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!

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A Growing Problem…

by Linda Chamberlain

Excuse the pun but obesity is a growing problem – and not just for our children.

Perhaps it is no surprise that twenty-eight per cent of the UK’s kids are obese or overweight. More and more of them are driven to school, where they spend their day sat behind a desk and then they come home and exercise their fingers on some digital device. They do not move enough.

There are shocking similarities among the horse population. A recent report by the Royal Veterinary College warned that half of our horses are overweight and 70 per cent of ponies are born obese.

How can this have happened? And what can we do to change it?

In my last blog I looked at the amount of sugar in food aimed at both children AND horses. There is an awful lot of it being consumed – sweets, fizzy drinks AND green grass are full of it, bagged commercial feeds are laced with molasses – and reducing it must be the first step in getting healthier.

The other factor in this scenario is exercise. Now, a lot of people might be thinking that the average horse runs about a lot but many are kept stabled for long periods where inactivity is compulsory.

A little-known section of the horse world is changing that with a brilliant way of keeping horses – on tracks rather than stables and fields – and showing how important exercise and movement is to health.

If we set up something similar for children you would see their dinner waiting for them at the top of the road, a drink at the bottom. Two streets over, up a footpath, would be a park where they could play with friends; another path might take them to a youth club. Finally, they would need to walk home again to find their bed where they could rest happily after an exhausting day! If our children lived every day like that, we might see obesity in retreat.

This innovative way of keeping horses is known as a track system and it does away with the traditional model of stabling with occasional paddock turnout. Many horses are kept in stables overnight. It’s convenient for some humans that way and it prevents wet land from becoming poached. Some horses are kept in all day and all night and I dare not think what condition their bodies must be in.

I asked some people who have set up a tracks for horses to share some of their findings and success stories. Have horses lost weight with this method? Have they overcome health problems?

The answer is an overwhelming YES. Laminitis has been shown the door, allergies have disappeared, hooves have got stronger and excess weight is reducing.

Bethan Summers, who runs Gawsworth Track Livery in Cheshire, UK, found increased movement was a key factor but she wanted to know more. So, she put a monitor on two of the horses and found this startling difference. A horse on the track moved nearly seven miles in a 24-hour period. Another horse in a field travelled just over three miles.

Now, I know that is not a scientific study but it is interesting and if you are looking at an obese horse you might want to take note. Or even better, track the edge of your field and see what happens. They key is spreading their activity around the track – water at one end, shelter at another and hay somewhere else.

It is owners of laminitic horses who are the first in the queue when a new track livery yard opens. They already know to take their equine off rich, sugary grass but they need movement, too, and traditional set-ups rarely have anywhere suitable beyond the stable door.

Liane Rhodes offers track herd life in West Yorkshire, specialising in treatment for lami with what she describes as free-range horse management.

‘Our approach is very much horse led, we prioritise horses’ mental and emotional well-being. Living in a family group, as nature intended, is paramount to successful recovery and healthy minds as well as bodies. We are constantly progressing and improving our track environment, adding more surfaced areas to help with extra movement. One livery arrived with severely stretched white lines, she had done a whole season of endurance just before coming to us, so this proved to me that movement alone wasn’t enough. All her hooves have grown in tight and her flares are hugely improved after just one year. Another livery came with low grade laminitis, she had been on mostly a correct diet for a long time, but stabled at her previous yard due to lack of facilities. Movement and social interaction as well as diet are helping this mare get back to being a healthy, active individual.’

Amy Dell, who runs Abbots View Livery in Buckinghamshire, UK, said: ‘Our type of livery is perfect for the majority of horses as it aims to mimic the horse’s natural environment and gives them freedom of choice, but is especially good for those who suffer from today’s common health problems, such as obesity (see before and after pic below), laminitis, and arthritis,  or horses that do not like being stabled, suffer from boredom, or just crave a stimulating and enriching environment.

‘Over the spring and summer the horses are kept on a track system 24/7 but in the winter, due to England’s weather, they are shut off from the track and let into the carefully-managed middle in sections, with continued access to and from the corral where water, ad lib hay, and our open shelter are always available. This ensures the horses have free choice, are on the move all-year round and are never confined to stables.’

Tanya Bisp has a track for her own horses in Somerset. ‘I include big climbing mounds, narrow and wide tracks with stepping poles,’ she said. ‘A track system offers a home for young, old, laminitics, arthritic, big or small. It doesn’t matter if they are not ridden, as the track can be made interesting and stimulating and keeps the horses fit, healthy and happy. I often have people come, just to see my chilled out herd; sit amongst them drinking tea, brush them, walk with them, whether it be for therapy or just peace.’

 

 

In Belgium, Camille Vanham, set up a track system because her horses were suffering from laminitis. ‘I have not had a laminitis crisis on the part of horses since. In addition to that I find the horses more serene and always able to work with humans. Their feet are in good shape, and in the summer wear well thanks to the beaten-earth corridors. I do not have a problem with foot rot anymore.’

