The cumulative knowledge acquired from working on horses for over 20 years has taught me that is is crucial to look at issues outside my ostensible remit of working on the horses musculature. Over this time I have taught myself to know when another expert is required in order to get the best overall treatment to improve the performance of the horse.

In a case that came up last week it was all about the feet. Sally has recently been bought by a client of mine (Helen) for her daughter to ride as an eventer. She is an 8 year old mare with a good history.

On my initial visit I immediately spotted an issue with her feet: the left fore had a really flat heel. From the front the hooves looked more or less symmetrical (see first pic). But from the side you can see that the left heel is so low it starts almost half way down where the shoe has been put on (second pic).

Front 2          Front L

What is really staggering here is that this horse had just passed a 5-star vetting and had been seen by a very eminent osteopath… yet apparently nobody had noticed the foot issue (or, if they had, nobody commented on it)!

Sally compensates for her odd left foot and was very tight over her right quarter. This is what everyone else had been focusing on. But this was in fact a referred issue: the cause of the problem was not in the right hind at all.

I pressed Helen to speak to her farrier about it, pointing out this obvious problem. But after a couple of shoeings I could see that the problem was still there. So on my third visit I strongly recommend that Helen contact Endell’s veterinary farriery department and ask for X-rays of the left fore. For readers that are not in the UK, Endell’s is one of the best equine veterinary surgeries in the south of England – and luckily quite close to Helen. She trusted my judgment and had the X-rays done.

As you can see from the x-rays, it was worth the expense. Look at the angle of the left pedal bone compared to the right – it’s really flat! Without the intervention from a proper remedial farrier, this horse’s foot would not have survived too long before a chronic lameness condition occurred.

Left x-ray          Right x-ray

Years of negligent farriery had caused the problem to go unnoticed. That’s why it’s vital that I can do more than just provide sports massage: I always take a holistic approach and see the whole horse, rather than focussing on a particular area (ie muscular issues). That’s what allows me to identify the root cause of an issue, rather than just treat the symptoms.

Sally has now had substantial remedial work done by Endell’s. There is already a noticeable difference in the angle of her pedal bone but it will take several more shoeings to get the bone more upright and in the correct position.