Monday 30 April 2012

Buster on a circle

Buster is going home later in the week and you may recall that last time I updated the blog about him we had an ongoing issue with his soundness on the right rein on a circle.
Like all rehab horses here, Buster will only be part-way through his rehab when he goes home.  Much as I would like to have a magic wand which I could wave to make horses immediately sound, in the real world tendon and ligament damage which has taken months or even years to make a horse lame also takes time to heal and though we can lay a foundation over 12 weeks, that's only part of the story.

Although he has several months to go before he will have grown a full new hoof capsule, Buster has made good progress since he arrived.

He has gone from being on box rest with recurrent lameness when brought into even the lightest work (a fairly common pattern for a horse with a collateral ligament injury) to being able to work consistently several times a week with improving soundness.

As the footage shows, he is still not 100% on the right rein (the gale force winds and driving rain yesterday will not, to be fair, have improved his performance!) but crucially work and his new hoof growth is helping rather than hindering.

Buster on a circle from Nic Barker on Vimeo.

Friday 27 April 2012

Spot the difference...

Some snapshots for you.  Charlotte came down yesterday as she is taking Bryan home on Saturday and she brought his last set of shoes with her...
It's always interesting to look at hooves changing and when you put the shoe against his feet as they are today it confirms that the back of his foot is broader and less under-run and that his LF is shifting medially, which is what needs to happen for this foot properly to support his limb. 
The RF shows similar changes though the medio-lateral balance was much better on this foot. 

Here are another couple of shots of a different horse for you to ponder.  What's the difference here (apart from the fact that the top foot is wet and the lower one dry, which I admit doesn't help...)?

Same question, same feet.  Any ideas?

Thursday 26 April 2012

Taz, the answer to every foot problem, Flynn E and a request for good vibes

I had an email from Lea, who has been keeping me up to date with Taz's progress.  Taz had an annoyingly persistent abscess/infection in his RH and Lea took him to the veterinary hospital where they dosed him with a serious course of antibiotics.  Fair enough, but what they didn't tell her (or her vet, or her farrier) was that they thought putting these on would be a good idea...
This was, according to the hospital, done "to take the loading off that wall"(!).  Both Lea, Russ (the farrier), her vet and I were gobsmacked and would love them to explain to us why they think that sticking shoes on takes the load off the wall in a horse who is already barefoot.  
To my eye, far from taking strain off the wall its actually tipped the load laterally and completely isolated it to the hoof wall - which is why they put in the filler, to get sole and frog stimulus - but wait - he already had that barefoot. In addition, the last thing you want in a limb which has had infection is to reduce circulation but - guess what - the shoe is doing that as well. 

Its so bonkers its actually laughable but  - as the saying goes - if all you have is a hammer...Sad, though, that a leading veterinary hospital simply put shoes and fillers on without bothering to think about what they were doing and what physiological effect it would have. 

Luckily, the shoes were only on for a matter of days and Russ has now whipped them off. Taz is barefoot again and, to quote her farrier: "Russ is pleased with his feet and has said the shoes and gel have done no harm in that short time" [and yes, Lea is very fortunate in her superb farrier :-)].

Lea also sent pics yesterday as Taz has a new it a dog? Is it a sheep?
No - its stumpy Jake!
Clearly Taz isn't going to have things all his own way.

There is also news of Flynn E, and that's where the plea for good vibes comes in.  He went home at the end of January and had been doing really well but over the last 4 weeks he and Stacy have had terrible luck.  First he started suddenly losing weight and was eventually diagnosed with an inability to process glucose.  Bizarrely his next door neighbour was also diagnosed with the same thing and Stacy suspects some sort of toxin affected them both.  

Poor Flynn lost over 100kg in weight but is now starting to recover, but as if that wasn't enough 2 weeks ago he came in with swelling on his face and its transpired that he has a fractured skull, probably a really unfortunate kick injury but its the last thing that he or Stacy needed. 

