Metal-free on the ‘Moon’

by Linda Chamberlain

Some of these horses looked like death when they were found – now they can be ridden on ground as rocky as the moon. They make it look easy and they are shocking local people by doing it without bits in their mouths.

Meet the rescued horses from Tenerife who are causing a stir because ‘they have no brakes’ and ‘no protection’ for their feet. This barefoot-and-bitless tribe don’t need metal to help them enjoy their new chance at life. There are 12 of them and they are thriving thanks to Emma Greenfield and her partner, Edoardo Pensato, who have set up a charity to help them called Horse Holidays Tenerife.

There is Turbo, the 25-year-old warmblood, who was twice abandoned on the island when he outlived his usefulness. The picture below shows him six months after his rescue but he came to them so thin that his bones were breaking through his skin – he is now so well recovered that he is doing a little exercise to relieve his boredom. And then there is Eric, a stallion pony who was kept in a stable without food or water, knee-deep in filth. ‘It was months before he would let us brush it off; he was a sad, shell of a pony,’ Emma remembered.

Eric is a sought-after type, rare on the island, and within a month of being rescued, Emma and Edoardo had six requests to buy or breed from him so it’s a mystery why he was ever abandoned. Others have injuries from being ridden too young, or in heavy bits, and they have all taken to gentle, bitless riding. They do minimal training in a menage and show a preference for riding along the trails and by the coast – who can blame them?

 

Now, this is the point where I fear that I am lauding an English woman who has travelled to foreign climes in order to show other folk how ‘we do it better than them’. So, I’ll just straighten that one out – we don’t. The UK leads the world in the sticking-to-tradition stakes and riders routinely use bits, metal shoes, whips, spurs and long periods of stabling for their horses. While we might muck those stables out with vigour and provide enough food and water, there are plenty of horses who live in confinement full time. There are also many who are trained using harsh methods.

There is a small-but-growing move towards alternatives which are kinder to the horse and Emma found herself in that camp years before moving to Tenerife. The scepticism and criticism she and Edoardo are now dealing with can be found in any traditional horse yard, anywhere in the world.

Many UK riders, who have ditched metal shoes and bits, will be familiar with some negative comments if they board their horse at a traditional yard.

For Emma, the volume is much higher because the natural-horse concept is so new in Tenerife. ‘The general horsemanship here is very strict and heavy, so we are sometimes fighting a losing battle when people say they will not ride our horses because they are unsafe, they don’t have brakes! Or they say the horses are unhappy and need to be in a stable. One visitor told me to stop rescuing horses if we can’t afford to put shoes on them.’

In many ways, Tenerife is the ideal place to have a barefoot horse thanks to its dry climate and rocky terrain. To prove it, all of her rescues have transitioned out of shoes without a hitch and most are being ridden. In fact, Emma says taking them barefoot is the easy bit. Lush grass and its associated foot problems are a thing of the past and she has forgotten what mud looks like or what fun some of us have trudging through it every winter. The other key to their successful transition is the lack of stabling and the fact that the horses live on the same terrain that they ride on – take note if you are struggling with your own barefoot horse who might be on too much soft, green grass. Neither the diet, nor the surface is helpful.

She says the island is as close to perfect as you can get. ‘The dry, rocky ground is great for their feet, making trimming almost unnecessary and, of course, grass does not exist here so we have no problem with fat ponies.’

Luckily, there is a barefoot specialist on the island and Emma has the easy-to-use Radius Rasp for tidying up as well – I have just bought one myself and find it great for that Mustang roll (the bevel on the hoof wall)! Their initial plan had been to support the horses financially by offering riding holidays but they are finding it better to keep the pressure off their rescues who now have sharers to exercise and help care for them – only gentle riders need apply.

Emma says: ‘The temperature doesn’t generally go above 30 or drop below 15 so we stay at a nice temperature all year with a lovely Atlantic breeze. The horses relax, enjoy the sun and rolling in the dust. To this day, I have never seen a horse use a field shelter for shade, only when it rains once or twice a year.’

Of course, there is a snake somewhere in this Paradise! With no grass, high land prices and few crops, all feed has to be imported and is therefore expensive. She finds it is also unreliable and shortages mean they sometimes only have straw for their base feed.

‘Space is limited, it’s rare to find anywhere big enough to have a real, free-range paddock due to the harsh, volcanic landscape and expensive land prices so many horses are kept in stables or garages. The worst problems we have is human ignorance, tendon injuries and early arthritis due to bad shoeing (we have seen different sizes, back to front and snapped in half) and racing on the streets from the age of two, which is not uncommon.’