Jessica Dench, from South Africa, had this to say: ‘We are 6 ladies who decided to take the leap and set up a paddock paradise track in South Africa. Many people thought we were cruel or stupid to keep our horses off grass and live out but the results speak for themselves.

One horse used to be on Allergex and had to be washed weekly due to grass allergies. She doesn’t have those issues anymore. Two of our horses were overweight and under muscled and because of constant movement and hay diets they improved and actually look healthy for a change.’

My own two horses live on a woodland track and lately I have been investigating ways of helping them to move even more. Their hay was already spread over a long and winding trail but there were other areas that they seemed to neglect and didn’t visit.

I have tied some large plant pots to the trees and each day add herbs, a few slices of carrot or a handful of hay cobs for them to ‘find’ – a reason for them to explore. Inspired by other ‘trackies’ who have built mounds for their horses to climb I have also been putting hay onto the natural banks in the woods. The aim is to give those legs a good work out.

My ex-race horse, Charlie Brown, has long struggled to lift up his hind legs for hoof care but this is now improving and his dipped back has muscled up to the amazement of our equine osteopath.

Sophie (right), my ridden horse, gave me some concern over her lack of weight and muscle strength last summer and she frequently rested her right hind leg. Since osteopathic treatment and climbing those hills she is a different mare.

 

Tracks are like a giant playground for your kids, something they can enjoy all day long. Your job, as a horse guardian, is to set it up, keep it interesting and watch, or keep up with the poo picking, as nature works its magic.

 

 

THERE’S EVEN MORE IN THE 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 more than 50 excellent 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!

The hidden F word

by Linda Chamberlain

Jamie Oliver is the champion chef who is fighting against childhood obesity. He is the man who has woken up MPs, schools and parents with his campaign to reduce sugar in our diets fearing that large swathes of the population will suffer from diabetes unless something is done. Twenty eight per cent of schoolchildren in the UK are reportedly obese or overweight.

We urgently need an equestrian ‘chef’ to do the same.

Because the statistics for horses are even worse. Half of the country’s horses are said to be overweight and according to a report by the Royal Veterinary College seven out of ten ponies are born obese. They are, to use the F word, FAT!

How? Why? And what can we do to stop this?

Horses and our children have two things increasingly in common. Their diets are in a mess and they don’t move enough. Diet and exercise.

Diet first…sugar seems to be the major common denominator. Our children are eating twice as much sugar as recommended. A five year old should have no more than five cubes of sugar a day but there is more than that in a can of cola.

I went online and took a look at some websites of the main horse feed manufacturers. I was particularly interested in feeds said to suit laminitics who the world must surely know should be kept away from grass and sugary feeds. Laminitis is a killer and you shouldn’t mess with it so why are so many of these bagged feeds made ‘tasty’ with molasses? Molasses = sugar but with a longer name. Why are so many manufacturers selling Nutritionally Improved Straw, oatfeed and wheatfeed (the outer husk and not very nutritious) with added sugars and then advising customers to give these to horses that are already ill and in pain?

To be fair, they had alternative feeds that were free of molasses. And they had advice for owners dealing with laminitis, a disease that one described as the second biggest horse killer. Soak hay to remove sugars – good idea. Stable to keep off grass – OK, we can probably come up with something better than that and we can return to it in a minute.

Interestingly, I saw no reference to the RVC’s latest research on obesity but there was mention on one site of dated figures showing that 20 per cent of horses were overweight.

Like sugary foods for children these bags of feed appear very reasonably priced. Competitive. It’s very tempting to save money and watch your horse lick the bowl clean.

But if your horse needs any feed at all, and many don’t need more than hay, why not choose something without added harm? Check out these small manufacturers – Thunderbrook Equestrian, Agrobs and Simple Systems, more expensive but my horses have done well on their feeds and because they are high quality, you feed less. I’m wondering if one of them has an equestrian chef to become the Jamie Oliver of the horse world.

Now then, exercise. Children don’t do enough of it. Many are taken in a car to school and they go out to play less and less so they are not burning up the sugary foods they have eaten.

There is a similar story in the equestrian world thanks to stabling. So many horses are kept in 24/7 especially in winter. There’s not much movement to be had in a stable but lucky horses get enough food to keep them occupied. When they do get turned out in summer there are lush fields to welcome them. I wonder if, like children, horses are eating twice their recommended sugar intake as a result. Or even more. Grass, particularly rye grass, is high in sugar. Horses do better on rough pasture but most farms have been developed to fatten livestock rather than keep equestrian athletes in top condition.

My next blog will be taking an in-depth look at some new-style livery yards that are providing a brilliant alternative to the traditional stable-and-field approach. Track liveries they are called and I will be giving examples from around the world. Places that are helping to fight against the obesity trend. If you know of one, or run one, please get in touch.

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 more than 50 excellent 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! 

Let them compete…!

by Linda Chamberlain

Meet the Ambassadors of a world-wide association which is launched this week in a bid to end discrimination against riders of bitless horses who are banned from some equestrian competitions.

