Monday, July 25, 2016

Treeless Saddle Pad Reviews - Haf, Toklat, Skito, Equipedic, Barefoot Physio bareback pad

  • Haf pad
    • Tried with cheap eBay saddle
    • Sat too close to his withers and didn’t really help secure the saddle - mostly the fault of the saddle
Horse treeless saddle pad reviews - haf
Jax in his Haf pad, getting a neck rub after our ride
  • Skito for Bob Marshall
    • Somewhat slippery with a bareback pad
    • Bought used, new inserts are expensive and needed but the old inserts worked for trying out
    • Fits western-style treeless saddles very well, doesn't slip as much as it did with the bareback pad
    • I ended up selling this pad as it was just too slippery and Jax didn't really care for it
  • Toklat pad
    • Bought used, thought the inserts were a bit flimsy so made new inserts for it with memory foam and poron
    • Starting out, it kept both my bareback pad and my Torsion secure, and with the new inserts kept my seat bones from digging in his back.  As it broke in more, seemed to allow more movement for both the Torsion and the bareback pad
    • Kept my western-style show treeless very secure, but was too short on the sides to protect him from the girth rigging (not a fault of the pad, it just wasn’t a style meant for the western saddles)
    • If you've seen my Ghost saddle review, you know that I had pressure points under the saddle.  I had used my Toklat pad and thought nothing about the pad possibly causing this.  After a not-so-long trail ride in my bareback pad with the Toklat in mid 2016, I once again had pressure points.  Turns out, it was actually friction from the Toklat pad sliding around, a problem we didn't have until we started working on a lot of hills.  My first three or so years with Jax we had used only Reinsman pads, and apparently Jax does much better with Tacky Too products than wool felt, woolback, or coolback products - go figure.
Horse treeless saddle pad reviews - toklat
Jax in his Toklat pad and Best Friend bareback pad, checking out a new obstacle
  • Equipedic pad
    • Was quite impressed with the quality of this pad
    • Bought used, needed new inserts but the ones included were usable
    • Used once with Hilason western treeless, the combination slipped to the side (horse was slightly off from SI, so was probably him) and didn’t have good wither clearance (mostly the saddle)
    • Ended up selling this pad also, as with the Toklat above, Jax just didn't care for it.
  • My new setup - freaking sweet!
    • Barefoot Physio Ride-On bareback pad with Reinsman Trail Tacky Too saddle pad
      • Since my horse loves Reinsman pads, why fight it.  Bought the Barefoot bareback pad with inserts so I don't need a treeless saddle pad.  Also got it with the cushy sheepskin seat for me!
      • I've only tested it out on one really good trail ride so far, but his back was pristine with no friction rubs, no pressure points, and it stayed in place better than any saddle I've owned!  Also, since I love riding bareback, it's extremely comfortable.  The front rolls and cantle add an extra bit of security so I can sit out those spooks (only one on this ride but it was a pretty good one).  The area with inserts also adds a small amount of twist, helping with those wider horses (like Jax)
      • Since he has been sore in his back, I was leery of our first ride, but it went much better than expected and I think this setup really helped him (see my Horse Health posts for more, especially part 3)
Horse treeless saddle pad reviews - Barefoot Physio bareback pad
July 20, 2016 - taken before Jax' back was 100%, still some lumbar soreness, but he still seemed to like the new setup (just tried on, didn't get to try it out). 
See Horse Health part Four for our rehab plan, tack to help sore muscles (including the barefoot bareback pad), and to see how quickly correct hoof balance and stress point work has put Jax back into work!

About the Artist:

horse artist, equine artist, PSSM horse
Since starting my art business in 2004, I have been on a roller coaster ride that's taken me from art, to house flipping, to legal assistant, to horse trainer, and a full 180* back to my artworks.

I'm thankful to get back to my art, and also for the life experiences I've gained.

Things in life that matter the most!  Jen, husband Jared, and Jax

Thanks for reading, I hope you've enjoyed my website!  Feel free to comment, like, or subscribe!

Horse Health 3 - correcting hooves, stress points, muscle soreness

(Click on pictures for larger images)
** Since writing this post, Jax has been diagnosed with PSSM (n/P1).  Click the PSSM Label to the left to see more **

We'll start this post with some hoof images, as without proper hoof form and comfort, the muscle work and ridden work wouldn't help (as has been the case for the last year or so with Jax).

