Sleets Rehabilitation.

On the 7th of October 2015, my own horse Sleet, was diagnosed with Dorsal Spinal Process Inpingement (DSPI) or 'Kissing spine syndrome'.


I have decided to set up this page, specifically to document his process through rehabilitation process.


About Sleet: Sleet is a 15.3hh Irish Thoroughbred, owned by myself for the past ten years. He was competed for those ten years and turned his hoof to jumping dressage eventing and even side saddle in the past few years! This year he turned 15, but still thinks hes 5!


Diagnosis: Sleet was displaying intermittent lameness/unsoudness in teh right hind, and was developing soreness in the lumbar region of his back. Following xrays of both hocks, arthritic changes were diagnosed. This did not explain teh back pain, so the spine was scanned and xrayed. showing DSPI in the lumbar region (one contacting pair)


(I will add actual images of his scans and xrays when I get them)

Treatment: Sleet went back to the vets on the 14th of October. Both hocks were medicated, and he was also administered with Equidronate. 



Equidronate is a treatment we use for some orthopaedic conditions such as hock arthritis and navicular syndrome. It has been used successfully in Europe for several years and is now available in the UK. It is composed of Tiludronic acid, a bisphosphonate which inhibits bone resorption in horses.


In conditions that benefit from treatment with Equidronate the bone producing cells (osteoblasts) can’t keep up with the bone removing cells (osteoclasts).  Equidronate actually helps to stop the osteoclasts from continuing to disrupt the bone. This prevents further damage and also allows the osteoblasts to catch up and repair the problem.   It also has some anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the secretion of destructive enzymes that break down cartilage.


Sleet is now home, and working through a rehabilitation progamme with myself. This includes long line work, light lunging, and pole work. I am also intending on adding some water restistance work into the programme, along with using 'K-tape' to stimulate the muscle externally.



Point of reference.


These three short videos were taken on the 17th October 2015, 3 days after Sleet initial veterinary treatment. They will be used as my 'point of reference' for comparison of muscle developement, movement, stride length, and posture.


Sorry for sounding like a nutter!


(this is our youtube channel as the videos i have are too large for this website sorry!)

On the 19th of October I took Sleet for his first long line session. Ive chosen to split his work between lunge and long lining, as I believe long lining will be more benificial to the hocks. If hes doing nothing but work on the lunge, the constant circle will only put unwanted strain on the joints.


As you can see, hes great to long line, trundles along quite happily, and is very responsive to me.


I long line in the 'pessoa' type aid to encourage hos back end to work, although it is very loose as i dont like them restricting natural movement. That is not what a training aid is designed to do! I also prefer this 'gadet' to side reins, which persoanlly I find tend to just fix the font end, and have no form of release if a horse panics etc.


In this clip, very early on post treatment, we can see Sleet is not overtracking, or even tracking up, and still has the slight right pelvic drop.

This was also taken on the 19th, just as, again, a reminder of condition, muscle, and posture.


After long lining, I 'K-Taped' Sleet. Kinesio tape is commony used therapy within the human terpay industry, and is quickly crossing over, as many therapies do, to the equine secondary therapy indusrty. The theory behind it, is that the tape applied to the skin, acts as an external stimulous to the affected are.


There are different stregnths and applications, and methods of applying, to create different effects and stimuli.

On the 20th October I intended to lunge the boy lightly with his K-tape on. Unfortunately the rugs he'd had pn overnight had caused the tape to roll and peel off! I wasn't impressed, but oh well, what can you do! 


In this video we can clearly see, although he is not yet tracking up, he is much more active behind, and elevating the hock to a greater level. The swing phase in the hind limb is more fluid, and he is much more forward in his work overall.

On the 22nd of October we were kindly donated some poles from Beechcroft stables, Risley! This meant I could begin to introduce poel work into the boys progam as he progressed. As you can see, stepping over poles encourages limb action and moves the muscles alot higher in the bosy, including the topline. 


