Thursday, 30 October 2008

Gales and suchlike...

howling east wind and rain today...horses all in the barn and refusing to come out, who can blame them!

Had an interesting day yesterday, when one of the editors from Horse and Hound came out with us to do a report on the foxhounds. She borrowed Charlie, and so had the barefoot hunting experience across Exmoor :-) Fortunately it was a much drier and sunnier day yesterday than today!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Hector's progress

Here for your entertainment are some shots of the orange boy, Hector. At the top, his backside (with considerable muscle wastage on the right hind) the week he arrived followed by the same shot 2 days ago - much more evenly muscled. Then his right front foot on the day he arrived, with a frog and heels which were quite franklygiving up the ghost - again quite a difference from how it looks now (the last photo), in full work on lots of different surfaces.

It never ceases to amaze me how fast horses improve given the chance. Hector came to us bilaterally lame, worse on his left front and with quite clear muscle wastage on the diagonal (right) hind, as the photos show.

Now, only 3 months after his arrival, its clear how close his hooves were to completely shutting down, and how eager he was to get them working again :-) Not only have his hooves improved dramatically, but as a result of his feet improving and his lameness resolving, he is muscling up properly again - all he needed was to be given the chance to sort himself out. What a star he has proved to be :-)

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Farrier fest!

I spent most of Saturday afternoon at a farrier training day down near Teignmouth - and as you can see, it was a proper truckfest, with more vans and pickups than you could shake a stick at!

The main speaker was Alan Bailey, a well known lecturer and remedial farrier, and I was the speaker with the graveyard slot at the end of the afternoon (!).

To liven things up, I took Felix and Hector along with me, and Kelly and Yvonne heroically agreed to bring Dexter as well, so that we had examples of horses with feet at different stages.

I have to say that the horses' behaviour was absolutely faultless - after having to spend a considerable amount of time standing in their trailers, and after long journeys for all 3 of them, they were led into a big, dark barn with picnic tables, farm machinery, forges and about 80 farriers - who all crowded round them and were chatting merrily away :-) They all behaved as if this happened to them every day - Hector in particular was angelic, as I am sure he had never done anything of the kind before. Felix and Dex are old pros at having their feet inspected, of course, but still they deserve gold stars for their flawless manners.

Several of the farriers were totally unimpressed, mostly the younger ones, interestingly enough, and one guy who thought that it wasn't enough that Felix could trot over a track which consisted of large scalpings on a rock hard track (!). He told me that when he was trotting downhill he shouldn't shorten his stride at all, but should just trot with the same stride length as when he was going up hill...

Presumably he has lots of shod horses who trot up and downhill with exactly the same stride length, and he obviously thought this was a good thing...Sadly, his horses will be doing this because they have absolutely no proprioception or awareness of the surface they are travelling over. As a result, these horses won't get the feedback from their hooves that they are travelling on a jarring surface, and so won't shorten up when they trot downhill. Research has shown that this puts enormous strain on their joints from the increased concussion, whereas if they shorten slightly, the joints are protected from impact forces.

Fortunately, as well as the defensive farriers, like that one, there were a number of friendly faces, and I had some outright supporters there as well :-)

One sceptic said, during my presentation (which obviously focussed on performance and had a shot of Andy and Charlie going over stones out hunting) that he didn't believe we hunted on stony ground at all. At this point, luckily for me, there was a farrier who came from up here, and who shoes for one of my nighbours, and he told the sceptic quite categorically that the stones and flints up here were a severe test, and furthermore he knew from his own client that whereever the shod horses went, mine went as well - all day ;-) God bless him - and I definitely owe him a pint for that :-)

As well as unknown friends like that, I was very grateful particularly to Robbie Richardson and Tim Neale who were both very supportive, and of course to the organiser, John Mann, who asked me in the first place!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The hoof rehab timeline...

Erik has now been with is for 3 weeks, and is an absolute sweetheart. His owner came up to see him today, and he was really pleased to see her - he knows full well he is her special boy :-)

He is making good progress, but it is still early days for him, and although he has gone from a pronounced toe first landing to flat or heel first landing (albeit no consistently), there are still lots of surfaces he finds challenging, so its definitely grass or pea gravel which are his preferred terrain!

