In this blog we share our management strategies for Freddie Fox our 24 year old semi-retired thoroughbred cross Hanoverian.
ABOUT FREDDIE FOX
Freddie Fox is the original Horses Inside Out horse.
I have owned Freddie since he was 5 years old. In his younger years we evented up to intermediate level, enjoyed showjumping, dressage and team chasing. Freddie's greatest eventing achievement was winning an intermediate class at Gatcombe Park. Shortly after this he contracted strangles; later developed laryngeal paralysis, had a hob-day and tie-back operation. He did not return to Eventing after this but as fate would have it another career was already beckoning.
Whilst at University in Cirencester and alongside my degree I qualified as a Sports and Remedial therapist and as a McTimoney-Corley practitioner. I soon realised that many of my clients would benefit from a deeper understanding of anatomy and biomechanics. I started small workshops at my livery yard and began painting Freddie to illustrate anatomy. The workshops grew in popularity and soon we were travelling up and down the country with Freddie having the starring role.
He would nod off quietly whilst being painted then loved being the centre of attention during the demonstration. He had exactly the right temperament and was certainly good at playing to an audience.
Freddie will be forever young as he features on the cover of all of our books, DVD’s and in many of the videos I use in my talks and lectures. He has also featured on BBC and ITV.
Freddie is such a special horse. He has brought so much happiness to me and my family, he has helped to make Horses Inside Out what it is today and has helped educate so many people. We owe him the best possible retirement.
EXERCISE IN RETIREMENT
Having fully retired from eventing, his modelling and TV career, Freddie now enjoys a happy relaxing life. He makes an excellent escort to my rather more excitable horse Arty. He also loves to take part in the massage, Pilates and professional therapy courses which we run at Wavendon Grange (corona virus permitting!).
With older horses it is really important that they still have purpose and a 'job' to do. Although turning some horses away may suit some characters, this is not the case with Freddie. He is still groomed and given attention everyday.
My Dad, David Higgins, hacks Freddie. Exercise wise we have found that hacking twice a week is perfect for him. The important thing is to be flexible. On some days if he is feeling a bit slow or unenthusiastic we will either leave him or just go for a short walk around the field. On days when he is feeling enthusiastic we will go further. We sometimes take him in the school where he still loves pole work and hopping over the occasional tiny fence. With older horses it is especially important to take note of every sign they give.
PILATES FOR HORSES
To keep him as flexible as possible, Freddie benefits from a variety of stretching and Pilates exercises everyday. Some days we do carrot exercises (his favourite), other days back lift reflexes and some days tail pulls or weight transfer exercises. You can see Freddie demonstrating the Pilates exercises in my Pilates and Stretching book and DVD/online video.
I am often asked if these exercises are appropriate for older horses. Yes, but you do need to assess your horse then perform the exercises at an appropriate level. Quite often now, Freddie does a less strenuous version of the exercises.
For example, raised walk poles. A younger fit, conditioned horse that regularly practices this exercise can step over poles at knee/hock height. For an older horse it will need to be lower as appropriate. Even just a pole on the ground or a line painted in the sand can sometimes be enough to induce a beneficial postural change of benefit. We have a series of logs laid out in the turn out area which Freddie walks over most days.
Freddie is seen every 6 months by Dr Chris Pearce from the Equine dental clinic. As with many older horses the gaps between his teeth have become wider with age. This leads to the possibility of pieces of food getting stuck between them leading to irritation and inflammation of the gums. For this reason, it is advisable not to feed chop, chaff or chopped alfa alfa to older horses. In Freddie's diet we have replaced chop with alfa-beet.
Horses' teeth erupt and are worn down throughout their lifetime. Some older horses will outlive the size of their teeth and so loose them, Freddie has lost two! This further increases the gaps between them.
Freddie has always been a lean horse who has struggled to keep weight on. He always looks leanest in February then picks up as the spring grass comes through.
In winter, we feed 3 small soaked feeds a day. This is reduced to one a day in summer and he always has access to a mineral salt lick.
Freddie is fed a balanced diet as advised by an equine nutritionist. He is fed a veteran horse mix, alpha-beet, a senior horse balancer and a gut balancer from Protexin.
Since his first episode 8 years ago, Freddie has been prone to choke particularly in the autumn and winter. These episodes are distressing for him and upsetting to witness. To help prevent these recurring we soak his feed for an hour before feeding so it is the consistency of porridge. He also has oil in his feed both the help it 'slip down easily' and to add nutritional value.
It is so important that all horses (and older ones especially) are given every opportunity to keep moving.
We avoid stabling Freddie. We are very lucky that we are able to provide options for him. His stable door is left open so he can choose to be inside, in the yard, a small school or in the field.
Inspired by Jane Myers Equicentral system, we find that giving Freddie the power to decide where he would like to be, is not only beneficial to him but also to the land. In the midst of winter when we leave the field gate open in the morning Freddie usually chooses to come back into the stable/yard/sand turnout area at about 2pm. If the gate were shut I imagine he would be left standing there poaching the ground and getting muddy and miserable.
With older horses, especially when they are doing less, it is so easy to keep the same tack. This may no longer be appropriate as back shapes change.
As he has aged, Freddie's back shape has changed dramatically. Conformationally, he has always been long in the back and fairly high withered, but age, loss of muscle bulk and compensatory postures have led to a much more angular and dipped back shape. Initially we used pads to keep the saddle fitting. But then the time came for a new saddle. David Kempsell, designed and made a wonderful saddle just for him.
I really like Freddie's new saddle because it is so adjustable. It is made of multiple interchangeable parts which can forever be altered to make sure that it continues to fit. It also has a semi-flexible tree which gives greater freedom of movement.
Freddie now appears so much more comfortable, more enthusiastic on his hacks, has a new lease of life and has a turn of speed that can even give Arty a run for his money!
Thank you WOW Saddles.
For some horses removing their shoes is not an issue and they quickly adapt to and benefit from being barefoot.
We have tried several times to get Freddie barefoot. Unfortunately he becomes stiff and sore as soon as his shoes are removed. He cannot cope on anything but the softest surface. The quality of his hooves and particularly his soles are not strong enough to be comfortable on all surfaces. His feet may adapt in time but we are committed to keeping him comfortable.
Freddie has a fantastic farrier, barefoot specialist, Mark Johnson. For a 'halfway house', Mark recommended the composite, Duplo shoes. These are semi-flexible and stimulate and mimic the action of the back of the foot.
With worms becoming resistant to anthelmintics, it is so important that all horses have a worming regime based on faecal egg counts and salivary tests. We really rate Intelligent Worming for providing this service for all our horses.
We poo pick, harrow and keep chickens to help reduce worms. We have a policy not to use any chemicals on our paddocks. We mow and pull up weeds rather than spraying and find this works well.
We do not want any of our animals, including the important Freddie Fox, to be exposed to chemicals.
Even the simplest of massage is extremely beneficial to older horses. It can help to keep them comfortable, relaxed, supple and mobile. I treat Freddie to a full massage and therapy session approximately once a month and he has mini massage sessions during his grooming routine most days. In addition to this he thoroughly enjoys taking part in the massage, Pilates and therapy courses which we run at Wavendon Grange.
We hope with love, care and attention Freddie, who has taught so many, will have a long and happy retirement.
If you'd like to watch videos to learn more about exercises to help older and younger horses check out the Horses Inside Out Academy.