Boxing Clever…

by Linda Chamberlain

The vet looks at your horse, shakes her head and says the fateful words…BOX REST.

If you are like me, you might consider arguing or negotiating or trying to find another way. Because, if you keep your horses in a herd, roaming on tracks and paddocks, you will be causing enormous stress to an animal that might have his own methods for getting well, something we humans don’t always understand.

There is also the worry that by confining your injured horse you might be causing additional physical harm so in this article I’m going to examine ways of minimising the risk and questioning whether horse keepers use box rest too often and for injuries that might do better with an alternative approach.

Tomas Teskey (left), the US vet, is convinced that confinement can be detrimental. ‘When it comes to healing and rehabilitating horses from most any problem, movement and providing for freedom of movement is at the top of the list,’ he said.

‘Horses do more damage to their bodies and psyche when confined. Even horses with serious injuries heal more completely and more quickly when allowed freedom of movement with friends on a grass diet. This is easy to understand when we realize how horses have been healing themselves for millions of years.’

OK, many of you will be thinking that a wild horse with a broken leg will be a dead horse. Don’t worry. We will be hearing in a moment from the owner of a domestic horse that is recovering from a broken tibia following three months of box rest. I am not saying there isn’t a need for confinement but the keep-still-and-put-your feet-up approach is used for abscesses, tendon injuries, laminitis and other conditions that cry out for gentle movement. The right type of movement can have a vital role in bringing a long-lasting recovery.

This is my horse Sophie who is determined to introduce me to the A-Z of equine ailments. Last autumn we sampled a serious one – strained tendons – and no, it wasn’t caused by my wild riding. They were swollen, in the classic bowed shape, and I had a vet look her over. She needed to rest but I wasn’t going to put her in a stable, I don’t have one.

However, I do have a very sizeable sick bay in their woodland home. It is a fenced area, with a gate, around their field shelter. It is mainly concrete, has some lovely shade and a deep straw bed at one end. Within a few days of this type of ‘confinement and gentle movement’ with her friend, Charlie Brown, she was walking well.

After a couple of weeks I thought she was ready for more space but I was wrong and she was lame again the next day. This kept happening. We were going into winter and I couldn’t find a space that would give her safe turnout. We were walking her out in hand with Charlie Brown following at liberty and she was improving but she wasn’t back to full strength.

And then I remembered a part of our track that would be ideal. It was flat, predominantly concrete, with a soft spot under some pines for resting. The hard ground meant she wasn’t inclined to trot when she shouldn’t even though it was mostly covered with leaf litter (see left). The flatness ensured there were no jolts to her legs and no slips. We had a challenging winter in the UK but fortunately, by the time the snow lay deep on the ground she must have been strong enough to cope with some excitement and speed.

Tomas Teskey’s thoughts chimed with my own. ‘Freedom of movement with other horses in a track system or as large of an area as possible works especially well when combined with natural hoof care, which respects the horse’s natural abilities to heal their bodies through improved circulation and sensation,’ he said.

‘Diseases and problems that are thought to be incurable really are incurable by conventional means. Only when we respect horse’s natural abilities to heal themselves when provided the ingredients they need to heal do we enjoy witnessing their healing process. This is accomplished by allowing horses to build strong feet, strong bodies and a strong immune system, using natural hoof care techniques, space to move, a grass-based diet, appropriate complementary supplements, and herd mates. Balancing the teeth is important as well, as confined horses develop many specific problems with their teeth. This is best accomplished with hand tools and an eye for improving and maintaining healthy tooth angles.

‘Increasing movement in relatively small areas is possible with the use of perimeter fencing, track systems, hay nets stuffed with grass, friends to chase and be chased by, and other habitat-enriching things, like gravel, ground poles, water or mud, and barrels. The human fear of horses hurting themselves or worsening their injuries is unfounded, and is actually responsible for horses failing to heal or developing further disease and disability.’

So it was an exciting moment for me when we could gradually increase Sophie’s space and take longer walks in hand. There has been no return of the lameness and she was brilliantly calm when we took up riding once more.

Vet Ralitsa Grancharova (right) is another firm believer in horses living outdoors in a herd and I was interested in her views on healing tendons with gentle movement.

She said: ‘Horses with injuries usually require a small area for the time of recovery for two reasons. Firstly, especially when it comes down to tendon injuries, they shouldn’t overdo it and move too much, too quickly or jump. Secondly if they are on painkillers, movement is not recommended as lack of pain may give the false sense of lack of damage and therefore allow more damage to occur through too much movement too soon.

‘Horses with tendon injuries usually need rest in the first few days. However box rest without any sort of movement is also not ideal for a tendon injury. Most human physios agree that tendon injuries require some sort of strain on the damaged area as to help promote healing in a way that will allow usage of the damaged tendon in the future. Otherwise stagnation and lack of usage will lead to repeated damage when the tendon is fully healed and the patient returns to their normal lifestyle.

‘Balance between rest and movement is essential and should be applied in the correct time frame, which is strictly individual, but in general acute tendon injuries require rest and chronic ones or ones recovering over a couple of weeks to a month require movement.

‘The amount of movement should be carefully determined based on how it affects the damaged area, the emotional state of the animal and its overall health.’

So now, let’s hear about Hugo, a newly barefoot cob who could probably tell you everything you need to know about box rest. He suffered an appalling break to his tibia while his owner was on holiday. She returned to take up his care and was advised he needed box rest for three months. The prospect was daunting and all the time she was giving care and comfort her vet was warning there was the very-real prospect that his leg could shatter if he moved on it too much.

How on earth do you persuade a flight animal to keep himself still for three months? Not only that, the challenge is to also persuade your flight animal to stay still and calm once his leg is improving and his brain is becoming increasingly bored.

Hugo’s owner, Peta Donkin, had to be careful what boredom-busting techniques she made use of. A treat ball in his stable was out of the question as the curious cob engaged with them too much…and moved about. He became obsessed with food as it was the only highlight of his day and Peta was able to make use of that.

She takes up the story – ‘His box rest was 12 weeks of complete containment. He didn’t have a bandage or support due to the location of the fracture, and our wish to allow Hugo to lie down if he needed to. I never wanted him to be sedated and tied up, I thought that if I was going to lose him, at least he would have relative comfort if he had to go.

