Today’s Special News…

by Linda Chamberlain

The UK government has announced sweeping measures to improve life for zoo animals. New regulations are being rushed through Parliament to ensure that all lions have a king-sized bed and zebras are to have their own stable.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, commented: ‘It’s only right that the status of the lion is finally recognised. He is the king of the jungle, after all. As for the zebra…it’s time he was treated as kindly as his domesticated cousins. No longer will he have to stay up all night grazing, competing for food in a herd; instead he will be fed two good meals a day. He will have stable walls at last!’

Nick Hill 13

Animal welfare charities have welcomed the announcement. The RSPCA said: ‘This is such good news. Our Zebras Shouldn’t Feel the Cold campaign has been a great success.’

* * *

Athlete Usain Bolt has ditched his controversial running shoes complaining they were hurting his tendons. The world’s fastest man was dismayed by the performance of the innovative metal shoes that were permanently fixed to his feet.

‘They were slowing me down,’ he told reporters. ‘It was impossible to go anywhere quietly and I couldn’t even trim my toe nails myself. Sorry, they were a great idea but my own feet were better.’Usain Bolt

Bolt had also endured a revolutionary training regime which saw him confined to what was known as a ‘focus room’. Trainers hoped isolating him from other athletes in a small room would boost his speed.

Sadly, it didn’t…


The Showing Journal has wowed its readers by bringing out a new audio edition. The magazine, which is steeped in tradition and is known for its mockery of barefoot horses, has introduced a handy cassette which they will post, second class, upon receipt of your subscription and upon the necessary forms being filled in correctly and in black ink. This must be done in duplicate while wearing the correct trousers. Please, no sandal lovers or long-haired readers need apply. Thank you.

* * *

Organisers of the Tevis Cup Ride in the US have removed horse-shoe logos from their website after the abysmal failure of shod riders to perform well for the third year running. The formidable, 100 miles in a day, endurance ride has attracted so many barefoot competitors that a logo change was inevitable. A spokesman for the Ride said: ‘Barefoot horses have one enormous advantage – their shoes don’t fall off!’

* * *

The European Union is considering a ban on the weedkiller glyphosate in a bid to remove harmful residues in sugary treats. The treats are hugely popular during long-winded debates at the EU’s parliament but MEPs and the Commissioners fear the poison may be spoiling their teeth. Loath to give up their Danish pastries, one of them said: ‘It’s the weedkiller, I tell you. It tastes nasty and the sugar is essential to get rid of the flavour.’


The decision marks a U-turn for the EU…! Calls to ban the weedkiller, which campaigners have linked to serious illnesses in horses as well as humans, have been ignored.

* * *

The British Equestrian Federation says it is alarmed by the number of horse riders who are competing – facing backwards. The organisation in charge of equestrian sport in Britain says the fashion for backwards riding should end on aesthetic as well as safety grounds.

A spokesman said: ‘We went through all this with the barefoot and bitless brigade. Now we are facing a new deluge with the backwards lot. I can’t take much more of this. They slip and they bump into things…AND they look silly. Have they no feelings for the poor people who build the jumps?’


Special upside down editions of A Barefoot Journey and The First Vet have been made available following a surge in demand from readers in New Zealand and Australia. The popularity of the two books is thanks in part to a magazine called Natural Horse Management which advised barefoot trimmers to give one of the splendid things to each of their customers.

No animals were harmed in the production of the books which were fashioned using the special polarity of the Southern Hemisphere to enhance the reading experience for Antipodeans.

UK and US editions are not affected and are available in the usual way by pressing one of the links to Amazon that follow…

Here’s a quick summary of what they’re about. 

A Barefoot Journey is a small but perfectly formed field companion for my novel, The First Vet, inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)of shoeing 200 years ago! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCoverSociety. Here’s one of the latest reviews – ‘I work nights & this book made me miss sleep (which is sacred to me) – I could not put it down! I loved the combination of historical fact & romance novel & it is so well written. I’m going to buy the hard copy now – it deserves a place on my bookshelf & will be read again. 10 gold stars Ms Chamberlain!’

THIS SPECIAL APRIL FOOL’S DAY BLOG is brought to you by me, Linda Chamberlain. Thank you.

Government Health Warning – cigarettes and horse shoes can be harmful to health

Barefoot knocks on the stable door…

By Linda Chamberlain

Barefoot has failed to win the hearts of the British equestrian establishment but it is making huge inroads into the minds of the average horse rider.

So while there is a ban on barefoot horses competing in top show hunter classes, riders in other more dangerous disciplines report that more and more are taking part and succeeding without metal shoes.

hooves - ralitsa

Ten years ago it was hard to find a barefoot trimmer but numbers have increased, recommendations abound, and farriers are seeing the wisdom of providing their clients with a barefoot service. Our biggest welfare charity, however, the Royal Society for the Protection Against Cruelty to Animals, remains a shadowy presence and is resisting change. Trimmers, who have been working on lame horses, have been prosecuted in the past by the charity for cruelty and the trade of farriery is protected by law. So only qualified farriers can apply a shoe and the law has decreed that glue-on shoes sometimes used for the transition to barefoot are included. Trimmers who are careful take plenty of photos and video footage of their clients for two good reasons. The information is useful to see progress but will also provide evidence if allegations start to fly.

The attitude of the establishment is typified by the ban on barefoot horses from the show ring in working hunter and other classes. It was introduced a few years ago after a judge slipped while riding a horse wearing only front shoes. It’s ironic that you can hunt barefoot and risk your neck over treacherous ground and high hedges but you can’t enter a hallowed but safe arena and do a few circuits over the level grass on a show hunter!

The issue sparked a row between a national magazine called The Showing Journal and the 10,000-strong Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook recently. Furious riders from the group hit back at claims in the magazine’s letters page which said barefoot horses were prone to slipping and must lead very dull lives, rarely leaving the schooling arena.

Here is the original letter and the editor’s response so you can read it for yourself. Not surprisingly it prompted members from the Facebook group to write back shouting ‘rubbish’ and citing examples of their success.

The Showing Journal

Members of the group are competing in endurance, cross country and show jumping and their horses are winning rosettes rather than falling all over the place. Every week they are posting of their successes in competitions around the country and report that their equines have good-enough grip to give them confidence in extremely wet conditions and over jumps.

Here are a few of our brilliant riders – L-R Richard Greer, Helen Jacks-Hewett and Rea Trotman.

Richard Greer

Helen - dressageRea 4It’s great that they report seeing other competitors who are barefoot when only a few years ago they might have been alone. That feeling of isolation was certainly a feature when I had the shoes taken off my own horses 15 years ago.

My daughter was a keen show jumper and I was watching her on her pony one weekend at a show when the voice of another mother intruded.

‘I thought only travellers or the hideously poor didn’t bother to shoe their horses,’ she said to her friend, loudly enough for me to hear.

The British are experts at the snobbish put down; prejudice is something we have perfected. The barefoot horse here still encounters such attitudes but thanks to the growing numbers of them who are enjoying active lives on their own hooves the tide is beginning to turn. Now their owners are much more likely to meet fellow barefoot enthusiasts rather than hostility.

How I would have welcomed a Facebook group such as ours 15 years ago for advice and support! Every day new members are joining, actually from all over the world, and it’s quite likely that by the end of 2015 there will be 10,000 of us – a force worth listening to. (Now up to 10,500) Many trimmers and some farriers have joined and offer advice; we have many experts on the admin team and such a breadth of experience among the members who share their thoughts.

Impossible to say how many barefoot equines there are in the UK – only that they are increasing every day.

Their owners often complain that the British climate makes barefoot harder than elsewhere in the world. We have rich grass, made richer thanks to abundant rain every spring and autumn, and we have soft ground in our fields. In order to ride on stony tracks or tarmac roads we are learning to change the living conditions for our animals when we can. Vast numbers of our barefooters struggle because of the regime at livery yards where they are obliged to use stables and lush, traditional pastures instead of track systems. So it is heartening to see more and more new-style yards appearing geared solely for the needs of the barefoot horse.

Picture 053

These are the havens which have minimal grass and maximum Barnabymovement. They know how to keep horses fit and healthy. They provide rough ground instead of soft turf; hills and hay stations and they are making it easier to go barefoot. Expertise is growing and the veterinary profession is occasionally looking on with interest instead of bemusement. Our success will soon make it impossible for the equine establishment to hold onto its hostility.

The above article has been published by The Horse’s Hoof magazine which is based in the US. My thanks to editor Yvonne Welz for her support for my books and asking me to write it! Here is a link to the magazine – check it out for yourself.

ABOUT ME – I’m a writer and a journalist who has a passion for horses especially if they are barefoot. A Barefoot Journey, is my honest and light-heartedCover_Barefoot_3 (1) account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberIt is a small-but-perfectly-formed field companion to my novel The First Vet, a historical romance inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has 40 five-star reviews and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society. Here is one of the latest reviews – ‘What a wonderful book. Loved every page and cannot recommend it too highly. I would love to see the film.’

Keep in touch by following this blog or finding me on Facebook.

