Tag Archives: Rehabilitation Equine

Leo’s Barefoot Transition: Day 1-3

By Wiola Grabowska
If you don’t know Leo’s story please see HERE and HERE as some of the below will make more sense if you know why I have Leo…

Snoozing in his stable after night turn out. Last day with hind shoes. If you look closely, you’ll see he has no shoe on his right fore but that’s because he twisted it the day before and I had to remove it.

Even though Leo arrived to live with me in most dreadful circumstances, I feel privileged to have him. He became a big part of my life and whilst I had some plans for him at the beginning, they evolved and changed. Right now, he’s my “learning together” horse. With my keen interest in biomechanics and rehabilitation, he is helping me learn about movement, soundness and together we are testing different groundwork therapies/in-hand work.

Some of you will have heard of Kingsley, a horse that opened my eyes to knowledge I was oblivious to prior having him and whose 2010/11 barefoot transition journey can be followed on Rockley Farm Blog. Him and Nic Barker has inspired me to learn about hoofcare every day ever since.

In contrast to Kingsley, Leo is sound and happy in low level, hacking work which is all I realistically have the time for. As far as I know, he had been shod all his life.

Why am I taking his shoes off then? 

Leo’s last full set 9th May 2017. Farrier: Jack Boardman Awcf

As most good farriers I had a pleasure chatting with about hoofcare have always said, shoes weaken horses feet.

Everything about horses’ management have progressed at a speed of light from some top spec materials used for rugs, numnahs, boots to bedding we use for them, to the way we feed them, to the science of saddle fitting and saddle design. Pretty much everything has changed. Except hoofcare. We shod horses in Xenophon times (c. 430–354 BC) for war purposes and we still shoe them with metal shoes in 2017…So amazing or so insane? I don’t claim to know but having ridden (sound) barefoot horses I know that there’s a different level of suppleness, fluidity, body awareness and dexterity to their movement that I have never felt on a shod horse. It is true that sometimes, shoes can change the movement to more extravagant and I have seen this happen but I don’t personally consider that a positive as far as soundness and longevity of the horse goes.

So why am I doing this with Leo?

Mostly to learn more. To help him have the healthiest, soundest life I can give him, to test if his movement patterns improve (he has slight pelvis asymmetry), to see how his feet change and what impact will this have on him overall, to understand further the benefit of improved proprioception on the rest of the body biomechanics.

Leo’s last full set 9th May 2017. Farrier: Jack Boardman Awcf

5 weeks before…

In preparation for his shoes coming off I put Leo on Key-3 Oil by Keyflow for its Linseed oil and recommended joint care benefit. My reason for this is that hooves are incredibly dynamic and change in ways I have never imagined possible (you can watch Kingsley’s hoof changes on Rockley’s Farm blog I linked above as Nic kept a good record of those) but from what I gather, joints must have a harder time to adjust to those fast changes. Any person with some kind of foot issue will know how using different shoes can cause plethora of aches and pains in every joint as well as back/neck. As Leo is otherwise healthy and is fed a handful of high fibre nuts by Castle Horse Feeds simply so I have something to put his supplements in and so he has his “I had breakfast and dinner fix” , I have not changed his diet that much. He is on hay during the day and night turn out from about 3pm until 8am.

In the lead up to the transition I worked him for 30 min 5 days a week hacking around the fields and on the roads mostly focusing on hill work. I didn’t want him to be too fit as I knew I will be giving him a few weeks off ridden work once his shoes were removed.

I also treated his feet daily with Red Horse Sole Cleanse.

Day 1 -3 (21st June – 23rd June 2017)

Leo Barefoot Transition
The even heel bulbs foot is his right hind, the unbalanced one is the left hind. Side shots are Day 2, the rest Day 1. Fronts are shod. 

As I mentioned above, I had to remove Leo’s front shoe the day before Jack was due to come to shoe him. As I walked him to the field over some stoney patch of ground I thought he would be footy but he wasn’t in the slightest. Out of curiosity I walked him around some more stones and he couldn’t care less. That’s when I decided to keep his feed unchanged for now and just ordered Pro Feet broad spectrum mineral balancer to add to current feed.

From all the adventures with Kingsley and other barefoot horses I have looked after, I know diet is the key, it is all much more eloquently explained HERE . I am looking into other feeds and considering what to put him on but for the moment, he seems fine so I won’t change anything until end of summer.

Why not in the winter…

There seem to be a common advice to transition in the winter when the ground is soft. I personally found winter second hardest of seasons (after spring) to keep a barefoot horse sound.

My main reasons for transitioning in the summer: 

  • long, night turn out – grass is much “safer” at night (sugar levels drop). Hooves need movement to grow healthy. In the summer, Leo gets about 17 hours of turn out while in the winter, about 7h.
  • light evenings for roadwork (contrary to popular belief that barefoot horses shouldn’t do much roadwork, they indeed do. It helps hugely with self trimming and soundest barefoot horses I have seen and ridden are the most hard working ones )
  • this might be my personal experience only but I find dry ground means less bacterial infections (abscesses), less problems with white line disease and thrush
  • perfect weather for hacking on variety of surfaces to condition the hooves
  • more time to dedicate to the whole process

Farrier or trimmer

I decided to stay with Leo’s current farrier to help me with the transition. He understands the importance of minimal trimming and have done a great job with two other fully barefoot horses where Leo lives so I see no reason to change right now.

