‘I will never shoe another horse’ – Nick Hill

by Linda Chamberlain

I want you to meet a trained farrier – one that says he will never shoe again because of the harm it causes. He turned his back on the trade because separating the horse from the ground was the beginning of a destructive process. He became a barefoot trimmer because he was forever fighting against nature, causing the hoof to distort and break from constant renailing. With all our wisdom and technology, there had to be a better way…

Nick Hill 1

His name is Nick Hill and he has a list of changes needed for the domestic horse that is shopping-list long. If anyone can make a few of these demands happen it is this quietly, committed man who travels the world educating owners about a new way of caring for the species.

There is more to looking after a horse’s hoof than the style or frequency of its trim. This animal urgently needs some changes in its care if it is to lead a healthy life.

Interestingly, he finds the same health issues affecting the horse in many different parts of the world. Domestication inevitably brings problems whether that animal is in the rain-soaked UK or sun-filled Kenya.

I have a picture in my mind of Nick fighting his way through customs with a hoof rasp and suspicious-looking knives in his bag; in reality he has met only a few raised eyebrows as he crosses international borders but I am astonished that he encounters the same equine issues in a long list of countries – USA, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Estonia, Italy, Portugal, Israel, Spain, France, Denmark, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Lesotho and the UK where he has held clinics aimed at improving the horses’ hooves…and lifestyle.

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‘If inappropriate management is put in place and undue expectations are put on a species, then we shouldn’t be surprised when health becomes compromised. Domestication always throws up challenges, but it’s not a reason to simply say I can’t…better to ask how we can?’ he explains.

So, what is it we do to the horse around the world that compromises him so much?

Mankind has taken him from a herd-loving, free-roaming creature and given him a job to do. In exchange we offer a diet rich in cereals rather than forage and a small house of his very own to live in. To seal the animal’s fate we nail a shoe to his foot.

So wherever he goes, Nick sees laminitis, navicular and other man-made diseases of the hoof. He finds digestive upset, compromised immunity, mental distress from lack of movement as well as breathing problems thanks to confinement.

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Nick Hill 9Nick Hill 6Nick Hill 7No wonder that an animal treated this way might have difficulties walking on his own feet.

And yet Nick warns, ‘Shoeing unbalances the whole horse and over a period of time will further distort the hoof. An unbalanced body makes for an unbalanced mind, which in turn affects the immune system. To cut the contact between the equid and the ground is the start of destroying of what makes him a horse. Shoes just mask problems, they don’t solve them.

‘Most farriers that I know would rather not shoe. It’s extremely hard, skilled work and once heading down that path they are fighting against nature and trying to stop the capsule from distorting and breaking up from the constant renailing.

‘Barefoot is the footwear of choice when the horse is born, if allowed to fully develop in a good environment  and access to a more natural  lifestyle and diet, then it’s simple. Barefoot is normal. The abnormalities come from misuse/abuse of the equine.’

Nick Hill 3

He believes that any horse can go barefoot. Not all will cope being ridden but most transition without difficulty and recover well from these human-inflicted conditions. ‘People’s expectations of what horses can and should do must be looked at. It saddens me that the equine has fewer legal rights than any other species. It’s hard to understand  when most humans mention how amazing and wonderful the equid is, yet if they truly understood the needs of the species then there would be a massive upheaval of the diet, lifestyle and expectations, which would be legislated for internationally.’

He’s right, you know. No zoo is allowed to treat the zebra the way most people treat the domestic horse. Legislation ensures the zebra’s need for herd life is respected. The horse’s need to socialise has not been squashed by thousands of years of domestication but it is often denied him thanks to the widespread use of single-stall stabling. Sometimes around the clock.

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I asked Nick about the ideal diet for a barefoot horse.

His advice is to keep it as simple as possible and away from monocultured grass paddocks.

‘I usually say that if a bag of feed is promoted as healthy for horses then don’t use it. (There are companies out there that are making better products now). You need to research whatever you feed your horse. Don’t just believe what’s written on the bag.

‘People have really got to ask themselves why they are feeding what they are feeding. Horses should be treated as athletes, you wouldn’t expect an overweight person to be able to perform as an Olympian, so why expect a horse to move properly with excess weight, let alone carry a human. An overweight horse is not a healthy horse.’

And lifestyle?

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‘Just take a look at groups of feral horses around the world, you will then see how horses need to live, social interaction, movement (yes there are some groups of feral horses that just survive and are not in the best conditions). You will at least see how far removed a lot of domesticated horses are from what nature intended.

‘If you look at feral horses in ideal environmental conditions you will see athletes who are sound and strong, healthy, alert and full of life, living like nature intended, with strong physical and mental health, sound, with short toes and heels, running over all substrates without having to worry.

‘Try and emulate the above and you will get a healthier equine. If your horse can’t move, socialise, eat little and often, then guess what?  You are going to have problems.’

Nick Hill 12

Nick Hill 5Before I give you Nick’s shopping-list for change let me tell you a bit about his background. It includes agricultural college and working in traditional livery yards as a riding instructor. He trained as a farrier because his own horses were struggling to stay sound.

‘I was trained by traditional farriers who were using the Cyteck method of shoeing; they seemed to be getting good results.

‘This was in the Highlands of Scotland (before the Farriers’ Registration Council took control of the whole of the UK) and I also travelled to the USA.

‘I learnt several important lessons, both from the equines and other professionals. Everything pointed to the same conclusion – there must be a better way forward, for all involved in the industry.’

I often ask my interviewees about their vision for the horse’s future. Most give me a line or two. I love that Nick has been suitably ambitious.

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As promised…here is the list…

  • An end to remedial shoeing to mask lameness in competition horses.
  • Livery yards/farms paying more attention to the needs of equines rather than the needs of the land, or what looks nice.
  • Feed companies being regulated against selling bags of rubbish dressed up as healthy feeds.
  • Horse owners recognising the true needs of the horse and knowing the difference between good and unhealthy hooves (as they do reflect the health of the horse).
  • More open-minded vets.
  • Shoeing being replaced by barefoot and booting technologies (the farriers have the necessary skills to make changes but it needs to come from horse owners and vets as well).
  • Stud farms and breeders to take better responsibility for the formative years and allowing the horse to develop fully.
  • The ruling bodies of all equine competitions to state that no horse can compete until fully mature.
  • Professionals should aim to fix the horse’s diet, environment and movement and then implement mechanical changes to the hoof. This applies to some trimming schools of thought as well as traditional farriery and veterinary work.
  • Having professionals and horse owners understanding better handling techniques, recognising that there’s a reason for every reaction. Patience, understanding and kindness bring greater results in my experience.

