Saturday, 31 December 2011

Friday, 30 December 2011

Looking back and looking forward

I've had a few updates in on former rehab horses, so by way of a "Happy New Year" to them and all the other rehabs, here is their news...
Lea sent me this lovely photos of Taz; we nicknamed him the Police Horse when she rode out here with double reins and full high viz and here they are looking the part - since the Houston mounted police are barefoot, perhaps Taz is blazing a new UK trail!

I've also heard from Tiffany that Oscar's feet are doing well, but unfortunately no action shots of him because he has developed gastric ulcers but fingers crossed that he will be out and about again early next year. 

Lenny and owner Aileen have also emailed - this time its Aileen who has been under the weather but she has nevertheless valiantly managed to keep Lenny in work!

"Just a quick e mail to let you know that Lenny is still doing well. He has had a bit of an easy time of it over the last couple of weeks as I have had flu followed by a chest infection, but I have managed to keep him ticking over. Despite the lack of work his feet are looking fairly good. Hopefully now that I am feeling better I can 
 get his work levels up again.
 His back is changing shape so fast that I can't keep up with him! He had another saddle fitting a few of weeks 
 ago and the saddler said she was very pleased with how much it had  changed since he got his new saddle, since then his back has changed  again and I need to book another fitting!. He is standing much better  now, his front legs are straighter rather than under him and his back  has risen up and his shoulders widened out. All in all he looks a much 
better shape. "

Great news, and Happy New Year to you all :-)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The hoof as a magnifying glass

Wiola posted a great comment on my Christmas message post and I wanted to highlight it here.

"I totally agree with "leave alone if horse gets worse with trimming" as duly taught by Kingsley. 

Just a random thought - seeing hooves are always changing in response to work the horse does...and seeing the shape and sensitivity is dynamic and changes in response to biomechanics and diet etc....

Seeing all that, I wonder if leaving hooves without shoes AND corrective trimming would make us all pay more attention to how we school/train/compete our horses.

If, let's say, schooling/dressage a horse with weak back muscle at a level it is not ready for, in hollow outline and by a rider with underdeveloped seat would cause the horse degree of back pain that would quickly lead to more limb strain that would then lead to sensitivity in bare feet/lameness then perhaps the whole training would become wiser. 

As it is, so many issues in the horses' bodies that are the results of uneducated riding can go on and on for a year or longer. These issues are "treated" and "cured" for a moment only to resurface with greater force and show up as lameness. 

Perhaps having horses barefoot and largely self-trimming, a horse that shows any issues in weeks or days rather than years, we would grow more sensitive to training the whole horse and be more tune in to their needs and body issues."
This is sentiment I completely agree with and for me its one of the biggest benefits - and biggest trials - of having a barefoot horse: it is much, much more difficult to overlook a problem when a horse is barefoot.

This is true whether the issue is lack of training or a biomechanical issue, as Wiola's post demonstrates, or whether its a more general health concern like a nutritional imbalance or metabolic problem.  

In a lecture I went to last year, Prof. Jean Marie Denoix (talking about shod horses) made the point that a "sudden" injury or lameness is rarely that"; in fact, the precursor of most injuries is months or even years of fatigue and progressive stress on tendons.  As he said: "a tendon injury is rarely a primary cause" - and if you don't identify and solve the source of the injury, it will inevitably recur. 

But imagine if you had an incredibly sensitive early warning system which could detect and alert you to these early signs of stress, fatigue or malfunction.  In a barefoot horse, this is exactly what you get.  

Hooves are an unbelievably accurate barometer of the overall health and fitness of the horse and will usually provide early warning of potential problems which can often then be nipped in the bud - dietary changes can be made, overworked soft tissue can be rested, weaknesses strengthened. 

However, in many shod horses, this barometer simply can't be read because the hooves are no longer capable of providing subtle feedback  - wear patterns cannot be seen, proprioception is reduced and, even if limb-loading changes, deviations in the hoof capsule are removed by trimming and shoeing. 

The level of detailed information a bare hoof provides can be uncomfortably immediate and uncompromising, but on the other hand, if you have a very sound, robust hoof then you can be pretty confident that you have a sound, robust horse. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Solar flares

A quick update on Solar, whose owner is coming down to see him on Thursday.  When he arrived he had been lame for some time  - his worst foot was his RF which he pointed continually. 
His owner had been told that he was simply pointing out of habit but her gut instinct was that it was a symptom of a bigger problem - and of course she was right.  
Solar has now been here for 6 weeks and I am glad to say that his stance is much improved. 
This was his problem foot - RF - on day one with some interesting medio-lateral balance issues and event lines. 
This is still a pretty strange looking hoof but its improving and as you can see from the lines, the changes are happening quite quickly.  More importantly, his landing is significantly better than it was when he arrived.  He has been helped by the fact that his caudal hoof was already robust so it was relatively easy for him to start to land better.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas from all at Rockley!

Dexter was rather astonished to go to the Christmas Eve meet...
  ...but he was a really good boy :-)
 I think we can now call him a seasoned hunter! Happy Christmas to you all, but especially to Kelly and Yvonne, and Mr Dexterity looks forward to taking Kelly hunting in the New Year :-)

Friday, 23 December 2011

Glad tidings of great joy!

