Rehab FAQs

At Rockley, we take horses for rehab on veterinary referral.  Most of the horses who come here have been diagnosed with caudal/palmar hoof pain on the basis of nerve blocks.  Some have navicular bone changes evident on X-ray, others have been diagnosed with deep digital flexor tendon, collateral ligament or other soft tissue injuries following MRI. 
Rehab horses sometimes come to us after other treatments have failed. Many have previously had remedial shoeing (wedges, bar shoes, Natural Balance, centrefit etc) and often a variety of other therapies, including Tildren, Navilox, IRap etc.  Some have even tried barefoot(!).
Horses usually stay at Rockley for about 12 weeks, although as each horse is an individual this can vary.
Provided their owners agree, I update the blog with news about them and photos and film footage of their rehab as it progresses.  You can search for any horse by name on the blog to see how its doing and I like to stay in touch with owners once their horses go home, so you will also see news about former rehabs now and again.
I record photos and film footage of each horse, for use in our ongoing research project - there is more information about that on our website:  Although there are never guarantees where horses are concerned, the results so far have been encouraging especially where conventional treatments have failed.  Every horse is recorded in the project - we don't just cherry-pick the successes!
If you are interested in possibly sending a horse here, have a read through these FAQs as a first step.
 What to expect and frequently asked questions
I’ve put this together in the hope of answering some of the questions that I am most frequently asked.  Every horse is different, has a different range of issues and responds to rehab in a slightly different way but there are some general principles that apply to most  - but not all - horses.  Of course, if you have questions that aren’t covered here or you want more information, please contact me.
Will my horse be able to work on the roads when he gets home?
Normally when horses go home they are in work 4-5 days per week on a variety of surfaces, including roadwork.  My aim is always to send horses home able to cope with the sort of work that they would usually be doing, whether that’s work in an arena, hacking out or jumping.
We don’t have a magic wand and we can never guarantee that a horse will return to full work, but after rehab most horses return to working at the same level, or higher, than they were before they went lame.  For full details about previous rehab horses, please contact me.
Will my horse need special surfaces like pea gravel when he comes home?
No, most horses return home to normal livery yards and their management consists of turnout and stabling.   It IS important for horses to continue to work on a variety of surfaces out and about – not just an arena or field – but provided you can exercise your horse consistently like this his feet should no longer need “therapeutic” surfaces like pea gravel. 
It is also essential for horses to continue to be on a diet which is low in sugar and starch, high in fibre and with a good balance of minerals when they go home.  Depending on your grazing and forage, this may be the most difficult thing to achieve but I always send horses home with detailed information about feeding. 
How will my horse cope at Rockley with turnout in a mixed herd?
When new horses arrive they are firstly introduced to one or two of my own horses who are used to regularly meeting new arrivals.  Depending on the horse, it can take anything from a few days to a week or more for them to be introduced to all the other horses at Rockley but most integrate fairly quickly and enjoy having lots of social interaction.  
I do not want horses to either bully or be bullied and there are always quiet, calm horses among the group.  Equally, horses who are young and playful will undoubtedly find another like-minded companion.  
Living in a herd environment, it is possible that rugs may sometimes get a rip or a bottom may be bitten but I do monitor introductions and interactions carefully.
How long will my horse need to stay at Rockley?
Horses typically need to stay here for about 12 weeks.  As I haven’t usually seen new rehab horses before they arrive, the first chance I have to assess them is when they come into the yard here.  If horses are normally shod, I prefer them to arrive in their shoes and at least 3 weeks after they were last shod or trimmed. 
I will generally agree with the owner and their vet that we need to see some improvement in the horse within the first 4 weeks.  This doesn’t mean the horse will be “rehabbed” by then, but that there should be a measurable improvement in the hooves, landing or soundness of the horse from which it can continue to improve. 
As a rule, horses spend the first 6-8 weeks making rapid changes to their hooves and their biomechanics and we then need another few weeks to consolidate this and establish the horse in a consistent level of work.   
Sometimes this takes longer, particularly if horses have extremely weak feet, but if this is the case, I will always discuss it with you during the first month.  Rehab is rarely a smooth upward curve and there are often downs as well as ups, but horses should show steady progress over several weeks.
My horse is used to being in at night – do your horses live out 24/7?
Horses at Rockley spend at least half of their time on the tracks and will generally also be turned out – during the day in colder weather and overnight in spring/summer.   
Horses who have a very low tolerance to grass may spend more – or all – of their time on the track. When horses are on the tracks they always have access to shelter – both field shelters, woodland and the barn.  
We have large (15ft x 15ft) boxes available as well and can bring horses in overnight in severe weather or if its necessary for some other reason.   We used to bed horses on straw but now use straw pellets which even the greediest horses aren't tempted to eat.
Will my horse be “rock-crunching” when he comes home?
This is where every horse is different, so I can only give you a general rule.  Horses tend to become capable on smooth, hard surfaces like roads fairly quickly – and your horse will probably have been doing regular roadwork at Rockley before he comes home.   He will also have been hacking out on fields and tracks and most horses are also capable of some schooling.  He is likely to be at the stage where he can cope with limited work on hard uneven surfaces but is not completely comfortable with this type of ground.  
