Life after Laminitis…

by Linda Chamberlain

I’m telling you this with a great sense of shame. A few weeks ago my horse became lame on all four feet – she was struck down with laminitis, a condition that can kill. 


It’s preventable which explains my feelings of remorse but I’m sharing Sophie’s story because her recovery was speedy and unconventional.

I had some help and advice from some amazing professionals and thanks to them my mare was spared the traditional ‘cure’ for laminitis – namely metal shoes, a daily dose of anti-inflammatory Bute and confinement in a stable for weeks, possibly months with the prospect of a very uncertain outcome.  Such treatment was given to a friend’s horse recently and the thought horrified me. I didn’t want it to be Sophie’s fate but in view of the seriousness of her lameness I needed some help.

Sophie is a chestnut thoroughbred who has been barefoot all her life. She is as fit as a greyhound, looks just as lean and is kept in a small herd on a grass track system  with no stabling – this means she has minimal grass, topped up with hay, and moves an awful lot.  The horsey readers among you will be asking how on earth such a horse could get lami. I rode her one Sunday, a few days later my three horses broke down some electric fencing and spent hours partying on the lush grass that I was saving for winter when the sugar content is lower.

Early next morning I found the guilty threesome up to their knees in green stuff but Sophie was barely able to walk.

She followed the others onto the yard and was so crippled that I was amazed there were no signs of injury; no evidence of attack from a wild animal. Her feet were hot and her digital pulses were raised so slowly realisation and fear sank in. Laminitis?

It’s an inflammation that can cause the hoof wall to separate from the internal structures. It is extremely painful for the horse but there was little visible evidence of the problem from an examination of Sophie’s bare hooves which were in good shape and regularly trimmed. It’s a condition that is more commonly associated with fat, little ponies who have been allowed too much rich grass. Such a high-sugar diet produces an overload of toxins which play havoc with the feet.

I could see months of TLC ahead of me. Sophie had only come to me in February; we had been having so much fun…getting on so well. And now there was the very real threat that she wouldn’t get better.Linda on Sophie

Previous experience with lami meant I knew enough to keep her off all grass and substitute with hay. She was shut onto our massive yard and field shelter with one other horse who couldn’t boss her around. The field shelter had the benefit of rubber mats to give her some comfort and they had plenty of room to move about.

I contacted my fellow admins on the Barefoot Horse Owners Group, warning them that I might be away from my desk for a while and explaining why. I hadn’t been seeking help but it was lovely to get some.

Helen Jacks-Hewitt, a McTimoney Animal Practitioner, reminded me that even lean horses can get lami – some can be grass intolerant and Sophie’s symptoms sounded similar.

Georgie Harrison, barefoot trimmer, warned – get her off all the green stuff. It was already done.

Debbie Carley, who runs Thunderbrook Feeds, said – Probably toxin overload in gut from flush of bad bacteria feeding off the sudden excess of richer grass. Try Equicarb to absorb the toxins then Gut Restore to help settle the guts back down. Keep on hay and no grass. Equicarb and Gut Restore! I had them in my store cupboard. Brilliant.

Nick Hill, natural hoof care practitioner, said two words – contact Ralitsa.

Ralitsa Grancharova is an online holistic vet from Bulgaria who I had written about in an earlier blog. There’s a link in the side column under popular blogs. I knew her views on the box rest/shoes scenario and knew she might have an alternative answer that wouldn’t go against the roaming-free-on-their-own-feet lifestyle my horses were used to. I got in touch. I sent her Sophie’s history, her symptoms, photos of hooves and a short film. Her diagnosis was laminitis.


After 2 weeks of following her advice (weeks! not months) Sophie was walking soundly on the rubber matting in the field shelter and was pretty comfortable on the unforgiving, stony yard. She was happy enough for us to keep up with regular hoof trims. I couldn’t believe it. After another week it was almost impossible to see any lameness beyond the occasional short stride. She was back on part of their track which had been carefully mashed and eaten down, trotting and dancing with her friends like a proper thoroughbred.

The treatment was simple. No grass. No Bute. No confinement.

Keep her moving – but only by her own choice. Let her eat hay but give no sugary treats or grain feeds. Hose her feet with cold water, wrap her hooves or put on hoof boots in the early, painful stages. Feed activated charcoal to absorb the toxins in the gut. I used Equicarb from Thunderbrooks. After 3 weeks I was asking Ralitsa whether I should start walking Sophie in hand or if she could go back on the grass track. It was too soon for any grass and walking should only be if she’s comfortable. Stop if it isn’t.

