Friday, 30 September 2011

Another reunion

This time for Kelly and Dexter :-)  Kelly was working abroad during the RRR but she was down in Devon this week and came to see her favourite pony.  Unfortunately she didn't have the time to come down for a hunting day so that Dexter could demonstrate his new found status as Exmoor hunter, but no doubt that will happen some time soon!
Instead they contented themselves with a whizz round the farm, popping the odd cross-country jump as they went.  Kelly's boyfriend was on hand to take some video which I may put up on the blog next week unless Kelly bribes me not to ;-)
Dex says: Are we off?

PS: Note glorious weather, our summer, which has arrived only 4 months late...The last time it was this hot was April (yup, really) but we are all now making the most of it.  Its pretty perfect actually - heat but no flies!  Only problem is all the horses have become woolly, so yesterday was a clipping marathon for me, shaving the fur off all the horses who are in hard work...Itch, itch, itch...!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Nicky's update

This is a belated update, for which I apologise.  Chris and Terri, who own Nicky, were in north Devon most of last week and we took new footage of her then but for some reason it didn't come out properly so I had to re-do it before I had a proper update for her.
Nicky is  QH mare who came with one of the more severe toe-first landings we've seen here.  She had been lame for a long time - its around 2 years since she was last in work - so there was a lot to do.

Her footage is below and this shot of her RF on the day she arrived highlights her issues.  It looks as if you could simply trim back the long toe, but in fact when this was done to her before she came, it made her much worse, most likely because it overloaded an already weak caudal hoof.
Today her foot is growing in at a better angle but her heels and digital cushion are still weak - not surprising given that she is still only landing flat in front, but she is improving all the time and importantly is sound enough to be in regular work.  This is in turn helping her to build a stronger hoof so for Nicky things are now heading in the right direction. 
In fact, as this footage shows, on arrival she was landing toe first not just in front but all round, which is unusual.  She is a very determined little horse though (she is still trying to boss the boys even though she is not quite 14hh and they range from 15.2-17.2hh - can't say she doesn't try!) and although its taken her a few weeks, she has made big changes to how she is landing and Terri was really pleased with how Nicky felt when she rode.

She should improve a lot further over the next few weeks, so I am looking forward to posting more news on Nicky now she has turned the first difficult corner.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

More than one sort of table

I was working on a presentation yesterday and was trying to find interesting ways to describe correct medio-lateral balance when I remembered this quote, which I first heard at a presentation for farriers in 2007:

"A horse's leg is like a table

The speaker was a professor of veterinary medicine and he was describing at great length how to set medio-lateral hoof balance by using a T-square, like this.
What he meant was that (in his view) a horse's leg should be balanced - like a table leg  - with a base of support at 90 degrees to the leg and the way to check whether it was balanced was to use a T square.

It seemed over-simplistic to me at the time, for several reasons - not least because setting foot balance this way doesn't factor in what happens when the horse moves and takes no account of how the foot is landing.

But the biggest problem  - as you can see the minute you pick up a T-square and try placing it on several different horses - is that it only works if you have a horse with a completely straight leg.

If you use a T-square to check balance on a horse with a leg that is not perfectly straight you end up with a T square which is also angled.  According to the T square (and the professor) you then need to do some pretty invasive shoeing or trimming to ensure that you get back to 90 degrees which - of course - will make the horse sore and impair its movement.  Its another example of the problems of imposing our ideas of symmetry instead of listening to the horse.

However, if there is one thing I've learnt its that there is no use trying to argue people out of their deeply held beliefs.  So nowadays if someone tells me a horse's leg is like a table I just smile and concur with the veterinary professor - simply adding the caveat that there is more than one sort of table...

Monday, 26 September 2011

Cheeky girls

To go with Sunday's lovely news about Isha and Ginger, here is an update on Patsy - not a ridden video this time as the little minx wasn't being caught...She's looking good though(!)  and obviously having fun :-)

I've got lots of updates I need to post on the rehabs, including footage of Nicky and Zan and new hoof photos for Taz and Dillon, but have run out of time - more later!

ETA: Just saw this post from Hannah on Facebook: "Yey.. Just jumped patsy over 2 logs. First time in over a year - Dunno who was more excited!?! :D"

All terrain hooves

I took this shot out hunting, on a day when Felix, Charlie and Bailey each did 16 miles.  This was one of the tougher tracks that day, which they trotted and cantered up - twice :-)
There was also plenty of hillwork!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ginger and Isha's fab Sunday update!

