what it was worth. But seriously, trimming a doped up one-ton, unhandled, draft stallion was probably one of the dumber things I've done in my trimming career.

Our first nip! I'm so excited.

I so wanted this to happen just the way it did. We had considered sedating him and laying him down just to get the job done. It would have been a huge ordeal and even though it might have gotten him trimmed and possibly without injury to me, I knew that he wouldn't have learned anything.

I considered using ace on him, which is how I trimmed this hoof last year. But even that only works on some horses. I'm thinking we just got lucky last year. He was in a new environment and had just gotten the you-know-what beat out of him by another stallion. You can still see some of the marks on his body from that beating now that he's in his summer coat.

Since he's been here, I've focused mainly on this one foot. I figured if we could get this one done, the other hooves would come faster because he would understand the task.

And the amazing part to me was that when I give him the cue to lift his foot, a gentle squeeze of his chestnut, his foot pops right up! He’s so cooperative once he gets it!

Some of you may wonder how is it that an old lady could get such a thrill out of seeing the bottom of a draft horse's foot.

Well, I can't really explain it. All I know is that we just have 3 more to go!:0)

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spencer's Coming and Goings

Spencer roaming around the field on an early spring day.

I was just sitting here at my computer looking for pictures to upload for Spencer’s blog. I came across some pictures that I took when he first came here, this time last year. I noticed that his body has changed a lot.

He had a very bold look to him to him when he came here. It’s been a year since we had him gelded, and well, his thick studdy neck is gone and his entire body seems to have relaxed.
Spencer the Stallion.

Spencer the Gelding.

He lost some weight over the winter, probably a bit too much. But feeding a draft horse has given me a better understanding of what it must be like to feed an elephant.

Grazing with my little buddy.

The weight is coming back on and I just can’t begin to describe how much his personality has changed.

I sometimes feel like I’m Sally Fields when she made that infamous speech as she accepted her award at the Oscars. “He likes me! He really, really likes me!”

When I look back on how Spencer behaved when he arrived. He was so distrusting and always trying to show us what his big ol’ body was capable of.

His ears would pin when we entered his space and his head would go up and he turn that giant head in a way that reminded me of a bull ready charge at me any minute. I sometimes expected him to start pawing and flames to shoot out of his nose any minute.

I know that I put too much pressure on him at times like this, but his eyes could get such a hard, steely look to them. I don’t see those eyes very often anymore.

For me now, his eyes are soft and questioning. His eyes only get hard when he sees someone he feels he can’t trust, which is nearly everyone else, but he’s getting better.

I sack him out with friends who stop by. For some reason, they look at me as if I’m nuts when I ask, “Do you want to go out and scratch Spencer’s butt!”

It’s taken a great deal of time, and grooming, but we’re getting there. I still think about how he was untouched for 2 years because no one could get near him. And yet, he’ll follow me all over the pasture and into the paddock for grain and scratches. He lowers his head so I can put the halter on him without stretching. He's careful where he places his big feet to avoid mine, thank goodness.

We are still battling the a terrible case a of lice that he arrived with. Just when I thought I had that taken care, I notice him scratching. Just last week, I lifted his thick mane and discovered there were nits hiding under it.

So as I was trying to get the powder in and around his forelock and he raised his head and bumped the can, white powder went everywhere. All over me and his whole head was covered. When he opened his big brown eyes through the white powder, I have no idea what he was thinking, but probably something like, “That was not cool.”

The biggest change in him is when we are standing close to each other, he will sometimes rest his head gently against my body.

The first time I felt him do that, it was so unexpected, I got all teary eyed. Even as think about him letting his guard so much to get that close to me…oh boy, it gets to me…as I type this! Gosh, I’m so sappy.

But that was a gesture that was so very out-of-character for Spencer. You know your friendly, trusting horses that come up and put their heads against you expecting you to scratch and pet them, it's not such a big deal really.

Then there are the spoiled horses who put their head against you and kind of nudge you to give them a treat. Or worse, the pushy horses, who head butt you to give up the!

But for this horse so leary of humans, it was as if he forgot himself for a moment. When I felt his head as he laid it so softly against my side, it startled me at first. It was such a gesture of trust and friendliness that I stiffened, and he felt that and his head quickly left me as if he’d felt he’d done something wrong.

