Editor’s Note: Mary Fasciana shared her thoughts on her horse Baby, a 2002 Oldenburg gelding with a severely fore left club foot that was featured in the Sept./Oct. 2012 issue of American Farriers Journal.

Mary Fasciana is one of those owners a farrier appreciates. Having ridden for years, she knows her way around a horse. She is inquisitive and takes an interest in her horse’s hoof health. She is dedicated to quality hoof care and is willing to delegate that responsibility to the farrier. And — maybe most importantly — she is patient when things aren’t going well on a therapeutic case.

Baby and Mary Fasciana

She acquired Baby in April 2007.  She found the horse to have a significantly stacked heel and had trouble keeping a shoe on his left front foot. (Baby does not wear hind shoes even though he stands 17.2 hands and weighs approximately 1,500 lbs) As her ownership began, the horse was sound, with what she describes as a “funny, uneven stride.”  Baby was what some would refer to as “serviceably sound” in the sense that he wasn’t in pain when placing his feet down, he was quite literally uneven; much like walking with one flat shoe on one foot and one high heel on your other foot.

“From the start, everything about Baby was unorthodox,” she says. “First off, I owned him before I ever rode him. (I would buy a horse sight unseen from my trainer as I trust her judgment implicitly). The atypical approach has now become par for the course. Nothing we do is by the book. Rather, we throw the book at the wall and see what sticks. Sometimes the answer to a new challenge is nothing like we would have expected but that has now become our sense of normal.” 

After a year of ownership, she brought Taylor Keenan in as the farrier. At this point, the article “Not A Textbook Case” from the Sept./Oct. 2012 issue of American Farriers Journal (Pages 49-55) picks up the case history.

As a rider, Fasciana says the health of the horse is always at the forefront of an owner’s mind. For her, it is no different from a parent’s concern for a child’s well being. In a way, that awareness and recognition that your horse can go from sound to lame in a blink of an eye gave her the willingness to take on a horse as challenging as Baby.

“Going in, yes, it is frustrating, but I’d rather look at it differently,” she says. “I prefer to think that I was given a very beautiful, fine horse to ride who’s personality is larger than life and who’s presence I truly cherish. When he is sound, he is one of the best horses I’ve ever had the privilege of riding. You take the good with the bad.”

Her advice for owners is to recognize your goals before purchasing a horse. Don’t think you ask more of a horse than it can deliver, and then be disappointed by the outcome. She says by knowing what Baby’s issues were, it allowed her to work with the trainer and farrier to help the horse become his personal best. As she says, “Achievement is a relative term. Baby can’t jump over 3’ fences everyday and stay sound. OK fine. Let’s figure out what he can do and work on making that the best it can be.”

Fasciana has maintained a positive attitude throughout her history with Baby, but admits she’s occasionally become frustrated by the failed attempts to keep the horse sound. For her, frustration isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

“Life can’t be roses all the time, and certainly not with horses,” she says. “But you are allowed to be frustrated from time to time, because I think that means you care. I know how hard everyone is working to help Baby.”

With moments of frustration being inevitable in horse ownership, Fasciana says it is important how you manage that state of mind. 

“Realize that the moment is passing, and that you are all working for a common goal,” she says. “But you need to recognize when something isn’t working, then you must be willing to make a change. Persistent frustration comes from being stagnant. 

“If there isn’t a good line of communication, and the farrier lacks an open mind, then you can’t work together. It is a team effort no matter what. You have to give your farrier feedback. An open mind can offer a new perspective, but too many people are afraid of change.

“I can think of a period of time between shoeings when Baby was going so well. All the pieces were in place but I didn’t take the opportunity to give Taylor that feedback  and when Taylor worked on Baby the next time he was due for shoes, what Taylor was trying to do didn’t work out. I learned my lesson and keep the lines of communication open with Taylor.” The dynamic works here because while they all listen to each other, they always listen to Baby’s reactions to changes.

Change shouldn’t be a rushed or irrational reaction.  Every situation is unique, but Fasciana believes you will recognize a tipping point by knowing your limits.

“When is enough?” she asks. “It isn’t in the moment when you are reactive, angry and frustrated. You need to determine this when you are calm.  Think about the reasons. Where can you say ‘No more?’”

“You also can recognize this as a time when things quit making sense. If you are waiting for nothing, then you shouldn’t be waiting at all. Make a move.  Taylor often says, ‘If I can’t explain it to my client, then it doesn’t make sense.’ When I rationalize making a decision, if what we are doing doesn’t make sense anymore, then it is time for a change.”  Open mindedness breeds creativity and this case has called for some very creative solutions to an ever-evolving challenge with his club foot. It is truly a team effort through and through and that is the most important piece of the puzzle.