The $15,000 failure…

by Linda Chamberlain

Laminitis – the vets couldn’t cure him, the farriers couldn’t make him comfortable and in the end the poor horse refused to get up. The bill for this sickening failure was $15,000! 

As this crippling condition reaches epidemic proportions, I’m asking whether horse owners are dealing with a ‘laminitis industry’ when they reach out for a cure? Are the professionals who advise making too much money and then failing to make simple but effective changes to diet and lifestyle that will see a lasting cure? Can we really carry on with this betrayal? 

My article is published in the latest Barefoot Horse Magazine. I am reprinting it here in full. Read on…

Our horses’ crippling pain may be feeding a multi-million pound industry.

Laminitis is so widespread and so misunderstood that distressed owners are paying huge bills to treat the symptoms but often failing to find a lasting cure.

They pay a high price for specialist shoes that don’t heal, they fork out for deep bedding, painkillers, supplements, x-rays, veterinary advice and the services of their farrier.

But if they fail to make permanent changes to their horse’s diet and lifestyle there is a real danger of the condition returning – especially when the grass is growing strongly in Spring or Autumn.

After reading the book Laminitis – An Equine Plague of Unconscionable Proportions by Jaime Jackson, I have been investigating the real cost of laminitis, seeking to gauge whether the author is right to label it an ‘industry’ – in other words, the people whose business it is to cure the problem are, in effect, living off its continuance.

You may have heard the same said of the ‘cancer industry’ – the allegations in both cases are harsh and controversial.

With laminitis, however, Jackson is suggesting relatively simple changes that will bring a lasting cure but let’s look at the cost of conventional treatment.

Sometimes the cost is more than financial – sometimes the horse is put to sleep – but others return to work, at least for a while, and some make a lasting recovery. I was prepared to hear about a few large vet bills when I put out a call for information on social media.

I was not expecting to get news of a lamentable failure to cure a horse – at a cost of $15,000.

Staggering, isn’t it?

The horse on the receiving end of all this attention was a sports horse who underwent colic surgery only to be hit by laminitis and rotation of the pedal bone immediately after. He had a month in hospital, countless specialist shoes, drugs and feeds which had little or no impact on this poor equine who deteriorated so much that he refused to get up.

The massive bill included three different farriers, hospital fees and vets visiting on site but everybody had a different approach – none of them worked!

Months later, still wearing shoes, he gained enough strength to be led on walks again. He was on a hay-only diet but full soundness didn’t return. Then his owner read Jackson’s book on laminitis, decided to find a barefoot trimmer and get rid of his shoes. Finally, the horse was healing.

Laminitis is often associated with fat, little ponies who are commonly ‘starved’ on minimal hay if hit by this painful condition. Such a diet, plus box rest, was advised for another horse thought to have diet-related lami. The veterinary bill for his feet alone came to £4000 but there were more problems to come.

His owner reported that starving him and putting him on box rest made him fall apart – literally, as he lost all muscle tone.

She said: ‘At the end of two months my horse had lost all condition, all top line , he looked awful , was still lame and now he didn’t look right behind.’

More veterinary investigations pointed to problems higher up the body.  A full lameness assessment was advised, MRI scans, nerve blocks and a further £1500 bill. Straight bar shoes were replaced with heartbars. Still lame.

The owner began reading about barefoot rehabilitation, left her livery yard, found a field near home and took off his shoes. Six weeks into her programme the vet wanted to do one final nerve block to see if the horse would be sound but there was no pain to block. They are riding again…

The story told to me of a little driving pony shows the repetitive nature of the condition. He first got laminitis in the Autumn of 2015 and the prescribed treatment was box rest, Bute and heartbar shoes. The bill of £2100 was paid on insurance.

No longer insured for laminitis, he went down with another attack this Spring and was once again in heartbars at £100 a time. More x-rays were taken and Bute prescribed.