‘So he is a greedy boy, always content if he has something to chew on. To stop him nibbling the wires and cables that run along the wall next to his stable. I had to think of food that would keep him occupied but also keep him still. No treat balls! And keep the barefoot diet in mind!

‘His favourites were whole swedes and whole celeriac hanging on strings or inside little munch nets. I gave him munch nets with fibre blocks in twice a day too.

‘He would also have two buckets of fast fibre every day, as I needed to keep his tummy moving to avoid the risk of colic, but I just tipped the mush out and added fruit and veggies like fennel, carrots, pear, melon, swede, beetroot, lettuce – and he would be able to root about in the pile and get dirty, but love it!! I have some videos of him being noisy and like a pig!

‘Due to my working hours I visited Hugo twice a day and made sure that he got breakfast and dinner, but also delivered the veg and fruit!

‘Another great boredom breaker was the location of his stable, actually. It’s an open-sided box on a busy yard, always a lot going on and lots for Hugo to see and watch. He became popular in the yard and people always stopped by to give him a cuddle or a pat or a treat! I did have to write a sign for his door to warn people he was recovering and not to over excite him!!

‘I also froze fruit and veg into large blocks when the weather was hotter, and he was a bit more mobile, and just let him have them on the floor. They didn’t last long!!

‘I was actually in America on holiday when the accident happened, and my friend called the vet and was there for Hugo very late into Sunday night! I flew home the next day thankfully, and decided not to move him from the box he’d been placed in. He also needed to be separate from other horses to avoid excitement and the setup of the yard meant he could have company two boxes down but keep the box in between empty. Now he’s having a few hours’ turnout a day, I’m worried as there are other horses all around him, but at the moment he’s next to a 30-year-old who doesn’t move much, thankfully. I still need to keep him still and calm and not encourage any running about.’

She found his hooves deteriorated during this period since they couldn’t be picked up to clean, let alone trim. Latest report from Peta is that Hugo’s hooves are much improved after a trim and he is out 24/7. My tip for managing bare hooves that can’t be picked up is to invest in a little decorator’s tool called a Stanley Surform which are only a few pounds from a DIY store. They are a mini rasp and if you stand your horse on soft ground or bedding you can tidy up and stop them getting long. Great for elderly or arthritic horses, too.

Well, dear readers, I hope you never have to do as much nursing as Peta and I have done in the last few months. If you do, I hope this article helps. And if you need to consult a vet about an alternative approach to healing you can’t do much better than seeking out Tomas Teskey (tomasteskey@yahoo.com) or Ralitsa Grancharova (vandtequineservices@gmail.com).

 

COMING SOON

It’s the 100th anniversary of women winning the vote this year. I will be interviewing some very special women whose work has always been a male preserve – trimming horse’s hooves.

 

                                                                                BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

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. 

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 UKAmazon US. This page-turning book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘I originally bought this book from Linda at a horse show a couple of years ago but only just got round to reading it. I wish I had read it ages ago! I was absolutely gripped from the first page. It is brilliantly written, well researched, and told with compassion.’ – Amazon UK reader.

I’m a writer and journalist – if you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…or buy one of my books for yourself or a friend! 

 

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Growing horse health…

by Linda Chamberlain

It’s almost as addictive as horse riding – growing medicinal and health-giving plants for yourself, your family…and your horse.

I’ve always gardened but flowers were my strong point and the veg were mostly sad failures which were gobbled up by the slugs. This year has been different. I have been motivated because…well, I don’t know why. Perhaps I had spare time on my hands, or a need for healthier food or I was driven by the various worries that my horses have given me.

My aims were modest at the beginning. I grew some herbs last year in an overgrown patch of my garden that was dominated by pink geraniums and mint. I dug, I battled and I reduced them until there was room for rosemary, sage, variegated mint, marjoram and parsley. They survived with very little effort on my part and my confidence increased.

Then last autumn my horse, Sophie, strained her tendons and needed to rest. Here she is with Charlie Brown in the sick bay part of their woodland home getting herself  better and worrying the life out of me. The mother hen in me awoke and as we sped towards winter I gathered as many green things for them to eat as I could find. Willow was growing in the woods but that didn’t stop me harvesting some branches from a tree near home and getting some surprised looks! Willow is great for pain relief and they both ate with enthusiasm. Hazel branches were added and hung up around the shelter daily.

I turned to my garden in search of more things to alleviate their boredom and brighten up their diet. I still had the herbs and I picked them, wishing I had dried some in the summer. It was great when I discovered the rampant, leafy plant dominating one of the flower beds was a variety of comfrey (below). They could have some of that too – it’s known as knitbone and is a traditional remedy for healing. They loved the taste but it was dying back and they wouldn’t have it for long.

Following hard on the heels of Sophie’s tendon strain was a bout of stomach pain. I suspected ulcers and read all I could find on the internet. It was hard to be sure because she was miserable and didn’t really want to be touched anywhere. Ginger thoroughbreds don’t really like the idea of resting; they would much rather run around on their remaining legs and do themselves some serious damage so I had a grumpy mare to deal with even though she had her friend and more space than is usually advised. The idea of veterinary intervention for the possible ulcers was off putting because the horse needs to be starved for 12 hours in order to be scoped – that would really cheer her up!  And hind gut ulcers, as opposed to stomach ulcers, can’t be detected by scoping anyway. Yes, my vet did look her over, thought it might be her ovaries but he wasn’t overly concerned. So I kept reading, buying natural remedies and herbs and looking again to my garden. In the meantime, she was being walked out in hand and doing a good job of keeping a lid on her desire to tear off while her friend Charlie Brown followed at liberty. Well, I only have two pairs of hands and they have very different speeds. It only once went wrong, thank you, Mr Brown.

 

 

I decided to try some of the most common stomach remedies and see whether she would improve. I bought slippery elm, marshmallow and aloe vera to add to her feed. I also bought a huge 25 kilo sack of limestone flour for about £10 – it’s an anti acid but people also feed it for added calcium.

From the garden she had a daily tea made from lemon balm and lavender flowers (top pic) – I added chamomile since I had it in the cupboard. All are said to be calming and she is a naturally alert TB who needed all the help I could give to reduce any stress. The herb tea became popular with other members of my family and she had to share but didn’t seem to mind!

