Thursday, January 20, 2011

The True Story of Beau's Feet, Part 2: Having a farrier who's willing to listen

Yesterday I showed you some icky photos of what Beau's feet looked like and described some of the challenges we faced when he first came to Critter Farm a year ago:

The part of Beau's story that I want to share with you today is just how far we have come since those pictures were taken.

Because Beau's feet had been neglected for so long prior to arriving at Critter Farm, only small increments could be trimmed off his feet each time the farrier came. Perry, my farrier, made small corrections that wouldn't leave Beau hurting afterward, yet would set him up well for further corrections at the next trim:

Every five to six weeks since last February, Perry has come to work on Beau (and Chester, too, if he needs it). Some of Beau's trims have seriously felt like the tiniest of baby steps, but Perry always explains to me what he is doing and how this will help with what he wants to do on the next visit. He has always been able to give me a "long term picture". And when he does, I then share with him my personal long term goal: to have him trim Beau's feet without Beau being sedated. Perry always gives me a "look" and makes some funny comment when I tell him this goal. Beau's speedy hind feet, even under sedation, always keep Perry on his toes.

A word now about farriers:

It's really, really difficult to find a good one.
I can't tell you how many farriers I've talked to who are so set in their ways, they are no longer willing or interested in learning anything new. These farriers also have no interest in acknowledging the differences between horses and donkeys. There are even farriers who think it's ok to frighten or "smack" an animal who kicks out or refuses to stand still. I don't work with these people.

The number one reason I ask my current farrier back time and time again is because he is willing to listen to me and work with me. I feel like we are a team. When I have a concern, we discuss it and come up with a plan. I don't offend him when I ask questions or make suggestions.

...Ok, so I do have to remind him not to flip his tools in the air and catch them when we're trimming feet and repeatedly tell him he shouldn't gesture wildly around either of the boys, who get scared by quick movements - but these are just small things that disappear in light of the work he does. :-)

Here. Let me show you the work he does.

Below are some pictures of Beau's feet over the last months.
Beau's rear foot in February 2010:

Beau's rear foot in June 2010:

These are Beau's rear feet around mid July 2010:

Beau's rear feet in September 2010:

Don't his feet look amazing? He is no longer walking on the sides of his hooves! Yet, still...something still wasn't quite right.

The boys' feet would look great immediately following a trim but within just a couple days, they would look too long to me. The heel seemed too short and the toe too long. The angle looked, well, more like a horse than a donkey.

Perry and I went around and around for months about this. I showed him pictures of my trip last May to the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland. "See?! They are trimmed at a steeper angle. Trim to the angle of their pasterns," I would say. Perry would respond: "Give me some numbers - I need angle degrees and toe length measurements. I don't think you're right, but if you can show me numbers.."

So...I did.

Here are Beau's (on left) and Chester's (on right) feet in November 2010:

The difference between September and November is huge. Can you see it? Their feet look like donkey feet now. And do you know who I have to thank for this? My Internet and blogging friends.

Geraldine from the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland sent me all the info they had on the subject.

Mrs. Mom over at Oh HorseFeathers & Related Twisted "Tails" reached out to me, offering support, encouragement and links to sites that discussed appropriate hoof angles for donkeys.

And Linda from 7MSN actually went out and took pictures of her donkeys' feet during a trim with her farrier, Shorty. She went so far as to note angles and measurements on each picture:

I can't tell you how many times I have referred back to these pictures.

All of this information has been absolutely invaluable to me.

Beau's feet continue to be rather misshapen, but with every trim they look more and more normal. Progress continues to be made and, if there's ever a time when I doubt this, all I have to do is go back and look through my pictures.

So, that's the story about having a farrier who listens.
There's just one story left to tell about Beau's feet and I think you'll like that one a lot.

See you tomorrow.


  1. I don't know why but I clicked to read the post and I learned something new! I also have a soft-spot for donkeys...hi Beau!