Silencing the Whisperers

by Linda Chamberlain

There is a new generation of horse whisperers. They work with our animals so peacefully, so silently that you hardly know they’ve done anything at all.


Perhaps you’ve read The Horse Whisperer, or seen the film and know something of the techniques. Or like me, you may have seen Monty Roberts work with horses. It’s impressive but it’s not about having a quiet, little chat with the horse before it takes a rider on its back for the first time. Put simply, Monty understands the ‘language’ of the herd and mimics the actions of the lead mare to produce some obedience or cooperation from the youngster he’s working with. He’s a great showman and he understands the horse deep down.

Monty and others like him became known as horse whisperers but, thanks to one particular horse, I have recently met a couple of professionals who appear to communicate in a much quieter way.  Neither of them would fill the Albert Hall; there’s no show, no razzmatazz and they would probably hate the label. The horse who has introduced these people into my life is Tao – I wrote about her in an earlier blog and will give you a link to it at the end.

Tao is my daughter’s horse who came to us as a never-been-ridden five year old. She’d had a bad start in life, lacked cover 16food and care and is probably lucky to be alive thanks to the people who saved her from a building site! Well, Amber backed her while studying for her degree but Tao was very accident prone, hated anything that smacked of medical intervention or worming syringes and had her own list of things-I-don’t-like. We worked around them.

On one of the vet’s numerous visits we talked about teeth. It’s routine horse maintenance to have teeth checked and rasped and was something I had neglected, possibly deliberately.  An appointment was made and the vet joked: ‘I’ll bring plenty of sedatives.’

Armour might also have been useful. I laughed but later cancelled the visit. Because I thought a horse that’s never had a dentist examine and tend to her mouth should have a chance to do it nicely. Along came Simon Vieweg, a second-generation equine dentist from Westrow Equine Dental Service who was recommended by a couple of friends.

Without wanting to put him off, I told him about our girl. Simon took Tao’s lead rope from me and stroked her head. Then he held her and brought his face close to hers, his hand resting on her forehead. He didn’t want me or need me nearby. They were having a silent, peaceful ‘chat’.  He closed his eyes and stayed with her for a bit. Then he quietly introduced her to the dentist’s rasp. He let her hold it in her mouth (like a bit) and gradually she allowed him to do his work while my daughter and I picked ourselves up off the floor.  She even let him put on the specialist gag which allowed him to reach her back teeth. We were slightly in awe.

I asked Simon why he had that quiet time with horses before working on them because I had never seen any dentist bother before.

‘I like them to get to know me,’ he said. ‘It’s important for both of us because I need to understand them too.’ He’s never had any training in horse communication; it’s something that comes naturally to him, perhaps because his father was in the profession before him. Jacqui wth T

Now, I want to introduce you to another horse helper who Tao had need of last year. You see, our little chestnut mare began refusing to leave the yard either ridden or for a walk. She seemed depressed and upset after my friend’s horse had to be put to sleep bringing our small herd of three down to two. At first, like many owners, we thought she was being naughty. We asked ourselves whether she was eating too much grass which can make her silly. Amber got cross and forced the issue but was given the ride from Hell as her reward. I decided Tao was deeply upset when I took her only remaining field mate for a ride. Instead of whinnying, Tao said nothing but stood in the field shelter with her head lowered as Carrie left her.

Could she really be grieving for her friend who was put to sleep? I asked around and many, many people said YES. So I contacted my friend Jacqui Howe (left with Tao) who was studying the Trust Technique. She has since qualified in this method of animal communication and set up her own practice but she agreed to come and visit.

She felt Tao’s refusal to leave home was linked to the loss of her friend. She felt Tao was confused and upset, possibly fearing she might be next!

Whatever the horse thought, it was important to reduce her anxiety for everyone’s safety.

I’m going to describe the Technique as relaxation training for people and horses (or other animals). It teaches you to clear your mind of thoughts and get ‘into the present’ – in other words stand with your horse, listen to the sounds of its breathing, the birdsong, the trees but get rid of all that other stuff like the year-end accounts.

Once we humans get to a quieter state, so do our horses. Tao and Carrie stood with us and they began to relax too, their heads lowered, they yawned and chewed. Jacqui suggested I talked to them about the loss of their field companion – not because they would instantly understand me but they are intuitive creatures and will pick up our feelings. It wasn’t easy, I cried…but I spoke.

And then Jacqui suggested we took them for a walk to the house. It was breathtakingly easy, with no anger or waving of back legs from Tao. I was very happy and then something amazing happened. Carrie began licking and grooming Tao’s neck. Now, if Carrie were a human, she would drink pints and ride a motorcycle.

I told Jacqui, ‘She’s an aggressive mare, the boss. She never does that nurturing thing!’

Amber on Tao-WEB VERSION

Amber with Tao – before things went wrong

‘It felt like a real message of well done from Carrie, didn’t it?’ Jacqui said, smiling.

Jacqui visited a few more times and soon Tao was being led in hand on our rides again. Her first time out saw much more resistance from our little mare. Each time she wanted to stop, Jacqui waited with her, emptying her mind, being patient until Tao relaxed and finally…decided to come. It felt like such an achievement.


Thinking about both of my lovely practitioners – it seems as if less was more.

Here is an earlier blog about Tao.

Check out Jacqui’s website for more info. Here is the link.

Simon Vieweg of Westrow Equine Dental Service is here.

Please don’t make them too busy so I can’t use them anymore!


Just published – A Barefoot Journey, my honest and light-heartedCover_Barefoot_3 (1) account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares! A small-but-perfectly-formed field companion to my novel The First Vet. Available onAmazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberThe First Vet, historical romance inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book, which has more than 30 five-star reviews and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society, sold out at the prestigious international show at Hickstead! Still available on Amazon though…

And thanks to reader Andrea Mash for sending me this heartwarming feedback –  ‘I didn’t know as much as I do now about feet, still don’t know an awful lot but I could tell my girl wasn’t happy & her fronts looked so squashed together from underneath, I started looking into barefoot and took Linda Chamberlain’s book (A Barefoot Journey) on holiday to read. That was it. I had booked my farrier to take her shoes off and an equine podiatrist before I’d even got back from my hols. 3 weeks in now, podiatrist coming again Saturday, can’t wait to see what she thinks.’ Good luck to Andrea and her brilliant thoroughbred. Keep us posted…

To receive notice of future blogs – press the follow button at the top of the page. And leave me feedback, I love to hear from you. 

Trail-blazing rider…

by Linda Chamberlain

Claire Alldritt remembers the moment that a sheer drop on a Scottish mountain nearly claimed her horse.

She was alone amid some of the most inhospitable terrain in the country. It was too dangerous to ride on the narrow path and so she was leading Yogi on a long rein. Her pack horse called Swift was tied to Yogi’s saddle and the three of them were taking care. Everything was fine…until everything went wrong.

Claire Aldritt 5

Yogi must have missed his footing.

‘One moment he was there. The next, he was gone. He had just stepped off the edge!’

What happened next is every rider’s nightmare. Claire was miles from help, her mobile had no signal. She was quite literally on her own.

‘I have no idea where my quick reactions came from but I dropped down on my heels to take the impact and waited for the lead rope to go tight,’ she said. ‘Swift’s lead rope was about to go tight too and in that split second I assumed that this would cause both of them to go over the edge.

Claire Aldritt 3

‘Yogi is heavier than Swift and the physics weren’t in her favour.  I am so lucky that both mine and Swift’s lead ropes went tight at the same time -she had enough sense to brace like I was doing and with me taking the impact on Yogi’s head and her taking it far forward on his saddle (she was tied to the pommel), it spun him round and at the same time stopped his fall.  After what seemed like hours of scrambling (it wasn’t this long but boy did he have to work hard) and me hauling on his head, he made it back up to the track with nothing more than a few small scrapes and bruises.   Double lucky – he was also facing the right way on the track as if both horses had ended up facing each other there would have been no way to sort that out.’

Claire, who is a paramedic with the Scottish Ambulance Service, is an intrepid traveller with her horses. She has ridden across Scotland – coast to coast. She camps overnight in the hills or stays in small bothies and bunkhouses.  When Claire tells her family that she’s going for a bit of a ride, they don’t expect to see her for a few days! Most of the time she travels on her own; sometimes she is with a friend.

Claire Aldritt 7

But that near-miss with Yogi on the mountain taught her some valuable lessons. She no longer ties her pack horse to Yogi’s saddle and she takes something a little more powerful than a mobile phone. A DeLorme inReach satellite device means she can let family know she is safe or call mountain rescue in an emergency.

‘It gives me peace of mind,’ she said.

Claire began her long-distance rides a few years ago. Yogi was reluctant to go out on his own and Swift was young and acted as companion on the lead rein. She became the pack horse and brought the tent as well as equipment to construct a temporary corral for the horses.  If she is riding alone, Claire will check out her route in advance on bike or on foot. She needs to know if the terrain is too treacherous or if there are too many bogs.