There was a marked improvement. I continued buying the herbs and feeding what I had, they were working and I was determined to get my happy horse back. She was walking comfortably by now and our walks were getting longer. I will write a separate blog about dealing with the tendon – this is about gardening.

This year I wanted more from my herb garden. The comfrey is a garden monster and easy to grow so I now have more of it. A friend who had a shoulder injury said it was very helpful if made into a poultice but I’m advised it should not be offered in large quantities or too frequently due to toxicity risks. I have added calendula (below) and chamomile which are just beginning to flower. In another shady spot I have plenty of sticky weed (clivers) and there is hazel and willow in the hedge. All these are offered as choice rather than put into a feed. Each day I am able to fill up a bag of things to take them. I have also investigated planting seabuckthorn which is said to be a remedy used by the Ancient Greeks for horses with ulcers but bought some juice instead from Thunderbrook Equestrian since I would need so much. 

For the humans in my life we have some mange tout, courgettes, beans, tomatoes and potatoes. Slugs were the biggest menace and I wanted my crops to be organic so they were picked off at night for about a month. Now the population is reduced, the weather is drier, which slugs hate, and the plants are mature enough to cope.

I have recently read that dried cabbage is very good for the horse’s stomach unlike fresh cabbage which can be gassy. I haven’t grown any, not being that keen, but I might have room next year…who knows?

Until then I am drying some herbs for saving. This little lot will probably only make a couple of cupfuls of tea or a few feeds so must do more while the sun shines. Happy horse gardening, everyone…

COMING SOON

Healing without box rest – how Sophie got better with safe-space turnout and a massive sick bay.

AND It’s the 100th anniversary of women winning the vote this year. I will be interviewing some very special women whose work has always been a male preserve – trimming horse’s hooves.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS

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. 

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 UKAmazon US. This page-turning book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘I originally bought this book from Linda at a horse show a couple of years ago but only just got round to reading it. I wish I had read it ages ago! I was absolutely gripped from the first page. It is brilliantly written, well researched, and told with compassion.’ – Amazon UK reader.

I’m a writer and journalist – if you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…or buy one of my books for yourself or a friend! 

 

Colleges attacked over horse welfare

by Linda Chamberlain

Students have called for better care of horses used in education after a leading university admitted one of its animals died after a behavioural study went horribly wrong.

A spokesman for Nottingham Trent University said: ‘This was an incredibly sad accident and not caused by neglect or bad practice.’

But ex-students have warned that the incident was among a long list of concerns about the treatment of horses – including whipping, long periods of stabling and working animals too hard for their age and fitness.

The students are among a small but growing number of whistleblowers from around the UK who are calling for better care of horses used on equestrian courses. Some left their studies in disgust, others stayed vowing to do what they can for horses who work in the equestrian industry.

Sammi Hancox (above)  finished her degree in 2016 at Nottingham Trent University in equine sports horse management and coaching and is now a riding teacher who runs her own livery yard.

She said: ‘It was my dream to go there. I felt damaged by the time I left.’

The death of a horse called Woody was among the most shocking for her. Said to be one of the slowest on the yard, Woody was being used for another student’s dissertation into how horses might react to an interactive screen. He was penned into a section of the indoor school and his heart rate was monitored before and after the screen was put on. University staff were present but at some point Woody tried to jump the barrier fencing him in.

The university’s spokeman said Woody broke his leg after changing his mind part way through the attempted jump. A vet was called and he was put to sleep.

What upset Sammi, and others, most was the life Woody led before this happened. One, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘He was so slow that no one could get him moving in a lesson. I remember an instructor using spurs and two schooling whips to get him going but the horse’s legs were swollen and filled up the next day.

She said: ‘The day he died, I saw him lying in the school, covered in a rug. It was very upsetting.’

Sammi added: ‘He appeared to be very ill and yet he was made to jump in lessons. Dying was a release for him.’

Some of the university’s horses came from a rescue centre and students claimed that Woody wasn’t the only one being made, through the excessive use of whips and spurs, to work beyond his capabilities. They claimed the horses were ridden, even if they were lame.

One said: ‘When we complained about lame horses the yard manager said – Well, when you get out of bed in the morning you might have some pain but you have to work with your aches and pains.’

Harsh treatment was common, she said, particularly from riding instructors. ‘One pony ran away when a student was trying to mount. An instructor whipped it repeatedly once it was caught.’

Students didn’t always get a gentle approach either. They were split into groups according to ability and she said they were put in a higher level if they showed they could pull the horse’s head in tight when ridden.

‘I remember an instructor shouting, Get that ****** horse’s head in when someone was riding. That’s how it was. Whips were constantly being used – not least by the instructors. Awful.’

The university spokesman denied the students’ claims. ‘We follow correct principles of equitation and do not use – and have never used – the whip to punish a horse,’ he said. ‘This is completely against equine welfare principles. We have a policy of training the horse, not punishing it.

‘The wellbeing of our horses is our highest priority.  They are never worked if lame, in pain or unwell – and never have been. Our staff are highly experienced and professional and would not allow this. It is also completely against our welfare policy and entirely counterproductive as it would make lameness more difficult to cure. If a horse has any health problem it is always treated appropriately under veterinary advice.

‘Unlike commercial farms, our horses don’t have to ‘earn their keep’ and we give them the time they need to recover from injury. Because of this, and our highly-experienced staff and excellent facilities, we have an excellent record of recovery.’

He said all horses used for teaching were checked by a vet at the beginning of the academic year and again, independently by another vet on behalf of the local authority, before being granted a riding school license. There were also unannounced and planned inspections by the British Horse Society.’

Nottingham Trent made headlines in 2015 for its groundbreaking study into the harm caused by traditional stabling. Researchers measured levels of a stress hormone in those kept in individual stables, group stables and in paddocks. They found that the animals became more stressed and difficult to handle the more isolated they became.

Changes were introduced and the university’s stables are now thought to be the only one in the country that has some horses stabled with a companion. The majority, though, are still individually housed.  According to students their free time in a paddock is minimal although this is denied by the university.

