The Guided Tour

by Linda Chamberlain

It’s lovely to have a newcomer at our home in the woods for barefoot horses, to see the place through a fresh pair of eyes.

jules-12This is Jules who is aged eight. He’s an Arab cross warmblood and he’s had a tough early life. Orphaned as a foal, he later became a dressage horse and may have worked very hard as he is now troubled with arthritis, gut pain and occasional twinges from kissing spine.

He was due some luck in his life and was bought by his present owner, Nicky Cole, about eighteen months ago. Jules found life very difficult at a conventional livery yard because stabling made him miserable. Being a horse with a strong sense of humour, he would scowl if you happened to be passing by his box. I hate to say this of him, but sometimes he would bite. His owner was bitten and bruised a few times but somehow she didn’t give up on him.

He moved to our woods about six weeks ago and has kept me amused with his habit of guarding the gate in case I want to come through it. He likes to lift up and rearrange the feed buckets or carry the head collars to a place where they can’t be found. He hasn’t nipped me, I’m pleased to say, but sometimes he gives me the feeling that I’m well below him in the pecking order. I guess I’ll work it out soon…

jules-13My horse, Sophie, has become very fond of him and the pair of them have taken to cantering up the concrete road as if it’s an Olympic sport. I guess that officially makes Sophie an ex-laminitic – she certainly didn’t attempt any speed when she arrived here in April, gingerly walking up the road or choosing the woodland at the side where the ground is comfortable.

The improvement in Sophie is enormous and she doesn’t look like the same horse who was struck down by laminitis just over a year ago. This home in the woods was inspired by the US trimmer Jaime Jackson and his book Paddock Paradise. Six months of zero grass and maximum movement, being fed ad lib meadow hay and having her feet regularly trimmed have made such a difference to Sophie.

julesSo it will be interesting to see whether this living-out lifestyle will now help Jules. He loves walking around the tracks and through the woods or checking out the field shelter. Here is Jules’s guided tour of his new home…

Starting at the top (left)  – the ground is quite soft here and so far hasn’t got muddy. This is quite a good place for a canter…or a roll…

 

jules-5

Don’t be fooled by those leaves! That’s one very long, concrete roadway built for a tank regiment in the war. It’s even got curbstones and now haynets hang from the trees by the side.

jules-8

 

 

Take a right off the road here and we can circle through the woods. Keep up…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jules-9Through those trees are some great horse rides on Ashdown Forest which I have my eye on. We’ve walked them in hand already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jules-10And in the distance…right down the end of another road…is one of the hay boxes…I love that there is hay here all the time…and there’s a field shelter WITH NO DOOR! So I can come and go as I please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jules-6Perhaps all this walking about will improve my back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jules-3I can choose soft ground or hard but mostly I don’t worry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

jules-4But here is a good spot because they keep some pretty good hay inside this green thing. Organic, meadow hay. Weeded by hand, so they say! Tastes good…come on…there’s more to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

jules-7It takes me quite a while to walk around the whole place. I’ve noticed that sometimes the humans drive in their cars but they can be a lazy species. Sophie and I prefer horse power…I have some pretty fancy moves, once I’ve warmed up, you know…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie says it would be great if there were more laminitic horses here so that we can help make them ex-laminitic. I say, don’t all horses want to be wild and free? They don’t have to have something wrong with them to come here. She thinks beating laminitis is a priority but there are other problems and pain is pain. We want to get rid of it whatever has caused it or wherever it is. Find Linda on Facebook if you want to know more…

jules-n-sophieWhich reminds me, I haven’t shown you the chill out space we have…there’s Sophie having a kip in the sun where the ground is nice and soft…

 

 

 

max-phie-4Hey, Sophie! If that’s a stable they’re building, I vote it’s for you and not me…I used to hide in mine, hoping all the humans would go away. Really? Only a hay store? That’s alright then.

 

 

 

max-phie-3OK, we’re nearly done. I love this view. My legs might be a bit shorter than hers but one day I’ll get to the top before Sophie. 

 

 

 

 

max-phie-2Finally, the best sight a horse can have…ANOTHER HORSE. This is Sophie who reckons movement can be the greatest healer. She says, it worked for her. Did I mention that I have a lot of people helping me? A specialist trimmer called Lauren Hetherington, a physiotherapist and my own healer called Elaine. Then there’s Nicky, of course, and Linda who ignores me every time she walks through the gate. She doesn’t look so worried any more which is a bit of a shame. It was fun while it lasted. Fancy a run, Sophie? 

 

IN OTHER NEWS    IN OTHER NEWS     IN OTHER NEWS     IN OTHER NEWS

holistic-hound-and-horse-expoWhat a great success the Holistic Hound and Horse Expo was. A full day of talks and demonstrations at a fabulous new venue Merrist Wood, near Guildford. Two hundred people turned up – a sure sign that more and more people are seeking a less traditional approach to caring for their animals. I sold and signed lots of books so it was lovely to be an author again for the day rather than horse servant!

horsemanship-magHorsemanship Magazine is looking for a new editor. Lorraine Stanton is stepping down after many years at the helm having produced 100 issues of this brilliant magazine. Interested in the post – contact the editor on info@horsemanshipmagazine.co.uk.

ABOUT ME – BOOK NEWS

The new book is taking shape. First draft nearly finished! A historical horsey novel…

The first two are available on Amazon UK and US. Here they are…just click on the highlighted links…

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberThe First Vet (UK link) – ‘What a wonderful story, so beautifully written, so good in fact I have read it twice (so far) I can imagine this as movie as I felt I was there beside Bracy throughout the whole book, it captures a feeling inside ones’ being of wanting to change the world for the better.. Loved it… Loved it!’ Amazon reader.  Amazon US link here.

 

 

A Barefoot Journey (UK link) – ‘I LOVED this. It was sat waiting for me when I got home from work, and I Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)finished reading it that night! I couldn’t put it down.’ Amazon reader. Amazon US link here.

 

Against the odds

by Linda Chamberlain

zak-1By the age of 10 most race horses will have retired or met with a sticky end.

And yet Zakatal is at the peak of his form; he’s winning races and he’s looking good.

It’s very rare for race goers to notice there is something different about him.  His jockey is reportedly not bothered and a punter once shouted out – ‘Does it work?’ while Zak was parading in the paddock before a race.

You see, this handsome grey is barefoot and according to his co-owner David Furman (below) that gives him a fantastic edge.

‘Sometimes I think about all the other horses and I say, go on, keep shoeing them; it gives us an advantage. But from a welfare point of view it doesn’t sit comfortably with me,’ he said.

‘Zak is 10 now and he’s never been better. Most race horses are broken down by that age and I think shoes have a massive part to play in that. Once they are barefoot they track up so much better; they are so much sounder.’

The grey must have a bit of feline in his equine blood because he’s probably used up a few lives in his short one. He was bought from a large racing yard by David and his cousin John Sugarman about five years ago.

‘He was in a proper state and his feet were unbelievable,’ said David.

Horses have long been a passion for David and his wife, Gill, who live in East Yorkshire and transitioned a couple of other horses to barefoot before Zak. They were convinced of the benefits and so were in no doubt that he would improve without shoes.

zak-2Zak’s body was also in need of some TLC and after about a year’s recovery the owners thought he could return to flat racing. But his trainer at the time insisted on shoes. David and John acquiesced and were rewarded when the horse showed promise by coming second in four races.

The sport has a high injury toll though and Zak was injured training on the gallops. He came home. He became barefoot again and recovered. He went to another trainer, remained barefoot but didn’t live up to his earlier promise.  David thought to retire him but John didn’t want to give up.

So they tried Zak with a newly established trainer, Rebecca Menzies, and he’s proving better than ever. In 10 races he’s won three times and been placed five.