Claire Aldritt 6

‘I get very nervous setting off on my own and I am right to be as there is a lot that could go wrong.  Mostly I worry about my horses rather than me.  It is my choice and ambition to be out there so the responsibility for their wellbeing and safety is a heavy one.  I often feel physically sick the morning I set off, but soon settle into the journey.’

Claire’s achievements are awe inspiring. Only recently she and her friend, Ellen Klaveness, won a new competition called the Golden Hoof after riding for 120 miles. They even got press coverage! What is even more amazing, though, is that this is managed in spite of a debilitating illness. Claire suffers from Lyme disease caught from a tick bite and has periods of flu-like symptoms, aching legs and memory loss. She has struggled against these symptoms for three years but was only diagnosed recently.

Claire Alldritt

Most of us might stay at home but the draw of the hills is irresistible.

‘It’s a challenge,’ she explained. ‘The rhythm you find with your horses; the closeness and the communication. I am not saying they can talk like we can but they communicate all the time and travelling with them 24/7 makes you listen more. Many of my trails involve old drovers’ routes. It’s wonderful to get to remote spots and camp there to enjoy the peace and tranquility while your horses happily munch fresh mountain grass!

There is something else remarkable about this team – the horses are barefoot and bitless. It’s often remarked in conventional horsey circles that ‘barefoot is fine if you don’t want to do much with your horse’.

Not surprisingly no one has said such a thing to Claire’s face.

Both horses wear hoof boots (Renegades) on their front feet unless they are going for a more ‘normal’ ride closer to home. They are trimmed by Claire who is overseen by Nick Hill of Cloverroseequine.  They live out 24/7 on a recently constructed track system made from hard core, stone, mud and poor grass and moss. A wooden stable building provides shelter but they are not shut in. There is also hay available around the clock. This set up is at Claire’s home and replaced their more conventional rented pasture last winter. It is more barefoot friendly as it increases the animals’ movement, strengthens their feet and reduces the amount of high-sugar grass in their diet which is known to cause hoof problems.

‘With my new track system I have seen so many positive changes in their feet. I hope the new environment will toughen them up enough to manage without boots for our longer journeys too.  I have been recently inspired by a trip to Norway to ride with my friend, Ellen.  We rode two barefoot Nordland Ponies over really rocky ground for 160 km. Their feet were absolutely amazing and guess what… they weren’t kept on grass either!’

You’ve already heard one of the low points in Claire long-distance riding but hearing her recount one of the highs makes it possible to understand her motivation.

‘One day in particular I won’t ever forget on my cross Scotland journey.  I was near Lochnagar in Glen Muick near Ballater. It was a lovely sunny morning, we had had a lazy start after a hard mountain day the day before.  We were all relaxed and were proceeding up a trail under the shade of the trees that lined it.  Yogi was on “hands-free mode” –where I don’t need any reins and he is plodding along at a good pace all by himself just following the path.  Swift was also on “hand-free mode” without a lead rope, she just followed on between stopping for the odd bite of grass now and then.   I was literally able to pop my slippers on, put my feet up and read the newspaper yet was still travelling and still making progress.  I was looking forward to our night time destination –a tiny bothy in a beautiful spot with stunning hill views.  The sun was out, the birds were singing and I could hear the babble of a stream running beside the trail.  Apart from my horses’ footsteps I could hear nothing else.  By 11am my hip flask was out and I toasted the fantastic view that appeared as we emerged from the trees.  TOTAL CONTENTMENT!’

Claire Aldritt 1BOOK NEWS       BOOK NEWS         BOOK NEWS

Just published – A Barefoot Journey, my honest and light-heartedCover_Barefoot_3 (1) account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares! A small-but-perfectly-formed field companion to my novel The First Vet. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberThe First Vet, historical romance inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book, which has more than 30 five-star reviews and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society, sold out at the prestigious international show at Hickstead! Still available on Amazon though…

And thanks to reader Neil Platten for this photo taken while he was stuck in a traffic jam. So glad he found something to do during the long, long wait. Press the follow button, everyone,  to keep in touch and leave a comment. I love to hear from you…Neil with BFJ

The Vet of the Future?

by Linda Chamberlain

One day there will be more vets like Ralitsa Grancharova. But for now, she’s a rarity. After qualifying she realised there was a terrible gap in her knowledge; she had little understanding of the horse’s hoof. But this is one vet who decided to do something about it – she trained to be a barefoot trimmer. 5image

Now she says barefoot and natural lifestyle are winning the fight against some of the most dreaded equine diseases that traditional medicine has failed to help such as laminitis and navicular.

Her broad skills make her unusual but her opinions are like a breath of fresh air to any owner who has been on the receiving end of veterinary pressure to shoe and stable their injured equine friend. Ralitsa wants stables to become a thing of the past. She wants her patients out of shoes and she wants them to live in a herd.

And even though she is based in Bulgaria, thanks to the internet she’s ready and willing to help you achieve! She’s set up a holistic virtual veterinary service so that people can consult her online – I will give you a link at the end of this interview which I hope you will share far and wide!

My lovely supporters who share this blog are usually thanked lower down the page but they deserve credit earlier – 30,000 people all over the world saw my interview with Marc Ferrador, the ex-farrier who predicted horse shoes will become obsolete. Thank you for spreading the message. I always post the blog on Facebook so find me there if you want to give it a push and pass it on to your friends.  So now, over to Ralitsa…

Please tell us about yourself…

My name is Ralitsa Grancharova and when I first rode a horse as a child it became my dream to become an equine vet. I graduated from Trakia University in Bulgaria in 2013. During that time I practised in equine clinics of the veterinary universities in Hannover and Giessen in Germany. After graduation I started to work as an equine veterinarian at a state owned stud farm in Bulgaria, which houses more than 600 horses. Then I founded my own private practise on wheels. I have clients all over Bulgaria and the mobile clinic allows me to transport medical supplies and diagnostic tools to my patients.

In 2014 I organized a natural hoof care clinic with natural horse care practitioner, Nick Hill, which led to the idea of the “Wild horse model” course. This course goes into every aspect of natural horse keeping and includes subjects of interest to equine vets, horse owners and riders. Natural hoof care is part of the course and we aim to teach owners and vets about its importance to the health of the horse.

In 2015 I led a lecture entitled “The digestive system and the diet of the equine” in Israel, followed by a natural hoof care and trimming clinic with Nick Hill. Equine diet is of great interest to me and I include recommendations on diet regime in all of my patients’ treatment plans. I believe a well-balanced diet is the first step on the road to restoring their health.

Why have you have set up an on-line holistic vet service?

It was needed. I was being contacted by horse and pet owners from different parts of the world who knew about me from my website or from friends. I could not treat animals that I could not visit and examine but the desire to help people who had not found answers elsewhere grew stronger. Some of the owners just wanted a second opinion or to make sure that they were doing everything else right. Their questions were not solely concentrated on the medical aspect of the treatment plan they had been offered but on the diet, behaviour and environment of their animal friend. These concerned pet and horse parents wanted to do the best they could for their animal partners and, for them, strictly following the treatment plan did not seem enough. They wanted to know what more they could do – they wanted a holistic approach to their pet or horse’s health. And I guess this is what I can do for them and what I am good at – I make connections between cause and effect, I find links between seemingly unconnected events and I always look for the root of the problem. I have used this technique with all my patients. Of course those with threatening diseases get treated with the appropriate medication so their life would be saved, but where time is still on our side we – I and the patient’s owner – work as a team to find the cause of the disease and treat it. I often include alternative medicine into a traditional treatment plan for optimal results.

Owners of barefoot horses often encounter lack of understanding, sometimes hostility, from vets towards barefoot horse riding. How much did your training teach you about the natural hoof?

I gained a lot of my practical skills and knowledge during my training in the equine clinics in Germany and after I graduated from university, when I was treating patients or when I spent my free time looking into horse specific health related issues. But even so I did not feel prepared enough and did not feel I had enough knowledge or practical experience with the equinehooves ralitsa 2 hoof. I visited seminars about hoof care where lecturers spoke about orthopaedic shoeing and balancing the hoof and body through special shoes. This left me more and more confused and I started to feel that despite all the information I had gathered about hoof anatomy, hoof physiology and disease I knew nothing and felt unprepared to help my patients when they had a hoof related problem. A year after graduation, having been through more than five years of training I knew a lot, but at the same time my knowledge was of no use as it did not offer me any solutions. Then I met Nick and organized our first clinic together. He taught me more about the equine hoof than I had learned in all my years of training. It suddenly made sense. Barefoot trimming and natural hoof care offered the solution to so many hoof problems but also to diseases that were not strictly directly connected to the hoof. So now I include natural hoof care in the treatment of many of my patients and find that, just like diet and nutrition, it can have an enormous effect on the general health of the horse. Most of my clients either have barefoot horses or are thinking of transitioning to barefoot hoof care.

How much did your veterinary training teach you about the best way to keep a horse ie: naturally / lots of movement? Or was stabling accepted and advised?