Danielle posted this on Facebook, along with a clip (which you can also see on the Rockley Rehab Reunion page) of Ginger in action.
This would be a lovely photo of any horse, but when its a horse in his late teens, who had been diagnosed with navicular, and whose owner had been told he wouldn't work again  - well, then its extra special, and enough to make today the best day of the week ;-)

Don't forget that when horses leave here, although they have made great progress, there is an enormous amount of rehab still to do and that continual, ongoing job is down to the owners. Hats off and huge credit therefore to Danielle who has stuck with Ginger through thick and thin and who has worked and worked to bring him back to his current fantastic condition - awesome job!

This update from Fayley about Isha is a reminder of how hard owners have to work (they sadly missed the RRR because Isha had slipped and torn a lot of muscles so wasn't allowed to make the long journey to Exmoor):

"Just thought I'd give you a little Isha update; she's been back in light work since last Friday and is doing superbly (the chiropractor visited on the 9th and was shocked at how much she'd improved). I was also really worried that the time she's had off would have been detrimental to her feet but great news is she is stomping along with a wonderful long stride and is finally getting back to rock crunching after a whole summer of massive ups and downs and having to boot for lots of rides - I took her down really rough lanes today (ones I've been avoiding for the past 2 months) and she hardly slowed at all, she took it steady on the very sharpest roughest stuff (talking really nasty old mine ground, sharp rocks over uneven hard ground), but stomped along over gravel etc - looks like I have found the one plus side to the nights drawing in - grass is no longer a problem!"

Fayley has worked incredibly hard over the last few months to put a really great management plan into effect, and it looks as if she and Isha are now reaping the rewards  - brilliant to hear :-)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hunt breakfast

We had a hunt breakfast this morning at Rockley, and although it was far too early for most people, those that made it were rewarded with the most beautiful day...
It was a tremendous day for hounds, who hunted like demons, but unfortunately for those of us serving eggs and bacon, there wasn't time to catch up so poor Felix, Charlie and Bailey suffered the ultimate frustration of a meet - plus the hunt lorry - on their doorstep and a party going on which they emphatically did not attend. Never mind, there'll be another day...

Friday, 23 September 2011

Horse of the week! Flynn the Second

Flynn the Second  - a 6 yr old Irish Sports Horse - has now been here for just over 2 weeks, and its more than time for an update on him.  He arrived straight from box rest, and was rather amazed to join the gang at Rockley but has been extremely relaxed since day one.
The top photo is one his owner took 4 days before he came to Rockley and the lower one was taken once he had been here 3 days.
When he arrived he'd already had his shoes taken off and his feet had already started to change - above is his LF a few days after he came to Rockley. 
This photo is the same foot today, 11 days later. 
Above, the caudal hoof shot for his LF on 11th September, and below on 22nd September.
He has started work this week - either in hand or led from another horse - and seems to be enjoying himself, so fingers crossed for good updates for him soon!

Here is his footage - nothing too dramatic, but a gradual improvement over the last 11 days to the point where he can now start to work on more varied surfaces.  In fact we have already worked him in hand in the arena and taken him out for 2 short sessions of roadwork, led from Zan.  He really enjoyed being out and about and his feet have responded well too, so I will hope to post more on Flynn soon.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

If you need something to make you smile...

If you've had anything like the weather we've had the last few days, you'll be in need of something to make you smile...(ok, I know none of you have, but humour me as I climb into my 3rd or 4th set of waterproofs...).
Those of you who are also on Facebook will have seen that - a few days after the Rehab Reunion - we got to the point where our fabulous hound puppies, Nelson, Nettle and Nutmeg had to go back to their grown-up home in kennels.  Nelson discovered he could scale all our gates at will and although he was an absolute sweetheart, it was time for him and his sisters to rejoin the big boys and girls.
But before they went home, we had a joint meet :-)

Our puppies, who had been angels about going out on foot and with horses had a joint escapade with Edward's hound puppies, Homer and Hopeful, who are from a younger litter but equally up for fun and games.  We took some footage of them being terribly grown up and behaving like proper hounds - sort of... It also stars Max the collie as whipper-in, and Felix as the hunt horse :-)  Hope you enjoy it!
...and to make us feel better - we have newbies - only 9 weeks old - who of course have Winston showing them the ropes...
...and Fiver...lots more about them soon!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Paddy - long toes, high heels and cracks - comparison photos

Paddy's owner has been down to see him the last couple of days and has had the "Exmoor Experience" - she arrived from sunny Suffolk thinking that she didn't need to bring her waterproof trousers but of course whatever its doing in Suffolk you can guarantee that it won't be quite as nice on Exmoor!

