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.
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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.
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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?
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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. 

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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.

Cover

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?

They’re athletes…not dinner

by Linda Chamberlain

REPOSTED IN THE LIGHT OF NEW SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PUBLISHED THIS WEEK

If this horse was to be your dinner you might be worried about the way it was kept. You see, this horse lives in a stable that is only a little bigger than he is himself.

bored - isolated

bored – isolated

He has room to lie down. He has room to turn around but he can’t run and he can’t touch any of his friends. His keeper is generous with his food – he gets two buckets of feed a day and a couple of haynets. If those run out in the night he can always eat his bed…until it gets too mucky for his taste.

If this horse was to be your dinner you might see a television documentary by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that would distress you. You wouldn’t be able to smell that stable but Hugh’s nose might crinkle and you’d know what it was like in there by the morning. He might show you the bars on the stable door with a hushed and upset tone.

‘They’re anti weaving bars,’ he’d explain. ‘To stop the horse rocking from side to side – a harmful habit but it relieves the boredom.’

If this horse was to be your dinner Hugh would get a camera in the stable at night. He’d show you that the horse, who sleeps only for a few minutes at a time, is still awake. He’s been chewing the wooden walls because the door has been covered with metal to stop it being eaten.

This horse stays in the stable all day and all night in a very expensive livery yard that is equipped with the latest in horsey facilities. There’s an indoor sandschool, a heated tack room and even a horse walker so he can get a little exercise on the days his owner is unable to take him out. He’s an animal whose ancestors lived in fear of predators. They lived in a herd and if any caught the scent of a lone wolf, they ran. That’s how they survived for millions of years and the instinct is still strong in today’s domesticated horse.

So, when this horse’s owner takes him for a ride he can sometimes be a tricky beast – full of fear and flight. He might want to run simply because there’s a plastic bag in the hedge. He’s spent the last 24 hours in solitary confinement without the comfort of a herd – surely, he can be forgiven a fanciful imagination.

But he’s not going to be your dinner.

He’s an athlete. A valuable sports horse. His breeding is impeccable and his performance is remarkable. He’s extremely fast and you should see him stretch over fences because he’s awesome.

It’s a strange way to keep an athlete, isn’t it? Unmoving. Alone.

Can you imagine David Beckham or Wayne Rooney bedded down in the smallest room in the house but brought out to chase a ball for 90 minutes every Saturday? They suffer enough injuries as it is and it doesn’t take a science degree to work out that their fitness levels might be compromised by the lifestyle of a couch potato. Horses must have been the only Olympians that performed in the world’s most notable sporting event from the confines of what is, by the morning, a toilet.

This horse’s owner is very careful though. The livery yard has more expertise than the average horse book and the animal is warmed up diligently before every competition to minimise the risk of injury. A pulled tendon could finish his career and every athlete knows the importance of correct preparation before an event. Although this horse doesn’t get as much space as your average lamb chop, he does get more than most pieces of chicken breast you can buy in the supermarket.

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But there are no campaigns, no cries from animal welfare activists about the way this horse is confined. It’s perfectly normal. In fact, the more expensive and talented the horse, the more likely it is that he is kept in this way. I know many livery yards where the animals are rarely, and sometimes never, turned out in a field. Race horses spend most of their day at rest in a stable.

It is perfectly legal and it isn’t even frowned upon. Why? you might ask.

I suppose the practice has its roots in the past. In the 1800s London housed about a million and a half horses and none of them had access to a field. Horses were like the car in a garage today – brought out when needed. Most of those horses were working animals, vital to the economy. So, if they were awake, they were probably working.

There are few working horses left in Britain and we keep them for our pleasure, or our sport. We no longer have to keep them confined. There’s no longer any excuse.

They are athletes – let them move.

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the book! 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. 

This blog post was published in July last year – I am reposting it due to popular demand and also in response to an amazing study by Dr Kelly Yarnell of Nottingham Trent University. This detailed investigation revealed high stress levels in horses that were kept in traditional, isolated stables. Horses fared better and were easier to handle if they were in a larger stable with a companion – better still, if they were in a group of four.

The results didn’t surprise me and I would love her to study horses who live out like mine with access to shelter and food 24/7. Would she find them stressed at all, do you think?

What delighted me was that her report was picked up by both by the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. Lovely that the issue is reaching mainstream ears.

By the way, this blog has a new page about my books and reviews. Click on the link in the sidebar to take a look. 

This is one thing I have never done on a pony

by Linda Chamberlain

Take a close look at this photo – can you see something amazing? pony camp sleep The children are having a little nap. The ponies are also dozing peacefully. There are no saddles; no bridles, only the occasional halter. The ponies are free to leave if they want to because they are not restrained.

There’s enough grass in the field to tempt any pony in the land but they are staying with the resting children…because they want to. I might not have believed such a scene was possible unless I had seen it for myself. Well, I can promise you the ponies are not frightened or coerced into this behaviour, neither are their feet tied to the ground.

pony camp sleep3 Let’s go back a couple of hours at this highly unusual Five Star Pony Camp just before the photo was taken so that you can truly understand. I watch, like a fly on the wall, as the children have a chance to choose a pony they want to play with that afternoon.