My observations on horse behaviour, which I gathered during my years of working as a horse keeper and trainer for different stud farms around Bulgaria before I graduated from university, taught me what I know about the best ways to keep 2imagea horse. One of the stud farms, where I was working as a horse trainer, offered me the chance to take care of 10 horses on my own. I was to prepare their training regime and to ride them so that they stayed in shape but I could also decide how much time they would spend in their paddock and when they should be stabled. This was my first chance to organize a daily routine for not only one, but for 10 horses and it was one of the best jobs I ever had. Having the experience from my previous jobs, where horses were stabled and were only let out when they were to be ridden, I started organizing these horses’ routine in a similar fashion. It didn’t take me long to find out that they were unhappy, stressed and were unwilling during training and one day I decided to change that routine and to free all of them into the nearby field. Within a few days they were relaxed and happy, they were behaving like horses and nothing made me smile more than seeing them be their horsey selves. Sadly, I had to leave that job because I had too much to study but my boss has always said that the horses have never been as relaxed and as well trained since. I could not attribute this solely to my training skills.

The English vet Bracy Clark warned 200 years ago that the tradition of shoeing was causing lameness and early death. How harmful do you think metal shoeing is for the horse?

I have seen how horses react when being shod. I have seen how they react when they feel that their shoes are being taken off. I could go into the medical side of things and explain why shoes are harmful to horses, but I feel this is not needed – the sigh of relief from a horse that has had its shoes off is more than enough in my opinion.

Why has the veterinary profession failed to embrace natural horse care and barefoot horse riding?

Being a doctor or a veterinary surgeon is one of the most difficult professions in my opinion. And I do not have in mind the tremendous amount of knowledge we have to fit into our heads, what I mean is that we always need to stay ahead. Medicalhooves - ralitsa science is flourishing; certain medical conditions are better understood and as a result – treated more effectively. Hoof care is part of the general health care for the horse and as such it should embrace the newest related research and scientific data. And although barefoot horses are not something that has just been invented, there is more than enough data to show that traditional medicine does not have the answer to treating laminitis and navicular disease and yet barefoot trimming and natural horse care do. I believe that when answers to the treatment of some of the most well-known and dreaded diseases of the equine population have been found, we should look no further. , I cannot speak on behalf of the veterinary community of course, but my impression is that as students we do not learn enough about the anatomy, physiology and function of the equine hoof. We also don’t learn enough about the connections between the hoof and the rest of the body. During our studies (I could only speak about education in Bulgaria, but as I get to know more colleagues from different countries I get the impression this is the same in a lot of countries around the world) we do not learn enough about the hoof and why it is such an important part of the horse’s body. We briefly learn about the diseases of the hoof, their causes and symptoms, sometimes not enough to be able to recognize these symptoms when we actually see them (in the case of the subtle or not so subtle signs of chronic laminitis for example). And when we get to the treatment options of each disease we usually get told that this is better left to the farrier unless the hoof needs the involvement of an experienced surgeon. I really believe that if hoof anatomy, physiology and function in conjunction with the movement of the whole body were taught more extensively in a university such as the one I graduated from, the idea of keeping horses barefoot would be much better understood and accepted.

What made you study barefoot trimming? Tell us about your training.

I have always wanted to be an equine vet and as such I wanted to be prepared and have the knowledge and expertise about every part of the horse’s anatomy, physiology and about keeping the balance in its system. I found myself being fascinated by the eyes, the digestive tract and the hooves of the horse. Ophthalmology is still one of my favourite subjects in equine health care, but the opportunity to not only learn more about hooves but to also learn how to trim them felt like a door opened where I least expected. After I hosted Nick Hill’s trimming clinic in Bulgaria, I started reading more and more on natural hoof care. Being a woman, I was always told I could not take on farriery but hoof trimming opened the door to a whole new world – one that I wanted to be part of. Nick taught me my first lessons in hoof trimming and from that point on it was the horses that taught me. Observation on how the horse moved before and after trimming showed me that I was on the right track and that the horses were grateful that picking their feet up no longer meant putting shoes on.

What do your veterinary colleagues think about your twin roles? (ie: trimmer and vet)

I have found that most of my veterinary colleagues are not interested in hoof care whether shoes are involved or not. In university we were taught to leave the hoof to the farrier and I think this is what most of my colleagues still do.

If there was one thing you could change instantly for the domestic horse, what would it be?

That stables become a thing of the past… 7image

What are the most worrying problems today for the domestic horses that you see or help?

The health related problems horses in Bulgaria face are no different than the ones they face elsewhere in the world. My patients from the Holistic Virtual Vet website suffer the same diseases horses in Bulgaria do. Everywhere there are horses that are overfed to the point where they suffer weight and diet related issues or are emaciated due to the lack of care (although the latter are never my patients).

What are your 5 top tips to horse owners for keeping a healthy horse?

horses grazing RalitsaLove your horse and do your best to understand him. Listen to what he has to tell you – your horse will never hide things from you, moreover he will do his best to be understood and to understand you. Whether your horse is completely healthy or has a health related issue, always make sure you feed him a balanced diet by understanding what his natural diet is and by keeping to it as much as you can. Your horse is a horse – never forget that. Treat him like a friend, but remember that first of all he is a horse and needs what they all need – freedom and a herd to be part of. A happy horse is a one that is not stabled all the time and has at least one other (why not more?) equine friend in the paddock to keep him company.

The Holistic Virtual Vet

THANKS to everyone for supporting this campaigning blog. My interview with ex-farrier Marc Ferrador last month had more than 30,000 hits in a week! Click on the follow button to keep in touch and leave me a comment as I love to hear from you.

BOOK NEWS – just published – A Barefoot Journey, my honest and light-heartedCover_Barefoot_3 (1) account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares! A small-but-perfectly-formed field companion to my novel The First Vet. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberLinks to The First Vet, historical romance inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark. Paperback price £6.87, Kindle £2.24 – Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book, which has more than 30 five-star reviews and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society, sold out at the prestigious international show at Hickstead last week! Still available on Amazon though…

Keep in touch by following this blog or finding me on Facebook.

Barred for being bitless…

by Linda Chamberlain

A Royal show gets ready to open its doors – but this is one competitor who will have to stay at home.

Rea 4

Not because the horse isn’t a top performer…and not because the rider isn’t willing and able. Have a look at the photo – Rea Trotman can ride that horse of hers with no hands. Over jumps.

So why does the Retraining of Racehorses Organisation have such a problem with their entry at the Royal Norfolk Show? The animal is barefoot but that’s not a stumbling block for the horse, the rider or the show. No the difficulty, it seems, is the choice of bridle if they want to enter a jump challenge for retrained racehorses.

You see this beautiful thoroughbred, who has won countless races at Ascot, Goodwood and Doncaster, is now ridden with a bitless bridle. His owner has chosen this for him as a kindness because his teeth aren’t as good as they used to be and anyway…he doesn’t need a metal bit, jangling around in his mouth in order for him to understand his rider’s requests.

Rea, who has owned Danegold for the last seven years, read about the harm bits can cause to teeth and jaws, and decided he should never wear one again. As you can see, it hasn’t slowed them down.

They’ve entered plenty of low-key fun shows, showjumping and sponsored rides but Rea thought it was time they stepped up a gear.Rea 6

The Royal Norfolk Show is the biggest agricultural show in the country and the Queen is its patron. More than 1000 horses are expected to enter and over the two days in July about 90,000 people will come to watch the spectacle.


It’s a fair bet that those spectators would love to see what can be achieved by a barefoot and bitless horse like Danegold.

And wouldn’t the Queen, were she to attend this year, be impressed  with a wonderful ex-racehorse proving how well these beautiful animals can adjust to life after the track?

The class Rea hoped to enter includes a course of jumps and an individual show. ‘My horse would excel in this class as it is judged on style and performance,’ she said. ‘He is very laid back and well behaved; he deserves to show everyone just how great ex-racers can be.’

She decided to check with the retraining organisation’s officials but was told there were rules against bitless bridles for this class although not for showjumping.  ‘The reasons were shocking,’ she added. ‘They made no sense. Seeing a bitless ex-racer demonstrates complete retraining, which is what the class is all about.’

Rea has much in common with other bitless or barefoot riders who are falling foul of the rules of competitions in the UK.

Rea 3

The rules governing our shows are in a complete muddle. You can participate in extremely dangerous equine activities such as racing, showjumping and hunting without metal applied to your horse’s mouth or feet. But you aren’t allowed to do many dressage competitions without a bit. Rules for working hunter classes insist on both bits and shoes even though you can ride without either if you are hunting across the fields. Many barefoot riders say they are frustrated at the exclusion. One person told me they were stopped from competing in a Pony Club team because a ‘barefoot horse was an unfit horse’.

And just listen to this story from Monica Andreewitch of the Pony Academy in Surrey who teaches children to ride on ponies wearing just a rope halter. She had six children eager and ready to go to a jumping competition and then realised the rope halters might cause a bit of a stir. She checked with the organisers and was told that juniors must ride in a bitted bridle.

