Monday, 27 August 2012

The story from the owners' side

I'm bowing out of the blog today, because 2 owners have said everything I want to say, far better than I could ever say it. Over to them...
First this post from Clare, on Facebook:

"Let me say before this post that I'm not completely against shoeing your horse, each to their own. My personal choice is not to, but today is a classic example of why not! 

Talking to a young girl at my stable she was told her horse needed to be shod. 5 year old, with no lameness issues. Within 2 weeks of being shod the horse is lame, 5 weeks after I can see the hairline isn't straight and the frog points diagonally at the opposite rear foot. 

To me if you are going to shoe a horse don't upset it's natural balance otherwise there will be problems . . . simples! Lot of loading being placed down the outside of the leg. The feet tell the story :-)"

Then an email from Amy. Like many owners, she has generously agreed to answer questions from someone who is in the same difficult position with their horse that she was in only a few months ago.
There is an amazing chain of support from owner to owner which goes way back and there are too many of them to mention. Amy's email is lovely because it gives you a sense of how owners are there for each other even when they've never met and have only their horses in common.  Thank you to all of you :-)

"Hi Laura,

I hope that you find an option that you are happy with for your boy.

My mare has been home from Rockley for about 6 weeks and I am hacking about 4 times a week for around an hour in walk trot and canter. Something I would never have envisaged when we went for the MRI in February.

Her MRI showed a really big tear in the DDFT - for most of the length of the pastern and right into the foot. The vet told me it was 'bad news' and suggested extended box rest and remedial shoeing with a 20-30% chance that she would ever return to ridden work. She becomes extremely stressed on box rest as she really panics if ever left on her own, so this was not something I really felt I could do. And I had already been remedial shoeing and resting in a small paddock for 6 months, with her lameness progressively worsening rather than improving in that time. 

I explained to the vet that paddock rest was not helping and that box rest was not really feasible. We talked a little about neurectomies but my vet advised against it. I asked about Rockley (and she had heard of it) and she warned fairly strongly that going barefoot was unlikely to help the horse and my only real chance of riding her again was to box rest. 

I knew straight away that I was not going to put her through 6-12 months of stress when she was clearly in pain and the probability (70-80%) was that she would still be lame at the end of it. Retirement was not really an option due to finances, lack of my own land, and the fact that she cannot live alone but equally can be an absolute monster with other horses, and is far more difficult when she is not in regular work!

I realised I had to consider putting her to sleep, but talked to Nic again, and my own vet, who was fairly supportive and understood that I was not going to box rest. Nic made no promises, but talked sense and I felt that going to Rockley would not be an unpleasant or stressful experience for my mare, so it was worth a try before I faced the prospect of euthanasia. 

Obviously her rehab has been a great success :-)

Nic suspects that her DDFT tear was a chronic issue caused by many years of landing toe first in shoes, with perhaps further injury occurring to the already compromised DDFT as a result of a particular event. This is consistent with the MRI which showed the tear as looking like it had some scar tissue for much of its length and so not a new injury, with one patch where the tear was widest looking more recent.

If she were MRI'd again now, the tear would almost certainly still be visible - but she is landing heel first and so it is not continually being stressed and causing her discomfort. In addition, the gentle exercise and greatly improved circulation that unshod feet get from increased stimulation should be promoting gradual healing.

Good luck with your horse. It is only 6 months since I was in your position and looking into what felt like a black hole in terms of my horse's future, so I know how awful it feels. 

There is no guarantee of success whatever option you go for, but the priority for me was that I was not going to subject her to anything she would find stressful unless there was a very good prognosis at the end of it - which ruled out box rest and surgery for my girl. 

For my own state of mind as well I felt that I could not spend 6 months 'coping' with a stressed horse on box rest everyday and constantly having that sick feeling that the probability was that she would still need to be put to sleep. I know now that I made the right decision, but I didn't know that at the time I made it or for several months afterwards.

I hope you find a way forwards that you are happy with - fingers crossed for him!



Martine said...

Wow. What a lovely email. Amy should be available on prescription for worried horse owners.

jenj said...

Fantastic notes from owners! It's so wonderful to have such a supportive network.

Dom said...

Great to hear it from educated owners. I'm the same way... I don't try to force people to go barefoot and I'm not against GOOD shoeing (I've just found that it's rare and often unnecessary). HOWEVER, it blows my mind how often I see horses who were fine barefoot and go lame after being shod 'just cuz'.

Nic Barker said...

I have some of the BEST owners :-) I'm so lucky!

Val said...

The second story is really amazing!

Like-minded folks can make all the difference.

Nic Barker said...

They have in common bravery, intelligence and dedication to their horses - and they are an incredible support network for each other as well.