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Equine Experts Interview - Pat Wagner

In order to grow, one must learn. In order to learn, one must study. That’s what my “Equine Experts Interview” installments will help you with – gaining knowledge from an expert. The dictionary defines the word ‘expert’ as : “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” 

This week we will be learning from natural barefoot trimmer, Patricia Wagner . Not only is she an expert in her field of horses, but she also serves as trail blazer for the natural hoof care industry.  I have been able to virtually work with this sweet lady on a professional level for the past several months, I can say WITH OUT a doubt she is one of the most knowledgeable and well rounded practitioners I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. Please enjoy 10 fast facts from Pat!

Equine Expert: Patricia Wagner, ANHCP trimmer

1.) If you could paraphrase what you do for your career with horses what would it sound like? “Save equine lives using sensible hoof rehabilitation and teach others to do the same.”

2.) What were three important accomplishments that allowed you to develop into your current profession with horses?   1. Published a hoof trimming DVD titled Discovering Your Horse’s Natural Hooves – How to Trim the Barefoot Horse. (Found on our website: ) 2. Opened a certified non-profit equine rescue facility currently caring for over 25 horses. 3. Through my own research, I have found the correct answers to the causes, process and cure of equine hoof abscesses.

3.) What have horses taught you most about people, and what have people taught you most about horses? Horses have taught me that various people tend to blame others (people, and horses) for their own lack of skills, understanding and closed mindedness, rather than asking for help or seeking better information. Those people seem to be the ones who will try the same things over and over expecting different results. Horses force us to show our true selves. Stepping into a round pen with a horse will quickly reveal which of us are skilled, naturals, which are fakes, and which are simply unskilled and admittedly trying to learn. People have taught me that horses deserve patience and time and how to be the confident leader that every horse desires. People whose lives are shrouded in despair need to get themselves around horses, especially equines whose lives have been affected by abuse and neglect. You don’t have to own a horse to experience them. Volunteer at local rescues, or find a busy horse owning friend who would welcome an extra hand. That is a win for all!

4.) Name one thing that you think would be valuable for every horse owner to know. Your horse is not a cow! Only haul equines in a horse trailer. Stock trailers are meant for cattle that ride with their heads below the opening in the sides of those trailers so their eyes are not vulnerable to rocks flipped up by car tires and insects hitting their eyes at faster speeds. How many horses have you met who are blind in their left eye? Also, stock trailers typically aren’t equipped with dividers. Devastating injuries are caused by tying the horse’s head before securing his butt with the divider when loading; or releasing the horse’s butt before untying his head when unloading, which are less likely to happen if you remember the “tie head last and untie first” method. Not all horses go into panic mode in opposite situation, but it’s a ticking time bomb. As the saying goes, it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when” a horse tries to follow you back out, realizes his head is trapped and erupts inside the trailer! It’s likely you’ve seen that kind of a trailer wreck. Most of us have. If you must haul in a stock trailer take steps to protect your horse’s eyes. A fly mask, at least, may protect from insect impacts. You can install protective shields in those slates on the sides, but then you will have an airflow problem. Make sure dividers are installed inside the trailer. If you’re shopping for a horse trailer, (yes stock trailers cost less, but that is for a reason) my best advice is to invest a bit more in your horse and buy a “horse” trailer. Leave the stock trailers to the cows.

5.) What aspects/parts of the equine industry do you think should be more integrated, and which areas already do a good job of it? Why is it horses are the only species that are not allowed time to heal and rehabilitate from hoof ailments? I feel that veterinary medicine and natural hoof care needs to better integrate and that needs to start in the colleges. Very few veterinarians offer shoeless hoof therapy as an option to heal an equine in hoof pain mainly because it’s not part of the curriculum in colleges. Therefore, it’s not acceptable to them. That, I feel, is because natural hoof rehabilitation isn’t a quick fix, which is something we’ve all come to expect when hoof ailments occur in our horses. It’s true that a good shoer can cause a lame horse to become instantly sound. Sadly, that unsound horse is still the same unsound horse. The shoes inhibit the horse’s sensory preceptors so he can’t “feel” the pain in his feet. That’s not a cure; it’s a cast that only lasts until it doesn’t. Pull the shoes and guess what? Same lame horse. Is the answer really to keep him shod so we can ride him with damaged hooves, or to actually rehabilitate him? I choose sound feet, shod or not, and I will give him the time he needs to recover. Natural horsemanship and Natural Hoofcare seem to be coming together faster than any other aspects of the equine industry. We are doing a good job, but we still have a long way to go.

6.) Share a goal or aspiration you would like to see the horse industry meet or one that you have for yourself.  I would like to see shoeless horses become more accepted in the competitive/performance horse fields especially in the horse racing industry. In order to make that happen we need to eradicate the uneducated hacks from the hoof care field. Some, even well known professionals, are being hired to destroy hooves starting with very young horses, sending them into a lifetime of soundness issues because hoof anatomy, application of a proper hoof trim, and prevention of chronic hoof conditions is completely lost on them. They cause more deaths to our equine partners than just about anything else. And if you doubt that is a true statement all you have to do is spend time at a renderer’s facility. I’m not sure if general licensing of hoof care professionals will accomplish that goal or exactly what we can do, but it is clear that something needs to change in the hoof care area of our industry. I believe those changes need to start with the equine medical community.