I visited some farriery web sites to read up on heartbar shoes. The cost seems to be between £100 and £150 for a set which would need to be fitted roughly every four to six weeks. One respected site advised that the horse would need them for life in order to stay sound – so these are a crutch, not a cure. They have an annual bill of between £860 and £1950, depending on cost and frequency.

But how can you prevent laminitis happening in the first place? The secret, as Jackson and others advise, is to be aware that the early signs such as blood traces in the white line of the hoof, persistent thrush, stretched or separating hooves which are mostly caused by the wrong diet. Let’s face it our horses live on farm land. They live on grass that is designed to produce food and milk. So it’s extremely rich. The horse might have a better chance of a healthy life if he shared space with the motorway traffic.

I’m joking and I don’t want you to turn your animals out on the M25…or Route 66!

But I do want you to put yard owners under pressure to adapt their land. Ask, ask and ask again (nicely) to track the fields. If you have your own field I’d like you to buy some electric fencing to make an interesting route for your horses to walk and eat slowly. And I want you to feed some hay all year round but especially in the danger seasons – it’s a much cheaper option than illness. Rely on 100 per cent grass and you are taking a risk with your friend’s life.

Building a track isn’t difficult. It’s fun and your horse will love it too. Simply take out the middle of the field with electric fence and leave your equines to graze the outer track. If you have a grass-sensitive horse you might have to scrape the grass off or get sheep to eat it down. Allow horses to race around it a few times, allow it to become quite bare and make sure there is hay spread around to encourage movement.

Aim for movement and not lush grass and you stand a better chance of avoiding the high cost of lami.

This article was first published in Barefoot Horse Magazine. Here is a link. Thank you to the Hoofing Marvellous group of trimmers for the use of photos.

THE BOOKS

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)I’m a writer and journalist who loves horses. My own horses’ shoes were removed about 17 years ago as soon as I realised the harm they were causing. My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

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

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

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

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

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

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel has been completed, ready for editing. I am being inspired by a famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. So many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet but I think I should feature one of Bracy Clark’s colleagues. And have I told you about the Very Bad Princess? The one who rode horses, swore a lot and tried to keep a London park all to herself…not a current-day princess…more soon…I’m enjoying the research on this lady! She used to take snuff…xxx

The Guided Tour

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

jules-5

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

jules-8

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

ABOUT ME – BOOK NEWS

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Fields of trouble…

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…

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

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

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

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

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

About me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ex-farrier professor turns barefoot guide…

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

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

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

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

Can you prepare your horse in advance for going barefoot?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Who should trim the horse and how often?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will movement help at this stage?

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

Should owner put anything on the hooves to strengthen them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT MARC

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

ABOUT ME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Blasphemous Blogger…

by Linda Chamberlain

You can measure the success of a campaign by the reaction of its opponents.blog - Tina Steiner

The other day a commentator on this blog accused me of blasphemy for suggesting that horses are better, happier and healthier if they are freed from their metal shoes.

Blasphemy! Personally, I thought that a bit strong. A touch over the top. Blasphemy is illegal in many countries of the world. In some, it carries the death penalty. Would I have to throw in my passport?

I was told to stop preaching. Because, of course, no equine could walk over stony ground or be ridden properly without the support we humans have contrived with the nailed-on metal shoe.

I was told I probably only rode my horse in an arena where the surface was soft and her bare toes were not challenged.

Here it is, in full. The comment that was made in response to my interview with ex-farrier and former professor of blog - Ringo in Basque countryfarriery, Marc Ferrador, who warned that ‘Horse Shoes Will Be Obsolete’.  (Please forgive the grammar and spelling. English is not her first language.)

She said – ‘Obviously you do not ride outside the box (ie: arena)  when you ride the concrete pavement roads this tends to ware off the hoof and when you have to ride down a gravel logging road or drive way or along the edge of the pavement those rocks cause stone bruising which will lay your horse up for a good 6 weeks or more soaking with hot Epsom salts helps but don’t cure it. there are also tiny rocks that will work up inside the the soft hoof walls and cause terrible abscesses and later blow out the whole side wall of the hoof.