Nottingham Trent isn’t the only university where students and ex-students are making complaints. A former lecturer I spoke to said the hike in fees and the contrast between what is taught in the classroom and the stable yard is causing discontent and challenges.

Stuart Attwood, who was  Team Leader – Higher Education Equine at Hadlow College in Kent, said: ‘This is not an historic issue. In my opinion there is a disconnect between the yard – staff and practices – and the lecturing content and, in some cases the personal views of the lecturers and an increasing number of students.

‘Some further education qualifications are based on British Horse Society values but increasingly degree programs are trying to present a newer approach to riding, handling and training. An increasing number of students (FE and HE) are seeing newer ways of handling horses and riding. They want to learn more of this and may even ride like that outside of college but this enthusiasm is stamped on as the BHS values are held more relevant to getting a job.

‘Students are rightly questioning many aspects of colleges – not just equine – as to the value of these courses and the content and how they are taught. The yard issues are real and students do ask questions, and are starting to challenge things like lack of turnout, feeding, stabling, use of bits and harsh control methods. It’s as if the colleges seem to want to just teach what they feel comfortable with, what the BHS book tells them, what’s convenient rather than newer approaches and views ‘because that’s what the industry wants.’

Another lecturer, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that college yard managers commonly treated horses and students harshly. Their job was to produce graduates that the industry needed. Students who were sensitive usually dropped out. Some, who have contacted her, didn’t get further than the open day.

‘The ones who stick it out get sucked into the system; they get hardened and desensitised. They learn to be very tough.’

She said horses have to put up with harsh treatment and very little time out in a field. Colleges have the land but choose not to use it. Lecturers, even those who teach horse welfare, had very little influence and the turnover among teaching staff was high due to disillusionment.

‘They keep the horses as if they are animals that go to bed at night instead of sleeping for just four hours a day. They teach the students that in the classroom but do something else on the yard.’

Sarah is a mature student who is determined to finish her course at Hadlow College but struggles with the way horses are kept.

‘I hate the way they are managed. Yes, I find it hard. There are a lot of sad horses there – they are used as tools.

‘You just have to stand outside the stables at Hadlow and you can smell the urine. And the horse has to spend all day inside.

‘They get minimal turnout. It’s supposed to be for 4 hours a week but they don’t even get that. Staff are reluctant to turn them out because they can’t catch them again! My dad went to prison when I was younger. He had more turnout than those horses.’

She was even more appalled at the condition of the horses being used at Kent Equine Academy where her 17-year-old daughter was doing a diploma. She gave up the course last year, unhappy with the way the horses were treated.

Sarah said: ‘Every time I went to collect her, I saw lame horses. And they were ridden. There were a lot of complaints but students were told to ride them through it. One horse was badly lame. I’m quite blunt sometimes. The member of staff on the yard couldn’t see it was lame so I told one of the tutors and she said ride it more forward. She blamed the rider’s ability.’

I was unable to get a response from the academy – it’s website gives the information that student funding has been lost and the academy is being forced to close this year.

A spokesman for Hadlow College said: ‘We’d like to invite you to the college and our equine yard for a tour to see for yourself the excellent conditions in which our horses are kept.  Their physical and mental welfare is always our priority. The visit would also hopefully provide answers to your questions.’

Lengthy stable confinement is the common denominator in the complaints from students. Allie Gilbert who finished her studies at Hartpury College in Gloucestershire 16 years ago remembers the horses she rode as part of her studies rarely had free time in a field – never in winter when fields were wet. She said the animals were stressed as a result.

She described her dissertation looking at the effectiveness of a calming feed produced by Dodson and Horrell. She tried different things with the horses such as walking towards a lorry and loading – ‘The horses were either like zombies with no zap left in them or they simply legged it. They were impossible to handle. In retrospect, I wish I had spoken out more.’

A spokesman for the university said: ‘Due to Hartpury soil being heavy clay and therefore poaching very quickly, turnout is largely restricted over the winter months when conditions are wet. While we do offer sacrifice paddock turnout, alongside many exercise options (including a sand paddock, two horse walkers, several schools and hacking), we are unable to support those horses who benefit from all-year turnout.  As all horses adapt and cope differently, we appreciate that this environment might not suit every horse.

‘We are clear about turnout when students make initial enquiries about livery at Hartpury. Many horses thrive in this busy atmosphere of a working livery, but we are clear that it is not an environment that will suit every horse. When the ground conditions are suitable, horses do benefit from turnout. This can be overnight, during the day, or both.’

Amelia Phillips (left) did an BHS equestrian course in Cheshire as part of a youth training scheme nearly 30 years ago. She was aged 16 and tried to complain about the conditions for the horses.

‘Nobody listened. I complained to the tutor on site. I complained to the yard manager where I worked and I complained to the tutor who was overseeing my YTS scheme. I was told it was a good yard, very expensive, it was accredited by the BHS!! I was told not to be rude, ignorant or to question those who knew better than I. Most of the other course participants felt the same, except those who really had no experience or other yards to compare to. The whole experience was miserable. I had not one happy day there. That I can see in my mind, the grime, the sweat, the bony protrusions, the gloom, now, 29 years later, quite vividly, speaks volumes.

‘I kid you not, we had to wear our hats with hairnets, long boots with no long sock showing (or we were not getting on), body warmers, long sleeves and gloves, yet the horses were faeces-stained, muscle-free remnants of good animals. Even the tutor looked out of place because she was smart and clean. The yard had a real feel of despair.

‘There has not been a horseless day in the last 30 years of my life and I have never seen a professional, accredited, learning establishment since be so poorly equipped with such down-trodden, distressed, abused horses. I hear about college teachings now ( I am currently helping a young lad studying horse care who came last year for some equine assisted therapy), the material content has not changed. How depressing, when science has moved forward such a long way.’

Sammi Hancox kept a dossier during her time at Nottingham Trent University. While there, she and a fellow student discussed their experiences with an equestrian professional outside the uni and were challenged by college management as a result.

‘I was on my own with this committee from the uni asking me questions,’ she said. ‘They accused me of slandering the university so I told them everything I said was true. No action was taken against me.’

 

My investigation into the students’ concerns was prompted by a simple post on Facebook. It was from a mother seeking support because her distressed daughter wanted to drop out of a college in the Midlands. She couldn’t stand the way the horses were treated and eventually left her course. Sadly, she felt too upset to contribute to this article.

