Isn’t it time to give them rights?

by Linda Chamberlain

Twelve days old and her feet and her body are in perfect health. She is full of promise, has a fantastic home with other horses and an owner who understands her needs.

 

But what about other foals not in such caring homes? Shouldn’t they be protected from harm? What laws exist to safeguard their rights as sentient beings?

What court will listen if they end up in a bad home and are beaten? Or made to work too hard? Ridden and shod too young when their bones are not fully formed? Or if they are kept in conditions that are so alien to their species that they become sick with worry and stress?

Clementine’s perfect, promising hooves (above) have inspired me to take a look at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to see how it might apply to the domestic horse. I make no apology if that sounds a little too much. It can be routine for the horse to be whipped, spurred, pulled on his delicate mouth, isolated for long hours in a stable and have metal shoes nailed to his feet. Do we make such demands on any other animal?

The US is the only one of the signatory countries that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child – it has not been made law. The UK government ratified it in 1992, six years after outlawing corporal punishment in state schools. So you see, it is not long since our children had much less legal status than they do today. It’s not that long ago that their legal rights were little greater than those afforded the horse. In the 90s, the idea that children should be given rights was ridiculed in some quarters.

Perhaps I’m not asking for such a great leap of faith to apply some of this protection to our beloved equines…!

He suffers more interference from humans than any other domestic animal – perhaps it’s time for a treaty for the horse.

So taking a lead from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, let’s consider the following rights…let them be our goal.

You have the right to play and rest.

These two get plenty of time to be horses! They have made their own pool in a sandy area and enjoy a roll and a dip. They are allowed to play together but not all horses are afforded such freedom.

Too many horses are stabled 24/7 especially in winter. There are bars to stop them touching each other due to the fear of fighting. Their only exercise is when they are ridden or worked and that cannot be described as play. The need to socialise isn’t enshrined in law. In the UK, many horses only enjoy turnout for a few hours a day. Is that good enough?

You will be protected from work that harms you or makes you ill.

Children work long hours in many parts of the world and the UN seeks to limit the harm caused. The equine has his own equivalent.  He is backed and trained to enter horse racing as a two year old and many are ruined as a result. Animal Aid says more than 1500 have died on race courses in the last ten years in the UK. Sports horses are frequently competing at the age of four but their bodies are not fully developed until the age of seven. Take a look at the excellent charity Horses4Homes to see how many well-bred horses are looking for retirement homes in their prime. In the developing world, the horse has a lot of work to do and welfare charities strive to encourage better treatment. In the US there has been uproar about the plight of the Tennessee Walking Horse who is made to stride in an exaggerated fashion with the barbaric use of soring (above pic) – defined as chemical or physical means to make the horse lift his leg higher. An attempt to end the practice was put on hold by President Trump in his first day in office. Protection from harmful work would have a massive impact on all of these sports. Shouldn’t it be law?

No one is allowed to punish you in a cruel or harmful way.

Corporal punishment in UK state schools was outlawed in 1986 but family domestic punishment is legal in many countries around the world, so children are still mistreated. Excessive use of the whip is not always frowned on in equestrian sport but governing bodies in racing have the right to suspend and fine riders who go too far – deemed at seven uses of the whip in flat racing, eight over jumps. Otherwise, the horse’s only legal protection in the UK is from anti-cruelty legislation. Is there any other domestic animal that is whipped in a sport we watch for our pleasure? Other means of control can be painful for the animal – spurs, tight nosebands, strong bits – all can cause harm but are endemic. There are calls for such riding ‘equipment’ to be replaced by better training methods. Shouldn’t they be listened to?

You have the right to help if you have been hurt, neglected or mistreated.

Countries with child protection laws will intervene if parents mistreat their children. Vast sums are spent in the developed world monitoring and supporting families that are struggling and children will be rehomed as a last resort. The hard-pressed RSPCA in the UK and Australia will sometimes intervene in cases of reported cruelty or neglect against animals. Both spend a lot of money educating owners and the public. Horses and other animals are rehomed; prosecutions against cruel owners have been brought. Most countries have no welfare charities and the horse is not protected.