If you've read the horse health one and two posts, you already know the myriad of problems Jax has had in the past year, that most of those issues can now be attributed to hoof form and imbalance, and that I've taken over trimming him since early May 2016.

Here's some pics to show some of the changes so far (see horse health two for more).   Some additional posture type problems Jax was beginning to develop before I started trimming him were cowhocked (always had this to a degree but getting severe), toed out, left front no longer straight (turning out at the knee and looked crooked?), and more base narrow than usual (he's always done this a little).  Also, he has a tendency to tight-rope walk in the fronts, but it was getting much worse, and his hoof boots were wearing on the outsides only - perfect tread on inside while outside tread was gone!

After just the first trim, leveling the heels and taking the toes and quarters of the hoof wall back to the white line, Jax was no longer standing toed out, but was still base narrow.  You can see by the first pic how close his feet were, by the second pic his legs are more vertical.  Also note in the first pic that he is pointing his right toe and standing with it more forward, indicating this foot is painful.  Note: the scooping of the quarters looks severe in the earlier pics, but less severe in later pics.  As his heels and toes start to take on a more appropriate shape, so do the quarters.

contracted heels, central sulcus thrush, horse inside heel higher
May 23, 2016, fronts a couple weeks after I started trimming Jax.  Notice some heel contraction, deep central sulcus up to hairline (thrush), and right front seems slightly sheared (inside heel longer on all 4, but much worse on right front).  At this point, I didn't know anything about contraction or sheared heels.  Rasping heels down to just above live sole was all I knew, luckily it helped.  By the time the next pic was taken, I could see the problems and was better equipped to handle them.

contracted heels, sheared heels, horse medial heel higher
July 20, 2016, fronts.  Central sulcus much better, feet have spread out and heels no longer contracted.  Front right still having some contraction/higher heel bulb on the inside, seems to be relaxing more with each trim.  Note this right foot is the same that had the atrophied shoulder, the huge frog bruise, and other issues (see horse health one and two)

It's extremely important to note: I did not trim Jax in an effort to fix his posture, his posture reflects the health of his feet.  When I bought him (Aug 2011) as an untrained four year old, he was toed out and base narrow.  With my barefoot trimmer (Jul 2012 - Jul 2014; Jan - May 2015) he had lovely straight legs and feet.  When I noticed his poor posture around April 2016, I knew it was all due to the pasture trims.

More before and after pics:

Right front:

long toe low heel, crushed heels, underrun heels, coronary abscess
June 3, 2016 - Right front, coronary abcess, crushed heel, forward toe

horse lameness caused by thrush, frog shedding
June 3, 2016 - Right front, thrush extreme enough to be a potential lameness issue

white lightening thrush treatment, healing abscess, horse corrective trim
July 15, 2016 - after White Lightening thrush treatment, abscess closed up and almost halfway down hoof capsule (extremely fast growth!), heels almost back to where they belong, and flare growing further down to the ground

Left hind:

horse lameness caused by negative coffin bone angle, bullnose
June 3, 2016 - Left hind with crushed heels and bullnose shape.  This shape is often associated with negative palmar/plantar angle, meaning the coffin bone is tipped back and lower in the back of the foot.  Can cause extreme lameness and lumbar soreness.  Usually is caused by crushed heels.

corrective trimming, correcting long toe low heel, hoof bruising
July 18, 2016 - Left hind with heels supporting better, flare growing down, and no bullnose shape.  There is a slight crack with some thrush/white line issues in front still but it is growing out as well.  Also a giant bruise on his heel bulb from dinking around in the pasture.  You can see that about 1/3 of the way down some pink shows through the hoof wall.  This is bruising that has faded since I've been trimming but is still present.  The more translucent yellow hoof wall on the upper part of his hoof seems far healthier.

Correcting long toe low heel and it's associated lameness
July 15, 2016 - Left hind with a gorgeous thick frog and some sole needing to exfoliate.  All his frogs are beginning to look like this except the right front, it still has some thrush issues and bruising.

