New boy Max, another Belgian warmblood, arrived yesterday. He was, like many horses, in remedial shoes but that wasn't the biggest worry for either his owner or me. The issue we had was that Max in the past hasn't been able to be safely turned out with other horses so his first day was going to be a challenge for all of us.
First of all, Max had to be filmed and photographed and once we'd assessed his movement his shoes had to come off.
Bar shoes always make it difficult to assess the health of the underlying foot, particularly the frog and heels, but out of shoes things became a lot clearer.
Not too bad a foot - there is some medio-lateral imbalance but the frogs are a lot healthier than I thought they might be which is always a good starting point.
It will be interesting to see how Max's feet change over the next few weeks and as usual I will post new photos in 3 or 4 weeks.
And now for the moment of truth; unshod it was finally safe for Max to meet my boys, Felix and Charlie, who are always on duty meeting and greeting the new arrivals. They are incredibly good judges of character and Max ticked all the boxes by being equally polite to them.
So he has taken his first steps towards better feet and a better social life - not a bad day's (and night's) work.
I ran out of time last week to post Lad's 4 week update photos but here they are finally. Lad arrived in shoes of course and its always interesting to compare the profile of the foot in and out of shoes.
Out of shoes his toe has shortened and he actually has more support for his palmar hoof when you contrast where the branch of the shoe ended.
Sorry about the mud - he had been groomed but I grabbed these when he came in off the track for his tea. Again, a shorter toe and in fact a better hoof pastern axis than he had in shoes - which in my experience indicates an improving palmar hoof.
These photos both show him on day 1 - in shoes and immediately after they had come off.
Today his foot is a lot different with a better frog and heels, healthier sole and less distortion at the quarters.
As before, on day 1 and straight out of shoes...
...and 4 weeks later. Of course Lad's feet will carry on changing for at least the next 5 months or so as his new hoof capsule grows in. His heels need to come further back, for instance, and his bars need to strengthen but that will happen in due course.
The most important changes are happening at the back of the foot, with improved digital cushion depth now he is able to land heel first.
Its a familiar theme of course on this blog but it never fails to thrill me when I see feet getting better!
Very often I read owners or vets describing hooves as if the problems the horse has with them are inevitable. "The hooves are [under-run, thin-soled, boxy, upright, turned-in, flat, brittle or whatever]" is said in rather the same way as "the horse is bay" or "the horse is a gelding" - thats just the way it is, he'll never change.
When describing hooves, people almost always leave out the critical caveat: "at the moment".
The point is that hooves are dynamic - no matter how they are "at the moment" they can be very different in 6 months time provided that you enable the changes the horse needs.
I rarely have the chance to show time-lapse photos of hooves over 6 months (roughly the time it takes for a horse here to grow a new hoof capsule) but Goofy has been here since November and its a perfect opportunity to show what I mean. First off, compare his stance on arrival (above) with how he stands today.
To me he is balanced and solid on his feet now - he looks confident that he knows where his feet are and that they are doing the job for him.
When he arrived he had been diagnosed with bilateral DDFT tears, worse on this, his LF. He'd had surgery and box rest and his lameness had improved but was still evident. His feet were far from the worst we've seen but they were fairly flat and the palmar hoof was weak, particularly the frog which had a central sulcus split.
Today he has a much more business-like foot. There is better concavity now that his new hoof capsule has fully grown in and old abscess damage, which he had on arrival, has also gone.
Again the biggest change is the much more robust palmar hoof - the frog is visibly tougher and the heels are less under-run.
The caudal shot gives the clearest indication of what has changed. If you look at the digital cushion in the photo below, when he arrived, the hairline is sloping inwards towards the frog; there is very little internal strength and this foot has a limited ability to shock-absorb.
Today the digital cushion is more developed and better able to provide support - instead of sloping the hairline is more level - not perfect but improved.
Looking at the LF the central sulcus split is obvious. This is the sort of problem which is extremely hard to get rid of - sometimes the best you can do is keep it clean and the infection at bay. This is usually enough to allow the horse to begin to land heel-first which in turn allows the frog to strengthen.
The split is still here but is not causing him ongoing problems - his landing is good and he is in consistent work - Goofy featured in the Road movie blog last month, for those of you who visit regularly.
Time lapse shots from the lateral side also show changes - not as dramatic as some we see but interesting nonetheless.
The most significant differences I think are the stronger digital cushion - more bulk above the hairline - and better hoof/pastern axis in the lower photo.
As with the first photos, its his stance which is the most improved here. A better digital cushion leads to a stronger palmar hoof and that in turn leads to a better hoof/pastern axis are clear too.
Overall its just a more supportive, more balanced foot which means he can load and use his front legs properly, meaning a sounder, happier horse.
Of course, good hooves are just as dynamic as poor hooves; no matter how you describe your own horse's hooves, don't forget to add "at the moment"...
First off, I should mention that although she has only been out of shoes a week and although she is not yet comfortable on a tough surface like concrete she is fine walking about on our tracks and of course turned out in the field.
She is also loving being with a group of friendly boys 24/7 and is proving herself to be an extremely sociable mare which is lovely to see.
So, back to her feet, and here they are on day 1 in her shoes (I'm only posting sole shots on this blog as they at this stage show the clearest changes).
These are her feet the next day and at least you can see them properly. Although the frog has already opened out in just 24 hours you can see a contracted heel and a long toe with a fairly weak frog and bars.
This is her a week later. One of her farrier's concerns was that her frog was lacking stimulus in shoes and its nice to see how quickly it is responding to movement our tracks. This is a foot which should undergo rapid change over the next few weeks.
Again, a sole shot from her arrival in shoes and pads, this time of her LF...
...and next day out of shoes, with a weak frog, contracted heels and bars sloughing off.
A week later there are some nice signs of improvement, particularly as her frog is coming back into work. The long hoof wall at her toe is chipping off which is quite normal and not bothering her at all.
More on Ella soon, and meanwhile back to the party...Ella, meet Merlin....
A diary of whats happening at Rockley, whether its news on rehab horses or on our own horses hunting and competing. All the horses are barefoot, and the blog includes updates on hoof rehabilitation and information about barefoot performance.
You can find out more about research, rehabilitation and our horses on the pages above or at our website: www.rockleyfarm.co.uk.