Sweet Progress

by Linda Chamberlain

It’s high summer in the UK and the land is almost wetter than it was in the winter. Sorry, to be banging on about the weather but if you keep a horse you will know all about it!

davMy horses have a new home in the woods on dry land that was once owned by the War Ministry. Where tanks once rolled, my three barefoot horses are now stretching and toughening up their hooves. They moved here just over two months ago. They have new field companions and their diet is leaves, brambles and ad lib hay. More about their twice daily bucket another time.

They look full of shine and vitality after suffering badly in the winter from a heady mix of laminitis, strained tendon and legs swollen from mud fever.  They shared out the ailments and kept me in full-time nursing work.

The woods, with its long, sloping tank track, has made an enormous difference by giving them maximum movement and zero grass and very little mud…but it hasn’t all been easy.

davThere is still much work to be done and here is what I have learnt.

The enormous amount of concrete is a life saver. I no longer trudge through a thick bog and the horses only get muddy through choice if they go for a roll in the woods.

Their hooves hardly need any trimming. Hind feet barely at all. Fronts, a quick balance.

They have shelter amid the trees but they can still get cold. I actually put a rug on my retired, elderly thoroughbred who was suffering in ‘flaming’ June. That rain was chilly…and made an old horse, stiff and shivery.

The concrete road might not get muddy but the heavy rain runs down it in torrents. It doesn’t soak in. That’s good unless you have tied hay nets onto tyres for ground level feeding. Sweet Lane (named after a road sign that was found in the woods) became something I have never seen before  – a running sewer with horse poo rushing on a few inches of water down the hill. That gave new meaning to the poo picking task. The hay was ruined and fresh had to be put higher up and tied onto the trees. Who said horse keeping wasn’t fun? – it’s such an eye opener.

horses at phie 12We had a high worm egg count from some in the herd and I wondered if the ground level feeding was a factor. Care is now taken to feed low down but not that low.

Laminitis report – here is a success story. At least I hope it is. My own horse, Sophie, went down with laminitis after breaking onto rich grass last Autumn. Trying to cure her on a former dairy farm where I live wasn’t easy in spite of some excellent facilities – large, stony yard, grass track, stony track, field shelter. A few blades of grass seemed to trigger a repeat of the painful condition.

horses at phie 28Since coming to the woods where she has movement but a low sugar diet and zero grass, Sophie is beginning to get comfortable again. For a long time she struggled to pick up her hooves for me to check. She still won’t give me them if she’s standing on the concrete but on soft ground she cooperates after much fuss and praise. The inflammation from the laminitis has given her a deformed hoof shape which is slowly growing out.  She is getting there. She is going for walks in hand, managing the stony trails on the Forest but after getting on briefly, I got off again knowing she wasn’t ready yet.

Hay – if you move to a site with little or no grass you need a constant supply. This late in the season it’s not always possible to buy the best. One of the herd has suffered from a hay cough that is troublesome. Note to self – build some pole barns and stock up on good hay early in the year.

horses at phie 16Dealing with an abscess – Carrie, the retired thoroughbred has an abscess. Movement is a great healer but she is reluctant on concrete and who can blame her? Today and tomorrow, my job is to increase the off-road spaces so that any horse feeling its feet has a choice of surfaces. I want to make use of the verges alongside Sweet Lane so need to clear a few piles of fallen timber.

Thanks to the help of family and friends, I have made a track through part of the woods. Here is Tao enjoying the new space although the hay is more attractive for some of them.

davShelter and flies – woodland has the ace card for this one. My horses are enjoying the shade on the rare days that it has been warm. There are sunny, open spots if they want them. I pass neighbouring horses wearing fly masks and protective rugs on my journey to the woods but mine have hardly been troubled.

A field shelter is under construction. We have harvested some of the pine trees and it is going up on one of the platforms (more concrete) that was once the site of an army accommodation hut. It should be ready in a few weeks.

Tendon trouble – Tao, who has suffered repeated strains thanks to her exuberant behaviour in the field, is probably walking the strongest out of all of the herd. She walks and trots on the concrete without a flinch. We are still not sure if she will return to ridden work as her leg was swollen last week. More time for that one!

It’s been a bit of a journey setting up this unconventional home for horses and it was such a thrill to be featured as the cover story in The Barefoot Horse magazine this month. Here is a link – it’s a great magazine about barefoot horses and their owners.

mag cover

So, thanks to everyone who has helped with the set-up work – Jozef and his fencing team, Patrick for his relentless clearing up, Lisa, Amber and Matt. My fellow horse keepers – Mary Joy, Kate and Suz. And for all the messages of support. A BIG thank you xxx

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

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

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

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)of shoeing 200 years ago but was mocked by the veterinary establishment! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book has more than 50 excellent reviews on Amazon and a recommend from the Historical NovelCoverSociety. Here’s one of the latest reviews – ‘What a wonderful story, so beautifully written, so good in fact I have read it twice (so far). I can imagine this as a movie as I felt I was there beside Bracy throughout the whole book, it captures a feeling inside one’s being of wanting to change the world for the better.. Loved it… Loved it!’