‘After pondering and checking with my soul, I decided that I could trust the children with bridles,’ she said. ‘They have independent seats and do not hang onto their halters – so why would it be different in bridles?’

Monica bowed to pressure. The children competed. The ponies weren’t jabbed in their mouths and they did cause a stir thanks to their notable control with long, loose reins. Not everyone can or will comply. For Rea and Danegold, there are dental health issues that cannot be ignored.

Rea 5

But frankly, these competition rules are silly. Or are they about tradition for its own sake?

I can’t help worrying that all this nonsense stems from utter embarrassment. There are a growing number of people who ride like Rea. They have a close connection with their horse. They achieve amazing things without whips or spurs and they do it without hands sometimes and make the rest of us feel like novices again. Imagine feeling like that if you are a judge. Is this the reason such riders are excluded? Are they too good? Too kind? They are not in need of whips, spurs and strong bits – all of which are welcomed with open arms.

The only time I’ve seen a rider booed as she left a showjumping arena was thanks to over use of a whip. A horse refused some jumps in a top competition at Hickstead and was eliminated. The horse was punished severely with a whip. The rider was jeered and humiliated by the crowd. If the public knew of the potential harm caused by shoes and bits, the public would not be amused by the equine world.

 So, here is my message to the rule makers and show organisers. Keep up with this growing equestrian movement towards less coercion and fewer gadgets. Embrace it because it’s good horsemanship; it’s humane and wonderful. Welcome it because the public, and probably the Queen, would love to see it. They would probably cheer!


THANKS to everyone for supporting this campaigning blog. My interview with ex-farrier Marc Ferrador last month had more than 30,000 hits in a week! Click on the follow button to keep in touch and leave me a comment as I love to hear from you.

BOOK NEWS – published this week – A Barefoot Journey, my honest and light-heartedCover_Barefoot_3 (1) account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares! A small-but-perfectly-formed field companion to my novel The First Vet. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback and Kindle.

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberLinks to The First Vet, historical romance inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – Amazon UK. Amazon US.




‘Horse shoes will be obsolete’ – says ex-farrier

by Linda Chamberlain

Meet Marc Ferrador. He was a much-respected farrier who had serious doubts about nailing shoes to horses’ hooves and decided to do something about it. Colleagues thought he was crazy when he announced he was turning his back on his trade but amazingly he convinced ninety per cent of his customers to try barefoot riding.


Now he says not only is the metal shoe harmful but so too is the horse’s lifestyle. In this interview, he calls on vets, farriers and riding teachers to bring themselves up to date for the sake of the animal which is suffering because of ‘this lack of evolution’.

Marc, who works in Catalonia, Spain, used to ride and compete. Twelve years after qualifying as a farrier he became a professor of farriery. In that time he worked on the creation of the curriculum and also a handbook for courses approved for the European Federation of Farriers Association. He describes the terrain in Catalonia as ‘special’ – it can be dry and unforgiving, so it’s a challenge to ensure horses are transitioned to barefoot without pain.

Please tell us about the moment you realised the harm shoeing causes.

The change in my professional career does not occur in a specific moment. I was a farrier and teacher for 14 years in the Official School of Farriers in Barcelona and some pupils and clients questioned me about the ‘barefoot movement’ so I started to search for information and people who were trimming nearby.

I wanted to see what happens when horses live barefoot. One of the biggest pillars of my change was to realise that young horses

lose health in their hooves with each shoeing. It makes them change the balance of the load on their hooves and even though every farrier of the world knows this, most of them are still shoeing horses.

It is stupid to be unaware of what a barefoot horse offers and decide to put a nailed-on shoe over his live structures to help him. We need to better understand those hooves (and horses) so that we can support most efficiently their health.

When a shod horse works hard, all his structures are stressed and he falls into a state of chronic disease – mechanical laminitis, infection in the water line, cracks across nails perforations, very stressed soles and stunting the back of the hoof. When a transitioned barefoot horse works hard, his structures are fine and healthy.

When I understood that you can’t help horses by systematically shoeing I looked for new hoof management systems to see how to protect them without a permanent shoe.

I had doubts and questioned my old teachers, as well as the master farriers and vets that I met. But none of them had any doubt about the iron nailed shoe and the horse’s welfare. This inability from the farrier/vet sector to be critical about their own work was the other reason to start my emancipation.

How did you feel knowing that your business had been shoeing?

Once I had information about barefoot horses and the new generation of hoof boots which can protect when needed I was ready to start my ‘transition’ with good arguments to explain my change to my clients. This was in 2009.

I told them that I can better help your horse’s welfare with these techniques because the nailed-on shoe, as well as the horse’s actual lifestyle, are obsolete and harmful.

I was able to transform ninety per cent of my customers to barefoot and have slowly found new clients – thanks to my internet site. Ten per cent left me. I was not angry about this, on the contrary, because they were good clients during the last 14 years and I searched a farrier for them. Some of them changed their mind in the last years and thanks to the good relations between us I started to work with them again. I can’t change everyone’s mind in one shout because I had also needed time to change.

imageI am proud to say that friend farriers and vets sent me customers who wanted their horses barefoot. I’ve been lucky in that aspect.

Nowadays, I’m very happy and feel fine with my option, because it is stupid to deceive yourself because you are afraid to lose some customers and money. I understand that nobody can change his mind in one day but you never can have a good excuse about not doing your job well.

All these business matters can change with good planning and good work with  people and horses. If you only work with the human part or with the horse part of your business, then sure you will get only a part of the achievement. Working with horses is also working with people. In front of each horse there is a person and if you want to help horses it is essential to treat people with respect.

What reaction did you get from fellow farriers?

There were different reactions. Some said I was crazy, others that I would lose a lot of money with this change. But now I have good customers and a very good reputation.

The other typical comment during that time was that not all horses have such good hooves to go barefoot.

They did not realize that the problem is not in the hooves but the life style of the horses.

Track systems provide a better lifestyle for horses

Track systems provide a better lifestyle for horses

Some other farriers also said they did not want to explain about how to improve the welfare of their clients’ horses.

I am very lucky to have here, in Catalonia, a group of farriers that trust me after sharing a lot of courses, farriers’ competitions and clinics. So the Catalan farriers usually share with me some doubts and ask me questions without problem and request me information about barefoot. I have always been happy to answer them.

Once I attended a National Congress of Veterinary and Farriers and realised that change is possible but needs to start inside the farriers’ community.

The horse world urgently needs a big change especially in everything related to horse welfare. For that reason we cannot waste time with silly arguments about morality. We need more science, more education and more results and all this can be done if we start transforming part of our existing professional sector.

In Europe, farriers learn in public schools and it is an accessible job, like veterinarians. We must be able to reach these young people to ensure a better future for our horses and not lose more time in a stupid war between different companies certified in barefoot, as the vast majority have no more than a business vocation to help horses.

This change comes by being generous. A young farrier who is well prepared can get in contact with many of the experienced farriers to learn from them without any expense. I’ve enjoyed this generosity and have learnt with the best people.

It is merely a matter of having access to good training, even after the studies. Barefoot professionals often remain closed to any other trimming methods and this is very dangerous as it impoverishes the quality of their work and its results. We are professionals. We are part of the horse’s health and this has a great responsibility, to use all the resources and techniques to help and heal our patients.

Why would you never shoe again?

In fact, I tried it on two occasions, both for rehabilitation issues. One with a horseshoe and the other with synthetic horseshoe extensions for a rescued horse who had severe deep flexor tendon retraction and after the operation, I put the orthopaedic horseshoes on for three months.

My commitment is with the health of my patients. I promise to use correctly all the resources that are on my hands. I understand that it would be irresponsible from my side not to do it.

In fact these are the only two cases in which the best option was the horseshoe, but over the last years I have been able to solve ninety nine per cent without using horseshoes in pathological cases, and in some cases inventing new orthopaedics that are not nailed or perpetual. We need a new orthopaedics catalogue.

In my experience, problems begin with a bad or lack of diagnosis which will lead to a bad solution. Never in history have there been so many well trained and equipped veterinarians as today. So, we can deduce that there is a problem with their attitude.

On a scale of 1-10, how serious a harm is shoeing to the horse?

Except in the one per cent of rehabilitation cases, I would say 10. We live in the 21th Century, with tactile screens, nanotechnology and drones. Is it logical to put an iron piece with nails to ‘protect’ the hoof? Of course, it is not.

The nailed shoe is seriously harmful. Just see how it deforms the soft tissues. But although we do not like to recognize it, the horseshoe has some advantages. It is minimalist compared to boots, it is highly integrated, leaving much open sole and is much cheaper.

Can you understand the reasons for hostility from some farriers towards barefoot?

Yes, of course. Farriers feel their job is at risk. They also feel hostility to those who “trim” horses barefoot rather than to barefoot itself. If you allow me to do the devil’s advocate, some farriers may be right when they say that a lot of people practising barefoot are not well prepared because they learnt in private schools or certifier organisations which demonize farriers and horseshoes instead of having a serious and scientific proposal about how to help the horse and its health, which unfortunately not too many farriers do.