The World Bitless Association will be campaigning to allow horses ridden in modern, humane bitless bridles to be judged on an equal basis to bitted horses. Its focus will be primarily on compassionate training whether a horse is ridden in a bitless bridle or bitted since shameful treatment of a horse is not acceptable, whatever tack it is wearing.

The bitless movement has been growing rapidly in the last few years as more and more riders realise they don’t need the forcible ‘brakes’ of a bit in their horse’s mouth; they simply need to communicate and gently train their horse. There is also evidence that a bit can cause damage to the horse’s tender mouth even if it is used softly.

Sadly, the governing bodies of many equestrian competitions remain deaf to the changes and keep bitless, and sometimes barefoot, horses out of some classes.

The fledgling organisation already has the support of some bridle manufacturers for its ambassador initiative which awards rosettes to bitless equestrians competing around the world. And some pioneering riders are sporting huge smiles as their approach to riding is recognised.

The gallery of ambassadors on the WBA website shows how well bit-free competitors can do given the chance.

Here is Lomax ridden by Aaliyah at a show in the UK this year where the pair won 15 rosettes, two trophies and a £10 prize – barefoot and bitless.

I remember Lomax whose transformation from a rather poor and bedraggled pony to a glossy equine was shared on Facebook’s Barefoot Horse Owner’s Group a couple of years ago.

It’s wonderful to see him doing so well and setting such a good example – what a shame that he was the only bitless horse at the show. But there are other brilliant ambassadors.

Another horse, Tara, (below left) is a good example. Many riders might be sceptical they could manage their equine in a challenging situation such as a cross country event.

Rider, Daniee, said the horse went round the course like a pro wearing an Orbitless bridle.

‘It was also only our second cross country ever! She was impeccably behaved the whole time and lots of people were interested in our bridle and asking questions.

‘Tara was nervous about the water jump and had to follow a human helper through for some confidence so we got eliminated, although lots of other horses were also eliminated here because it was a very scary water jump, going through the water into a dark wooded area! But she flew round the rest of the course like a pro, showing everyone that you don’t need a bit to be in control in cross country!’

It’s in the world of dressage that bitless riders can face the most discrimination and much controversy surrounds one of the stated reasons by the authorities – that bitless riders are not able to show that their horse is ‘on the bit’ as required.

Lower levels of competition are able to take a more relaxed approach.

It is heartening to see the only bitless rider at an event in Tasmania (Fiona on Cavalier Crusader) clinched a winning  test with a score of 71 per cent. The horse was ridden in a Transcend bridle.

Brittany riding Skye’s the Limit won a rosette with no bridle at all – wish I had done that when I was younger! She has been competing all year without a bridle and hopes to qualify for year-end awards. Surely, spectators would be queuing up to see such a brilliant performance.

Below left you can see Polly-Ann riding Dakota in the International Mountain Trail Challenge Association in France. She said: ‘It was my first ever riding competition at the age of 59. Got second place in Novice ridden class. Dakota is a QH aged 16. It was his first ever competition as well. I was the only rider bitless in the novice class.’

Then there is Tam riding Blue (below right) in Brocconoc, Cornwall, UK, during a grade 140k endurance ride.

And Joanne with Marina competing in endurance in South Africa.

Check out more about the ambassadors scheme and the aims of the WBA on its website – only £15 a year to join! It’s lovely to see so many comfortable horses, ridden without gadgets and unnecessary bits of metal. I think the public will love to see more riders like this in showgrounds across the world – much more impressive to see someone achieve so well, with much less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One day they will be allowed to compete unfettered by rules and regulations which sometimes exclude them – most notably for the UK in some ridden showing classes and dressage. But the prejudice seeps into places you wouldn’t expect. I still remember the day that my daughter was banned from a Pony Club show for riding her pony in a hackamore. There are better bitless bridles around now and the hackamore is admittedly harsh but the irony hasn’t left me. There was no ban on young riders using spurs, whips or the harshest bits and we had to watch on the sidelines as they strutted their stuff.

 

FREE ADVERTISING

A couple of articles ago, a few readers alerted me to some derision on Facebook. Apparently my pages carry wordpress adverts from betting companies. I would like point out that I don’t receive this massive amount of revenue but I do find it mildly amusing. I don’t see the ads as I have an ad blocker at work on my lap top but, since I sometimes write about barefoot race horses, no doubt the betting industry was attracted. Or perhaps it’s because this blog has had more than 300,000 views since its launch. This has got me thinking – it would be great to carry some FREE ADS that are helpful to horses. So if you have a product, an event or a service that is good for the horse I would love to include it in a list after each blog. Please get in touch via Facebook (see link below) – unlike betting, you have nothing to lose.

HERE ARE the first free ads – Barefoot Horse Magazine issue 19 in print and digital is out now. Full of brilliant articles on navicular, the link between diet and laminitis, hoof boot news, the benefits of special plants. Check it out.