‘The list is probably longer but let’s see,’ he says.

So, dear reader, if you could choose just one thing from Nick’s demands for the horse, what would it be? Tell us what you think is important by clicking on ‘comments’ and leaving some feedback. Press the follow button to keep in touch.

And if you want to get in touch with Nick you can find him on Facebook  or you can email him on nickhill984@gmail.com

BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS    BOOK NEWS

IMG_3822ABOUT ME – I’m a writer and a journalist who has a passion for horses especially if they are barefoot. A Barefoot Journey, is my honest and light-hearted account of going barefoot – including the mistakes, the falls, the triumphs and the nightmares. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. Horsemanship Magazine said – ‘The writing is charming, warm, and (gently) brutally honest about a subject which is so obviously dear to her heart and central to her life. The big issues of hoof trim, equine lifestyle and human understanding are all covered. From the agony of self-doubt to the ecstasy of equine partnership, it is all laid out here, clearly and thoughtfully. It really ought to be required reading for anyone thinking of taking their horse’s shoes off.’

A Barefoot Journey is a small but perfectly formed field companion for my novel, The First Vet, inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)of shoeing 200 years ago! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCoverSociety. Here’s one of the latest reviews – ‘I work nights & this book made me miss sleep (which is sacred to me) – I could not put it down! I loved the combination of historical fact & romance novel & it is so well written. I’m going to buy the hard copy now – it deserves a place on my bookshelf & will be read again. 10 gold stars Ms Chamberlain!’

If you want to keep in touch, follow this blog or find me on Facebook

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Barefoot Steps Up A Gear…

by Linda Chamberlain

The fight for the barefoot horse was given a new boost last week when dressage star Lucinda McAlpine shared her tips for success at a special Facebook event.

Lucinda, whose horses are barefoot and live out 24/7, was the special guest at a Q&A session held by the Barefoot Horse Owners Group as it celebrated soaring membership nearing 10,000 people. She told the group that its astonishing growth was one of the most encouraging things in the equestrian world.

Lucinda with The Black

Her own barefoot journey is thanks largely to one very talented horse called Panduc aka The Black who could no longer cope in shoes. Farriers were shoeing this Grand Prix level dressage horse tighter and tighter in an attempt to help but his feet were crumbling and he perfected the art of hurling his shoes off at canter in the field.

‘It was his idea, really,’ she said as she explained her move to barefoot.

This was 20 years ago. There were no hoof boots and no one to guide her. Undaunted, Lucinda asked farrier, Nigel Gatesman, if he would support her in trying another approach – without shoes. He did and he’s still in charge of her horses’ hooves today.

How did The Black cope? Did he slip? Lucinda was asked during the two-hour Facebook session which was buzzing with activity.

‘I carried on riding him as usual. But it was that first hack down a really steep hill that made me realise we had opened the door to a whole new world of possibilities. Not only did he not slip, he walked evenly with confidence and with a soft back which was not the case before.’

Lucinda - three gs

Even now she doesn’t resort to hoof boots, preferring the horse to be unencumbered in its early barefoot days. She finds horses need to adjust their way of going since many are too heavy on the forehand. In other words they are working by pulling with their front legs rather than being propelled from behind. Once they have changed this, soreness problems are alleviated. ‘It’s my speciality,’ she said.

 

‘Welsh cobs,’ she explained to one questioner, ‘do tend to develop a very extravagant foreleg action with shoes often due to the noise of the shoe itself. If they carry on stamping their feet down they will certainly be sore.’

Lucinda admitted that it was frustrating that the equine world predominantly considered shoes humane and warned that ‘fear is the main reason for closed minds’.

Another questioner said that she was thinking about going barefoot with her cob but confessed she was worried.

Lucinda assured her, ‘Looks like you have come to the right place then. Yes, it can be scary but in reality it is much easier for the horses than it is for us! People who chose to shoe their horses can be very cruel so stick with us!’

 

Lucinda, who is enjoying a return to competing after a break, said that her horses’ lifestyle went hand in hand with barefoot. They live out in groups on her farm in Devon, where she runs study days. They aren’t rugged but have grown their own ‘multi-functional, non-slip, anti-chafe coats to suit each individual. They work really well but are not available in the shops! Wish I could find a jacket that worked as well.’

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DSC_2616-2-96x96caviar-belini-copy2-96x96bam-bam11-96x96She provides hard standing in every field and hay is put out on these ‘pads’. In nature the horse might move to higher, drier ground in winter but if he is kept in a paddock this isn’t possible. So owners need to replicate this with their facilities.

‘I would not recommend that horses do without shoes if the owner keeps them on filthy deep litter but I am not sure many British horse owners would admit to that.’

And she continues to buck the trend by not clipping, even for competition. A member of the group asked about this tricky issue and was worried she would be marked down by the judges if her animal was hairy. How did Lucinda cope with that?

‘My friend, Kate Weeks, used to say that my horses were the only ones at shows who didn’t look like they were going through chemo in the winter. Interestingly, the more I compete the less I see people renewing their clips and more just taking a strip off. A full coat will give you a unique insight into his physical and mental/emotional fitness as he will sweat when he is anxious or you have done too much work. Stay just under the sweat and his warmth will make the coat lie down and GLEAM. Nothing better as a gauge for how much work to do.

‘Good luck. If you lose marks then just feel sorry that the judges do not have this knowledge and know that you are working for the horse’s wellbeing. Well done you – a winner in my eyes already!’

a-bowhayes-born-here1

 

Lucinda runs study days and other events at her farm in Devon – here is a link to find out more…

* * *

It was the first time the Barefoot Horse Owners Group had tried a live Q&A session. It was a little bit like a radio phone-in but on Facebook…and in writing. It worked brilliantly but was busy and required our poor guest to type answers furiously so we are truly thankful for her efforts. The group is celebrating quite a milestone- nearly 10,000 people are members. That represents an awful lot of bare hooves. We believe the only thing that should be attached to the horse’s hoof…is its leg. Come and find us on Facebook.