Pole work should be done carefully (especially with a sometimes over enthusiastic horse like Sleet). A series of poles should be set at a distance which suits your horse, and then run over at the trot. For a horse like this, where they lose blanace, or are recovering for injury, it is a good idea to circle away from them to rebalance and recontol the pace. Endlessly trotting over and over the same poles can create a horse which rushes, misses strides, is inconsistant, and will achieve very little to the muscle and joints.


Sleets poles are set at 4ft (inner run), and 5ft (outer run). The 4ft run will encourage elevation of the joints and help him to collect and balance. The 5ft run encourages in to stretch and lower his frame. Swapping between the tow, keeps him interested, and encourages him to concentrate. It also helps to be able to change the horses frame, and encourage the use of different muscle groups in one session, as this long term will achieve more from a session, and aid to build stronger more evenly developed muscle tone for the entire body.


23rd of October was Sleets first pessoa session. It was in no way tight or restrictive, but encorages stretch and for him to work across his back. This is a much longer video, but shows our breif session, with warm up, and cool down.

Sleet had the 24th of October off work, as rest is always required. On the 25th we did some raised trot poles. After a good warm up with no pessoa attached, the pessoa was then put on for a few minutes before begining the pole work. 


Having the pessoa on allows a consitant contact for Sleet to work into, without being resticted, or fixed. As you can see, it is again very lose. He wasnt in the best 'work' frame of mind this day as the other were bombing round in the field next door like lunatics! 


The 26th and 27th were rest days following work over raised poles, to allow recovery for both muscles and joints. On the 28th I took Sleet long lining, round the block for 20 to 30 mins. Although I thought i was filming with hat cam, the batteries had died. I was abit cheesed at myself as I was merrily chatting away about stride legnth and muscle developemnt to well, myself in the end!


On the 29th i repeated the process. It was peeing it down!! But out we went in the rain! And hat cam caught it all! Ive put togther some of the good bits where you can actualy see Sleet in the film, as sometimes, with hat cam, your not always looking at what you think you are! 

Sleet had the 30th and 31st of October as rest days (mainly due to me working). 


On the first It was very foggy, so I decided to do some gentle lunge work in the field. I had the pessoa on, but only fixed around his bum so that it would encourage him to step under, but i left the front end free so he could really stretch forwards and down.


Personally I think hes looking alot more active and free behind, and is developing musch more along the back.  I also took some pictures from behind and of his back to compare to previous dates.

Below are images from the 29th of September (pre diagnosis), because I take pics like this anyway for my own interest!

The following two images are form the 1st of November. I think he is more even in his muscle developement behind, and appears to be holding less tension in his quarters, but still lacking muscle along the top line, which will hopefully rebuild as if he is able to be ridden. (Hes never been a horse that stays well muscles with lack of work).

On Sunday the 2nd I chose to lunge, over some some poles, at different distance and on a hill! Seriously throwing a challenge at the boy!


So, I had a set of three poles 5ft aparts, then a single pole on the turn, then a set of two poles at 4ft apart, then a single pole on the turn again. The aim of working on a hill is to help balance and pace, and to encourage Sleet to slow himself and wait rather than rush forwards. When working uphill he has to naturally stretch and lower his frame. The poles set as different distances helo to increase proprioception, and will vary the height and lift Sleet gives with the hocks, it will also work different muscle groups shortenng and lengthening his frame.

The following day was a rest day, was then long lined out on the 4th for a change of scenery, and some strightline work. 


The 5th was obviously 'Bonfire night', so we did no work. I didnt fancy being on the end of lines with a Sleeto weeto balistic fit at the other end!


The 6th was absolutely terrible weather. I left the boys in, and then lunged gently in the afternoon for exercise and leg stretch only as I didnt want him gettin stiff. I didnt get a great video as I needed both hands to drive him (as you can tell from his snacking!) but i got some shots of him in the yard afterwards and you can see his shape starting to change slightly.

I then thought I would be a nice mummy and turn him out for half an hour while I mucked out... he did this!!

Sleet had the 7th off to chill out in the field, as he had been in the previous day. This just allows him to raom around like ahorse should, stretch and relax.


On the 8th, after getting home from competing my other horse, I decided to do some pole work with him (as we had a vet check booked for the 9th!) 