Space is not the big issue for this couple. Even though they have less than two acres, it is so much more than most horses on the island enjoy and they haven’t resorted to stabling in a garage yet. Some of the land was levelled and it is now split into three paddocks and another two paddocks will be levelled and added later. Using trial and error, the rescues were put into three herds – food is a cause of tension for many horses who have been traumatised and not surprisingly these wouldn’t cope with a large group. More land is always useful and they hope to buy some from a neighbour.

There is a lot of support for them on the island in spite of the inevitable negativity. They have a huge team of volunteers, some great sharers who treat the horses as their own and support from more established charities who have given advice AND funds. Their own charity is now fully set up.

Emma explained: ‘We work together as we have more space but little money so we can take some of their animals when they help with the costs. Other charities have taken us under their wing and help us with anything they can such as paperwork, licenses and advice. We are slowly moving in the right direction but it hasn’t been as easy as we hoped being accepted. After all, we are advocating a very, very different horse style to the one they have here.’

They have opened as a petting farm since they also have goats, rabbits, cats, dogs and chickens. A yurt and a cave house are being constructed and should be ready for holidays, with or without riding, from December.

Being a pioneer is never easy – but they eventually inspire others so we can expect to see more and more horses in Tenerife ridden without metal and living in the great outdoors.

ABOUT LINDA CHAMBERLAIN

I’m a writer and journalist and I have lived with horses most of my life. Now, I love to write about them whether it’s in fact or fiction. It’s a fact that I keep my horses without shoes, I sometimes even get the time to ride one of them and I often write about them. If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook

THERE ARE MORE HORSES, MORE GREAT STORIES, IN MY BOOKS…!

My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. 

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment. His battle motivated me to stretch my writing skills from journalism to novel writing and took me to the British Library and the Royal Veterinary College for years of research. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UKAmazon US. This page-turning book has 60 lovely reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

New historical books are in the pipeline and coming soon! My novel about Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, will show why she wrote the most powerful book on horse welfare ever. Right now, I am half way through a book about a horse-mad princess whose family make the Osbournes appear functional!  To put it mildly, I am very excited about this one and have learnt a new 18th century insult – puff guts…! See if you can work out what it means xx

 

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Horse shoes are a major risk – vet warns

by Linda Chamberlain

The U.S. vet Tomas Teskey warns in a new book just published that steel shoes pose a major risk factor for disease among horses. He says they alter form and function of the hoof so severely that they disqualify the animal from being sound. 

He explains that healthy hooves move blood in and out of the limbs, thereby aiding energy dissipation. Shod hooves are fixed by the shoe in a contracted state while the foot is in the air. This limits expansion, reduces blood volume and increases concussion. Shoes force other structures to handle the energy as best they can, he says. 

Teskey is a leading exponent of barefoot and his book Insight to Equus is full of his wisdom on the subject. More and more, I hear people report that their vet is supportive of their wish to remove metal shoes from their horse which is brilliant. More and more owners and farriers are waking up to the harm but will the veterinary establishment open its ears? Here is a vet who is more than supportive; he is an expert and actively promotes barefoot. For many years, he has been warning of the dangers of horses remaining shod as anyone who follows him on Facebook can attest. 

Here is a short extract from Tomas Teskey’s book to entice you! 

The whirlwind of college, veterinary school and “working hard to fulfil the great American Dream” was in full dramatic swing as I ventured across southeastern Arizona, visiting a guest ranch with 80 horses for the second time in a week. They loved that I was able to come, even if I was the only veterinarian that would drive the 70 miles whenever they called with a problem.

My learning curve was as steep as ever. I was seeing animals of all kinds and performing procedures most graduates would never get the chance to do simply because I was told, “either do something or put him down, Doc.” On arrival, one of the favorite trail horses was in obvious distress, wide-eyed and visibly distended in her belly. Horses with abdominal pain, or colic, were decidedly more prevalent at this guest ranch, so after treating this horse with the routine pain-killers and fluids, I asked if I might get a quick tour or the place and the feeding schedule.

The head wrangler was more than happy to oblige, and as she led me on a personal tour of the ranch, we visited about the feeding schedule, types of feed, work schedule for the horses, and how much she was spending on everything, including my veterinary services. As we circled around the hay barn, I watched as the other wranglers loaded up ten big 100 pound bales of alfalfa hay on a flatbed pickup truck, and commenced to driving all around the  two acre turnout where all eighty horses began to excitedly vocalize and take up positions to be the first to get at the fresh hay. The ranch fed ten bales of hay twice a day, and the horses had the majority of the hay eaten within 30 minutes, a feeding frenzy that was obviously a big highlight of their day.