At times like this, its invaluable to have other horses ar different stages - almost a timeline of how hoof rehabilitation goes. So at the moment we have Erik, newly out of shoes and with little new growth, and only just starting to land correctly; by contrast Bill has a whole hoof capsule, and lands heel first but still struggles on hard uneven ground or sharp turns due to the bony changes in his hoof, which will take more than one hoof capsule to improve. Contrast again Hector, who has over half a new hoof capsule but is much more capable than Bill because as a younger horse, his problems were more due to soft tissue damage than bone damage, and so have improved extremely quickly.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Fur and Hector

What a manic few days, with clinics running, then my parents staying, and in btween all the horses to do :-) Finally got round to clipping Bailey and Jack last night - both grey, both fluffy, fortunately both very good to clip but I still ended up itching and with what looked like an aggravated snowstorm effect in the barn!

Intrestingly, when one of our Danish students was here he confirmed that the odd mark on Jack's left quarter is a brand, and that we would probably be able to identify it once he was clipped. Lo and behold after I had finished him yesterday it was revealed as a quartered circle, the brand used for Belgian Warmbloods. That explains his lovely movement, and the fact that he is such a light horse to ride. Bless him!

Hector has such a fine coat that there is nothing to clip yet - hooray! - so he stayed as he was and went out for his first day hunting on his own today, with none of our team out to support him. There were a few steady horses out, but also one lunatic youngster who bucked like stink and chucked his rider off - fortunately H did not follow suit and in fact behaved very nicely - phew!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Jacko rides again

I decided that today Jack deserved a blog all of his own...

He has had a quiet summer partly because we have been so busy but also because he had a spell of lameness in August due to an abscess. He has had super-strange shaped hooves in the past, with severe wall deviation, for reasons too complicated to go into here (!) but this left him prone to hoof infections, which he duly succumbed to over the summer.

However, he seems to have come back from this better than ever, and certainly has grown a more symmetrical pair of hooves, though still weird enough to give some trimmers and farriers slepless nights (so they tell me!)...

Still Jack doesn't care, and is busy growing the best possible feet for himself, and feeling better than ever.

So today, now that he has been back in work a little while, Andy volunteered to take him hunting for a quiet mid-week hour or so, with Felix for support.

Jack came to us with lots of "labels", and with a quite ingrained fear of travelling, and although he has improved immeasurably, he had not been hunting or loaded to travel since April, so we were not sure how he would behave.

He got multiple gold stars, as he loaded straight onto the trailer, which he used to refuse to approach at all, and travelled like an absolute pro. His manners were perfect all morning, and hacking home along a fairly busy road (well, by Exmoor standards - so a lorry and coach, plus a few cars!) he was unflappable.

We were thrilled with him, and he seemed pretty pleased with himself as well, and it was great to see Jack's self-confidence so much higher than it used to be. I like this photo so much - it could be captioned "Well satisfied after a very good morning's work!". What a lovely chap he is, and what a long way he has come in 10 months :-)

Monday, 6 October 2008

Who is Bill?

A quick recap... :-)

Bill is another navicular horse, whom we have some great digital X-rays of, from when he first arrived. He has taken a long time to come sound but now that he is able to work and is landing correctly on most ground, he is rapidly improving.

He is "old-fashioned" to look at - big Roman nose, ENORMOUS ears and a very very honest expression :-) He is a poppet, and at Mary's clinic everyone wanted to take him home. Only thing is that he is a good 17.1hh so not everyone had space for him ;-)


Friday, 3 October 2008

Clinics and such-like

A busy week (again!) with Mary Bromiley's clinic today and tomorrow, and orientation for the latest intake of students on Thursday and Friday.

Erik the new boy is well and truly part of the herd now, and mooches round the track with the best of them. He is only doing the gentlest possible work, but is enjoying short walks out led from one of the other horses and his foot landing is already improving.

Bill seems to be rather pleased with his new role as a hunter, and I hope he will go out again for another short day next week sometime.

Meanwhile, although its perishing cold the sun is shining and apart from the occasional passing hail storm, its a lovely albeit very autumnal day.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Now its Bill's turn!

Summer - what little of it we had over the last 2 weeks - seemed well and truly over yesterday, but today is lovely again - sunny and bright, although much cooler than last week. Still, it IS October, so I shouldn't complain :-)

Today was Bill's hunting debut, and he was a very good boy. He may have hunted before, its hard to tell because he is the sort of horse who takes things in his stride and doesn't worry, so the fact that he was relaxed doesn't give us any real indication. He certainly woke up, after a lazy start on the way to the meet, but wasn't silly at all. He found one steep hill tricky, and got his knickers in a knot at the top, so we found a less steep way down, which he coped well with.

He certainly needs to get fitter and stronger, so we only let him stay out for an hour or so of quiet pootling about. He was much admired, especially for his very kind expression. Good boy Bill :-)