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Oh No, Not a Relapse!?!?

Pip-leaping-01You have had one of those moments – haven’t you – one of those times when your stomach sinks, your innards hollow, your jaw drops, paralysis seizes your limbs and your every being insists on denying or at least questioning what your eyes see? And then the thick bold contours of the reality playing out before you jolt your very being, as your mind kicks in and begins to spell out the implications of the horror you are witnessing. After four and a half months of intensive daily care the tendon which you and your horse have been nursing and coaxing back to health is collapsing or so it seems. But wait, it could be a false alarm. You have had one of those before, haven’t you? It must be, surely. You dare to hope, if only for a moment but then you look at the leg again and shake your head in resignation: we are back to square one.



Pip, is unsound. Her gait is clearly uneven in trot. I have the evidence. It is here on video. I had to be certain, so I hauled out my smartphone and captured her unsound movement in full high definition. The evidence is incontrovertible. My mare is uneven.

Every day Pip has been walking for more than half an hour and she is now supposed to be trotted for three minutes. Clearly, the incremental increases in trot and walk which we have introduced each week have been too much. Or was it her crazy leaps after rolling in the sand at the end of a long lead?

What now? We will cut out all trotting. Fine, but what about walking? Pip needs the movement as much psychologically as physically, for she has a surfeit of energy which will out. What to do? What not to do?



Back at home Vicki and I watch the video again and again. The left foreleg is stepping short. Is that where the problem lies. Why is she stepping short on the left? Because she cannot extend it forward. Trite answer. Why can’t she extend it forward? Because if she does, she will have to place more weight on the foreleg with the tendon injury. This seems to be confirmed by the way Pip is trotting. My mare is placing more weight on her sound leg to protect the injured limb.

Pip uneven on the hard tarmac


Question: is that because the tendon is going again? Or is something else happening? Pip’s right shoulder felt a bit warm. We have just had a spell of frost. Could it have affected the muscles? Could this be a muscle issue in the shoulder?

And if we are considering other body parts, what about the hoof? Before the cold spell we had so much rain that the hooves have become quite soft. I know this because I have just trimmed Pip’s hooves. Did I trim them too short? Yet we have noticed that Anaïs is also a bit sensitive on the tarmac.



Vicki and I decide to take the video camera with us the next day. Its physical zoom capability will allow us to capture clearer images than the digital zoom of the smartphone. We will film Pip trotting in her Norwegian jogging shoes (at last, there is a company that calls a spade a spade). If she is sound in trot, we feel pretty sure that the issue must be in the feet and not elsewhere.

The next day I clean Pip’s feet and pull the shoes onto her forehooves. Because the right hoof is flatter, longer in the toe and somewhat wider, the jogging shoe on the right foot is one size up from that on the left. Yet I feel that, because of the remedial trimming, the right hoof has diminished in size and Pip may be ready to go down a size. I shall have to bring the other smaller jogging shoe next time.



It is lovely to feel how responsive Pip is on a loose lead as we take a step forward and raise our energy together preparatory to moving into trot. Walking Pip every day for the past four and a half months and trotting with her during the past few weeks have enabled us to tune into each other’s energy and feel our way into interacting with each other. Playing with our energy, I marvel at how we almost anticipate each other’s movement when I am completely present with my mare.

Pip in jogging shoes: no sign of an uneven trot


And so we move into trot on a loose lead and I sense Pip moving next to me, relaxed and, more importantly, regular. I glance sideways to see her powering ahead. If she could smile, I am almost certain that she would be grinning gleefully. It is not the tendon. The realisation peels away a shade of dread and the sun suddenly seems brighter and lighter on this beautiful day.

Pip celebrating the joy of being


Just to be on the safe side, Vicki and I decide to confirm our theory that the problem is in the hoof and not the injured part of the tendon by removing the jogging shoes and asking Pip to trot on the sand in the outdoor manège. The surface is quite firm, so it should not place excessive strain on the deep digital tendon. Pip is suddenly full of energy and leaps into the air in a celebration of the joy of being. I love seeing her like this, yet caution dictates that I urge restraint. She comes to me and we turn, straighten out, feel each other’s energy rise and burst into trot. And what a trot. Pip is alive and recovering!


No relapse!

I brought Pip’s smaller jogging shoe yesterday. It fits. Fifteen months ago it did not. All our remedial trimming is paying off. The right forehoof is now down to the same size jogging shoe as the slightly smaller one on the left, concavity has improved and the sole is thicker. Again I am staggered by the living tissue that is the hoof.

