Last November, a friend called to ask if I wanted a filly. My friend Heather has been breeding horses for a number of years. She was well-aware that I have always admired her horses. They are athletic, versatile, and intelligent but nearly extinct Cheval Canadiens, better known as Canadian Horses. I love this breed! They are the national breed of Canada -- sometimes called Little Iron Horses. It is an ancient french baroque breed originally sent to Canada by Louis Quatorze (King Louis the XIV). They jump like deer, are calm, well-rounded (I have cut cattle on them), and are generally sweet-natured. They are hardy, short-coupled easy keepers with great bone, and, most importantly, fantastic hard, strong feet -- something with which I have grown very unfamiliar in the last few years.
Having always been a great admirer of the Thoroughbred, I have become resigned to the fact that they mostly have lousy feet, at least the fair number with which I have become intimately acquainted. It is an opportunity cost one pays for their athleticism, stamina, work ethic, and beautiful continence. A well-put-together Thoroughbred can fill the eye with equine symmetry like no other breed -- at least for me. So, I forget the no foot no horse adage! I just stock up on the basics: venice turpentine, strong iodine, Karatex® hoof hardener, hoof-in-a-tube, and try to never tick off my farrier. A Thoroughbred owner needs to always have a great relationship with the farrier. I try never to think about the thousands of dollars I spend on four shoes every six weeks for years and years. Rater, I pay on the barrel-head and send them a birthday card. Then they might willing to show up first thing in the morning to re-set that pesky shoe that keeps coming off.
Like many of his inbred brethren, Ping is a equine podiatrist and farrier's nightmare. His feet just plain old stink. He is utterly flat-footed and does not grow hoof. If there's something that can go wrong it does. If something will break down, or break off, consider it history. So when someone whom I trust offers me a filly with decent feet, I perk up my ears. I perked.
Teddie, the object of my friends accepted offer, is a nice half-bred filly. She's out of a well-bred Thoroughbred mare by a leading Canadian stallion. Best of both worlds. She's athletic, yet on the feminine side -- something she acquires from her mother. But some of her new and improved characteristics, of which I am so enamored, come from her north-of-the-boarder father. She's calm, good boned, has an extremely suspended trot, and most importantly, fantastic feet!
My farrier no longer groans when I call. He figures he has a fifty fifty shot of not having to ponder what to do next with my horses' feet. He gets Poolboy's less-than fabulous four over with first, then moves on to Teddie's equine podiatric perfection. That way he ends the call on a good note, or good foot, if you prefer. Old Tedster doesn't even need shoes! I can't believe I actually own a horse that doesn't need shoes! It is beyond comprehension...
So, being a recipient of a fair number of absolutely fantastic gift-horses over the years, it is my firm opinion that one should give the mearest perfunctory glance at the mouth. You can always call the dentist. Rather, spend your time taking a really good long gander at the feet. That's the proof of the pudding. Because if you don't you may end up farrier gift shopping at The Sharper Image! while keeping his or her closet chock full of Italian shoes.