Learning from the long-distance runners…

by Linda Chamberlain

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

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

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

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

Can less sporting equestrians learn from their experiences?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANK YOU…!

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

BOOK NEWS

My latest book has just come back from my editor who has given me work to do but some praise to fuel my typing fingers – she says: ‘Your writing is truly remarkable and your skill with words just takes my breath away.’ Wow…but that’s enough about me – book links and reviews are below…

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

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

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

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

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Perfect Policing…

by Linda Chamberlain

A police officer from Texas…and a group of barefoot horse owners in the UK…what on earth have they got in common?

The answer isn’t obvious…

But as soon as I tell you that the police officer doesn’t sit behind the wheel of a Ford you could be getting closer. He mostly rides a horse called Shadow when he’s on duty.

houston-police-2And Shadow has been pounding the streets of Houston for many years without metal nailed to his hooves.

Not only that but Gregory Sokoloski from the Houston Mounted Patrol persuaded the authorities to try barefoot with all their equines.

That was more than 10 years ago and the change from traditional horse keeping has been extremely successful – not one horse has failed to make the transition from shod to working barefoot.

‘Our horses are healthy and happy and have saved the citizens of Houston hundreds of thousands of dollars in farrier and vet fees,’ says Greg.

The Houston Mounted Patrol has become renowned in barefoot circles and so it was a huge thrill when Greg agreed to answer questions put to him by member of the Barefoot Horse Owners Group UK on Facebook. The group has more than 16,000 members from all over the world and has enjoyed a series of Q&A sessions from fascinating professionals.

houston-police-1Perhaps this time was particularly special. Police horses aren’t working for prize money, rosettes or for fun. They have a serious job to do, often in dangerous and highly charged conditions.

Basically, they can’t be anything less than 100 per cent. They mustn’t slip. They can’t be tender. They have to be up to the job.

So questioners from the Facebook group wanted to know how it is done. How are the horses kept? What are they fed? And how much are they ridden? Who trims their hooves? And how on earth did Greg persuade the police authorities to even try it in the first place?

What are the secrets of this phenomenal success story?

Well, I’m not going to tell you the answers here!

Members of the group – check out the pinned post now for the full Q&A.

Not a member? If you are keen or curious about riding without the damaging effects of a metal shoe nailed to your horse’s hoof please come and find the group on Facebook. Greg’s story will inspire you. It certainly defeats the claim that barefoot horses can’t do the same job as their shod friends.

It seems they can do some very arresting activities!

 

ABOUT ME – BOOK NEWS

The new book is taking shape. First draft nearly finished! A historical horsey novel…set in Victorian times.

The first two are available on Amazon UK and US. Here they are…just click on the highlighted links…

BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberThe First Vet (UK link) – ‘What a wonderful story, so beautifully written, so good in fact I have read it twice (so far) I can imagine this as movie as I felt I was there beside Bracy throughout the whole book, it captures a feeling inside ones’ being of wanting to change the world for the better.. Loved it… Loved it!’ Amazon reader.  Amazon US link here.

 

 

A Barefoot Journey (UK link) – ‘I LOVED this. It was sat waiting for me when I got home from work, and I Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)finished reading it that night! I couldn’t put it down.’ Amazon reader. Amazon US link here.

 

Ex-farrier professor turns barefoot guide…

by Linda Chamberlain

Marc Ferrador is a former professor of farriery who says the practice of repeatedly nailing shoes to a horse’s hoof has to stop.

imageBased in Catalonia, Spain, Marc has turned his back on the farriery trade and now he’s going to guide you along the challenging path to barefoot horse riding. It is not always easy because, as he warns, we are dealing with animals bred in captivity, weaned young and ridden early.

Controversially, he says these factors coupled with bad feeding systems and inadequate living conditions leave us with a ‘version’ of the horse that has mental and physical handicaps which can’t always be corrected.

And he says that although there are no studies proving the effectiveness of barefoot, neither is there any science to show that metal shoes are good for the horse. Not one study – only evidence that shoes are helpful to riders, farriers and veterinarians.

This is my second interview with Marc – the first has been read by more than 60,000 people – so I am very excited to publish more from him. When he turned his back on farriery he persuaded the vast majority of his clients to try barefoot so he has a wealth of experience to draw upon. He has covered a lot of ground here – abscesses, when to take off the shoes, how to protect hooves, when to ride, what to feed and how to keep your horse. But if you have any questions, please go ahead by clicking on comments!