...have arrived from Hannah and Patsy, who emailed me these great photos today!
Patsy was here earlier in the year and had not only front limb problems but also had issues with kissing spine.  Her full rehab has taken a long time and a huge amount of dedication from Hannah, particularly as Patsy didn't always want to take things gently and steadily, even when she needed to. 
She is now looking wonderful and is full of beans, and they hope to be out competing in the spring - brilliant!
Happy Christmas Patsy, and all the other rehab horses...
and here's to an action packed 2012 for all of you :-)

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Rehab roll-call

The last year has been an exciting and busy one at Rockley and I wanted to devote one blog post before Christmas to all the fabulous rehab horses who have come and gone during 2011.  I miss them all when they leave, but the RRR last September was a wonderful chance to catch up with everyone - perhaps we will do it again in 2012...!
So, let's start with a suitably snowy picture of the cheeky boys...
and Solomon (butter wouldn't melt, of course, in either case)
The very beautiful Isha
Dear old Ginger, looking gorgeous in his summer coat
Patsy, posing among the trees
Dilly, naturally right next to...
the glamorous Oscar
Zan, our long-stayer, now doing well back home in Herts
Lucy, the aspiring event horse
Harvey, the first of this year's quarter horses
Saffy, big, beautiful and bouncy, the second KWPN of the year
The Mighty - and the Original - Flynn
Lenny..ssh, don't disturb
Dillon - forever known as "Dillon with the wedges"
 Pocholo, our smart Spanish visitor
Gorgeous George aka Black Beauty
Nicky, another QH and a very elegant one - the smallest rehab horse to date, together with the biggest one...
Taz, the ex-showjumper (on the left in this pic) who stands a full up 17.2hh
Lovely Paul, who made a short return visit in the autumn
Paddy - who caused me serious sleepless nights by having colic surgery in November...
Flynn the Second, another eventer to be - here learning about water!
Mr Knightley, who flew in all the way from Dubai and who hasn't let the weather put him off
Thomas, another pocket rocket but with potentially great feet...
Solar, who I am glad to say rarely stands like this after being here for 4 weeks!
Ted, our most recent QH arrival, who came with particularly special shoes on...
and last but not least, Nico, who beneath all this has a really nice set of hooves. 
Its been a privilege to be involved with such lovely horses and such dedicated owners for the last year - if 2012 is anything like as good, it will be something to look forward to!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas message?

Well, here is the best shot at a Christmas message from Rockley - make of it what you like, but compare and contrast the following emails from 2 different owners about 2 different horses.  Both horses have (or had) asymmetric hooves and have had "issues" in the past. 
Email 1, from an owner whose horse who has not been trimmed for nearly 4 months although his hoof health has been carefully monitored.  He is in regular work.

"Big thumbs up from the physio, he's not 100% but she said he's like a completely different horse  -much better :-)  You'll probably find this funny, the physio said his feet weren't very pretty - I took it as a compliment."

The second email is from someone whose horses' hooves I used to look after but can't get to now.  Actually the horse she is talking about is one I never, ever trimmed, even though I saw him every 6 weeks, because he had compensations in his feet which were necessary in order for him to be comfortable and load evenly.  His owner often asked me if I should make his feet look "prettier" but each time I saw him we talked about his comfort levels, how he was moving and his improving capability on tough terrain and decided he did better left alone.

I handed the horses over to someone else nearly a year ago.

"When you came to see my boys, you never touched [him] but every time [???] has come he has been trimmed and gradually over time he has become more and more footsore, whereas before, he could walk over anything.   [???] is due to visit us soon and [his] front feet, as usual,  have worn on the outside but not on the inside.  My question is, should his feet be trimmed bearing in mind they are now so sore?"

What do you think?

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas, snow and hunting

The big problem with my job is that Christmas can easily end up just like any other day - get up, feed horses, muck out, groom horses, muck out, turn out horses, muck out, bring in horses, muck out, feed horses, muck out - well, you all know what its like.
So this week even if the yard is staying the same, I am going to try and make the blog a little bit Christmassy to try and get us all in the mood - though it may also end up including footage of rehab horses with tinsel round their necks or something...(!).
For today, here are some wonderful photos taken last week when Charlie and I went hunting in the snow - thanks to Adrian for these and there are more brilliant pics from him, as well as some of mine, on the Exmoor Foxhounds page on Facebook.
I love this one, which was taken by Hamish Mitchell, who was out shooting for Horse and Hound - more fantastic pics on his Facebook page...
...and he was then snapped by Adrian...
but there is no doubt that Hamish was in the right place at the right time!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Useful things: Mud-buster-thingy!

A quick useful thing for you - and although I don't know its real name or who makes them...(!), Cristina found it online!  Thanks Cristina :-)

You can get them at our local Mole Valley Farmers store in South Molton or online here:
(which is also cheaper than the link in the comments section) and after seeing how brilliant they are, quite a few of the rehab owners stock up on them and give them as Xmas pressies to all their horsey friends. 
They are made of bendy squiggles of rubbery plastic and there is nothing so good at removing mud.  The really great bit is that because they are soft and flexible even horses who are very ticklish or thin-skinned are happy for you to use them AND you can use them on legs and on heads and even the fussiest TB doesn't object to them. 

They have the added bonus of being cheap and cheerful enough to have several on the yard, which is essential because once you have one, if you lose it you will be REALLY cross!