Sophie is nearly better. I know her hooves have been weakened and I know to be careful. The electric fencing is being replaced by permanent fencing and my fingers are crossed that we don’t have too much rain while they are confined to a small turnout area. Soon we will be going for walks in hand on ground that isn’t going to cause her discomfort.

Ralitsa’s treatment plan is miles away from the conventional one but she can explain better than I.

‘In my experience conventional treatment of laminitis in horses (box rest and shoes) does not bring the desired recovery as fast as we could hope for. During the time I practised in Germany, laminitic horses were treated in exactly the same way – they were put on box rest, given Bute and shod. These horses would spend up to 3 months in the clinic under these conditions. They would get better for a short while and would then get worse. The vicious cycle would continue until the owner decided to have the horse put down or until the animal was well enough to go home. Not long after some of these horses would return to the clinic with another bout of laminitis. I became convinced that laminitis was incurable. These veterinary professionals were doing everything in their power and they still could only save a few horses from the devastating disease. And the more I looked into the matter myself, the more I was certain that there was no other way and the treatment for laminitis was not yet discovered.

 ‘But this all changed. When I organised one of Nick Hill’s visits to Bulgaria (Nick Hill is a distinguished natural horse care practitioner, who helps horses from all over the world recover from laminitis), he made me see things differently. It was so easy, I wondered why I hadn’t seen it myself. One of the most common causes for laminitis is carbohydrate overload. I won’t go into the specifics of how laminitis actually develops, as there is enough information on the matter available.

 ‘But as any veterinary surgeon would agree, eliminating the cause for the disease is the best way to treat it. So does that work for laminitis? If the cause is indeed the most common one – carbohydrate overload (through grass, grains, fruit, molasses and others), a change in diet is essential. Allow the horse to only eat hay. Supply water and salt lick. Anything else could continue to bring the digestive tract out of equilibrium which is why unless you are certain the particular supplement you want to feed is carbohydrate free (or unflavoured), you should not include it in the horse’s diet at this stage.

 ‘If your horse is shod, take the shoes off. If you are wondering whether to have your horse shod or not because of acute laminitis, then there is a few things you need to consider. Laminitis is the inflammation of the sensitive laminae that make up the connection between the hoof wall and the hoof’s internal structures. Allowing the hoof to function physiologically (barefoot) allows the blood supply to reach the inflamed laminae.

 ‘Shoes don’t allow the hoof to function physiologically. They restrict blood supply to the hoof, as they do not allow for physiological movement of the soft tissues inside the hoof capsule. As with any inflamed tissue, blood supply is essential to healing.

 ‘This is another reason why movement is recommended for treating laminitis. Movement stimulates blood supply to the hoof. But this is not the only reason why I would recommend it for recovering from laminitis. Digestion in horses is connected to movement. One of the causes for colic in horses is lack of movement and turn out. As laminitis is also so deeply entwined with the digestive tract, it makes even more sense to allow a laminitic horse to move. Of course movement under the pain killing effect of some drugs most often used in the treatment of laminitis is not recommended. But after the initial stages of laminitis the horse should be allowed to recover out of the stable. With the appropriate dietary changes in place, most horses get well enough to walk on their own and at this stage the need for NSAIDs should be carefully weighed.

 ‘The recovery period for laminitis is different and depends on the individual horse. But in my experience the horses get better much quicker when they are on a hay-only diet (without supplements or treats) and are allowed to move freely. Using boots instead of shoes allows the hooves to function physiologically and could also help alleviate the pain.’

Thanks to everyone who follows and shares this blog – it goes around the world! And keep in touch by clicking the follow button or leave me some feed back. If you’ve had a brush with laminitis or a story to tell, I’d love to hear from you…

Sophie’s laminitis has flared up again (November) – I might have introduced a bit of feed too early. Will keep you updated once I have a clearer picture.

FURTHER UPDATE – I have written other posts about our progress but need to put something here too. Yes, I was advised to cut out all feed once again but I was being thwarted by the weather. The winter of 2015/16 was extremely wet and the horses were unable to go on any of the fields or tracks. Sophie couldn’t cope with the grass and the mud eventually became too much for the others. For months they were confined to the yard and a short, stony track towards the house. It’s common for laminitics to abscess after an episode and Sophie did so on all four feet in January 2016. The horses coped with the situation but my chestnut TB didn’t behave calmly enough to go for walks in hand. We had to wait – but then I came up with a plan! We moved them to another home and set up a massive track system in some woods with almost zero grass. Another year on and my horses are roaming over varied terrain and about a mile of tracks. Sophie is sound and we are riding again.


