Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Feet, footage and biomechanics

I've been putting together some comparative footage of Alfie for his owner and I thought it would make interesting footage for the blog as well.

Alfie is a really genuine boy who always tries his heart out but he had quite compromised feet when he arrived here.

Of course my blog posts often focus on feet because lameness is after all why horses are sent here but there are some quite interesting (but not surprising) effects on movement as feet change and improve.
The photo above is a still from Alfie's November footage. He was short-striding and tended to go hollow as you can see. On the left rein he was also intermittently unlevel.  This photo is also a perfect illustration of why horses with forelimb pain nearly always have related pain in their neck, shoulders or back.
The March footage by contrast shows a better frame with a longer stride and more relaxed neck and back.

You can see how comprehensively foot balance and hoof health affect not only soundness but every aspect of a horse's movement - and, of course, that once feet are more comfortable, better biomechanics follow quite naturally. 

The complete footage is below, for reference. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

New boy Merlin

These hooves belong to new boy Merlin who arrived here at the end of last week in his remedial shoes.
 As you all know, bar shoes are intended to provide support to the palmar hoof.
Only problem is that very often the palmar hoof has other ideas - in Merlins' case it looks as if his shoe is heading in a different direction to his foot - to be fair he was due for a new set of shoes when these photos were taken.
 Overall, though, he has nice strong feet and even straight out of shoes is stomping around over all surfaces - a good indication of basically healthy feet.
 There is a clear imbalance here but that should be something that improves over the next few weeks.
More on Merlin soon, of course.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Rockley Scholarship 2015

The Rockley Scholarship is now open and we need to receive your applications by email to before midnight on Sunday 19th April 2015. 

Please make sure you read this post carefully and include in your application all the information we need. 

We will choose one owner and horse to be the scholarship winner and will notify the owner by Tuesday 5th May 2015; if you are selected you will need to be able to bring your horse to Rockley on or before 1st June 2015.
  • Your horse's age is not particularly important - horses from 4-20 years old have all been through rehab.  However, this type of rehabilitation is not suitable for horses who would be retired so the more information you can provide about your horse's potential and your ambitions the better. 
  • Rehab is aimed primarily at horses with a diagnosis of front limb lameness which is isolated by a palmar digital nerve block. Typically horses have then had x-ray or MRI which identifies soft tissue damage such as DDFT/collateral/impar ligament injuries and/or navicular and coffin bone damage. You need to include a detailed history of your horse's lameness in your application and you will need a supporting reference from your vet.
  • Your application needs to be supported by 2 references (you need to send these in with your application).  One needs to come from your vet - who must provide details of the horse's veterinary history and give consent to the horse coming to Rockley.  The other reference should be given by a professional in the equine field who knows you well and who has read and can support your application.  This could be an instructor, yard owner, farrier or other equine professional.  Please include contact details for both referees so we can get in touch with them.
  • You need to include video footage of your horse with your application. Please upload footage to Vimeo or Youtube (in HD if possible) and include the links when you apply. We need: (1) footage of your horse in walk, on a flat hard surface. The camera should be held as still as possible and no higher than the horse's fetlock. You will need a helper to walk the horse past; and (2) footage of your horse on a circle in walk and trot on both reins. There are examples of footage like this on the blog or on the Rockley Vimeo channel.
    • The scholarship for your horse will be for 12 weeks and you will need to sign our usual rehabilitation livery agreement (please email us on the address above if you want a copy).  
    • There will be no charge for your horse's rehabilitation but you will need to contribute towards your horse's daily care, feed and livery. We will charge this at £75 per week simply to ensure that the scholarship winner is as committed as we are.
    • You will need to arrange transport for your horse to and from Rockley. However Steve Leigh (Nature's Way Hoofcare) and Dawn Perkins have very kindly offered a total of £100 which would be payable towards transport costs. 
    • The scholarship is intended for someone who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford to send their horse here so please give details of why you think you are eligible in your application - for instance if your insurers have refused to pay for rehabilitation or you are on a low income. 
    • Keeping a horse barefoot is a long-term responsibility. We will provide feed information and details of appropriate rehabilitation exercise for when your horse comes home but in your application you need to explain how you plan to continue your horse's care after he comes home and what your aims are for the future.  You don't need special facilities but do need to show that you have time and commitment.
    • Don't forget to include your name, address, email address and a contact phone number so we can get back to you.

    Tuesday, 24 February 2015

    The Blinged-up Bullet Dodgers

    Those of you who are familiar with Buddy's Barefoot Adventure will already have seen the posts on Facebook but this success was too good not to share with the rest of you :-)

    [ETA: Krista's gorgeous blog post on the day is now up here:]

    For those not on Facebook, the Blinged-up Bullet Dodgers are a team of 3 ex-rehabs who went out competing at the weekend. They were competing as a team in a British Dressage Team Quest competition which featured 16 teams in all...AND THEY ONLY WENT AND WON!!

    The team consisted of Krista and Buddy, Emily and Indy and Lucy and Fryday and I couldn't be more proud.
    This is their team badge, along with a snazzy pistol motif modelled by Krista on FB and I am hoping for photos of them all bling-ed up in due course (I can't wait - they do it SO well!).

    I'm always impressed and delighted when I hear of horses' successes once they go home - whether its a hard-won rosette or simply the first "proper" hack out - each achievement is its own mountain climbed.

