Tuesday was farrier day, and conveniently enough Gemma was already synced up with Henry’s shoeing cycle. That meant it was time for her first appointment with my farrier, and also time for her racing plates to come off.
Of course we’re still learning each other, and while I think I have a pretty good gauge on her personality now and how she will react, sometimes you just never quite know until you do things. The perk of racehorses is that they’ve been there and done that and seen a lot, so it wasn’t a matter of whether or not she was well-handled and used to the farrier. We knew that would be true. But, ya know, some of them can still be difficult about it or require sedation or multiple handlers or a chain shank or whatever. Knowing her, I doubted any of that would be the case. She’s definitely sensitive, yes, but she’s clever and a thinker and generally wants to please.
She hasn’t quite figured out the crossties 100% yet though, so I figured I’d hold her for this first time at least. We opted to do Henry first, and I held her nearby the whole time he was getting done. She was a little interested in all the smoke when he was getting his hot shoes fitted, but she never so much as flinched at any of the noise or commotion. Mostly she was just curious (always curious, this one) and was dying to put her nose all over the farrier’s tools.
Once Henry was done we got to work, first pulling off those aluminum plates. She was a little bit rude about holding her own weight up (“you want to pick it up? Fine, you hold it then.” Mares.), but didn’t do anything naughty. We opted to leave the hind feet barefoot for now but put steel shoes on the fronts. It’s not easy for horses to transition from shod to barefoot on our hard and rocky ground, especially one that’s been wearing shoes for most of their life. I also don’t like making drastic changes like that when one is just coming off the track and we’re trying to get their body to relax and unwind. Adding foot ouchiness can just create more tension and stiffness, and we’re trying to do the opposite. So, front shoes it was.
I also kind of get the impression that Gemma might not be the most stoic of horses. She banged her leg on the water trough the other day, not even very hard, but she took off a teeny lit bit of hair. Y’all, she stood there waving her leg around in the air like it was BROKEN FOR SURE, and when she finally decided she could put it back down she was mega lame and very sad about it. This went on for about 15 minutes before she declared that she might indeed survive this harrowing experience. The drama was high. I suspected that the shoeing change might go similarly and I was right… she’s pretty convinced that her hind feet are broken and there’s something very wrong with the fronts to make them weigh so much more. She’s walking a little bit like a goat now. I think she’ll forget in a few days but lord. I can’t even imagine what she would have done if we’d tried to put her barefoot. Laid down and died, probably.
But with the removal of the plates and transition to normal shoes, she’s officially gone from racehorse mode to sporthorse mode, which is an exciting step. Now I just have to figure out what the heck I want to do with her old shoes. I knew I wanted to keep them but I didn’t actually have anything in mind to do with them… ideas?
I also sent off some of Gemma’s hair to Etalon for a full genetic profile. It’s our standard practice to do that on any of the breeding mares anyway (which Gemma hopefully will be one day) and I was very curious to see what her color genetics are. I mean, we know she’s ee (chestnut) but I’m curious about her agouti and especially if she might have any of the W’s. Her white markings have jagged edges, the front one comes up over the knee, and she has a lot of ermine spots in the socks. She doesn’t have as much face white as is typical for a lot of those expressions though, nor does she have any belly spots or roaning. Color, especially for white markings, can be wily sometimes and what you see isn’t always indicative of what’s truly there genetics-wise.
We shall see what the DNA says, it should take a few weeks to get the report back. Aside from all the color stuff they also check to see if she has or is a carrier of a bunch of health-related genetic stuff (some of the testing is more proven than others, but it’s interesting info to have anyway) including PSSM, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, WFFS, uveitis, etc. Cool info to have, for sure!
Gemma’s got about another month left to go in her rest period, but until then I’ve really liked having this low key no pressure time to get to know her… I think she’s gonna be pretty fun.