Your education should help you develop your abilities and talents.

Not every child in the world is lucky enough to get an education. In the west it is considered a birth right and is compulsory. Every domestic horse will need training but the nature of that has begun to change in the last few decades. Equine training is still called breaking in by some but the description starting a horse is more reflective of new and progressive ways of preparing a horse.

This is Indiana being trained by Liane Rhodes (right). Shouldn’t every horse have this softer start?

You have the right to have safe water to drink and nutritious food to eat.

Perhaps this is one of the most poignant rights in the Convention. With so many children hungry around the world or having to drink water that is contaminated, can we spare a thought for the equines who are underfed? Or those who work in the blistering heat but rarely get something to drink? Ironically, in our richer countries the horse can suffer from the opposite problem – obesity and a high sugar diet.  The Convention rightly concentrates on children who face starvation on a daily basis.

You have the right to give your opinion and for humans to listen and take you seriously.

I included this in all seriousness although I have substituted adults as stated in the Convention with humans. It is part of the Children’s Convention with good reason because their lives in the past could be decided by local authorities or courts without them being consulted. It is not many decades since the practice of sending UK orphans to live (and work) with families in Australia or Canada was ended. The unhappy stories of such children shipped abroad by our leading charities sounded like modern-day slavery when I wrote about the issue as a young journalist. In the equestrian world there is a relatively new buzz word – listen to your horse! It’s an interesting one and encourages us to consider the reason if we are having problems with a horse we ride. So often ‘naughty’ behaviour from the horse was regarded as a reason for stronger training methods. Enlightened equestrians now strive to find out what might be causing problem behaviour. In other words, a buck might be caused by back pain. The horse, like a child, needs to be heard.

You will be protected from harmful drugs.

An important one for our children but should we have this for the horse? They don’t indulge in recreational drugs, of course. No one is trying to lure them into addictive habits that cost a fortune and wreck lives.

You have the right to choose your own friends.

Perhaps, for the horse, we should simply say he must be allowed to have some friends. This takes us back to the beginning and the right to play, the right to have turnout with other equines. It is quite distressing to see so many livery yards advertising their expensive facilities which include large and airy stables and individual turnout. Surely this ignores the horse as a herd animal. How heartening to see so many new-style yards providing all-weather surfaces on tracks and large, open barns for shelter rather than stables so that horses can live together, where they are happy. Shouldn’t such facilities become the norm?

You have the right to a safe place to live.

We want such a thing for every child but this could be terribly misconstrued for the horse. So many owners consider a stable as the warm and safe place for the horse to live and yet long hours of incarceration cause stress habits such as weaving and cribbing. Accidents still happen in a 12 x 12 box of course but what would the horse instinctively choose? A stable, or cave? No, this would not be sought in the wild. It’s more likely that a slight hill would be favoured with good visibility. Safety would be with the herd.

Isn’t it time we thought about all the strange things we do to horses? Things that are so against the animal’s nature.

Isn’t it time we talked about their rights?

Thank you to Catherine Fahy, Liane Rhodes and Sundi Reagan Anderson for photos.

UPDATE ON OUR TRACK

My track system in the woods has had an extension! We now have about a mile of tracks and trails for the horses to get their bare hooves in top notch condition. Sophie’s laminitis appears to be a distant memory and she is enjoying being ridden once more. It’s been interesting to see how much more the horses move now that the track is a complete circuit. Here is Sophie with Charlie Brown enjoying the new space. As you can see it’s quite an open area with a little bit of grass and gorse, an awful lot of bracken and plenty of birch trees. The strimmer has been busy at work on the bracken, trees have been thinned and the horses are making their own tracks without the need for me to direct them with lots of electric fencing. They spend a lot of time there but, judging by my daily, shoveling chore, they are clocking up miles around the whole place.