He was very well behaved, despite the weather! The Rustic poles were on the slight slope with helps him to stretch forward and down, and the coloured poles were on the level set at 4ft. This helps him to collect and elevate either before going uphill, or after coming downhill to aid with balance.

The 9th of November! Here it was.... A very important day! We had our appiontment back at the vets to assess how Sleet was getting on, assess his soundness, and essentially his future! 


After a work up on the hard and soft, with some lungeing in the school, the vet was very impressed! And even commented on how well he was doing, and that she didnt expect him to be at the level he is yet!! I AM A REHAB DEMON! The second vet assessing, agreed that he was doing well, and commented that his way of going was completely different to his initial assessment at home.


Best news ever! A discussion was had on how to keep moving forward, and it was agreed that Sleet could be ridden for 20 to 30 mins twice a week, along woth his continued 'rehab type' work, and aim for a prelim level dressage test in 4 weeks time. The intention being that if he coped with this ridden work, and coped well with a simple dressage at prelim level, he would be able to continue forwards in his work long term.


A great day! Success slowly coming! I think even Sleet was happy to know he wouldnt become a 'field ornament' as he loves going out, and even celebrated by letting me scratch his ears that night! Which for anyone that knows him, knows is an acheivement on it own!

Following the vet assessment on the 9th, the vet recommended Sleet be fed Equitop myoplast, which is a supplement added to the feed. It is design to aid development of muscle during intense training programs. It smells funny, like really seaweedy! And to be honest I thought he wouldnt eat it. But he seems to have gotten used to it now. It looks like tiny little black balls, and he has two scoops once a day in his tea.

After our exciting day on the 9th, the 10th was a rest day, the weather was also miserable, so although i was dying to get back on board, I held back until the 11th!! I know my saddle would no longer fit as Sleet was now looking bigger and stronger than ever, so I decided to bareback instead! We dont want any unwanted stress of ill fitting saddles on that precious back! 


As you can see im a huge fan of hi-viz! If you're going on the road then you should make the effort to be seen! You horse is precious, and trusts you to take care of him on the road! And with some drivers these days, the sooner they see you the better! 'Be seen not squished!' is my motto!


This video needs no explanation, you can see, and hear how happy I was! I think Sleety enjoyed him self too!


On the 12 of November I had the lovely Andy from S Milner and son saddle fitters come to visit! Ive been using Milners as my saddle fitter for at least the past 5 years, and trust Andy completely! As well as checking over my other horse, who now has Sleets old saddle, Andy suggested not getting Sleet a new saddle just yet. This is due to the fact that over the next few months he is still going to change shape. So... Sleet now has my wintec synthetic, which is nice and light, adjusted and fitted by Andy to suit Sleet for his current frame! A nice new saddle is in the plan however if Sleet stays stable and returns to full work.


Unfortunately i spent the 13th at the vets with my pony Tristan (who has 'moon blindness', so Sleet wasnt worked. Over the weekend he was clipped fully, as now he was able to be ridden his trace type clip would still mean he'd sweat, so it all had to come off!


On the 15th we did some post clip lunge work, nothing too strenuous, just some lolling about and poles. 


As you can see when he works over the rustic raised poles, going uphill the elevation in the pace increases. The pace becomes more steady, but the action through the joints increases, and therefore works the muscles higher in the body more effectively.

From the 16th it was the week we had all the vile rain, making it near impossible to ride in the fields (as I have no arena) and I wouldnt want to risk the roads in those conditions, so he had a few days off work. I wont kill him, if anything a rest from an intensive training program will allow the muscles to relax. 


On the 17th Sleet has his 2nd favourite man come to visit (the 1st being my dad!) He was armed with some shiney new shoes to make his feet all lovely! Thank you Mr Wilkinson! I know your hiding under that hat somewhere!



On the 20th (friday), I took the opportunity to ride in the dry sunny weather! We went for a little trundle 20 mins round the block, and a small trot. He was at first a little unsettled. Some of this was excitement, and joy, some was due to the fact I had drowned him in coat shine, and his exercise sheet was slipping!! OOPS! So I jumped on in the side street and took it off! Although I ended up carrting it home he was much happier!