More and more horses are barefoot. Are you surprised how many? Or did you hope more would convert by now?

I am not surprised right now but when I started with barefoot it surprised me that lots of people contacted me through my website in just a few months. Now, it is possible to find a lot of information about it on internet and not to be limited by the knowledge of the farrier or vet. This has allowed barefoot knowledge to spread very fast and to all the world.

But I was disappointed when I heard so much misunderstanding that most of the people had about barefoot horses. Most of them thought it was ideal because it was healthy, cheap and natural! As farriers, I had to fight with many owners who gave priority to their own interest against their horse´s ones. Unfortunately, this attitude is not exclusive to the barefoot world.

image (1)

In Catalonia, barefoot professionals have to be well prepared because the land is very special and not everybody knows how to convert a horse to barefoot without pain and discomfort. There is a lot to be done, not all is invented. A most scientific vision could be the key to develop much more technique.

And I am sure that the profile of a barefoot horse using a non-permanent protection when he really needs it and to improve the stabling and care systems, is going to be extended and normalized in a decade, and the iron horseshoe nailed as standard will be obsolete.

What do you feel when you see a horse in shoes?

At first, I feel pity. Then I assess how damaged is each structure. I cannot help it. It’s a shame that there are still people who shoe their horses for practical reasons, without thinking how it is affecting the health of their horses, with the support of owners of riding schools and coaches.


The attitude of riding schools and teachers has not been updated and is slowing down the evolution of the horse sector and its well-being. Again, lots of work to do. It is understandable that people who want their horse to be healthier feel aversion towards farriers, vets and riding schools.

What are your 3 top tips for successful transition to barefoot?

The owner has to be aware of what transition means and what is the meaning of having a barefoot horse. It is about the horse, not just about hooves. The horse needs suitable feeding, the right environment and good handling. It is also important to understand that if we take off the horseshoes, the horse and its hoof structures will mark when and what to do.

In the UK there have been prosecutions against barefoot trimmers. Can you picture a day when the boot is on the other foot? That a farrier has to justify shoeing?

I do not know very well the situation in the UK, but I guess it is similar to what happens in France, where there has been a legislative change and only veterinarians and farriers can manage the hooves of horses. Certified training companies are excluded.

Based on my experience, I would say that a person who has made an intensive course of 10 or 15 days, is not ready to do podiatry. Farriers have a long experience in serious cases, technique and imagedifferent methods of handling difficult horses, physical exhaustion, etc.

We have to appeal to the responsibility if we want barefoot to be extended and make sure we have the best professionals. But we must request the same attitude to formal schools of farriers and veterinarians. Their training curriculum are obsolete and yet it is vital because the health of the horse is suffering from this lack of evolution. If everybody is up to date, there will be little difference between farriers and trimmers. From my point of view, this is the way.

The English vet Bracy Clark believed 200 years ago that shoeing deformed hooves and led to early death. Do you agree?

I totally agree that with horseshoes, the feet are deformed, and it is something known by all farriers in the world. But I could not say how much the lives of horses are reduced. It is risky to say without having a serious study to support it, because there are too many factors that can influence the life of a horse. I have known horses that have lived more than 35 years and some others who have been always barefoot and not reached 25 years.

On the other hand, it is unquestionable that damage is produced by the metal horseshoe in the foot health, in vascular return, in the joints and tendon, proprioceptive, lymphatic, etc …

Horseshoes produce numerous harmful effects, specially for immobility, producing degenerative habituation and damaging soft tissues. I say degenerative habituation because it is used in human health when prolonged immobilization harmfully affects the soft tissues and tendon tone.

What is your vision, your dream, of the future for the domestic horse?

Good locations and a healthy lifestyle. Updating and unification of the most important and basic health criteria and welfare of horses at all academic levels, leaving aside the dogmas and enhancing the scientific view.

Rule out the metal horseshoe nailed as usual and leave it as a possible aid in cases of clinical surgery and in extreme cases of rehabilitation. Exponentially improve protections for hooves with a better design, being more minimalist and having a better cost. Use only trimming systems that are radiologically corroborated.

Change the degree of farrier by podiatry, without the systematic use of horseshoes.  Have serious studies of feral horse populations in the world to give us more accurate information than we have today.  Create greater synergy between society and what is a healthy horse with pedagogy, collaboration and disclosure because we have to reset the old stereotype of horse that is deeply rooted and is doing so much damage.

I also desire that there many more places like this blog, where you can freely express different experiences to help improve the situation of the horse world. Thanks for your interest and your work, Linda. And also, I would like to thank Ainhoa Gomez and Roberto Reyes for the translation of this interview.

Thanks to Marc for answering my questions and coping with an interview in a second language. Interesting that he uses the word patient for the horse – an apt description for an animal coming out of shoes. You can contact Marc on his website

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberAs always – get in touch with your thoughts and comments. I love to hear from you. And don’t forget to press the follow button to keep in touch. My novel The First Vet inspired by Bracy Clark is available on Amazon UK (£6.99 paperback and £2.24 for the ebook on Kindle) and Amazon US. It will shock you that this brilliant man exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was ridiculed by a corrupt veterinary establishment. The book is a historical romance, full of horses and adventure, as well as real history. It has 35 five-star reviews on Amazon UK and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society. It was a sell out this summer at the international showjumping at Hickstead. 

And my non-fiction book A Barefoot Journey is coming soon. Here’s a sneak preview of the cover!

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)

STOP PRESSNOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON – £2.84 FOR THE PAPERBACK. 99P FOR THE KINDLE EDITION  In this light-hearted account I tell how I battled with my farrier, coped with derision from other riders and saved a horse from slaughter. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Farriers who say NO…

