Wednesday 27 August 2014

Gone but not forgotten!

I've not abandoned or forgotten the blog this week but am having an even busier week than usual - incredibly its only just over 2 weeks before the rehabs' reunion and there is a lot to do.

I'm hoping to get the chance for a proper post later in the week!

Friday 22 August 2014

Filly's 4 week footage

As promised earlier in the week, I'm just posting some comparative stills from Filly's updated footage which I've included at the end of this post.
She arrived with very flat feet and thin soles and naturally this isn't something which can be resolved in 4 weeks so, as you can see, she does at the moment have a shorter stride than she did in shoes.
Her landing is also not yet heel first but she is on the verge of it, which is encouraging especially combined with her much healthier frog and digital cushion.
I'd already posted photos where I was pleased to see her stance was more balanced and that is borne out by the footage as well, even though I want to see a lot more improvement over the next few weeks.
However, considering she has had quite a few issues to deal with, not least the abscess on her LF, she is doing well for a horse so recently out of shoes. A nice start and one which I hope we can build on going forward. 

Thursday 21 August 2014

Columbo - another 2 weeks

Time for another update on Columbo. Regular blog readers will recall that he has already been here for 12 weeks but it was only at the end of that time, 3 weeks ago, that he started to land heel first on his lamest foot, RF. As you can see from his day 1 photo it was a pretty weedy hoof especially for such a big horse. 
After 12 weeks it was looking and functioning better - though still not textbook. He could now engage the palmar hoof and take some strain off the DDFT and navicular bone but it was tentative. 
Here we are today, plodding slowly on! Although his landing is still not established and confident he at least has been able to maintain it consistently for the last fortnight. 
Slowly slowly...

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Another 4 weeks - Filly's update

Like Wiggy yesterday, Filly has been here for just over 4 weeks. As you can see from comparing her initial photos with today, a few things have changed. For a start, she has blown an abscess at the coronet - interestingly where the bulge in the hairline was when she arrived, though it may not be related. 
This has of course meant she hasn't been able to do as much work this week as normal but I will upload footage on her as soon as I can - certainly later this week, computer permitting(!).
This is the sole shot on her LF in shoes, above...
...a day out of shoes...
...and today. I like the fact that her frog is stronger and that her heels and bars are coming back. You can also see from the lower photo where her break over is changing, and that her toe will shorten again once her new hoof capsule has grown in. 
This is always an interesting angle and shows nicely the changes in digital cushion and frog as well as hoof wall.  

Over 4 weeks its also interesting to chart the hoof growth - the new growth in her RF is particularly clear at the coronet and should make it easy to track growth down the foot.  Its still an under-run foot but looking at the hairline at the palmar foot there is already more depth there. 

In the RF as well changes at sole level are clear. The photo above is her foot on day one and, below, a day out of shoes.  
Today, as with the LF the heels and bars are coming back and the toe is shortening - the line shows where her break over will be once the new foot has grown in.  

A lovely caudal shot to finish - the better digital cushion and healthier palmar hoof is what we really want to see!
As soon as I manage to sort out the computer I will post footage as well - fingers crossed!

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Belated updates...Wiggy first

The computer has decided it can cope with photos again after all so here are the belated updates - Wiggy first. He has been here for 4 weeks now and I posted an update on him a couple of weeks ago when he had already begun to land heel first. 
However he had very weak, flat soles which  are only just beginning to get tougher now so even though he was landing well we've only just begun to work him on tougher surfaces. 
 There are still lots of improvements needed and it will be a while before he develops a better sole but for now his heels are coming back, which is good. 
Apologies for the mud but its interesting to compare the hairline between his foot on day one and today. A more level hairline tends to be a sign that the palmar hoof is developing and becoming stronger, with a healthier frog and digital cushion. The hoof wall is also less distorted in today's photo which is another encouraging sign.  

More mud - again - but if you look at the coronet in today's photo then there is the beginnings of a much better angle of growth which should become more evident over the next few weeks. 

The right foot was similar to the left and has also made progress - here are those photos for completeness. 
Again, the heels are moving back and the frog is improving, which should lead to a healthier palmar hoof now that he can do more work. 

There is an even clearer difference in the hairline on this foot.

Again, the start of a better new angle of growth which will bring his toe back further still in time. 

Monday 18 August 2014

Sorry folks...

...I have masses of photos to post, including updates on Wiggy and Filly, but the software on the Mac is utterly unhelpful, probably due to a recent "upgrade"...

I will sort as soon as I can but photos may not be up til tomorrow..

Friday 15 August 2014

Isle of Wight Alfie and his first fortnight

Alfie from the IoW has been here just over 2 weeks - can't believe where those have gone - and I grabbed some quick photos for Steff today. 
I'm quite pleased with how the angle of his palmar hoof is changing - the angle of the pale stripe is a nice indicator!
The business end - this is where things really need to change. 

Sole shots are starting to look a bit more respectable...

Not so much of a visible change on this foot though possibly a slightly better hairline in the recent (below) photo. 