Muscle stress points


I've tried to help Jax with his sore muscles ever since the first time I found them, but he really was never comfortable enough for me to touch him, let alone prod him.  The chiropractor seemed to give him some relief, but it was short lived (due to foot pain causing more body bracing).  I found a reference to the book above online, so decided to get a copy on Amazon.  It's a very quick read, and easy to understand, and I decided to start trying some of the techniques.

If you've read other parts of this site, you may already know that I'm having some health issues of my own, namely, torn up tendons in my arms affecting my right arm the most.  Opening a soda bottle is difficult without Ibuprofin, so the idea of massaging and trimming my horse seemed a little daunting.

Fortunately, it's the tendons on the top of my forearms, leaving me quite capable of lifting feet and using a rasp.  But, my hands, thumbs, and fingers are also affected so massaging Jax has to be done in small increments.

Lucky for me, the basis for this book is "stress points," small areas of spasm and adhesion in the muscle that need to be broken apart.  It lays out exactly where those points are, and exactly what you need to do if you find a knot.  I was able to do specific segments each day (points 1-13 on day one focusing on neck and shoulder, 14-20 on day 2, 21-25 on day 3, then start over or retouch some of the worst spots).  The book also stresses the importance of working the horse after the massage to help loosen up the muscles even more, and states that ridden work when appropriate is one of the best tools to use.

I started working on stress points with Jax on July 19, 2016.  Keep in mind, by this time his feet are decent and shouldn't be adding any stress to him.  On July 23, 2016, Jax was feeling great, and I took him to a trail close by for a pretty long ride.  He did amazing!  He usually gets back sore during the trailer ride, and I'm guessing it's from vibration on his feet causing him to brace up.  So, this time I put his hoof boots on him for the trailer ride and it seemed to help.  He had some slight soreness over his lumbar when he came off the trailer, but a couple seconds of touching up stress point #13 (spot in withers that affects the entire back) loosened it right up!

He did great through the ride, was a bit strung out but at this point he has no real muscle so I wasn't surprised. No stiffness, no leg hitching or twisting, but because he is weak in his stifles he did "slip out from under me" with his hinds a couple times at the beginning of the ride.  After the ride, no lumbar soreness, some soreness around his glutes (which have been atrophied, so that's not surprising) and overall in very good shape.  After the trailer ride home, he was a bit shaky but walked out of it in just a minute or two.  Overall, a very good training/conditioning ride for him.

The next day, I went out to check on him, and while he's a bit tired, Jax is fine.  I touched up #19 (spot just above tail head, seems to be the worst spot on him) and a couple others.  No back soreness, no glute soreness.

Horse standing under, camped under, pasture trims, sore heels
Remember this pic from Horse Health 2?  This is a typical stance for Jax since mid 2015, just after he received his first "pasture trim" - front legs pulled back under him, back legs pulled up under him, and muscles rigid.  Also, toed out and base narrow in fronts and hinds, and cowhocked in the hinds.  This is a typical stance for horses with painful heels.  It causes lumbar soreness and stiff hindquarters, and can be caused by heels being left too high.  Usually the pain is in the front legs, the hind legs are forward to take weight off the fronts.

Corrective trimming to fix toed out, base narrow, cowhock issues
July 20, 2016, right after the first session working on stress points, I was only able to do neck and shoulders during this session.  His shoulders were horribly tight with multiple stress points.  Compare this to the photo above - he now stands with legs vertical, hinds straight down where they belong, with nice, loose muscles.  This would never last if his feet were still in pain, and one of the points made in the book by Jack Meagher is that foot/lower limb lameness contributes greatly to stress points.  Since I hadn't worked on stress points behind his shoulder yet, this posture indicates that my theory is probably correct, his right front caused most of the problems.

I had no idea when Jax started having health problems a year ago that it would all lead to hoof form.  Jax has specific postural and mechanical features that help his feet get out of sync, such as the tight rope walking and slightly base narrow stance which can cause the inside heels to grow taller.  He's also a heavy horse (just under 1,200 pounds).  During his 2nd - 4th year, he was in a situation where his feet weren't kept on a trim schedule, and bad hoof distortions during this age may have attributed to his weaker hoof form as an adult.  Whatever the cause, the main points I want to make with these posts:
  • become knowledgeable about hooves - they can make or break your horse.  If your farrier thinks long toes, crushed heels, and flares are not a problem, GET A DIFFERENT FARRIER!
  • also, weak hooves can be helped by a (GOOD) barefoot trim - crushed heels and long toes with weak laminar connections are not just "how the cards were dealt for that horse."  It can be fixed, and until it is, your horse may not be capable of anything you ask, causing not only physical, but also behavioral problems.
  • barefoot trims can be done by competent farriers or competent barefoot trimmers.  It's not about whether the person can nail on a shoe, it's about whether or not they can do a balanced trim.