The 23rd was the next chance i had to do anything with Sleet, so I opted for lunge work in the pessoa. I chose, after warming up, to asking him to work alittle higer in his frame, so had the bit clips on the higher setting on the roller. Hes still moving alot better from behind, but is now carrying alot more weight and muscle on the top line too.


On the 25th we did 30 mins ridden work, out on the block with a short canter afterwards. Was great fun! He certainly enjoyed it!


The pics below are form the 2nd Dec. Apologies for the light, but it was after work so about 6pm! Condition wise I think hes getting there! loosing the fat he packed on, and building some nice muscle tone back up.

After a few days off, I lunged Sleet on the 5th December, in preperation for his first session back in the school on the 6th. I like the school I use, its a half mile hack there, and then the same back to the yard, so allows him to warm up and stretch either side of the schooling session, without going stale in the arena. Very handy for a turrabred that switches off relatively easily! 


As you can see from the video below, I didnt try to puch too much for anything. We had a relaxed (although windy) session. I asked for a gentle contact, did plenty of turns circles and loops, and some canter work breifly on each rein. The walk and trot felt reasonable, very calm for him in the wind, and the canter transitions had a real puch to them from behind, which I havent felt from him in a long time. 


As you can see, you not going to miss me! Im a huge fan of hi-viz! I firmly believe it better to be 'seen not squished' when out on our roads! Your horses trusts you to take care of him, and trusts you make every effort to keep him safe out there! People may think I look like a plonker, to but I love my horse and I will make every effort to be responsible when on the roads! 

From this point onwards the amount of work I have been able to get into the boy has been minimal. Due to working later and the nights getting dark so early, its not been safe (in my opinion) to be hacking up to the school in the dark. I have done some lunge work with him in the field, but again, with it being dark, pole work and filming havent been wise. 


I did lunge on the evening of the 24th of December, and made it festive! The moon was out, it was lovely, and Sleet had his reindeer antlers on!!


The 25th, good old christmas day, was very special to me! Not only do we do all the usual family stuff, but ever since i've had him, Sleet an I have one on our annual Christmas hack...


This year to me was even more amazing, as at one point I believed I would never be riding this beautiful horse again, so to able to trundle down the road and back in our 'christmas finest' was so much fun!! We tinselled up and off we went! As you can see, he wasnt too impressed, I think the flashing nose may have been too much for him! 

So... its been a while since I really posted about Sleet and his return to work! January has basically been pants! The horrendous weather combined with me getting very busy with work (not that i'm complaining) has meant time to work him, film it and post it has fallen to the bottom of the list of things to do! 


Ive have however managed to recored some of our school sessions, in preparation of us aiming to do our dressage test at the end of january! 


Here they are... please bare in mind these are videos of the entire session, so they can be long! But I dont see the point in cutting them down as im trying to be as honest as possible with how he is going!



Along with these sessions we also lunged, and there is another ridden session recorded (which im still to upload as the camera is at the yard).


On the 31st of January we headed off to Hargate Equestrian centre, to take part int he dressage. We did prelim 7. It was pouring down, cold and windy, and if you know Sleet, you will know how mardy he is in this kind of weather! 


I asked just enough of him, but to be honest didnt want to push too hard for him to work 'too correctly', as the surface was disgusting at this point. I pretty much allowed him to trundle around in his happy frame, and lean slightly! He was choppy infront, struggled with the wet end of the arena, and did his typical head tilt as soon as we entered at A! Always very annoying! Its like he enteres the boards and just goes 'hahahaha i know what the judges will hate!!'


But anyway! Here is our prelim 7...

January 2017...


One year on, following several set backs of lameness, Colic, and my own personal circumstances, Sleet has been in and out of work. 


He is currently back in light work, walk trot and the occasional canter, and has even popped a few fences in the past few months!


We have been out to various dressage competions, and even been placed with some wins! 


Overall, Im happy with his recovery, and whenever he has a break, he comes back to the begining of ground work and poles before doing anything ridden! 


Long may he stay sound and happy.



Rachael Jayne Barker

Tel 07792 255007



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