Ace was a lovely eight year old off the track thoroughbred who came to Reel Heart Equestrian in July 2018. He went from the racetrack to his wonderful owner. Although she loves him to bits, she freely admits she is a beginner and didn’t really know where to start with this boy. He was lovely and quiet, could be ridden by beginners bareback in a halter. But then things started to go wrong.

Trouble Begins

Ace began to display signs of lameness and losing condition. He was assessed by multiple bodyworkers of various modalities, including a veterinarian. They all came to the conclusion that he had a hind end issue, however nobody had been able to offer a definitive diagnosis. Their best guess was a sacro-iliac issue, and Ace’s owner was advised that if that were the case then he would be in for lengthy rehabilitation.

Acknowledging that she is a beginner and dealing with a potential long term rehab was well beyond her capabilities, she reached out in one last hope to turn this boy around. He would be difficult to sell or give away to a knowledgeable home capable of the rehab he needed, and she couldn’t bare the thought of the alternative way to ease his misery.

Ace had also started losing condition and displayed a “grass belly” and dull coat. His owner was feeding him lots of concentrated feed and it was making very little difference.

Ace on arrival – grass belly, dull coat, lacking muscle

Arrival at Reel Heart Equestrian

Upon arrival here, he saw our wonderful farrier asap. It was obvious he had some hoof issues and was foot-sore. I suspected he had thin walls and soles from less than ideal farrier work, and that we could start working towards correcting this. What our amazing farrier then pointed out upon assessing him was that he had some indicators that made him suspicious for pre-laminitic changes or early stages of laminitis (please note that neither myself or a farrier are qualified to diagnose laminitis, that is the role of a veterinarian, and the owner was advised of the same). The horse displayed a ‘head bob’ indicating front foot pain, had bounding digital pulses, and the farrier was able to see changes in the hoof wall structure indicative of a laminitis type condition.

I had noted when I picked the horse up that he was in a paddock full of lush green tropical grasses, with a high weed content. Armed with this knowledge, we started him on a laminitis friendly diet, and he was already removed from the lush green grass and weeds. I think it’s important to note that a healthy balanced diet is a good idea for all horses, not just those with laminitis! Much the same as a healthy diet low in sugar and full of fresh fruit and veg is a good idea for all people, not just diabetics.

Movement and Pain

Ace also had a lot of trouble of engaging his hind end, however I didn’t find it to be particularly sore. His head held high and neck braced against his foot pain was not allowing him to use his top line and hind end effectively. He also had no idea how to use his hind and top line properly, being an off the track thoroughbred with little training post his racing career. So we spent his time here teaching him to use his hind more effectively, as his hoof pain began to subside.

Ongoing Help

He went home with a plan to restrict his access to his pasture, a detailed diet of what he had been on here, and some exercises for his human to do with him to keep developing his back end. His happy owner now reports that he is still doing super, he gallops around the paddock where previously he was reluctant to walk. He’s no longer lame and he’s looking better than ever, and is a sensational horse to ride. I am so happy that this lovely horse got his happily ever after!

Ace after 3 weeks at Reel Heart Equestrian – feeling and moving better

Key Learning Points

✅ Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. Keep asking questions and seeking answers. Listen to your gut. We thought we were rehabbing a sacro-iliac issue, turned out to largely be a nutritional issue.


✅ Seek a second, third, fourth opinion if you aren’t satisfied or don’t think the original opinion/diagnosis really fits your horse, or you’re not seeing improvement. They are complicated animals and we all get things wrong! 


✅ Use the whole team of people who treat your horse to help get to the bottom of problems! Veterinrians, bodyworkers, dentists, farriers, nutritionists and trainers all see problems in a different light and attack them from a different angle. A farrier was the one who solved the mystery of the suspected sacro issue! Who would have thought!? 


✅ A horse does not have to be overweight to suffer from the effects of a high sugar diet. Understand your pasture and your horses diet. 


✅ The horse is an entire animal! We have to think about all of the body systems and all of the parts that work together, including the brain and the emotions too. If you’re having a problem with your horse, it is likely going to involve considering more than one factor or aspect of your horses life, health and training.