However, she has done amazingly well, going from being worried about our slopes and free-ranging livestock to tackling the steep slopes of the hills behind us - both up and down - and herding cattle into the bargain!  We like our rehab owners to have a sense of achievement when they go back home :-)
One of the things that she said gave her much more confidence in Paddy was his incredible sure-footedness on even steep, slippery slopes.  When shod, he would often trip or stumble and so she was understandably worried about him going downhill.
Nowadays, he is one of the most confident horses at Rockley, and despite treacherous conditions has been foot perfect each time she has ridden him, although he naturally still has some way to go before he is happy on tough, stony surfaces.
The comparisons of his feet in shoes and out give you a clue as to why his proprioception is now so much better!
One nice fringe benefit of coming out of shoes is that a toe crack, which Paddy has had for many years, is starting to close up, probably because his weight is no longer loaded so heavily on the hoof wall.  
It was only a superficial problem which didn't really bother him but it will be interesting if it disappears  now his caudal hoof is stronger.  The other interesting thing from these photos is just how mcuh his feet have grown in just over 4 weeks - look at the horizontal crack, which was in the top third of his hoof in shoes - way to go Paddy!
And here is his footage - a massive improvement. 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Comparison trotwork - Pocholo

I've been wanting to put new footage up of Pocholo since the RRR last weekend, when Wiola rode him both out and about and in the school, but the week got away from me and it was only this Sunday night that I managed to pull the clips together.
Under saddle and in hand P has gradually become more level and freer in his stride but because he wasn't desperately unlevel when he arrived the changes have been more subtle than in his landing footage (which has gone dramatically and clearly from toe first to heel first). 
The photos above are both taken from the footage I took in July, after he had been here 3 weeks and although his stride was fairly even it still tended to be pokey and he felt as if he was bracing at the shoulder.
 By contrast these 2 photos are taken from the September footage.  Its a subtle change and not made easier to spot by the fact that the camera wasn't in the same place(!) but there is more suspension in each stride and greater freedom from the shoulder 
Anyway, here is the video so you can make your own judgements :-)

Although his feet still appear boxy, there is much more strength and development in the back of the foot with lower heels (and no, I haven't trimmed them!) and a healthier frog. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Seminar in Abingdon: 29th September

Just to let you know that the McTimoney Chiropractic College have kindly asked me to do an afternoon seminar for them about the barefoot horse and lameness rehab on 29th September 2011.

By coincidence, Wiola posted an excellent blog post here on Friday about one of her clients and the impact foot problems were having on her horse.  The post is a great example of how owners and horses can benefit from a combined, collaborative approach from all the equine professionals involved in their horse's care, whether they are a riding instructor, a bodyworker or a hoofcare practitioner.

Full details of the September seminar are below, but its open to all (not just McTimoney practitioners) so if you are interested in attending please contact the McTimoney College directly.  It would be great to see you there!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Horse of the week! Zan, the "flat-footed, thin soled" horse