They head for the fields with halters and long lead ropes to fetch them to an area where they have already built an obstacle course with poles on the ground, a blue tarpaulin to walk over and jump wings to navigate between. Then they master the art of leading a pony from the ground without pulling. A light tap behind the saddle area, either with a hand or a long natural horsemanship stick, is enough of an ‘ask’ to get most of the ponies following.

The children use their voices, their body language to communicate and I’m already in a state of surprise. They didn’t teach riding skills like this when I was their age.  I’m impressed; they are managing really well. If any of the children pull on their lead ropes, Monica Andreewitch, who runs these week-long camps in school holidays, shows them a better way – one that is nicer for the pony. Stand at his shoulder, don’t look back at him, use your arm and show him where you want to go. Some of the children have done this before, others are getting the hang of it; all are smiling happily.

‘Who feels brave?’ she asks, a bit later. ‘Who’s ready to take the halter off?’ pony camp leading

I’ve been around horses since I was seven, about the age of these children, and I’m smiling to myself. I’m expecting mayhem. Little round ponies with lots of fluff might look sweet but plenty of them have pulled my younger self through a patch of nettles to reach what their tummy desires.

I remember my friend, Deborah, battling with a tiny pony called Twinkle who had his own agenda and the strength of a tank. I hope the children at the camp won’t be upset when their pony friends run off to freedom, a good roll and a bite of grass. But it doesn’t happen that way. The lack of halters makes very little difference. The body language from their handlers needs some fine tuning, some guiding from Monica, but they stay. What’s more they continue walking over the jumps, the plastic and through the obstacles, going where the children take them. One pony breaks into trot because he’s asked, not with a desire to escape. Wow! liberty work

Then a boy comes to Monica. He’s thirsty and near to tears.

‘Are you tired?’ she asks him. It’s been a long day of poo picking, riding and drawing pictures in the classroom. ‘Would you like a bit of a sleep on the pony?’

She takes his hand and gets him on board, shows him how to get comfy. Facing the tail is the best way, taking full advantage of the soft, pillowy rump to lay your head on. He nods off and the halterless pony relaxes and does his own version of a nap, standing up.

All the children do the same. Monica and her assistants are nearby to help them get on and to settle. It’s a quiet time at the camp. The photo is taken. It’s a wonderful moment. Rare and special. Because it shows what can be achieved when children and ponies are allowed to play together. They connect…and that’s why those ponies stay with the sleeping children on board. They don’t need ropes and halters to bind them.

When the time is right, Monica gets the children to sit up slowly. The ponies come awake, too. The children dismount, the ponies are thanked…it’s time to go home. As for me, I’m a little speechless and I’m left with a desire to be young again – to unlearn a few of my riding lessons.

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the book that could make a big difference to horses! 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.

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amber

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. 

Monica Andreewitch runs the Five Star Pony Camp at her riding school, The Pony Academy, in Ockham, Surrey, during school holidays. Email: monica@theponyacademy.co.uk Tel: 0208 224 3499

Bargain book – for 1 week only!

Amazon is doing a book promotion and so for one week only the Kindle edition of The First Vet is on sale for 99p only. So fill your riding boots, dear friends. Here is a link for Amazon UK – and for Amazon U.S. here. The novel, said to be the most romantic of its kind since The Horse Whisperer, is inspired by the life and work of one of our first vets, Bracy Clark – an animal rights campaigner ahead of his time.

Cover

It’s recently been reviewed on the  book review site A Woman’s Wisdom which said: ‘I really liked this story. Beautifully researched, it sits very well in the time period and I did like to watch the relationship develop between Bracy and Christina in such a cat and mouse manner.  Although it was a time when women had no voice there is the satisfaction of Bracy’s respect for Christina and his determination that she should live a fuller life and not be shut away. A very romantic story.’ Here is a link to the full review.

Thanks to all my reviewers on Amazon and to everyone who has given me such positive feedback.

 

 

Everything they can do….we can do better!

by Linda Chamberlain

I’ve been writing. This time it’s a letter. I was stirred up by an article in British Horse which alleged that barefoot horses can’t do as much as their field mates wearing metal shoes. What nonsense, I thought. My friends in the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook contributed to a strong rebuff to the magazine of the British Horse Society. Here it is –

Dear Sir,

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 mare (see below) 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.

Luca Moneta

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

Sue 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 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 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 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 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 does cross country training with her barefoot ex-racehorse.

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

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

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

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

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

Inga competes in dressage on her barefoot ex-racehorse.

Sheryl has a mini Shetland who competes in local shows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dani’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.

Many thanks,

Linda Chamberlain

Just wanted to share as our Facebook group is so awesome.

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the book! 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.

 

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amber

A man who could cure horses

A woman who couldn’t walk without them

And the brother who stood between them

The most romantic novel since The Horse Whisperer set against the turbulent early years of the Veterinary College. One reviewer said it was ‘brave, witty and romantic’. 

Thanks to everyone who has bought and read the book and to those who support this blog. As always leave me a comment, I love to hear from you.