If you want to keep in touch, follow this blog or find me on Facebook…Another novel is in the pipeline! This time I will be featuring an enormously famous equestrian campaigner from the past. Can you guess who it is? I’m about half way through the first draft. 

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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.’

DSC_2597-2-96x96

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.

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.
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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 www.holisticvirtualvet.weebly.com

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.

Beware of the Bucket

by Linda Chamberlain

Something is desperately wrong with the animal feed industry – it is very ill indeed.

Our horses might happily eat the mass produced food we put in their buckets but there are dire warnings that the ingredients might be seriously harmful to their health.

Unlike food for human consumption, the food we give our animals seems to have little (if any) regulation and, according to Dr Debbie Carley, weedkiller residues are getting into feed in vast amounts.

Dr Carley, who began making her own feeds after her horses became desperately ill, said residues have increased because glyphosate (the main ingredient in most weedkiller) came out of patent 15 years ago and became cheaper. Now, many farmers use it not only to kill weeds but also to desiccate, or dry out, their crops a week before harvesting.

This must affect human as well as animal feed but our wheat flour is at least made from the kernel of the grain. The nutritionally low outer husk with its scandalous burden of chemicals is given to the animals as pelleted wheatfeed and oatfeed and is one the main ingredients of many horse feeds. The straw is used for bedding – bedding that most animals like to eat. Or it might be nutritionally enhanced and end up in your horse’s bucket where it really doesn’t belong.

You might think this doesn’t matter. You might say, ‘My horse is fine.’ But think again. Has your horse suffered from laminitis? Cushings? Colic? Is there some intermittent lameness that you can’t explain? Some unevenness, tenderness by his tummy on the right hand side or difficulty picking up his right hind leg? Is your horse itchy? One of the potential causes might surprise you – just as Dr Carley’s heart-rending story shocked her audience this week at a hall near Guildford, Surrey.

She had a small stud in Wiltshire where she successfully bred Welsh Section D horses. But then she got a job at the Wellcome Trust in Cambridge and moved to Norfolk. The herd came with her to their new home surrounded by some of the most productive arable land in Britain. Land that was intensively farmed…and sprayed. Her own land was also sprayed as it was poor and full of ragwort. Within months all 16 horses became ill. The mares became infertile. They lost a lot of weight, many were uncomfortable, some were laminitic and some appeared to have the long, wiry coat that came with Cushing’s, a dysfunction of the pituitary gland. Tests were carried out but no vet was able to say what was wrong.

‘We were desperate,’ she said. ‘I thought all of them might have to be put to sleep.’

horses-eating[1]

I hope she will forgive me saying this but I’m glad this scenario happened to her and not me. Dr Carley is a research scientist. She didn’t give up on her desperately sick herd but started on the long path of investigation convinced that as 16 horses were affected ‘the cause had to be some external problem.’ She wanted to know what she was feeding her horses so she had it analysed. She wasn’t impressed as it didn’t contain much goodness and worryingly it was laced with chemical residues. She started making her own feed using organic ingredients where possible.

It’s a testament to her skills as a neighbour that she persuaded nearby farmers to alert her if they were spraying their land so she could bring the horses inside and shut all their stable doors. She also managed to convince them not to spray close to their borders with her. Even now, if this alert-system fails two of her mares will suffer a laminitic attack after neighbouring farmers have sprayed their land.

The changes wrought over a number of years gradually had an effect; the horses recovered and Dr Carley set up a small feed company called Thunderbrooks supplying natural feeds to horse owners.

What does she say to people who think glyphosate doesn’t harm humans and animals? It was tested, it’s used all over the world and so surely it’s fine.

‘It was tested on 200 rats for 90 days,’ she explained. ‘It wasn’t enough.’

Her scientific reasoning convinced me. You see, glyphosate is harmful to plants. It also has a detrimental effect on bacteria. Humans, as well as horses and other animals, are predominantly made up of bacteria, she says. Their guts are full of bacteria – good and bad. And that is why it does us no good to be eating the stuff!

Dr Carley is probably one of quietest whistleblowers you could meet. She carefully doesn’t name feed manufacturers or their products. She doesn’t get angry about farmers or pharmaceutical companies even though I can feel my own anger bubbling as she relates her story. She’s the Erin Brockovich of the horse world with exposure and scandal on the tip of her tongue.