He’s going to stay barefoot even though the rules bar him from some race tracks. As a barefooter he is only allowed on all-weather surfaces. The restriction doesn’t apply to jump racing.

Officials of the racing authorities fear barefoot horses are more liable to slip and flat racing is high speed.

Perhaps they will reconsider such nonsense when there are more horses like Zak delighting the crowds and winning at such a ‘ripe old age’.

rebecca-menziesBut interviewing Zak’s owner made me especially curious about his trainer, Rebecca Menzies (right), who has had a licence for three years and works from a yard in Co. Durham.

I wanted to know if she had been skeptical taking on a barefoot horse.

She said: ‘I had very little knowledge about the management techniques to ensure that it was successful. I was very lucky to be able to spend the day with Mike De Kock in Newmarket (who trains top class flat horses barefoot) and he showed me a number of examples of hooves at different stages of transitioning and I learned the importance of very regular trimming & management. He had a pea gravel horse walker and several gravel turnout paddocks, his horses feet were like iron and his system worked brilliantly. MDK is a very clever guy and a massively successful trainer, he researches everything meticulously and in his opinion it is much better for horses to be trained without shoes. He showed me that with a bit of time to transition and some simple changes to our routine , it would be possible to train a barefoot horse (even without a treadmill, rubber walkways and a pea gravel walker!).

‘In terms of racing a barefoot horse, the British Horse Racing Authority are clamping down on the running of horses without shoes. In their opinion (and the opinion of the Professional Jockeys’ Association) horses are more likely to slip when raced without shoes. We now have to apply for clearance to run on turf without shoes & there must be a veterinary reason why the horse cannot be conventionally shod – this is why Zakatal has only been allowed to run on the all weather (sand) this year. The fact that the horse may be sounder, can cope better with training barefoot etc. are not deemed valid enough reasons by the BHA to race un-shod.’

And could more horses race without shoes? I asked.

Rebecca has no doubt…’providing the trainers and carers of the horse are trained properly in barefoot management. We are lucky that David keeps on top of his feet & he is seen regularly by his trimmer, Fiona Varian.

‘Zak has won three races for us without shoes and has stayed very sound throughout a hard season. He’s obviously a very happy horse and you couldn’t find a better advert for training / racing a horse barefoot. I am more than happy to run a horse without shoes on the all weather, however, I would be nervous about running a barefoot horse on turf. This is not because I think they are more likely to slip, Zakatal has amazing grip on all surfaces (you could argue better than a shod horse) but I would be very worried about the consequences should anything happen. The BHA have made it quite clear that they don’t want horses running without shoes and I wouldn’t be in a position to fight my case should anything happen.’

107Zak is treated like all the other horses at the racing yard. He has plenty of turnout and lots of hay. There are a few stoney paths which he copes with well, but he mainly trains on an all weather fibres and surface. He gets physio treatments and has a trim every week.

Rebecca said: ‘I couldn’t be happier with him now he has returned from his summer holiday! He’s a very enthusiastic horse and quite obviously loves what he does, I love watching him run and quite often he is competing against horses who have a lot less miles on the clock.

‘We have plenty of veteran horses (older than ten) and they prove that if look after them well , they can continue to enjoy the racing life for many years (and have a lovely life when they retire too !)’

IN OTHER NEWS

holistic-hound-and-horse-expoMake a date in your diary for the Holistic Hound and Horse Show next Saturday, November 5th, near Guildford. No fireworks but plenty to see and do! I will be selling and signing copies of my books A Barefoot Journey and The First Vet. Sue Gardner will be demonstrating horse agility and Penny Thorpe will be giving a talk on the horse’s hoof. Plus look out for the demos of horses at liberty, saddle fitting, rider biomechanics and dog agility. There’s lot more and the show will be its biggest ever. Here’s a link…I will give a full report here next time and will also be writing an article on it for a magazine.

lianne-rhodesI want to pay tribute to a special horse who was the guiding force behind the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook. Farrah passed away this week after a brilliant life. Years ago she suffered from laminitis and that led her owners Liane Rhodes and Andy Spooner to investigate barefoot rehabilitation. As you can see from the photo Farrah recovered and the rest, as they say, is history. The group was formed to help others and now boasts nearly 16,000 members. That’s an awful lot of hooves…thank you Farrah, Liane and Andy.

U.S. trimmer Jaime Jackson, who has inspired so many of us with his book on setting up track systems, has just published a new work on laminitis. It’s sub titled an equine plague of unconscionable proportions. I hope to report further on this!

My own books are available on Amazon – just click on the link…

The First Vet – ‘I don’t read that often but this book was definitely a “can’t put down”, so sad when I got to the BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amberend. Can’t wait to read the other books by this fabulous writer.’ Amazon reader.

A Barefoot Journey – ‘I LOVED this. It was sat waiting for me when I got home from work, and I Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)finished reading it that night! I couldn’t put it down.’ Amazon reader.

Fields of trouble…

by Linda Chamberlain

ragwort-fieldThis horse and his owner are taking a huge risk. The horse is walking among poisonous plants; he may even be eating something that is harmful or could kill.

But I have news for you…many people would argue that there is more than one harmful plant in this horse’s field and that the bigger problem is less obvious.

The yellow ragwort has been the bane of horse keepers’ lives for decades. It is well known for causing liver damage and every summer magazines and horse welfare groups try to educate owners of its risk. There is no debate about ragwort.

The careful amongst us pull it up each year and, if we are sensible, we wear gloves. But the horse rarely eats the bitter-tasting plant when it’s fresh and the real danger is if it is cropped in hay where it is more palatable.

There is another worry, though, for this animal and his owner because the field is full of something very palatable that horses routinely nosh every day of the week. Grass.

 

HM rye grassIt is a controversial statement and needs examination. So much of our meadows have been lost in the last 70 odd years to be replaced by acres and acres of a single species of grass. Rye grass is a great asset on a farm because it is high in sugar and therefore great for producing milk or meat.

For the horse’s hooves it is a pile of poo…

It could be the reason we are seeing so many cases of equine obesity, so many animals with metabolic problems, so much laminitis.

Last week a reader asked what was wrong with rye or alfalfa hay after reading my interview with Lindsay Setchell, (left) editor of Barefoot Horse Magazine. Lindsay’s answer is so interesting and detailed that I am copying it here in full…

1016796_281375438667642_798174460_n-3She said – ‘Both alfalfa and rye have the ability to raise the blood sugar levels in your horse either through the metabolism of high protein levels, as is the case with alfalfa or more direct sugars eg NSC’s (Non Structural Carbohydrates) such as with rye. With high protein levels in alfalfa that also brings about other problematic issues for the body as well as the disruption to the delicate mineral balances such as the calcium:phosphorous ratios. When mineral balances become quite out of balance particularly with high calcium levels found in legumous plants such as alfalfa and clover, this can have quite drastic consequences if it is allowed to carry on indefinitely.

69541_172441142778743_2959600_n‘Jaime Jackson (right, with Lindsay) began to pinpoint alfalfa as a particular problem for chronic/acute laminitics many years ago and found that when it was removed from the diet and replaced with a mixed variety of hays then the horses recovered. In the US alfalfa is a far more popular feed for horses than it is in the UK (although it is getting more so over here) and the horses in the US were beginning to suffer because they simply could not escape it. They were (still are) fed it in their hay forage, their bagged feeds, their pastures and it was overwhelming to the horse. Here in the UK we have a similar problem with rye. Horses cannot escape it. They are fed it in all the major commercial bagged chaffs, pellets, nuts and it is persistently fed as haylage (ryelage) and many of the pastures are rye mixes…this is disastrous for the horse.

