Thursday 13 October 2011

Rollercoasters and rocket science

Sometimes rehabilitating horses feels a bit like this...
As with every aspect of life (particularly when horses are involved), there are times when things fall into place, everything goes swimmingly and you think that you're doing a pretty good job.  And then there are times when nothing goes to plan and somebody somewhere seems to be throwing every possible obstacle in your way.
Like most people, I guess, I prefer the times when everything is going well - the easy times  - the sorts of times I wrote about here - when the rehab horses are on a roll and it feels as if I have a bit-part in a Disney movie.

Of course, things can't always be like that, and this week has brought a harsh reality check in the form of the sad ending to the story of Andrea and Gogo, whose blog I, like many of you, have followed for a while.   Sometimes circumstances just conspire against you, and you are powerless to change the inevitable, however hard and for however long you try.

Fortunately, most of the horses who come here primarily have foot problems and because hooves are so dynamic, most horses go from rehab back into full work.

For any horse, however, rehab can be a bit like a game of snakes and ladders, with slippery-slides down and setbacks occurring after hard-won improvements; due to the inscrutable workings of Murphy's law, setbacks almost invariably occur either on the day the owner has come to see their horse or on the day after I've posted how well they were doing on the blog...
Then again, sometimes rehab feels more like this - unravelling a tangled mass of inter-connected problems and for each one you improve, there is a knock-on effect elsewhere - hind limb movement affected by front limb movement; muscles being used in new ways; increasing movement, circulation and hoof growth flushing out old, long-standing problems.

You've got to remember as well that the horses here are not sound horses who are simply having their shoes taken off but horses with long-standing lameness who have often developed related problems from compensating over a period of weeks, months or even years.

We have to look at the whole horse not only because the whole body is affected by the feet but because feet can be affected not only by the obvious - like nutrition and biomechanics - but by saddle fit and even teeth problems.
A further twist in the rehab rollercoaster comes from the fact that horses - once they start feeling better  - have a much greater tendency to lark around in the field, play wild games with their mates or go for a blast at a thousand miles an hour, all of which their limbs and hooves may (or may not) be capable of.    Then add in our weather (its been raining for the last 10 days) and all in all, it can sometimes make for a pretty bumpy ride. 

There is no doubt though that - unfortunately for me - I need the more challenging times because they tend to be the times when I learn the most and (hopefully) make changes for the better.  Doesn't stop me hating going through them, though!

What I have learned the hard way is that there is no point getting into a panic.   Rehab horses are vulnerable because their feet are normally undergoing tremendous change - weak structures are being challenged, loaded and improved and sometimes that process happens on a knife-edge.  Horses with thin soles are a good example, where a fraction too much on a hard surface can cause damage and too little means the hoof is static and fails to improve.   
It may be a rollercoaster but it isn't rocket science.  Usually, by putting in place the best nutrition we can, by providing support for weak feet and stimulus for poor structures, by encouraging the best possible biomechanics the horse, the owner and I can together get to a point where the good days outweigh the bad, a strong hoof capsule outgrows a weak one and the horse can move from a vicious circle of incorrect, unsound movement to a virtuous circle of comfortable, increasingly free movement.  
But there are never guarantees, and it can sometimes be a long, slow old slog out of the tunnel...


mikexplorer said...

hi there.. you have a wonderful site.. i love reading your posts.. keep posting..

jenj said...

That rollercoaster pic is spot on. I feel like we've finally - FINALLY - got a handle on the feet and lo and behold, there is something else going on... Whether that something was caused by compensating for poor feet, or whether it another problem entirely, I don't know, but regardless we have to address it.

You said that it's not rocket science, and maybe it's not... but I do feel like it's a really bad mystery novel! One thing after another, and you never know where the next thing will come from or how it happened!

Nic Barker said...

Jen, hindsight is a wonderful thing...Once you have the solution, please post it ;-)

Dare Gothic Clothing said...

"due to the inscrutable workings of Murphy's law, setbacks almost invariably occur either on the day the owner has come to see their horse or on the day after I've posted how well they were doing on the blog..."

...or the week before they are due for a fantastic time at Rockley Reunion!!
I think mood stabilisers should be available for all rehab owners to even out the roller coaster, more than patience and perseverance I think the ability to hold onto your faith when everything is up and down all the time is the key to progressing with rehab... I don't know how you do it as a living but you are a star - one horses roller coaster is quite enough for me!