November 2006

Maximum Hoof Power
Hoof Care
How To Think
Like A Horse
Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
Your Horse Barn DVD
Horse For Sale by Cherry Hill
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
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Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry Hill Integrity,
Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry Hill Club Foot
Horse Information Newsletter from Cherry Hill Desensitization

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Dear Cherry,

I am one of your biggest fans when it comes to helping my horse. Your advice in your articles has helped me out a lot. I have read some of your articles on the internet and how you helped people out with their horse's problems. Your work has inspired me to have horses from now until the day I die. I am writing this letter because I have a project in my Health Class that has to deal with integrity. The dictionary's definition of integrity is to have honest and moral soundness. What my project requires is a self definition from any person you choose to write too, and I chose you. I chose you because I think you have a very good definition of integrity. Your opinion of integrity would mean the world to me. Shannon

Hi Shannon,
Thank you for including me in your project. I'm honored. To me, integrity IS honesty. You can't buy integrity but, unfortunately, many people sell their integrity. By this I mean, they see an opportunity to make a little money and might tell a little white lie here and there and before you know it, they have lost their integrity. When someone loses their integrity, people no longer trust them, but even worse, they have lost faith in themselves, whether they know it or not. That's why before you do or say anything, you should ask yourself questions like: "Is it honest? Is it wise? Is it true? Will I be proud of what I say or do?"

One way I preserve my integrity is to not endorse any products or have any commercial sponsors. I think when someone takes money from a manufacturer of a horse feed or a grooming product or a type of horse blanket to endorse a product, they have essentially sold their opinion. They can no longer be objective - if someone asks them a question about a particular item of horse tack for example, if they endorse a different type of tack, their answer will often be biased.

Although there certainly isn't anything inherently immoral about being wealthy, placing too much emphasis on money can lead to a loss of integrity.

In conclusion, I try to be the very best person I can be, knowing that my words and actions are not only important to my own moral fiber, but are often an example to my readers.

Best Regards,

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Club Foot


I just love your site and have gotten so much good information from reading it. However, there is one thing that you haven't addressed and that is the club foot and uneven heel syndrome and l imb length disparity issues. I have been looking at a horse for sale who has this and trying to read as much as I can on it to see whether I should buy her or not. It would be great to see something on your site that addresses these issues. Thanks again for your wonderful site! Terry


Hello Terry,

Your best bet is to have a veterinarian and/or farrier examine the horse and make a determination. Read this about veterinary pre-purchase exams.

Horse For Sale by Cherry HillYour Horse Barn DVDWe cover the subject of club foot, mismatched feet and other topics in our book Horse Hoof Care and in "Common Problems" Chapter 11 of Maximum Hoof Power. Here for your convenience are a few excerpts from Maximum Hoof Power:

CLUB FOOT A DP imbalance at the other end of the scale from LT-LH is the club foot which is essentially a short toe-long heel. This type of imbalance often affects a hoof that has been non-weight bearing for a period of time, because of an injury, for example. In this case the club foot is usually temporary in nature and can be coached back to a normal shape by judicious trimming and proper exercise.

Another type of mild club foot is caused by excessive wear of the bare toe from pawing, toe dragging, or poor quality hoof wall. This type of club foot can often be controlled by application of a half shoe, also called a tip shoe. Usually made from the toe portion of a light shoe like a training plate, the half shoe protects the toe of the hoof and leaves the heels bare to wear off in a normal fashion. The ends of the half shoe are tapered and/or set into the hoof so there is not an abrupt step where the shoe makes the transition to the quarters of the hoof. If the toe of the hoof is worn back, the toe of the half shoe can be extended out to the normal point of breakover. A side benefit of the half shoe is that it cannot be stepped off!

A more serious type of club foot is caused by a contraction of the flexor muscle-tendon unit that attaches to the coffin bone (Figure 5-DC). This club foot may occur in one or both feet. It most commonly affects the fronts. The reasons for this contracture are not clearly understood but as the tendon tightens, it pulls the heels of the hoof off the ground and they tend to grow very long. The horse's weight is shifted on to the toe which causes excessive wear and a dishing of the toe.

Trying to forcibly lower the heels of this type of club foot is rarely a good idea. In most cases, such an approach will make the club foot worse. It is better to support the heels by an elevated shoe or a shoe in conjunction with a wedge pad. If, when the horse is standing squarely, there is 1/4 inch of space between the heels of the club foot and the ground, the amount of elevation should be 1/2 inch or more. This procedure allows the heels to bear weight, takes some weight off the toe, and lessons the constant strain on the deep flexor muscle-tendon unit. Sometimes this will break the contraction cycle, allowing the muscle to relax enough so the hoof can be gradually lowered down over a period of weeks to a more normal angle. In other cases, the horse may never be able to have its heels lowered but may be comfortable and even useable with the elevated heels.

