Bailey. Where it all started.
Bailey was a 13 year old 16.3hh shire x Irish cob when my partner and I bought him in February 2013. He came with exceedingly muddy feathers, no washing facilities available where we got him from. Within a few weeks I noticed some lumps appearing above his feather on his hind legs. I asked several other people on the yard, nobody had seen it before. So we clipped his legs.
Bailey had moderate to severe CPL, but I didn’t know that until a month or so later. Vets suggested feather mites, “trenchfoot”, nobody could tell me what it was until frantic Google searches led me to Lou Carter’s CPL group on Facebook. It was clear immediately that that was what I was dealing with. Of course he also had a raging feather mite infestation and would stomp holes into the ground and chew his legs.
But what to do about it? Research papers were limited and hard to find on the internet and CPL horses had a poor prognosis. So I began to trial my own holistic approach. I looked at diet over and over, trying to make it as simple as possible and eventually in 2015 found that dropping alfalfa from his diet reduced his itching and his skin condition improved. So did his behaviour, but that’s another story. I aimed for as simple a diet as possible and added in marigold and cleavers which was a game changer for us. Bailey stayed on a diet of Thunderbrooks Healthy Herbal Chaff, Condition and Compete and Hilton Herbs marigold and cleavers.
We didn’t really have hoof problems except he had thrush a lot. He was sound and enjoyed lots of exercise including jumping. I recruited a barefoot trimmer after moving yards, who understood CPL and was able to trim him patiently and sympathetically given Bailey’s fear of having his legs handled.
Here are the things that worked for us and subsequently, as I began to talk more on the group about it, helped other horses too:-
- Clipping feathers regularly
- Washing with gentle shampoos
- Flamazine cream for sores after clipping
- No alfalfa
- Low sugar and starch
- Barefoot (with dilligently maintained hooves, chestnuts and ergots)
- Exercise – as much as possible
- 24/7 turnout
- Battle’s summer fly cream on sores to stop fly strike
- Diluted Milton solution and RedHorse Field Paste for thrush
- Medically correct compression, under strict instruction from Rebecka Blenntoft
By the end of 2015, Bailey’s legs showed a huge improvement and he had gone from a score C to a low B. He maintained at this score for several years before he developed Cushings in 2018. After that his legs became incredibly difficult to manage and fairly quickly advanced to a score D (extreme). Despite this, he was still keen to work and a happy horse.
In early 2019 Bailey was admitted to the vet hospital where they anaesthetised him and shaved his legs so I could see what we were dealing with. It’s safe to say that was the day that I realised not just how much feathers can hide, but how little we can really see even when the legs are clipped. Bailey was wrapped with creams and mites treatment overnight, then returned home where I continued compression with advice from Rebecka. He totally stopped stomping and chewing for a short time, which was interesting.
Heartbreakingly, in October 2019 Bailey was scoped following some bouts of colic and found to have a rare form of impaction. We were given the choice to operate but it was too much to put him through so I made the decision and let him go the same day. It was the least I could do for him, after the years of joy and unconditional love he had given me.
In his memory, I am committed to raising awareness of this challenging disease, correcting the myriad avenues of misinformation and helping other horse owners to understand it and care for their CPL horses.
I would like to thank the following people for their support over the years: Abi Little, Rebecka Blenntoft, Lou Carter, Nathan Bennett, Matt Jackson at Three County Farriery and Barefoot Services, Judith Murphy (then of Rowe Equine Vets) and Lucy Collins at B&W Equine Vets.