And have you found Barefoot Horse Owners Group UK on Facebook? – for the best support and advice on riding without shoes.  There are now 23,000 members – an awful lot of bare hooves.

The Total Contact Saddle is a unique treeless saddle that has just reached the shortlist for the Saddle Research Trust Awards for 2018. Get more info about the saddle at its website total-contact.co.uk

The WBA’s Ambassador scheme is sponsored by Transcend, Orbitless, Light Rider and NuturalX bitless bridles.

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 more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘I originally bought this book from Linda at a horse show a couple of years ago but only just got round to reading it. I wish I had read it ages ago! I was absolutely gripped from the first page. It is brilliantly written, well researched, and told with compassion.’ – Amazon UK 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 yourself or a friend! 

 

 

Shoes off for some pioneering women

by Linda Chamberlain

The horse’s hoof can pack a punch. Sometimes heavy, it can wriggle or fly towards your face and holding it for a long time can do untold damage to your back.

Is it any wonder that the job of caring for those hefty and sometimes unpredictable digits has been traditionally left to the male of our species? After all, men are generally known to have a tad more muscle than women and many are capable of instilling a sense of respect, sometimes fear, in the average ridden horse.

But, if you will excuse the pun, there is dramatic change afoot.

There has been a 70 per cent reported increase in the number of women training as farriers in the UK although they are still in the minority.

The greatest change is being felt in the barefoot movement where women are qualifying in large numbers and sometimes at great personal expense in order to maintain horses without fixed, permanent shoes on their feet. Women are outnumbering men in this growing niche market and sometimes facing resentment from male farriers that goes beyond the gender issue. Let’s face it, traditional farriery is being challenged to its very core by this pioneering group of women.

Tracey Pettipher, an equine podiatrist from the Midlands, explained: ‘There were 10 people on my course but only 2 of them were men.’

All barefoot training courses are appealing to women and to celebrate this 100th anniversary year of women securing the vote in the UK, I wanted to get a photo of suffragist Millicent Fawcett’s statue on this blog and to find out more. What attracts women to grapple with horse legs instead of computer? Are they bringing different priorities to the male-dominated world of the horse’s hoof? And are they fighting against bias in the workplace in the same way that their sisters complain of in an office environment?

Choose a career in media or the Stock Exchange and it is reported that male colleagues might be promoted instead of you, or be paid far more. Hoof trimmers are self employed but might equally face bias or suspicion from potential customers.

To get some answers I spoke to three special women. I have chosen them because I either know them personally or have connected with them on Facebook. There are others who will be equally ground breaking, interesting, brave, strong and wonderful and this article is a tribute to all of them. They do a job I would have loved…but didn’t quite have the back!

No apologies for asking Alicia Mitchell to be the first to take centre stage. We are friends and now live near each other. I met her years ago when I acquired a bay thoroughbred called Carrie who was under threat of being put to sleep because her feet were so bad with navicular – no wonder she was refusing jumps as an event horse. They were like Aladdin’s slippers, long and curling and impossible to keep shod. Her shoes fell off within 2 weeks of her arrival but then her feet gradually crumbled and split. I was alarmed and found Alicia, who was then in the next county, online.

Back in 2006 she trained under Jaime Jackson in the US. Together we worked with Carrie who returned to some pleasure jumping and had another 10 years with me.

Alicia’s story is poignant and gives a startling insight into the physicality and challenges of the job.

Just imagine, this was the early days of barefoot, there were very few qualified professionals other than farriers and although she eventually had 100 horses on her books they were spread from the Isle of Wight, up to Surrey and across to Dover in Kent – a big chunk of southern UK. She might trim 10 horses in a day and that would be coupled with long hours in the car; she found it exhausting. Eating, let alone eating well, took second place. She’s not sure when she became ill but, looking back, it’s clear she was ignoring symptoms. There were so few specialist trimmers around that she had no one to delegate to and she felt increasingly responsible for her clients and their equines. She couldn’t give up, her customers had no one else but something was going terribly wrong.

She picks up the story, ‘There was a point at the height of the business when the horses were beginning to tell me something because they were increasingly playing up. I was having some strange symptoms and sometimes it didn’t feel as though I was safe.

‘I was missing appointments. Double booking. And then one morning I woke up and couldn’t see. I was blind.’

Thankfully, the loss of sight was temporary but it was her wake-up call. Nothing was found wrong with her eyesight but she went for an MRI scan and was eventually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS affects brain function and balance; she had to slow down, eat well, trim less.

I remember that time. It was the beginning of our friendship and she was an unreliable timekeeper as a trimmer. Frankly, I didn’t mind because my horses’ hooves were looking good and Alicia was very willing to act as teacher so I could take charge between visits. She spent seven years as a full-time trimmer but perhaps she instinctively knew that her expertise needed to be shared, that she wouldn’t carry on.