Plan for the next 2 weeks

Week 1: Turn out only, no work. Until Wednesday 28th June I am letting Leo figure out the changes by himself. I continue the Sole Cleanse daily and just keep monitoring him for any signs of discomfort. So far he acts as if nothing has changed!

Week 2: I will start introducing short sessions of non-ridden exercise on variety of surfaces starting with smooth tarmac and waxed sand surface of the arena and see how he copes. No plans beyond that as taking each week as it comes.

Please note: mine and Leo’s experience I will share on here is as individual as any other horse is. This is not a “how to go barefoot” blog but simply a diary of this particular horse’s transition. If you are after a more in-depth guidance please visit http://rockleyfarm.blogspot.co.uk/p/hoofcare-essentials.html 








Gilly’s journey back to fitness & eventing after an injury – rehab diary

My loan horse was off work for two months after an injury and I’m blogging his rehab – fitness, suppleness, flexibility – sharing successes, exercises and more. 

Gilly January 2017. Stage of rehab: 40 minutes walking hacks

This is Gilly. He’s a 10-year-old, 16.2hh Irish Sport Horse gelding who I’ve had on loan for just over a year. He’s a character and a great horse to ride: Sensible but with enough attitude to keep things interesting 😉 He also happens to love jumping. I returned to riding in my 30s after a hiatus of 20 or so years and he’s taught me loads. He helped me progress to the point where we competed in our first one day event at the end of last summer.

Mairi and Gilly achieving their 2016 goal to take part in One Day Event

We were planning what we’d be doing over the Autumn when Gilly came in from the field lame one day last October. “Hopping lame” is probably a more accurate description. The vet later worked out that he had somehow punctured a tendon on his right hind leg with a huge thorn from one of the hedges that line the fields at our yard. While the wound itself wasn’t that serious, he got an infection that proved tricky to shift and ended up spending two months on box rest.

I didn’t expect that he would take him so long to recover from the injury and it’s been frustrating to watch him lose his fitness over the weeks and see our plans crumbling. But there’s a old saying that every misfortune is a blessing in disguise: In this case it’s that Gilly has soft muscles right now and is a bit of a blank slate so it’s a great opportunity to work on his suppleness and flexibility and improve his posture while bringing him back into fitness. Maybe I can teach this horse (and myself) some new tricks!

Over the next few months, as I build up his exercise regime from long walking hacks up to canter work and jumping, I’m planning to incorporate lots of pole work, stretches and work in hand. I’m hoping that these gymnastic exercises will help improve our focus, communication and skills and help us prepare for a successful summer of eventing.

Some of Gilly’s exercises & stretches suggested by his physiotherapist, Rachel Keeble. Photos: Christine Dunnington

I’ll be investigating different issues and trying out different exercises over the coming weeks and I’ll share some of them on the Aspire blog. Major areas I’d like to work on with Gilly are:

  • Getting his hind legs more active so that he really steps under himself, can push from behind and come off the forehand, which he can be quite heavy on. He’s got a relatively long back conformation-wise so he’s a horse that finds this harder than some.
  • Activating his core and encouraging him to work over his back more to improve his posture and make him stronger. This is a long-term, ongoing project but I’m hoping to work on more in-hand exercises to encourage him to lower and relax his neck.
  • Lateral work like leg yields and shoulder in to help with mobility and suppleness particularly through his shoulders.

I will be working with my trainer Wiola on all of this and we’d be really delighted if you join us on this journey to bring Gilly back from his injury even better than he was before.

If you have any questions or ideas or would like to share exercises that you think Gilly and me should try, leave them in the comments section below. We’ll report back on the blog. 

Mairi Mackay & Gilly aka Farmer’s Boy

Gilly looking smart after his clip on Saturday – ready to slowly step up the work 🙂 

Equine Physiotherapy Under Sedation for Pain & Muscle Spasms Relief (post Sacroiliac Strain)

14th December 2009: Richard The Vet and Anna the Physio performing physio manipulation under sedation on Kingsley, a 6 year old ISH gelding

Yesterday I wrote about kinesio taping for rehabilitation after sacroiliac strain. While searching my old diary for the notes to include in the said post I found the above photo which I thought deserved to be shared 🙂

The vet, Richard Gillatt of McGonnell & Gillatt Veterinary Practice, was the one who carried out the SI cortisone injections on Kingsley and later worked together with Anna Johnson to help with the horse‘s rehabilitation programme.

We’ve done this funny looking procedure three times over several months. Kingsley was a very easy going patient throughout. The reason for undertaking physiotherapy under sedation in his case was to relieve him from muscle spasms by achieving full range of movement in targeted joints.

Continue reading Equine Physiotherapy Under Sedation for Pain & Muscle Spasms Relief (post Sacroiliac Strain)