Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Mac and the 15 week update

Mac went home yesterday and I grabbed some photos before he left. He stayed longer than the normal 12 weeks as Emma was off on the holiday of a lifetime so we got to keep him an extra 3 weeks, so these are 15 week comparison photos, an exciting increase on what I can typically take!
As usual the upper photo is day 1, the lower one today. The biggest difference in the new growth visible in the top of the hoof capsule along with the shorter toe.  Mac's landing has been consistently heel first for a good few weeks now and his medio-lateral balance is now solid, giving his feet proper support.  
You can see that the shorter toe is because the whole back of the foot is more established now, with a stronger frog and deeper collateral grooves, indicating better sole depth. None of this has been achieved with trimming, its all down to work and surfaces.
There is a big difference between a boxy foot with a weak frog and the same foot with a fully functioning frog! Again, the change is not about lowering heels but about building the frog and digital cushion.  The foot today has an established heel first landing which will only get better with more mileage.  
This foot had a worse landing than the right on arrival and again there is a clearly different angle of growth and the changes stem from a stronger palmar hoof.  
A very much better palmar hoof today which is also visibly more balanced.  
Mac's footage is on his earlier blog posts so do check that out if you are interested. 

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Sisco's 14 week update

As regular blog readers will know, most of the horses who come here stay for 12 weeks, as that's the length of time it typically takes to get a better landing on feet and to establish horses at a level of work which they can carry on safely at home. 
Occasionally, though, a horse needs to stay longer, usually because they have a more severe or long term lameness which is taking more time to improve. This has only happened a handful of times in all the years we have had rehab horses but Sisco is one of those horses. 

As you can see from his photos, his feet have improved a lot over the time he has been here but he had very weak, contracted hooves on arrival with extremely under-run heels and long toes. 
The upper photo in each case is his foot on arrival; the lower photo is him today. 
The factor that has held Sisco up has been his reluctance to land heel first. His soundness is hugely improved and his feet are stronger but at the moment he does not land as confidently as I would like. This is a surprise when you look at how much his feet have improved.  
He is certainly landing better than he was (footage is below) and his palmar hoof is much better developed but the landing is lagging behind. This means he is more limited in the surfaces and distance he can work on than would normally be the case for a horse who has been here for this long. However he has been in consistent work and sound over his most recent weeks here which is good news.   
Sisco will be going home soon to continue developing and strengthening his feet so we are hoping for  ongoing positive changes.  
Sisco's footage is here:

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

DB - the latest new arrival

The second new rehab horse to arrive this month is DB, a warmblood who has come all the way from Cumbria. As usual, he travelled really well and came off the lorry totally unbothered by his long trip.

As an aside, if you aren't used to travelling horses a long distance its well worth using a professional transporter, particularly for a one-way trip. We often have horses brought this way and they always travel brilliantly, even if they are not used to it. Its also much less stressful and tiring than driving them yourself!
DB was diagnosed on MRI in February with DDFT and DIP joint injuries to his RF. There was no MRI done on his LF so we don't have any details of pathology on this foot although he is not reported as being lame on it.
However it is still an under-run foot with a rather weak, collapsed palmar hoof - the hairline is tipping downwards and his digital cushion is weak although his frog is fairly healthy and not contracted.
The RF is more under-run and also more collapsed, so its not surprising this is the lamer foot. Interestingly he is not actually landing much better on his LF than his RF - both are toe first in the footage we took on his arrival though the LF intermittently lands flat. 
Incidentally, DB was shod with bar shoes before the MRI but has not been shod since then.
This foot looks slightly less balanced than the LF but again the frog is ok and not significantly contracted.  DB seems to be enjoying the opportunity to move around more  and being able to socialise with the other horses so I am hoping to see improvements in his feet soon. 
DB's footage is here: - I know you all love an unintentional chicken in the slow motion...

Monday, 3 June 2019

Harvey - new post for a new arrival

Harvey actually arrived on Friday but it has been a busy weekend and so I've only just uploaded his photos and video and assessed them properly.