Want to know more about hoof shape and how it can affect horses?  Start with Pete Ramey ( if you want to try trimming your own horse.  He will help you understand hoof form and function, get some decent first trims on your horse, and make very clear the areas you need to leave alone! Barefoot For Soundness ( is also great for learning, as is  The more you learn from these sites, the more you can start searching other methods (there are many variations on "barefoot trims") and specific problems, but make sure you have a VERY solid base first, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  I had to seek out other sites to figure out the bars and soles a little better, but the links I've put here seem to have only good information so you won't have to weed out the bad.

See Horse Health part Four for our rehab plan, tack to help sore muscles, and to see how quickly correct hoof balance and stress point work has put Jax back into work!

About the Artist:

horse artist, equine artist, PSSM horse
Since starting my art business in 2004, I have been on a roller coaster ride that's taken me from art, to house flipping, to legal assistant, to horse trainer, and a full 180* back to my artworks.

I'm thankful to get back to my art, and also for the life experiences I've gained.

Things in life that matter the most!  Jen, husband Jared, and Jax

Thanks for reading, I hope you've enjoyed my website!  Feel free to comment, like, or subscribe!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Horse Health part 2 - si, stifle, hoof issues

(Click on pictures for larger images)
** Since writing this post, Jax has been diagnosed with PSSM (n/P1).  Click the PSSM Label to the left to see more **

Recap of issues, from part 1 and some new info:
  • Starting July 2015, stifles catching horribly in canter to trot transitions, by August canter nonexistent
  • Started getting a sore back when worked (or not worked, really any time) around August 2015 
  • Road rides and anything on hard terrain makes him nervous or grumpy.  The only access we had was to roads, no trails, and he would get really stiff afterwards
  • Seemed to get better for a time around late October 2015 (maybe right after hooves trimmed?), tried to do some trail/obstacle competitions and got extremely sore in early November.  Onsite chiro found right shoulder was atrophied, blamed on saddle fit; also found twist in right hind
  • Back soreness and hindquarter stiffness now an everyday thing, need NSAIDs to help relieve soreness.  Very stiff in walk, no trot now, any type work just makes it worse (stopped riding on his off days, even though vet told me to keep riding him)
  • SI knot starting to develop again along with a bit of a roach back, leading us (me, vet, chiro) to believe the possible SI injury from a year before was being aggravated.  Started having chiropractor out about once a month
  • Around December 2015, could no longer hold up his hind feet for farrier
  • January 2016, colicked, either due to NSAID overuse or hindgut issues from feed (see part 1)
  • Around March 2016 (around the time of part 1) he could no longer stand on his right front to have his left front trimmed.  Has been taking Previcox (COX-2 so it won't affect his stomach) and seems to be helping.  Had farrier trim with mustang roll and chiro visit right after, he had 2 solid weeks without pain
  • After those 2 weeks in March, even with Previcox, lumbar soreness won't go away, SI swelling prominent, no more riding or work of any kind
  • Shaky on trailer rides (though he's proven over and again that he's not scared of the trailer), is this related to pain?  Been doing this since he's been sore
  • Vet and chiropractor services being utilized, to no avail, all through this time

After months of reading veterinarian studies, published horse health articles, and even just personal experiences on internet forums, in early May 2016 I found one issue that I hadn't yet considered: hooves.  While SI issues, sticky stifle, and other symptoms could almost match problems Jax was having, there was always something that didn't fit.  Then I found Long Toe / Low Heel syndrome.  The symptoms for it matched everything that was happening to Jax.  Sticky stifles and SI issues can be aggravated by misshapen hooves and lead to a dead lame horse.