by Linda Chamberlain
Thanks to the growing barefoot movement there are now many farriers who offer a barefoot service. But some have turned their backs on the trade. Some won’t shoe another horse.
Meet the world’s most famous farrier-turned-trimmer, Jaime Jackson, from the U.S. who is the author of many books, including Paddock Paradise and The Natural Horse.
He’s a champion of natural horse care and bases his trim on the ‘wild horse model’.
As one of the founders of AANHCP (Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices) he has forsaken the metal shoe for healthy, naturally shaped hooves and has helped train many trimmers around the world.
 Please tell us about the moment you realised the harm shoeing causes.
I don’t recall a “moment”, like an epiphany, wherein I suddenly realized shoeing is harmful. Given to analytical thinking by nature, it came with time. My highest priority was to understand what I was doing as a farrier, and, as a consequence, what the impact was on the hoof, movement, and soundness. This was in the mid-1970s. By 1977, I began to realize that the mere act of shoeing seemed to take a toll on the hoof. Which also brought me to the door of “corrective shoeing”, shoeing theories, and the relationship of veterinary medical care and shoeing. I studied hard – books on shoeing, farrier journals, and observing other farriers in other disciplines. I had come to realize that there were as many opinions, theories, and methods as there were disciplines. All seemed to harbor similar problems at the hoof itself: thin walls, diseases, crippling lameness, and so forth.
During this period, I also began to question care beyond shoeing, including riding, boarding, and diet practices. Looking back, I didn’t like what I saw and heard. I really had had enough of it all, and might have quit from frustration when a client gave me a recently published book by Emery, Miller and Van Hoosen, Horseshoeing Theory and Hoof Care (1977). The book brought the wild horse to my attention and a concept of horse care based on what is natural for the species. I soon contacted the principal author, Emery, and we began to discuss the meaning of “natural” and what that might be as a basis in domestic horse care. The problem was that the authors hadn’t researched the wild horse, knew nothing about their feet and lifestyles from first hand observations; in fact, they were speculating in the book. That’s okay – it prepared me for what was to come. In 1982, a client of mine adopted a “mustang” straight out of the wild.
Looking at the hooves, which were nothing like I had ever seen, read about, or heard described, I knew what I had to do – enter wild horse country and see for myself what Emery et al, had postulated as “natural”. That story and my findings were recorded in my first book, The Natural Horse: Lessons from the Wild (1992). Seeing thousands of sound wild horse hooves, and the lifestyle that created them enabled me to see precisely why and how shoeing is harmful. My life as a farrier was over by the end of the 1980s, paving the way for my new profession, and the world’s first “natural horse/hoof care practitioner”. I’ve now written six books on the subject of natural care, and countless articles, lectures here and abroad, and founded two organizations and as many training programs for NHC professionals. This is a long, round about way of saying that not only did I come to realize just how harmful shoeing is, as well as many other management practices, I also did something about it.
How did you feel knowing that your business had been shoeing?
Natural trim 1
 The responsible thing to do once I learned about the pernicious effects of shoeing, was to end my practice. Which I did. I did this gradually, however, first experimenting on client horses with what would become the “wild horse model” for the “natural trim”. While my research was revealing of the fact that, from a biological standpoint, all horses could go barefoot, I needed a proven “method” and one that I could demonstrate and share with the horse world. This “phase” of developing a method took from 1982 to 1986, at which time I also began to lay the ground work for writing TNH.
What reaction did you get from fellow farriers?
Surprisingly, most farriers – and many vets — were very interested. And Emery, also a professional farrier, was supportive from the beginning – and to the present.
Natural trim -5
He and I spoke jointly about my findings before 5,000 farriers (and vets) at the annual convention of the American Farriers Association in 1988, years before TNH was published. Later, I was the guest lecturer at the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Association’s annual conference in 1993. And also at the 1995 Laminitis Symposium, where the host, Dr. Ric Redden had me speak over two days before a thousand vets and farriers. During the 1990s, I wrote many articles for the American and European Farriers Journals. In 2010 I was invited by the European Federation of Farriers and the Dutch Farriers Association to explain the natural trim as guest lecturer at the Helicon School in the Netherlands. Then came an invitation from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Teramo (Italy) . In general, while there has been much “interest”, the problem has been, and continues to be, resistance due to conflicts with conventional or institutional regimes of horse and hoof care. That’s another “hot topic”!
Why would you never shoe again?
I ended my shoeing career for a number of reasons. First, because I believe in the “cause no harm” clause of the Hippocratic Oath. Second, it truly isn’t necessary – once the natural trim is properly understood and executed within the context of holistic care based on the wild horse model. And third, because there is broad and growing interest in “going natural” among tens of thousands (probably more) of horse owners. But underlying these points, to this day, 32 years after entering wild horse country, and 37 years after engaging the subject with Emery, I feel a personal responsibility to carry the message – the humane care of horses based on the wild horse model — forward with others.
On a scale of 1-10, how serious a harm is shoeing to the horse?
The Natural Horse Front CoverFrom the very beginning I realized that any “scale” by which to gauge the harmfulness of shoeing cannot responsibly be separated from the overall care of the horse. For example, it is impossible to do justice to the natural trim if the horse is being fed a “laminitis diet” or is confined to a stall. it is a fact today that too many barefoot trimmers and horse owners cannot distinguish between the adverse effects of one from the other. Not infrequently, diet is blamed when the trimming is either the principal problem or exacerbating the problem. For this reason, I’ve never been inclined to isolate shoeing from other harmful practices, but to differentiate causalities and their symptoms. But back to shoeing, per se, it weakens the hoof, predisposes it to deformity, and fuels other harmful practices that show up symptomatically in the hoof, such as laminitis and Navicular Syndrome. “Harm is harm”, and, so, why take chances? In contrast to the natural trim, it is impossible to shoe a horse or trim the foot in violation of its natural state, and have healthy, sound hooves.
Can you understand the reasons for hostility from some farriers towards barefoot? (Perhaps they are not in US, but in UK they are).
Other than from a few “wackos” whose credentials as professional farriers are suspect in my mind, that hasn’t been my experience at all. In addition to the broad interest I have enjoyed coming from the farrier community, shared above, it is perhaps ironic to the UK equestrian taking their horse barefoot that I have had several very distinguished farriers – arguably publicly hostile to barefoot — from the UK actually come to visit me here in the U.S. to talk about natural care and the wild horse model. They were very understanding, impressed, and I would say supportive of what I was trying to accomplish within the realm of NHC. Ditto other “leaders” in the farrier community, including the President of the Dutch Farriers Association at the time of my talk in the Netherlands — with whom I’ve kept in touch ever since. At the same time, I am aware of the “hostility” posed in the question. But it isn’t specific to the UK, as I hear the same thing happening in other countries. Perhaps I can shed some light on the problem.
First, farriers I’ve talked with about this are resentful of “outsiders” telling them that their profession is out of line shoeing horses when horse owners and their associations are requiring the practice of them. In fact, I know this to be true in many instances. Barefoot isn’t even an option in some disciplines – not because of the farriers but because of traditional rules and regulations, of which farriers may not even agree. Second, they detest “barefooters” telling them what to do, or taking over their business. I know, too, that the barefoot movement has eroded the shoeing landscape, and continues to do so, almost like an insurgency! Third, one has to realize that they are not taught the “natural trim”, and their traditions (such as in the UK), go back over 800 years, wherein we find very little about removing shoes. It is worth recognizing that many have to go though rigorous training regulated by government officials and the law, only to have to contend with a burgeoning and irritating “barefoot bunch” that tell them they are misguided relics of the past. My response to the farriers has been categorically, we need to beat a legal path to the “natural trim”. This means “education”, of course, whether they like it or not. Change isn’t always easy in any discipline.
More and more horses are barefoot. Are you surprised how many? Or did you hope more would convert by now?
The Natural TrimWhat’s happened so far actually makes sense to me. In 1982, there was no “barefoot movement”, in fact my own clients, with a few exceptions, were aghast at the idea. I lost most of them during the 1980s, but then gained new ones who liked the idea of “going natural”. I think what’s happening today would never have happened if the Internet had not come along when it did. Remember, I wrote TNH on a typewriter! PCs were not commonplace and MS DOS was a nightmare until Windows and Apple arrived to relieve it. All those software engineers have earned their place in Heaven! I also formed my own publishing company to get the word out, because few magazines serving the horse community would touch “barefoot” with a 10 foot pole. In fact, Northland Publishing dropped TNH in 1995, and I do believe that if I had not formed Star Ridge Publishing in 1996, what’s happening today might never have happened at all. Not well known today, the first edition of the Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care was published a year later and the barefoot movement struck ground for the first time. By 1999, things were beginning to move, and the new millennium saw a burgeoning barefoot revolution. The AANHCP was founded the following year, and most of the “barefoot heroes” of today were born of that organization. Unfortunately, many of these “heroes” converted to other manners of dealing with the hoof, none of which I am supportive of, and I would say, that much of the farrier hostility is actually directed at these “offshoot methods”. In fact, the UK RSPCA depositioned me in a prosecution of one of those incredibly harmful methods. I adamantly oppose any trim method that causes harm to the horse, regardless of its proponents’ rationales. This has made me unpopular, if not a pariah, among some barefooters, but I intend to stand my ground.
What are your 3 top tips for successful transition to barefoot?
There can’t really be a “successful” transition to barefoot if the method contradicts the wild horse model. I know this for a fact, because I see the failures all the time.
I have and advocate “4 Tips”: the natural trim, natural boarding, a reasonably natural diet, and natural horsemanship.
 In the UK there have been prosecutions against barefoot trimmers. Can you picture a day when the boot is on the other foot? That a farrier has to justify shoeing?
I have explained above that I aided the UK government in a prosecution of several barefoot trimmers. But this came at the request of RSPCA attorneys who revealed to me the truly horrible mess they made of the horses. Unfortunately, these people gave “barefoot” a terribly bad name in many UK circles, and some continue to do so. The good news is that I was identified as a humanitarian and that my advocacy was compatible with the law. I even discussed the case with UK farriers at the time and they clearly understood the difference. I don’t believe we will see the same thing happening to UK farriers in the Registry, if for no other reason than politics. Obviously, some farrier methods also rise to the level of terrible (see below) and I am fully aware of the rationales behind them. But I think the way out of this conundrum is for the “natural trim” to be brought before legal authorities in the Farrier Registry and government regulators. In some measure, this is happening now with my support. Again, the matter is very “political” and “sensitive”. And let me say this, I believe that the natural trim might very well have been a “legal trim” in the UK right now if it weren’t from interference run by “generic barefooters” who cause harm and have given the “natural trim” a complete misrepresentation among farriers in their circles.
The English vet Bracy Clark believed 200 years ago that shoeing deformed hooves and led to early death. Do you agree? 
JJ-1I am familiar with Clark, as are many farriers, and reviewed nearly a thousand pages of his manuscripts some years ago while I was sorting through the history of barefoot horses. Clark did not possess our information today regarding the wild horse model, but he was able to deduce some of its features through pure reason. Which is how he came to his views regarding shoeing. He did attempt to fashion a hinged shoe that would facilitate the “hoof mechanism” that prevailed at the time and even into the present – that is, a representation of hoof function, although one that I reject as inconsistent with the wild horse model and current research concerning internal vascular hydraulics. But it was also clear that the model’s mechanics also frustrated Clark as he attempted to deal with the barbaric shoeing practices of the day. He and I would have hit it off for sure! Nevertheless, he understood that metal nailed to the foot contraposed the hoof’s biodynamics and healthy grow patterns (leading to deformity, that is, “unnatural hoof shape” as I call it in TNH) and that horses can and should go barefoot. For this reason, he is one of our historical heroes and “forefathers” of the ongoing NHC revolution.
What is your vision, your dream, of the future for the domestic horse?
Right now, I have to admit, things don’t look as good for the horse as they should – although it’s much better in many places than when I first stepped into wild horse country with a dream for something better and a vision that was delivered to me as a consequence of what I found. Even the future of the wild horse model is threatened itself as US government and misguided “wild horse” zealots attempt to influence and control the herds in ways that are incongruous with natural selection. I am forever grateful that I saw and studied them in their “heyday” long before current politics got its foothold.
On the domestic front, the wild horse model has been polluted and practically run over by its own strains of zealotry, misguided barefoot trimmers and ignorant, vitriolic farriers. From what I can see, and is reported in the media, much of what is being done to the hoof in the name of “natural” or “physiologically correct” is bogus and harmful. The politics is typically “anti-shoeing”, the methods often anchored unwittingly to farrier techniques they failed to research before claiming as their own, and the “science” the stuff of “word salad”. Which is to say that it isn’t the stuff of what actually occurs in the horse’s natural world, the epicenter of my vision.
Having said this, I take refuge in the world of NHC that I – and now many others, too — practice daily and believe in as I always have from the beginning. Here at the AANHCP Field Headquarters, our horses live year after year with none of the problems I see with shod horses and those given what I can only be described as unnatural and invasive trims, both typically harboring harmful feeding and boarding practices as well. In contrast, the natural trim is just a few minutes of relatively “easy work”, and nothing really changes about the hooves because the environment and care they receive favors naturally shaped, healthy hooves attached to truly healthy, athletic horses.
Our work is completely transparent, and visitors come often to see for themselves. It’s really that simple. I advise horse owners to exercise great caution in selecting their hoof care practitioners. Ask bluntly: what is their method based on?  Were they trained in that method? Can they produce a herd of sound, healthy horses year after year, trimmed and maintained according to their method, and with complete public transparency? While such a standard may seem arbitrary and unrealistic to many who simply accept “lameness” as inevitable, it is the NHC standard that I intend to advocate for all horses. In short, their very vitality!
Thanks to Jaime Jackson for answering my questions. Your books have been an inspiration to me!
                                                     STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and check out my novel, The First Vet, inspired by the life and work of Bracy Clark, one of England’s very-first vets. BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberClark proved 200 years ago that horse shoes deform and cripple the animals we love. His work was suppressed…until recently. Horse lovers, book lovers are buying it and sharing it. It’s a story of love and corruption, full of real history.  Reviewers have described it as ‘brave, witty and romantic.’ 