ABOUT ME – I’m a writer and a journalist who has a passion for horses especially if they are barefoot. 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. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberIt is a small-but-perfectly-formed field companion to my novel The First Vet, a 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 has 40 five-star reviews and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society. Here’s the latest review on Amazon – ‘I work nights & this book made me miss sleep (which is sacred to me) – I could not put it down! I loved the combination of historical fact & romance novel & it is so well written. I’m going to buy the hard copy now – it deserves a place on my bookshelf & will be read again. 10 gold stars Ms Chamberlain!’

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

‘Horse shoes will be obsolete’ – says ex-farrier

by Linda Chamberlain

Meet Marc Ferrador. He was a much-respected farrier who had serious doubts about nailing shoes to horses’ hooves and decided to do something about it. Colleagues thought he was crazy when he announced he was turning his back on his trade but amazingly he convinced ninety per cent of his customers to try barefoot riding.

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Now he says not only is the metal shoe harmful but so too is the horse’s lifestyle. In this interview, he calls on vets, farriers and riding teachers to bring themselves up to date for the sake of the animal which is suffering because of ‘this lack of evolution’.

Marc, who works in Catalonia, Spain, used to ride and compete. Twelve years after qualifying as a farrier he became a professor of farriery. In that time he worked on the creation of the curriculum and also a handbook for courses approved for the European Federation of Farriers Association. He describes the terrain in Catalonia as ‘special’ – it can be dry and unforgiving, so it’s a challenge to ensure horses are transitioned to barefoot without pain.

Please tell us about the moment you realised the harm shoeing causes.

The change in my professional career does not occur in a specific moment. I was a farrier and teacher for 14 years in the Official School of Farriers in Barcelona and some pupils and clients questioned me about the ‘barefoot movement’ so I started to search for information and people who were trimming nearby.

I wanted to see what happens when horses live barefoot. One of the biggest pillars of my change was to realise that young horses

lose health in their hooves with each shoeing. It makes them change the balance of the load on their hooves and even though every farrier of the world knows this, most of them are still shoeing horses.

It is stupid to be unaware of what a barefoot horse offers and decide to put a nailed-on shoe over his live structures to help him. We need to better understand those hooves (and horses) so that we can support most efficiently their health.

When a shod horse works hard, all his structures are stressed and he falls into a state of chronic disease – mechanical laminitis, infection in the water line, cracks across nails perforations, very stressed soles and stunting the back of the hoof. When a transitioned barefoot horse works hard, his structures are fine and healthy.

When I understood that you can’t help horses by systematically shoeing I looked for new hoof management systems to see how to protect them without a permanent shoe.

I had doubts and questioned my old teachers, as well as the master farriers and vets that I met. But none of them had any doubt about the iron nailed shoe and the horse’s welfare. This inability from the farrier/vet sector to be critical about their own work was the other reason to start my emancipation.

How did you feel knowing that your business had been shoeing?

Once I had information about barefoot horses and the new generation of hoof boots which can protect when needed I was ready to start my ‘transition’ with good arguments to explain my change to my clients. This was in 2009.

I told them that I can better help your horse’s welfare with these techniques because the nailed-on shoe, as well as the horse’s actual lifestyle, are obsolete and harmful.

I was able to transform ninety per cent of my customers to barefoot and have slowly found new clients – thanks to my internet site. Ten per cent left me. I was not angry about this, on the contrary, because they were good clients during the last 14 years and I searched a farrier for them. Some of them changed their mind in the last years and thanks to the good relations between us I started to work with them again. I can’t change everyone’s mind in one shout because I had also needed time to change.

imageI am proud to say that friend farriers and vets sent me customers who wanted their horses barefoot. I’ve been lucky in that aspect.

Nowadays, I’m very happy and feel fine with my option, because it is stupid to deceive yourself because you are afraid to lose some customers and money. I understand that nobody can change his mind in one day but you never can have a good excuse about not doing your job well.

All these business matters can change with good planning and good work with  people and horses. If you only work with the human part or with the horse part of your business, then sure you will get only a part of the achievement. Working with horses is also working with people. In front of each horse there is a person and if you want to help horses it is essential to treat people with respect.

What reaction did you get from fellow farriers?

There were different reactions. Some said I was crazy, others that I would lose a lot of money with this change. But now I have good customers and a very good reputation.

The other typical comment during that time was that not all horses have such good hooves to go barefoot.

They did not realize that the problem is not in the hooves but the life style of the horses.

Track systems provide a better lifestyle for horses

Track systems provide a better lifestyle for horses

Some other farriers also said they did not want to explain about how to improve the welfare of their clients’ horses.

I am very lucky to have here, in Catalonia, a group of farriers that trust me after sharing a lot of courses, farriers’ competitions and clinics. So the Catalan farriers usually share with me some doubts and ask me questions without problem and request me information about barefoot. I have always been happy to answer them.

Once I attended a National Congress of Veterinary and Farriers and realised that change is possible but needs to start inside the farriers’ community.

The horse world urgently needs a big change especially in everything related to horse welfare. For that reason we cannot waste time with silly arguments about morality. We need more science, more education and more results and all this can be done if we start transforming part of our existing professional sector.

In Europe, farriers learn in public schools and it is an accessible job, like veterinarians. We must be able to reach these young people to ensure a better future for our horses and not lose more time in a stupid war between different companies certified in barefoot, as the vast majority have no more than a business vocation to help horses.

This change comes by being generous. A young farrier who is well prepared can get in contact with many of the experienced farriers to learn from them without any expense. I’ve enjoyed this generosity and have learnt with the best people.

It is merely a matter of having access to good training, even after the studies. Barefoot professionals often remain closed to any other trimming methods and this is very dangerous as it impoverishes the quality of their work and its results. We are professionals. We are part of the horse’s health and this has a great responsibility, to use all the resources and techniques to help and heal our patients.

Why would you never shoe again?