But I was curious about how others reacted to her in those early days. Although not petite, she isn’t a hefty-built woman. As I write this I’m smiling because my friend looks nothing like a farrier and if you spent your horse-owning life booking one of those you might be surprised when Alicia hops out of her car, pulls out her hoof stand and pins back her curly hair, ready for work with a sunny smile. If a horse owner booked her for a consultation at a large livery yard it was quite likely that she would be surrounded by others listening in, sometimes commenting, sometimes hostile about her ground-breaking advice on diet and lifestyle and its effect on the horse’s hoof.

‘Some would be grumpy about it; they had never heard their farrier talking like this. Being small meant I was more approachable and they didn’t mind saying what they thought. I needed to keep calm, keep smiling but I began to realise that it was a personal journey and some people were frightened.’

And farriers? ‘Usually clients on a large yard would keep us apart! But I can smile my way out of a situation. They have a lot of bravado but once you start talking techie with them there is this understanding. I would say to them that this is growing and they need to learn about the wild horse model and not argue with me about the dark ages.

‘Shoes are a fantastic coping strategy. They saw us through the industrial revolution but now we have moved on.’

Alicia has also moved on. She is fit and well and still has a few local clients. She looks after her own horse plus some liveries and is now studying wildlife conservation and land management. She remains passionate about barefoot and the natural horse.

She had to step back from her dream job but argues – ‘it’s not that women can’t do it; they can! My scenario by no means occurred due to being female or choosing such a demanding career. Life just demanded that I also study natural human care! I feel as though I have passed on the baton and am excited to see where it’s going.’

Which brings me to my other two interviewees. I have already mentioned Tracey Pettipher. Recently qualified as an equine podiatrist she already has 150 horses on her books. There are days when she will trim 10 of them but doing five or six is preferred. She acknowledges the physical demands of the job and there are days when her body feels as though it’s seizing up.

‘You need to be physically fit,’ she says.

But Tracey was always ‘a bit of a tomboy’, hanging out in trees in preference to quieter pursuits as a child. Later, she worked with her dad, a telephone engineer, and her job included climbing those tall poles. She was used to a male environment, went on to become a senior manager at BT but redundancy led to this startling change of direction, working with horses.

Women working in a man’s world have to prove they are capable of the task required but I was curious about the hostility they might meet. Tracey’s account of a workshop she went on is fascinating. She was the only woman, the only barefoot trimmer, in a group of 50 farriers who might think she and her kind were treading on their toes.

‘It was OK, I am confident but then I was introduced to the group and some people gasped. I could have been the Taliban. There were death stares! I needed to explain that I was not crazy. I spoke about the three-year training I had done and how we support owners on nutrition. There were some who wouldn’t speak to me but others chatted during the breaks.’

She doesn’t see herself as competition to farriers but rather plugging a gap in the market. Most of the horses on her books come from natural horsemanship homes and do better with a different approach for handling and hoof care, finding some farriers too rough. About 20 per cent have reached the end of the road with remedial farriery and are desperately seeking a cure for lameness.

What unique skills do women bring to this domain? I asked.

‘They think more about what is best for the horse, the needs of the horse, rather than a utility object,’ she said.

The needs of her own horse, Sunny, prompted Tracey into this brave new barefoot world. He suffered a major colic in 2014 requiring surgery and a long period of box rest. She had always used a farrier for shoeing and trimming and, once Sunny was recovered, he was trimmed and allowed out of his stable.

Tracey explained: ‘He became very footy and I knew something wasn’t quite right. So I called my farrier for advice. I was told he had probably trimmed him a bit short and that he would be all right in a week or so’s time. A week later I found him in his field on three legs and unable to move.’

A vet diagnosed laminitis and advised more box rest. Tracey knew how distressing that was for her horse and was determined to find an alternative approach. ‘I was amazed at how much my EP knew about the condition and that trimming the foot was only a small part of the recovery process. She advised me on his diet and environment and worked very closely with the vet and myself, which resulted in him making a speedy recovery and back into work in a relatively short period of time. It was then that I decided I wanted to help others battling with this awful condition.’

You might have noticed that my interviewees frequently mention diet and some explanation might be timely. Grass, and rich grass in particular, is known to cause havoc with hooves due to its high sugar content. Some bucket feeds will also be filled with molasses and other unhelpful ingredients and most barefoot experts will advise you change your regime to avoid discomfort for your horse. Shoes might disguise that pain, barefoot horse owners have to get it right!

Finally, I want you to meet Caroline Wang-Andresen whose workload might make any decent man reach for his yoga mat and sprint to the nearest retreat centre.

She is Somerset based and looks after her own eight horses on five acres, has two children and about 400 equine clients. She might trim 20 of them if they are on the same yard but between 10 and 15 is quite usual. She doesn’t do yoga to iron out the kinks in her back, much to my amazement.

Her own dressage horse introduced her to the world of barefoot about 18 years ago when he became ‘stale’ and wasn’t going forward, hinting that something was wrong. An instructor suggested taking his shoes off but he was crippled as a result and they went back on. Diet was addressed and another attempt was made, taking time to introduce him to different ground surfaces. Six months later the horse was sound and he has been without shoes ever since.