 

THE BOOKS

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)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 UK. Amazon 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 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…xxx

What more proof does the horse world need…?

by Linda Chamberlain

He was a seemingly ordinary policeman in Houston, Texas.

He was a catalyst for change in a traditional horse world.

And for nearly two decades he has been helping the city’s police horses to live healthier, happier lives on their own four feet. Without metal nailed to their hooves…

Greg Sokoloski cut down on vet bills and farriers’ fees. And he proved beyond doubt that equines could work one of the toughest jobs maintaining law and order – barefoot.

He retired from the Houston Mounted Patrol this week and tributes to his ground-breaking success have been pouring in from all over the world.

The reason is simple – Greg didn’t simply transition his own assigned horse to barefoot. He converted the whole patrol! He and some fellow officers learnt how to trim hooves; they studied with Jaime Jackson and Pete Ramey. Then they changed the way the horses were kept and fed. He leaves the patrol of about 30 equines free of metal on their feet and many are ridden bitless, too. No, there is nothing ordinary about this man…

Details of his inspiring story were revealed to the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook in December in a special question and answer session. It’s republished there now on the pinned post – so get yourself over and be prepared to be amazed. Here is a link

Greg’s assigned horse was Shadow, pictured here on their last patrol doing one of his famous, signature grins. ‘It has been a long journey since we first ventured out to do police work in 2004, barefoot,’ Greg explained to the group. ‘We have learned a lot about our horses, ourselves as caretakers and the very normal horse world we were in prior to that time. Our horses are healthy and happy and have saved the citizens of Houston hundreds of thousands of dollars in farrier and vet costs.

‘We use a natural diet, free-choice hay, a mixture of oats/barley, average around 1 pound per day per horse, rice bran and minerals. The main thing is the minerals. We do not use any bagged feeds, too high in sugars, not a good way to get them their minerals, so we stay away from them. We have 14 different breeds, all adjust to the diet with no problems. Please do not go out and just start to feed oats and barley. They are high in sugars when fed in very high amounts. So please do not change your horse’s diet because that is what Houston Police Department uses for their horses. It is a lot more complicated than that. If you want to learn more go to Pete Ramey’s site, Pete Ramey Hoof Rehab home.
‘We have a lot of movement with our horses, which is crucial for healthy strong hooves. They work, they have pasture turnout and when in the barn each stall has a 50 foot run with crushed granite to help condition their hooves. We also have boots. We use Old Mac G2’s, Cavallo’s and we just started evaluating Scoot Boots. I use mine on big protests, some use them more, some officers not at all, but they are available and offer full hoof protection and allow for expansion and contraction of the hoof capsule to allow blood to move the way nature intended.’

Members of the barefoot group wanted to know how long the horses worked and what age they retired. Greg explained they did an eight hour shift and usually covered a couple of miles a day although busy times might put that up to 13 miles. Shadow is now 17 years old but isn’t retiring.

‘He is healthy and happy. He will stay as a police horse – this is what we wanted when we started the barefoot program back in 2000 to show how change is needed in the farrier and vet world. We were told continually how bad taking the metal shoes off would be from the “experts” when we were constantly dealing with sick and lame horses and retiring them too young or worse having to put them down. Shadow has proven what works and what needs to change.’

The key question was probably – how did Greg persuade the top brass to back his barefoot idea all those years ago?

‘Our horses were is such a state of lameness and sickness when I presented them over 20 years of shoeing protocols that continually failed in getting our horses healthy and resulted in many of them being retired or even put down, and cost the city a lot of money. It made a lot of sense to them to change direction and see if we could make better changes for our horses. It was very scary for me, I was up against the established traditions most people come across when dealing with vets and farriers but I knew it had to be better than what the “experts” deemed was normal for horses. After I started with a few and we saw the difference, not only in their health, but of course it saved a bunch of money which is a big deal when dealing with city budgets.