In fact, I tried it on two occasions, both for rehabilitation issues. One with a horseshoe and the other with synthetic horseshoe extensions for a rescued horse who had severe deep flexor tendon retraction and after the operation, I put the orthopaedic horseshoes on for three months.

My commitment is with the health of my patients. I promise to use correctly all the resources that are on my hands. I understand that it would be irresponsible from my side not to do it.

In fact these are the only two cases in which the best option was the horseshoe, but over the last years I have been able to solve ninety nine per cent without using horseshoes in pathological cases, and in some cases inventing new orthopaedics that are not nailed or perpetual. We need a new orthopaedics catalogue.

In my experience, problems begin with a bad or lack of diagnosis which will lead to a bad solution. Never in history have there been so many well trained and equipped veterinarians as today. So, we can deduce that there is a problem with their attitude.

On a scale of 1-10, how serious a harm is shoeing to the horse?

Except in the one per cent of rehabilitation cases, I would say 10. We live in the 21th Century, with tactile screens, nanotechnology and drones. Is it logical to put an iron piece with nails to ‘protect’ the hoof? Of course, it is not.

The nailed shoe is seriously harmful. Just see how it deforms the soft tissues. But although we do not like to recognize it, the horseshoe has some advantages. It is minimalist compared to boots, it is highly integrated, leaving much open sole and is much cheaper.

Can you understand the reasons for hostility from some farriers towards barefoot?

Yes, of course. Farriers feel their job is at risk. They also feel hostility to those who “trim” horses barefoot rather than to barefoot itself. If you allow me to do the devil’s advocate, some farriers may be right when they say that a lot of people practising barefoot are not well prepared because they learnt in private schools or certifier organisations which demonize farriers and horseshoes instead of having a serious and scientific proposal about how to help the horse and its health, which unfortunately not too many farriers do.

More and more horses are barefoot. Are you surprised how many? Or did you hope more would convert by now?

I am not surprised right now but when I started with barefoot it surprised me that lots of people contacted me through my website in just a few months. Now, it is possible to find a lot of information about it on internet and not to be limited by the knowledge of the farrier or vet. This has allowed barefoot knowledge to spread very fast and to all the world.

But I was disappointed when I heard so much misunderstanding that most of the people had about barefoot horses. Most of them thought it was ideal because it was healthy, cheap and natural! As farriers, I had to fight with many owners who gave priority to their own interest against their horse´s ones. Unfortunately, this attitude is not exclusive to the barefoot world.

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In Catalonia, barefoot professionals have to be well prepared because the land is very special and not everybody knows how to convert a horse to barefoot without pain and discomfort. There is a lot to be done, not all is invented. A most scientific vision could be the key to develop much more technique.

And I am sure that the profile of a barefoot horse using a non-permanent protection when he really needs it and to improve the stabling and care systems, is going to be extended and normalized in a decade, and the iron horseshoe nailed as standard will be obsolete.

What do you feel when you see a horse in shoes?

At first, I feel pity. Then I assess how damaged is each structure. I cannot help it. It’s a shame that there are still people who shoe their horses for practical reasons, without thinking how it is affecting the health of their horses, with the support of owners of riding schools and coaches.

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The attitude of riding schools and teachers has not been updated and is slowing down the evolution of the horse sector and its well-being. Again, lots of work to do. It is understandable that people who want their horse to be healthier feel aversion towards farriers, vets and riding schools.

What are your 3 top tips for successful transition to barefoot?

The owner has to be aware of what transition means and what is the meaning of having a barefoot horse. It is about the horse, not just about hooves. The horse needs suitable feeding, the right environment and good handling. It is also important to understand that if we take off the horseshoes, the horse and its hoof structures will mark when and what to do.

In the UK there have been prosecutions against barefoot trimmers. Can you picture a day when the boot is on the other foot? That a farrier has to justify shoeing?

I do not know very well the situation in the UK, but I guess it is similar to what happens in France, where there has been a legislative change and only veterinarians and farriers can manage the hooves of horses. Certified training companies are excluded.

Based on my experience, I would say that a person who has made an intensive course of 10 or 15 days, is not ready to do podiatry. Farriers have a long experience in serious cases, technique and imagedifferent methods of handling difficult horses, physical exhaustion, etc.

We have to appeal to the responsibility if we want barefoot to be extended and make sure we have the best professionals. But we must request the same attitude to formal schools of farriers and veterinarians. Their training curriculum are obsolete and yet it is vital because the health of the horse is suffering from this lack of evolution. If everybody is up to date, there will be little difference between farriers and trimmers. From my point of view, this is the way.

The English vet Bracy Clark believed 200 years ago that shoeing deformed hooves and led to early death. Do you agree?

I totally agree that with horseshoes, the feet are deformed, and it is something known by all farriers in the world. But I could not say how much the lives of horses are reduced. It is risky to say without having a serious study to support it, because there are too many factors that can influence the life of a horse. I have known horses that have lived more than 35 years and some others who have been always barefoot and not reached 25 years.

On the other hand, it is unquestionable that damage is produced by the metal horseshoe in the foot health, in vascular return, in the joints and tendon, proprioceptive, lymphatic, etc …

Horseshoes produce numerous harmful effects, specially for immobility, producing degenerative habituation and damaging soft tissues. I say degenerative habituation because it is used in human health when prolonged immobilization harmfully affects the soft tissues and tendon tone.

What is your vision, your dream, of the future for the domestic horse?

Good locations and a healthy lifestyle. Updating and unification of the most important and basic health criteria and welfare of horses at all academic levels, leaving aside the dogmas and enhancing the scientific view.

Rule out the metal horseshoe nailed as usual and leave it as a possible aid in cases of clinical surgery and in extreme cases of rehabilitation. Exponentially improve protections for hooves with a better design, being more minimalist and having a better cost. Use only trimming systems that are radiologically corroborated.

Change the degree of farrier by podiatry, without the systematic use of horseshoes.  Have serious studies of feral horse populations in the world to give us more accurate information than we have today.  Create greater synergy between society and what is a healthy horse with pedagogy, collaboration and disclosure because we have to reset the old stereotype of horse that is deeply rooted and is doing so much damage.