Caroline was an office manager at this time, not enjoying her work, itching to do something else. So, she investigated training as a hoof trimmer, found Jaime Jackson’s AANHCP and qualified three and a half years later. She has been working full time for the past 14 years.

‘I get to work outside all day and I have autonomy,’ she said, happily.

Farriers have not been known to worry or intimidate this young mother but the horse world is probably at the top of the pile for British conservatism. At a clinic at Hartpury College she chatted to another horse owner.

‘She asked what I did and said she would never have a woman do her horses’ feet. It would be odd.’

Another time she couldn’t help eavesdropping on a conversation between a local vet and a horse owner in which Caroline’s concern about the effect of rich grass on the equine hoof was being ridiculed.

‘The vet had no idea I was there but I was in the stable next door, trimming a horse, and he was slagging me off.’

You need to be physically strong to be a trimmer – a tough exterior is also helpful.

The autonomy Caroline speaks of is the key. Being self employed means the work of these women will be judged directly by the customer and their horse. If their care produces lame horses and unsatisfied owners they will lose out.

I am pleased to report – they are not.

Perhaps 2018 will be remembered as a good year for women…and the domestic horse.

LinksTracey covers mainly Warwickshire and Oxfordshire

Caroline covers a large chunk of South West UK

 

FREE ADVERTISING

A couple of articles ago, a few readers alerted me to some derision on Facebook. Apparently my pages carry wordpress adverts from betting companies. I would like point out that I don’t receive this massive amount of revenue but I do find it mildly amusing. I don’t see the ads as I have an ad blocker at work on my lap top but, since I sometimes write about barefoot race horses, no doubt the betting industry was attracted. Or perhaps it’s because this blog has had nearly 300,000 views since its launch. This has got me thinking – it would be great to carry some FREE ADS that are helpful to horses. So if you have a product, an event or a service that is good for the horse I would love to include it in a list after each blog. Please get in touch via Facebook (see link below) – unlike betting, you have nothing to lose.

HERE ARE the first free ads – Barefoot Horse Magazine issue 19 in print and digital is out now. Full of brilliant articles on navicular, the link between diet and laminitis, hoof boot news, the benefits of special plants. Check it out.

And have you found Barefoot Horse Owners Group UK on Facebook? – for the best support and advice on riding without shoes.  There are now 23,000 members – an awful lot of bare hooves.

The Total Contact Saddle is a unique treeless saddle that has just reached the shortlist for the Saddle Research Trust Awards for 2018. get more info about the saddle at http://www.total-contact.co.uk

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 more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCover Society. 

‘I originally bought this book from Linda at a horse show a couple of years ago but only just got round to reading it. I wish I had read it ages ago! I was absolutely gripped from the first page. It is brilliantly written, well researched, and told with compassion.’ – Amazon UK 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 yourself or a friend! 

 

 

 

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! 

 

Learning from the long-distance runners…

by Linda Chamberlain

Imagine a time when it is widely understood that a horse might be a better athlete without metal shoes nailed to his feet.

Imagine sporting professionals acknowledging that a barefoot horse has better natural grip, greater speed and a quicker recovery rate after exercise.

Those of you whose horse has only recently come out of shoes might find such a scenario hard to fathom. Because of course you might be witnessing discomfort as your horse regains the health in his hooves. You might be forgiven for thinking your days of trotting on hard or rough ground are gone – but take heart.

You only have to spend a bit of time in the company of some endurance riders to discover just how much a barefoot horse can achieve given the right lifestyle and training. They can keep going for miles due to their high level of fitness. They don’t slip, they feel the ground (but in a good way) and they have an enviably deep relationship with their riders.

Can less sporting equestrians learn from their experiences?

Let’s meet some of them and impress you with some facts and anecdotes.

This year’s winner of the arduous 100-mile-in-a-day Tevis Cup in the United States DOES NOT WEAR METAL SHOES. Tennessee Lane rode the 17-year-old Arabian, called Farr, with glue-ons and carried Easy boot gloves as back up. The horse is barefoot when not competing.

In the UK, Dominic Smith finished in overall 46th place nationally on a barefoot and bitless horse. He has completed about 500 km in competitions without hoof boots and recently finished third in the open at the Red Dragon ride in Wales, the national championships. He was winner of the best rider/horse combination in the open, bagging a handsome trophy and the horse’s finishing heart rate was 44.

The fact that Dominic can tell me his horse’s heart rate tells you a key thing about the sport. There are regular veterinary checks for soundness and heart rates – horses aren’t allowed to continue unless they pass. A horse that is struggling or lame is ‘vetted out’. There is probably no other equestrian sport with such scrutiny.

Dominic’s horse, known as George (but with the full name George Bush) was bought by him as an unstarted five year old. He was barefoot and shoes were never considered. Boots were difficult to get a good fit for the 16.2 cob x IDTB so Dominic takes it more slowly over rough ground, making up the time where the footing allows.