So, LOTS of blog good vibes for them please - you guys pulled it out of the bag for Paddy so now we need the same for Flynn :-)

Wednesday 25 April 2012

How front limbs affect hind limbs

Bryan goes home at the end of the week and its time for a recap. He came with a primary front limb lameness but it had inevitably had a knock on effect on his hind limbs as well. In fact, when you look at his initial footage, his hind feet were landing as badly as his front feet. 
Bryan is a big, strong horse who has had a highly competitive career but if you compare the photos of him standing on the day he arrived (above) versus today, its clear that the lameness had a massive effect on how he was using and carrying himself. 
Bryan is a really good illustration of why you can't effectively isolate lameness to one leg in a four-legged animal.  

Yes, Bryan had collateral ligament damage diagnosed in his LF but that had an inevitable effect on his hind limbs over time.  He is a show-jumper whose job depends on being able to use his hind limbs to propel his whole body up and over an obstacle and his fore limbs to be the strong and stable landing point.  The whole system is, naturally, inter-dependent. 
Here are his hoof changes on his worst foot (LF).  Its fascinating (if you're a hoof anorak) to watch the heels coming back and growing more supportive. 
The orientation of the frog and the current asymmetry are particularly interesting and to me this foot looks as if it has lots of changes still to go... it to his RF (below), which is already more balanced.  I suspect (and I hope) that another few months will make the LF more balanced and stable too. 
Here are the obligatory lateral shots...
...and you can see the distinct angle change in the lower photo which marks 12 weeks of new growth. The back of the hoof is more robust but there is more change still to come. 

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Short post, new website...

Short blog today, as I am in the process of revamping the Rockley Farm website and its reached the difficult stage(!) - ie when technical people would be fine and I have to start wrapping a towel round my head.

If any of you have got suggestions for what you would like to see on the site, or how it should be changed, please let me know and I will try to factor that in, as long as its not too complicated :-)
The week has not been made easier so far by the fact that its pouring with rain and winter seems to have resumed at least 6 months early. Yeuch...and sympathies to all the rest of you who work outside and had hoped for some nice Spring weather this week...

Monday 23 April 2012

Hoof transformation, aka Bailey G's update

Bailey's owners came visiting this weekend and though they were pleased with how he was looking and moving, I've promised them a proper photo comparison, so they can see how his hooves have changed over the last couple of months. 
Here he is on day one, with a photo from now (about 9 weeks later) below.  Look at the difference in the length of toe and the under-run of the heel.  Also how much more bulk and depth there is in the  back of the foot today, by contrast with when he was in shoes.  Apparently small changes, but they have a huge effect on movement and soundness. 
Bailey still only has less than half a new hoof capsule (the new angle you can see in the photo above) so he still has several weeks before his hoof is even in the right place. As with all rehabs, he will go home with plenty still to work on. 
No apologies for caudal close-ups! I love these shots - his LF from day one in bar shoes...
...a couple of days out of shoes and still weak and crushed, though starting to unfold...
The same foot 6 weeks on, immature but with a better frog though the heels are still adrift and relatively high...
...and today - starting to load properly though still very immature by comparison with a truly high mileage, healthy hoof, like the one below.
I asked Bailey's owners to compare the digital cushions on Bailey and Felix (above) and of course just by touch they could tell which horse was the rehab and which was the high mileage barefoot "expert". Bailey is catching up fast, however, as you can see!
Finally, here are his sole shots - day one...
...a couple of days out of shoes, when the pinched frog and contracted, under-run heels are clear...
...a few weeks later...
 ...and today - 9 weeks in.  At last, here is a frog which is able to do its job - leading to a shorter toe and healthier caudal hoof. See how far his heels have moved back, as well - from under-run to supportive in only a few weeks. 
The proof of the pudding: a better landing, though he still has a way to go...

Sunday 22 April 2012

Spring hunting, April showers

Leaving the meet

The huntsman heads on out
A steep descent proves too much for one visitor...
"There they go!"

Friday 20 April 2012

The oxymoron of "Modern shoeing"

Apparently there is an article in Horse and Hound this week all about modern shoeing - the title is "Shoeing for Performance" - presumably because "Shoeing for Lameness" wouldn't be quite so catchy.

I haven't yet read it but when someone sent me a text about it I was amused at the phrase "modern shoeing".  After all, one of the arguments used in favour of shoes is that "its been done since Roman times".

Now, although there is archaeological evidence that shoes were put on horses in Roman times, I've never found it persuasive as a reason for shoeing.  After all, the Romans invented lots of things - including novel ways of torture - that we now find repulsive and lots of other things - like central heating and plumbing - that we still use but have radically changed and improved.

