Warning: This poem contains some sensitive issues. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes tender hooves, reference to past abuses, difficulties in personal care, body trust issues, flaking hooves, a stone in a hoof, upcycling Mexican-style sandals from old tires, and other angst. If these are touchy topics for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"Total Control Over Your Body"
[Wednesday, May 20, 2015]
The centaurs had spent
most or all of their time indoors,
and none of them had been shod,
which left their hooves soft and tender.
"Careful of your feet," Conrad said
whenever they went outside. "Ground
is good for you, but you don't want bruises."
The centaurs were still learning how
to take care of themselves and each other.
Some of them could reach their front feet,
some couldn't, and nobody could reach
their back feet no matter how they tried.
So they had to help each other with grooming,
or else let one of the humans help them.
The farm had plenty of hired hands and
volunteers and assorted relatives who
knew how to handle horses. The centaurs
could explain what they needed if they
knew it, but they didn't always know.
"Don't worry, you'll figger it out,"
Conrad assured them. "Hooves
and hide aren't that different on
centaurs than horses, so you just
need to learn personal preferences."
Dodge had decided to toughen
her feet by the simple expedient of
running barefoot over rock and rill.
She particularly liked the deposits
of clay found along some of the creeks,
which packed her hooves for support until
she had them picked out each evening.
If her feet got sore, she painted the soles
with turpentine and spent the next day
standing on soft thick grass instead.
Since Dodge already knew a fair bit about
horses in general and mustangs in particular,
and had looked up extra information about
her lower half, this seemed like a good plan.
Neta had big strong hooves, and Kim Van
was half zebra, so they often followed Dodge
on her rambles around the large farm.
Turq and Ansel showed them many points
of interest, like the creeks and the cave
and the ponds in out-of-the-way places.
"The different textures will help your hooves,
Ansel explained as they hiked along.
"I like feeling different things underfoot,"
Neta said. "It keeps life interesting."
"I just like going outside," said Kim Van.
"I'm glad to see you working at it," Turq said.
"Sometimes it's hard to stay motivated."
"A goal, a love, and a dream give you
total control over your body and your life,"
Dodge said. "For me, that's not hard."
Not all the centaurs were so lucky, though.
Charli had an embarrassing time when
she tried to go shopping, because hooves
didn't have much traction on smooth concrete.
A helpful clerk had brought mats for her
to walk on, but she wanted to find
something better for the future.
Lilita and Miriam were fussy about
their feet, and didn't like having them
handled. Lilita tried to be good.
Miriam rarely even tried.
Some of the others didn't mind
hoof care, like Michann and Hobart,
but wanted more protection so they
could go over rougher terrain.
As it was, their hooves had grown
so brittle from living indoors that
running around outdoors made
them chip and flake. A little of that
was okay, but too much was bad,
and they were losing a lot of length.
"You have to respect your limits,"
Turq warned them. "After I escaped
from the lab, it took me a long time
to learn what I can or can't do,
and that's still evolving."
"Yeah, I'm evolving right out
of my toenails," Michann said
with a grimace. He picked at
the spalling edge of a forehoof,
and more pieces flaked away.
He was a big bay quarter horse,
and all that weight was not helping.
Hobart was a smaller Morgan with
brighter blood bay coloring, and
too restless to stand still for long.
Arun definitely had it the worst, though.
His lower half was palomino thoroughbred
with such tender feet that just walking
across the gravel driveway hurt him.
When he came limping into the barn,
Conrad hurried over to help him.
"Pick up your foot and let me see."
"I think I stepped on something,"
Arun said, lifting his left forehoof.
"Yeah, you got a rock wedged in here,"
Conrad said as he took a hoofpick from
his pocket. "Hold still while I pop it out.
This might hurt a little, so don't kick me."
The motion made Arun flinch, but
he didn't try to kick or get loose.
"There you go," Conrad said. "We
need to get you some shoes, son."
"Yeah, I know, but ... horseshoes
get nailed on," Arun said, shuddering.
"I don't think I could deal with that."
"Most horseshoes do use nails, but
some glue on. You've got options,"
Conrad said. "I'll ask around and
help you folks find a farrier."
"Let me try too," Ansel said.
"I've got some contacts around
the soup community, and a list
of folks who've offered to help.