I also desire that there many more places like this blog, where you can freely express different experiences to help improve the situation of the horse world. Thanks for your interest and your work, Linda. And also, I would like to thank Ainhoa Gomez and Roberto Reyes for the translation of this interview.

Thanks to Marc for answering my questions and coping with an interview in a second language. Interesting that he uses the word patient for the horse – an apt description for an animal coming out of shoes. You can contact Marc on his website

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberAs always – get in touch with your thoughts and comments. I love to hear from you. And don’t forget to press the follow button to keep in touch. My novel The First Vet inspired by Bracy Clark is available on Amazon UK (£6.99 paperback and £2.24 for the ebook on Kindle) and Amazon US. It will shock you that this brilliant man exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago but was ridiculed by a corrupt veterinary establishment. The book is a historical romance, full of horses and adventure, as well as real history. It has 35 five-star reviews on Amazon UK and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society. It was a sell out this summer at the international showjumping at Hickstead. 

And my non-fiction book A Barefoot Journey is coming soon. Here’s a sneak preview of the cover!

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)

STOP PRESSNOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON – £2.84 FOR THE PAPERBACK. 99P FOR THE KINDLE EDITION  In this light-hearted account I tell how I battled with my farrier, coped with derision from other riders and saved a horse from slaughter. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Farriers who say NO…