‘I’ll push on where the going is good for feet, even if I’m feeling it myself. Then I’ll give him a breather where we hit gravel or tougher stuff for feet, so that he’s getting a break where he needs to go easy,’ he says.

‘We’ve been vetted out on two rides early this season. One was ‘out of time’ and the other was lameness, one sore foot which was fine the next day. Both times this was down to me, missing solid stop lines and therefore going off course, doing extra distance and having to double back to achieve the check points. Both times, sod’s law, were on challenging courses.

‘George is out 24/7 in a herd of six all year round, no one gets rugged (although I’m open to it on health grounds). They’re all barefoot, two of the ponies are wildies off the moor kept from slaughter. Shared hard feed and hay on tap.’

Life style, feeding and an exercise regime are all important.

Katherine Mills (right) lives in Hungary but travels far and wide with her four competition horses – all Hispano Arabs apart from one appaloosa cross TB.

‘They live out 24/7 on a 1000m2 bare paddock with shelter and hay in feeders.  They are let out on grass for a snack for a couple of hours in the morning while I poo pick but previously they lived 24/7 on long grass without a problem.  I’ve never keep them on short grass.

‘I ride every other day at the most and mainly trot and canter on all good ground on the flat and walk up and down hills (1-2 hrs LSD, Long, Slow Distance).  Then usually every 3rd session I will do either continuous canters (30mins to 1 hr of canter, in intervals for less fit horses), hill intervals or fartlek intervals for a few weeks. (Fartlek training is another interval-type training for aerobic fitness)  If I have no particular event coming up and they are already at the fitness level I want I will just do the LSD training.  I always have a focus for the session so I train that aspect properly eg: fat metabolism, LSD, raising anaerobic threshold (intervals and fartlek), muscle memory (continuous canters).  Every month or so I will go for a long ride just so they are used to being out. They always get at least a couple of months off in the winter with just the occasional ride for fun.

‘My aim is just to have sound horses that enjoy what they are doing.  I am very sure Arco and QI are capable of doing 160 km at a respectable speed but I won’t push them for the sake of it.  Elsa is capable of doing 120 km for sure but I would rather her do lots of 80 km because she thinks they are fun and she has a low boredom threshold!’

I was fascinated by Barry Brewell’s insight into the relationship between these horses and their riders.

He said: ‘Endurance riders spend hours riding out with their equine partners… covering miles. Human and horse minds meet in the middle; human and horse learn to read the situation, no words are spoken but both rider and horse instinctively learn to understand how best to deal with the road ahead. How fast to go, where to place feet, get off my back and help here, think you’re best going over this bit. Yep, think you’re right, let’s go over there. I’m stopping, got a stone in my foot, have a look, can you? Sounds daft but this is the kind of relationship and understanding you start to get with your horse. It’s worth such a lot.’

Another rider, Sara Nichols Covington, said of barefoot endurance horses. ‘They are more comfortable. They can feel their feet (that proprioception thing), much less concussion with each and every footfall, and the owner is more in tune with natural ways of dealing with issues.’

Deb Morse had this to say: ‘This photo was a 50 mile (80 km) ride in Florida a month ago. Was a bit hot!! All three of these horses are barefoot, although the bay in the back has boots on his fronts. My guys get fed a high fat, sweet feed, supplemental alfalfa, as much green grass as I can get them on or ad lib grass hay. So basically everything you’re “not supposed” to give a barefoot horse. But they work hard enough that they need the calories and put enough miles on their hooves that they can do 50+ miles without protection in the terrain they train on. If we go up north to do a mountain ride, like I am this weekend, I boot all 4 hooves. The bay in the green has done 100 miles (160 km) in a day and was booted since it was in mountains.’

Emma Leigh’s homebred TBxID mare was awarded best condition by FEI vets after one ride. She competes up to 65 km and the mare is trained and competed completely barefoot. ‘Her feet aren’t the prettiest and her conformation isn’t great but it just goes to show that looks don’t matter. I think the distances and terrain covered in training is excellent conditioning for bare hooves. The time taken to do this builds a great partnership so you know each other so well. Having a good hoof care professional who understands the needs of a barefoot performance horse is definitely necessary although these hooves rarely need much attention due to the work they do. She is on restricted grazing due to being a good doer and is fed Allen and Page feeds as well as various supplements and hay. The right diet will always help but movement is key to a good bare hoof.’

Gemma la Coop has had great success competing with hoof boots. ‘I’ve done several 80 km (50mile) rides with my boy successfully booted, and did 100 miles through the Cairngorms over 4 days. The key is to make sure you have well fitted boots!

‘There are lots of successful barefoot horses and ponies out there, the winning Scottish endurance team this year had several barefoot horses on it!’