Someone might know a farrier
who works with primal soups."
Those were more common than
most people realized, because they
tended to hide instead of going out
in public. Some of the ones with
hooves presumably needed shoes.
"Why not huaraches?" Erci said,
setting down her wash bucket
to point at her feet. "You know,
Mexican sandals, made from tires?"
"I've seen those!" Turq exclaimed.
"Some of the street people use them.
You cut the bottom tread off an old tire
to make the soles, then add strings or
straps to hold them on your feet."
"They're sturdy things," Ansel said. "I
learned about them in a survival class."
"I got plenty of halter strapping, and
some leather," Conrad said. "No end
of old tires -- the kids love them things for
swings and sandboxes and such. Erci, do
you know how to make the sandals?"
"For people feet ..." Erci said.
"So we can just ask Arun to stand on
the tire tread and trace around his hooves,"
said Turq. "It's the same process,
just a different shape of sole."
"Hard to cut rubber," Erci said,
making a sawing motion.
Conrad chuckled. "Not when
I got a whole workshop of tools
to do it with," he said. "You just
mark the shape you want, and
let me worry about cutting it out."
He led them to a pile of old tires so
they could pick out what they wanted.
Then he fetched nylon and leather straps,
plus velcro and buckles to fasten them.
"Hey, folks," said Ansel. "I got a list of
farriers who work on animal soups and
primal soups. One each on the east
and west coasts, and a few in the middle.
The closest one to us is by River City.
Want me to try for an appointment?"
"Yes, please," Arun said. "I'm tired
of sore feet, but I don't want to go back
to living in a cell all the time, or even a stall."
"Then I'll get to work on that while the rest
of you mess with the tires," Ansel said.
So Erci traced around Arun's feet,
Conrad cut out the four soles, and
Turq fashioned a set of straps.
Arun wanted white straps on
his white feet and tan ones
on his golden feet, so it was
a good thing nylon came in colors.
"Comfortable?" Conrad asked,
watching Arun walk around.
"Better than before," Arun said.
"They feel a little weird, but my feet
don't hurt. I think I'll get used to it."
"You could try padding them,"
Conrad said. "Manufacturers make
all kinds of pads for horseshoes."
"Okay, I've got us an appointment for
Friday morning," said Ansel. "John-Morgan
will come out and bring a wide variety of
traditional and alternative horseshoes so
the centaurs can find out what they like."
"Thank you," Arun said. "That helps a lot."
* * *
Michann Largent -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and black hair buzzed short. A tattoo on his right shoulder has a conglomeration of theatrical masks and other motifs. He is a centaur with the lower body of a dark bay quarter horse stallion; the sooty modifier creates the faint dapples. Michann grew up in Oklahoma. He is 17 years old at the time of rescue. He was 13 when he was taken from a camp for teens with sensory issues. He has always gravitated toward strong sensations, but now finds it difficult to feel his body clearly, which increases the sensory-seeking behaviors.
Origin: Mad science torture. Carl Bernhardt cut him in half and spliced his upper body to the lower body of a dark bay quarter horse stallion.
Uniform: None in captivity. He is kept nude.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adventurous, Good (+2) High Pain Tolerance, Good (+2) Kinesthetic Intelligence
Poor (-2) Restless
Powers: Good (+2) Centaur, Good (+2) Toughness
Compared to ordinary humans or horses, centaurs have enhanced strength, speed, and stamina although not necessarily in super range. Generally, if a centaur and someone else have the same rank, the centaur is more powerful; if the other person has one rank higher, they're closer to equal. Most of the surviving centaurs have an additional superpower which helped them to withstand the trauma of their creation. The more common ones include Healing, Regeneration, Toughness, Super-Constitution, and Super-Immunity. Some of them also have Super-Strength or Super-Speed, and they are stronger or faster than other centaurs.
Vulnerability: Sensory Processing Disorder.
Due to Carl Bernhardt's erratic practices, centaurs also tend to have physical problems. In Michann's case, the splicing process left him somewhat detatched from his body, so that it's difficult for him to feel things. This has increased his tendency toward sensory-seeking.
Motivation: To protect his herd.
Quarter horse colors include bay, which can be modified with the sooty gene.
