Monday 29 April 2019

Navicular degeneration: the prognosis barefoot

Last week I posted about Alicia's podcast, the Humble Hoof, which you can find via that link or on any of the usual places (iTunes, Spotify,Podcast Player for Android, Stitcher etc).  It was great speaking to her about rehabilitation but one of the nicest aspects was that she also spoke to a number of people whose horses had been here and included their experiences of rehabilitating a horse barefoot from serious injury. 

With perfect timing over the weekend I saw these great photos of Felix, who came here in 2014 with a diagnosis on MRI of navicular bone degeneration, who has returned to a successful career eventing and hunting.
As you can see, he is on fantastic form and has been absolutely flying over the past few years.  Keeping a horse at this level requires a huge amount of hard work and he is an absolute credit to Sophie's dedication and ongoing care.

What really stands out for me though, both when I see photos like these or when I listen to Alicia's podcast, is how fantastic it is that these owners are spreading the word that a "navicular" diagnosis is not necessarily the end for the horse. Not only that, with barefoot rehabilitation it is perfectly possible for the horse to be happy and sound for years and years to come.

Its something I have seen time and time again both with my own horses and with the horses who come here for rehabilitation but we do still need to be getting the message out there!

Friday 26 April 2019

The Humble Hoof: Podcast by Alicia Harlov

I've already shared this link on Facebook but while I was in the US recently Alicia Harlov took the time to talk to me and she's also spoken to a number of people whose horses have been at Rockley in the past.

She has created a great podcast which you can find by searching the podcast section on an iPhone or iPad or by following the link here: The Humble Hoof

This is the episode which features Rockley but you can find other instalments there and Alicia will be broadcasting more in future I am sure so do subscribe :-)

Humphrey's 8 week photos

Here are Humphrey's comparison photos, with his original pictures above and the most recent ones below, as usual. Humphrey was diagnosed on MRI with 2 DDFT tears and navicular bone damage on the RF.
He started landing heel first about 4 weeks ago and since then the back of his hooves have become stronger. You can also see that there is a new angle of growth in the dorsal wall visible from the top. 

His frogs are a bit tatty but thats nothing to worry about. His heels are broader and his frogs are receiving the stimulus to become healthier as well. 

A nice illustration from this angle of the better digital cushion development over the last 8 weeks. 

This was his worse foot so its good to see that it is less under-run than before and more supportive. 

This foot is also showing a change in balance with a stronger medial side than before. We will film Humphrey over this weekend and check his medio-lateral balance but I would expect it to be better. 

Humphrey's footage is on his previous update:

Thursday 25 April 2019

Progress but not completely there yet - Sisco's update

Like the other rehab horses, Sisco has been here 8 weeks and so is due an update. He arrived with a diagnosis from MRI of bilateral navicular degeneration and pedal osteitis and he had an extreme toe first landing. 
The upper photos show his feet the day he arrived and the lower photos show his feet today, for comparison. Sisco still has a long way to go but he has managed to shorten his toe and the back of his foot is gradually becoming stronger - as you can see from the straighter hairline - although it is still very under-run. 

His frog is developing along with his toe shortening but because the back of his foot is still weak he is not strong enough to land heel first on a hard surface yet. 

There is some improvement in his digital cushion and frog but still lots of work to be done. 

The encouraging aspect of Sisco's rehab is that he is already a lot sounder than when he arrived but he can at the moment only work in the arena which makes progress slower. He can spend lots of time on the tracks, and does, but roadwork is not am option just now. 

However if you compare the hairline his foot looks more supportive now and his shorter toe and under-run heel are also positive signs. 
Sorry about the wetness but its been a showery day and unfortunately wet feet don't photograph as well as dry feet. 

 There is a better frog now, though, and as with the other foot his toe is shortening and heels are coming back.

Sisco's footage is here:

Wednesday 24 April 2019

18 months after rehabilitation...

Well, I couldn't ask for a better start to the day than an email like this one. It comes from Amy whose mare Tabby was here 18 months ago - scary how fast the time has gone because if you had asked me I would have said it was just last year!
Amy says: "Just thought I'd give you an update on Tabby. She is doing really well, she has been good for a long time now but recently has been able to walk down a really stoney path which she has never done before.

She is also back out jumping! Nothing groundbreaking but for her this is incredible. She loves it as well! I will attach some pictures from today. We have a summer planned full of jumping, dressage and eventing.