‘Dr Carol Michael in conjunction with Bangor University found that rye grass contained approximately 300% more sugars than our native meadow grasses which were almost insignificant in comparison. The lady who asked the original question also eluded to the fact that perhaps if the horse is exercised enough then it should be ok. We don’t find that. What we are finding is that, although exercise is vital for health & absolutely necessary, it often is simply not enough to counter the damaging effects of inappropriate feed such as rye and alfalfa (I don’t think I even need to mention molasses!). We still see chronic low level signs of laminitis even on horses who are exercised well but still fed on high levels of rye/alfalfa….it’s a bit like playing Russian Roulette and it’s a cumulative problem and is the single biggest reason that horses still are being shod because of sore feet. Once rye/alfalfa is taken out of the diet or at the very least is less than 10% of the horse’s total feed consumption then we see improvements in the overall health of the horse, its feet, body and mind.

‘The BIGGEST problem of all for horses is that they are not fed enough fibre (and I’m not meaning fibre out of a bag)…horses thrive on fibre not sugar but that fibre must be from a mixed source…good mixed meadow hay and hedges etc. The horse is primarily a forager and so in their more native species specific environment they would have access to a variety of fibre/grasses/minerals, sometimes having to travel great distances to satisfy their basic dietary needs. When we remove that diversity from our horses’ diet and then start feeding excesses of one or two kinds of feeds such as rye/alfalfa, that’s when we clearly begin to see problems arise. A huge issue is that most owners/vets/farriers don’t pick up the often subtle (and not so subtle) signs of inflammatory problems caused by diet and before you know it, the horse has BIG problems. Some owners have realised that rye/alfalfa is not so good and struggle getting mixed meadow and so end up feeding single species plants such as Timothy…but this has problems too as the horse/forager needs variety. Sorry for going on. I hope this helps.’

There is an increasing demand for horse liveries which cater for the need to reduce grass. More and more owners seek places that provide track systems and hay which is fed all year round. But yard owners are so far not keeping up with demand. We need more…

In other news…

finn-jules-aslanMy own home for horses in the woods welcomed three new arrivals this week. It will be lovely to see how well Finn, Jules and Aslan adjust to living out 24/7 with lots of movement, varied terrain and ad lib hay instead of grass. I will keep you posted.

horses at phie 16Sadly, I had to say goodbye to my elderly thoroughbred Carrie (right) last month who was getting increasingly stiff and uncomfortable. We had 11 lovely years together and discovered how well barefoot can help a horse with navicular. She will always have a place in my heart because she gave up on her passion for nudging me with her head for an afternoon when we did our photo shoot for my non-fiction book, A Barefoot Journey (see below). In order to get that shot for the cover we had to be poised patiently in front of a 20 foot drop!

troy-jumpingJust wanted to share this great picture of my friend Troy (left) who featured on the blog last year. He’s still doing brilliantly with rider, Richard Greer, on the team chase circuit and showing how well his bare hooves can grip in all weathers.

holistic-hound-and-horse-expoI will be signing and selling copies of my books – The First Vet and A Barefoot Journey – at the Holistic Hound and Horse Expo on Saturday, 5th November at Merrist Wood Arena, Worplesdon, Guildford. It’s the show’s fourth year and for the first time there will be live demonstrations as well as some great talks including Penny Thorpe on the horse’s hoof. Look out for Sue Gardner with a display of horse agility, too. I will be bringing a couple of comfy chairs and making a cosy corner for anyone needing a quiet moment and a chance to dip into a good book…

img_1482And I’m very excited about my next blog having just interviewed David Furman joint owner of the hugely successful barefoot racehorse Zakatal (left). I think Zak is about to become one of my equine heroes. Find out more next time.

About me

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)I’m a writer and journalist who loves horse riding. The shoes were taken off my horses about 16 years ago as soon as I realised the harm they were causing. My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

‘The author wrote from the heart and with great conviction. It read as a fiction type book, but was also being informative without you realizing it! It gives me hope with my own ‘Carrie’. I totally recommend this book to anyone….my only complaint is that it wasn’t long enough!! – Amazon reader.

‘ Required reading for anyone thinking of taking their horse’s shoes off’ – Horsemanship Magazine.

‘I loved reading this intelligently written book. It’s so good I think every hoof trimmer should hand this book out to clients who are going barefoot for the first time’ – Natural Horse Management magazine.

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment. His battle motivated me to stretch my writing skills from journalism to novel writing and took me to the British Library and the Royal Veterinary College for years of research. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from Bracy himself – ‘A horse that is free of pain will lead from the thinnest piece of chord.’

‘Fantastic read, well researched, authentic voice, and a recognition of the correlation of our best slaves- horses- with the role of women throughout history. If you are into history, barefoot horses, and the feminine coming of age story, then this book is a must read’ – Amazon US reader.

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is in the pipeline. I am being inspired by a very famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. I’m more than half way through the first draft – blending fact and fiction is such fun! And so many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet. But I think I should feature one of Bracy Clark’s colleagues. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list…xxx

Editor predicts the end for shoeing…

310791_10150393701057428_1959704958_n-3Meet the magazine editor who says, the day is coming closer when horse shoes will be gone from the horse’s life. As more and more riders discover the joys and benefits of riding barefoot Lindsay Setchell (left) urges other countries to follow the example of the Netherlands and outlaw the traditional lifestyle of the domestic horse – a lifestyle that includes hours of stabling and isolation and is increasingly blamed for hindering the animal’s ability to walk on his own hooves.

Lindsay, a former science teacher, turned to barefoot when her pony, Sunny, went down with laminitis. In spite of remedial farriery, her vet advised that the pony be put to sleep.

The vet was sacked. So was the farrier. Lindsay trained to be a barefoot trimmer with Jaime Jackson. Now she is part of the Hoofing Marvellous group of trimmers in south west UK and editor of the country’s only glossy magazine about barefoot.

Find out how she got there…and whether Sunny was saved!

  • Please tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m a busy self employed mum of 2 girls. I have 14 horses of all different shapes, sizes and breeds, 3 dogs, 2 cats and 3 pigs! Up until about 10 years ago I was a full time science teacher working in a secondary school in Cornwall, UK, with a very prosperous career ahead of me. I have a BSC (Hons) in Marine Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Education. When I trained to become a natural hoofcare practitioner I didn’t account for the fact that in the field I would come across situations where horses needed more help than owners were able to give them and where no other humans were stepping in because the situations had become so bad…and so I did. Partly to prove that this system works over a variety of breeds, shapes and sizes and partly because I struggle seeing horses suffering when I know I can do something about it relatively quite simply.

  • And about your training to be a barefoot trimmer…

69541_172441142778743_2959600_nAbout 16 years ago one of my ponies, Sunny, became acutely laminitic but after following all the advice from the vets and remedial farrier, my pony wasn’t recovering and I was told to put him to sleep. Having a science brain & background I decided to research as much as I could about laminitis and came across Jaime Jackson and a little red book called “Founder, prevention & cure the natural way.” That was it, I was hooked. I sacked the vet and the farrier and started to learn all I could about natural hoofcare. My pony recovered soon after and is still with us today and has never had another bout of laminitis. I carried on teaching but decided to train to become a hoofcare professional. I started my training with the UKNHCP in the UK but then went over to the USA to complete my training alongside Jaime Jackson himself (pictured above with Lindsay). I became a fully qualified Natural Hoofcare Practitioner with the AANHCP and have trimmed in the USA, Denmark, Holland, France and Spain.

  • And about your involvement with horses…

I have personally owned horses for about 20 years and I’ve studied Natural Horsemanship for about 10 years. I was a madly into horses when I was youngster at school but my parents could never afford to buy me one or send me for any lessons. So I volunteered every Saturday at a local riding stables and then went on to do my school work experience with horses. Unfortunately I then moved away from horses, went to university and then into teaching. It wasn’t until many years later when I had land of my own that I was able to eventually start to own horses myself.

  • In your opinion, is there another animal whose lifestyle has been so altered as the horse?

