Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Becca's first fortnight

Becca has now been here for 2 weeks so time for an update. She came here in remedial shoes and wedges. She is only at the very earliest stages of growing a better foot but I am pleased with how she has done so far.
She still has a lot of improvements to make in her palmar hoof but what I like about this shot is the way the foot looks more stable, particularly when you compare the angle of the hoof walls in shoes.
You can see how under-run her heels are and these are also very flat, shallow feet but that should change over the next few weeks. 

Friday, 22 July 2016

2 and a half weeks

These are Lucy's updated photos since her arrival just over a fortnight ago. I will add her footage once I have uploaded it either later today or over the weekend.  
As is often the case, the most visually dramatic changes are in the solar shots. Bar shoes reduce sole stimulus almost completely so its not surprising that after a relatively short time out of shoes there are big changes. I wouldn't ask Lucy to do miles on tough terrain but she is already perfectly comfortable and capable for short periods.
 This is where most of the development needs to take place and its good to see some improvement already.
 From this angle the foot looks more collapsed at the back...
 ...but the photos from here tell a different story as the palmar hoof is clearly getting stronger. 
I am pleased with the changes Lucy has made so far and her footage is now up here:

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

More new feet

These feet are new but not so new. They belong to Zan who first came here in 2011 with a range of issues, including thin soles, poor medio-lateral balance and under-run heels - a summary of his progress at the time is here:
He went home and did really well over the subsequent years, covering many miles and having many happy times with his owner Sarah.
Recently, however, he went lame on the RF - which was his problem foot back in 2011 as well. He was briefly shod, to see if shoes led to an improvement in the lameness (they didn't) and then came back down here.
What is great to see is that his feet are very much stronger and healthier than they were when I first met him and his landing is still heel first.
He does however seem to have lost his medio-lateral balance on the RF so that is, I suspect, what is responsible for his recent problem. I will of course post more on Zan over the next couple of weeks.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Shoes as support

These feet belong to new horse Becca who arrived here yesterday. She was put into remedial shoes and wedged pads following a navicular diagnosis and was also given Tildren. 
Although these helped for a few months the laments returned recently, which is why she has now come here.
The pads and shoes are trying to increase the profile of the back of her foot - giving "support" is the usual description.
The shoes mean her frog receives no direct stimulus and most of the load is taken on the rim of the foot, where the shoe sits. 
Out of the shoes and pads its a weak foot but it should soon be looking a lot healthier. 
I've posted before that I am dubious about shoes providing "support" - They have probably improved Becca's landing in the very short term, as she is landing flat at the moment, but they tend to weaken the palmar hoof at the same time.
By contrast, our objective over the next few weeks will be to rebuild the frog, digital cushion and heels as mush as possible and if we are successful with this then she should regain a better, heel first landing which will be a more long-lasting solution. 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Reverse engineering the barefoot revolution

I posted on Facebook about a great email I received yesterday about Alfie, who was here a couple of years ago. He and Will are now back eventing and Will wrote:

"He's a very happy horse; he's fit, agile and "healthy throughout" and he's not showing his age. (I've finally realised that a horse with truly healthy feet is healthy "all through" and you can't have one without the other); we are competing and performing better than we ever did before his "navicular"; he's got  feet that haven't seen a farrier in years; and finally (and I know this is the bit you like best!) – some proper heel first landings!"
I was also talking to an owner whose horse is going home today. We were out hacking at the time and her horse was looking confident, forward going and sound. The same horse which was given a "guarded" prognosis by an eminent referral vet who thought the horse unlikely to return to work.

Its such a common story among the horses who come here. We always ask for the vet's consent before a horse arrives at Rockley but that consent is often given grudgingly, even if the only alternative being offered is de-nerving or putting the horse down. 

By contrast, if you take to the internet searching for information once your horse has been diagnosed with navicular or significant soft tissue damage within the hoof you will (nowadays) find a host of helpful owners willingly and enthusiastically sharing their experiences and expertise and only too happy to suggest barefoot as a therapeutic tool in the fight against lameness.

Of course, this is a relatively new development. Certainly when we first took our horses barefoot in 2004 it was unheard of for horses to work hard in the UK without shoes and good advice on nutrition or biomechanics was vanishingly rare. If you mentioned barefoot on social media you would (at best) be laughed off the forum and at worst would be the target of aggressive abuse.
Its a happy thought that now, 12 years later, there are so many positive stories about barefoot horses and so many more educated, inspired and inspiring owners that taking a horse barefoot is an everyday occurrence. Even better, with owners so much more aware of what is essential for hoof health there are more and more horses who are thriving barefoot and  - like Alfie - demonstrating to their owners that healthy hooves make for healthy horses.

So what is the missing link? Its the vets, of course. Many improvements in horse health and welfare have come from the top down - following veterinary research - but barefoot is the exception. Most vets are still woefully unaware of the difference between a healthy and unhealthy hoof. Its not taught to veterinary students and their practical experience usually fails to bridge this gap. Why? Simply because a horse like Alfie not only won't see a farrier but won't see a vet (certainly not for his feet) either, because his feet are now so much better than they were.

My own vet has never even taken a look at our horses' hooves - which is a shame because he is missing out on a chance to see hooves at their best - because their feet don't give them problems. Equally once a horse has left here, most owners are keen to engage with their vet and update them about the changes in the horse's feet but the vets are, more often than not, uninterested.

You might assume that the answer is to provide evidence and research to the veterinary community but on the 3 occasions I have tried to do just that  - with submissions of our data to BEVA (twice) and Liverpool University - its been either ignored or dismissed as implausible. Of course there are some individual vets who become passionate about barefoot once they have seen it in action but they tend to be horse owners first and foremost, who "see the light" once their own horse's hooves improve.

While owners' knowledge about hooves has increased exponentially in the last few years the vets are being left behind. This is one revolution that will be reverse-engineered from the bottom up!

It reminds me of nothing so much as that great quote:

"Remember, amateurs built the Ark; professionals built the Titanic."

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

8 weeks out of bar shoes

Caymen arrived 8 weeks ago and his owner came to visit him yesterday so it was a good time for an update. Although his shoes had been intended to provide support his palmar hoof was collapsing and he was landing toe first. 
Comparing the hairline from this angle its clear to see what was happening, with the digital cushion and frog atrophied and unable to provide the support he needed. 8 weeks out of shoes and with plenty of movement and exercise on the right surfaces and the improvement is clear to see.   
Caymen is now landing heel first and his owner was able to ride him out on the roads today with him striding out happily. 
There is still a long way to go - the change in the angle of growth which is visible at the top of his foot today (in the lower photo) will need to grow all the way down before he has a properly balanced hoof - and that will take several more months. At this stage his toe will be shorter and his palmar hoof stronger still. 
 Again, the change in hairline from collapsed to stable is dramatic and demonstrates how much better internal structures are than bar shoes for hoof support. 
Caymen is well on his way to healthy feet - but as his owner said, its interesting that now he is doing so well the very vocal farriers seem to have lost interest. I wonder why?

For those who like to see in detail how a hoof can strengthen out of shoes his video footage is here: and its embedded below as well.