This week the award has to go to Zan, who has been here exactly 6 months.  He has stayed longer than most horses initially because his feet were so weak that it took longer than usual to get him into full work.  Since then however his owner has had an incredibly busy time with house and job moves, and so Zan has stayed for a few extra weeks.  We don't mind though because he is an absolute sweetheart :-)
Here are his front legs the day he arrived - some very obvious stresses to his joints and hooves looking overloaded laterally. 
On his 6 month anniversary his hooves are loading much more normally, but the twist that was being taken by his limbs is now in his hooves, and he looks pigeon-toed.  I'm adding a slightly better lit shot in view of C's comment :-)
Regular blog readers will remember that this is something that we've seen before!  Personally I think his limbs look much more stable and less braced today, but the important thing is that he is much, much sounder like this.
For comparison, here are his hooves at day one...
and at 3 months - note the new growth in the top half of his hoof, and look at how much further that line has grown down in the photo at 6 months, below.  This is a slightly slower than normal growth rate, because it took over 3 months before Zan was in full work on hard surfaces. 
Looking at the solar view the shift to a stronger caudal hoof and shorter toe is clear.  Even though on the lateral photos his feet don't appear that much shorter, the proportions have changed completely.
Day one, straight out of shoes.  At this point his soles were so thin that they flexed on thumb pressure so he was incredibly prone to bruising and soreness on anything but the best of surfaces.  
The same foot 3 months later, with radical changes happening.  There is an enormous contrast between the length of toe - the old growth - and the new line of his preferred breakover, which is over an inch further back.  There is also a massive difference in collateral groove depth, a sign that his foot is developing greater strength and concavity.
At 6 months he has a hugely improved frog and heels and a thicker sole.  In a couple more weeks all the old, rubbishy toe will be grown out and his breakover will be further back and more central to his frog.  

Proof, if proof were needed, that thin soles and flat feet can be changed and improved.  In fact horses with thin soles and flat feet are not, as people sometimes think, the sorts of horses who "can't go barefoot".  Instead, horses with weak, rubbishy feet are the ones who can benefit most from growing a healthier, better balanced, stronger hoof.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Rockley branch of the Pony Club, or Rehabs can do it too

The film below is a compilation of clips from our Rehabs Reunion last weekend.  There was masses of stuff that didn't get captured on film, which was a shame, so apologies to those who aren't included, but I hope you still find it fun.

All of the horses in it apart from Felix are rehabs, past or current - you can spot Felix 'cos he is the one without a bridle...
For help with orientation I'm including these - if you click on each you can see a bigger version :-)

The film does seem to make it appear far sunnier than it really was, but thats probably not a bad thing(!). As a news round-up for those who were there, I'm happy to be able to report that Soli is on fine form after his Sunday blip, Lainey's finger was only bruised and bashed not broken (and Bailey is back to being a very good boy again) and Dexter seems to have recovered after his plan to take the direct route to breakfast via the neighbour's donkey paddock didn't quite go to plan (!)...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A belated post - Flynn the Second

Poor Flynn arrived late last Thursday night  - here he is looking a bit spaced out in semi-darkness with space-alien eyes, as he was turned out on the track with Felix and Charlie - but as the RRR started the next day he has had to wait till now to get his own blog post.
He arrived straight from 3 months box rest but has been incredibly quick to settle in, particularly given the number of extra horses, vehicles and people who were in and out of Rockley over the weekend.  Perhaps he will find it rather boring now that everything has quietened down!
One great thing was that his owner, Stacy, and her mum, were able to come over and see him on Saturday and meet lots of other rehab owners at the same time.  They had rather an epic journey from Essex but apparently their accomodation in Hotel Disco was an improvement on least they were dry and warm :-)
Flynn has basically nice feet - though with poor m/l balance currently - which seem desperate to change as fast as possible.  I didn't manage to get photos the day he arrived, and these were taken on Sunday.  Even in that short time (Stacy took photos on the previous Monday) his feet had changed - so I am hoping I will be posting a good update on him very soon.

Like most Irish horses, he is incredibly sociable and he has already introduced himself to all the boys and become part of the gang.  Then yesterday he met Nicky, the QH mare, who took an instant shine to him  and has already bumped Dillon and Taz in his favour - what a minx...(!)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The application of celery and how to tell if your horse "needs" a trim

Soli, my celery poster boy, with Lucie at speed
It also gave rise to some really fantastic comments, and I'm sorry I wasn't able to do a proper post in response at the time but the RRR weekend was behaving rather like a tidal wave and carrying all before it. 

One of the very interesting and fair questions was what owners should do with horses whose hoof wall is getting long and who simply aren't able to give them enough work, or on tough enough surfaces, for self-trimming to be possible.  Trimming - when to trim, how to assess whether a trim was necessary, and whether celery was really relevant - were also hot topics at the RRR over the weekend.

One of the comments from Wiola on the blog encapsulates what lots of people were asking: 

"We would happily leave K self-trimming as it seems he copes badly with any intervention but his feet are growing too fast."