After the bulk of the hay had been rapidly eaten, the dominant horses continued to sift through the remnants, searching mostly for the tasty alfalfa leaves that were mixed in with the dirt and sand so common in the Arizona desert. At first I thought they were licking up the dirt, but getting closer, I could see them pushing the dirt and sand aside with their noses to find the remnants of hay.

The following week, I was back at the ranch to follow up on the two previous cases of colic, and to check on two others that weren’t doing quite right. Happily for me, it was about lunchtime when we finished checking the horses, and we all filed in to the dining room to escape the sun and flies for a cool drink and some soup and sandwiches–I loved having lunch there. After we all sat down with our plates, I looked at the owner and told her, “I think we need to modify your horse management here on the ranch.”

Everybody at the table stopped chewing at that moment, as she raised an eyebrow and asked me, “Oh, what do you mean?”

“The horses are getting colicky because of the alfalfa, and because they are picking up a lot of sand when they eat it. I’d like you to build a covered feed bunk big enough for all the horses to eat together, right in the middle of your turnout and put grass hay in it, free choice.” Everybody at the table seemed shocked, trying to imagine how they would fit in to such changes.

“I’m sure when you put a pencil to it, you’ll find out the grass hay will be more expensive, and you’ll have the cost of the feed bunk, but we have serious problems with colic, as well as lamenesses I feel are being worsened by feeding alfalfa. Things are getting worse right now, not better.”

Within a few weeks, the feed bunk was built and the horses were completely different, not only because there wasn’t a single colicky one in the last two weeks, but because the wranglers noticed several other changes that were making everyone’s lives better.

Making fewer emergency trips to the ranch had reduced my income, improved the horses’ health, reduced lameness and injuries and allergies to the tune of $3150.00 per month. I began to see and feel what it was like to work for people and their animals, in good conscience.

Published this month: Insight to Equus: Holistic Veterinary Perspectives on Health and Healing

ABOUT LINDA CHAMBERLAIN

I’m a writer and journalist and I have lived with horses most of my life. Now, I love to write about them whether it’s in fact or fiction. It’s a fact that I keep my horses without shoes, I sometimes even get the time to ride one of them and I often write about them. If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook

THERE ARE MORE HORSES, MORE GREAT STORIES, IN MY BOOKS…!

My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. 

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment. His battle motivated me to stretch my writing skills from journalism to novel writing and took me to the British Library and the Royal Veterinary College for years of research. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UKAmazon US. This page-turning book has 60 lovely reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

New historical books are in the pipeline and coming soon! My novel about Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, will show why she wrote the most powerful book on horse welfare ever. Right now, I am beginning work on a book about a horse-mad princess whose family make the Osbournes appear functional!  To put it mildly, I am very excited about this one and have learnt a new 18th century insult – puff guts…! See if you can work out what it means xx

Crime and footwear

I have been dying to write a crime drama but really wanted to get horses into the story, especially barefooted ones. How on earth would that be possible? I asked myself.

By centring it on the mounted police force in Houston, Texas – that’s how!

Did you know that Houston Mounted Patrol rides unshod horses and has done for years? This inspiring police force has been the subject of my blog before but is featured again because I am testing out my crime-drama imagination on some very short fiction. You see, I write historical fiction and didn’t feel ready to leap into full-length crime just yet. A writing group I belong to set me a challenge – to write a short piece including the words, The Easter Bunny

Now, that’s not an obvious prompt for a piece of crime writing but those bunnies can be dangerous, nefarious creatures. So, here it is – I hope you like it. Please let me know and if anyone wants to come up with a writing challenge, send me a couple of inspiring words. I’ll see what my demons can come up with xx Linda

 

THE PATROLMAN

by Linda Chamberlain

No one associated Houston with the Easter bunny.

The city’s reputation was built on moon landings, space travel and all that manly stuff but it had its softer side and officer, Brad Soper, sometimes wished there was more of it. A man could get fed up arresting drunks and criminals and there were no moon landings anymore.

He was watching the annual Easter parade from the perfect vantage point, atop his horse, Cloud. They had been on patrol, keeping things peaceful, for the last five hours and both were tired thanks to the heat that couldn’t escape the dense crowd of high-rise blocks which seemed to reverberate with the blare of music and laughter.

He had no idea who was inside that white-bunny suit. Poor fella, must be hotter than he was! Jeez, he had never known an Easter like this. The bunny was standing in one of those horse-drawn carriages, doing a great job, tossing sweets from a yellow bucket, waving and blowing kisses to the people lining the streets. Throwing kisses…were they allowed to do that anymore?

