KAREN GRIFFITHS’ HORSEPLAY COLUMN: Watch out for sticky mud while on a ride

  • Sunday, March 27, 2016 12:01am
  • News

THESE ARE THE “mud sucking shoes off horses” days, my friends.

The days between the sloppy, slinky mud from winter rains and the rock-hard dirt from the days of hot summer sun.

As anyone with a horse wearing shoes will tell you, this is the time of year the drying mud becomes like a commercial vacuum, working to suck those shoes right off the hoof.

There’s no getting around it. Deep, sticky mud can pull off horseshoes, even if they’ve been put on properly.

Frustrating experience

I can tell you first-hand how frustrating it is to be out on the trail, sometimes miles away from home, and to lose a shoe because if the ground is hard and rocky, it means getting off and hoofin’ it home alongside him if you don’t want to take a chance on him coming up lame.

And while I love the trails by my home, they are chock-full of those slippery, mud-sucking pits, and most of the time, there’s no way to go around those sinkholes, so one must just soldier on.

Pasture mud will do the same darn thing.

When I’m looking forward to riding, it can be so irritating to get the horse out of the pasture only to discover a missing shoe because unless I’m prepared to put a shoe on the horse myself, I can’t ride.

This month, both Indy and Lacey lost a shoe.

When I’m riding alone, it’s not a big deal, but if I’m riding with someone, then I need to buck up and tack that shoe back on.

Perhaps if I were younger, really knew what I was doing and did so on a regular basis, I’d be able to nail the shoe back on in, say, 15 minutes.

Alas, I’m a portly older woman who isn’t the most agile and who doesn’t put a shoe on a horse very often.

I can and have done it, but I’m by no means good at it.

I’ve studied the subject and have most of the tools.

So I have the head-knowledge of the basic mechanics — balancing the hoof and how it’s done, and how to perform a barefoot trim versus trimming a horse for shoes — but I lack practical experience, and it seems to take me forever just to re-tack a shoe on.

Certain protocols must be followed.

If the shoe got bent or twisted, it needs to be flattened out.

Use old shoes

If it can’t be saved or isn’t found, I have saved old shoes I can use if needed.

Nailheads need to face the correct way.

They are beveled at the tip, so they will come out at an angle.

Should you insert the nail in the wrong way, it will go inside the hoof into the sensitive laminae and hurt your horse.

This is my worst fear.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to replace their shoes this time as my farrier, Preston Pherson, was able to stop by shortly after each time.

I should emphasize there are many times a horseshoer is just too busy to swing by to replace a lost shoe in a timely manner.

In that case, options include trying to do it yourself or to ask for a referral.


My friend Zorina Barker doesn’t worry about lost shoes.

She trims her animals’ hoofs herself, keeping them barefoot, and uses hoof boots on rides.

She lives in the Sol Duc Valley, an area with more cold and rain than where I live in Sequim.

She related a story to me of how thankful she is to some folks who live in Happy Valley.

They put a bunch of horse items in front of their driveway with a “free” sign.

As her son Ashtin said, “Nothing stops Mom dead in her tracks like free stuff.”

From the pile, she said, they “grabbed some useful items, including blankets.”

While the blankets looked too small for her horses and were not suitable for rain, she thought her mule, Broo, might be able to use them while in his stall.

At the time, Barker’s blanket supply was down to only unlined rain sheets, and she lacked the money for new blankets.

During cold weather, she found the rain sheets weren’t keeping her horses dry.

While it did repel the rain, because they are waterproof and lack a breathable liner, the horses’ warm bodies start to sweat.

That creates moisture under the blanket. If the weather is freezing outside, the wet inside the blanket can turn to freezing cold.

The day she shared her story, the temperature at her place was in the mid-30s with a big wind and rain- or snowstorm on its way.

Tried on horses

In preparation for the nasty weather, she brought those second-hand blankets over to see if I could make them work under the rain sheets not only for Broo but also for her horses Josh and Doll.

They chose to stand out in the elements because their shelter rattles in the wind.

She flipped the first blanket over Josh and said it fit “perfectly. Then I put his rain sheet over the top, made all the strap adjustments and he is set. Dolly worked out the same way.”

Since then, her horses have weathered every storm successfully, and Barker is extremely grateful to that unknown horsey family for providing her horses with something she couldn’t at the time.


■ Freedom Farm Easter Egg Hunt — Today from noon to 2 p.m., 493 Spring Road, Agnew.

Contact Mary Gallagher at 360-457-4897.

■ Equine Dental Clinic with Dr. Vetter — April 1-3 at Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

Contact Betty Mysak at 360-379-6931 or mbmysak@gmail.com.

■ OPEN hosting another equine vet clinic with Dr. Sean Tuley — Sunday, April 17, at 10 a.m. at 554 Roupe Road in Sequim.

There will be discounts on teeth floating, castration and other routine vet care.

Proceeds from the $50 farm call ($25 for each additional horse) go to OPEN.

For more information, visit OPEN on Facebook or call 360-207-1688.

■ Baker Stables schooling show — Sunday, April 27, at 9 a.m. at 164 Four Winds Road in Port Angeles.

Ribbons to sixth place will be presented along with high point awards.

Contact Dana King at 360-460-7832.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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