‘Like here in the US, there are still people in charge of mounted units who know only what a vet or farrier tells them. They are afraid of change, afraid of losing that connection with the vet and farrier and afraid of all the time and effort it will involve. It all starts with someone taking control of their unit and making decisions based on the health of the horses and the safety of their officers. Lame and sick horses are a huge business for vets and farriers, I know because our ex vet and farrier made a lot of money.’

What a legacy – happy retirement, Greg…

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE BLOG – Keep in touch by clicking the ‘follow’ button on this blog – coming soon, the real cost of laminitis, I have been asked to investigate the ‘laminitis industry’ by the UK’s leading Barefoot Horse Magazine.

And an interview with a farrier who became worried about the impact of hammering a horse’s hoof…Don’t miss it…

THE BOOKS

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)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 UK. Amazon 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 blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is nearing completion and about to go off 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…xxx

 

The Spring ‘Plague…’

by Linda Chamberlain

Alarmist? Or is Jaime Jackson’s latest book on laminitis a wake-up call…?

He describes the disease as a holocaust, a plague of such proportions that there is a whole industry profiting from the suffering of our horses but failing to bring a lasting cure.

JJ-3Vets, farriers and pharmaceutical companies make money by treating the symptoms of laminitis but continue to ignore the triggers, says US farrier-turned-trimmer, Jackson, in his latest, hard-hitting book.

And in the meantime the horse continues to suffer a sometimes-fatal disease which owners struggle to treat amid all the conflicting advice.

There will be plenty of us in the Northern Hemisphere who won’t want to hear Jackson’s warnings as we approach Spring and the strongest grass flush of the year – a well-known and recognised cause of laminitis. Yet, he is the man who brought us the revolutionary concept of Paddock Paradise, a healthier way of keeping horses by giving them tracks rather than grassy fields to live on. It has made a huge difference to the lives of so many domestic equines – he should be listened to…

laminitisBut is he right to say there is so much laminitis about that it can be seen as a plague?

His concerns are fueled in part by his own hoof care clinics in the US where people learn to trim hooves using cadavers. Of the hundreds of hooves that are used each year, only a tiny percentage show no signs of laminitis.  About seventy five per cent show chronic symptoms and some, he says, are ‘of such mind-boggling deformity that one wonders why there was no law enforcement involved.’

Others agree with his findings.

Nick Hill 12Trimmer, Nick Hill, (left) said: ‘Laminitis is widespread around the world but people are not noticing the warning signs. Jaime Jackson is absolutely correct to try and wake horse owners up to being more careful. He has been doing so for many years and I just wish more people would take the threat seriously.’

Lindsay Setchell, (below) a member of the Hoofing Marvellous group of trimmers in the South West UK, said: ‘It is indeed a problem of pandemic proportions. We see the signs of chronic low grade laminitis in the majority of horses we visit…in fact it is rare to find a horse who has not been affected. When a horse has an acute attack it tends to be obvious and both owners and vets don’t seem to have much of a problem diagnosing it.

Lindsay Setchell‘However, chronic laminitis is something which often goes unnoticed until the horse becomes acute and this can lead to death if not managed correctly. The extremely frustrating thing for us as barefoot specialists is that with a few simple guidelines of what to look out for, laminitis can be stopped in its tracks and the horse can be kept pain free and at low risk for the rest of its life.

‘Whenever we meet a new client the conversation is often very similar with us pointing out the signs of chronic laminitis – then when the client starts to understand they realise they have been seeing symptoms for a long time but didn’t know it. The honest truth is, horses kept on grass WILL experience low to high grade signs and symptoms.’

So why does the horse world remain deaf to the warnings?

The causes Jackson highlights are so endemic that perhaps too great a shift is needed. At the moment it is not possible to get all horses off grass and onto a safe hay diet…yet fields can be tracked, grass reduced, the danger minimised.

It might be that people cling onto their ignorance because changing the future for the horse might make them too cold, too muddy…or too inconvenienced.  Jackson believes there is a profit motive among companies and professionals and calls them the laminitis industry – I would love to hear your views on that one.

