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Monday, November 12, 2007

Icelandic Hoof Interlude at Cornell: Sigurdsson Tolts On

Rider Sigurdur Oli Kristinsson, farrier Sigurdur Sigurdsson, and Cornell's Michael Wildenstein pose with a furry Icelandic horse (don't call them ponies!) after an in-depth seminar on shoeing and gait adjustment on the Icelandic horse. The farrier speaker brought a top rider with him to illustrate the fine points of gaiting the fast little island-bred horses that have become very popular in the United States. Below are the finished front feet on this horse. The fine art of adjusting a horse's gaits was covered; the Icelandic horse has five natural gaits, including the four-beat "tolt" which can be trotty or pacey. Adjusting shoe weight behind or in front can have a big effect on the horse's tolt, as illustrated by Siggy and Siggy on two horses worked on the indoor matted horse run at Cornell. The farrier's job is to make sure that the tolt is a true four-beat gait. "Siggy Sig" is director of hoofcare studies at Holar University College, Iceland and is very active as a rider in international competition. Many farriers from the Northeast attended to learn about these horses that are showing up in their practices. It was an outstanding presentation; it's a rare treat to see a farrier pleased enough with his work to ride the horse and there were many points that would have been valuable for trainers or farriers. No one in the audience could say "been there, done that". You know it's a good clinic when I'm not the only one taking photos.


Anonymous said...

Gaited horses need to be trimmed exactly like three-gaited horses: with their hoofs trimmed to be in balance, not too long and not too short. In other words, their conformation dictates how they should be trimmed, NOT their gaitedness. (Of couse, shoes may be dictated when/if a horse needs therapy for a medical condition, or for protection in a particularly rocky area - but the rules apply equally to gaited horses and non-gaited, IF your primary concern is the long-term soundness of your horses.) When a farrier trims to enhance gait, inevitably something else will be ignored. I've owned gaited and non-gaited horses for 20 years, and I live in an area with many different gaited breeds. The same farrier trims them all, and he trims each horse with care - not taking the horses gaitedness or lack of into consideration. My trotting horses trot nicely and my gaited horses gait as their conformation dictates. The worst thing that can happen to a gaited horse is to try to manipulate gait from the feet! Gait originates in the horse's back - dependent on the angles in his lumbar spine-hips-pelvis and rear legs. If you try to manipulate gait from the feet, inevitably you will stress the joints somewhere in his body - that's not fair to the horses.

Some horses are built to trot, and they should be appreciated for what they are. The best place to work on gait, is in the barn, when deciding which horses to breed to begin with!

This sort of obsolete thinking has gotten US gaited horses in a lot of trouble in years past. Many Americans know better now, but we're still fighting these old wives tales. These Icelandic farriers are way behind.

A horse who is built to gait will gait barefoot, with a good, balanced trim. A horse that is gait impaired MAY be able to have his gait improved by looking at other factors that might be causing discomfort - one of my mares will get pacey if her saddle is too tight, for instance. Another horse was pacey, but I traced it to an old withers injury, and with vet care, groundwork exercises, and time off, his gaits improved. And I know a few trotty horses who developed their gaits after their back muscles had time to develop, with the rider patiently walking and trotting them in the interim.

Sorry for the long post, but I have seen too many gaited horses, including Icelandic's, who are being ruined by trying to make them gait via harsh riding or by giving them odd shoes/trims. I rehabbed one last year who had much confusion because trainers had insisted he gait. He's build to trot, no matter that he's from a gaited breed.

Superfecta said...

I love Icelandic horses; they are by far my favorite breed to ride (and just to generally be around, given how smart and sturdy they are). They are addictive -- once you've ridden in Iceland, you have to go back again.

Sounds like a great clinic!

Fran Jurga said...

Responding to the post by "Anonymous": I think you have the wrong idea about what this farrier was teaching. Icelandics are naturally able to both trot and pace; the tolt is a four beat gait that must BE four beats to excel in the judge's eyes. It is a natural gait for these horses, but must be precisely four beats. Siggy was able to get remarkable results with only minor adjustments of flat shoes without any artificial training aids and without a double bridle. It was the most natural demonstration of gaited horse shoeing I have ever seen and I was very impressed as were the 70 or so farriers who gave up their weekend to learn to better serve their clients. The horses in the demonstration were not manipulated into doing something that was unnatural and showed no signs of resistance or stress. I know that Cornell University would not have condoned instruction in questionable shoeing methods.

Anonymous said...