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

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

Trail-blazing rider…

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

Claire Aldritt 5

Yogi must have missed his footing.

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

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

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

Claire Aldritt 3

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

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

Claire Aldritt 7

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

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

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

Claire Aldritt 6

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

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

Claire Alldritt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claire Aldritt 1BOOK NEWS       BOOK NEWS         BOOK NEWS

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

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

The Vet of the Future?

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

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

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

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

Please tell us about yourself…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That stables become a thing of the past… 7image

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

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

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

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

The Holistic Virtual Vet

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

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

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

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

Best Barefoot Wishes



by Linda Chamberlain

It’s Christmas and horse lovers everywhere will be tending their animals before opening their presents or popping their first Bucks Fizz!

But wouldn’t it be great if our horses could join in the festivities? They might not want to lie, lazily in bed like the average human but there will be some things our equine friends might really appreciate.

I asked some special barefoot horse owners to reveal what they would love to give their horse this Christmas. Let your imagination roll; have a free rein and spare no expense, I told them.

Here’s what they came up with –

Simon and Katie Earle, who train some of the fastest barefoot race horses in the country – Well we had a good think about it.  If money were no object we would be buying the Activo-Med Combi pro massage rug!  All the horses on the yard would then benefit from it.  A great product.  But we will actually be giving them all a Christmas stocking, filled with herbal treats, a carrot and an apple to say an enormous thank you for working so hard and being loyal servants.

The barefoot racehorses & their Christmas stockings

The barefoot racehorses & their Christmas stockings

Christmas & New Year is important for the racehorses as they turn another year older on 1st January so it is also a time to wish them all a Happy Birthday!  Here is a picture of the horses enjoying their treats last year.

Simon Earle Racing

* * *

Holly Simons, member of the Barefoot Horse Owners Group – I would give my chap as natural a lifestyle as he would be happy with. I would give him his own paddock paradise track with varied surfaces, a field buddy to play with and a place of shelter for him to wander in and out of as he chooses…I’m still striving to give that to him.

* * *

 Lucinda McAlpine, top dressage rider and vociferous advocate of barefoot, natural horse management –

Lucinda McAlpine

Lucinda McAlpine

 I would like to buy The Black (aka Panduc) my former Grand Prix horse, now 29 years old, a time machine so that he and I could travel back in time to when he was younger and armed with the knowledge that we have learnt in the last 20 years we could start again from a new perspective, with the benefit of youth!

* * *

Mary Joy, who is setting up the Equine Centre for Change, in Sussex – I’d give my herd more ‘undergrowth’ to hoof around in, more trees to strip the bark off and me, living on site so we can smile at each other all day long.

Mary Joy's herd

The Equine Centre For Change will be based in East Sussex and will be a therapeutic centre where horses are partners in human development and learning. Find the centre on Facebook.
                                                                                                       * * *

Ailsa Page, from Synchrony Horse Works in Wales – I’d like to give them rest and peace….throughout the term they work really hard helping 50 children and young people with needs as diverse as learning difficulties, speech and language therapy, autism and attachment disorders to change and grow.

Christmas! Again!


At Christmas they get to kick their heels, have fun being a little herd , eat carrots and relax. They are all rescued horses or donated and most have difficult backgrounds (as do many of our clients) so my other wish for them is a loss of fear and an understanding that they are forever safe and loved and valued.

* * *

Catherine Fahy, horse owner and member of the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook – I would like to tell them that I will carry on listening to them and thank them for their feedback. I will strive to keep acting upon it!

* * *

Jacqui Howe is a student of the Trust Technique. Her wish is – To give you and your horse PEACE at Christmas – what could be more appropriate!! The Trust Technique website has a brilliant video membership, where you can learn the technique via video tutorials and filmed case studies. Only £12 / month, or £280 for the full course in one off payment- AND a % of that money goes to the horse and dog rescue organisations that were helped in the case studies!

* * *

Tom Ventham and his wife, Julia, and daughter, Molly, walked from Sussex to Spain with their two dogs and a barefoot horse. Now they live in Spain and have acquired a herd of equines. Tom said – There are so many things I would like to give the horses for Christmas – my best bale of hay, carrots and some remedies for the older horses to ease those aching joints. Corrito has so much trouble breathing now; there must be something that can help him!