Many animals have been domesticated and ‘used’ by humans but the horse is probably the one animal who has suffered the ravages of the entrapment of domesticity the most, with respect of the impact on it’s general health and well being.

  • How healthy is the domestic horse?

In general not very healthy at all. A domestic horse has had most of its species specific needs artificially altered & interrupted by humans. Domesticity has seen significant negative changes in diet, movement, company and health of the horse. Moving into the 21st century the horse is now mirroring the ill health of its human guardians.

  • The English vet Bracy Clark feared 200 years ago that metal shoeing was crippling horses and shortening lives. Do you agree? How harmful is shoeing?

Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more with Bracy Clark and what a difference the world would be for horses now if his peers at that time has listened to him rather than mocked him. Shoeing causes dependency, contraction, atrophy and a myriad of other pathologies in the horse as well as hiding crucial signs that could help an owner recognise inflammatory problems such as laminitis.

  • Can you describe the moment you decided not to shoe your own horses?

gasunny-lovely-day-for-a-driveYes. On researching about laminitis and reading all of Jaime Jackson’s books all those years ago when Sunny was very poorly, I also came across Hiltrud Strasser, a controversial German vet. She had written a few books that were quite technical but they totally hit the spot in my understanding. One in particular called ‘Shoeing, a neccessary evil?’ drove it home to me how terrible shoes were for a horse’s health and I swore never to put a shoe on a horse again. That coupled with the knowledge that the remedial heart bar shoes that had been fashioned for Sunny (pictured left after his recovery) had not helped him to recover, just cemented the decision that shoeing was utterly unnecessary.

  • In your work as a trimmer you must see a lot of hooves…tell us about some of the most challenging cases.

Probably the most challenging cases are those equines who have been having chronic and acute laminitis for a very long time. Their hooves are so desperately distorted and their bodies, general health and well being are extremely compromised. This coupled with the often difficult challenges facing the owners with respect to changing the diet and management sufficiently for those horses to recover, makes these kind of cases very difficult emotionally. Physically, trimming poorly distorted laminitic hooves is not that demanding but keeping owners on the right track in order for their pony or horse to recover is certainly where the greatest challenge lies.

  • Can any horse go barefoot and be ridden?

1016796_281375438667642_798174460_n-3599325_308189809319538_186461523_nAbsolutely any horse of any breed, no matter what state their hooves are in, can go barefoot and recover if given a species specific natural diet, management and trimming regime. However, there are horses, thankfully very rarely, who are so terribly poorly and have been for far too long, who have often had too much medicinal and mechanical intervention, that the road back to health is just not possible. You don’t think you will ever come across them when you start this amazing job of helping horses become healthy – but if you are in this business long enough, you will inevitably come across them. I remember reading once in my early trimming days a quote from Pete Ramey saying ‘you can’t save them all’ and I remember at that time thinking, pfff what tosh, but he was right and it does happen, thankfully extremely rarely, but you never forget the look in those horse’s eyes.

  • What should people do and what should they expect when shoes are first taken off their ridden horse?

They should always make sure the diet is as natural and stripped back as possible. Find a way of encouraging lots of gentle free movement and be prepared to take the time it takes for their feet, bodies and minds to begin to recover. More often than not, owners are pleasantly surprised at how very quickly they can go back to normality with their horse doing all the things they were enjoying before the shoes were removed. I always, always say to a new client that I won’t remove their horse’s shoes unless they are prepared to purchase a set of boots for all 4 feet….this is usually unnecessary but as long as I have that reassurance from them then off the shoes will go!

  • What is the ideal diet for a barefoot horse?

24/7 365 mixed meadow hay (no rye or very low rye/alfalfa). No bagged feeds unless the horse is underweight and then only specific low calorie/sugar feeds. A good mineral/salt block available at all times. Very little or no grass and lots and lots of movement with company. Simple really. The biggest challenge for most owners is sourcing good mixed meadow no rye hay/haylage.

  • And lifestyle?

Turned out in company with lots of movement but very little grass. One of the safest ways to achieve this is by setting up a simple track or Paddock Paradise system.

  • What is the biggest single obstacle in the way of barefoot progress?

Humans!

  • Tell us about the amazing magazine…Britain’s only glossy mag about barefoot…

front-coverI started to produce a newsletter some years ago for all my clients because they were often far apart and lacked support. They felt they were being let down, not catered for and marginalised by the main stream magazines and so the newsletter naturally evolved into an online magazine. As this became more popular, people started pleading for a printed version and so just over a year ago we went into print. We are now at Issue 12 and becoming more and more popular among barefoot owners across the globe. We pride ourselves in being quite unique with respect that the magazine is filled to brimming with owner’s own stories, written by them, telling the readers about their own barefoot journeys and this makes the magazine very personal and reaches out to others in similar situations. Here’s a link to the magazine.

  • Do you have a top story you’d like to share?

Yes. A story I will always remember and love was by a Polish girl called Iga Przybszewska and her beautiful chestnut horse Damiro who had been diagnosed with navicular in Poland. He had moved from one vet to another, with all kinds of remedial farriery and intervention, trying to be fixed. Iga contacted us with Damiro’s story and we published it in our very first printed magazine in Issue 6. Iga and Damiro were on the front cover with the title ‘Chestnut colour of love’. Fab story with a brilliant ending!

  • What is your vision for the future of the domestic horse? And for the magazine…?

My vision for the future is to keep faithfully educating owners and improving the domestic conditions for our horses. I have always said that within the next 15-20 years we will see a massive decline in shoeing and a massive increase in owner’s understanding to the point that shoes will eventually be outcast from use on the domestic horses. That day is getting closer! The magazine will be in the forefront of that education and inspiration and will continue to increase awareness of the beauty of the healthy barefooted horse across the globe.

  • I’ve made you Prime Minister for a day…what would you change for the world of the horse?

I would follow in our counterparts’ footsteps in the Netherlands and only allow limited stabling per day, make it illegal for horses to be turned out alone without at least one member of its own species, not across a fence. I would encourage the RCVS and FRC to introduce natural diets and management regimes into their syllabi, educate charities and RSPCA inspectors on how to recognise and naturally treat lamintis and stop pharmaceutical companies ruling the roost!

ABOUT ME

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)I’m a book writer and journalist but horse riding is my great love and I have been a barefoot advocate for a long time. The shoes were taken off my horses about 16 years ago as soon as I realised the harm they were causing. My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

‘The best book I have ever read, everything was so interesting. And gave the courage to be barefoot and proud of it!!! I always felt the same in my heart but this book just backed up everything I thought. Thank you for writing such an amazing book’ – Amazon reader.

‘ Required reading for anyone thinking of taking their horse’s shoes off’ – Horsemanship Magazine.

‘I loved reading this intelligently written book. It’s so good I think every hoof trimmer should hand this book out to clients who are going barefoot for the first time’ – Natural Horse Management magazine.

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment. His battle motivated me to stretch my writing skills from journalism to novel writing and took me to the British Library and the Royal Veterinary College for years of research. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from Bracy himself – ‘A horse that is free of pain will lead from the thinnest piece of chord.’

‘Fantastic read, well researched, authentic voice, and a recognition of the correlation of our best slaves- horses- with the role of women throughout history. If you are into history, barefoot horses, and the feminine coming of age story, then this book is a must read’ – Amazon US reader.

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is in the pipeline. I am being inspired by a very famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. I’m more than half way through the first draft – blending fact and fiction is such fun! And so many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet. But I think I should feature one of Bracy Clark’s colleagues. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list…xxx

Olympic shame tarnishes the gold…

by Linda Chamberlain

Has dressage become a blood sport?

No animal is hunted but the world has witnessed this equestrian discipline’s fall from grace at the Rio Olympics and social media networks have been buzzing with allegations of cruelty. There have been pictures of horses foaming and drooling, their mouths full of harsh metal bits and their noses clamped shut with tight nosebands.