Over the next 3-4 months  - the time it usually takes to complete the growth of a new hoof capsule - you will find that your horse continues to become more capable.  Whether he becomes “rock-crunching” depends on many factors, including the condition of his feet when he originally became lame, the extent of his original injury or damage and the situation where you keep him back at home. 
How long does rehab take?
Most horses are back in work at a consistent level by the end of their time at Rockley.  By this stage they have mostly also grown around half a new hoof capsule, but this is far from the end of their rehab.  
It will normally take another 3-4 months for the new hoof to have completely grown in and during this period you, the owner, have the responsibility for carrying on working and feeding your horse for optimum hoof health! 
 It may sound scary, but your horse will come home with a full report giving details about ongoing exercise and nutrition and I am always available if you have questions or worries.  Other owners are also a good source of help, advice and support - you can find  owners of past rehab horses on Facebook or via our forum at
Who should look after my horse’s feet when he comes home?
The key person will be you, the owner.  One of the satisfactions and tribulations of having a barefoot horse is that nutrition and exercise are far more influential on a horse’s feet than they are for a shod horse.  Realistically this means the owner has the most important role in keeping the feet healthy even if they also enlist the services of a trimmer or farrier.   
Trimming is only a very small part of helping a hoof become healthier, and sadly its often the case that both farriers and trimmers focus too much on this element and occasionally can even do more harm than good.  Its therefore very important that whether you use a farrier or trimmer, you choose someone who knows your horse well and can be trusted to respect the foot balance that your horse needs.    Its often beneficial for horses to go home to be under the care of the same farrier they had before rehab.  Particularly if they have known the horse a long time and seen them through bad times, it can be rewarding for them to see the horse back in work and for farriers who are interested in barefoot this works well. 
 As a rule, although horses in light work may need trimming, many horses in regular or hard work on varied surfaces will actually be better off left well alone.  If you have any worries about having your horse trimmed, do get in touch with me. 
My horse has been diagnosed with navicular. Can I rehab him at home?
The short answer is: perhaps!  The long answer is that it depends on your horse, your facilities and your experience.   Most of the horses who come here are loading their feet incorrectly and landing toe first, and its absolutely vital to improve these if the horse’s soundness is also to improve. Along with better caudal hoof strength, horses typically also need to develop better proprioception.  For some horses, triggering these changes and developments is fairly straightforward, for others its extremely challenging.  
This is really an area where I don’t feel I can advise people – you need someone on the ground who has seen your horse, where you keep it and the surfaces you have available.  
I can totally understand that owners are reluctant to send their horses a long way away, let alone incurring the expense of rehab.  Equally, I get very concerned when I hear about horses whose shoes have been taken off and who are then very uncomfortable, or who are not improving despite months of being “barefoot”.
I’m always happy to talk through options but do remember that its not usually possible to give anything but very general advice without seeing the horse, and all decisions of course have to be made by the people who know the horse best – the owner and the vet.  
When can you take my horse?
At the moment there is typically a waiting list of 4-6 weeks and spaces are allocated on a first come, first served basis though occasionally spaces come up at shorter notice.   
I'm worried about sending my horse away.
That is definitely one of the worst aspects of rehab for owners!  The only consolation is that Exmoor is a lovely place to come for a visit and even non-horsey family and friends will find something to do while you visit your horse! I also try to put new owners in touch with others who've had horses here - the former "Rockley Rehabs" are an incredibly supportive and helpful group of people and have all "been there, done that" so they know only too well how difficult it can be when your horse is first diagnosed. 
Does my vet need to refer my horse to you? He is dubious about barefoot.
Horses need to come here with the consent of their vets, but although many vets are (quite understandably) sceptical the first time they send a horse here, most are interested in following the progress of their patients.  I am always happy to talk to them about exactly what we do, and send them regular updates, if they like, via photos and video.  
What do I need to bring to Rockley - apart from my horse?
Our climate may be colder and wetter than your horse is used to, so please bring adequate turnout rugs - even in summer a lightweight rainsheet may be a good idea.  Horses can always get undercover but often prefer being out and about with a rug on.  Stable rugs aren't necessary as we don't routinely stable horses at night though they often come into the barn in bad weather.   We always have plenty of coolers and exercise sheets so there is no need to bring these. 

I don't normally use exercise boots or wraps as I find that once out of shoes horses tend not to brush/overreach etc but if there are boots that you want me to use please let me know. 

You will need to bring your normal exercising tack.  If you are worried that your saddle no longer fits (eg if your horse has been on box rest or out of work for a long time) then please let me know. 

There is no need to bring grooming kits/feed buckets etc as we have those here and they are easy to lose!

Your horse will need a passport, both to travel here and while he is staying - this is a DEFRA requirement, unfortunately - and you will need to sign our rehab livery agreement, which I will normally have sent you when you first get in touch with me.
Is there anything else I should know?
There is a forum set up exclusively for owners of rehab horses - you can find it at and once your horse is here please feel free to join it.  Its a small forum, but very friendly.  You will find other owners there who are very helpful and supportive and will be happy to answer your questions as well.  I will be in touch regularly while your horse is here, of course, and you can always contact me if you have questions or worries once you have taken him back home.