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.

Sincerely,

Mary

Friday, 10 May 2019

Poppy's 9 and a half week update

Poppy's update is a little delayed as I have been working on the website for the last few days rather than blogging, so apologies but I think the new site is a big improvement and I hope you agree - feel free to take a look and let me know what you think! www. rockleyfarm.co.uk 

Anyway, Poppy has been working the hardest of all the rehab horses as she came with a better landing than the boys so was ahead of them in terms of the amount she could do and the surfaces she could cope with. Her feet have not changed dramatically but have become less boxy as the back of her foot has improved. 

From the sole you can see that she has a better foot balance and her frog has developed nicely. It's looking like a more functional foot - never judge from photos of course but her landing is also better. 

Although she was landing heel first when she arrived this was a recent change and as you can see her palmar hoof was still weak. 

Again, no dramatic change from the lateral view so its the sole shots that tell us how her balance has altered. 

It's good to see that the ridge of sole round her frog (just visible in the original photo above) has now almost disappeared now that her foot is more stable. 

Interestingly, although the lateral view looks almost the same her heels are in fact lower and her frog much stronger in the recent photo when you check from this angle. 

Poppy's comparison footage is here (excuse the chicken - I thought it added local colour...): https://vimeo.com/335213773

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Mac: a 9 week update



I left Mac's photos til this week as Emma was down and I knew we would have a good chance to get footage and photos over the bank holiday.  Mac has made good progress over his time here and its good to be able to get the comparisons up at last. 

When he arrived his landing was worse on this foot (the clips are below) and he also had worse medio-lateral balance on this foot. It's good to see that the balance of his foot is better now; his better landing confirms this.  

Mac's feet were never going to change dramatically as he has been out of shoes for a while and on a good diet. For him the changes are about developing a stronger foot which is more able to support him. 

 His RF had a better landing when he arrived though it had caused problems in the past. however on arrival here his landing on this foot was heel first and he had a reasonably well balanced foot. 

You can see that he has done more mileage while he is here and his foot is looking stronger as as result. 

Mac's comparison footage is up here: https://vimeo.com/334682161

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

If you always do what you've always done then you'll always get what you've always got

When I post, as I did on Monday with the great photos of Sophie and Felix, my thoughts about navicular prognoses I will often get a comment from someone who has had a horse whom they were unable to rehabilitate. I never know exactly what has been tried with that horse so its not something I can usefully respond to but usually the comment carries an undertone of "you can't really rehabilitate horses from injuries like this after all".

Of course, there is no "magic wand" which will give a miraculous result with every horse and that's true of any therapy you try with humans or horses. It disappoints me though when people write off navicular rehabilitation on the basis of the one horse they know of who did not improve. By contrast, I'm a proponent of rehab because I have seen so many horses who DID improve.

The vast majority of the horses who come here return to the same level of work as before they went lame. I have always been transparent about what we do here and have posted the collated results of all the rehab horses over the years so that there is evidence and data in support.

It's true that what we do here follows a specific protocol and that we have specific facilities - I suspect that is why we often get good results which aren't easy to replicate. There are elements of what we do which will be the same for each horse - the base line minerals, the assessment of landing and soundness - and the principles of rehabilitation are always the same - to encourage and increase sound movement while protecting the horse from injury and preventing bad movement.

Beyond that, though, what each horse does here, day to day and week by week, is different for every horse and if something is not working for one horse I will try something else. Its pointless to persist with an exercise or methodology which is not benefitting the horse and horses will always tell you (if you listen) what is helpful and what is not.
This is why its so essential to monitor our horses regularly and check whether they are improving, deteriorating or staying the same. If we keep on doing the same thing regardless - whether that is trimming, shoeing, exercising - without checking whether it is working for the horse - then we should not be surprised if we are unsuccessful.

In my case, I have over the years changed the way I feed, the way I trim, whether I trim at all, the way I exercise horses, the tack I use (on numerous occasions!), the surfaces I turn horses out on, the amount I turn them out on grass, the surfaces I exercise horses on and so on. For every horse there will be tweaks that are needed to optimise things for that horse and I am constantly learning from the horses themselves with the aim of making rehabilitation the best I can for each horse.