I was struck by the number of students and mothers who shared similar stories on Facebook – some recent, some long ago.

Many horses have a hard-working life, without free-time in a paddock. But what made me investigate the student claims further was the fact that equestrian colleges should be leading the industry, paving the way for improved welfare. Thanks to high tuition fees and government funding they are publicly accountable. They should be responding to the burgeoning interest in alternative ways of keeping and training horses. They should all be listening to the groundbreaking research conducted by one of their own number – Nottingham Trent University – into the harm caused by stabling.

They should be setting up and discovering the rehabilitation and health benefits of track systems (above) – where horses are out 24/7 in a herd and owners report increased fitness and contentment. They should be curious, if not leading the way, on barefoot horse riding.

SOMEONE, PLEASE FIND ME A COLLEGE THAT OWNS A SET OF HOOF BOOTS! For non-equestrians who don’t realise, boots can be taken off after a ride. They can improve hoof health and don’t cause the damage sometimes seen with nailed-on shoes…

Isn’t it time colleges took another direction?

But what do you think? If you’ve been to equestrian college or work in education, why don’t you let me know?

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SEARCH FOR A STAR…I am looking for an agent for my next novel about the mysterious life of the world’s biggest name in horse welfare – Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty. I will keep you informed! In the meantime, I am looking for a Black Beauty look-alike to help me with publicity. I have been inundated with beautiful, black horses on Facebook – check out the post – very exciting…! Please enter if you have a black horse with a white star and a heart of gold…there is a copy of my novel, The First Vet, to be won…

Book links and reviews are below…

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. 

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 UKAmazon US. This page-turning book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘I originally bought this book from Linda at a horse show a couple of years ago but only just got round to reading it. I wish I had read it ages ago! I was absolutely gripped from the first page. It is brilliantly written, well researched, and told with compassion.’ – Amazon UK reader.

I’m a writer and journalist – if you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…or buy one of my books for yourself or a friend! 

And the winner is…!

by Linda Chamberlain

A picture is worth a thousand words…and each one of these will tell you so much about barefoot horses and their owners.

They are a selection of the entries for the Barefoot Horse Owners Group photo competition on Facebook  – I was relieved that the job of choosing a winner didn’t land at my door! Members voted for the best banner photo of 2017 and the prize was a year’s subscription to Barefoot Horse Magazine.

And here is the winner, submitted by Lisa Outram but photographed by Mandy Wheatcroft, the breeder of these three youngsters caught having a snooze amid the remains of a hay bale. The photo perfectly captures a blissful moment of herd life, the horses so relaxed that they are out for the count. Together…

But it also tells you a lot about so many of our group members who strive relentlessly to provide some important elements in the life of a horse. Being in a herd, freedom to move, to sleep, to graze, to choose…it’s not always easy, as you will see, especially at this time of year.

All horses, of course, begin their lives as barefooters. These shots were hot contenders and got plenty of votes.

Mother and baby.

A wild foal.

A newborn.

But the influence of humans means not all will stay free of metal shoes Our touch may not be benign.

Our Facebook group with its 20,000 members (almost) is a great place to find out the best methods of going barefoot, staying that way and having fun with horses.

Riding on the beach.

So many of us like to make a splash.

Some have teamed up with some unusual riding companions.

Or simply going it alone.

 

These two went on a trip to London to see the guards.

But it’s great if you can just be with your equine friend and enjoy the view.

Sometimes we get competitive and ride all in blue…

It’s a myth that barefooters can’t jump as high.

 

Here’s a close up of a healthy hoof doing just that.

No slipping, no sliding.

It’s all about partnership.

As these folk will see.

So many times that can be achieved from the ground.

 

Special moments aren’t confined to being in the saddle.

 

Unless you’re a princess…

Or have a Shetland to ride.

 

You see, they need keeping out of trouble.

Should have a category of their own.

And know how to dress festively.

Sometimes we favour photos of horses together.

Other times we love pics on their own.

 

But if a horse is at the end of your rainbow…

Remember there are better ways of keeping them these days.

Let’s peel back the mists of convention.

Let’s battle the skeptics who warn that we can’t.

Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook for the best photos, great support and top-notch advice from trimmers, vets and riders.

BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS

Half way through edits! My latest book about a welfare campaigner from the past has just come back from my editor who has given me work to do but some praise to fuel my typing fingers – she says: ‘Your writing is truly remarkable and your skill with words just takes my breath away.’ Book links and reviews are below…

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. 

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 UKAmazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘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.

I’m a writer and journalist – if you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…or buy one of my books for a friend! 

 

Learning from the long-distance runners…

by Linda Chamberlain

Imagine a time when it is widely understood that a horse might be a better athlete without metal shoes nailed to his feet.

Imagine sporting professionals acknowledging that a barefoot horse has better natural grip, greater speed and a quicker recovery rate after exercise.

Those of you whose horse has only recently come out of shoes might find such a scenario hard to fathom. Because of course you might be witnessing discomfort as your horse regains the health in his hooves. You might be forgiven for thinking your days of trotting on hard or rough ground are gone – but take heart.

You only have to spend a bit of time in the company of some endurance riders to discover just how much a barefoot horse can achieve given the right lifestyle and training. They can keep going for miles due to their high level of fitness. They don’t slip, they feel the ground (but in a good way) and they have an enviably deep relationship with their riders.

Can less sporting equestrians learn from their experiences?

Let’s meet some of them and impress you with some facts and anecdotes.

This year’s winner of the arduous 100-mile-in-a-day Tevis Cup in the United States DOES NOT WEAR METAL SHOES. Tennessee Lane rode the 17-year-old Arabian, called Farr, with glue-ons and carried Easy boot gloves as back up. The horse is barefoot when not competing.

In the UK, Dominic Smith finished in overall 46th place nationally on a barefoot and bitless horse. He has completed about 500 km in competitions without hoof boots and recently finished third in the open at the Red Dragon ride in Wales, the national championships. He was winner of the best rider/horse combination in the open, bagging a handsome trophy and the horse’s finishing heart rate was 44.

