Friday 30 January 2015

Growing a healthier hoof

Rehab is all about taking an unhealthy hoof and improving it. This is quicker and easier without a shoe on the foot and that's the main reason the horses here are barefoot - its about hoof health, pure and simple. 
Bruno arrived here 12 weeks ago with weak, contracted frogs and was of course landing toe first because his palmar hoof wasn't strong enough to support him. He was just out of shoes on arrival and photos show a hoof which is compromised.
His feet today are starting to look more like functioning hooves. His palmar hoof is becoming stronger and that starts with a healthier frog and more supportive heel and digital cushion. 
 As you can see from this angle, the frog is much stronger, more centred in the foot and the digital cushion is developing too. Rather than the heels being long and under-run they are very slowly coming back as the palmar foot is gaining strength.

Looking at the lower photo you can see that there is a steeper angle of new growth immediately below the hairline. This is clear at the toe but the improved growth is also happening at the back of the foot. This is why the hoof pastern axis is better in the more recent photo. 
Bruno's hoof looks pretty strange right now as the stronger hoof capsule is not yet at ground level. The trick with a photo like this is to project an imaginary line which continues the angle of the new growth to the ground; this gives you a clearer idea of where the new hoof capsule will be.

In Bruno's case the toe will be shorter, the foot less under-run and the palmar hoof more supportive.
As with the other foot the biggest change here is to his frog. His heels and bars, which had folded over, are much stronger and his foot is beginning to develop some much-needed concavity. 
Lots of other things need to happen as well, not least a shorter toe and the heels becoming less under-run, but a healthier frog is the essential first step.
This foot was nowhere near as weak as his other but there were still balance issues and its nice to see the foot becoming more evenly loaded.

14.2hh Dales gelding with fantastic feet

Quick blog post for Freya, who is staying with us at the moment as her Dales pony (who is also here at the moment) is looking for a new home - he is for sale or loan with view to buy and can be seen and tried here.
"Yartleton Liquorice 14.2 9 yr old Dales Gelding (Section B) is looking for a new home. 

Always cheerful and pleased to see you, marches straight into the lorry and is really enjoying his first season hunting with the EFH, great over all terrain and loves watching hounds. 

Snaffle mouthed, good in traffic and not a spooky character. 

Would ideally like a home where he could continue to hunt or do something equally as fun. Barefoot with great feet. Home more important than price."

For more information call Freya on 07871590514  or email her: 


Thursday 29 January 2015

Louie's first 4 weeks

Louie has been here nearly 4 weeks and as Karen came to visit him last weekend we are overdue a photo update. He arrived in shoes and with his main problem being a toe first landing and a nasty central sulcus infection which was worst in his RF.
This is his better foot and as you can see out of shoes he has been in a hurry to start using his frogs and strengthening his palmar hoof. Its less contracted and he is already landing heel first which is great. The long to you can see in the lower photo is his old hoof and he will soon shorten that of his own accord now that he is landing better. 
Apologies for the mud but we had just got back from exercising when I took these photos. Although the split hasn't healed yet his improved landing has made for a much healthier frog and digital cushion.

Its also interesting I think to compare the hoof wall which was fairly unbalanced and long in the initial photo. A healthy hoof has fairly short walls which should be wider at ground level than at the hairline (so level or sloping slightly outward when viewed from this angle).

Louie's LF had a better frog from the start  - unfortunately I don't have a photo of him shod but despite the slightly muddy photo I took immediately after his shoe came off you can see that the frog and sole are more robust today. 

Again, there are changes to the hoof wall and digital cushion visible from this angle. Although this foot was not so distorted or as compromised as the LF there are still areas where he needs to grow a stronger foot. In particular I would expect his digital cushion to beef up even more now he is landing heel first.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

The most important part of the hoof

This is a quick post but an essential one because its all about the most important part of the hoof - the back of it. 

This is the part of the hoof on which the horse lands. Its provides crucial shock-absorption and its health is fundamental to soundness and good movement. The back of the foot is where most lameness problems originate simply because its such an important structure and once its compromised the horse is vulnerable to tendon and ligament damage, abscesses and even bone damage. 
So contrast the feet on these 2 horses - clear examples of a healthy versus unhealthy foot. Your eye is drawn to the hairline - diving downwards and indicating the collapsed frog and digital cushion on the horse below but level and strong on the horse in the top picture.
Although both horses are unshod the horse in the lower photo had been shod at an early age and up until a few weeks before this photo was taken. As a result of his weak planar hoof his hoof/pastern axis is poor - after all if the back of your foot is collapsing its hard to stand up straight.
This is always a telling angle for assessing and observing hooves. It tells you almost everything you need to know not only about how healthy or otherwise the back of the foot is but also about the media-lateral balance of the foot. 
The upper photo shows a 2 year old horse who isn't in work but his foot is balanced. He has a sound digital cushion and lands well and this will become even stronger as he matures and comes into work.

The lower photo is a different story - unbalanced, collapsed feet with vanishingly small, contracted frogs and of course a toe first landing and media-lateral imbalance. 

Its my experience that shoes seriously and in some cases irrevocably weaken the back of the foot not only because they remove stimulus from the frog (and hence digital cushion) but also because they restrict the essential expansion and contraction of the hoof.

I have many photos of horses where the back of the foot becomes healthier out of shoes and I'll post a follow-up of today's photos shortly.