Can you prepare your horse in advance for going barefoot?

Marc 7In the first instance, look to see if the horse’s living conditions and the owner’s commitment will allow it. If these are correct, we then evaluate the state the hooves, limbs and joint alignments.   For most of my initial visits I request x-rays of the front hooves to start with and then of the back hooves if I see anything noteworthy, in order to assess the phalanges, especially the 3rd phalange, which in the great majority of horses usually shows some modification.  As the hoof is a “casing” for this bone, this is an essential piece of information for an equine podiatrist or farrier.

Once we have assessed the horse’s lifestyle, conformation, joint alignments, resting posture and hoof structure we move on to assessing the horse in motion; walk and trot in a straight line then in small circles on both firm and soft surfaces if possible.

I also have to mention that I always remove shoes when the hoof is long, excessively overgrown, so that on removing the shoe the horse has a lot of horny material to exfoliate bit by bit without reaching the point where the sole is being used for support. Hoof material that has grown whilst shod is never prepared for support or wear without a shoe since when the hooves are shod, the brain is “disconnected” from the ground and its stimuli, and economises energy and nutrients which would protect and harden this zone.

Marc 6For this reason we need to leave the hoof long before removing shoes, hastiness and performing a standard trim for all horses in all situations is also a complete error, in my opinion at least.

What is the best time of year to take off the shoes?

Whenever the horse is in the best moment to do so, based on what we’ve already discussed. There’s a lot of urban legend regarding whether it’s better in summer or winter, just as there is with so many other aspects of Barefoot and traditional farriery. However there could be some variation associated with certain types of terrain, for instance granite surfaces, which are extremely abrasive, where you have to evaluate the timing of the start of the transition very carefully. However, if we follow the strategy outlined in the previous question there shouldn’t be any problems.

It has to be said that the x-rays will tell us if our horse can live barefoot or not. It’s an irrefutable truth that there are horses who cannot be barefoot even though their lifestyle is ideal. Due to the mismanagement of foals, poor lifestyles, unsuitable work and bad farriery there are horses with damage and modification in the phalanges, especially the 3rd phalange, who when they are older, but not old, the damage is irreversible and these animals will be dependent on almost permanent orthotics or limitation in their living space. Even so, the number of such horses is very much lower than a lot of people, most farriers and almost all vets think.

For example: In the approximately 200 horses I work with, only 4 fall into this category, that’s to say, 2%.

From what I know of other trimmers, it’s commonly between 2-5%.

Not 40%, nor 30%, not even 25%.

Getting the diet right – what should the horse be eating?

This is not my field of expertise and I could be mistaken in this respect, but a diet based on straw, feed and alfalfa given in two meals a day is not the best system!

Marc 4I know that a diet consisting of mixed hay, in small amounts several times a day is the most adequate. But we must not forget that this is also a substitute for grazing. Therefore a colleague and I are studying the possibilities of direct grazing in fields with native, not cultivated, varieties of grass, without fertilizer or mechanization, managed by timing grazing and resting periods, loosely based on the ideas of Allan Savory and José Luis Pinheiro in their proposals to rehabilitate “desertified” fields using grazing animals and transform them into native perennial leys. So far our trials are running but it’s too early yet to draw any conclusións. There’s a lot written on this subject regarding cattle and sheep but practically nothing with horses. We‘re using a hybrid of the track system along with pasture, taking the best from both parts.

Getting the lifestyle right – what are the best living conditions?

Large spaces with some grazing, good quality as ecological as possible hay , clean water, clean environment, company of other horses whenever possible, surface with varied textures , good work and training programs and  professionals with up to date information who really like horses.

 

How much movement should the horse have and can a stabled horse be barefoot too?

Uff. Another one of the barefoot “million dollar questions”. Well, from what I’ve seen, it shouldn’t be less than 6km (3.5/4miles) a day, but always with the possibility that this might be reduced depending on joint and foot health.  Almost more important than the distance moved would be what surface the horse is living and working on, which determines the greater stimulation of the sole and thereby its thickening.

Who should trim the horse and how often?