Parzival in the World Equestrian Games 2010

And there have been reports of blood.

Horses have been shown with their tongues hanging out awkwardly – their faces alarmed and full of pain. Their sides marked from the prick of the spur.  Their heads pulled into their chests where no equine feels comfortable.

Showjumping has also been criticised after two riders were eliminated – one for excessive whipping, another for the heavy use of spurs.

Gold medals have been won but the glow of victory has failed to warm the hearts of animal lovers who say equestrian ‘sport’ has gone too far.

Jo Macarthur from the Norfolk Horse Training Club, this week attacked the treatment of Olympic equines. She said:

‘Human athletes made mistakes; they did not get whipped by their coaches afterwards.

‘In addition to forced head carriage we witnessed excessive whipping for non-performance and punishment for not achieving the rider’s objective, which is totally unacceptable. ’

Ironically, Andrew Finding from the British Equestrian Federation which governs the sport in the UK, had warned campaigners last year not to use welfare as an issue in its campaign to get bitless bridles accepted in dressage competition.

It would take an effort of Olympian proportions to leave the issue aside. It seems that in Rio all athletes are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Jo said: ‘In the 21st century, it is shameful that abuse of the horse continues in every Olympic discipline. Most shocking to many riders is the continued refusal by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports to allow the softer option of the modern bitless bridle in dressage where the horses are supposedly trained to the lightest signal of the human seat and hands.’

The spotlight in Rio fell on dressage especially because of one horse – Parzival (pictured above at the World Equestrian Games in 2010 when he was also in the spotlight), ridden by the Dutch team member, Adelinde Cornelissen. She withdrew this highly talented horse part way through her performance in Rio. His jaw was patently uncomfortable and swollen, saliva was dripping onto the arena floor and his poor tongue was hanging from the side of his mouth.

The reason was an insect bite. Vets had not been able to reduce the toxins it caused in time. She took the heartbreaking decision to pull out in a highly public way in mid-test and was hailed as the ultimate Olympian for putting her horse before her own competitive interests.

Then came the backlash on social media.

Doubt was put on the cause. A fractured jaw was mentioned. Why did he even enter the ring? Harsh bits and hard hands were blamed. Adelinde denied.

Frankly, I respect the libel laws – I believe her. The horse was bitten. There’s no doubt in my mind.

Also…frankly, it doesn’t matter.

Parzival 3ParzivalParzival (left, in Rio) is just one horse. And there are countless others whose noses are constricted. Whose tongues are seen to be blue; others who have dripped with blood. So many who are trained using methods called Rollkur or LDR (low, deep, round) where the flexion of the horse’s neck is aggressively achieved. Rollkur is banned by the FEI but LDR is not as long as the horse has an unspecified break every ten minutes.

Parzival 4In the UK (and elsewhere) there have been vigorous campaigns to persuade the governing bodies controlling dressage to allow horses in competition wearing bitless bridles.

This is one ban, you see, that the authorities have enforced. A competitor mentioned on Facebook was eliminated at a competition because although his horse was wearing a bit, the reins were attached to the noseband.

They are not having it.

Top level talks last year between the Norfolk training group, plus bitless campaigners from the group A Bit More CHOICE, and British Dressage, the British Equestrian Federation, the British Horse Society and World Horse Welfare failed to convince the authorities that bitted and bitless horses could be judged together.

Jo said: ‘Metal bits are not seen in human ballet dancers’ mouths to exact precise or flowing, light movements, nor are they necessary for control or communication with horses. Norfolk Horse Training Club and CHOICE campaign continue to lobby the British Dressage, British Equestrian Federation and FEI to make the rule change that is being called for on grounds of fairness for the horse, especially after some of the unacceptable antics in Rio.

Dressage - without spurs or bit

Dressage – without spurs or bit

‘A high number of disqualification and withdrawals on welfare grounds during the Rio equestrian disciplines has created a backlash on social media with storms of protest over tight nosebands with horses clearly exhibiting signs of stress and pain, evidenced by excessive foaming of the mouth and terrified facial expressions.’

The British Equestrian Federation didn’t want welfare in the sport to become an issue for campaigners to exploit. The trouble is there is no cosy place for cruelty to hide.

A horse bleeds in Rio and minutes later the animal-loving world sheds a tear.

IN OTHER NEWS

1imageTrimmer Nick Hill and holistic vet Ralitsa Grancharova will be running practical training courses on the horses’ hoof and how to trim. They are based in Bulgaria and are offering the chance to accompany them on their rounds for up to a week and gain hands-on experience.

Nick Hill 12For those experienced in hoof care, ‘You will see everything from straight forward trimming cases to pathologically deformed hooves. We will walk you through the process of bringing the equine back to equilibrium through treatment, diet, environmental changes and barefoot trimming. Amongst the regular clients there are always emergency cases that need our help, which you will be able to see and assess with us.

‘We will be travelling extensively around Bulgaria, spending each day in a different area of the country. The price includes three meals per day (all dietary requirements catered for) and accommodation. Travelling is done by car. Students pay for their own flight tickets to Bulgaria.’

They are interested in taking a couple of students at a time but will also be offering tailor-made short courses for those without experience.

For more info – contact Nick Hill on Facebook.

ABOUT ME

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)I’m a book writer and journalist but horse riding is my great love. I’m relatively new to bitless riding but have been a barefoot advocate for a long time. The shoes were taken off my horses about 16 years ago as soon as I realised the harm they were causing. Since then I have transitioned quite a few animals including my lovely retired mare, Carrie, who suffered from navicular and was due to be put to sleep when I took her on. She features on the front cover of my book – A Barefoot Journey – which tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

‘The best book I have ever read, everything was so interesting. And gave the courage to be barefoot and proud of it!!! I always felt the same in my heart but this book just backed up everything I thought. Thank you for writing such an amazing book’ – Amazon reader.

‘ Required reading for anyone thinking of taking their horse’s shoes off’ – Horsemanship Magazine.

‘I loved reading this intelligently written book. It’s so good I think every hoof trimmer should hand this book out to clients who are going barefoot for the first time’ – Natural Horse Management magazine.

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who warned against strong bits and exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment. His battle motivated me to stretch my writing skills from journalism to novel writing and took me to the British Library and the Royal Veterinary College for years of research. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCoverSociety. 

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from Bracy himself – ‘A horse that is free of pain will lead from the thinnest piece of chord.’

REVIEW FOR THE FIRST VET

‘Fantastic read, well researched, authentic voice, and a recognition of the correlation of our best slaves- horses- with the role of women throughout history. If you are into history, barefoot horses, and the feminine coming of age story, then this book is a must read’ – Amazon US reader.

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is in the pipeline. I am being inspired by a very famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. I’m more than half way through the first draft – blending fact and fiction is such fun! And so many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet. But I think I should feature one of Bracy Clark’s colleagues. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list…xxx

 

Ex-farrier professor turns barefoot guide…

by Linda Chamberlain

Marc Ferrador is a former professor of farriery who says the practice of repeatedly nailing shoes to a horse’s hoof has to stop.

imageBased in Catalonia, Spain, Marc has turned his back on the farriery trade and now he’s going to guide you along the challenging path to barefoot horse riding. It is not always easy because, as he warns, we are dealing with animals bred in captivity, weaned young and ridden early.

Controversially, he says these factors coupled with bad feeding systems and inadequate living conditions leave us with a ‘version’ of the horse that has mental and physical handicaps which can’t always be corrected.

And he says that although there are no studies proving the effectiveness of barefoot, neither is there any science to show that metal shoes are good for the horse. Not one study – only evidence that shoes are helpful to riders, farriers and veterinarians.