Thankyou so much for all your help with her. It has changed both our lives.

Feel free to use pictures wherever you like if it helps anybody wondering whether to go barefoot."
Fabulous, and all credit to Amy because its day to day hard work that enables changes like this to happen. I think they both look fantastic and I am thrilled for them!

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Progress reports - 8 weeks to change hooves

Its hard to believe but the rehab horses who arrived in March will have been here 8 weeks by next weekend - time for some updates, as I am really pleased with the progress they have all made so far.  
These are Billy's feet - his original photos above and todays' photos below. He arrived in bar shoes and pads and with an exaggerated heel first landing in his bar shoes which reverted to a toe first landing out of shoes. Not surprisingly his palmar hoof was extremely weak and his diagnosis on MRI was DDFT and navicular bone damage.  

Its great to see the solid improvement in his frogs, heels and digital cushion and this is confirmed by his much more confident landing - the footage is linked below.  
There is a lot more structure to the back of his foot now and he has reached the point where he can move correctly on hard surfaces as well as conformable surfaces which is a huge breakthrough.  
You can, I hope, see from the change in his stance that he is more comfortable; the essential is that this is translated into better movement, which is the critical thing.  
As you can see, better movement builds better frogs and that in turn builds a better, stronger hoof internally, reducing stress and damage to the DDFT and navicular bone. As Billy continues to move with a heel first landing and gets proper stimulus from the surfaces he is moving on his feet should continue to recover.  
These photos are a good illustration of why bar shoes and pads give only a temporary solution. They did indeed give Billy a better landing than he had out of shoes but the structures of his feet, both internal and external, were atrophying as a result of the lack of correct stimulus. Out of shoes and with supportive but stimulating ground to move on he ca start to build a stronger, healthier foot. 
We had to have a couple of attempts at filming today as someone kept video-bombing...Footage is below, showing progress over the last 7 weeks. Billy has been working the arena since his second week and we have added roadwork as well as over the last week, which has helped improve his landing further. 

Friday 12 April 2019

A post about tracks

I had a great weekend on Long Island running a workshop organised by the amazing Jeannean and while I was there I promised I would put up a blog post with more information about the tracks we have here. 
Tracks are great because they encourage movement and allow horses to hang out together, which lets face it is what they enjoy doing. The horses frequently all choose to occupy the same area of the track  - here are 8 of them in a group and the lower photo is another good example - because its more natural to them than being evenly spread put over a bigger area.

I've written lots about the tracks in the past - there is a post about the different surfaces here: and there is a clip I took of us driving round the tracks which I posted here:

I should make it clear that there are actually 2 different tracks, the surfaced one which is what you see in most of the photos, which I use up to 24/7 for the rehab horses, and a grass track (with no surface) which I use in the spring and summer to restrict access to the hay fields and encourage my own horses to work a bit harder for their grass. The latter is out of use in the winter as it would get too wet but its very pretty in good weather...
The main track is not terribly big - it links 3 different yards and an area of woodland together so that the horses have a variety of things to look at and can get out of the prevailing wind or rain if they want to.  We can also feed forage in lots of different places and they have to move to see what is going on around the corner. 
The surface on the main track is a mixture of shingle, stone and earth - there is more details in the first post linked above - and the most important thing for the rehab horses is that it is conformable, so provides support and stimulus for weak hooves. If you are thinking of laying a track yourself, getting drainage right is an essential first step and its easier and cheaper to use existing areas and link them rather than try to create something from scratch.
I hope this has given you a quick guide to our tracks; there are plenty more photos on Instagram @rockleyfarm :-)

Thursday 4 April 2019

Sisco's 4 week update

Sisco gets the last update, only fair as he arrived a few days after the other rehab horses so only got to 4 weeks on Tuesday! I like the fact that his hairline no longer collapses at the back but this foot still has a lot of work to do to rebuild. 
His toe is shortening though and he is, importantly, much sounder than he was even though his landing on a hard surface is still toe first. On conformable surfaces he is heel first so that's what he needs at the moment. 
Hard to see much change from this angle but in reality he is engaging his palmar hoof more readily.  
Although his toe is still long and his heel under-run at ground level notice what a change there is right at the top. As this grows down it should result in a stronger heel, frog and digital cushion. 

From the sole you can see that his toe is slowly shortening though this will take time. You could mechanically shorten his toe with a trim, which would improve appearances, but at the moment this would impair his soundness so we won't be doing that.