"Modern shoeing" therefore to me is a bit of an oxymoron, since there is little fundamental difference between Roman horseshoes and those most widely used today.

Don't get me wrong - horseshoes have a use.  Jen blogged recently about the massive improvement in her horse, Saga, when he is shod by comparison to when he is barefoot.  She knows he has thin soles and has found it impossible to get to the bottom of why, so shoes are a practical way of helping his less than perfect feet still perform.
 However, let's also not forget that most of the horses who come here have feet which have been deformed by shoes - there is really no other way to describe it - and who have had months and often years of shoes making their feet weaker and more compromised.
As always, the picture is bigger than we think, and much more complicated!

Thursday 19 April 2012

Legend arrives at Rockley...

...Quite literally, because the latest arrival at Rockley is called, chatting to Buster.
Legend is a Welsh cob who was diagnosed with navicular on the basis of x-rays in May 2011.  He was treated with Tildren and remedial farriery but over the last year things deteriorated and he became steadily lamer.
Because he was so uncomfortable, his owners took his shoes off a few weeks before he arrived here. He is sounder out of his shoes but is still landing toe first (not surprisingly!) and is in desperate need of growing a more supportive hoof capsule.
The sole shot of his foot doesn't look too bad - but bears out what you can see laterally - his feet are very flat with an underrun heel and stretched toe but he is trying hard to improve that.
Buster is not susceptible to being licked...but Legend has already met several of the boys and has great social skills so I think he won't take long to get his feet under the table!

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Sad news - Kingsley

Those of you who follow Wiola's blog will already have heard the sad news that Kingsley was put down this morning.

I first met Kingsley, Wiola and Pauline when he came here in 2010, following a "navicular" diagnosis.  It was clear right away that Kingsley had as many problems with his hind legs as with his front legs, and he had the most crooked movement I had ever seen.
Despite this, he made good progress once out of his wedged shoes; as he grew better balanced feet his movement also started to normalise and we all hoped that he would follow the same happy path as so many other horses had done.

However, he suffered a severe bout of azoturia in 2011 and although he recovered from this and came back into ridden work it was becoming clear that all was not well.

His whole story is on Wiola's blog, but I think its fair to say that he has proved to have an incredibly complex series of issues, affecting not just front and hind legs but his back and quite possibly his metabolism as well.

What was the cause? Perhaps we will never know. As Wiola says in her blog, the fact that in the end we couldn't solve his problems and help him more is perhaps the hardest aspect to come to terms with.

He was a dear horse - kind, genuine and with a tremendous love of his work - and he could not have had more dedicated owners than Wiola and Pauline.

Scholarship and stress shielding

The closing date for applications for the Rockley Scholarship has now passed and thank you to everyone who has supported it so far, by applying, sponsoring or simply spreading the word about it.
From a quick review there are some great applications and it will be a tough task to make a selection but we are about to get reading in earnest and will consider everyone very carefully.

Meanwhile, Mel Isaac has found a very interesting article and posted the link on Facebook:

I'm particularly pleased to see discussion of this because I've been suspicious for a while that shoes could effectively lead to stress shielding in the bones of the hoof:

Its brilliant to think there is finally research being done on the physiological effect of shoes, which has been a glaring omission for so long.

Tuesday 17 April 2012


Charlie got an upgrade - he went from field horse to master's horse  - for one day only :-)  For non-hunting folk, its like being taken from economy to first class, and nothing else is quite the same!
At first Charlie was a bit bemused but he soon remembered what it was all watching hounds, staying at the front and not letting oiks go past...
Meanwhile, I said hello to Rookie, who was one of our hound puppies 4 years ago - she was having a very exciting day and does good dancing and smiling!
Here we all are under amazing skies - Charlie is up at the front, natch...
Of course, for those of you who haven't been, Exmoor nearly always has blue sky and sunshine... 
At Larkburrow Ruins - an amazing spot...
Where the huntsman has gone, we will boldly go(!)...
...even though the weather doesn't look quite so nice any more...
...crossing the river...
...and Charlie says: "Time for a drink".
Back at home after his customary big tea and dreaming of his moment of glory :-)