Jill Thorburn has two barefoot endurance horses. ‘My previous horse competed up to 65 km before I sadly lost him to colic. I have brought on my current horse and he has successfully completed 17 endurance rides up to 64 km in the last two years. He is sometimes booted in front. The key is good nutrition, good conditioning and regular trimming. I have recently backed my next endurance horse and will spend two years working him gently, building up the work and conditioning his hooves through work on all terrains. I think barefoot horses do so well because you never see riders trotting them along the roads when there is a verge available. Both horses and riders are more aware of where to step to protect from concussion. I give Pure feed and its always worked well for my horses. My trimmer says they both have great feet.’

Not all endurance horses are Arabs, although they are famously strong in the sport. This is Ally Knight’s fell x Arab who was previously shod for 10 years and has been barefoot for around 18 months. ‘I do boot on the fronts if I think there is going to be a lot of forestry.’

Danielle Glaister’s horse, Blackie, has completed regularly barefoot and booted. This year they did Cirencester 40 km Saturday, 40 km Sunday. She says: ‘He nearly always gets grade one as he did in riding club championships in Lincolnshire two weeks ago.’

Jane Impey says diet has been vital for her horse. ‘We have participated up to 40 km. For us, lower levels of sugars, reducing grass during summer and feeding ad lib hay with salt and a good balancer has helped and lots of hacking on varied terrain. Support of a good knowledgeable trimmer who also does bodywork has helped massively! Not a typical endurance horse but he loves it.’

Frauke Jurgensen said: ‘I have a metabolically challenged pony who has competed up to 80 km. He did lots of shorter distances bare, and 60 with front boots only, but now he wears Renegades/Vipers all round. We have muddy fields up here and granite tracks, and the combination makes it really difficult to get the hoof conditioning just right. Also, his metabolic issues mean that even with very careful management, his frogs are always pretty crappy and he feel stones more easily. Not a problem if you can amble along and choose your footing very carefully, but not conducive to speed. I’ve had people say that of course it must be easy to go BF for endurance if your horse has feet as great as Benji, but I have to correct them and say that it’s a testament to the quality of the trimmers that he can do so well, despite having metabolically-compromised feet!’

Karen Schafer has completed a 160 km endurance ride on her barefoot Arabian, no boots. ‘He has won and placed in several rides between 80 – 120 km, I found everything depended on the footing, if it was good there was no limitation no matter what distance and if it included gravel roads and stony riverbeds I would usually get around the first 40 km fine and use Easyboots in front after that. My horse became an absolute pro at picking his speed according to the footing and never vetted out due to being barefoot. He was out on pasture (green and lush most of the time but old fashioned varieties) all year round with a little hay and no more than 1 kg of oats plus minerals and salt when in full work. He was always in excellent condition.’

Sam Hunt has competed two Arabs up to advanced level (80 kms) over the years, completely barefoot, never been booted. ‘Miri, pictured, is now 17 and will compete again next season. We’ve done all kinds of terrain, from fast and flat, to steep and rocky. Their proprioception and therefore balance is great. As long as we’re on the right course, I let them pick their preferred bit of ground (not always what you would expect them to choose!) If the going’s particularly tough, we simply slow down accordingly.’

Tracy Helen Ryan reports: ‘This year between 18 February and 17 September Connie and I have completed 1170 km. Longest distance has been 33 km. We have ridden nearly every weekend sometimes both Saturday and Sunday. We have never been vetted out. My horses live on a track system with free access to a barn with a big straw bed and hard standing. There is access to two half acre grass paddocks through the summer and I feed adlib hay all year and Simple Systems grass nuts and purabeet with micronised linseed twice a day. I always allow Connie to choose her own speed over any terrain. If I ask her for a higher gait and she is reluctant we stay with what she is comfortable with. Listening to Connie is my highest priority and in my humble opinion what keeps her sound.’

Finally, another Arab, with Jane Adams. ‘I competed up to 64 km on my little rescue barefoot Arab. Sometimes with front boots but mostly bare. Lives on a track system, ad lib hay 24/7, 365 days per year. Fed always on Simple System feeds. Retired now for a few years due to Cushings but is sound at 24.’

THANK YOU…!

Thanks to all those who have helped me with this article and shared their success stories – and apologies for the time it has taken for me to put it all together! I blame a series of interviews that didn’t happen, evidence that didn’t materialise and my own horse’s battle with niggling injuries. Sophie had a strain on her tendon requiring full-time worrying and nursing. No doubt, the experience will supply me with anecdotes and articles about how to heal such things but I could have done without it. No doubt, she felt the same. I’m not a lover of box rest because the poor horse frets and loses muscle and condition and unfortunately rest is recommended…fortunately I have my own version. Here is my sick bay – big enough for two horses, room for a lay down and to potter about. They can even walk around the outside of it. Difficulties hit me every time I thought she was recovered enough to cope with more space. Turning her out renewed the strain. So I have established an injury recovery area – a level concrete circular track which allows more movement than the sick bay. No slipping and straining, no running. There is a softer area amid some fir trees for lying down and rolling, shelter thanks to their cover. And it’s working – she’s walking happily and being led. Wish her well…xxx

BOOK NEWS

My latest book 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.’ Wow…but that’s enough about me – 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.

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!