‘Linda Chamberlain. I cannot imagine the purpose for your crusade in attempting to teach people the shoeing causes blog - Sarra Bear Mackenzie-Pilot on Lightninghazards to your horse and its health. you do realize your talking to people who know that horses have been shod for hundreds of years like we were not just born yesterday mmmkay?

‘You take off my horses shoes that would be like taking someone teeth out of their head. make them venerable to stone bruises and abscesses. quit preaching about things you know nothing of. when my horses dont have shoes i cant ride ok? and if i took them off for five years he still would be lame the first rock he crammed into his foot. the only hazards with horse shoes are they are slick on concrete. i dont know who your really going to convince of this blasphemy but blog - Monica Campori on Warren in kenyaif you do they never owned a horse that they rode outside the box. (arena)=box’

Well, I admit, I am no great advert for barefoot horse riding at the moment because my horse has been lame with laminitis. My daughter’s horse is much too careless with my safety to be entertained so I am busy rehabilitating Sophie with walks in hand. I will be back on board very soon as she is looking brilliantly sound and then I will be able to show off my skills.

I don’t have an arena but, when I was riding, you would have been impressed at the sight of the terrain we covered blog - Julie Allsop, gymkhanaon bare hooves.

I decided to publish the comment it because it made me smile and thought you might like to see it. Mostly. I don’t expect to convince everyone that barefoot is the right foot but never thought my blog would inspire such a backlash.

Then a prominent barefoot trimmer, Lindsay Setchell, who edits Barefoot Horse Magazine, got in touch. She told me a minor accusation of blasphemy was nothing.

‘We’ve had death threats!’ she told me.

My smile suddenly seemed inappropriate. This was no time for levity.  I started writing this article just before the blog - Joanna Hartlandshooting of MP Jo Cox and so knew that the climate was not right for the tone I was adopting. I considered dropping the article because I knew death threats, made on social media in particular, were not new. I had come across other trimmers who have faced abusive language and derision. I met one who suffered anonymous phone calls that were deadly in threat and tone. Riders have to defend themselves against the skeptics; it’s not easy and it’s not nice. Why so much hatred?

I asked Lindsay why barefoot horse riding attracted such vitriol. We were mainly a nice bunch of people who were kind and wanted a better world for our animals.

She said: ‘Many people who are pro-shoeing are in a big traditional bubble, they have no clue that if they stepped out blog - Lindsay Setchell on Oscof that bubble they would be in an enormous thriving world of successfully barefoot horses.

‘They tend to assume that barefoot is only for certain horses & not for horses in competition or in any amount of decent work. They’re truly not exposed to the amazing things that barefoot horses of all breeds & sizes can do in all different equine disciplines.

‘Because of this, they think that barefooters are few and far between and are either brainwashed, clueless, cruel or mad (or all of those things!). They have been ‘conditioned’ to believe that horses need shoes to stop their feet wearing away, support, balance & blog - Charlie Madeley, ski joringprotection. Often shoeing professionals are so utterly convinced that shoeing is an absolute necessity that they become blinkered & cannot comprehend what a true healthy foot actually behaves like or indeed looks like.

‘They also see their livelihoods threatened by people who are in their opinion no better than propagandists and scaremongers. They believe the hype that barefoot trimmers have no real training and therefore no clue about feet. All this leads them to bigotry and aggressive and often threatening behaviour….but it is changing!’

There is enough hatred and violence in the world. So I am very relieved to hear it.

And so, this is my message to those who think horses need metal on their feet – Take a look at the equines in this blog - Kim Gellatly Busbyarticle. They are not confined to a soft arena. They jump amazing heights. Tackle slippery ground. They gallop across the beach. They get dressed up smartly for a show. And they win some rosettes. Without the compromise, or the risk, of nailed-on footwear. Don’t be threatened. Don’t ban us from shows or slight us for being cruel. Find out how we achieve what you might think is the impossible.