Sensory-seeking behavior is an effect of the under-responsive version of Sensory Processing Disorder. Sensory integration techniques can help, such as dry brushing or joint compression. For a sensory-seeking centaur, metal shoes would protect the hooves to enable natural compression through cantering or galloping over firm ground.
John-Morgan Jones -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and black hair buzzed short. He is strong and sturdy. John-Morgan lives just outside of River City, Missouri. He works as a farrier and knows how to handle horses with special needs -- including animal soups and primal soups. He is good at listening and thinking outside the box, which helps him find solutions to unusual problems. He learns best by doing, and struggles with book-learning of any kind.
As a teen, John-Morgan barely scraped through high school, and after that he worked for a local farrier for a year. His boss then paid for him to attend the Farrier Blacksmith Course at the Heartland Horseshoeing School. After another year of practical work, John-Morgan applied for a scholarship and took the Journeyman Farrier Course. He then set up his own business. People quickly learned to appreciate his creative approach to solving problems as well as his calm, gentle manner. When super clients reached to him, he was startled, but he didn't turn them away.
Qualities: Master (+6) Compassion, Expert (+4) Farrier, Expert (+4) Listener, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Poor (-2) Book-Learning
Read about the farrier courses. The Practical Farrier Course and Advanced Farrier Course describe some of the basic skills also included in the Journeyman Farrier Course. This kind of trade school is very popular in Terramagne, generally considered a respectable path after high school, although it can be combined with college for people who want a more academic foundation a Biology, Animal Husbandry, or Pre-Veterinary degree.
* * *
"A goal, a love and a dream give you total control over your body and your life."
― John Wayne
Body trust is a particular type of trust in the physical realm, manifesting as comfort with other people touching one's body. It appears in contexts such as healthy touch. The opposite is apprehension, a person tensing or pulling away when approached or when a certain part is handled. For centaurs, like horses, their hooves are "private parts" that they they often dislike other people touching.
Horses may wear shoes or go barefoot, depending on individual needs, and the same applies to centaurs. The barefoot shape can be very different from a shod hoof; Dodge and Kim Van in particular will very rapidly adapt into a wild-type configuration.
Mustang hooves tend to be very tough; if necessary, hooves can be strengthened with exercise, turpentine, or other methods. In areas with clay soil, natural packing occurs as the horse walks around; this is healthy as long as the feet get picked out regularly to check for injuries.
Missouri has many types of clay, especially along watercourses. Heavily used in cosmetics and topical treatments, clay has many benefits. Horses turned out where they can walk in clay will pack their hooves with it, providing support. While standing in soggy ground can soften hooves too much, very dry ground can make them brittle; or worse, standing in the wet for long enough to soften the hooves and then going about on hard ground. Having a patch of wet clay to walk into and out of helps develop resilient hooves, which is why some people let the water trough overflow.
Good self-care requires knowing your mental and physical limits so that you don't overdo it. Here are some ways to treat yourself better.
Tire sandals include huaraches and samburu. While some people look down on these, they actually work great and upcycle things that would otherwise go to waste. They are especially apt for soups who cannot fit into regular shoes. Tire sandals can be fastened with string or straps. Nylon strapping comes in many colors.
Notice that Arun wants white straps over his white feet and tan over his palomino feet. He identifies firmly enough with his horse half that he wants to maintain its appearance, which is a very good sign of integrated body image considering that some of the other centaurs don't relate well to their lower bodies. Arun is taking proactive steps to make it easier for him to incorporate shoes into his self-image, the way some people are picky about eyeglass frames.
Basically, Arun prefers to wear "nude" coloring on his feet, which for him is actually two different colors, the way some people like to wear nude shoes or cosmetics. While nude used to be offered in only one shade of light pinkish-tan, it really means a color that matches the wearer's skin tone, which can span a very wide range. In T-America, the five basic colors for skin-tone products are pale, fair, medium, dark, and deep. A full range of ten tones is available in some products: alabaster, bisque, peach, amber, buff, olive, toffee, terra cotta, mahogany, and ebony. Cosmetics often come in many more colors, or even custom blends.
Horseshoe pads come in a variety of styles to provide extra cushioning. They may cover just the rim or the sole as well.
Nonmetal horseshoes also come in many shapes and materials. Some can be glued on, an excellent option for hooves that are sensitive to percussion.