He’s done it several times since. He’s finally let his guard down enough with this human to let me know that I’m okay in his world and I'm no longer startled by it, so he knows it's okay.

He’s not overbearing or pushy, he just is telling me something that he’s never told anyone before. I believe he’s saying, “I think I trust you now…I really, really trust you.” (Sniff...see!)

Oh, his feet…

...we work at getting him to pick up his feet as often as I have time and energy. He’s starting to get it. Clicking has helped some. But it’s going to take time. While he maintains them on his own as he has been since he was born. The more I work with him, the more I’m convinced that other than me, when we aced him just before he came to live here, he’s never had his feet touched.

A special treat - grazing on the playfield.

Well, that's about it for now. I hope to put up some pictures soon of his newly trimmed hooves, but don't hold your breath! It's likely going to take some good drugs, for him and for me:0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Spencer gets worried about the people around him and at times he is jumpy, angry and intimidating. I continue to wonder why a horse would behave this way.

Sometimes you just have to try to get inside the head of an animal like him to try to figure him out and help him to become a safe, member of equine society.

I finally came to grips with the fact that I have no idea of what Spencer’s past really was like. I’ve heard things…but have no way of knowing how much of what I’ve heard is fact or fiction. I’m only certain of his last two years before coming here.

We know that he was young stallion who after being loose and living alone in a paddock for 2 years, untouched, was caught after being chased for 3 hours in 90 degree heat and running on a severly abscessing hoof. (This was after several other failed attempts to catch him had taken place during those two years.)

After he gave up and allowed himeself to be haltered, he was hauled to a new location where he was put in with, and brutalized by, another stallion who was protecting his mares who were in the same small field with them. The assault seemed to go on and on with Spencer being cornered many times with no where to run.

In fact, the clash between the two stallions was so horrific neighbors finally called police to the scene. That's how bad it was and that's how bad he looked afterwards. I thought it was awesome that the neighbors intervened on a horse's behalf. The idea for putting him in with that stallion was to teach him a lesson about who was the boss.

Several months later, we adopted him. And I think I finally figured out why he gets so belligerent sometimes. I believe he thinks we might do the same thing that other stallion did to him. And that humans before us did to him. He's anticipating the worst and he's simply protecting himself.

Self preservation! I get that. If fact, I figure, he believes we just want to kill him and eat him!

After all, bottom line, when our horses get worried, isn’t that a common concern of all prey/herd animals? And to add to their concern, I’m pretty sure horses know they taste good.

So after enduring the winter weather for the past few months, I was finally able to do some things with Spencer this weekend. We played the 7 games, we worked on hoof handling, (yes, still working on that) and then I decided to go looking for my clickers. And I found them!

Spencer LOVES treats so he LOVES the clicker! You may recall from an earlier post, when he first came here, he would not take treats from my hand. He would turn his head away when offered food from my hand. He’s been hit, I’m pretty sure, and it took watching Forrest take carrots from me to understand that I wasn’t going to hurt him for taking food from my hand.

When I would offer carrots to Forrest, Spencer would put his nose on the carrot and follow it all the way into Forrest’s mouth. It was the funniest thing to watch and Forrest was like, “What the heck are you doing, Man? Sniffing my carrot? Go sniff your own carrot!” (Amazing how similar their blazes are. So tornado like.)

Then when he realized treats were okay, it was the way he took the treats from me that was worrisome. He’d suddenly reach out with his mouth open, teeth-bared and snap the treat away…before he could get hit, I imagine, but I was careful about my fingers.

So while I was working with the clicker last weekend, I happned to take note of how gentle and gracious he’d become at taking treats from me. He was slow and thoughtful and careful about my fingers. If he felt my fingers against his lips, I could feel him avoid them even if it meant the treat might be dropped. That is why, I believe in hand feeding horses. They need to know “how” to take offerings from human hands because one day a small child might be the one offering from their little hands. There was a day that would have been a dangerous situation with Spencer.

I was so impressed with the changes in him, after I thought about how far we’ve come. He really is starting to remind me of an big old teddy bear. Who still kicks out from time to time and won’t pick up his feet for me to trim yet. But hey, we’re making progress.

Spencer is hanging out in his loafing shed on a rainy afternoon.

I got up on the fence for this shot. A site I don't see very often - his top!

So how do you eat a draft horse?

One bite at a time!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spencer Day-to-Day

What's Spencer been up to lately? I'm frequently asked that question in emails and it makes my heart swell that so many people care about him.