7.) Please tell us one thing that you do that is “natural” for your equine partner. I take my horses on grazing walks! I think that excellent way to build a solid relationship. I often hear people say that they NEVER allow their horses eat on the trails or while leading, because they become frustrated with the many ill-timed grass dives. But taking a horse out to graze on the lead offers endless training opportunities. I teach our horses to be cooperative about lifting their head when I ask, without having to pull on his face, and not to drop his head unless he’s invited. That way grass diving is a rare issue. Other benefits include, a fun way to exercise for both, instills trust in each other, horse safely adapts to traffic, chances to offer positive reinforcement causing your horse feel like a winner, and most importantly motivates our horse to be caught. An easy to catch horse requires us to make sure there is something in it for him now and then. If we only ever catch our horse to work him and correct mistakes, it’s not long before we are chasing him around the pasture halter in hand. I guess that is exercise too, but not the fun kind.

8.) Share one of the funniest or most memorable moments you have had surrounding horse’s/horse-people. There was a scrawny 8 year old quarter horse living a lonely existence in a pasture that I passed coming and going to work and errands. I had been away from horses for about 10 years, but this young mare and I seemed to need each other. With her, came my good fortune to discover Pat Parelli’s book “Natural Horse-Man-Ship,” which had been published only a few years prior. Over time we both bloomed, she gained weight and I lost. We grew so she raced me to the gate to be haltered! When she was around 12 years old, I was sitting in the saddle at a Level 2 Parelli clinic with PNH Professional Marc Rea. Lunch break ended, auditors returned to their seats and the 10 or so clinic participants were sitting on our horses listening to Marc. A late arriving student rode over to me to politely whisper that I had left my headlights on. I considered the situation. I didn’t want to miss part of class by dismounting and walking all the way back to the parking area, but I didn’t want to end the day with a dead battery either. I surveyed the distance to my truck and decided to make a run for it. I turned my mare away from the group and asked her for a full gallop to the far end of the arena. That’s when I realized I had to lift my legs in the stirrups to clear 2 barrels that were standing about a horse’s width apart in the gate opening. I did it! Then we raced over the gravel driveway on her tough bare hooves, and turned right to take a shortcut behind the old barn, between two posts, up a hill, around some obstacles, stopping at my truck and trailer. I hopped off, hit the lights, back on and raced back down the hill, past the barn, blasted over the rocky road, and finally through the barrels, lifting my stirrups again at a dead run; exaggerating the maneuver just enough to show off, but not fall off. (It was close!) Then as we galloped back up to the group I wondered if we would come to a graceful stop or if I would end up eating sand. I leaned gently back and she came to a smoothest halt I could have imagined. I tried for an expression of, “No big deal, we do that every day.” But inside, my heart was thumping, mostly with pride because at that moment I realized just how lucky I was to have such a wonderful horse. Marc didn’t seem to even notice we were gone. Then he said, “I’m going to ask each one of you to go through some obstacles and perform some maneuvers at a trot.” Then he smiled at me and said, “YOU will go through at a canter!” No problem for my good mare! Missy is retired now and is the perfect partner to one of our partially blind rescue horses. Danny has been carrying me over the trails for many years now and is almost as good as his mom. As for me, I feel privileged to have had at least one super horse in my life… and a close second!

9.) Please list 5 fun facts about yourself related or unrelated to horses.

In my twenties, I had a short stint as a hobby stock race car driver in powder puff derbies.

That was a blast! 2. I once submitted my story about my relationship to with my mare, Missy, to a nationwide writing contest and won a bunch of cool horse products. 3. We lived on a 300 acre working dairy for a few years where I rode my horse on lovely private trails and our dogs could come along. They loved our rides in the woods! 4. I enjoy taking Piano and Spanish lessons, but I’m not very good at either one…yet. 5. I often miss cell phone calls because I’m too busy dancing to my ringtone!

10.)*What does ‘natural horsemanship’ mean to you?* Natural Horsemanship was my mid-life crisis in a wonderful way. PNH came into my life at a time when I was desperate for a career and life change and I had just purchased a horse after years of being away from them. Not only has NH helped me develop many horses with behavioral issues – some very serious – go on to become awesome partners, but I also wouldn’t have a career in natural hoof care without the knowledge and skill I’ve learned over the years about equine behavior. NH has taught me to use my imagination and find ways to complete challenging, even dangerous, tasks and not give up before exhausting every try. Success is so gratifying for me when I consider all the horses I have been privileged to help and equine lives I’ve impacted or even saved. Due to the “time flies” element of life I’m no longer as young and nimble, so I try to introduce NH and Natural Hoof Care to as many young people as are interested in learning. Natural Horsemanship really has been a lifestyle for me.

A note from Pat: “If it’s okay, I’d like to add on last tip here. Learn about your horse’s hooves! Don’t leave your horses’ soundness entirely up to someone else. The hoof seems to be the part of the equine that most horse owners/trainers are least familiar. Our horses will pay the price if we leave our horses’ hoof health up to whomever we hire; and we tend to base our hiring decisions on reliability, or tolerance for bad-behavior. Do your own research, and get second opinions. Don’t feel intimated about asking questions. Oh and use Natural Horsemanship to help your horses be cooperative for extended hoof handling. A horse that is handy with his hooves will keep your good farrier around longer. If your horse should develop hoof issues, go searching for answers that make sense. Be your horse’s strongest advocate because there will be times when we are the only one in our horse’s corner and our horses are counting on us not to throw in the towel.”

Patricia Bio and Website: : Patricia Morgan Wagner was part of the early movement of horse owners gravitating to shoeless hoof care. Her travels have taken her around the country and as far as Costa Rica several times to help horses afflicted with hoof issues. Pat’s main area of research is hoof abscesses and she has learned that traditional thinking about hoof abscesses is inaccurate and her articles on the topic have been published in several major horse magazines. Pat offers a DVD that teaches basic bare hoof trimming. She and her husband, Rich, have taken in and rehabilitated many equines with hoof ailments, and in 2009 received state and federal certification as a 501c3 non-profit, Rainier Equine Hoof Recovery Center where they offer classes in natural hoof care and owners can bring their horses for rehabilitation.

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