He has been shod until recently and has also had various therapies to try and improve his lameness over the last few years. Recently though it has worsened and so our job is to try and improve his landing and enable his feet too strengthen in the hopes of giving him better long term soundness.
At the moment he is lamest on his RF which is also the foot with the worse landing (his footage is below) so that will be the focus over the next days and weeks.
As you can see, he is reluctant to load this foot and is weight bearing much more on the LF. The frog and heels on this foot are weak and contracted although he has typically robust Welsh cob hooves, which is a good sign for the future I hope.
 On this foot as well he has a central sulcus split which I think is contributing to his discomfort, although often this can be chicken and egg, with the split forming as the horse lands badly and the bad landing adding to the risk of infection. As always there will be more on Harvey very soon.

Harvey's initial footage is here:

Friday, 24 May 2019

Billy's 12 week update - some big changes

Billy went home this morning, after 12 weeks with us, and we will be sorry to see him go as he is a charming horse with a kind personality. Its interesting to see the changes in his feet  - with the original photos on the top and the current ones below, as always.  
He arrived in shoes but I didn't manage to get photos of him shod, although his video footage does show him in shoes. He was lamest on this foot and landing toe first out of shoes.  
As he had pads on as well as bar shoes his heels and frogs were contracted as you can see from the top photo. Although he has a central sulcus split which is still healing up he is now comfortable to land heel first and is growing a much stronger foot. 
You can just about see, if you look at the hoof wall, that his foot is more stable now but he still has more development to come in his palmar hoof. 
Not a perfect foot yet but less under-run and with about half a new hoof capsule still to grow in.  
I think we can safely say that this frog is now much happier, doing what it is supposed to be doing!
The important thing is that Billy has gone from landing toe first and being seriously lame on his RF to landing heel first and sound on both reins - a good result and I hope he continues to go from strength to strength. 

His footage is here and shows clear improvement in both his dorso-palmar and medio-lateral balance, from an exaggerated landing in his shoes and tipping from lateral to medial to a solid heel first landing and good, even medio-lateral balance. 

Friday, 17 May 2019

That Friday feeling

After such an inspirational post on Monday it only feels right to end with an equally inspirational update today.

This time its for a horse I know well, handsome Ginger who was here for rehab in 2016. One of the best parts of rehab is receiving updates from owners once horses are back home but I will admit that Ginger had me worried at times, which is why updates about him are all the more special.

He is a warmblood who was only 6 when he came to us for rehab. He was also quite severely lame, graded 5/10 lame in trot, and had not responded to conventional treatments.

While I was writing this post I found the referring email from his vet, who though positive about us was guarded about Ginger's prognosis:

"I've been asked by one my clients to get in touch with you about a possible referral.
First of all, I applaud your decision to only accept horses that have been referred by a vet. 

I think it shows respect towards the veterinary profession and promotes a good relationship between us and your Rehabilitation Centre. Also, I had a look at your website and the "vet info" that Anita forwarded on an email and I completely share your approach to promote hoof health and overall lower limb biomechanics.

 I am not entirely sure that your rehabilitation system may improve Ginger's lameness -hence wanting to discuss the case further with my colleague- but at the same time I feel that improving his hoof health and balance will only benefit him. Therefore, please accept this email as a referral."
Although he developed a much stronger hoof while he was here, and was landing adequately when he returned home, there was clearly a long way still to go; in fact I think I said to Anita as they left that it would take at least 6 months to a year before his feet had finished changing and growing.

As often happens, he had setbacks as well as making progress during his rehab. Rehab is never, or rarely, a smooth upward curve; its more commonly characterised as 2 steps forward, 1 step back and its important at the less positive times to remember how far you and the horse have come.
Initially Anita, Ginger and I were just hoping to get him fully sound again and Anita's hopes for him were on hold, as is so often the case when horses come here. However after a year of patient work by Anita Ginger was ready to put his lameness behind him and in the intervening years he has gone from strength to strength. 
For a time, like many horses who have had injuries within the hoof capsule, Ginger grew a deviated hoof wall, meaning his feet looked odd but functioned well. After a year he apparently no longer needed it and he now has feet which look normal and function extremely well! 
This spring has seen Anita and Ginger introduce jumping into their skill set and I think Ginger is a natural. I hope they have a wonderful summer and that we see many more photos like these. 