Foals with mild to moderate club feet, if diagnosed and treated early, have a fair chance to perform unencumbered as adults. Advances in glue-on shoe technology allow corrective shoes to be applied to foals at a few weeks of age. However, it is difficult to predict which foals will respond to treatment. Yearlings that have had extensive corrective trimming and shoeing to correct club feet may appear normal but radiographs may show malformations of the coffin bone. Changes in the coffin bone usually indicate a poor chance for the young horse to perform as athletes.


Mismatched feet, or high-low syndrome, usually affects the front feet. One hoof tends toward LT-LH and the other tends to be clubby. Some farriers report that over half of the horses they shoe have mismatched feet to some degree.

One approach to dealing with the high-low syndrome is to lower the heels of the steep hoof and elevate the heels of the low hoof so hoof angles match. Where the initial difference between the feet is slight (less than 5 degrees) this method usually works fine and will not affect the horse's performance.

However, if the difference in toe angles is 5 degree or greater, it is usually better not to force the hooves to be the same angle. Mismatched feet on a sound horse are more "balanced" than matching feet on a lame horse. This is why some farriers shun the use of a hoof gauge as a trimming guide. They feel that it is better to align the hoof and pastern of each foot visually and to evaluate the horse's movement when determining how to trim.

To attain dynamic balance and an even stride, it may be necessary to shoe a horse with two different shoes on the fronts. For example, a horse might wear a squared-toe egg bar on the low hoof and a thicker, full-toed plain shoe on the steep hoof (Photo 11-13). The egg bar will provide support for the low heels and the squared toe will help speed breakover. The thicker shoe on the steep hoof will make up for the extra weight of the egg bar on the low hoof. The lower hoof seems to have more natural "action" anyway and the steep hoof may need an even heavier shoe to balance the movement. This symmetry of limb movement is more important for horses that are being judged in the ring on the correctness of their gaits. With most horses, however, it is sufficient to concentrate on shoeing to provide necessary support.

When trimming mismatched feet, it is easy to trim the steep hoof too short. That's why it is best to trim the low hoof first and then the steep hoof only enough to match the toe lengths. One method of evaluating relative toe lengths is to stand the horse on a flat level surface and view the knees from the front. The bumps on the insides of the knees should usually be the same level. If necessary, a rim pad or wedge pad can be used to elevate the low hoof.

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Dear Cherry,

I'm asking this question for my two little PMU girls to get them started on the right tract. They are both 17 months now. They seem to learn quickly and I would prefer them to learn the correct way to behave and accept things being done to them. Thanking you in advance, Mary

Hi Mary,

How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillHere is an excerpt from my new book How to Think Like a Horse which should get you started.

Habituation One of the very first training principles you use when you work with a horse is habituation. Related terms (listed in order from mild to extreme) are gentling, sacking out/ desensitization and flooding.

Flooding - an intense, overwhelming form of habituation

Habituation introduces a horse to a particular person, procedure or object in order to gain the horse’s acceptance without fear.

Gentling is touching a horse on every part of his body and getting him used to being groomed all over. Although a horse naturally loves to be rubbed on his forehead and neck, he must learn to accept and appreciate grooming elsewhere, especially in his ticklish and sensitive areas.

Sacking out a horse with blankets and slickers is a way of gradually decreasing his apprehensions concerning the sight or sound of an object or of the object touching him. By repeated careful exposure to a certain stimulus, a horse’s response can be diminished. Sacking out is a form systematic desensitization where a mild stimulus is introduced at a low level, rest periods are given, and the stimulus is gradually increased. With sacking out, if your end goal is to shake a noisy sheet of plastic over a horse’s back and hit him with it, you would start with rubbing him with a soft cotton blanket and gradually work up to the plastic over a period of days or weeks.

Flooding is exposure to full intensity stimulus while restraining the animal until the animal stops reacting. With the above example, you would fully restrain the horse and then come at him from all side with sheets of plastic, waving them wildly. Not only does this hold risk of injury to all parties but it is an inhumane and unnecessary means to an end.

I prefer my horses to be sacked out for safety but not totally desensitized, brain dead or robotic. When I am riding in the mountains, I want them to bring their instincts along. If I had removed all reflexes with aggressive flooding, it would be like riding a stuffed horse. I take care of my horses and when we are riding I expect my horses to take care of me, but it would be difficult for them to react to danger if they had been sacked to oblivion.

A beneficial use of desensitization (repeated stimulation to diminish the response) is evident when your veterinarian gives your horse an injection. Often the vet will tap the injection site a few times with the back of his hand to stimulate the initial nerve firing before he inserts the needle. Thus prepared, a horse often doesn’t react to the needle because his skin has been desensitized. A similar deadening occurs when you pick up a fold of skin and hold it for a few seconds before you insert a needle. The area around the site of injection has become dull to pain and the horse barely feels the needle go in.

Best of luck,

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