Marc 3Well, someone who is qualified to do so, and who is? From my viewpoint it has to be farriers who perform this type of work, they are specialists in hooves, although a great number have mistaken this for being a specialist in ironwork. They already have extensive training in handling the tools, work posture, how to handle horses and vast knowledge of the structures in the foot and assessment of  joint alignment. Although a huge update is needed in so far as the conformation and mechanics of a healthy hoof within the context of a healthy horse also to relearn the groundwork, learn how to manage the barefoot hoof and its environment, see the horse as a subject who benefits or suffers as a consequence of our actions, learn about hoof boots and new pathologies and orthopedics and be aware of the latest information on what and how a horse should eat.

At present I see it as a waste of resources trying to train new hoof care specialists when in the majority of countries there is already a public system already doing 50% of the training required for little more cost than the enrollment fee.

Besides, I also believe that a fully trained podiatrist/orthopedist should have at his disposal all possible resources to solve all manner of maintenance and clinical cases that may arise. In a given moment a horse might require a nailed on orthotic, for example post operatively or following a fracture. This change in equine podiatry needs to be inclusive, not the other way around, a responsibility that comes with the burden of care. It goes without saying that you have to eliminate, always in my view, constant nailing on of iron or aluminium now that it has been more than proven that permanently immobilising the hoof capsule causes atrophy of the soft tissues, in many cases irreversibly, tissues that each have a unique and specific role in the correct functioning and mechanics of the hoof. These tissues represent more than 50% of the volume of the horse’s foot and if we don’t look after these tissues it’s clear that we make a bad start in our function as carers for the health of the hooves and indeed the horse.

I have people regularly ask me if there are scientific studies on the effectiveness of Barefoot and the truth is that there aren’t many, but neither is there any scientific study that shows that shoes are good for the horse, not one. There are some limited preliminary studies demonstrating that shoes are good for many owners, farriers and veterinaries, to vindicate the determination  not to change one iota in the way we look after our horses and we constantly confuse what should be a theme regarding the horse in a wider sense of  its health, with a reduced , myopic view about the hoof.

Once the shoes are off…what will happen? Can the horse be ridden?

Some of this I’ve already covered in the previous questions.

Marc 1Can the horse be ridden when the shoes are taken off? Absolutely! It’s more a case of the horse should be ridden or, better said, worked normally either with or without a rider. With more movement there is more vascularization, more nutrients supplied and more tissue renewal within the hoof.  None of this having a horse in an absurd quarantine without being ridden during the mythical year-long transition, as advocated by some of the urban legends in the barefoot world.

However, there is one all important prerequisite: without pain.

When a horse experiences pain whilst walking over a prolonged period, it triggers a chain of antalgic postures and mental pain patterns that negatively impact on the horse, in many cases leaving permanent psychological and physical consequences.

When a hoof feels pain on weight bearing, the sole produces extra growth as an emergency measure, as seen so often in the famous solar callousing. All this extra, emergency material helps the horse get by for a couple of months but when the new growth comes through it disappears and the horse is back to having thin soles.

To make a good sole, in terms of stimulus, it has to be constant and offer a diversity of textures. There will always be some horses who are the exception, horses that have some structural peculiarities and especially those who are exceptionally sensitive, which makes them immune to these processes. But you have realise that the great complexity of barefoot, the way I see it, is not the plethora of different trimming techniques proposed by each training method, but the different patterns of sensitivity of each horse, which is something you cannot predict, therefore you cannot rely on a standard trim, you need all the tools and resources available to assess and redress each horse’s sensitivity pattern.

As far as I know, there is no Barefoot teaching method that intricately explains this to its students/clients thereby producing a handicap in their ways of working,  especially with the most delicate and complicated horses, more often than not leading to working in an intuitive/improvised manner, a technique for which the Barefoot “sector”  has always criticized farriers.

Or is he best left in the field for a few weeks?

It’s impossible to give a “one size fits all” solution when each horse is so specific, perhaps some people leave the horse in a field when they are hard-pressed to find a solution, “what the eyes don’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over”. Sometimes this works, sometimes not, they can even worsen. I’ve seen horses left at pasture for 5 years without the minimum controls and maintenance and the hooves have not improved one bit, many actually ending up with more sensitivity than before. The ideal would be to leave them in a field with good follow up, in many cases this might be simply a small trim to correct dimensional imbalances in the hoof capsule . We need to be aware that we are dealing with horses bred in captivity, systematically weaned at 8 months of age, started to be trained in whatever form from 3 years old and ridden at 4. These factors coupled with bad feeding systems and inadequately managed living conditions leave us with a version of the horse with mental and physical handicaps which in many cases are not correctable. However as I stated before, these cases are much less numerous than many traditional professionals believe.

