Rapid rehabilitation from long term lameness


‘Loki’ a 7 yo sports horse arrived at EP Sally Bell’s Bristol based yard for rehabilitation in February ’21.  Loki had a two year history of variable level intermittent lameness in front. His right fore was lower and flatter than his left fore. Previously he also had intermittent hind limb lameness, and found it hard to stretch over his topline.
He was in extremely light work on straight lines in walk with a tiny amount of trot as his soundness allowed, had previously had huge amounts of box rest or very limited turnout, and all conventional routes had been exhausted,
but he ‘never quite came right’.



  • X-rays to pinpoint soundness problems
  • back x-rays all clear
  • Front feet showed negative palmer angles, right fore more marked than left, but this was not dealt with as a problem at the time. 
  • Bone chips were discovered in both hind fetlock points and successfully removed with no further problems.
  • Hind feet also showed negative palmer angles
  • Shod with lateral extensions to both hinds. 



  • More inestigations to front feet, x-rays and mri scan, showed up the same previous problem with negative palmar angle to right fore
  • Both front feet also contracted, with collapsed, underun heels, and thin soles
  • Inflammation to the coffin joint and it’s collateral ligaments showed up on MRI, but no structural damage yet
  • Treated with steroid injections into both coffin joints, and heartbar shoes –which improved his hoof angles mechanically, but his owner hadn’t noticed any improvement in comfort or soundness
  • Steroid injections were repeated late December ‘20 but made no difference.
3 Month Rehabilitation program
  • on arrival he was landing incorrectly toe first on all four feet
  • in those 3 months he had only time to grow ‘half a hoof capsule’ – the rehabilitated hoof!
  • when he left to return home, his hind feet were landing correctly when barefoot and his front feet were
    landing correctly when barefoot on a soft surface, or in boots and pads on a hard surface.
  • he was also sound on a circle in walk and trot on the lunge and ready to start light ridden work again!

The approach taken was

  • Took his shoes off, and fitted boots and pads on all four feet for protection and comfort when necessary –as its important to keep horses comfortable when transitioning to barefoot
  • the true effect of these changes will be seen when the new hoof reaches the ground, and the old hoof has grown out, with still more improvements likely over a longer period of time
  • Trimmed his feet to encourage correct function and balance – as he was on Sally’s yard she could trim ‘little and often’ meaning everything stayed optimal, helping to speed up the improvements
  • The boots and pads also provided appropriate stimulation, and so returned correct function to all of the structures in his feet, meaning they were finally able to recover the previous degeneration and gain strength
  • Turned him out 24/7 using a mixture of our surface track and large grazing areas – essential for his mind as well as his body and feet
  • As he became more reliably sound in his boots and pads, he was hand walked him around the lanes to increase the stimulation and therefore the strength in his feet
  • He was seen regularly by a chartered physiotherapist, and put on a rehab program of stretches and exercises to help his body – within 5 weeks he had lost all of the compensatory muscular issues he had been suffering from
  • He was fed a balanced, sensible, barefoot friendly diet with free access to hay and appropriate grazing
  • Gut support products helped his gut recover from the culmative impact of the previous dietary changes. 

By removing the negative influences on hoof health, and by adding or facilitating positive influences, Sally was able to make a significant difference to Loki’s hoof health over a relatively short timeframe.