by Linda Chamberlain
Thanks to the growing barefoot movement there are now many farriers who offer a barefoot service. But some have turned their backs on the trade. Some won’t shoe another horse.
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Meet the world’s most famous farrier-turned-trimmer, Jaime Jackson, from the U.S. who is the author of many books, including Paddock Paradise and The Natural Horse.
He’s a champion of natural horse care and bases his trim on the ‘wild horse model’.
As one of the founders of AANHCP (Association for the Advancement of Natural Horse Care Practices) he has forsaken the metal shoe for healthy, naturally shaped hooves and has helped train many trimmers around the world.
 Please tell us about the moment you realised the harm shoeing causes.
I don’t recall a “moment”, like an epiphany, wherein I suddenly realized shoeing is harmful. Given to analytical thinking by nature, it came with time. My highest priority was to understand what I was doing as a farrier, and, as a consequence, what the impact was on the hoof, movement, and soundness. This was in the mid-1970s. By 1977, I began to realize that the mere act of shoeing seemed to take a toll on the hoof. Which also brought me to the door of “corrective shoeing”, shoeing theories, and the relationship of veterinary medical care and shoeing. I studied hard – books on shoeing, farrier journals, and observing other farriers in other disciplines. I had come to realize that there were as many opinions, theories, and methods as there were disciplines. All seemed to harbor similar problems at the hoof itself: thin walls, diseases, crippling lameness, and so forth.
During this period, I also began to question care beyond shoeing, including riding, boarding, and diet practices. Looking back, I didn’t like what I saw and heard. I really had had enough of it all, and might have quit from frustration when a client gave me a recently published book by Emery, Miller and Van Hoosen, Horseshoeing Theory and Hoof Care (1977). The book brought the wild horse to my attention and a concept of horse care based on what is natural for the species. I soon contacted the principal author, Emery, and we began to discuss the meaning of “natural” and what that might be as a basis in domestic horse care. The problem was that the authors hadn’t researched the wild horse, knew nothing about their feet and lifestyles from first hand observations; in fact, they were speculating in the book. That’s okay – it prepared me for what was to come. In 1982, a client of mine adopted a “mustang” straight out of the wild.
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Looking at the hooves, which were nothing like I had ever seen, read about, or heard described, I knew what I had to do – enter wild horse country and see for myself what Emery et al, had postulated as “natural”. That story and my findings were recorded in my first book, The Natural Horse: Lessons from the Wild (1992). Seeing thousands of sound wild horse hooves, and the lifestyle that created them enabled me to see precisely why and how shoeing is harmful. My life as a farrier was over by the end of the 1980s, paving the way for my new profession, and the world’s first “natural horse/hoof care practitioner”. I’ve now written six books on the subject of natural care, and countless articles, lectures here and abroad, and founded two organizations and as many training programs for NHC professionals. This is a long, round about way of saying that not only did I come to realize just how harmful shoeing is, as well as many other management practices, I also did something about it.
How did you feel knowing that your business had been shoeing?
Natural trim 1
 The responsible thing to do once I learned about the pernicious effects of shoeing, was to end my practice. Which I did. I did this gradually, however, first experimenting on client horses with what would become the “wild horse model” for the “natural trim”. While my research was revealing of the fact that, from a biological standpoint, all horses could go barefoot, I needed a proven “method” and one that I could demonstrate and share with the horse world. This “phase” of developing a method took from 1982 to 1986, at which time I also began to lay the ground work for writing TNH.
What reaction did you get from fellow farriers?
Surprisingly, most farriers – and many vets — were very interested. And Emery, also a professional farrier, was supportive from the beginning – and to the present.
Natural trim -5
He and I spoke jointly about my findings before 5,000 farriers (and vets) at the annual convention of the American Farriers Association in 1988, years before TNH was published. Later, I was the guest lecturer at the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Association’s annual conference in 1993. And also at the 1995 Laminitis Symposium, where the host, Dr. Ric Redden had me speak over two days before a thousand vets and farriers. During the 1990s, I wrote many articles for the American and European Farriers Journals. In 2010 I was invited by the European Federation of Farriers and the Dutch Farriers Association to explain the natural trim as guest lecturer at the Helicon School in the Netherlands. Then came an invitation from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Teramo (Italy) . In general, while there has been much “interest”, the problem has been, and continues to be, resistance due to conflicts with conventional or institutional regimes of horse and hoof care. That’s another “hot topic”!
Why would you never shoe again?
I ended my shoeing career for a number of reasons. First, because I believe in the “cause no harm” clause of the Hippocratic Oath. Second, it truly isn’t necessary – once the natural trim is properly understood and executed within the context of holistic care based on the wild horse model. And third, because there is broad and growing interest in “going natural” among tens of thousands (probably more) of horse owners. But underlying these points, to this day, 32 years after entering wild horse country, and 37 years after engaging the subject with Emery, I feel a personal responsibility to carry the message – the humane care of horses based on the wild horse model — forward with others.
On a scale of 1-10, how serious a harm is shoeing to the horse?
The Natural Horse Front CoverFrom the very beginning I realized that any “scale” by which to gauge the harmfulness of shoeing cannot responsibly be separated from the overall care of the horse. For example, it is impossible to do justice to the natural trim if the horse is being fed a “laminitis diet” or is confined to a stall. it is a fact today that too many barefoot trimmers and horse owners cannot distinguish between the adverse effects of one from the other. Not infrequently, diet is blamed when the trimming is either the principal problem or exacerbating the problem. For this reason, I’ve never been inclined to isolate shoeing from other harmful practices, but to differentiate causalities and their symptoms. But back to shoeing, per se, it weakens the hoof, predisposes it to deformity, and fuels other harmful practices that show up symptomatically in the hoof, such as laminitis and Navicular Syndrome. “Harm is harm”, and, so, why take chances? In contrast to the natural trim, it is impossible to shoe a horse or trim the foot in violation of its natural state, and have healthy, sound hooves.
Can you understand the reasons for hostility from some farriers towards barefoot? (Perhaps they are not in US, but in UK they are).
Other than from a few “wackos” whose credentials as professional farriers are suspect in my mind, that hasn’t been my experience at all. In addition to the broad interest I have enjoyed coming from the farrier community, shared above, it is perhaps ironic to the UK equestrian taking their horse barefoot that I have had several very distinguished farriers – arguably publicly hostile to barefoot — from the UK actually come to visit me here in the U.S. to talk about natural care and the wild horse model. They were very understanding, impressed, and I would say supportive of what I was trying to accomplish within the realm of NHC. Ditto other “leaders” in the farrier community, including the President of the Dutch Farriers Association at the time of my talk in the Netherlands — with whom I’ve kept in touch ever since. At the same time, I am aware of the “hostility” posed in the question. But it isn’t specific to the UK, as I hear the same thing happening in other countries. Perhaps I can shed some light on the problem.
First, farriers I’ve talked with about this are resentful of “outsiders” telling them that their profession is out of line shoeing horses when horse owners and their associations are requiring the practice of them. In fact, I know this to be true in many instances. Barefoot isn’t even an option in some disciplines – not because of the farriers but because of traditional rules and regulations, of which farriers may not even agree. Second, they detest “barefooters” telling them what to do, or taking over their business. I know, too, that the barefoot movement has eroded the shoeing landscape, and continues to do so, almost like an insurgency! Third, one has to realize that they are not taught the “natural trim”, and their traditions (such as in the UK), go back over 800 years, wherein we find very little about removing shoes. It is worth recognizing that many have to go though rigorous training regulated by government officials and the law, only to have to contend with a burgeoning and irritating “barefoot bunch” that tell them they are misguided relics of the past. My response to the farriers has been categorically, we need to beat a legal path to the “natural trim”. This means “education”, of course, whether they like it or not. Change isn’t always easy in any discipline.
More and more horses are barefoot. Are you surprised how many? Or did you hope more would convert by now?
The Natural TrimWhat’s happened so far actually makes sense to me. In 1982, there was no “barefoot movement”, in fact my own clients, with a few exceptions, were aghast at the idea. I lost most of them during the 1980s, but then gained new ones who liked the idea of “going natural”. I think what’s happening today would never have happened if the Internet had not come along when it did. Remember, I wrote TNH on a typewriter! PCs were not commonplace and MS DOS was a nightmare until Windows and Apple arrived to relieve it. All those software engineers have earned their place in Heaven! I also formed my own publishing company to get the word out, because few magazines serving the horse community would touch “barefoot” with a 10 foot pole. In fact, Northland Publishing dropped TNH in 1995, and I do believe that if I had not formed Star Ridge Publishing in 1996, what’s happening today might never have happened at all. Not well known today, the first edition of the Horse Owners Guide to Natural Hoof Care was published a year later and the barefoot movement struck ground for the first time. By 1999, things were beginning to move, and the new millennium saw a burgeoning barefoot revolution. The AANHCP was founded the following year, and most of the “barefoot heroes” of today were born of that organization. Unfortunately, many of these “heroes” converted to other manners of dealing with the hoof, none of which I am supportive of, and I would say, that much of the farrier hostility is actually directed at these “offshoot methods”. In fact, the UK RSPCA depositioned me in a prosecution of one of those incredibly harmful methods. I adamantly oppose any trim method that causes harm to the horse, regardless of its proponents’ rationales. This has made me unpopular, if not a pariah, among some barefooters, but I intend to stand my ground.
What are your 3 top tips for successful transition to barefoot?
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There can’t really be a “successful” transition to barefoot if the method contradicts the wild horse model. I know this for a fact, because I see the failures all the time.
I have and advocate “4 Tips”: the natural trim, natural boarding, a reasonably natural diet, and natural horsemanship.
 In the UK there have been prosecutions against barefoot trimmers. Can you picture a day when the boot is on the other foot? That a farrier has to justify shoeing?
I have explained above that I aided the UK government in a prosecution of several barefoot trimmers. But this came at the request of RSPCA attorneys who revealed to me the truly horrible mess they made of the horses. Unfortunately, these people gave “barefoot” a terribly bad name in many UK circles, and some continue to do so. The good news is that I was identified as a humanitarian and that my advocacy was compatible with the law. I even discussed the case with UK farriers at the time and they clearly understood the difference. I don’t believe we will see the same thing happening to UK farriers in the Registry, if for no other reason than politics. Obviously, some farrier methods also rise to the level of terrible (see below) and I am fully aware of the rationales behind them. But I think the way out of this conundrum is for the “natural trim” to be brought before legal authorities in the Farrier Registry and government regulators. In some measure, this is happening now with my support. Again, the matter is very “political” and “sensitive”. And let me say this, I believe that the natural trim might very well have been a “legal trim” in the UK right now if it weren’t from interference run by “generic barefooters” who cause harm and have given the “natural trim” a complete misrepresentation among farriers in their circles.
The English vet Bracy Clark believed 200 years ago that shoeing deformed hooves and led to early death. Do you agree? 
JJ-1I am familiar with Clark, as are many farriers, and reviewed nearly a thousand pages of his manuscripts some years ago while I was sorting through the history of barefoot horses. Clark did not possess our information today regarding the wild horse model, but he was able to deduce some of its features through pure reason. Which is how he came to his views regarding shoeing. He did attempt to fashion a hinged shoe that would facilitate the “hoof mechanism” that prevailed at the time and even into the present – that is, a representation of hoof function, although one that I reject as inconsistent with the wild horse model and current research concerning internal vascular hydraulics. But it was also clear that the model’s mechanics also frustrated Clark as he attempted to deal with the barbaric shoeing practices of the day. He and I would have hit it off for sure! Nevertheless, he understood that metal nailed to the foot contraposed the hoof’s biodynamics and healthy grow patterns (leading to deformity, that is, “unnatural hoof shape” as I call it in TNH) and that horses can and should go barefoot. For this reason, he is one of our historical heroes and “forefathers” of the ongoing NHC revolution.
What is your vision, your dream, of the future for the domestic horse?
Right now, I have to admit, things don’t look as good for the horse as they should – although it’s much better in many places than when I first stepped into wild horse country with a dream for something better and a vision that was delivered to me as a consequence of what I found. Even the future of the wild horse model is threatened itself as US government and misguided “wild horse” zealots attempt to influence and control the herds in ways that are incongruous with natural selection. I am forever grateful that I saw and studied them in their “heyday” long before current politics got its foothold.
On the domestic front, the wild horse model has been polluted and practically run over by its own strains of zealotry, misguided barefoot trimmers and ignorant, vitriolic farriers. From what I can see, and is reported in the media, much of what is being done to the hoof in the name of “natural” or “physiologically correct” is bogus and harmful. The politics is typically “anti-shoeing”, the methods often anchored unwittingly to farrier techniques they failed to research before claiming as their own, and the “science” the stuff of “word salad”. Which is to say that it isn’t the stuff of what actually occurs in the horse’s natural world, the epicenter of my vision.
Having said this, I take refuge in the world of NHC that I – and now many others, too — practice daily and believe in as I always have from the beginning. Here at the AANHCP Field Headquarters, our horses live year after year with none of the problems I see with shod horses and those given what I can only be described as unnatural and invasive trims, both typically harboring harmful feeding and boarding practices as well. In contrast, the natural trim is just a few minutes of relatively “easy work”, and nothing really changes about the hooves because the environment and care they receive favors naturally shaped, healthy hooves attached to truly healthy, athletic horses.
Our work is completely transparent, and visitors come often to see for themselves. It’s really that simple. I advise horse owners to exercise great caution in selecting their hoof care practitioners. Ask bluntly: what is their method based on?  Were they trained in that method? Can they produce a herd of sound, healthy horses year after year, trimmed and maintained according to their method, and with complete public transparency? While such a standard may seem arbitrary and unrealistic to many who simply accept “lameness” as inevitable, it is the NHC standard that I intend to advocate for all horses. In short, their very vitality!
Thanks to Jaime Jackson for answering my questions. Your books have been an inspiration to me!
                                                     STOP PRESS STOP PRESS STOP PRESS