Soper conjured up a vision of having to make an arrest for such a heinous crime and laughed to himself.

‘Ah, it won’t get that bad,’ he said, patting the horse’s neck. ‘Too many old-fashioned thugs around.’

Without knowing why – curiosity, instinct – he decided to follow. Who was inside that suit? Not a woman, the shape was all wrong, although it was hard to tell with the suit. And he reckoned it was no senior citizen either. Far too lithe. No, this was one hell of a muscular man. The arms. The shoulders. The guy wasn’t tall but he worked out and wasn’t your usual volunteer.

He nudged his horse gently with his heels, clearing a path through the onlookers, wanting a closer look. Not for the first time, he was thankful all the patrol horses were barefoot. How silent and stealthy they were; no more clip-clopping from their metal shoes. The bunny carried on throwing sweets and kisses and didn’t turn around. Then he did something strange.

He let go of the bucket. He seemed to be focused on a young woman who was tottering in heels at the front of the spectators. Or perhaps she was part of the parade. No, she had a purse on her shoulder; its zipper was open and the contents on view for all to see. Did they never learn?

It looked like he’d have to arrest the bunny after all. He kept an eye on that fury hand wondering how it would be deft enough for purse snatching. Waiting for it to make the first move. Soper was one stride behind the carriage, unnoticed still.

His breath was in his throat, the heat forgotten. The woman went from tottering to toppling. The bunny reached out from the carriage and made a grab for her. She seemed to be folding in two and then the patrolman understood. His horse responded to the forward tilt of his body and, before she hit the ground, he was on her other side.

He reached down and had hold of her right arm. With the bunny’s muscular help, he lifted her into the carriage where she fainted clean away. Her face was red with heat but soon her eyes were fluttering, she was recovering, accepting a drink of water.

The bunny took off his bunny head. The blond woman who emerged from all that white fur grinned at Soper’s shocked face, thanked him for his help.

‘I’ve been keeping an eye out,’ she said, in a soft and melodic voice. ‘They’re falling like flies in this heat.’

‘They are ma’am,’ said the officer. ‘You take care now.’

Heck, he wouldn’t trust his first impressions. Never again.

 

THE END…or maybe, just the beginning…!

 

 

Barefoot police horses in Houston, Texas? Yes, there really are – I didn’t make that bit up. The rest is pure fiction. 

 

THERE ARE MORE HORSES, MORE GREAT STORIES, IN MY BOOKS…!

KEEP IN TOUCH BY FOLLOWING THIS BLOG, FINDING ME ON FACEBOOK OR CHECKING OUT MY BOOKS

My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. 

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment. His battle motivated me to stretch my writing skills from journalism to novel writing and took me to the British Library and the Royal Veterinary College for years of research. Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UKAmazon US. This page-turning book has 60 lovely reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

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

And the winner is…!

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

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

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

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

Mother and baby.

A wild foal.

A newborn.

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

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

Riding on the beach.

So many of us like to make a splash.

Some have teamed up with some unusual riding companions.

Or simply going it alone.

 

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

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

Sometimes we get competitive and ride all in blue…

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

 

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

No slipping, no sliding.

It’s all about partnership.

As these folk will see.

So many times that can be achieved from the ground.

 

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

 

Unless you’re a princess…

Or have a Shetland to ride.

 

You see, they need keeping out of trouble.

Should have a category of their own.

And know how to dress festively.

Sometimes we favour photos of horses together.

Other times we love pics on their own.

 

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

Remember there are better ways of keeping them these days.

Let’s peel back the mists of convention.

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

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

BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS

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

My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. 

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

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

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

 

He found her in The Killing Fields…

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He needed time off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOOF NOTE…

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

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

ABOUT ME – BOOK NEWS – MY HORSES

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

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

BOOK LINKS – BOOK REVIEWS

My non-fiction book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. 

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

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

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this campaigning blog or find me on Facebook…or buy one of my books for a friend! 

Isn’t it time to give them rights?

by Linda Chamberlain

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You have the right to play and rest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your education should help you develop your abilities and talents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You will be protected from harmful drugs.

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

You have the right to choose your own friends.

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

You have the right to a safe place to live.

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

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

Isn’t it time we talked about their rights?

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

UPDATE ON OUR TRACK

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

 

THE BOOKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What more proof does the horse world need…?

by Linda Chamberlain

He was a seemingly ordinary policeman in Houston, Texas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a legacy – happy retirement, Greg…

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

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

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

THE BOOKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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