I won’t preach any more – Instead, I will let these brilliant hooves from the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook say it ALL.

My thanks to the following riders and their horses, hopefully in order – Tina Steiner at a reconstruction of the Battle of Bosworth, Ringo from the Basque country, Sarra Bear Mackenzie Pilot on Lightening, Monica Campori on Warren, Julie Allsop, Joanna Hartland, Lindsay Setchell with Osc, Charlie Madeley doing something called ski joring, Kim Gellatly barrel racing on Busby, Andrea Tyrrell, Isla McShannon on Bracon Tapdance, Claire Watt on Oreo, Deirdre Hanley with Prince, Carolyn Brown on Heart, Emma Leigh with Dilkara, Georgie Harrison jumping Phoenix, Helen Cross, Jennie Blakehill on City, Karen Davy with Ekko, Rosanna Houston driving Caspar, Richard Martin, Penny Anne Gifford riding Dodge and Sarah Hamilton on Pan – flying the barefoot flag!
blog - Andrea Tyrrellblog - Andrea McShannon's Isla on Bracon Tapdanceblog - Claire Watt on Oreoblog - Deirdre Hanley on Princeblog - Carolyn Brown, Heartblog - Emma Leigh, on Dilkarablog - Georgie Harrison, Phoenixblog - Helen Crossblog - Jennie Blakehill on Cityblog - Karen Davy on Ekkoblog - Rosanna Houston, Casperblog - Richard Martinblog - Penny Anne Gifford on Dodge

blog - Sarah Hamilton on Pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK NEWS

About Me – I am a journalist, author and barefoot horse owner. The shoes came off my horses about 16 years ago and now I would never return to shoeing one of my animals so that I could ride him. I recently opened a barefoot horse centre where we have 14 equines discovering the benefits of movement over varied terrain 24/7. (See blog post ‘Sweet Road to Comfort’). I am a regular contributor to Barefoot Horse Magazine and The Horse’s Hoof magazine.

My book – A Barefoot Journey – is an honest and light-hearted account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares. Available on Amazon UKand Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. Horsemanship Magazine said – ‘The writing is charming, warm, and (gently) brutally honest about a subject which is so obviously dear to her heart and central to her life. The big issues of hoof trim, equine lifestyle and human understanding are all covered. From the agony of self-doubt to the ecstasy of equine partnership, it is all laid out here, clearly and thoughtfully. It really ought to be required reading for anyone thinking of taking their horse’s shoes off.’

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

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

If you want to keep in touch, follow this blog or find me on Facebook…Another novel is in the pipeline! 

The Quiet Cripple

imagesLWU632DTby Linda Chamberlain

If he could speak – perhaps they would listen. But the equine world is hard of hearing when it comes to the issue of the horse and his tight, nailed-on shoes.

If he could scream, perhaps his owner would realise that trotting up the road is sending vibrations up his legs that the men who drill the roads are familiar with.

If he could shout, he’d tell you that those shoes were put on while his foot was lifted from the ground. It wasn’t weight bearing so it was at its most narrow. The shoe was nailed on six weeks ago and his foot has been growing daily ever since. Perhaps he’d say – my trainers are tight! Can you do something about it?

images5Z053VVF

But the horse is a quiet cripple. He says nothing. His instinct is to run even if he’s in pain, even if he can’t manage his natural stride. He’ll keep going…on and on, with you on his back and his compromised legs storing problems until the day he goes lame.

The shoeing of a horse appears utterly painless. Nails are driven through his hoof one by one, carefully avoiding the sensitive structures deep in the foot. The horse – such a stoic creature – makes no cry or complaint. If only he would yelp like a dog rather than pretend to be a trout!