Think about it. We buy a bag of horse feed hoping it will do what it says on the tin – namely, feed our horses. If these feeds fail to give nutrition, even worse, if they cause harm, it’s a scandal. Please spread the word as something filthy is going on…

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the books! 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 BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amberwas suppressed…until recently. Horse lovers, book lovers are buying it and sharing it. It’s aCover_Barefoot_3 (1) 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 – £6.99 for the paperback and £2.24 on Kindle. And just published – A Barefoot Journey – a small-but-perfectly formed account of my fight to go barefoot in which I battle with the farrier, cope with derision from other riders and save 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. Also on Amazon UK and Amazon US. Only £2.84 paperback. 99p for the Kindle edition.

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

Thunderbrooks feeds – here.

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 http://www.fmbs.co.uk 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 http://www.simonearleracing.com

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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.

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 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!

www.lucindamcalpine.com

www.de-stressage.co.uk

* * *

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.
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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.

www.synchronyhorseworks.co.uk

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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!

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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! http://trust-technique.com/videocourse/

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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!

www.horseabout.co.za

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

Tao’s Tale

Some horses take you on a journey – one you weren’t expecting.

Meet Tao – my daughter’s horse who we bought for the price of a pair of curtains a few years ago. Amber trained her while studying for a degree which meant it was a bit stop, start but we got there in the end. The horse eventually became rideable.

Lessons from Tao

Lessons from Tao

Tao has taught me a lot. I could go on Mastermind and be quizzed on proud flesh, infected tendon sheath, tendon injury, intolerance to sugar and now bereavement in horses. She’s an accident prone little mare who’s been ‘under the vet’ more than even the vet would like.

A few posts ago I promised I would tell you about the worst day in my horse keeping career. So here goes. It was one day last year. We had to have Amber’s elderly, nearly blind pony Cloud put to sleep. She was 28 and it was time to say goodbye. Caring for her meant I probably hadn’t seen to the needs of the others sufficiently. Tao had an injury at the back of her pastern and I was dutifully poulticing it daily. I should have called the vet.

The vet came the same day that Cloud died. The vet didn’t have good news.

‘I needed to see this within hours of it happening,’ she said. ‘The prognosis is not good.’

She looked at me warily. I sensed she was holding onto bad news. Really bad news. I saw her face and started to feel tears welling.

The cut was relatively small – about an inch or so. It was a bit infected but the leg wasn’t badly swollen. To be honest, if you had it yourself, you’d probably still leap about on the dance floor. I clung onto my disbelief. But not for long.

‘Her tendon sheath is infected,’ the vet, declared. ‘It would be best if we got her to one of the best veterinary hospitals and operated immediately. She will need careful nursing afterwards. Even with that there’s very little chance she will ever be sound enough to be ridden. If we can save her, she might only be a garden ornament.’

Now I really was crying. Nasty, guilty tears. I had ruined the horse my daughter had trained from unbroken.

I had to challenge the vet. The cut was so small. Surely it wasn’t so bad. Surely, it wasn’t enough to ruin a horse.

IMAG0556

Its position, rather than size, was the crux as it had infected something called the tendon sheath. They are very hard to clear of infection; they don’t respond well. The vet phoned a colleague. I could hear them conferring and agreeing that the case stood little chance. When she came off the phone she asked if we were insured. We weren’t. The operation and after care would cost thousands of pounds. We weren’t convinced it was worth putting the horse through so much to become a garden gnome.

‘Antibiotics?’ I suggested.

The vet nodded sadly but later relented. ‘OK, how about we keep her at home. We’ll throw everything we’ve got at it.’

It was a straw but I clutched it gratefully. The field shelter was quickly turned into a stable. Tao’s field mate, Carrie, was given the run of the yard so that the patient had a friend nearby. Tao was given a support bandage that looked like a plaster cast and she was put onto antibiotics. I threw homeopathic remedies into the equation, the vet even gave her acupuncture. I had to ignore internet reports which reminded me that we had little chance of saving this horse. I felt depressed enough as it was.

The vet returned every few days. I learnt how to reapply the pressure bandage and we made progress. It soon became clear that Tao would live without an operation. She was allowed onto the yard to potter about and Carrie was kept nearby on part of the field. I kept up pressure on the vet to allow Tao more space and movement. She was only stabled for a few days and gradually we increased her turnout.