 If the horse is sore…what should the owner do?

Marc 5Obtain a good diagnosis, one of the hardest things in this world to acquire. We’re still not capable of keeping a full and extensive history of our horses’ health, this is partly our own fault but also that of farriers and veterinaries too. Without this history we can’t compare the structures, via ultrasound, x-rays etc  to previous information, we’re always working with very limited information about the horse at the moment when it’s suffering pain and discomfort.

If the horse is in pain it is better to have it in a restricted space and if necessary protect its feet with some form of protection until the pain dissipates, but more importantly we need to know what is causing the pain in order to choose the right plan of action..

Will movement help at this stage?

Only that which the horse deems itself capable of, without being obliged by companions. The horse is better off in its own space which as we already mentioned should be somewhat limited, also so that when the horse begins to feel good it doesn’t overdo it, which is quite common, and we find ourselves back at square one again.

Should owner put anything on the hooves to strengthen them?

As I mentioned before, there is no general solution, but a serious in depth analysis of their status is needed in order to decide what will be best for the horse.

Often we use specialised boots for these occasions, soft and smooth with silicone or EVA pads, or hoof casts with a foam insole. In some more specific cases we may use a glue-on boot or some sort of synthetic, glue-on horseshoe, using appropriate, specialist adhesives and only for a set time, knowing as we do that using these systems for too long will impair the hoof’s ability to produce good quality compacted sole, which cannot be done in isolation from the ground and air.

Should the horse wear hoof boots or is it best to wait?

It’s always best not to get to this point, that is to say, know when to take the shoes off for the horse to make a good transition. As professionals, it’s a mistake we might make a couple of times but not more, because it’s the worst way to start the process towards barefoot.

In the event that we are already in this very unfortunate situation, it will depend on the individual horse, where you live, disposition of the owner, physical condition of the horse and its pain threshold. It could go wrong if you just chose one of two options, sometimes you have to combine them, and sometimes you have to create new strategies and even in extreme cases, when we have unshod a horse before it was suitable to, I have recommended re-shoeing to gain a couple of months more hoof growth before starting the process. As the ultimate goal is barefoot for life, I don’t worry about the drawbacks of the horse being shod for a few months more.

How long will it be before the horse is comfortable? (I know every horse is different but this is asked so often!)

imageI think I’ve been answering this in the previous questions but if the horse has not improved exponentially within 3-5 weeks, we must take the decision to protect the hoof and break the pain cycle that the horse finds itself in. But I must emphasise again that we cannot generalise.

Each horse has learned throughout his life his own personal pattern of feeling pain and that is what makes barefoot so highly complex and specific in these cases of sensitivity or pain.

What are the common mistakes that people make in their barefoot journey?

For sure, to not have some of the most basic and effective information, habits and resources available. For example having paddocks with many areas of different textures. Gravels of different thickness do an excellent job in exfoliation and compaction of the soles. Work little and often if horses have limited movement where they live. Keep living spaces clean, remove faeces and urine often. Spread feeding out as much as possible, with access to grazing on native species swards with a great diversity of plant species to choose from. Older horses can be used to teach others who did not have the opportunity to learn to graze as foals. Have a clear and consistent hoof management system, using a professional or DIY if appropriate.  Clean water, free from contaminants such as agrochemical seepage form nearby cultivation.

Failure to follow these guidelines, or some of them and others not specified here, could cause problems in the management of barefoot horses. Above all, do your homework before starting and get good advice. It’s clear that haste is the enemy barefoot, but we mustn’t wait forever either.

I think with most of horses I’ve seen that have made the change, have been because the owner decided to change to barefoot or because the professional involved was not sufficiently au fait in this field. It is also true that often owners do not follow the guidelines given by their professional and that can lead failure. If you don’t trust your professional, change and find someone whom you can work with.

We must also accept that there may be some horses who may not have the capacity to be barefoot, it’s very important to make a rigorous evaluation using x-rays to assess the bony structures in the limb in question.

Abscesses are common in the early stages of barefoot. Can you explain why? And what to do?

The abscess is part of daily life for the barefoot horse’s hoof which, when all its structures are healthy, is designed to cope with an infinite number of impacts on any type of surface each and every day. I see the abscess as a common response of the defense system to these impacts with the ground.