Monday, 13 May 2019

"You don't know this, but you saved my horse..."

I received an incredible email this morning. I could hardly ask for a better start to the week and it was so heartfelt that I asked the writer's permission straightaway to share it here. Luckily she said yes!

Dear Nic,

You don't know this, but you saved my horse.  I am eternally grateful for this. I have actually owed you this email for three years, but I have been too busy riding my horse to write.

I am an American living in Germany.  In the spring of 2015, six months after I bought my first horse, I let a friend ride him in a local small jumping tournament.  He is a 172 cm Holsteiner with a long record of successful jumping tournaments around Germany. At the time, I was recovering from carpel tunnel surgery and he was trained as an advanced-level jumper.  They had been jumping together while I was in surgery and so it seemed perfectly harmless.

Late April, three days before the event she and the farrier insisted my horse needed studs on his front shoes and that he needed back shoes too -- he was very footy and was ridden out too often on the roads.  His feet were going to wear away.  At the time I trusted them both and agreed to the shoes.  At the time, I had no idea the impact the spring grass had on him or the fallacy of this statement.

The tournament was a big mistake. He came badly over the second tournament jump. The rider came off and dangled from his neck as he galloped on.  It was an ugly mess. The next day, it was clear, he had sustained a shoulder injury in the event.  It was hot, swollen, tender to the touch.  He was lame and miserable.

When he was taken to the clinic for an examination the vet said immediately, that horse's don't get shoulder injuries without hoof problems. He x-rayed his hoofs and found channels on the navicular bone. The vet declared the prognosis grim.  He would never be well enough to ride again. At all. He recommended, politely, I get a new horse.  This one was finished.

Deep in shock, I did what anyone would do:  I started Googling navicular. I was immediately surprised to find Rockley Farm and another rehabilitation center (Strasser).  It didn't make much sense to me, if it was really a hopeless disease.  My childhood friend had Muscular Dystrophy.  It is, without a doubt, a degenerative disease.  There is no rehab available.  Her doctors also said she wouldn't live past age six, but they were wrong. She just turned 45, last month.  So, I know there is hope in hopeless situations. So I read.  I ordered your book and every other one I could find.  I looked at navicular studies and dug down to the raw data. It was all a bit confusing and contradictory. Yet, there was enough grey area for me to be optimistic that my horse could be rehabilitated and go on to lead a quality life.
The Rockley Farm barefoot rehabilitation approach seemed like the simplest idea with no harsh side effects and I was convinced the transition might slow him down enough to allow his shoulder to heal.  With his shoulder inflamed, I certainly wasn't looking for a quick fix. My horse had always struggled to keep shoes on, anyway.  They were constantly being lost.  He had stocked-up over the winter when he had no turnout.  And, I was suspicious of the roll the studs played in his injury.  So, I was pretty certain, all the wedge-style rehabilitation shoes were not going to work for him. 

Unfortunately, I didn't have the means to send him to Rockley, so I was left to help him sort it out myself at the stable. I am so grateful that you share so much of what you do. How to feed, how to look at the landings, and the importance of movement, etc.. I decided to build a small team of people to help me. Needless to say, when I approached my farrier with this barefoot rehab team idea, it did not go well.  I got him to take my horse's shoes off and then I was ostracized for being an idiot.

Still, I soldiered on.  I hired a nutritionist to help me with the feed options in Germany and a physio to help with the shoulder.  I read Feet First over and over again like a Bible.  Several weeks in, it was becoming evident, I had a horse like your Bailey on my hands (he is a grey also, coincidentally). My horse suddenly had signs of metabolism issues (neck and bum fat deposits, clumpy coat, blackened soles, etc.). He was extremely grass sensitive. His immune system was out of whack -- he was catching everything -- mud fever, sweet itch, etc. Everyone thought I was crazy spending time and money on this horse, but, I kept going because I could seem him responding to his new diet and new way of going.  His feet were changing everyday.  They had a pronounced line where his hooves were growing in a completely new angle. His frogs were growing. He had even started to show signs of growing a deviation on the hoof with the shoulder injury.  More than anything, I saw his character change.  He seemed more content, more relaxed.  He seemed relieved to have the shoes off, even though he was only moving slowly around.