The farrier has finished his work, he lets go of the hoof and the animal walks – indeed, he walks well. This one is an equine athlete, a show jumper. He’s at the top of his game and he can manage some impressive moves.

But wait –let’s watch him through the lens of a camera. Let’s imagine we have the analytical mind of David Attenborough to guide us through some slow-motion footage. With hushed, respectful tones he’d explain how the foot of any animal will absorb the shock of landing and thereby protect the leg from harm.

‘Ah, but not for this magnificent creature,’ he’d say, as the horse elongates his stride. ‘Sadly, there’s no flexibility in the design of his footwear. Here we see him approaching an obstacle but observe his right foreleg on landing.’ Attenborough sounds as though lions might be stalking a sickly herd member. There’s trepidation in his voice. ‘Half a ton of horse landing onto one leg – the force driven into metal and nails. The foot is unable to expand or move and thereby minimise the strain through the leg.’

images[1]

The camera cuts to Attenborough’s lined and familiar face. He has some history to tell us and a comparison to make; it’s very tenuous but he wants horse riders everywhere to think carefully about it. The practice of metal shoeing began about 1000 years ago – about the same time as the Chinese began binding the feet of young girls in order to make them appear dainty and feminine and to walk with a certain gait.

Both practices hinder the circulation and cause the foot to wither and shrink. The Chinese went much further and the feet of young girls were deliberately broken into shape. The human pain is documented – it was said to take girls about two years to get used to walking again and even then they couldn’t go far. None of them became athletes – not even for the short period enjoyed by our equines.

Attenborough is trying the patience of a few riders by now but hold on – this tenuous comparison has some validity. Just as the horse becomes dependant on his metal shoe, the Chinese woman suffered great pain if her bindings were removed. The structures of the foot were so damaged that she couldn’t manage without. The loss of the bindings reportedly gave as much pain and discomfort as they brought her as a girl. And there is the dilemma – stay with bound, shrivelled feet for the rest of your days…or make an agonising bid for freedom.

Some equines freed of their shoes also suffer discomfort at first, possibly pain, and it’s no wonder that their owners hesitate to ask them to live without shoes. Who wants to see their beloved animal hesitate over hard ground? Or heaven forbid, endure a time of being led in hand rather than ridden…just until their feet recover?

But the horse liberated from his bindings has a much better chance than the lotus feet of China. His bones haven’t been broken and he has a great, natural ability to heal. He can do it, given time, patience, a good sugar-free diet and an expert trim. How easy it is compared to the poor women in China.

cover 18

If this horse could talk – he’d tell his owner to go for it, for the sake of his joints and his tendons.

If he could scream – he’s say let’s go barefoot because in a couple of months I’ll run just as fast.

If he could shout –he’d argue, ‘For god’s sake, we don’t need these things any more. Nailed-on shoes have been superseded by some very natty hoof boots that you can hang up next to my saddle after a ride?’

Foot binding in China was outlawed 100 years ago although the tradition continued into the 1930s.

The domestic horse is still patiently and silently waiting…

Thanks to Amanda Edwards for inspiring this post…and apologies to David Attenborough whose name slipped into my head while writing it!

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’.

Press Release – Please Share

Bracy Clark exposed a serious threat to horse health 200 years ago but his work was suppressed and ridiculed. Now he’s being given a second chance to change the future for the animals he loved thanks to a page-turning new novel called The First Vet.

Clark, one of England’s first-ever vets, proved that horse shoes deform natural hooves. He warned the 1000-year old practice of shoeing led to lameness and sometimes early death but he was tormented by a whisper campaign against him and was refused a platform at the veterinary college that trained him.

The book’s author, Linda Chamberlain, said: ‘The veterinary establishment should have listened to him but he was ahead of his time. Instead they laughed and buried his work. Today we are finding out that he was right. More and more owners are finding a cure for crippling lameness by keeping their horses barefoot. Bracy would be very pleased.’