I knew Jax wasn't being trimmed on a proper schedule, due to lameness after every farrier visit I was loathe to put him through it as often as I should have.  Turns out, that was a huge mistake and caused even more distortion in his hoof capsule.  I started reading online and studying books about barefoot trimming, thinking my goal was to "touch up" the trim and keep his feet in decent shape between farrier visits in a way that was less stressful (having his hinds wrenched up for the farrier was the main problem). 

1st Trim in May 2016 showing front hooves.  Didn't think to take pics before trim.  Notice the flaring, cracks, and other issues present.  Had I been a bit more competent with the tools and knowledgeable about hooves, I could have done a much better first trim.  Luckily, with practice comes (at least some) skill, and these hooves will look better fairly quickly.

After about two weeks of reading and studying different cases, I finally tried my hand with a rasp.  It took a long time, and much more study and practice to really get the hang of it (in fact I'm still studying on an almost daily basis), but after about a month I came to one very solid conclusion, his feet were hurting, and the professional trims he had been receiving were not adequate.  He was receiving a "pasture trim," whereas in the past he had received a "barefoot trim."  And, it just so happens that we had to change farriers, and thus trims, right before he lost his canter mid-2015:

  • The first pasture trim from the new farrier was June 14, and the picture of his feet below is just one week later, showing his toes being way too long
  • Trouble started around July/August of 2015
  • Note: we had used this farrier before during the six months leading up to the initial SI injury.  He had been shaky getting off the trailer at the trail head, leading to fatigue and the muscle/ligament strain.  Was he shaky because of foot pain??  Did this whole thing happen because of his feet??

Pic from June 22, 2015.  It's hard to see, but his front toes especially are way too long - taken one week after 1st pasture trim by a certified farrier.  Notice he's standing under himself with the front legs (more on this on part 3).  Also notice the tight muscles around his stifle, point of hip, and over his back and croup.  Shoulders and neck also starting to get tight.  By the time I started trimming him, almost a year later, his hinds would not lift any further than this, and he couldn't keep them up for very long.

Remember the atrophied RIGHT shoulder diagnosed by the onsite chiro at the ACTHA event in November of 2015?  His RIGHT front was the worst hoof.  He also seemed to be suffering from high/low syndrome, where the heels are taller on one hoof and shorter on the other (his fronts were affected, with RIGHT heels shorter).  His heels had been left long in an attempt to make them grow taller.  Turns out, Jax has a bit of a weaker hoof, and he's a heavy weight, so his heels just crushed forward instead.  Also, due to the way Jax walks/moves and due to the way he was trimmed, Jax had high inside heels compared to his outside heels (this can cause MAJOR soundness issues, and is usually evident in the hinds by a slight wobble in their hocks as they walk).  His frogs and bars were never trimmed, soles not exfoliated, and he had severe thrush in his frog (which didn't contact the ground because his heels were too long) and in his white line (because his hoof wall was pulling away due to long toe, making access for bacteria and other nasties).  As his toes grew further forward, his breakover moved forward, and his stifles got worse to the point that it was catching every time he moved his right hind forward.

The horrible shape of his frogs.  This is the left front, right front is much worse with a deep cleft in his central sulcus down to the hair line.  This pic was taken June 3, 2016, after I had started trimming but before I was brave enough to touch the frogs.  Since I'm so new to trimming, I've taken a "less is more" approach, and was trimming small amounts each day (I've also learned that "pathological" hooves don't hold shape, so they need trimmed more often).  By the end of July his foot started holding its shape.

Also taken June 3, you can see the coronary abscess that broke out, and the underrun heels.  Let me stress, this horse NEVER had an abscess while receiving a barefoot trim.  This is his right front, the same leg that had the atrophied shoulder.  Concerning the abscess, turns out NSAIDs can slow down the progression of an abscess, causing more pain for a longer period of time.  This abscess finally burst after taking him off Previcox for a few days.

There were myriads of bruises in his hooves.  Bruising above the quarters which were flared, in the heels which I could only see after rasping his hooves down, in the toes and white line due to tearing and stretching of the lamina, and then we get to this beauty:

Picture was taken July 15, 2016 of right front.  I had been trimming and working with the frogs since some time in late June, and had seen this bruise earlier (but it looked a lot smaller, I think this is growing down from inside his hoof capsule).  After two treatments of liquid White Lightening for thrush (which works amazing!) I could see this dark spot under a flap of frog, so I trimmed back the flap and found this.  Notice there is a bruise on the sole beside the frog, I suspect this bruising was caused by impacted bars (once I learned how to trim bars, I had to do it every day as they seemed to "grow down" really fast).  Since my horse is high energy and runs through his pasture like mad (especially since I've started trimming him), it's possible this bruise was due to impact rather than hoof shape. 