Interestingly, by contrast, from this angle there is more to see. 

He's certainly heading the right way so far but of course its early days. 
More on Alfie soon!

Thursday 14 August 2014

The Centaur Principle

Like anyone who regularly rides lots of different horses I'm very aware that, on horseback, something unique happens: you and the horse cease to be 2 separate entities and can, however temporarily, however partially, become something closer to a single unit - what I'm calling the centaur principle.
While this can, at its best, lead to some of the most magical and harmonious partnerships between horse and rider there are also inevitable communication breakdowns because we and our horses have very, very different ways of viewing and interpreting the same world. 
Lucy Rees says it best, perhaps, in her fantastic book "The Maze":

"Primate societies, and most human ones, are often based on a hierarchical system. It is a pattern repeated among carnivores which, though potentially lethal to each other, need to come together for co-operative hunting...the strong arm rules, might is right.

It is not the only human social pattern but it is one that we and dogs intuitively recognise.
Horses do not. They come together for security and what keeps them together is love, the bonds of friendship and family we also recognise."
When we ride or work with our horses we inevitably influence each other, consciously or unconsciously, and respond to each others' behaviours and emotions. As we try to make sense of our shared experience there are bound to be times of confusion.  

This is partly because we have these contrasting ways of interpreting the world. It can also be because we hold our horses, often, to higher standards of behaviour than we require of ourselves. Kate Sandel put it beautifully in a blog post on her website, Soft and Sound, this week: 

"We hold our own breath and keep tension in our shoulders, but want our horses to relax. 

We come with a mind full of nonsense, but want our horses to concentrate. 

We turn up expecting our horse to provide us with a ‘nice hack’ as we have had a hard day, and then feel disgruntled when our horse doesn’t completely comply with our expectations.  

We spend a lot of time, money, and effort keeping our horses, and very often expect them to ‘perform’ in return.  I don't think they signed up to that deal."
Despite our inability to process our thoughts in the same way, its undeniable that at a physical and emotional level - especially when riding - we and our horses can't help but affect each other's behaviours. 
Our own horse, Charlie, is a brilliant example of this. He tunes in incredibly accurately to his rider's emotions and reflects them faithfully, whether you like it or not. If his rider is frightened he becomes frightened; with a relaxed rider he revels in having a shared purpose and thoroughly understanding the job he does so well.
If you take Charlie out hunting you don't need to be the most perfect rider in the world (luckily for me!). All you need is to be cheerful and confident, do your job (don't lose hounds!) and trust him to take care of his, and then you will both have a wonderful day - you fulfil your side of the bargain and Charlie will more than fulfil his; here at least we have a common objective that we both understand. 
Conversely, its possible to see a horse become steadily more worried and fearful not because he is aware of danger but because he is picking up on the worries and fears of his owner or rider. 

To the horse, it doesn't necessarily make any difference why the human is worried. It may be because of some external problem - a tractor approaching too fast on a single track lane - or it may be that the owner is worried only about the horse's reaction - will he be nervous or unpredictable, is he about to spook or spin? 

Typically, all your horse will pick up on is the level of worry - something is frightening - and ironically, the closer your bond to your horse, the more strongly your own worry will transfer to him. 
Worry, or fear, can then become a self-fulfilling prophecy between horse and rider. The horse is worried because the rider is worried. The rider feels the tension in the horse which feeds his fear - he could be about to explode! The rider has a fear of falling and for the horse this can be equally catastrophic because then he is on his own, left to face a frightening world. 

So whether or not there is really something to worry about becomes immaterial as they are embroiled in a mutual confidence melt-down.  This is the downside, if you like, of the centaur principle - you can't expect your horse to be able to switch off the emotions he feels emanating from you because he can't help but respond to them.

At its worst, this can lead horse and rider into a destructive spiral of tension but this is never inevitable and it can almost always be reversed.
I enjoyed spectating at a clinic recently - run by Kate Sandel as part of her "Head and Heart of Effective Horsemanship" series - where the focus was not only on the horses but also on helping owners and riders to be more confident, positive and creative in themselves and in their relationships with their horses. 
Over 2 days, the difference in the partnerships - as the riders' own mindsets changed - was striking. 

The partnerships were already harmonious and gentle but as the riders' confidence, relaxation and ability to be positive grew their horses became simultaneously calmer, more engaged, more focussed and more expressive. As horses and rider were more in tune they could explore together and push the boundaries in a truly co-operative and rewarding way. 
Its the blessing and the curse of working with horses - we receive true and immediate feedback, whether we like it or not, from our horses who will mirror whether we are confident, fearful, excited, intimidated, bored, distracted, purposeful or confused. 

Its up to us, then, to manage our moods and our outlook as best we can if we want the most positive, productive and peaceful partnership with our horse.

The last word goes to Lucy Rees, again:

"A horse gives you his loyalty because your steadfast good sense, especially at times when his small courage fails him, impresses him, not because you dominate him. If you are safe and unafraid, he wants to be in the same place.