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and check out my novel, The First Vet, inspired by the life and work of Bracy Clark, one of England’s very-first vets. BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberClark proved 200 years ago that horse shoes deform and cripple the animals we love. His work was suppressed…until recently. Horse lovers, book lovers are buying it and sharing it. It’s a story of love and corruption, full of real history.  Reviewers have described it as ‘brave, witty and romantic.’ 

The First Vet is on Amazon – UK.  It’s on special price promotion on Amazon – US  for one week only from April 30th – $0.99.

As always, thank you for your support for this blog and my book. Let me have your comments and stories as I love to hear from you all. 

‘We are not anti-barefoot’ – the BHS replies…

by Linda Chamberlain

Brilliant news! A month ago I wrote a letter to British Horse, the magazine of the British Horse Society, on behalf of a group of barefooters. The letter has been published and there’s a very considered reply from their director of equine policy. I am republishing both letter and reply in full. Please share, as the BHS isn’t digital yet! So this info isn’t online. 

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Dear British Horse,

‘As a rider of a barefoot horse I was really pleased to read Wayne Upton’s interview in February’s issue. I was pleased because some farriers can be hostile to the idea of equines being ridden without shoes and here was a man suggesting the idea to riders ‘if you’re not doing very much with a horse’.

My fellow members of the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook, which now has a remarkable 4,000 members, were not as impressed as me, however. You see, so many of them compete – some to a very high level – and so were rightly concerned that readers of the British Horse might wrongly think that barefoot was a cheap but slippery option. They cited Simon Earle, the racehorse trainer, who favours barefoot and Lucinda MacAlpine from the world of dressage. There are also police forces in the US whose horses have no shoes. Then there was Luca Maria Moneta’s success at Olympia on his barefoot (on the backs) mare who scaled a massive wall more than seven feet high to go in the record books. A high enough achievement for anyone, I would suggest.

Bare feet jumping seven feet!

Bare feet jumping seven feet!

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

Sue Gardner said – I have had my horse barefoot for 12 years and I have competed in low level show jumping, Trec and some cross country events.

Mandy Aire got a barefoot event established in her local show and it was the most well attended class. Mandy will be doing endurance this year.

Christine Green said – my daughter is a BHS member. She competes at show jumping, cross country and dressage on a barefoot horse who is proving more sound now than when shod.

Katherine Mills has two barefoot horses who have qualified for FEI endurance. They cover up to 80 km – booted or barefoot. Two more of her youngsters have qualified for open competitions.

Chris Thompson rides a barefoot Mustang stallion, has affiliated for BSJ and regularly competes against both amateur and professional riders. Eventing in muddy conditions also poses no problem.

Emily Kate Briggs does cross country training with her barefoot ex-racehorse.

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

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

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

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

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

Inga Crosby competes in dressage on her barefoot ex-racehorse.

Sheryl Pochin has a mini Shetland who competes in local shows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at that bare foot!

Look at that bare foot!

Dani Knight’s horse has been barefoot all her life and is regularly placed in local showing classes. She hacks happily over all terrain.

So, you see, barefoot isn’t only for those who do the occasional light hack. And the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook is a great place for support and information.’