Whether there is a plague or not, one thing is fairly certain – laminitis is man made.  Jackson has never seen it during his observations in wild horse country.

Importantly, in his book Laminitis – An Equine Plague of Unconscionable Proportions, he gives the disease a new slant, calling it Whole Horse Inflammatory Disease. Because it’s not simply about the hoof. It begins in the gut and can show up in many part of the body as apparent arthritis, itchy skin or hives.

Common hoof problems such as thrush and white line disease, he says, are symptoms of laminitis and yet are treated in isolation with no reference to the cause. How many horse owners have a topical treatment for thrush on their tackroom shelf? In Jackson’s view the laminitis ‘money trail’ sees it as a profitable way of once again treating only symptoms.

Let’s look at those causes. The key triggers are the rubbish we humans put into the horse’s gut that doesn’t belong there.

dsc_1324GRASS – it’s too sweet, too rich and he says ‘there is no known safe way to pasture horses.’

VACCINATIONS, antibiotics, steroids.

CHEMICALS – such as weedkiller, fertiliser and fungicides.

FEED – the bags and bags of sweet-smelling stuff produced by the multi-million pound / dollar animal feed industry.

Dr Debbie Carley of Thunderbrook Equestrian has said we need to be careful about what goes into a horse’s bucket because commonly used oat and wheat feed are produced from the outer husk of the grain, so have little nutrition but contain a high level of farming chemicals. Her whole herd of horses became seriously ill when she moved them to Norfolk, an intensely arable part of the UK, where they were exposed to drift from neighbouring farms. Symptoms were typical of Whole Horse Inflammatory Disease and only began to heal when she kept them away from farming sprays and developed her own range of feeds. (See my earlier blog – Beware of the Bucket)

But let’s focus on the hoof and those early signs of inflammation that ALL owners should make themselves familiar with.

Watch out for the following…

hm-lami-signshm-lami-signs-3If your horse has a gap, or a groove where a horse shoe might be fitted, if little stones get wedged there, then you have white line disease. SOMETHING IS WRONG.

If there are stress rings on the outer hoof wall. SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT.

If there is blood in the white line. YOU NEED TO TAKE ACTION NOW.

It is early March and another UK trimmer, Georgie Harrison, has reported seeing many grass-kept horses with blood stains on the white line (see above right). This is a serious warning sign of inflammation, needing an urgent change of lifestyle.

The action Jackson advises in his book is mind-blowingly simple.

STOP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING.

Stop all medication, wormers, everything you have been feeding, especially grass, and possibly your farrier’s visits. You should get in touch with a trimmer from his AANHCP to guide you in setting up a more natural lifestyle for your horse, a better diet and a healing trim.

If you suspect laminitis, you should call your vet for a diagnosis. Cold hosing may bring some relief but if your horse is shod, now is not the time to remove shoes. Wait until your trimmer feels the horse is over the danger period.

I have already written a blog about my own horse’s brush with laminitis but here is a quick summary. Like many people aware of the dangers of rich grass I had ‘tracked’ two of my fields using electric fence to minimise grass consumption, top up with hay and increase movement. Effectively, you are creating what looks like a racehorse gallop around the edge of the field. I thought it was working well since the horses were sound. Then one night, my elderly mare broke off the track through the electric fence to the middle, with its long grass. She took two of her friends with her.

My new horse, Sophie, was lame on every foot the next morning and yet the others appeared fine. No wonder grazing rich pasture is called Russian Roulette because there is no predicting which horse might suffer and when. I couldn’t believe that only a few days before I had ridden Sophie who was quite happy barefoot and without hoof boots.

After consulting holistic vet Ralitsa Grancharova I kept her off the grass but didn’t stable her. She had free-choice movement on a small area with a friend who couldn’t boss her, activated charcoal in a handful of chaff for a few days to absorb toxins but no Bute. She was reasonably comfortable within a few weeks.

horses at phie 28Getting her rock-crunching sound took longer thanks to the wet winter last year in the UK making it difficult to give her enough movement. It was only when I moved her to our new track system in the woods with its mile of grass-free roads and trails that I could see a real improvement in hoof shape and comfort.