Fifteen months ago this shoe did not fit. Now it does!

Fifteen months ago this shoe did not fit. Now it does!

For the time being I have decided to resume Pip’s recovery routine by building up the trotting time again to where we were. That was the theory until my left calf muscle gave way, not once but four times in the past week. Yes, I know that I should have given it time to recover but what about Pip’s recovery? I suspect that I am going to have to consider riding her, if she is to have the exercise her convalescence demands.

In the meantime Pip’s therapeutic exercise has been pared back to daily one-hour walks, until my leg heals. Once it does, we shall reintroduce the trot. Until then I take pleasure in the knowledge that there has been no relapse!



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6 Responses to “Oh No, Not a Relapse!?!?”

  1. Hi Andrew ,
    Ik lees je blog {even in het Nederlands} over het proces met Pip en voel met jullie mee .Het onderzoeken waar dit vandaan kan komen is heel doordacht en gedetailleerd.
    Er kwam bij mij iets binnen toen je sprak over jouw eigen been. Er is ooit onderzoek gedaan naar overeenkomsten bij eigenaar en paard in blessures .
    Bij mij kwam dit naar voren in de reading en healing van mijn paard Enzo die door Helena werd gedaan. Toen ik het bij mijzelf ging oplossen kwam ook Enzo weer letterlijk op de been. Het was mijn mentale stuk in mijn geval een bezwaard gemoed. Later heb ik iemand anders met haar paard waar zij zich zorgen over maakte op dezelfde wijze kunnen helpen. Door in te tunen en advies te geven. Niet dat ik dit nu kan. Maar Helena kan dit fantastisch. Je vraagt in je blog om ideeen erover. Vandaar dat ik je schrijf. Ik zou me niet ongevraagd hierin willen laten horen ,groetjes van Yvonne

    • Andrew says:

      Hoi Yvonne

      Het is grappig dat je een relatie legt tussen mijn blessure en die van Pip. Dat was me al opgevallen in het begin, want ik kreeg eerst een blessure in mijn rechte kuitspier net voordat Pip haar peesblessure kreeg in haar rechterbeen. Deze keer was het net iets anders. Pip d’r hoeven werden gevoelig, terwijl ik pijn kreeg in m’n linker kuitspier.

      De laatste tijd speelt er een situatie op stal die dreigt problemen te veroorzaken voor onze paarden, voornamelijk voor Pip omdat ze nu vrij kwetsbaar is geworden, zeker als ze binnenkort terugkeert in de kudde. Daar maak ik me zorgen over. Misschien speelt dit een rol. Het zou me niet verbazen.

      Op de ene of andere manier komt er een oplossing voor. Op dit moment weet ik niet wat of hoe, maar dat ie komt, daar twijfel ik niet aan.

      Heel erg bedankt voor je bezorgdheid en meedenken. Ik stel het zeer op prijs.

      Be well!

  2. Exactly…I was just about to suggest the same ANdrew…however…you have known me for quite some time now and my “of the wall”-ness..you are perfectly welcome to have Pip scanned if you wish to let her tell/communicate with you what she wishes you to understand…

    But this is of course all up to you..
    It is what IT IS…your mare is your mirror…like LIFE LOVES YOU Pip loves you…
    Your openess being a very important step also…

    For both you and Pip…take care and be well

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Geerteke

      It would have come as a surprise to me if you had not wanted to suggest the same. 🙂

      Pip makes things very clear to me, sometimes very challengingly so. Whether she loves me or not is something which I feel is neither here nor there. Truly being together is what really counts, as does being able to help her. That is enough.

      Thank you so much for your warm wishes for both of us.

      Be well!

  3. Happy for you Andrew, I have been having problems with my 24yr old pony he was lame and I was convinced it was his arthritic knee, it turns out after having his feet trimmed more little and often that it has helped his knee too. He has a club foot which is now looking much better. So pleased your Pip is recovering.

    • Andrew says:

      Dear Jayne

      Your empathy with Pip is greatly appreciated.

      So sorry to hear about your 24-year-old pony’s lameness.

      It is interesting to hear that frequent trimming has helped him, as it has assisted Pip. Perhaps it is logical. After all, if horses were still confined to the geographical conditions in which they developed, they would self-trim every single day and not require a trimmer to come in at regular intervals.

      Presumably you have a capable barefoot trimmer who can advise you on how to deal with a club foot. Contrary to popular belief, there is much that can be done to address the challenges posed by a club foot.

      May you and your “boy” continue to help each other.

      Be well!