Marc 2We often have horses living in damp conditions under foot and then we work them on hard stony surfaces, this causes abscesses.

Horses in transition may be more susceptible to having abscesses as the layers of solar tissue and the chorion are still not prepared sufficiently to deal with these impacts.

The first thing we need to know is where exactly the abscess is within the hoof. The majority of abscesses in barefoot horses occur in the caudal areas of the hoof – that is in the bars, heels and frog, unlike the large abscesses usually caused by farriery, be it from excessive burning of the sole, a badly fitting shoe or a nail entering the soft tissue.

When we have located the abscess it’s good practice to give the typical hoof soak in hot salty water and to let the horse move as much or little as it wants, without pressure from companions.

Once the abscess bursts the pressure is released and the pain relieved, I recommend not working for a few days to allow better healing of any internal wound that may have been caused.

It has to be said that abscesses are very shocking in terms of the lameness they cause but usually heal very quickly if left to mature, however this is a generalisation and there can always be exceptions to this pattern.

Note from Marc: great thanks to Gill Tibble to great effort to can understand and translate my no-ending answers. Thank you, Gill.

ABOUT MARC

image (2)Marc, who works in Catalonia, Spain, used to ride and compete. Twelve years after qualifying as a farrier he became a professor at the Official School of Farriery in Barcelona. 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. He was expecting to contribute to my earlier blog post – The Good Bare Guide with trimmer Nick Hill and holistic vet Ralitsa Grancharova – but became a father to a baby boy instead. Far more important!! His answers came to me a bit late but were so interesting that I have posted them now…You can contact him on Facebook here.

ABOUT ME

Cover_Barefoot_3 (1)I’m a book writer and journalist but horse riding is my great love. The shoes were taken off my horses about 16 years ago as soon as I realised the harm they were causing. Since then I have transitioned quite a few animals including my lovely retired mare, Carrie, who suffered from navicular and was due to be put to sleep when I took her on. She features on the front cover of my book – A Barefoot Journey – which tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. In this light-hearted account I tell how I coped with my argumentative farrier, derision from other riders and how going barefoot saved Carrie 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. Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

‘The best book I have ever read, everything was so interesting. And gave the courage to be barefoot and proud of it!!! I always felt the same in my heart but this book just backed up everything I thought. Thank you for writing such an amazing book’ – Amazon reader.

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

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

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

‘I bought this book for my wife some time ago and have only recently been able to prise it from her. An excellent story with factual content which I thoroughly enjoyed reading’ – Amazon UK reader.

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

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is in the pipeline. I am being inspired by a very famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. I’m half way through the first draft – blending fact and fiction is such fun! And so many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet. But I think I should feature one of Bracy Clark’s colleagues. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list…xxx

 

 

Vet warns of danger from studs

by Linda Chamberlain

It’s official! According to a renowned international competition vet, horses have been slipping for 55 million years. Trying to stop this using studs fixed to a horse’s shoes increases the strain on ligaments and tendons and causes injuries.shoe with studs

And yet barefoot horses are banned from the show ring in some classes as judges fear they are at risk from slipping and sliding in the wet. Will the ban be lifted? 

Vet, John Killingbeck, who has 30 year’s experience including a time with the British Three Day Event team, was in an open discussion with a farrier at the International Eventing Forum which was reported online.

He said: ‘It is worth remembering what we do when choosing studs and what the horse’s natural function of the foot is. The foot is designed to absorb the impact of landing and it does it by absorbing concussion. Part of that concussion is done through the foot sliding and that absorbs the stresses and strains of landing.’

He warned that riders should use studs carefully and wisely. After reading his fascinating insights, I wondered if that were possible. Or, really, whether the use of any shoe and stud combo was advisable for the health of the horse.

Because he went on to explain that the images5Z053VVFimpact stresses on barefoot hooves were less than those that are shod.

‘We are effectively changing the mechanical effect of the foot. The shoe to a certain point compromises the function of the foot in absorbing impact. Does this contribute to modern injuries that I now see as a vet? – it does.’

John, who is a veterinary delegate to the Federation Equestre Internationale, the world governing body for equestrian sport, should be listened to with ears wide open by every horse owner whether they ride barefoot or shod.

It was music to my ears because barefoot riders have been saying this for years.