It’s lovely to see my horse recovered but now I’m horribly aware of the dangers to others living on green pastures. I’m also conscious of sounding like the voice of doom at the joyous approach of warmer weather!

Then I think of Jaime Jackson’s strong language. Of the number of hooves he has seen with their tell-tale signs of pain and distress. My own voice is mild next to his.

He talks of the misery of keeping a horse in a stable, fields that are founder traps and companies that callously make products that harm. The ‘laminitis industry’ should be reeling from his attack.

ACTION PLAN

Buy, beg or borrow Jackson’s book! Here’s the UK link…Steal it if you have to but make sure you read it. Be aware of the early laminitis warning signs, reduce your horse’s grass consumption and investigate track systems. Your horse will be healthier, sounder and safer.

Get a good trimmer to help you – there are too many equine professionals who will tell you that grass/feed/shoes/chemicals are safe.

Listen to your horse. If he says ouch on tough ground, should you reach for a set of hoof boots or should you question your horse’s diet? Remember Jackson says that inflammation, wherever it is evident, begins in the gut and we are looking for a cure, not a sticking plaster. If you are repeatedly treating thrush and white line disease, do something permanent about it!

A final word from Nick Hill – ‘If you want to keep your horses on grass, it’s very risky, especially if they are overweight coming into the Spring, it goes against nature. Stay clear of monocultured grasses and fertilised fields, try and create more movement, either by building a track system and or riding /exercising every day, not just for 20 minutes but work the fat and excess energy off them.’

ABOUT ME –

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)I’m a writer and journalist who loves horses. Their 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 UK. Amazon 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 blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is nearing completion. 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…xxx

 

 

Perfect Policing…

by Linda Chamberlain

A police officer from Texas…and a group of barefoot horse owners in the UK…what on earth have they got in common?

The answer isn’t obvious…

But as soon as I tell you that the police officer doesn’t sit behind the wheel of a Ford you could be getting closer. He mostly rides a horse called Shadow when he’s on duty.

houston-police-2And Shadow has been pounding the streets of Houston for many years without metal nailed to his hooves.

Not only that but Gregory Sokoloski from the Houston Mounted Patrol persuaded the authorities to try barefoot with all their equines.

That was more than 10 years ago and the change from traditional horse keeping has been extremely successful – not one horse has failed to make the transition from shod to working barefoot.

‘Our horses are healthy and happy and have saved the citizens of Houston hundreds of thousands of dollars in farrier and vet fees,’ says Greg.

The Houston Mounted Patrol has become renowned in barefoot circles and so it was a huge thrill when Greg agreed to answer questions put to him by member of the Barefoot Horse Owners Group UK on Facebook. The group has more than 16,000 members from all over the world and has enjoyed a series of Q&A sessions from fascinating professionals.

houston-police-1Perhaps this time was particularly special. Police horses aren’t working for prize money, rosettes or for fun. They have a serious job to do, often in dangerous and highly charged conditions.

Basically, they can’t be anything less than 100 per cent. They mustn’t slip. They can’t be tender. They have to be up to the job.

So questioners from the Facebook group wanted to know how it is done. How are the horses kept? What are they fed? And how much are they ridden? Who trims their hooves? And how on earth did Greg persuade the police authorities to even try it in the first place?

What are the secrets of this phenomenal success story?

Well, I’m not going to tell you the answers here!

Members of the group – check out the pinned post now for the full Q&A.

Not a member? If you are keen or curious about riding without the damaging effects of a metal shoe nailed to your horse’s hoof please come and find the group on Facebook. Greg’s story will inspire you. It certainly defeats the claim that barefoot horses can’t do the same job as their shod friends.

It seems they can do some very arresting activities!

 

ABOUT ME – BOOK NEWS

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

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.

 

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