Many of the horses that come to our farm are high level performance horses that have suffered potentially career-ending injuries. The majority of these injuries heal with time, and the horses are able to resume their discipline at some level. Horses that come to us having been abused and neglected also benefit from our extensive rehabilitation program. We begin by consulting with many professionals including, a veterinarian, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, and a farrier. The staff and trained volunteers led by college interns' work together to create a rehabilitation plan for each horse based on their individual needs.
One of the most common problems we see on the farm involves the horse's stifle. This joint is similar to the knee in people. The stifle consists of 3 bones: the tibia, femur, and patella. The tibia is like a person's shin bone, the femur is like our thigh bone and the patella is like our knee cap.
The horse is examined by a vet that determines the horse has an “upward fixation of the patella” - in simple words this means that the patella, or knee cap, slides out of position. This condition is seen in horses that have very upright or straight stifles, as you can see in this picture. In horses with straight stifles, the stifle is a little less angled than normal, so it is easier for the patella to slide up and catch on the femur. This problem is also seen when horses have time off, as the muscles that hold the stifle in place become weak, leading to reduced tension on the patellar ligaments, and they become slack resulting in the sliding of the patella.
At Brook Hill Farm we use drug therapy to help these horses. In this picture, one of our College Interns is giving the horse a shot while being supervised by a licensed Veterinarian. Once the shot is given, the rehabilitation work begins.
Our Intern then works the horse in hand. She walks and trots the horse up hills and over cavalletti poles making the stifle rotate and become stronger. This is done until the horse appears sound in hand.
Next the horse is worked under saddle, continuing with hills and cavalletti work. As the horse becomes stronger, the time under saddle increases, and the horse is able to begin work in its previous job.
Once the horse has completed its rehabilitation, a committee meets and the horse is re-evaluated. A new job description is assigned to the horse to help with an appropriate placement. The horse in this picture was able to be free leased, and went back to competing over fences, one year later.
We are proud to say that many of our horses have gone on to compete at high levels in various disciplines, including show jumping, dressage and eventing. Upon completion of the rehabilitation program from a broken sesamoid bone, this horse went on to compete on the A circuit in eventing with one of our College Interns. See our success stories page for more successfully rehabilitated horses!
Horses that can no longer compete also find a new calling at Brook Hill Farm. Horses are domesticated creatures that thrive when given a purpose. Some of these horses are serviceably sound, and may be able to become teachers or help in our equine assisted learning programs helping children and adults experience the joy of horses. Brook Hill Farm provides a place for these horses to transition into the next phase of their life.
And finally horses that do not fully recover are offered a permanent home at Brook Hill Farm where they live out their natural lives in sanctuary in a peaceful Virginia setting, tended daily by the staff and volunteers.