This is my second interview with Marc – the first has been read by more than 60,000 people – so I am very excited to publish more from him. When he turned his back on farriery he persuaded the vast majority of his clients to try barefoot so he has a wealth of experience to draw upon. He has covered a lot of ground here – abscesses, when to take off the shoes, how to protect hooves, when to ride, what to feed and how to keep your horse. But if you have any questions, please go ahead by clicking on comments!

Can you prepare your horse in advance for going barefoot?

Marc 7In the first instance, look to see if the horse’s living conditions and the owner’s commitment will allow it. If these are correct, we then evaluate the state the hooves, limbs and joint alignments.   For most of my initial visits I request x-rays of the front hooves to start with and then of the back hooves if I see anything noteworthy, in order to assess the phalanges, especially the 3rd phalange, which in the great majority of horses usually shows some modification.  As the hoof is a “casing” for this bone, this is an essential piece of information for an equine podiatrist or farrier.

Once we have assessed the horse’s lifestyle, conformation, joint alignments, resting posture and hoof structure we move on to assessing the horse in motion; walk and trot in a straight line then in small circles on both firm and soft surfaces if possible.

I also have to mention that I always remove shoes when the hoof is long, excessively overgrown, so that on removing the shoe the horse has a lot of horny material to exfoliate bit by bit without reaching the point where the sole is being used for support. Hoof material that has grown whilst shod is never prepared for support or wear without a shoe since when the hooves are shod, the brain is “disconnected” from the ground and its stimuli, and economises energy and nutrients which would protect and harden this zone.

Marc 6For this reason we need to leave the hoof long before removing shoes, hastiness and performing a standard trim for all horses in all situations is also a complete error, in my opinion at least.

What is the best time of year to take off the shoes?

Whenever the horse is in the best moment to do so, based on what we’ve already discussed. There’s a lot of urban legend regarding whether it’s better in summer or winter, just as there is with so many other aspects of Barefoot and traditional farriery. However there could be some variation associated with certain types of terrain, for instance granite surfaces, which are extremely abrasive, where you have to evaluate the timing of the start of the transition very carefully. However, if we follow the strategy outlined in the previous question there shouldn’t be any problems.

It has to be said that the x-rays will tell us if our horse can live barefoot or not. It’s an irrefutable truth that there are horses who cannot be barefoot even though their lifestyle is ideal. Due to the mismanagement of foals, poor lifestyles, unsuitable work and bad farriery there are horses with damage and modification in the phalanges, especially the 3rd phalange, who when they are older, but not old, the damage is irreversible and these animals will be dependent on almost permanent orthotics or limitation in their living space. Even so, the number of such horses is very much lower than a lot of people, most farriers and almost all vets think.

For example: In the approximately 200 horses I work with, only 4 fall into this category, that’s to say, 2%.

From what I know of other trimmers, it’s commonly between 2-5%.

Not 40%, nor 30%, not even 25%.

Getting the diet right – what should the horse be eating?

This is not my field of expertise and I could be mistaken in this respect, but a diet based on straw, feed and alfalfa given in two meals a day is not the best system!

Marc 4I know that a diet consisting of mixed hay, in small amounts several times a day is the most adequate. But we must not forget that this is also a substitute for grazing. Therefore a colleague and I are studying the possibilities of direct grazing in fields with native, not cultivated, varieties of grass, without fertilizer or mechanization, managed by timing grazing and resting periods, loosely based on the ideas of Allan Savory and José Luis Pinheiro in their proposals to rehabilitate “desertified” fields using grazing animals and transform them into native perennial leys. So far our trials are running but it’s too early yet to draw any conclusións. There’s a lot written on this subject regarding cattle and sheep but practically nothing with horses. We‘re using a hybrid of the track system along with pasture, taking the best from both parts.

Getting the lifestyle right – what are the best living conditions?

Large spaces with some grazing, good quality as ecological as possible hay , clean water, clean environment, company of other horses whenever possible, surface with varied textures , good work and training programs and  professionals with up to date information who really like horses.

 

How much movement should the horse have and can a stabled horse be barefoot too?

Uff. Another one of the barefoot “million dollar questions”. Well, from what I’ve seen, it shouldn’t be less than 6km (3.5/4miles) a day, but always with the possibility that this might be reduced depending on joint and foot health.  Almost more important than the distance moved would be what surface the horse is living and working on, which determines the greater stimulation of the sole and thereby its thickening.

Who should trim the horse and how often?

Marc 3Well, someone who is qualified to do so, and who is? From my viewpoint it has to be farriers who perform this type of work, they are specialists in hooves, although a great number have mistaken this for being a specialist in ironwork. They already have extensive training in handling the tools, work posture, how to handle horses and vast knowledge of the structures in the foot and assessment of  joint alignment. Although a huge update is needed in so far as the conformation and mechanics of a healthy hoof within the context of a healthy horse also to relearn the groundwork, learn how to manage the barefoot hoof and its environment, see the horse as a subject who benefits or suffers as a consequence of our actions, learn about hoof boots and new pathologies and orthopedics and be aware of the latest information on what and how a horse should eat.

At present I see it as a waste of resources trying to train new hoof care specialists when in the majority of countries there is already a public system already doing 50% of the training required for little more cost than the enrollment fee.

Besides, I also believe that a fully trained podiatrist/orthopedist should have at his disposal all possible resources to solve all manner of maintenance and clinical cases that may arise. In a given moment a horse might require a nailed on orthotic, for example post operatively or following a fracture. This change in equine podiatry needs to be inclusive, not the other way around, a responsibility that comes with the burden of care. It goes without saying that you have to eliminate, always in my view, constant nailing on of iron or aluminium now that it has been more than proven that permanently immobilising the hoof capsule causes atrophy of the soft tissues, in many cases irreversibly, tissues that each have a unique and specific role in the correct functioning and mechanics of the hoof. These tissues represent more than 50% of the volume of the horse’s foot and if we don’t look after these tissues it’s clear that we make a bad start in our function as carers for the health of the hooves and indeed the horse.

I have people regularly ask me if there are scientific studies on the effectiveness of Barefoot and the truth is that there aren’t many, but neither is there any scientific study that shows that shoes are good for the horse, not one. There are some limited preliminary studies demonstrating that shoes are good for many owners, farriers and veterinaries, to vindicate the determination  not to change one iota in the way we look after our horses and we constantly confuse what should be a theme regarding the horse in a wider sense of  its health, with a reduced , myopic view about the hoof.

Once the shoes are off…what will happen? Can the horse be ridden?

Some of this I’ve already covered in the previous questions.

Marc 1Can the horse be ridden when the shoes are taken off? Absolutely! It’s more a case of the horse should be ridden or, better said, worked normally either with or without a rider. With more movement there is more vascularization, more nutrients supplied and more tissue renewal within the hoof.  None of this having a horse in an absurd quarantine without being ridden during the mythical year-long transition, as advocated by some of the urban legends in the barefoot world.

However, there is one all important prerequisite: without pain.

When a horse experiences pain whilst walking over a prolonged period, it triggers a chain of antalgic postures and mental pain patterns that negatively impact on the horse, in many cases leaving permanent psychological and physical consequences.

When a hoof feels pain on weight bearing, the sole produces extra growth as an emergency measure, as seen so often in the famous solar callousing. All this extra, emergency material helps the horse get by for a couple of months but when the new growth comes through it disappears and the horse is back to having thin soles.

To make a good sole, in terms of stimulus, it has to be constant and offer a diversity of textures. There will always be some horses who are the exception, horses that have some structural peculiarities and especially those who are exceptionally sensitive, which makes them immune to these processes. But you have realise that the great complexity of barefoot, the way I see it, is not the plethora of different trimming techniques proposed by each training method, but the different patterns of sensitivity of each horse, which is something you cannot predict, therefore you cannot rely on a standard trim, you need all the tools and resources available to assess and redress each horse’s sensitivity pattern.