But he said more: ‘If you were to trot up 50 horses here on a nice level surface and then take their shoes off and trot them up again, the vast majority would move with more freedom than if they were shod. So the mechanical effect of the shoe comes at a price. It’s a necessary price.’

Of course, this is the crux. That fatal word – necessary.

Well, not necessary for the horse obviously but riders can be competitive souls. They want to win rosettes; they want to scale the highest jumps. The vast majority think they can only do this with the ‘necessary’ crutch of the nailed-on metal shoe, more and more do so now with studs.

John’s audience would have been riders whose horses were shod. His aim was no doubt to increase the understanding of the downside of studs. Perhaps, even limit their use.

So I was surprised to read that he also advised that horses should have a period of rest from shoes which he said compromise the blood flow to the hoof. It was the traditional view many years ago. Hunters always had their rest time with shoes off and the hoof was seen to benefit. Most owners want to ride all year round and so that wisdom has been sidelined. But I am seeing it mentioned more and more by vets and farriers these days.

And yet the traditional equine world has  adopted a hostile attitude to barefoot by banning unshod horses from the show ring in some hunter classes accusing them of being a danger from slipping.

Then something occurred to me while I was reading the online article which reported this fascinating open discussion with a farrier at this year’s Forum. Vets, like John, rarely get to see a brilliant barefoot horse in action.

My own vet once confessed that my horses were the only ones on her books who were barefoot and roamed on a track system 24/7. She was amazed that by using our combined skills – her choice of antibiotics and acupuncture and my nagging to adhere to my horses’ lifestyle – we saved my daughter’s horse when she had an infected tendon sheath. Yes, the vet thought that our maximum-movement lifestyle had been an important part in Tao’s recovery.

Barefoot horses are making their mark in competitions, particular endurance riding. But the Italian, Luca Moneta, is the only top-level showjumper that I know who rides without shoes on his horses’ hinds. Simon Earle is the only race horse trainer in the UK known to favour barefoot. Interestingly, he confirms that his horses haven’t suffered a tendon injury since they got rid of shoes.

So, for John, and any other vet or rider who is clinging to the view that the shoe-and-stud combo are a necessary part of horse riding, I would like to introduce you to two very talented riders – Richard Greer and Georgie Harrison, who is also a barefoot trimmer.

Richard, a trainer, and his barefoot horse, Troy, have already made their mark in one of the most dangerous equine sports, team chasing. Here he is landing over an eye-wateringly, enRichard Greerormous hedge. Not a shoe or stud in sight.

Does he slip, Richard? I asked.

‘I’ve had horses in front of me lose their footing while we never missed a beat but it’s not infallible. Troy and I have come down on greasy ground, rain on hard ground can be testing but shoes and studs won’t save you either. It’s interesting looking over some of the shod horses with all their lumps and bumps and swellings!

‘Barefoot now fits in perfectly with my wider philosophy. When a horse comes in for training with shoes on I find there is something lacking in the fluidity of its paces, I even find the sound slightly offensive. In competition and training, I can run on harder ground without worrying about the impact. Many fractures occur in the race industry and it also happens in team chasing. I think being barefoot reduces the risk.’

Georgie jumpingGeorgie, seen here riding Phoenix, is an event rider. Here’s what she had to say. ‘Riding a non-slip ride across country starts with a balanced rider and a balanced horse. Horses are naturally asymmetric (right or left sided just like we are right or left handed). They are inclined to favour one shoulder or the other and like to use their hinds, one as a push leg and one as a prop leg, It is our responsibility to get our horses to be as balanced as possible and encourage them to become supple in both directions. I start this training process on the ground and in ridden work very slowly. Once mastered, it can be applied to when you are galloping across country up and down hills and on any surface. This allows your horse to be in self-carriage even when at speed.’

So you see, shoes and studs are the option that compromises the horse and his feet. Could barefoot be the better path…? For the sake of the horse, can I get John to meet Troy and Phoenix? – barefooters at their best.

ABOUT ME

I have been a writer and journalist all my working life. I have been a horse rider for quite a bit longer! The shoes were taken off my horses about 16 years ago and now I would never return to shoeing one of my animals so that I could ride. I am a regular contributor to Barefoot Horse magazine and The Horse’s Hoof magazine.

My book – A Barefoot Journey – tells the story of riding without shoes in a hostile equine world. In this light-hearted account I tell how I coped with my argumentative farrier, derision from other riders and how going barefoot saved my 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. Available on Amazon UKand Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p.