The First Vet is on Amazon – UK.  It’s on special price promotion on Amazon – US  for one week only from April 30th – $0.99.

As always, thank you for your support for this blog and my book. Let me have your comments and stories as I love to hear from you all. 

‘We are not anti-barefoot’ – the BHS replies…

by Linda Chamberlain

Brilliant news! A month ago I wrote a letter to British Horse, the magazine of the British Horse Society, on behalf of a group of barefooters. The letter has been published and there’s a very considered reply from their director of equine policy. I am republishing both letter and reply in full. Please share, as the BHS isn’t digital yet! So this info isn’t online. 


Dear British Horse,

‘As a rider of a barefoot horse I was really pleased to read Wayne Upton’s interview in February’s issue. I was pleased because some farriers can be hostile to the idea of equines being ridden without shoes and here was a man suggesting the idea to riders ‘if you’re not doing very much with a horse’.

My fellow members of the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook, which now has a remarkable 4,000 members, were not as impressed as me, however. You see, so many of them compete – some to a very high level – and so were rightly concerned that readers of the British Horse might wrongly think that barefoot was a cheap but slippery option. They cited Simon Earle, the racehorse trainer, who favours barefoot and Lucinda MacAlpine from the world of dressage. There are also police forces in the US whose horses have no shoes. Then there was Luca Maria Moneta’s success at Olympia on his barefoot (on the backs) mare who scaled a massive wall more than seven feet high to go in the record books. A high enough achievement for anyone, I would suggest.

Bare feet jumping seven feet!

Bare feet jumping seven feet!

But I asked members of the Facebook group to tell your readers of their own competition and riding successes. Here they are: –

Sue Gardner said – I have had my horse barefoot for 12 years and I have competed in low level show jumping, Trec and some cross country events.

Mandy Aire got a barefoot event established in her local show and it was the most well attended class. Mandy will be doing endurance this year.

Christine Green said – my daughter is a BHS member. She competes at show jumping, cross country and dressage on a barefoot horse who is proving more sound now than when shod.

Katherine Mills has two barefoot horses who have qualified for FEI endurance. They cover up to 80 km – booted or barefoot. Two more of her youngsters have qualified for open competitions.

Chris Thompson rides a barefoot Mustang stallion, has affiliated for BSJ and regularly competes against both amateur and professional riders. Eventing in muddy conditions also poses no problem.

Emily Kate Briggs does cross country training with her barefoot ex-racehorse.

Emma Hart’s barefoot mare happily jumped around British Novice at Pyecombe and Royal Leisure.

Clair McNamara rides the British Showjumping Show Eastern Area’s reigning champion. A mare who is barefoot.

Janet Harkness’s children join in all Pony Club activities on a barefoot pony.

Brigitte Manning found barefoot no hindrance to her horse’s performance when she qualified for the Hartpury Showjumping South West competition.

Claire Alldritt rode the coast to coast in Scotland last year – no slipping from her barefoot mount or packhorse.

Inga Crosby competes in dressage on her barefoot ex-racehorse.

Sheryl Pochin has a mini Shetland who competes in local shows.

Sarah Wynn recently ran an arena Trec competition – half the entrants were barefoot horses.

Tina Webb drives her pony on the roads – about 30 miles in an average week.

Sandra Gaskin Hall, a BHS member, lives in Wales and her barefooter copes well for mile after mile on the rocky tracks.

Elice Wadsworth finds the grip superior from her barefoot horse in the following disciplines – showjumping, cross country, dressage…oh, and hunting!

Sarah Pinnell is another multi-discipline rider – 3 barefooters who hunt, jump and go on long pleasure rides.

Milly Shand competed at advanced dressage on Kudi – no shoes – and winning at Prix St Georges.

Hester Polak – does hunting, showjumping, endurance  and eventing on a barefoot horse with no problems.

Sharon Smith hunts her horse who has never been shod and reports that grip is excellent.

Look at that bare foot!

Look at that bare foot!

Dani Knight’s horse has been barefoot all her life and is regularly placed in local showing classes. She hacks happily over all terrain.

So, you see, barefoot isn’t only for those who do the occasional light hack. And the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook is a great place for support and information.’

Lee Hackett, BHS Director of Equine Policy, replied,

‘It’s important to make clear that the views expressed by any interviewee in British Horse does not necessarily reflect those of the BHS itself. We’ve never suggested that many horses cannot thrive going barefoot and can do exactly the same as many shod horses, including competing at the highest level. That said, every horse needs to be treated as an individual and there are some for whom barefoot is not a viable option. We also try to make clear that going barefoot isn’t the cheap option! The old saying “no foot, no horse” is absolutely true and it is vital to do what is right for the horse in each case.

On occasion we’re accused of suggesting every horse should be shod. I have no idea where this comes from, as it is completely untrue and would be frankly absurd! We do, however, strongly recommend that going barefoot should be done in consultation (at the very least) with a registered farrier. This is not to denigrate barefoot trimmers in any way but until there are National Occupational Standards and a recognised training and qualification system on the national QCF framework for barefoot trimmers, this is important.

There are many excellent, exceptionally knowledgeable trimmers and some very responsible governing bodies but for the uninitiated it can be hard to identify them. Presently, anyone can advertise as a barefoot trimmer without any experience or qualification and this is why we have to recommend that the switch to barefoot is done in consultation with a registered farrier. With a registered farrier you are guaranteed a level of training and qualification, that the farrier is insured and that there is an established complaints and disciplinary procedure should something go wrong. We need the same guarantees for barefoot trimmers. The equine foot is an extremely complex structure and it is very easy to do considerable damage.

At the risk of labouring a point, but because this is seen by some as a controversial subject, I will just make clear that the BHS supports all efforts to regulate and support barefoot trimming – as we know many barefoot trimmers and their associations do, too – and that we fully recognise that many trimmers are exceptionally talented and knowledgeable.

It is also worth mentioning that there are quite a few barefoot trimmers who are fully qualified and registered farriers that no longer shoe. We are in no way anti-barefoot. For many horses the only limit to what they can achieve is down to their and their rider’s ability – not whether or not they are wearing shoes!’

Care about horses?

Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the book!

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amber

My novel The First Vet is based on one of our very-first vets who amazingly proved that horse shoes deform and cripple the animals we love. His work was suppressed…until recently. Horse lovers, book lovers are buying it and sharing it. It’s a story of love and corruption, full of real history.  Reviewers have described it as ‘brave, witty and romantic.’ 


The First Vet is on Amazon – UK.Amazon – US.

As always, thank you for your support for this blog and my book. Let me have your comments and stories as I love to hear from you all. 

One day only – left-handed books

by Linda Chamberlain

Due to overwhelming demand.

Today only!

The First Vet is available as a left-handed edition.


Hurry, before Amazon runs out of this unique version of the book readers are tipping for a film.

If you care about horses, you will love this romantic story based on a man who fought for animal welfare 200 years ago.

Natural Horse Magazine said: ‘A must-read for everyone who loves horses.’ Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US – whichever hand you like to read with!

Have a fun-filled day today, everyone.

If that Poldark chappie knocks on my door again tell him we’ll be doing auditions another time. Aidan Turner looks good on a horse but I can’t promise him. OK?