About 13-14 weeks in, his shoulder seemed better.  He let me saddle him up, get on, and walk around in the arena. He was on the mend. A few days later, another farrier came and I thought it would be okay if the farrier did a little trim--you know-- just to clean things up.  What a disaster!  

After the trim, his feet looked absolutely lovely, but I was hurled back to square one immediately. His shoulder was hot, swollen, tender to the touch.  He was incredibly footy (no surprise since the farrier cut his frogs back so much they looked atrophied) .  All his issues and sensitivities came roaring back. He was miserable. I was miserable. Once again, it took months for him to grow his deviation back, to grow his frogs back and back of the hoof to strengthen and thereby allowing his shoulder to come back to the healing processes.

If it was not for your blog and your books and your celery concept, I would have thought that he could not be barefoot. That he would never heal.  And, after that trim, I would have thought all the naysayers were right, it was a hopeless. The setback was so profound. But I kept going.
Through it all I tweaked the food and the minerals trying to find that balance he needed.  I was close, but he was still just a bit off.   I finally broke down and had the stable's grass, hay, and haylage tested.  That solved a huge piece of the puzzle, of course.  In a short time of better matching, it came together.  The metabolism issues are gone, he is rarely, if ever, footy (and if he is...we just limit grass time and his is back on track), his skin and coat are gorgeous.  And, he is deeply happy.  It is easy to see.

Each year he has gotten stronger and his hoofs have developed more. One of the things I like about having my horse barefoot is the near instant feedback.  If something disagrees with him, I know it within a day or two. There are no shoes masking how he is really coping.  Since I stopped letting farriers shape his hooves the way they see fit and allow my horse to keep his feet the way he needs them, he is back to being a fast and powerful horse.  He hasn't been lame a single day in YEARS. The last time was in 2016 when I let a barefoot trimmer take a smidgen off (I like to mistakes more than once).  It wasn't what he needed. He was lame for a month.  After that I promised it would never happen again.  And it hasn't.   He keeps one foot especially ugly - it nearly always has some kind of crack or chipping and he maintains a weird deviation on both sides. I wish it would look better, but it doesn't. It's the hoof under the old shoulder injury.  The other three are usually very tidy, but sometimes not.  I have finally stopped caring what anyone thinks.  How my horse goes and what he tells me is all that matters.

Back in the spring of 2017,  I finally was brave enough to let him jump again.  I am not bold enough for jumping (dressage and some hacking are it for me) so I let one of the teenage eventers at the stable take him out for a spin.  Needless to say, he went without hesitation.  He was absolutely and completely back in form. He seemed delighted with himself and ready to jump a full circuit. It was a great moment.
Pretty much since the fall of 2016, he has been ridden 4-6 days a week.  At his last check up, my new vet desperately tried to find him lame. He x-rayed his hooves again. He had me trot him up the gravel drive. Then trot up the paved road.  He floated both times.  The vet looked at his ugly feet and asked when he had last been trimmed.  His face was priceless when I said, nearly three years ago.  He was dumbfounded, especially since he could see those channels on his navicular bone were exactly the same as the original x-ray.  I also admitted I ride him on the paved roads regularly and let him free jump in the arena from time-to-time. He was shocked. It was all --unorthodox. He then asked me exactly what I had been feeding and doing with him because he was healthier than many of the horses he sees that are half his age. By the end of the visit, he couldn't deny the health of my horse and told me to keep doing what I was doing -- including not trimming. It is clearly working.  

Thank you for sharing so much information about Rockley Farm and its rehab.  Thank you for sharing all the ugly pictures of hooves in transition.  Thank you for sharing pictures of healthy hardworking hooves. Especially the wonky ones. Thank you for sharing the importance of movement and proper landing and how to spot it.  Thank you for sharing everything.  It absolutely changed my life and, more importantly, my horse's life.