Tonka is on R & R

The weather at the end of July was sweltering. The horses were sweating just standing still. Tonka seemed a tad stiff. Under saddle he wasn’t lame but he felt off to me. Despite fresh water in his trough in the turnout, and full water buckets in his stall, the barn owner and I worried that he wasn’t drinking enough. I added electrolytes to his daily ration. That seemed to help, but then, a day later, he came in from the paddock with this rock stuck in his shoe.

stone in shoe


In all my years with horses, I’ve never seen such a massive rock jammed so tightly into a shoe. I had to use a hammer to knock it out. Tonka had likely been playing in the paddock and somehow stepped on this rock just so. It was one of those bizarre and unavoidable mishaps. I don’t know how long he was walking around, off-kilter because of that rock. But, Tonka didn’t seem stressed, or in pain.

Still, it was fortuitous that the blacksmith was already scheduled to put on new shoes the next day.



The outside of the horse’s hoof is like our fingernails, there’s no feeling in it. Shoes can be nailed right on. But, closely under the sole of the foot there are bones and tissue and blood. Some horses have sturdy feet and can go barefoot. Unfortunately, Tonka’s soles are flat, and here in rocky New England he needs shoes to elevate and protect the bottoms of his hooves. Without shoes he walks around ouchy. So, it was with much relief that Georgia, the blacksmith, trimmed and tested his feet and said that there was no obvious bruising. He trotted out sound on the pavement but in the soft footing of the indoor ring, Tonka was lame. This spoke to a muscle issue. The vet was called, and the consensus was that Tonka had pulled his shoulder while walking around uneven because of that rock. This would take some time to heal. Tonka was put on rest and relaxation.

Some horses don’t take to R & R, but Tonka is a mellow guy. I go daily and hand-graze him in the tall grass.

in grass


He’s in a small turnout, where, hopefully, he can’t overdo it. You can see that he’s been enjoying rolling in the dirt.

dusty horse


After a grooming session, I  put him back into his stall, gleaming. Tonka is shining with good health and wondering why life is suddenly so boring.

in stall


He’s almost back to being fully sound, but not quite yet. I’ll be back in the saddle and exploring new trails in September.


  1. I have never read a more inspirational blog. You are so in tune and kind with your horse…I hope others learn from this and pass it on.

  2. Holy crap! Poor Tonka! I’ve never seen a rock that size wedged into a hoof either. Ouch! He could have yanked his shoulder when he landed on that rock, as well. Thank goodness it wasn’t much worse. The one thing I dislike about animals is their tolerance of pain and their ‘life goes on’ attitude. If they would just go ‘OUCH!’ and refuse to move around there would be so much less damage and we could help them sooner! Thank goodness he has you to care for him. Too many people would have simply thrown him back out in the paddock. Lucky Tonka!

  3. That’s no rock, that’s a BOULDER! Ouch. Poor dude. I have some ancient memories of when I first learned to ride as a little kid at a boarding stable: when saddling up and unsaddling, every time, we were instructed to examine the bottom of each of our horse’s hooves. I think this was only partly to check for rocks, though, and more to teach us to be adept and comfortable handling the horses’ legs and feet.

  4. Poor Tonka, lucky you were on top of this quickly. Jess says please give him a big hug and lots of peppermints…:)

  5. You two are completely bonded. Tonka is just beautiful and the way you care for him is too. Horses are so popular but I don’t think people realize the love, care and devotion that goes into being a stealthy horse-owner….they should all read your blog!

    • Thanks. What people don’t realize is this is a commitment that can (should) last decades, and that along the way your horse *will* be lame. Taking the long view makes for smarter decisions.

  6. As a child, I rode all the time. We had a family friend who had horses and basically gave me one of them to call my own. I can remember spending many hours in the stall grooming him and the walking away for only a minute to find that he had rolled in the hay and I had to start all over again. Horses are so kind and loving. There is nothing like the smell of a horse.

  7. That is some rock stuck in there. Glad you caught it and it wasn’t more serious. Oh, to just touch that soft muzzle-love the pic of him eating grass. He is such a pretty boy (I think he know this). Hope he mends quickly.

  8. Now, THAT is a rock. Hopefully the shoulder will be back to normal quickly. Lucky is Tonka for having an owner who is on top of his hoof mishaps. Can you imagine how serious that could have become? I am constantly amazed at how fragile horses really are for their large, strong size.

    Years ago, I brought my horse in for a quick grooming and put her in cross ties. I picked up her front hoof and saw a huge, hard mass jammed into her shoe. A large, grey, bumpy mass. I stared and stared at it. Had she suddenly sprouted a massive abcess? Was this some heretofore unheard of collapse of her hoof plate? Did she have some mysterious swelling of her frog? I poked gently with a pick. Couldn’t figure it out. But it was awful looking, a bit pus-y, and huge. The blacksmith was on another aisle doing another horse’s hooves and I begged him to just take a look at it before I called the vet. He bow legged his way over to my mare, and picked up her foot. He stared and stared. Silently, he gently put her foot down and bow legged back to his tools, returning with his curled blade hoof knife. Before I could stop him, he dug hard and out popped the offending mass in one thud. It was an absolutely huge, squished, very dead TOAD. Just take a minute and think that one through… I still shudder. The horse was none the worse for wear, although obviously one could not say the same for the “wrong time, wrong place” toad.