Well, she defied the odds and got better. The vet was delighted. No, she was amazed. Within a few weeks she said Tao could be ridden. The vet took photographs! She even agreed that Tao’s barefoot, natural lifestyle had helped in her recovery. Wow…

Skipping over some of the other things this mare has taught me I must bring you up to the present day. This little chestnut, the cover girl for my book The First Vet, is suffering once more. There are two possible causes – the grass is too high in sugars for her delicate system or she is suffering from bereavement.

Problems with the grass we’ve had before. It makes her go nuts and throw her back legs in the air. This time, though, her nervousness had a different expression. She didn’t want to leave the yard and putting pressure on her made her aggressive. I couldn’t think what could be wrong and wasn’t convinced the grass alone would tip her over. I went for a ride on Carrie and the chestnut didn’t bother to call out when she was left on her own. She looked sad and depressed when we returned, her head lowered.

A few weeks before this we had lost Casha, an elderly horse belonging to my friend. Our herd was now only two horses strong. Was Tao upset? Did she miss her field companion? Or was I dragging human emotions where they didn’t belong?

I asked my favourite Facebook group – The Barefoot Horse Owners Group – for an opinion. So many people agreed that bereavement might be a cause. Grass was giving other riders a few problems, even in November, but many warned that we ignored bereavement in equines at our peril.

I needed to get Tao some help.

The story will continue…

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

 

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amber

A man who could cure horses

A woman who couldn’t walk without them

And the brother who stood between them

The most romantic novel since The Horse Whisperer set against the turbulent early years of the Veterinary College. One reviewer said it was ‘brave, witty and romantic’.

Who can name the horse on the front cover?

Love, Horses and History

by Linda Chamberlain

I have no excuse for taking as long as I did. The gestation period for an elephant is about 2 years and so surely I could have produced a bit more quickly.

But YES, I’ve got there – and here is a picture of my baby.

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amber

My debut novel. Now on Amazon.

Inspired by one of my greatest, unsung heroes.

Like all proud mothers I think my book is more beautiful than anyone else’s. The cover is so pretty. So awesome. Will Jessel took that photo just as the sun was setting. We must have looked a strange party going up the hill to that famous beauty spot – in period costume. But the horse didn’t spook. Much. The bonnet and the rider stayed on board and the dashing man leading them remained calm.

I forgot to tell Will to take pictures that were book shaped. He produced countless brilliant shots that were horizontal but one or two amazing ones that were vertical (if that’s the right term!) In one he had persuaded the sun to settle on top of the hero’s head. I don’t know how he managed it. It had to be the cover!

Over to art director, Ben Catchpole, who put up with me while I fussed about type faces. Type sizes.

I daren’t tell you how long it took me to research and write but finally, we had a book.

THE FIRST VET

A story of love and corruption – inspired by real events

About a man called Bracy Clark, one of England’s first-ever vets who fought all his life against animal cruelty. Today’s riders of barefoot horses will sometimes have experienced a feeling of isolation – professionals and other owners are often hostile for some strange reason. I’ve often wished vets had more knowledge, sympathy or understanding of what I was trying to achieve for my horses. If the veterinary establishment had listened to Bracy Clark 200 years ago, things would be very different for us today because he proved the harm caused by shoeing. He fought tirelessly against shoeing, bits, spurs and whips but he was ridiculed by those in charge of the veterinary college who tried to suppress his work. He in turn accused them of corruption. I had to make him the hero of a novel.

Researching his life and work took me to the Royal Veterinary College library and countless times to the British Library. The more I read his books, the more I was impressed. The man was gifted and he was ahead of his time.

He was one of the first pupils of the newly opened veterinary college in 1792. Until Clark and his peers began practising there were no vets, only farriers or the cow leech who might patch up a wound or carry out an operation. There were no pain killers, no anaesthetic and not much understanding. Horses were dying very young. There were complaints in Parliament. Into this scenario comes Bracy Clark – a man who dared to say horse shoes were shortening their lives, a man who complained the loads they pulled should have been given to an elephant.

He insisted a horse that is free of pain will lead from the thinnest piece of string. He complained that the hoof was “treated more as a senseles block of wood than as a living elastic organ”. And he worried that in exposing the harm of the metal shoe he had “discovered an evil for which there was no remedy”.

He gained quite a following but was ridiculed by the veterinary establishment who wouldn’t let him present his findings or sell his books to the students. Clark reported that the vets “condemned him unheard and without examination”. Professor Edward Coleman described Clark as an enemy of the college. But why? My research came up with a few reasons for this criminal suppression but I mustn’t spoil the plot!

You can see why I love him and why I wanted to give him another chance to be heard. I think you will love him too.

Click here to order on Amazon now.

As always I want to hear from you so leave me a comment. If you read the book and are happy to review it on Amazon, I will be very grateful.