An interesting aside, in early June, a couple weeks before finding this bruise (or at least realizing the extent of it), Jax went lame enough on this right front foot that he wouldn't pick up his left, resulting in me taking him to the vet.  (Keep in mind the left front is the same one he stopped picking up for the farrier around March of 2016).  Vet suspected navicular and used hoof testers and found nothing (he used a LOT of pressure, something that should have made even a sound horse flinch, but Jax never did - darn stoic horses).  After looking at pictures and seeing things when trimming I know this bruise has been around for at least a month, probably longer.

Front hooves, July 18, 2016, after another round of White Lightening.  Cracks are gone, flares growing down, mustang roll keeping chips from forming.  Still have a ways to go to get good hoof form, but he's becoming much more active in the pasture and no longer stiff in his hindquarters, except for the hitch and slight stiffness in his right hind.  Still has some lumbar soreness as well.

I've been trimming his feet for a little over two months now, definitely no expert, but the changes we are seeing are phenomenal and his feet are starting to look really good.  His right hind had been catching/hitching with every step forward at a walk and trot (canter nonexistent) before I started trimming him, and now he canters decent (on lunge, I'm only riding him at a walk right now), and the trot looks great except for the occasional catch in his stifle.  All of his feet, but especially the right front, is still showing old bruises growing down in the hoof wall, and he's slightly touchy on that right front most days, but with hoof boots seems to feel good.  While this is all great, his hooves looking better and so on, what about that stiffness/hitch in his right hind still present at a walk?  And the lumbar soreness?

After watching videos with SI injuries, stifle problems, hock issues, along with kissing spines and neurological problems, still nothing fit that explained that right hind hitch.  Then I saw a video, I think on the easycare blog, about a horse that had its soles trimmed too thin by a new farrier.  That horse had the EXACT same hitch in his hind legs that Jax has!  So I looked up videos of laminitic, navicular, even foundered horses, anything related to hooves, and ALL of them had that hitch to their hind legs.  What's more, even if the problem was in the front, the hind legs still hitched.  And it seems, rather than a diagonal (right front sore so left hind hitches) issue it created an issue on the same hind as the sore front.  So, with all the right front problems, the right atrophied shoulder, and the hitch in the right hind, it would seem the right front hoof is the problem, and has been for over a year!  No one, from the vet (at least 3 different ones) to the farrier, pointed out that his feet were pathological.  Long toe / low heel is not rare, some think it's normal.  Jax may be affected more because he's such a large horse.  And, since the problem appeared to be hindend related, no one was looking at the front feet.

Because his feet were extremely sore, it would also seem that he has been holding himself in an unnatural posture due to hoof pain, which may be the actual cause for the slight SI swelling, as well as the sore lumbar area (his roach back was fixed after one chiro visit and didn't return, but the soreness kept coming back, leading me to believe the roach back eventually would have come back as well without chiro intervention).  After each chiropractor visit, Jax would be nice and loose for a week or two (sometimes only a couple days), then right back to where he started because the initial cause hadn't been fixed - it was all in his feet. 

In Horse Health part 3 I'll discuss methods we're trying to relieve body soreness from unnatural posture that seem to be successful so far, namely stress points in the muscle and getting back to the trails!  Keep in mind though, as long as the hooves are in bad shape, no amount of chiropractic, massage, or ridden/in hand work is going to fix this.  Stay tuned!

About the Artist:

horse artist, equine artist, PSSM horse
Since starting my art business in 2004, I have been on a roller coaster ride that's taken me from art, to house flipping, to legal assistant, to horse trainer, and a full 180* back to my artworks.

I'm thankful to get back to my art, and also for the life experiences I've gained.

Things in life that matter the most!  Jen, husband Jared, and Jax

Thanks for reading, I hope you've enjoyed my website!  Feel free to comment, like, or subscribe!