Well, with the weather being yucky and the days short, and me busy as heck, poor Spencer has been kind of bored. My niece says he reminds her of a woolly mammoth right now, with his fuzzy winter coat on.

But Rich and I have promised ourselves that we are going to start working with him at least every other day to get him safer and cooperative, especially, with his feet.

Last week, I was able to get a gigantic front foot up on my stand long enough to clean it and take 2 nips. WOW! That was exciting! It was our first time!

But then for the past few weeks he's been nursing abscesses. First, he was lame on his left front, and as soon as that foot started feeling better, another abscess in his right foot decided to surface.

I wanted to make him feel better by offering him some bute. I stood next to him with with a syringe full of bute mixed with applesauce, but each time I tried to get him to open up, by putting my fingers into the side of his mouth, he'd smush his lips tight and lift his head way out of my reach.

He's the kind of horse who really seems to understand when you look into his eye and try to reason with him, as weird as that may sound to some, even to me. But it works, so I explained to him that I was trying to help him feel better and needed his cooperation.

His response was to press his big ol' head against my chest, letting me know that he'd like to oblige, but he was feeling bad enough, he just didn't want anything yucky squirted into his mouth. Please.

He's so great at communicating his feelings. I don't get how his past owners couldn't see that in him and were so cruel to him at times causing him to become billigerent and mean.

So his grain was laced with applesauce and bute for a few days, which he didn't mind, and the abscesses soon ruptured and he was walking better almost instantly.

The first thing I noticed about Spencer when he came here was that I never saw him laying down. Ever! But the pain in his feet caused him to get off of them often. It was really good to see him laying down actually, even if it was because his feet hurt. I think a horse who can't lay down is just always on guard and always a bit stressed and that's not good for anyone.

(Spencer is taking a load off his painful feet while his gal Pearl, normally nearly white, watches over him.)

So after he was moving better, we decided to get back to working on trimming his feet, when I asked for him to set a foot up on my stand, he said NOPE!

So we are going to forget about trimming and get cooperation and just work with him, which will help with all other aspects of his behavior. This is a horse that needs handled frequently or he easily reverts back to his old ways.

For instance as I was brushing him, when my brush would get near his flank area he'd launch a big old Belgian draft horse kick. Thank goodness, this isn't a typical behavior for most drafts, or there would be lots of draft horse owners' dead bodies found lying near their horses.

Rich, who lost his left hand in an accident, is practicing PNH with Spencer which was great to see. Spencer was really trying for him even though we have to work on Rich's tool handling. (To give a perspective of Spencer's size, Rich is 6' 5". And at times, he enjoys coming off as intimidating as Spencer does!)

When you're working on the tool handling for the first time, it's not easy to handle the rope, stick and string with two hands, let alone one-handed. But when we work together, I can help Rich out with the stick while he deals only with the rope. We'll work it out.

Spencer is a great project horse for Rich. They are both my big guys!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spencer in Miniature!

One foggy morning, I went outside to feed the horses. I looked out at the herd and I didn't see Spencer. I saw a horse that looked like Spencer, but he seemed smaller than the other horses.

I looked and looked. Were my eye deceiving me? Did I need new glasses? How could this be?

As I got closer, I could see that Spencer was about the size of a Shetland pony. Very cute and easy to manage. I thought of all the benefits of this new size. Less hay! Smaller poop piles!

I could trim his feet without getting killed! Yea!

But I missed the Big Spencer! I was sad and started to cry.

I cried so hard, my eyelids filled with tears until I thought they would burst. I could hear someone in the distance "Open your eyes! Open your eyes!"

So I did! And I realized I was dreaming.

This is Buster. A new pony that I brought home last week against my husband's better judgement of course! I had been looking for one for my granddaughter and I found this little guy on Craig's list. He looked so much like my big guy, I had to have him. He's very sweet and easy for kids to handle even though he's only 4 years old. And he's NOT a rescue! How about that!

I had you going for bit there though...didn't I?

The Thrill is Gone, Baby. And so is the snow!

Spencer is really glad the snow is gone.

So is Sophie.

The dogs loved it!

Especially Mae!

The snow made Cricket's foundered feet feel better. She liked it.

But we're glad it's gone and it hasn't been raining for a few days. In fact, the sun was out today and that was nice.