However, despite the widely-held myth that shoes "support" hooves I've never seen a series of photos showing a frog and digital cushion becoming healthier in shoes. Maybe they exist but I very much doubt it...

Saturday 24 January 2015

2008 Land Rover Defender for sale

Andy is selling his trusty crew cab Defender as he needs a van which can take surfboards(!). Its in very good condition - he's done almost nothing off road as my pick-up truck gets all the dirty jobs - and is low mileage (34,100).
He's had it from new and its been very well looked after and has up-to-date service history. Its got 12 months MOT and comes with tow-bar, radio, canvas cover for pick-up area.  He's looking for £8,750 plus VAT ono. 

Contact him on 07739 642820 or you can email either of us: or

Friday 23 January 2015

Goofy's 10 week update

Goofy's update is a bit overdue but I've had a very busy start to the year and I'm not as up to speed with the blog as I should be - apologies.
As ever his original photos are at the top and his latest are the lower of each set. As you can see, the biggest changes are in his frogs and in the concavity in his feet - from flat soles with no depth to much more functional feet with reasonable collateral groove depth.
This is important because collateral groove depth is a good indicator of how capable the foot is of working on tough ground and shock-absorbing. 

This angle provides a good demonstration of how the frog and digital cushion have developed. In the initial photos the digital cushion is rather pinched and distorted but 10 weeks later its much stronger. 

This is his worse foot and it has as well as a weak frog a central sulcus split which is improving but still apparent. 

His bars are also changing a lot - he has less than half a good foot at the moment so there is a lot of improvement still to come. 
From this perspective you can clearly see the angle change which marks the difference between the old and new hoof capsule. 
The old abscess hole which you can just make out in the initial photo is now halfway down his hoof capsule and clearly marks the rate of hoof growth.
An improving picture - but a way to go till his feet are as good as they can be.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Rockley Rehabs Reunite - RRR 2015!

Here's a date for your diaries well in advance - this year's reunion of the rehab horses and owners will be held on 18th-20th September at Boomerang Stables in Berkshire where we had such a great time last year.
As usual there will be lots of horsey (and non-horsey) activities  - including plenty of silly games - and we will again make the most of the excellent facilities at Boomerang - arenas, show-jumps, a very varied XC course and plenty of hacking.
Its safe to say that every year there are more of us, more horses and we have more fun and I am sure this year will be no exception. 
The website for booking will be up before too long and I will post the link here when its live. We are going to keep prices similar to last year and as always there will be free camping (plus loos and showers) when you book stabling for your horse. 
We will have the usual great catering and there will be spaces available for those who can't bring a horse as well as limited places for non-Rockley horses. 
Most of all its the opportunity to spend quality time with your horse, get together with other owners and catch up with friends old and new, all liberally sprinkled with cake, tea, wine and of course endless discussions of horses and their hooves.

Friday 16 January 2015

Snow, such as it was...

Like lots of other places we had a sprinkling of snow on Wednesday - not a lot by Exmoor standards but enough (just about!) to justify some snow pics... well as a very pretty sunrise...

 Louie found the snow fascinating...
...but Alfie has obviously seen it all before...
Sadly its all back to normal now - wet and very cold - but we are forecast some sunshine as well - fingers crossed, and I hope its shining where you are!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Rehab results and research - 2015 update

Freya and I have spent a really busy few weeks grinding through the Project Dexter information - the original data on the rehab horses along with the updates owners have sent us since they went home.

Its a really time-consuming job to compile and assess it all and the last time I had the chance to update the results was in February 2012 - which went up on this blog page - so the most recent update is long overdue.
For those who are new to the blog, Project Dexter is our research project on the horses who come here diagnosed with palmar hoof pain (including navicular, DDFT and related injuries). We record details of their diagnosis and level of lameness and, crucially, follow up their progress once they are back home.

We have had over a hundred horses here since 2009 (when Project Dexter started) and the new update includes all the horses who are at least 6 months or longer into their rehab (79% of owners responded).
So here are the key results:
  • 85% of horses* returned to full work after rehab - "full work" being defined as the same level of work or higher than before they went lame. What "full work" comprises will depend on what each particular horse was doing before its lameness - it could be hunting, eventing, jumping, dressage or simply hacking out over all terrain.
  • 15% of horses returned to light work after rehab - "light work" being defined as work at a lower level than before they went lame. Of this group, 3 horses were retired or put down for reasons which were linked to their original lameness.
* We follow horses for as long as we have information on them - as little as 6 months for recent horses to more than 5 years for horses who were here in 2009 - and during that period 2 horses (3%) were retired or put down for reasons unrelated to lameness (e.g: colic).
Looking at those results in more detail:
  • 91% of horses were in full work 1 year after their rehab.
  • 85% of horses were still in full work 2 years after their rehab.
  • 89% of horses were still in full work 4 years after their rehab. However as the project only started in 2009 there is a relatively small numbers of horses who were here 4+ years ago.
The number of horses who come here diagnosed using MRI has increased steadily since the last update with just over 60% of horses having an MRI. Of those horses, 88% returned to full work.

I will be sending abstracts and the details and methodology to the various vets and equine professionals who have contributed to or expressed an interest in these results and I hope that it may be a stepping stone to further research - perhaps the MRI project I blogged about last year. Whatever happens, you will hear it here first.

Many thanks not just to Freya, without whom this would never have been completed, but also to all the owners who have taken the time to send updates on their horses. Huge thanks also to all of you who have given (invaluable!) actual and virtual support and encouragement since 2009.