No, Icelandic's don't just have trot and pace. That's what the breed standard says, but it doesn't mean that they actually do. Some Icelandic's can't trot. Some can't pace, and MANY - probably MOST - can't do the breed signature gait without manipulation. Many times, it's simply not in their structure. The same is true with any gaited horse breed.

Gait doesn't originate in the feet. Gait originates in the skeleton.

Fran Jurga said...

It's a shame that you could not have been present at the Cornell seminar this weekend so you could have seen an expert farrier at work. I agree that some horses are manipulated into performing gait expressions that are not natural to them, but that was not the case at this conference.

I would not report on something that I thought was manipulative, nor would Cornell have allowed it to be presented.

I hope you or your farrier will be able to attend a seminar by Sigurd Sigurdsson sometime.

Superfecta said...

I've ridden Icelandics for years and have never seen one that couldn't tolt; some prefer to trot and some cannot do the flying pace, but they all should have a tolt in there naturally -- most I've ridden haven't worn shoes at all.

Granted, most of my experience with Icelandic horses is in Iceland itself; it may be that horses elsewhere were exported for a reason!

AK said...

Anonymous is totally right!

And yeah, there is icelandic horses that can't tølt(very few, though), some can't trot, and a good amount of them can't go FLYING pace.

However, when they "help" the horse to go clean in the gait(sorry for the bad English, I'm Norwegian), it's often because the riders can't get it quite right themselves. And the shoeing "helps"...

Well, if people are able to think a bit more, it isn't really helping horse nor rider.. Except if the rider only focuses on winning competitions no matter what and have a horse that he doesn't master in the gaits/a horse that has problems in it's body.
If one focuses on becomming a better rider and bout having the horse as sound as possible, then shoe it like a normal horse.

Gaited horses are just horses!
- they don't need special shoeing, special saddles, special bridles, and so on. If they do, it's their riders that needs it, NOT the horse.

tkfllc said...

I believe the gaits do originate from the confirmation of the horse (and have yet to see one with perfect confirmation). With that said, the Icelandic horse usuallly has a tendency to be base narrow and have angular deviations (carpus valgus, fetlock valgus)and usually rotational deviations as well in the pastern and/or coffin joints (usually axial or varus). I attended the Cornell Conference that year and now have become very good friends with Siggi Torfi and Siggi Oli. I have visited them twice to work with them in Iceland to improve my knowledge in how to shoe this amazing breed here in the states.. I have seen hundreds of horses from babies to elders in herds in incredibly large turn out in Iceland. They naturally tend to tolt or pace which is how the owners/trainers determine whether they may be 4 gaited or 5 gaited once they come into training. Icelandics that lean towards trot while trying to pace may be aided by using a thicker/heavier shoes on the hinds and thinner/lighter shoes up front. If they lean towards trot when trying to tolt, then a thicker/heavier shoe up front and thinner/lighter shoe in the hind will aid them in attaining the desired gait. (All within FEIF shoeing rules and regulations). This neither means they need to be trimmed out of balance to acheive the desired gait nor does it mean that "special shoes" harm the horse. From a professional farrier's prospective, no shoe is "special" if it is modified or applied appropriately to maintain or improve, gait, soundness or comfort in the horse. This breed is not like other gaited breeds (Tennesse Walkers, Saddlebreds, Pacifinos)where generally wieght and out of balance trimming is nearly the standard in the show arena, not to mention "blistering". Some of the nicest First Prize Icelandic horses I have seen (in US and abroad) have very short backs and a very high croup causing them to forge. Proper trimming and lateral extension shoes on the hinds(within the FEIF shoeing rules and regulations) seems to help prevent this interfering from happening (nothing special about it...just what the horse needs to continue to compete to it's fullest potential while maintaining soundness and support). Icelanders in general have tremendous pride in there horses...a pure breed for over 1000 years. What a great breed...and people!

Ava Williams said...

my name is Ava. My horses name is Boulder but I call him Beau Bo. I'm trying to find information about my horse's hooves. I just got him last September 2017 and I noticed that he sometimes trips. I've noticed this going downhill on a walk. I noted that there was a comment somewhere on a blog about feet trimming needing to be done in line with his foot. Since I'm not a farrier I'm not sure what is meant by this. My cousin thinks that maybe he was trimmed to keep his feet small but I don't know that that can be done. At any rate I'm looking for ideas about feet trimming for an Icelandic that sometimes trips. The farrier is coming tomorrow and my vet on Thursday so I will also consult with them but I'm interested in knowing if Icelandics have smaller feet than most other horses naturally.