A natural foot - no need of metal or nails

A natural foot – no need of metal or nails

 

Linda has spent the last few years writing and researching her debut novel which was published on Amazon last week and has already received 5 star reviews.

The First Vet is a touching story of love and corruption – a blend of fact and fiction that owes much of its fast pace to the battle between Clark and the head of the veterinary college, Professor Edward Coleman. The story is made more poignant by the forbidden romance between Clark and the Professor’s fictional sister, Christina.

Linda, who rides her own horses without shoes, discovered Clark’s work on a number of websites about barefoot trimming. She vowed to find out more and her research took her to the Royal Veterinary College and The British Library.

‘I spent many hours reading Bracy’s books,’ she said. ‘He was eloquent and passionate. He went on long journeys riding barefoot horses to see how they would manage and he rode a very lively stallion on his veterinary rounds in the city of London. It disturbed him that his research exposed an evil for which he had no remedy.

‘Like today’s barefoot advocates he worried that the horses’ hoof was treated as though it was a block of wood rather than a living, elastic organ. He warned that nailing an immovable shoe to the hoof was causing serious problems and early death.’

‘Thus we see the beautiful and useful symmetry of nature’s mould, no part of which is without its use, has been changed by artificial restraint to deformity and incompetence.’ Bracy Clark

‘Thus we see the beautiful and useful symmetry of nature’s mould, no part of which is without its use, has been changed by artificial restraint to deformity and incompetence.’ Bracy Clark

So why was he condemned by the veterinary profession without being heard. Linda determined to find out.

‘The answer wasn’t obvious but I think it was greed,’ she said. ‘Bracy withstood the whisper campaign against him in silence for 20 years but eventually he hit back. He accused Professor Coleman of corruption, said he had an open palm and was pocketing the student fees. It’s known that Coleman shortened the course to three months and Bracy alleged that he admitted unsuitable, uneducated students in order to make himself rich.

‘Bracy said Coleman had patented at least two of his own horse shoes which he was using at the college.

‘A greedy or corrupt professor was unlikely to lend a platform to such an honest man as Bracy Clark. He certainly wasn’t interested in hearing how his own horse shoes were doing such enormous harm.’

The two men couldn’t have been more different. Coleman was head of the college as well as Veterinary Surgeon General of the British cavalry. He sold his horse shoes and he patented his medicines and died a wealthy man. Clark was a Quaker who gave up a surgeon’s apprenticeship to be at the newly opened college, vowing to family and friends that he had little need of money. He shared his research and his medicines with the world and he refused to patent and profit from a flexible shoe he developed, called the Expansion shoe.

‘He was a successful and much-loved vet but I don’t think he could fight dirty enough against Coleman,’ Linda explained. ‘He suffered in silence too long. His later books talk of Coleman’s open palm and his greedy charm. He spared no ink in revealing the nature of his adversary and the harm his regime was causing the profession but by then Coleman was secure and entrenched. It might have been too late.

‘It’s great that many of today’s barefoot trimmers recognise Bracy’s pioneering research. Owners of barefoot horses often battle against hostility from other riders but they are finding cures that sometimes elude the professionals. So many lame horses are surviving against the odds once they are free of their metal shoes.

‘Today’s vets should take a look at Bracy’s work. They should continue his research and help barefoot riders create a better life for the horses in our care. As the hero of The First Vet once wrote – My book is a grateful offering to humanity in diminishing the intolerable sufferings of these abused animals. The foot moves for obvious reasons; to break all jar and concussion to the body and to save the foot from destruction. This has been overlooked in the horse. His foot is treated as a senseless block of wood rather than a living, elastic organ.’

I wanted to share the book’s press release so you could hear how important Bracy Clark’s work is today. I love to hear from you, so leave me a comment. Press the follow button to keep in touch with future posts and enjoy the book. Amazon reviews help readers to find a good book amongst the thousands released every year so any feedback is much appreciated. Tell your friends, too. Bracy Clark was a gifted and remarkable man.