But there is one thing they would really love me to do ‘for them’.
To ‘accidentally’ leave the gate open and then to disappear for a few hours.

tom's horses

This has happened a few times, so it’s a slight re-enactment. Out here, they can run a long way without being noticed especially if up into the mountains. Luckily tracking a herd of barefoot horses is not that hard.
When I find them there’s such a powerful life force amongst them. All their senses are sharp and all their herd instincts are at their best. What an amazing sight- so rarely seen in confinement.  Seeing the old horses run like they pretended they never could! A fantastic expression of freedom.

Tom with one of the veterans
So for Christmas I wouldn’t be in a rush to find them – rather I would just track them. Watch them. But you know, it is hard to creep up on a herd of horses especially with a lead rope in your hand. Eventually, I am spotted. There’s a kind of guilty feeling on both sides but you can’t deny that this is where nature intended them to be.

I want to give them an adventure this Christmas.

* * *

From the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook – Dani Knight – For Christmas I will give my horse a promise to always look after her, make the right decisions on her behalf and try to keep her lifestyle as natural as possible. Why? Because that is what she deserves.

Dayle Dixon – I would like to give my horse another fluffy friend. Why? Because she loves company and is sooo worth it. Dayle’s horse – Smiley Miley, below.

Look at that bare foot!

Look at that bare foot!

Louise Hunt – I wouldn’t give my boy anything other than what he’s got, which is a lovely life (I hope he thinks so anyway). But I’d take away the coronary band dystrophy he has. He is the bravest, most beautiful horse I know.

Jo Lister, who runs Horse About trail holidays in the Cape of South Africa – What would I give my horses for Christmas? Our horses live a pretty natural and happy life living as a herd in large paddocks with 24/7 turnout. The work load is light so they spend 80% of their time doing what horses do – grazing, walking, chilling. So we think they are mostly pretty happy horses, especially considering most of them are someone else’s rejects.

My gift to them would be a mud bath or dam in each paddock. Ah, yes, I see all the riders out there throwing their hands up in horror at the idea of grooming muddy horses, but this is a gift for the horses enjoyment and I have seen how a dam or even a small muddy patch caused by a leaking pipe will have them rolling, pawing and playing in excitement.

Horses cooling off at Christmas!

Horses cooling off at Christmas!

Their enjoyment is obvious, especially now during our summer months. In addition it is a very natural response to try and keep the biting flies at bay. It is something the horses would love and fulfils a natural instinct!

Apart from that there are one or two horses who would like us to install a permanent shower system during the summer months as they come up to the house to demand spraying!

*    *   *

And from me ! – A Happy Christmas to all my readers – of the blog and the book! I hope all your wishes come true… 

Go ahead and judge…

by Linda Chamberlain

They say never judge a book by its cover – but what rubbish!


Into the sunset

Into the sunset


What else are you meant to do? The cover is the book’s shop window giving you a hint to what’s inside. It helps you to decide whether to buy, whether to read. It has to be good or authors risk losing out to the competition – sorting out the sock drawer is the height of entertainment  for a lot of people and writers need to remember that.

I have two books coming out this autumn and was lucky to be able to work with a very talented photographer, Will Jessel, on the covers. This blog is devoted to some of the shots he took that day. I have a couple of favourites and I’m looking forward to seeing what use our art director, Ben Catchpole, makes of them.

Book number one is my debut novel with the working title The First Vet. It’s set in the late 18th century and is inspired by the work of the tireless campaigner, Bracy Clark. It’s a story of love and corruption – one man’s fight against animal cruelty. It’s an English cousin for Nicholas Evan’s best seller, The Horse Whisperer. So, I wanted a man and a woman in the photo, since it’s a love story, but I also wanted a horse. The picture above is almost perfect – apart from a minor historical detail. Have you spotted it?

This might be better…

the sun gets lower

the sun gets lower

The grass or the sky could fade out and give room for the title. It could work but the sky isn’t as inspiring. Will positioned himself further down the hill so he was looking up at the action into the sun.

Here you can see part of the rocky outcrop…

nicely silhouetted

nicely silhouetted

Finally, I like this one because the vet, the rider and the horse are focused on each other…

The horse is listening to him

The horse is listening to him

Book number two is a short piece of non fiction called My Barefoot Journey. It’s a light hearted account of some of the things that happened once those shoes came off my horses. I used Carrie as my model horse. She has a habit of nudging so I was really pleased that she didn’t send me head first over that rocky crag…

me with Carrie

me with Carrie

Or may be this one…

There were beautiful skies that evening

There were beautiful skies that evening

It was quite a long way down. All in the cause of art, I suppose!