As far as I know, there is no Barefoot teaching method that intricately explains this to its students/clients thereby producing a handicap in their ways of working,  especially with the most delicate and complicated horses, more often than not leading to working in an intuitive/improvised manner, a technique for which the Barefoot “sector”  has always criticized farriers.

Or is he best left in the field for a few weeks?

It’s impossible to give a “one size fits all” solution when each horse is so specific, perhaps some people leave the horse in a field when they are hard-pressed to find a solution, “what the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over”. Sometimes this works, sometimes not, they can even worsen. I’ve seen horses left at pasture for 5 years without the minimum controls and maintenance and the hooves have not improved one bit, many actually ending up with more sensitivity than before. The ideal would be to leave them in a field with good follow up, in many cases this might be simply a small trim to correct dimensional imbalances in the hoof capsule . We need to be aware that we are dealing with horses bred in captivity, systematically weaned at 8 months of age, started to be trained in whatever form from 3 years old and ridden at 4. These factors coupled with bad feeding systems and inadequately managed living conditions leave us with a version of the horse with mental and physical handicaps which in many cases are not correctable. However as I stated before, these cases are much less numerous than many traditional professionals believe.

 If the horse is sore…what should the owner do?

Marc 5Obtain a good diagnosis, one of the hardest things in this world to acquire. We’re still not capable of keeping a full and extensive history of our horses’ health, this is partly our own fault but also that of farriers and veterinaries too. Without this history we can’t compare the structures, via ultrasound, x-rays etc  to previous information, we’re always working with very limited information about the horse at the moment when it’s suffering pain and discomfort.

If the horse is in pain it is better to have it in a restricted space and if necessary protect its feet with some form of protection until the pain dissipates, but more importantly we need to know what is causing the pain in order to choose the right plan of action..

Will movement help at this stage?

Only that which the horse deems itself capable of, without being obliged by companions. The horse is better off in its own space which as we already mentioned should be somewhat limited, also so that when the horse begins to feel good it doesn’t overdo it, which is quite common, and we find ourselves back at square one again.

Should owner put anything on the hooves to strengthen them?

As I mentioned before, there is no general solution, but a serious in depth analysis of their status is needed in order to decide what will be best for the horse.

Often we use specialised boots for these occasions, soft and smooth with silicone or EVA pads, or hoof casts with a foam insole. In some more specific cases we may use a glue-on boot or some sort of synthetic, glue-on horseshoe, using appropriate, specialist adhesives and only for a set time, knowing as we do that using these systems for too long will impair the hoof’s ability to produce good quality compacted sole, which cannot be done in isolation from the ground and air.

Should the horse wear hoof boots or is it best to wait?

It’s always best not to get to this point, that is to say, know when to take the shoes off for the horse to make a good transition. As professionals, it’s a mistake we might make a couple of times but not more, because it’s the worst way to start the process towards barefoot.

In the event that we are already in this very unfortunate situation, it will depend on the individual horse, where you live, disposition of the owner, physical condition of the horse and its pain threshold. It could go wrong if you just chose one of two options, sometimes you have to combine them, and sometimes you have to create new strategies and even in extreme cases, when we have unshod a horse before it was suitable to, I have recommended re-shoeing to gain a couple of months more hoof growth before starting the process. As the ultimate goal is barefoot for life, I don’t worry about the drawbacks of the horse being shod for a few months more.

How long will it be before the horse is comfortable? (I know every horse is different but this is asked so often!)

imageI think I’ve been answering this in the previous questions but if the horse has not improved exponentially within 3-5 weeks, we must take the decision to protect the hoof and break the pain cycle that the horse finds itself in. But I must emphasise again that we cannot generalise.

Each horse has learned throughout his life his own personal pattern of feeling pain and that is what makes barefoot so highly complex and specific in these cases of sensitivity or pain.

What are the common mistakes that people make in their barefoot journey?

For sure, to not have some of the most basic and effective information, habits and resources available. For example having paddocks with many areas of different textures. Gravels of different thickness do an excellent job in exfoliation and compaction of the soles. Work little and often if horses have limited movement where they live. Keep living spaces clean, remove faeces and urine often. Spread feeding out as much as possible, with access to grazing on native species swards with a great diversity of plant species to choose from. Older horses can be used to teach others who did not have the opportunity to learn to graze as foals. Have a clear and consistent hoof management system, using a professional or DIY if appropriate.  Clean water, free from contaminants such as agrochemical seepage form nearby cultivation.

Failure to follow these guidelines, or some of them and others not specified here, could cause problems in the management of barefoot horses. Above all, do your homework before starting and get good advice. It’s clear that haste is the enemy barefoot, but we mustn’t wait forever either.

I think with most of horses I’ve seen that have made the change, have been because the owner decided to change to barefoot or because the professional involved was not sufficiently au fait in this field. It is also true that often owners do not follow the guidelines given by their professional and that can lead failure. If you don’t trust your professional, change and find someone whom you can work with.

We must also accept that there may be some horses who may not have the capacity to be barefoot, it’s very important to make a rigorous evaluation using x-rays to assess the bony structures in the limb in question.

Abscesses are common in the early stages of barefoot. Can you explain why? And what to do?

The abscess is part of daily life for the barefoot horse’s hoof which, when all its structures are healthy, is designed to cope with an infinite number of impacts on any type of surface each and every day. I see the abscess as a common response of the defense system to these impacts with the ground.

Marc 2We often have horses living in damp conditions under foot and then we work them on hard stony surfaces, this causes abscesses.

Horses in transition may be more susceptible to having abscesses as the layers of solar tissue and the chorion are still not prepared sufficiently to deal with these impacts.

The first thing we need to know is where exactly the abscess is within the hoof. The majority of abscesses in barefoot horses occur in the caudal areas of the hoof – that is in the bars, heels and frog, unlike the large abscesses usually caused by farriery, be it from excessive burning of the sole, a badly fitting shoe or a nail entering the soft tissue.

When we have located the abscess it’s good practice to give the typical hoof soak in hot salty water and to let the horse move as much or little as it wants, without pressure from companions.

Once the abscess bursts the pressure is released and the pain relieved, I recommend not working for a few days to allow better healing of any internal wound that may have been caused.

It has to be said that abscesses are very shocking in terms of the lameness they cause but usually heal very quickly if left to mature, however this is a generalisation and there can always be exceptions to this pattern.

Note from Marc: great thanks to Gill Tibble to great effort to can understand and translate my no-ending answers. Thank you, Gill.

ABOUT MARC

image (2)Marc, who works in Catalonia, Spain, used to ride and compete. Twelve years after qualifying as a farrier he became a professor at the Official School of Farriery in Barcelona. In that time he worked on the creation of the curriculum and also a handbook for courses approved for the European Federation of Farriers Association. He describes the terrain in Catalonia as ‘special’ – it can be dry and unforgiving, so it’s a challenge to ensure horses are transitioned to barefoot without pain. He was expecting to contribute to my earlier blog post – The Good Bare Guide with trimmer Nick Hill and holistic vet Ralitsa Grancharova – but became a father to a baby boy instead. Far more important!! His answers came to me a bit late but were so interesting that I have posted them now…You can contact him on Facebook here.

ABOUT ME

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)I’m a book writer and journalist but horse riding is my great love. The shoes were taken off my horses about 16 years ago as soon as I realised the harm they were causing. Since then I have transitioned quite a few animals including my lovely retired mare, Carrie, who suffered from navicular and was due to be put to sleep when I took her on. She features on the front cover of my book – A Barefoot Journey – which tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. In this light-hearted account I tell how I coped with my argumentative farrier, derision from other riders and how going barefoot saved Carrie from slaughter. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

‘The best book I have ever read, everything was so interesting. And gave the courage to be barefoot and proud of it!!! I always felt the same in my heart but this book just backed up everything I thought. Thank you for writing such an amazing book’ – Amazon reader.