The fact that Dominic can tell me his horse’s heart rate tells you a key thing about the sport. There are regular veterinary checks for soundness and heart rates – horses aren’t allowed to continue unless they pass. A horse that is struggling or lame is ‘vetted out’. There is probably no other equestrian sport with such scrutiny.

Dominic’s horse, known as George (but with the full name George Bush) was bought by him as an unstarted five year old. He was barefoot and shoes were never considered. Boots were difficult to get a good fit for the 16.2 cob x IDTB so Dominic takes it more slowly over rough ground, making up the time where the footing allows.

‘I’ll push on where the going is good for feet, even if I’m feeling it myself. Then I’ll give him a breather where we hit gravel or tougher stuff for feet, so that he’s getting a break where he needs to go easy,’ he says.

‘We’ve been vetted out on two rides early this season. One was ‘out of time’ and the other was lameness, one sore foot which was fine the next day. Both times this was down to me, missing solid stop lines and therefore going off course, doing extra distance and having to double back to achieve the check points. Both times, sod’s law, were on challenging courses.

‘George is out 24/7 in a herd of six all year round, no one gets rugged (although I’m open to it on health grounds). They’re all barefoot, two of the ponies are wildies off the moor kept from slaughter. Shared hard feed and hay on tap.’

Life style, feeding and an exercise regime are all important.

Katherine Mills (right) lives in Hungary but travels far and wide with her four competition horses – all Hispano Arabs apart from one appaloosa cross TB.

‘They live out 24/7 on a 1000m2 bare paddock with shelter and hay in feeders.  They are let out on grass for a snack for a couple of hours in the morning while I poo pick but previously they lived 24/7 on long grass without a problem.  I’ve never keep them on short grass.

‘I ride every other day at the most and mainly trot and canter on all good ground on the flat and walk up and down hills (1-2 hrs LSD, Long, Slow Distance).  Then usually every 3rd session I will do either continuous canters (30mins to 1 hr of canter, in intervals for less fit horses), hill intervals or fartlek intervals for a few weeks. (Fartlek training is another interval-type training for aerobic fitness)  If I have no particular event coming up and they are already at the fitness level I want I will just do the LSD training.  I always have a focus for the session so I train that aspect properly eg: fat metabolism, LSD, raising anaerobic threshold (intervals and fartlek), muscle memory (continuous canters).  Every month or so I will go for a long ride just so they are used to being out. They always get at least a couple of months off in the winter with just the occasional ride for fun.

‘My aim is just to have sound horses that enjoy what they are doing.  I am very sure Arco and QI are capable of doing 160 km at a respectable speed but I won’t push them for the sake of it.  Elsa is capable of doing 120 km for sure but I would rather her do lots of 80 km because she thinks they are fun and she has a low boredom threshold!’

I was fascinated by Barry Brewell’s insight into the relationship between these horses and their riders.

He said: ‘Endurance riders spend hours riding out with their equine partners… covering miles. Human and horse minds meet in the middle; human and horse learn to read the situation, no words are spoken but both rider and horse instinctively learn to understand how best to deal with the road ahead. How fast to go, where to place feet, get off my back and help here, think you’re best going over this bit. Yep, think you’re right, let’s go over there. I’m stopping, got a stone in my foot, have a look, can you? Sounds daft but this is the kind of relationship and understanding you start to get with your horse. It’s worth such a lot.’

Another rider, Sara Nichols Covington, said of barefoot endurance horses. ‘They are more comfortable. They can feel their feet (that proprioception thing), much less concussion with each and every footfall, and the owner is more in tune with natural ways of dealing with issues.’

Deb Morse had this to say: ‘This photo was a 50 mile (80 km) ride in Florida a month ago. Was a bit hot!! All three of these horses are barefoot, although the bay in the back has boots on his fronts. My guys get fed a high fat, sweet feed, supplemental alfalfa, as much green grass as I can get them on or ad lib grass hay. So basically everything you’re “not supposed” to give a barefoot horse. But they work hard enough that they need the calories and put enough miles on their hooves that they can do 50+ miles without protection in the terrain they train on. If we go up north to do a mountain ride, like I am this weekend, I boot all 4 hooves. The bay in the green has done 100 miles (160 km) in a day and was booted since it was in mountains.’

Emma Leigh’s homebred TBxID mare was awarded best condition by FEI vets after one ride. She competes up to 65 km and the mare is trained and competed completely barefoot. ‘Her feet aren’t the prettiest and her conformation isn’t great but it just goes to show that looks don’t matter. I think the distances and terrain covered in training is excellent conditioning for bare hooves. The time taken to do this builds a great partnership so you know each other so well. Having a good hoof care professional who understands the needs of a barefoot performance horse is definitely necessary although these hooves rarely need much attention due to the work they do. She is on restricted grazing due to being a good doer and is fed Allen and Page feeds as well as various supplements and hay. The right diet will always help but movement is key to a good bare hoof.’

Gemma la Coop has had great success competing with hoof boots. ‘I’ve done several 80 km (50mile) rides with my boy successfully booted, and did 100 miles through the Cairngorms over 4 days. The key is to make sure you have well fitted boots!

‘There are lots of successful barefoot horses and ponies out there, the winning Scottish endurance team this year had several barefoot horses on it!’

Jill Thorburn has two barefoot endurance horses. ‘My previous horse competed up to 65 km before I sadly lost him to colic. I have brought on my current horse and he has successfully completed 17 endurance rides up to 64 km in the last two years. He is sometimes booted in front. The key is good nutrition, good conditioning and regular trimming. I have recently backed my next endurance horse and will spend two years working him gently, building up the work and conditioning his hooves through work on all terrains. I think barefoot horses do so well because you never see riders trotting them along the roads when there is a verge available. Both horses and riders are more aware of where to step to protect from concussion. I give Pure feed and its always worked well for my horses. My trimmer says they both have great feet.’

Not all endurance horses are Arabs, although they are famously strong in the sport. This is Ally Knight’s fell x Arab who was previously shod for 10 years and has been barefoot for around 18 months. ‘I do boot on the fronts if I think there is going to be a lot of forestry.’

Danielle Glaister’s horse, Blackie, has completed regularly barefoot and booted. This year they did Cirencester 40 km Saturday, 40 km Sunday. She says: ‘He nearly always gets grade one as he did in riding club championships in Lincolnshire two weeks ago.’

