Aspire Training Day at Rockley [Farm] Rehab Reunion 2013 – when reasons come from purpose…

Aspire at Rockley Rehab Reunion 2013

As I mentioned in my yesterday’s blog, I had a great day teaching fabulous Rockley “graduates” at Milton Keynes Eventing Centre this past Saturday. Normally I like to have everything organised well before the day but this time some riders confirmed their attendance last minute and some joined in on the day so this coupled with the fact I was compressing 3 days of content into one day made for a grand improvisation 🙂 I think we managed to get main points covered but I am hoping we can run a repeat with more coaching time next year!

As always I start with a chat with all riders to get to know them and their horses. As most of us follow Nic’s blog on rehabilitation processes with all the horses, nobody seems a total stranger.


Even a little chat with riders can be revealing regarding the real reasons for various riding issues. It’s important not to waste time on trying to sort out various symptoms. It’s the causes that need addressing for the riders and horses to benefit from long lasting effects. The biggest downside of very limited time is that many things just cannot be covered and worked through.

We did my ABC (awareness-balance-connection) workshop in the morning which I would normally do on a Friday when running the training as a full weekend event (you can read about the main principles of it in my post: Show me how you walk…). We had plenty of fun with that 🙂


We then worked the horses in-hand and in the arena. Having chatted with the riders it’s very clear that once we have a clear purpose in mind, the choices, practices and reasons for actions are no longer as complex as they might have seemed when there was no aim….When as a rider or an instructor or owner your main purpose is to ensure you have a healthy horse to ride/train, your plan of action becomes simple: ensure suppleness, functional straightness and ease of motion in both horse and rider. Simple but not easy! It requires work, regular attention and application.

There is a saying No Hoof No Horse but as every barefoot rider knows, hooves are incredibly dynamic, living, compensating structures and considering how they show accumulated bodily issues over time, I would add No [healthy moving] Body No Hoof…

Let’s look at this example. We have a rider who doesn’t really like schooling, someone who “just doesn’t do dressage“. If you think in similar lines, I would say, check what you mean by dressage or schooling. At its non-competitive, at-home state I tend to think of dressage as of functional gymnastics session. It’s a balance game, a play with dexterity, brain cells and muscle cells. Once you see it as an educational tool that extends your horse’s healthy life, promotes soundness and freedom of movement you might “do” dressage with some pleasure after all.

I often feel like the more I learn about horses the less I know but the two things I am certain of: all horses love to move and most horses like to learn. It’s in their blood in the same way as will to survive is there. They are, however, all individuals. Different things motivate and de-motivate them.

If a horse is “lazy” he is likely to be stiff, uncomfortable, unsound or unbalanced. He might need “dressage”! Focusing on posture, feel and awareness of healthy movement is the key (but whatever you do, smile 😉

My friend Pauline, Kingsley and I at Rockley Farm in 2010

Rockley Farm – the beginning

I first learnt about Nic Barker and Rockley Farm in 2009/2010 thanks to a horse called Kingsley. His medical history would took over this post so I will leave it to another time but what’s important is that one of his diagnoses – navicular disease –  and remedial shoeing that followed, put my equine management knowledge upside down, made me re-evaluate everything I did in my work from teaching to riding to caring for horses.

Kingsley, and later Pocholo, another horse of one of my clients, went through a rehabilitation process at Rockley Farm. Pocholo with great success, Kingsley with partial success. Kingsley’s issues were complex and in two and a half years none of the eight vets he was seen by succeeded in diagnosis or treatment. However, at one time in his  rehab he was a happy, rock crunching horse able to stomp on rockiest terrain without a a problem. He was also re-xrayed in 2012 (two years after initial x-rays showed navicular changes in both front feet) and the vet’s opinion was that there was no changes showing on either of his navicular bones…[he was also unsound despite nerve blocking the feet which indicated a much more complex, possibly neurological issue, than simply a “navicular disease”].

If you type “Kingsley” and then “Pocholo” in search box on Rockley blog you will get all posts about both horses’ experiences there.

What happens at Rockley?

When I get asked to describe what is done at Rockley my immediate thought is that the horse is simply placed in an environment that promotes correct physiology and biomechanics of the hoof.

There is nothing magic, hippy, new-age or odd about it. The shoes are removed because it is a well known fact that equine hoof doesn’t function to its best ability in a constricting metal/aluminium rim. Ill, contracted hooves are given time to regain function and usability. The rehabilitation process is based on two very basic but paramount principles: correct nutrition and correct movement. The former is simply making sure the diet of the horse is well balanced and hoof health friendly, the latter is focused on providing variety of turnout and work surfaces for the horse to stimulate the growth and strength of all the structures of the foot.

What happens at Rockley Rehab Reunion…

Click on image below to watch the extraordinary footage of barefoot rehab horses in action…

HD Slow motion footage – the horses have had navicular, DDFT, collateral and impar liagment and other injuries and are now working barefoot.

 To read more about Rockley Farm and Rockley Rehab Reunion please visit:

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