You can find out more about Will Jessel on Facebook – Will J Photography. Let me know if you have a favourite or two. I’d love to hear from you. And thanks to all of you who shared my earlier posts on Facebook and Twitter and followed this blog. Your comments and encouragement mean an awful lot to me. I’m back on the road next week, going to visit a racehorse yard with a difference. I’m expecting this one to inspire and amaze me. Full report soon, so keep following.


The Stable Regime that Harms

by Linda Chamberlain

These two prisoners have much in common.




They spend much of their day in a small space. They have very little to do. And they have very few companions to share their time with. They are confined and they know the meaning of the word vice.

For the man behind bars vice has been many things. The thieving he got away with in his youth, stolen cigarettes from the corner shop and more recently the knife attack that led to his incarceration.

For the horse –incarceration came before the vice. This is how he lives. The bars were put on the stable door because he’s in the habit of putting his head into the fresh air and rocking from side to side. It’s called weaving and, in the horse world, it’s known as a vice. It doesn’t sound such a great crime, does it, but weaving makes a horse lose condition, it lowers his value and there’s a real danger that other horses on the yard will pick up the habit themselves. It most commonly begins when a horse is stabled – and bored – for long periods.

‘They don’t have anything to do and they don’t have anyone to talk to.’

The government’s chief inspector of prisons was talking about worsening conditions in this country’s goals which have led to an increased suicide rate. But he could have been talking about one of the most prestigious horse livery yards in the country.

I went to see one such yard for myself after writing my controversial blog – They’re athletes, not dinner. I got a guided tour because I wanted somewhere with good facilities for my promising sports horse (in my dreams!) and I wanted to know if 24/7 confinement was as acceptable as I’d alleged.

It was.

It was a pleasantly, sunny day and I was taken to an impressive, American-style barn where there were up to twenty horses in residence. How clean it was! How shining! There was hardly a dropping in sight. Grooms rushed about, everything was polished and I could have visited in white jodhpurs and come home clean. I would have to join a waiting list but, were I to be granted admittance, my horse would be skipped out four times a day, fed three times and exercised once by a rider or in the horse walker. I saw a horse in this very expensive machine going round and round without human intervention and my mind boggled. It’s difficult to understand why people go to such expense and trouble when they could go for a ride or, dare I suggest it, turn the horse out in a field. This splendid facility had very few fields, though. The youngsters were allowed out for a couple of hours but the ridden horses enjoyed the special treatment of central heating in winter, rubber stable mats and the occasional mirror.

‘It helps to settle them,’ I was told. ‘They see themselves and it makes them think they have company.’

‘Ah, such a good idea,’ I enthused. My acting talents were stretched to their limit.

The stables were large units inside a huge barn, their doors looking inwards and the horses could at least see each other even though they couldn’t see the outside world or touch each other. Iron bars made sure there was no danger of that and then my guide pointed out a very positive feature – the drop-down, anti weaving bars on each and every stable door. I looked around and had a quick count. I estimated that half the horses had their bars up. I didn’t see any of them weaving – even with the deterrent of the bars a stressed horse can manage to weave in the stable. This livery yard knows its business and reduces the risk of stable vices with regular feeding and exercise. I’m reminded of a yard that a friend of mine worked at run by some Olympic riders where the fields were notable for their absence. She was a groom and Monday was a day off for many of them so the horses weren’t exercised.

‘That’s the day a lot of the them became ill. We called it tying up day,’ she said. Tying up, or azoturia, is a worrying condition notable among stabled horses who work hard. They get cramp-like symptoms and seize up. ‘A lot of them had ulcers and colic was a constant worry.’

The horses at the livery yard I visited looked healthy; they were passive rather than anxious. Bored but subdued. Horses take confinement amazingly well. Some develop vices but with careful management they accept the life we allow them although I’ve barely mentioned the health problems they endure. The state of their feet, I haven’t touched upon.

So, no fields for most of the very expensive animals here. They are such hazardous places, after all. Horses have been known to run in them, kick and play with each other or eat some grass. I’ve even seen a horse drop to the ground and roll in the mud – in fact, that’s something mine will do every day just for the comfort and joy of it although I fear it might worry some of the owners from the livery yard. Not mud!

