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.."
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.