You probably know I'm a massive fan of Nic Barker of Rockley Farm, the lameness rehabilitation centre that literally brings horses back from the brink.
This case study comes from Heather, whose horse Dash became a Rockley client in 2017. Here's their story, an amazing recovery of a competition horse who sustained a DDFT injury, and for whom going barefoot was his Last Chance Corrall.
"I have lived and breathed horses from an early age, mucking out countless stables in return for rides, falling in love with every horse that I had the pleasure of getting to know. I've been lucky to own some fabulous horses over the years, but none can compare to my current boy, Dash.
I bought him in 2012 as somewhat of a rescue case and our story has been a fairytale one. With lots of hard work, a brilliant physio and good saddle fitters, Dash transformed into a really fun event horse. He has taken me round 14 British Eventing cross country courses, never once saying no and he's as brave as a lion.
The best thing about him is that he is such a nice person too. Everyone (and I mean everyone) falls in love with him as he is just so gentle and kind. A Dash cuddle has helped me through many difficult times.
We were excited to see what the 2017 event season would bring after working hard on our dressage the previous winter. Dash was fighting fit and ready to go. He schooled around one of the most difficult Novice XC tracks in Scotland, skipping over 1.10 like it was a cross pole. We went out to our first event of 2017 and all was well. I was a bit miffed that I messed up the double in the Show Jumping, but once again he cruised around the Cross Country with ease. We iced his legs off afterwards and boxed him home thinking all was well.
The next morning I received a frantic call from the Yard Manager to tell me Dash was hobbling lame. The lameness was no better the following day, so we got the vet out. She scanned his tendons and thankfully they looked to be fine. So we were told to bute him up for a few days and box rest over the weekend.
The weekend came and went and Dash wasn't getting any better, so worry really set in. It's so horrible watching your horse in pain and trying to help him, but nothing was working. We hosed, we iced, we bandaged, we did everything. We took him into the Equine Hospital and they carried out a full lameness work up. It was at this point that the dreaded words "Deep Digital Flexor Tendon" were mentioned and his prognosis was very guarded to poor. Indeed we were to box rest him for 9 months and then see from there if he would be field sound. Riding was very much out of the question.
My heart broke into many, many pieces. This was my best friend and I really did not want to lose him. But nor did I want to see him suffer and the following days were horrible. I just could not stop crying. One of my friends contacted me to offer some reassurance that all was not lost as the vets had also given her boy a poor prognosis 5 years previously, but she took him barefoot with fantastic results. Barefoot? But Dash hobbled like an old man any time he threw a shoe. Surely it would never work.
When I wasn't with Dash, I spent all my time researching and reading stories about DDFT injuries. And there it was... The common theme that horses who had gone barefoot may have taken time to recover, but were more likely to stay sound.
I contacted Nic Barker who put Dash on her waiting list. For the first time in weeks, there was a little ray of light and hope. However, the vets threw a spanner in the works and refused to sign Dash off for Rockley as they just weren't sure it would help. Long story short, we eventually managed to get them to give the green light, and Dash left for Rockley in May 2017. His updates are on the Rockley blog and you will see that he made brilliant progress and I owe Nic everything.
When it was time for Dash to come home, Nic suggested I get in touch with Carol from EquiNatural, as she would be able to provide me with the minerals Dash needed to maintain excellent hoof growth. Carol has been brilliant from the start - she always answers my many (often panicked questions) and goes above and beyond to help.
The first day Dash came home in August, he lapped up his minerals without a problem. The difference in his hooves was almost immediate - we had bars once again and much healthier looking frogs. So I can testify that the minerals do their job. I live in fear of ever running out!
Nic and Carol are my go-to people for questions and it is thanks to them that I have been able to gallop my special boy across the beach since that fateful day in April (see intro photo). We have also returned to the dressage boards and Dash has been placed in all 8 of his tests, winning 4 of them with his highest mark a not-too-shabby 74%!! And, we don't have to use a calmer anymore - for the first time in 5 years!
We are also saving a fortune on other supplements as Carol has been able to tailor Dash's mix to ensure he is getting everything he needs not just for his hooves, but for muscle development as well which has been really important as we've upped the workload.
His shine is also amazing. For years I spent my money on the marketed bags of balancers, but still had to use biotin and hoof hardeners for example, but now it is really comforting to know exactly what is going into Dash's feed and knowing that it is the best of ingredients that are doing their job exactly as they should.
I will never ever take him for granted and every time I sit on him, it is with the hugest smile that our wee adventure is not over just yet. We also have a "Second-Chance Dashy" bucket list - thanks to Nic and Carol for letting me tick an Elementary dressage test off the list!"