  2. Hooray! I just ABSOLUTELY love the way you love your boys. Sweet, sweet Beau has come such a long way and I'm so happy for both you and for him.

    Thanks to Carson, we also know and use Shorty to farrier our boys. He's awesome and we love him.

    I can NOT believe there are farriers out there who would think it's okay to smack an equine. I think I'd have to smack the farrier in return.

  3. a lot of people wouldn't think that it matters all that much if the hoofs look healthy in general. Beau sure is a lucky donkey to have someone care about the details. As a physical therapist, I can tell you that little increments on the support of a person/animal make a big difference.

  4. That's fantastic! The hooves do look much much better in the last photo. Good farriers are hard to find - I'm glad you found one that will listen to you.

  5. What a blessing you are to your critters!! Looking forward to tomorrows post.... girls are amazed at the difference in his feet.

  6. Amazing progress! It's a good thing you're persistent about getting it right. Sounds like you found a good farrier.

  7. Dani,
    You are an angel. Seriously, an angel.

    And the secret code word is bleste, as in, your donkeys are bleste to have you.

  8. I'm loving following this :D You're farrier sounds like a good bloke as they would say here in NZ :D Looking forward to tomorrow!

  9. Wow wow wow! Beau's feet look ten times better. He is a lucky donkey to have you taking care of him. Poor guy. I have never seen such a mess like his hooves were. Looks like you have found a gem in your farrier.

  10. Poor little guy, he's had a tough go of it. I don't even want to think about some of the "control" devices our farrier had when I was a kid on the farm. I'd never allow someone like that around if I had horses now. Sounds like you got a great guy, willing to learn a new thing or two.

    That's really interesting, I didn't know that donkey's hooves were so different from horses, but I can see it in your pics. I hope Beau continues to heal up well.

  11. Wow! More than I'd ever thought I'd learn about donkey feet. And farriers. Great progress!

  12. this is such a happy story. and you sure are right about farriers. when you get a good one hang on for life!!!

  13. Yay!! ;)

    I just know this is going to end with Beau walking up to Perry and giving him Royal Donkey Honors!! (ie: Ear Rubs and handing him a hoof NICELY with no meds!!)

  14. What would we ever do without the internet? It has been invaluable to you and Beau! I'm so glad you have a great farrier who listens. They are invaluable.

  15. What a lucky guy, to find himself in a place where there is so much intention to help him feel good, and so much patience and persistence for getting there!


    Can't wait for the happy ending.....


  16. I am really glad for Beau's sake that he has a mommy who cares.

    And a farrier who listens.

  17. Great that there are people out there who are so willing to work with animal owners. Beau looks like he is on his way to some donkey dancin'! Thanks for sharing such a hearwarming event.

  18. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing your love and care of your boys. I just have to think of how many others this will help, too. I just love reading about you and your critters.

  19. This makes me so happy on so many levels. (I have to say though, that I can't print what I thought when I saw those photos of Beau's 'old''s considered very filthy in some circles.)

    So glad to see the improvement in Beau's feet and really pleased that you have an open minded and competent farrier (hard work, that!) and absolutely so proud of all our friends in Blogger Land who stepped up to help. I'm constantly amazed and overwhelmed by this fabulous network of loving, supportive individuals I belong to. How awesome is THAT?!? Yay!

    This post makes me want to do a happy dance. *grin* And, you tell me there's more good news to come...? I don't know if I can take it.

  20. Hoof care is truly a scientific undertaking. I had no idea how much research you have been collecting to help correct and heal those neglected hooves.
    I know how much you have loved animals ever since you were a tiny girl, but now you have become a healer of animals in so many ways. What a great way of continuing to show your love for those fortunate animals of yours.
    I am so looking forward to tomorrow's story!

  21. Having a farrier, or a vet that will listen is like finding gold at the end of the rainbow, they can both be that elusive.

    Great friends willing to take the time and effort to help and partake of their years of knowledge... priceless.

    Now I sound like a credit card advert.

    LiBBiE in Oz


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