Jane Impey says diet has been vital for her horse. ‘We have participated up to 40 km. For us, lower levels of sugars, reducing grass during summer and feeding ad lib hay with salt and a good balancer has helped and lots of hacking on varied terrain. Support of a good knowledgeable trimmer who also does bodywork has helped massively! Not a typical endurance horse but he loves it.’

Frauke Jurgensen said: ‘I have a metabolically challenged pony who has competed up to 80 km. He did lots of shorter distances bare, and 60 with front boots only, but now he wears Renegades/Vipers all round. We have muddy fields up here and granite tracks, and the combination makes it really difficult to get the hoof conditioning just right. Also, his metabolic issues mean that even with very careful management, his frogs are always pretty crappy and he feel stones more easily. Not a problem if you can amble along and choose your footing very carefully, but not conducive to speed. I’ve had people say that of course it must be easy to go BF for endurance if your horse has feet as great as Benji, but I have to correct them and say that it’s a testament to the quality of the trimmers that he can do so well, despite having metabolically-compromised feet!’

Karen Schafer has completed a 160 km endurance ride on her barefoot Arabian, no boots. ‘He has won and placed in several rides between 80 – 120 km, I found everything depended on the footing, if it was good there was no limitation no matter what distance and if it included gravel roads and stony riverbeds I would usually get around the first 40 km fine and use Easyboots in front after that. My horse became an absolute pro at picking his speed according to the footing and never vetted out due to being barefoot. He was out on pasture (green and lush most of the time but old fashioned varieties) all year round with a little hay and no more than 1 kg of oats plus minerals and salt when in full work. He was always in excellent condition.’

Sam Hunt has competed two Arabs up to advanced level (80 kms) over the years, completely barefoot, never been booted. ‘Miri, pictured, is now 17 and will compete again next season. We’ve done all kinds of terrain, from fast and flat, to steep and rocky. Their proprioception and therefore balance is great. As long as we’re on the right course, I let them pick their preferred bit of ground (not always what you would expect them to choose!) If the going’s particularly tough, we simply slow down accordingly.’

Tracy Helen Ryan reports: ‘This year between 18 February and 17 September Connie and I have completed 1170 km. Longest distance has been 33 km. We have ridden nearly every weekend sometimes both Saturday and Sunday. We have never been vetted out. My horses live on a track system with free access to a barn with a big straw bed and hard standing. There is access to two half acre grass paddocks through the summer and I feed adlib hay all year and Simple Systems grass nuts and purabeet with micronised linseed twice a day. I always allow Connie to choose her own speed over any terrain. If I ask her for a higher gait and she is reluctant we stay with what she is comfortable with. Listening to Connie is my highest priority and in my humble opinion what keeps her sound.’

Finally, another Arab, with Jane Adams. ‘I competed up to 64 km on my little rescue barefoot Arab. Sometimes with front boots but mostly bare. Lives on a track system, ad lib hay 24/7, 365 days per year. Fed always on Simple System feeds. Retired now for a few years due to Cushings but is sound at 24.’

THANK YOU…!

Thanks to all those who have helped me with this article and shared their success stories – and apologies for the time it has taken for me to put it all together! I blame a series of interviews that didn’t happen, evidence that didn’t materialise and my own horse’s battle with niggling injuries. Sophie had a strain on her tendon requiring full-time worrying and nursing. No doubt, the experience will supply me with anecdotes and articles about how to heal such things but I could have done without it. No doubt, she felt the same. I’m not a lover of box rest because the poor horse frets and loses muscle and condition and unfortunately rest is recommended…fortunately I have my own version. Here is my sick bay – big enough for two horses, room for a lay down and to potter about. They can even walk around the outside of it. Difficulties hit me every time I thought she was recovered enough to cope with more space. Turning her out renewed the strain. So I have established an injury recovery area – a level concrete circular track which allows more movement than the sick bay. No slipping and straining, no running. There is a softer area amid some fir trees for lying down and rolling, shelter thanks to their cover. And it’s working – she’s walking happily and being led. Wish her well…xxx

BOOK NEWS

My latest book has just come back from my editor who has given me work to do but some praise to fuel my typing fingers – she says: ‘Your writing is truly remarkable and your skill with words just takes my breath away.’ Wow…but that’s enough about me – book links and reviews are below…

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. 

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 UKAmazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘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 campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…or buy one of my books for a friend! 

He found her in The Killing Fields…

by Linda Chamberlain

He had blue eyes. And so he had been left to die because superstition warned that the Devil might control you through the blue eyes of an animal. He had to fend for himself. On some land known locally as The Killing Fields where there was no feed in winter and little water in summer and so many horses were to die.

Then he spotted a woman, a horse trainer, called Krissy Valentine who was looking for a couple of ponies to rescue. There were so many in those fields but she didn’t want another forever horse. Didn’t want something so big.

Sometimes, though, horses have to take their lives into their own hooves and he didn’t want to be left in such a place, forgotten.

Krissy was driving through the 200 acres of open fields in Kent (south east UK). He approached the car. He said hello…but after a while the humans drove off looking for a smaller project.

Did he know something she didn’t? Did he know she mustn’t get away? His forever human?

Krissy takes up the story. ‘Don’t forget we were in 200 acres. We drove off to check the other horses but then we picked up movement in the bushes and as we went down a track for a bit out comes this same cob who stops our car. We were quite shocked and my friends kept saying – it’s a sign!

‘We moved him and his little herd on and kept going. About half an hour later the sun was going down and we were on the other side of this place heading back and we were stopped yet again by this cob. He was sweaty and had clearly been following us.

‘I was entranced now but we wanted to get home so we carried on once we moved him out of the way. As we were going out the gate, there was a thunder of hooves and this cob comes cantering along after the car, sweating and blowing. We couldn’t believe it as he slowed himself down and came to another stop by the car.

‘I promised him there and then that he’d come home with me and he’d be safe. Forever.’