‘ Required reading for anyone thinking of taking their horse’s shoes off’ – Horsemanship Magazine.

‘I loved reading this intelligently written book. It’s so good I think every hoof trimmer should hand this book out to clients who are going barefoot for the first time’ – Natural Horse Management magazine.

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment! His battle to expose the harm caused by the practice motivated me to stretch my writing skills from journalism to novel writing and took me to the British Library and the Royal Veterinary College for years of research. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCoverSociety. 

‘I bought this book for my wife some time ago and have only recently been able to prise it from her. An excellent story with factual content which I thoroughly enjoyed reading’ – Amazon UK reader.

‘Fantastic read, well researched, authentic voice, and a recognition of the correlation of our best slaves- horses- with the role of women throughout history. If you are into history, barefoot horses, and the feminine coming of age story, then this book is a must read’ – Amazon US reader.

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is in the pipeline. I am being inspired by a very famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. I’m half way through the first draft – blending fact and fiction is such fun! And so many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet. But I think I should feature one of Bracy Clark’s colleagues. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list…xxx

 

 

Vet warns of danger from studs

by Linda Chamberlain

It’s official! According to a renowned international competition vet, horses have been slipping for 55 million years. Trying to stop this using studs fixed to a horse’s shoes increases the strain on ligaments and tendons and causes injuries.shoe with studs

And yet barefoot horses are banned from the show ring in some classes as judges fear they are at risk from slipping and sliding in the wet. Will the ban be lifted? 

Vet, John Killingbeck, who has 30 year’s experience including a time with the British Three Day Event team, was in an open discussion with a farrier at the International Eventing Forum which was reported online.

He said: ‘It is worth remembering what we do when choosing studs and what the horse’s natural function of the foot is. The foot is designed to absorb the impact of landing and it does it by absorbing concussion. Part of that concussion is done through the foot sliding and that absorbs the stresses and strains of landing.’

He warned that riders should use studs carefully and wisely. After reading his fascinating insights, I wondered if that were possible. Or, really, whether the use of any shoe and stud combo was advisable for the health of the horse.

Because he went on to explain that the images5Z053VVFimpact stresses on barefoot hooves were less than those that are shod.

‘We are effectively changing the mechanical effect of the foot. The shoe to a certain point compromises the function of the foot in absorbing impact. Does this contribute to modern injuries that I now see as a vet? – it does.’

John, who is a veterinary delegate to the Federation Equestre Internationale, the world governing body for equestrian sport, should be listened to with ears wide open by every horse owner whether they ride barefoot or shod.

It was music to my ears because barefoot riders have been saying this for years.

But he said more: ‘If you were to trot up 50 horses here on a nice level surface and then take their shoes off and trot them up again, the vast majority would move with more freedom than if they were shod. So the mechanical effect of the shoe comes at a price. It’s a necessary price.’

Of course, this is the crux. That fatal word – necessary.

Well, not necessary for the horse obviously but riders can be competitive souls. They want to win rosettes; they want to scale the highest jumps. The vast majority think they can only do this with the ‘necessary’ crutch of the nailed-on metal shoe, more and more do so now with studs.

John’s audience would have been riders whose horses were shod. His aim was no doubt to increase the understanding of the downside of studs. Perhaps, even limit their use.

So I was surprised to read that he also advised that horses should have a period of rest from shoes which he said compromise the blood flow to the hoof. It was the traditional view many years ago. Hunters always had their rest time with shoes off and the hoof was seen to benefit. Most owners want to ride all year round and so that wisdom has been sidelined. But I am seeing it mentioned more and more by vets and farriers these days.

And yet the traditional equine world has  adopted a hostile attitude to barefoot by banning unshod horses from the show ring in some hunter classes accusing them of being a danger from slipping.

Then something occurred to me while I was reading the online article which reported this fascinating open discussion with a farrier at this year’s Forum. Vets, like John, rarely get to see a brilliant barefoot horse in action.

My own vet once confessed that my horses were the only ones on her books who were barefoot and roamed on a track system 24/7. She was amazed that by using our combined skills – her choice of antibiotics and acupuncture and my nagging to adhere to my horses’ lifestyle – we saved my daughter’s horse when she had an infected tendon sheath. Yes, the vet thought that our maximum-movement lifestyle had been an important part in Tao’s recovery.

Barefoot horses are making their mark in competitions, particular endurance riding. But the Italian, Luca Moneta, is the only top-level showjumper that I know who rides without shoes on his horses’ hinds. Simon Earle is the only race horse trainer in the UK known to favour barefoot. Interestingly, he confirms that his horses haven’t suffered a tendon injury since they got rid of shoes.

So, for John, and any other vet or rider who is clinging to the view that the shoe-and-stud combo are a necessary part of horse riding, I would like to introduce you to two very talented riders – Richard Greer and Georgie Harrison, who is also a barefoot trimmer.

Richard, a trainer, and his barefoot horse, Troy, have already made their mark in one of the most dangerous equine sports, team chasing. Here he is landing over an eye-wateringly, enRichard Greerormous hedge. Not a shoe or stud in sight.

Does he slip, Richard? I asked.

‘I’ve had horses in front of me lose their footing while we never missed a beat but it’s not infallible. Troy and I have come down on greasy ground, rain on hard ground can be testing but shoes and studs won’t save you either. It’s interesting looking over some of the shod horses with all their lumps and bumps and swellings!

‘Barefoot now fits in perfectly with my wider philosophy. When a horse comes in for training with shoes on I find there is something lacking in the fluidity of its paces, I even find the sound slightly offensive. In competition and training, I can run on harder ground without worrying about the impact. Many fractures occur in the race industry and it also happens in team chasing. I think being barefoot reduces the risk.’

Georgie jumpingGeorgie, seen here riding Phoenix, is an event rider. Here’s what she had to say. ‘Riding a non-slip ride across country starts with a balanced rider and a balanced horse. Horses are naturally asymmetric (right or left sided just like we are right or left handed). They are inclined to favour one shoulder or the other and like to use their hinds, one as a push leg and one as a prop leg, It is our responsibility to get our horses to be as balanced as possible and encourage them to become supple in both directions. I start this training process on the ground and in ridden work very slowly. Once mastered, it can be applied to when you are galloping across country up and down hills and on any surface. This allows your horse to be in self-carriage even when at speed.’

So you see, shoes and studs are the option that compromises the horse and his feet. Could barefoot be the better path…? For the sake of the horse, can I get John to meet Troy and Phoenix? – barefooters at their best.

ABOUT ME

I have been a writer and journalist all my working life. I have been a horse rider for quite a bit longer! The shoes were taken off my horses about 16 years ago and now I would never return to shoeing one of my animals so that I could ride. I am a regular contributor to Barefoot Horse magazine and The Horse’s Hoof magazine.

My book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. In this light-hearted account I tell how I coped with my argumentative farrier, derision from other riders and how going barefoot saved my horse from slaughter. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UKand Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

‘ Required reading for anyone thinking of taking their horse’s shoes off’ – Horsemanship Magazine.

‘I loved reading this intelligently written book. It’s so good I think every hoof trimmer should hand this book out to clients who are going barefoot for the first time’ – Natural Horse Management magazine.

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCoverSociety. 

‘I don’t read that often but this book was definitely a “can’t put down”, so sad when I got to the end. Can’t wait to read the other books by this fabulous writer’ – Amazon UK reader.

‘Fantastic read, well researched, authentic voice, and a recognition of the correlation of our best slaves- horses- with the role of women throughout history. If you are into history, barefoot horses, and the feminine coming of age story, then this book is a must read’ – Amazon US reader.

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is in the pipeline! I am being inspired by a very famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. Blending fact and fiction is such fun! And so many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list…xxx

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