It’s lovely to return to my own yard where the horses are appreciating that the sun is warm rather than hot. They’ve spent a bit of time in the field shelter judging by the calling cards they’ve left me and are now on their track, grazing together. They see me and saunter over since it’s getting close to supper time. The others hang back because Carrie is the boss and a flick of her ear warns that she’s to have the first hello with me. She doesn’t linger since I have nothing beyond a stroke and heads to the gate; she’ll wait ‘til the bucket is ready. I check the rest. There are no bites or kicks to worry me but they are dusty from rolling.

‘How did you survive?’ I ask them. ‘You haven’t killed each other. Well done.’

Once we’ve done our greetings, I’m ignored. I feed them, so I’m important but I’m not as vital to them as they are to each other. They follow Carrie across the stony yard to the gate. Tao rubs her face on Carrie’s behind and snorts. Carrie nods her head, frowns. Tao respectfully backs off. They don’t say much but they understand each other.

If only humans understood them as well.
And on a different note…

My thanks to author Janice Preston who has nominated me for an inspiring blog award. Wow, that made me chuffed – and made me check my wardrobe to make sure I had something suitable for a possible awards ceremony at the Savoy. It might not be that sort of award, but still. Now I must dash – I’m off to buy Janice’s new book, Mary and the Marquis. It features a horse so I’m going to read it.

Click on the Follow button at the top of the page to make sure you get notified of my next blog or to hear news of my debut novel, The First Vet, which is being published shortly. Set in the late 18th century, it’s a story of love and corruption and is inspired by the campaigning work of Bracy Clark.

And leave me feedback – I would love to hear from you.

Horsing Around With Usain Bolt

A spoof, by Linda Chamberlain

World-class sprinter Usain Bolt is to learn the secrets of the horse world in a bid to stay at the top of his game.


Usain's new shoes

Usain’s new shoes


The fastest man in the world was so impressed by the speed and performance of equine Olympians that he has decided to follow in their hoof steps. On the advice of medical experts, he is having a specially-made, metal attachment, much like a horse shoe, fixed to his trainers. The design of the attachment is a closely guarded secret but I can reveal that Bolt plans to wear them 24/7.

His trainers argue that the Jamaican athlete will get used to the metal shoes more quickly if he wears them all the time. They hope they will guard against slipping during competitions and minimise the risk of exasperating a troublesome tendon injury that has setback his training in the past. They also hope he will be able to sprint faster than a horse.

In an exclusive interview, Bolt said: ‘The shoes felt heavy at first and it took a while to get used to them. They’re coming off next week, so that will be a bit of a break.’

‘Oh, for good?’ I asked the 6 foot 5 inch star of the track.

‘No, only while I have my toe nails trimmed.’

Doubters have speculated that running on metal might be harmful for the athlete but Bolt is confident that medical advice is correct. He’s been told that running without them might have a detrimental effect on the physiology of his foot.

‘The doctors know what they’re doing,’ he said. ‘They must be right and those running tracks can be hard, you know.’

Supporters of the shoe say it can relieve many problems of the foot, including arthritic pain – as well as give support to painful heels and protect weak toe nails.

‘It’s true,’ Bolt said. ‘I don’t break my toe nails half as much as I used to.’

The Olympic authorities have given approval and other athletes are expected to copy the innovation. Bolt predicts that very soon there won’t be an athlete in the world without metal shoes.

In another daring move inspired by the horse world, Bolt is dramatically changing his lifestyle. Apart from the many hours spent in training and competition, he is to be confined to what his trainers describe as a focus room. There will be no TV, no space for friends and therefore no distractions. There’s enough room for his bed and he’ll be given an innovative ball to play with which lets out small amounts of food if he rolls it around the floor.

confiend horse

‘We never stop learning,’ said the runner who has been nicknamed Lightning Bolt. ‘You should have seen those horses at the Olympics. They were awesome and they were focused. If it works for them; it should work for me.’

He’s been confined to his focus room for two weeks and his trainers are pleased it is having the desired effect.

‘He can’t wait to get out on the track in the morning,’ said one of his training team. ‘Before the focus room he was much more laid back. Now he just wants to run; he doesn’t want to stop. It’s brilliant. He loves that room. At the end of the training session we put some of his favourite food in there and you should see him rush back in there.’

* * * * *

Apply the ideology to a human and suddenly it makes you question the treatment of horses, doesn’t it?

Apologies to Usain Bolt for the above article. He seemed such a nice guy that I thought he wouldn’t mind his name being used to support a campaign to free equine athletes.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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