This happened in 2012. Soon after, the RSPCA intervened but 40 horses are thought to have died in their first week of rescue. The cob, now named Prince Valken, got out early. He was said to be aged four but, once she had him home, Krissy realised he was younger by at least six months. She knew he’d been sat on and she knew he’d worn a bit. She also found he had a few issues. Water was one of them. He was so used to going thirsty that he’d drink too much rather than graze and so then he’d lose weight.

He needed time off.

And then Krissy moved to France. Prince Valken stayed with a friend before joining her later and once in France she restarted his training.

As you can see from the fabulous photos, Krissy enjoys riding without much tack! Actually change that to ANY tack. Her horses and ponies enjoy it too. That doesn’t mean we are asking you to do the same but I thought you’d like to hear how she reaches this point of trust.

Over to Krissy again…’I restarted him from scratch – no bits, no shoes, just a head collar and riding bareback. We’d hack out in the forests and reserves in France that way for hours and hours on end, jumping logs and basically letting him enjoy his education.

‘I wanted to create a partnership based on equality and using as little tack as possible. I start all my youngsters tackless and introduce tack as we go along, generally around six months after the initial backing. I’ve found it is the best way to be with rescues, especially ones who have been in such a state.

‘And I always use reward-based training such as positive reinforcement, clicker training, and natural horsemanship.’

Krissy has her own land so went for lots of walks in hand, playing games, trick training and hopping on for the ride home. The pressure was off; fun was top of the list.

The next stage was introducing a western saddle and neck reining. She soon had the cob responding to the neck rope rather than the bridle. The ‘whoa’ cue was introduced in a safe, fenced-off area…’I would lean back, put my legs forwards and relax my body, saying whoa and breathing out. I could stop him solely off voice. It was time to tie the bridle reins up on his neck and work solely off the neck rope. Always, always, a pocketful of treats will get you far with horses.

‘Reward-based training has changed our lives. Soon we just whipped the bridle off. I’d carry a Parelli carrot stick with me and hold it at the shoulder if I wanted to turn and he wasn’t 100% clear of the neck rope but he picked it up so easily.

‘Riding without tack feels right; it feels like I am made to fit onto my horses that way. I prefer it and find my ponies do too. I can do jumping courses and school but I also do stunt training this way. I do use a bareback pad for long excursions but, for me, the less tack the better.

‘I feel so free, knowing that there is nothing between me and my horses, knowing that my control comes from our trust and partnership rather than our tack.’

HOOF NOTE…

Not surprisingly, Prince Valken’s hooves were in a state when Krissy first acquired him. They were broken, shaped like triangles and failing to grow. A farrier trimmed his hooves gradually, taking off a little at a time, being careful not to put him in pain.

He went on loan when Krissy moved to France and was shod for a few weeks. She was determined it was a temporary measure and once they were reunited, the shoes were off once more. Now he has brilliant hooves and is trimmed only as often as needed.

ABOUT ME – BOOK NEWS – MY HORSES

My name is Linda Chamberlain and I’ve been a journalist all my working life – now I’m also an author and blogger focusing on horses and their welfare. The harm caused by horse shoes has been a particular worry and prompted me to write the hugely popular novel The First Vet and then the non-fiction book, A Barefoot Journey. Another historical novel is in the pipeline. In the meantime my companion horse, Charlie Brown, is trying to worm his way into a true story I’m researching about a dreadfully spoiled princess who closed Richmond Park and kept it to herself for a few years. He thinks it’s time he was in a book and will revert to his original racing name, Legendary Romance. I’ve made him a promise and so I will have to write it now! I’ve recently discovered that the princess took a tumble in the park one day – was that you Mr Brown? He’s not admitting to anything…

Charlie Brown’s job is to look after Sophie, my ridden horse. Apart from one lapse (he bit her ear and she didn’t talk to him for 2 days) he’s been doing a good job. So have I! Sophie has recovered from laminitis (see blog, Life After Lami) and now she is teaching me how to care for a tendon strain. I’ll only write about that once we’ve beaten it…If I forget how to ride, I will get in touch with Krissy!

BOOK LINKS – BOOK REVIEWS

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. 

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 UKAmazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘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 campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…or buy one of my books for a friend! 

Max’s amazing transformation…

by Linda Chamberlain

Meet a horse called Max.

He wants to show you why metal shoes were not working for him.

In this shocking photo (below) he had been shod less than six weeks before.

His heels were underrun and his hooves were distorted. The strain on his tendons must have been immense.

I doubt there can be any farrier in the country who will say it was the work of a good professional.

His owner had had enough. So off came the shoes and with frequent trims she was able to improve the shape of Max’s hooves.

His heels are no longer three inches high – in just a few months they are getting back to where heels should be, at the back of the hoof! And as you can see the potential for tendon strain has been reduced (see below).

You know, it’s a common problem that hooves will distort in between shoeings because of course they are growing all the time. With a nailed-on shoe it is impossible for the horse to wear hooves down naturally or for a professional to keep them trimmed and in shape especially if they are growing quickly during a six-week shoeing cycle.

So heels can become what is known as underrun. This is an extreme example (although I have seen worse) and, as you can see, Max’s heels in his shoes are almost directly beneath the centre of his foot.

There are so many excellent hoof boots on the market that can save all this ridiculous trouble. Isn’t it a scandal that nailed-on shoes are still legal? Sorry, I have trouble understanding why anyone bothers with them…

Max’s owner Tazelle shared his story recently on the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook – a busy support group with more than 18,000 members.

Not surprisingly his photos were greeted with shock and dismay. How can those hooves have got so bad? Why is that farrier still practicing? How many inches in height has Max, a 14.1hh quarter horse, lost? But also, there was a warm ripple of support and encouragement.

Max’s story must have given hope to many members who are beginning on their barefoot journeys. If hooves as bad as Max’s can be revived once free of shoes, then surely other common hoof problems might be beaten.

The good news is – THEY CAN!

To find out more about barefoot, or to get support, join the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook.

ABOUT ME – BOOK NEWS…

I’m a writer and journalist who loves horses. My own horses’ shoes were removed about 17 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 UKAmazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘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 campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel has been completed, ready for editing. I am being inspired by a famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. 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. And have I told you about the Very Bad Princess? The one who rode horses, swore a lot and tried to keep a London park all to herself…not a current-day princess…more soon…I’m enjoying the research on this lady! She used to take snuff…xxx