As always, achieving optimim hoof health is a based on correct nutrition and biomechanics, so lets look at 3 common situations (with the important proviso that the horse is landing heel first) and how trimming usually affects them:
  • Horse A: has long, overgrown hoof wall (feet are growing too fast or are too long) and is on a good diet. This  horse  - if correctly trimmed - will be as sound after the trim as it was before.   That's an acceptable trim, but the same effect could be achieved with a modicum of road work (and we are talking about a few short miles per week) and has the added advantage that there is little danger of the horse being worse afterwards. If roadwork isn't possible, a trim may make hooves look prettier but if the horse is not in work you may not be able to assess whether the horse's soundness is better or worse after the trim.  
  • Horse B: has long, overgrown hoof wall (feet are growing too fast or are too long) and is on a poor diet. This horse may well be footy after a trim due to increased sole sensitivity.  This isn't a trimming problem, strictly speaking, but advising on improving nutrition should be within the remit of any competent hoofcare professional.  Either way, making the horse sore doesn't help the situation so a trim isn't the answer. Enhanced nutrition and correct exercise are more likely to benefit the horse.  [FWIW, as with Horse A, there is no need to trim a horse like this as a precondition to work.  Once nutrition and exercise are correct, excess hoof wall will chip away but this won't trouble the horse at all.] 
  • Horse C: does not have long hoof wall, is in regular work, is on a good diet and appears to have a flared or asymmetric hoof which "needs to be balanced". This horse may well be less capable on hard, uneven surfaces if that "flare" is removed.  It will then normally take at least 2-3 weeks before the horse is as comfortable as it was on those surfaces.  In my opinion, no good is achieved by trimming in this situation as it compromises the horse's biomechanics and impairs soundness. 
[Of course with some horses you can have a combination of both the problems in the last 2 examples, and if a horse is trimmed and is less capable you won't know for a few weeks whether the trim or poor diet is the main culprit].

Some trimmers and farriers have got pretty hot under the collar at the mention of "celery" but I don't really understand this.  Why would you want to trim a horse if you are likely to make it sore or less capable of performance on tough surfaces?  Isn't it common sense NOT to trim in these circumstances?

I have no problem with trimming  - sometimes I even do it myself - PROVIDED that the trim does not break the golden rule: the horse MUST go as well or better AFTER the trim.  For me, there are no ifs and buts allowed as part of this rule. If a horse does not go better following a trim, then there was no point in doing the trim and it should not be repeated. 
The reason I started advocating "celery" is simply because I was seeing - and hearing about - too many horses who were worse following a trim.

I had calls and emails about horses who were lying down for days after trimming, horses who went from being rock-crunching to being footy on stones, horses who were just not as capable but bounced back a few weeks later.

I was also hearing that owners were being told that their horses "needed a trim to balance their feet" or because they were "too long" but then the horses were worse off after being trimmed.  It was sometimes subtle - they may have been fine on tarmac, for example, but were less comfortable on uneven ground.  But to me a drop in performance means that whatever else the horse needed, it wasn't trimming.

To my mind, its the hoofcare professional's job, not the owner's, to assess whether a trim is going to help the horse, but as owners, please don't worry simply because hooves look "too long" or "unbalanced".  Before you call out a trimmer or farrier, take your horse out, do some roadwork then re-assess whether a trim is a good idea.

"Celery", like anything else, is not a panacea and there may be occasions when a trim is a useful tool (although they are less common than you might think!).

However, if as an owner you decide to have your horse trimmed there is a way to work out whether your horse "needed" a trim - and its really pretty simple:
  • If the horse is moving better, more capably, more confidently, with a better stride length, over tougher surfaces after a trim, then it was the right thing to do.  
  • If the horse is moving better, more confidently, with a better stride length, over tougher surfaces when its left well alone, then stick to celery
But for me, there is NO reason to trim unless to make the horse sounder, and if the best way to make the horse sounder is NOT to trim, well then, embrace your celery.
This post is already quite long enough, and I have masses of RRR stuff which needs to be blogged as well, so I am going to defer the answer to another brilliant question, from Caroline, till another day.  Here is the question, for you to ponder:

"I can't help worrying, though, about those owners who just can't do the work and how they get it right, particularly with rehabs. 

The barefoot horses with caudal hoof lameness that you've had seem to suggest that peripheral loading is to blame. If you can't get the work into the horse because of dark nights and work or school, then there's no option but to trim to stop the peripheral loading ..... or am I missing something?