    What is so special about this success is not just that they were all rehab horses but, even better, that it was an incredibly well-deserved team success. Each of these riders and their horses has worked incredibly hard to get where they are today. Each of them has suffered disappointments, set-backs and lots of frustration - along with some fabulous successes - as part of their journey and they have been there for each other and for many other owners every step of the way.
     At the time the photo above was taken, I don't think Emily or Lucy would have believed their horses would return to competition, but here they are.
    Along the way they have not only supported each other but have provided endless encouragement, help and wise words of advice to other owners; now they are inspiring those who are in the same boat that they were in a few years ago. 
    I am so fortunate that nearly all the owners who come here are generous enough to give back  - without complaint or agenda - to the "next generation": people whose horses have perhaps just been "written off", as Buddy, Indy and Fryday might have been if things had gone differently. 
    Its probably the aspect of the RRR that I am most proud of: no matter what their discipline, from the most dedicated affiliated competitor to the most uncompetitive happy hacker - for everyone their horse comes first and they always have time and respect for other owners, no matter how different the ethos or interest or how they got to where they are today.

    Of course the last word has to go to the team... Blinged-up Bullet Dodgers - you ROCK :-)

    "What a day! BD Debut and my pony did not let me down. Totally emotional that our team of three Rockley rehabs beat everyone else by a mile (1st of 16 teams), held the top score of the entire day (great job Emily and Indy) and I finally broke the 70% barrier!!!"


    "Spent the day with two fantastic ladies Krista and Emily and 3 fantastic horses for the inaugural outing of "blinged up bullet dodgers". And modesty aside, we smashed it. Beginner's luck? Who cares if it is. We performed (particularly emily and krista who nailed over 70% each) and more importantly we enjoyed it. Showing off our ponies who could very easily not be with us. Kapow."


    "The most amazing day- despite the rain. A win for Indy and I at BD .... still can't quite believe it. As if it could get any better.... it did- a win for our Team Quest of barefoot rehabs. Legendary behaviour all round"


    And the wonderful summary of the day goes to Lucy:
    "You make your own luck as they say. None of us felt very "lucky" 2 years ago.

    But look at you now...

    Friday, 20 February 2015

    The return of the Rockley scholarship

    This spring will see the return of the Rockley scholarship and I will be posting full details here very soon but I wanted to give you a heads up straightaway.

    Rockley has become steadily busier and busier over the last few years. We are full and have a waiting list pretty much year round; as one horse goes home, another is usually on a lorry on the way here ready to take that place.
    Its wonderful to have so many horses and owners coming to us but I am aware that there are owners who aren't able to send their horses here, however much they or their vets might want to. This post is for them and is also my way of trying to say thank you to all of you who have supported us over the years.

    Basically, the scholarship is a way of giving one owner the chance to send their horse here for rehab for a much reduced charge. The aim, of course, is to give an opportunity to someone who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford it.
    We will be offering the rehabilitation completely free but will be asking for contribution towards livery costs - this is just a way of ensuring that whoever has the scholarship is as committed to the process as we are!

    As usual, veterinary consent will be a prerequisite and the scholarship will only be open to horses who have a navicular or DDFT related lameness.

    I will be posting full details, including all you need to know about dates and how to apply, within the next fortnight so please hang fire till you've seen and read that post!

    Wednesday, 18 February 2015

    A better palmar hoof in action

    There is no better way to assess a hoof than to see it in action. For me its impossible to judge a static hoof because its only when its loaded and moving that you can tell whether its balanced and functioning as well as it can.

    Of course, once you have seen a horse's movement you probably have a pretty good clue about what might (or might not) be wrong with his feet but it should always be that way around. Its actually quite dangerous to pre-judge a hoof by its appearance alone.
    Goofy on Vimeo.
    Have a look at this comparative footage, for instance, taken 3 and a half months apart.
    You can tell from the stills that the foot is healthier now (below) as compared to in November (above); the landing is more established and confident and the stride length is better - so you'd expect to see improvements in the back of the foot.
    Sure enough, comparing the hoof photos there is the confirmation.
     Someone asked last week for a critique of good and bad hooves - and for the reasons above I would be reluctant to critique any hoof on the basis of photos alone.
    Using the footage to demonstrate improved movement, though, you can see that the foot today (above) has a healthier frog, less contracted heels and the sole is more symmetrical - which indicates better media-lateral balance. Deeper collateral grooves and better concavity are outward signs of better sole depth and a stronger hoof capsule.
    This foot is only just over halfway growing in a stronger hoof so there is still more improvement to come. In the upper photo the horizontal mark is immediately below the hairline.
    Today its just over halfway down the hoof and the profile both of the hairline and the back of foot is improved. Once the new growth is all the way down the toe will be shorter and the entire hoof more supportive. 

    Tuesday, 17 February 2015

    Mr Ennis Bundle

    These feet belong to new boy Ennis who arrived on Monday. He has one of the most splendid names I have ever come across and his feet aren't too shabby either though his palmar hoof his weak.
    He has been shod up until a couple of months ago and his shoes were taken off when  he had his MRI. He still has a relatively poor frog but much less contraction than we often see. 
    He has been diagnosed with bilateral DDFT lesions and navicular bone damage and is not surprisingly landing flat/toe first in front. 
    This isn't a bad foot but when you look at the photo below you can see that he has an interesting conformation issue on this leg. 
    The frog on this foot is better but the medio-lateral balance is worse than on his LF so I would expect some changes to this foot as well. 
    More on Ennis soon.