Thursday 28 April 2016

Lots to do, lots to think about

Its one of those weeks, at the moment, when there is a lot going on and very little time available for blogging.
Its not for want of material as I have loads of photos and video that need uploading so there may just be a blog overload next week. Not only have we had more new horses arriving and owners visiting this week but there is other stuff I want to tell you about...but it will have to be another day...

Friday 22 April 2016

Deep flexor damage and long toes

New boy Thomas, who was bred to showjump, arrived yesterday.  Like many horses who come here he has a deep flexor tendon injury which occurred in 2014. He had steroid treatment and remedial farriery which didn't really improve him.  
He has been better since having his shoes off but as you can see from the photos these are still weak feet and he is still lame in front. 
The temptation with feet like these is always to shorten the toe and shift the horse's weight back under himself but that doesn't really work because you are moving the load onto an area which is still weak - the back of the foot.
Instead, the better option with a foot like this is to allow the horse to rebuild the strength in the back of the foot first. Once this is in place the horse will be only too happy to have a shorter toe and less under-run heel. The beauty of doing it this way round is that the horse stays comfortable and makes changes to his feet at a slower pace, allowing muscles, tendons and ligaments to adjust as well.
I am hoping for some good changes from Thomas very soon!

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Mrs Hoggitt

 These feet belong to our latest arrival, an Irish bred mare with the fantastic name of Mrs Hoggitt.
She has fairly strong feet but a relatively weak frog compared with what you would expect from her build and conformation.
She was diagnosed on MRI with collateral ligament damage, coffin joint arthritis and navicular bone deterioration on the left front and its on this foot of course that she is lamer (and landing toe first). 
Mrs H has been out of shoes for 6 months but out of work. Nevertheless you can see the beginning of a better angle of hoof growth, which time-wise coincides with when she was put onto a good mineral supplement. 
As ever, the proof of the pudding will be in the next set of photos when we will hope to see some good changes. 

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Josh's update from home...

Some of you will recall Josh, who went home last month. He is an ex-racehorse who had been diagnosed on MRI with DDFT damage. Remedial farriery hadn't really improved him and he came here in the New Year. 
I am delighted to say that Tcina, his owner, sent me this lovely photo of the pair of them at a cross-country ride this weekend and Josh is looking amazing - very sleek and with a genuine spring in his step!

A really happy update and I hope there will be many more to come.

Monday 18 April 2016

Normal, healthy landing

Very often the photos and videos I post on here are of unhealthy feet and unsound horses. Its the nature of rehabilitation, of course, and its always fascinating (to me at least and I think to you as well!) to see hooves change and develop.

But just for a change I wanted to show you some completely healthy, normal feet.

Its something to aim for if you are struggling with problem feet in your own horse and I hope will also help you get your eye in for how a healthy, normal foot lands on a level surface.
You sometimes hear people saying that a flat landing is normal for some horses but on a level surface its really not. It does not do as much harm as a toe first landing but its a clear sign that the horse has a relatively weak palmar hoof. 

A heel first landing is a necessary precursor to a proper, full length stride and should always be visible on a level surface or going down hill. 

This footage shows the horse walking past and towards the camera - it is slow motion footage but the landing will be easily seen with the naked eye if the horse has a really strong, well developed foot.

[If the video is not displaying in full width click on the "Heel first landing" link to view at Vimeo]

Thursday 7 April 2016

"Typical" warmblood feet

 These feet belong to new boy Harvey who arrived earlier in the week. He is a German warmblood and his feet are very similar to another German warmblood who came here for rehab one years ago. 
The contracted heels and pinched, upright foot are often described as being "typical" of warmbloods in the same way that flat, under-run feet are described as being "typical" of thoroughbreds.
My own view is that the "warmblood" foot and the "thoroughbred" foot are just two different responses to shoeing. One response is to contract and become more boxy, the other is to slide out from under the limb and collapse.  

What is certain is that neither varieties of "typical" feet are guaranteed or predetermined aspects of the horse's conformation as hooves will, given the chance, change to become less contracted and boxy, less flat and under-run - in fact, healthier and more supportive. Let's hope this is equally the case for Harvey. 

Wednesday 6 April 2016

A foot to freak you out

Firstly, apologies for the long blog hiatus - Easter and a few very busy weeks have been to blame, I am afraid, but as we have had a few horses go home and new horses are arriving, I will be back posting regularly from now on.

I've gone back and forth on this blog post. For a lot of people it will be a step too far. For others it may be reassuring. For many it will be confusing and I am willing to bet a fair few will even be enraged.

Everyone, including me, posts photos of hooves all the time. A picture is worth a thousand words, apparently, and a hoof photo is a great way to illustrate how a foot is changing.

The problem is that there are 2 serious and significant problems with hoof photos - its an occupational hazard of blog posts and social media.

Firstly, it panders to our preoccupation with the appearance, rather than the function of the hoof. Secondly, it tells you nothing about the soundness of the horse (there are many attractive, symmetrical feet found on lame horses). There is sound reasoning behind the phrase "picture perfect".

A case in point: this morning, just as I was about to post this blog, I came across comparison photos from a farrier of a hoof with cracks (unshod) and without cracks (shod). Clearly the implication was that the shod hoof was better - it certainly looked prettier. However, there was no reason at all to suppose that the shod hoof was sounder than the unshod hoof, or loading better, or more robust - it was an assumption that we were expected to leap to based purely on the cosmetics of the external hoof wall.
With that in mind, here is a foot that will freak some people out. Its a foot with cracks and as you can see from the photos they are multiple and on both front feet.
The initial gut reaction of 99 people out of 100 - and that includes me - would be to focus on the cracks and make their removal a priority. I had the same reaction when the horse was in shoes (yes, the  cracks were there in shoes and not only persisted but worsened with 3 different farriers).

To cut a long story short, this horse came out of shoes because the cracks were so deep that the whole foot had become unstable. I naively though that taking her barefoot would get rid of the cracks and it did indeed improve her feet dramatically.

With her whole bodyweight no longer suspended by shoes on the hoof wall, the deep cracks healed, the foot stabilised and she returned to full soundness.
Superficially, though, the cracks are still there. I am including a sole shot because it makes it clear that the cracks are only in the outer wall of the hoof capsule - this is always the best way to check whether a crack is a problem or just an eyesore. 

Do I wish this horse had prettier hooves? Of course. Do I wish the cracks had completely disappeared when the shoes came off? Of course. Am I prepared to rasp away the lower third of the external hoof capsule to make the cracks less obvious? No.

This horse has been sound and in full work  - and in far harder work than she ever was in shoes - since 2004 and has hunted for the last 12 seasons. These "ugly" feet will go over any terrain at any speed and be just as sound  - albeit just as ugly - the next day and, in the end, that - to me - is the most important thing.