Lee Hackett, BHS Director of Equine Policy, replied,

‘It’s important to make clear that the views expressed by any interviewee in British Horse does not necessarily reflect those of the BHS itself. We’ve never suggested that many horses cannot thrive going barefoot and can do exactly the same as many shod horses, including competing at the highest level. That said, every horse needs to be treated as an individual and there are some for whom barefoot is not a viable option. We also try to make clear that going barefoot isn’t the cheap option! The old saying “no foot, no horse” is absolutely true and it is vital to do what is right for the horse in each case.

On occasion we’re accused of suggesting every horse should be shod. I have no idea where this comes from, as it is completely untrue and would be frankly absurd! We do, however, strongly recommend that going barefoot should be done in consultation (at the very least) with a registered farrier. This is not to denigrate barefoot trimmers in any way but until there are National Occupational Standards and a recognised training and qualification system on the national QCF framework for barefoot trimmers, this is important.

There are many excellent, exceptionally knowledgeable trimmers and some very responsible governing bodies but for the uninitiated it can be hard to identify them. Presently, anyone can advertise as a barefoot trimmer without any experience or qualification and this is why we have to recommend that the switch to barefoot is done in consultation with a registered farrier. With a registered farrier you are guaranteed a level of training and qualification, that the farrier is insured and that there is an established complaints and disciplinary procedure should something go wrong. We need the same guarantees for barefoot trimmers. The equine foot is an extremely complex structure and it is very easy to do considerable damage.

At the risk of labouring a point, but because this is seen by some as a controversial subject, I will just make clear that the BHS supports all efforts to regulate and support barefoot trimming – as we know many barefoot trimmers and their associations do, too – and that we fully recognise that many trimmers are exceptionally talented and knowledgeable.

It is also worth mentioning that there are quite a few barefoot trimmers who are fully qualified and registered farriers that no longer shoe. We are in no way anti-barefoot. For many horses the only limit to what they can achieve is down to their and their rider’s ability – not whether or not they are wearing shoes!’

Care about horses?

Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the book!

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amber

My novel The First Vet is based on one of our very-first vets who amazingly proved that horse shoes deform and cripple the animals we love. His work was suppressed…until recently. Horse lovers, book lovers are buying it and sharing it. It’s a story of love and corruption, full of real history.  Reviewers have described it as ‘brave, witty and romantic.’ 

 

The First Vet is on Amazon – UK.Amazon – US.

As always, thank you for your support for this blog and my book. Let me have your comments and stories as I love to hear from you all. 

A Tale of Two Crimes

By Linda Chamberlain

Here is the story of two crimes. Both of them are distressing but for very different reasons.

I think I am right in calling the first a crime. It concerns the murder of a horse called Kit. This healthy horse was put to death by a livery yard owner following a disagreement over an unpaid bill for £30. The woman who was loaning the horse said she would pay the bill at the end of the month. The livery yard boss wasn’t happy. He said he would bring her horse in a trailer and tie her to a tree in her garden unless she paid him. She should have but she didn’t. He couldn’t load the horse into the trailer and so he ordered the animal’s destruction claiming the mare was dangerous.

Then something else unforgivable happened. The horse’s body was dumped in the woman’s front garden. Where she and her children would see it the next morning.

left for dead (library picture)

left for dead (library picture)

There have been arrests and police are investigating but there’s a twist to this story. The RSPCA, this country’s foremost animal welfare organisation, has given that yard owner a lot of money. They had some of their rescues at his place but attempted to reassure the public with a statement saying none of their horses were involved in the case. Many people were outraged that the organisation didn’t speak out against such wrong doing. Such senseless cruelty. It sounded as though the charity didn’t wish to become embroiled in the uproar that followed Kit’s death. After public outcry, the RSPCA has finally removed its horses from the yard in question.

Crime number two sees the RSPCA in a much more aggressive role – the sort of behaviour that might have been an appropriate response to the murder of an innocent horse. No gun was used in this crime. No blood was spilt. There were no distressed owners and no horses injured. But barefoot trimmer, Ben Street, was taken to court by the RSPCA. He was found guilty. He now has a criminal record. You might question whether that was a good use of the charity’s time, effort and money. I certainly do.

Ben’s crime might shock you. If you’re ready, I’ll tell you what he did. The court heard that he trimmed a horse’s feet. Then he got hold of a set of hoof boots. These are useful bits of equipment especially for newly barefoot horses, enabling them to be exercised. These particular boots were a special type – they could be glued to the hoof for short periods. So, Ben made use of some glue and enabled the horse, which belonged to one of his clients, to be comfortable while his feet recovered from years of harmful shoeing.

Serious crime? Example of glue on hoof boots.

Serious crime? Example of glue on hoof boots.

His actions upset a farrier who was also on the yard at the time. That farrier complained. The RSPCA’s inspector, also a former farrier, interviewed Ben under caution. They prosecuted. Why? You might ask. Here’s the crux – it’s illegal to practice farriery unless you are qualified and licenced. That’s OK. Very sensible. But Ben wasn’t practising farriery, was he? Well, the Farriers Registration Council and the RSPCA argued that the glued-on boot constituted a shoe and therefore his action was illegal. He trimmed the horse in preparation for this shoe and they said his trim had been harmful. That was his bloodless crime. He trimmed a horse and stuck on a hoof boot to save it discomfort – discomfort that was probably caused by metal shoeing in the first place.

Real horse shoes using nails and metal

Real horse shoes using nails and metal

Here’s what Ben is actually guilty of.

* Helping horses walk on their own feet again.

* Embarrassing traditionalists who are too stubborn to investigate the harm caused by nailed-on shoes.

Ben has an excellent record of helping horses and I hope this questionable prosecution doesn’t stop his pioneering work. Thankfully, a growing number of farriers are offering a barefoot service and I know of many owners who sing their praises. I would urge those farriers to complain to their council about this very smoky interpretation of the law.

In other news!

My debut novel is about to go to press. The First Vet – a story of love and corruption inspired by one of this country’s early vets – will be available as a paperback on Amazon and as an ebook on Kindle very shortly. In the meantime, for anyone who can’t wait, you can download the first chapter by clicking on the picture in the right hand column of this blog. Happy reading. Happy riding.