We don't always get it right and we are far from perfect but we are constantly learning from the horses themselves. Its a sobering thought to think that if I had stuck with what I had always done my horses would still be in shoes, only intermittently sound, and more of them would be dead.

The message of today's blog is a simple one: if something is not working for your horse, then don't accept that its inevitable; instead try and change it for something better.


Monday, 29 April 2019

Navicular degeneration: the prognosis barefoot

Last week I posted about Alicia's podcast, the Humble Hoof, which you can find via that link or on any of the usual places (iTunes, Spotify,Podcast Player for Android, Stitcher etc).  It was great speaking to her about rehabilitation but one of the nicest aspects was that she also spoke to a number of people whose horses had been here and included their experiences of rehabilitating a horse barefoot from serious injury. 

With perfect timing over the weekend I saw these great photos of Felix, who came here in 2014 with a diagnosis on MRI of navicular bone degeneration, who has returned to a successful career eventing and hunting.
As you can see, he is on fantastic form and has been absolutely flying over the past few years.  Keeping a horse at this level requires a huge amount of hard work and he is an absolute credit to Sophie's dedication and ongoing care.

What really stands out for me though, both when I see photos like these or when I listen to Alicia's podcast, is how fantastic it is that these owners are spreading the word that a "navicular" diagnosis is not necessarily the end for the horse. Not only that, with barefoot rehabilitation it is perfectly possible for the horse to be happy and sound for years and years to come.

Its something I have seen time and time again both with my own horses and with the horses who come here for rehabilitation but we do still need to be getting the message out there!

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Humble Hoof: Podcast by Alicia Harlov

I've already shared this link on Facebook but while I was in the US recently Alicia Harlov took the time to talk to me and she's also spoken to a number of people whose horses have been at Rockley in the past.

She has created a great podcast which you can find by searching the podcast section on an iPhone or iPad or by following the link here: The Humble Hoof

This is the episode which features Rockley but you can find other instalments there and Alicia will be broadcasting more in future I am sure so do subscribe :-)


Humphrey's 8 week photos



Here are Humphrey's comparison photos, with his original pictures above and the most recent ones below, as usual. Humphrey was diagnosed on MRI with 2 DDFT tears and navicular bone damage on the RF.
He started landing heel first about 4 weeks ago and since then the back of his hooves have become stronger. You can also see that there is a new angle of growth in the dorsal wall visible from the top. 

His frogs are a bit tatty but thats nothing to worry about. His heels are broader and his frogs are receiving the stimulus to become healthier as well. 

A nice illustration from this angle of the better digital cushion development over the last 8 weeks. 

This was his worse foot so its good to see that it is less under-run than before and more supportive. 

This foot is also showing a change in balance with a stronger medial side than before. We will film Humphrey over this weekend and check his medio-lateral balance but I would expect it to be better. 


Humphrey's footage is on his previous update: http://rockleyfarm.blogspot.com/2019/04/humphreys-4-week-update.html



Thursday, 25 April 2019

Progress but not completely there yet - Sisco's update

Like the other rehab horses, Sisco has been here 8 weeks and so is due an update. He arrived with a diagnosis from MRI of bilateral navicular degeneration and pedal osteitis and he had an extreme toe first landing. 
The upper photos show his feet the day he arrived and the lower photos show his feet today, for comparison. Sisco still has a long way to go but he has managed to shorten his toe and the back of his foot is gradually becoming stronger - as you can see from the straighter hairline - although it is still very under-run. 

His frog is developing along with his toe shortening but because the back of his foot is still weak he is not strong enough to land heel first on a hard surface yet. 

There is some improvement in his digital cushion and frog but still lots of work to be done. 


The encouraging aspect of Sisco's rehab is that he is already a lot sounder than when he arrived but he can at the moment only work in the arena which makes progress slower. He can spend lots of time on the tracks, and does, but roadwork is not am option just now. 

However if you compare the hairline his foot looks more supportive now and his shorter toe and under-run heel are also positive signs. 
Sorry about the wetness but its been a showery day and unfortunately wet feet don't photograph as well as dry feet. 

 There is a better frog now, though, and as with the other foot his toe is shortening and heels are coming back.

Sisco's footage is here: https://vimeo.com/manage/332440680/