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

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

My historical novel, The First Vet, is inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm 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. 

‘I don’t read that often but this book was definitely a “can’t put down”, so sad when I got to the end. Can’t wait to read the other books by this fabulous writer’ – Amazon UK reader.

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

If you want to keep in touch, click the follow button on this blog or find me on Facebook…Another historical, horsey novel is in the pipeline! I am being inspired by a very famous equestrian campaigner from the past who quietly made such a difference to horses. Blending fact and fiction is such fun! And so many people have asked me to write a sequel to The First Vet. It’s on the ‘to-do’ list…xxx

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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. 

The Blasphemous Blogger…

by Linda Chamberlain

You can measure the success of a campaign by the reaction of its opponents.blog - Tina Steiner

The other day a commentator on this blog accused me of blasphemy for suggesting that horses are better, happier and healthier if they are freed from their metal shoes.

Blasphemy! Personally, I thought that a bit strong. A touch over the top. Blasphemy is illegal in many countries of the world. In some, it carries the death penalty. Would I have to throw in my passport?

I was told to stop preaching. Because, of course, no equine could walk over stony ground or be ridden properly without the support we humans have contrived with the nailed-on metal shoe.

I was told I probably only rode my horse in an arena where the surface was soft and her bare toes were not challenged.

Here it is, in full. The comment that was made in response to my interview with ex-farrier and former professor of blog - Ringo in Basque countryfarriery, Marc Ferrador, who warned that ‘Horse Shoes Will Be Obsolete’.  (Please forgive the grammar and spelling. English is not her first language.)

She said – ‘Obviously you do not ride outside the box (ie: arena)  when you ride the concrete pavement roads this tends to ware off the hoof and when you have to ride down a gravel logging road or drive way or along the edge of the pavement those rocks cause stone bruising which will lay your horse up for a good 6 weeks or more soaking with hot Epsom salts helps but don’t cure it. there are also tiny rocks that will work up inside the the soft hoof walls and cause terrible abscesses and later blow out the whole side wall of the hoof.

‘Linda Chamberlain. I cannot imagine the purpose for your crusade in attempting to teach people the shoeing causes blog - Sarra Bear Mackenzie-Pilot on Lightninghazards to your horse and its health. you do realize your talking to people who know that horses have been shod for hundreds of years like we were not just born yesterday mmmkay?

‘You take off my horses shoes that would be like taking someone teeth out of their head. make them venerable to stone bruises and abscesses. quit preaching about things you know nothing of. when my horses dont have shoes i cant ride ok? and if i took them off for five years he still would be lame the first rock he crammed into his foot. the only hazards with horse shoes are they are slick on concrete. i dont know who your really going to convince of this blasphemy but blog - Monica Campori on Warren in kenyaif you do they never owned a horse that they rode outside the box. (arena)=box’

Well, I admit, I am no great advert for barefoot horse riding at the moment because my horse has been lame with laminitis. My daughter’s horse is much too careless with my safety to be entertained so I am busy rehabilitating Sophie with walks in hand. I will be back on board very soon as she is looking brilliantly sound and then I will be able to show off my skills.

I don’t have an arena but, when I was riding, you would have been impressed at the sight of the terrain we covered blog - Julie Allsop, gymkhanaon bare hooves.

I decided to publish the comment it because it made me smile and thought you might like to see it. Mostly. I don’t expect to convince everyone that barefoot is the right foot but never thought my blog would inspire such a backlash.

Then a prominent barefoot trimmer, Lindsay Setchell, who edits Barefoot Horse Magazine, got in touch. She told me a minor accusation of blasphemy was nothing.

‘We’ve had death threats!’ she told me.

My smile suddenly seemed inappropriate. This was no time for levity.  I started writing this article just before the blog - Joanna Hartlandshooting of MP Jo Cox and so knew that the climate was not right for the tone I was adopting. I considered dropping the article because I knew death threats, made on social media in particular, were not new. I had come across other trimmers who have faced abusive language and derision. I met one who suffered anonymous phone calls that were deadly in threat and tone. Riders have to defend themselves against the skeptics; it’s not easy and it’s not nice. Why so much hatred?

I asked Lindsay why barefoot horse riding attracted such vitriol. We were mainly a nice bunch of people who were kind and wanted a better world for our animals.

She said: ‘Many people who are pro-shoeing are in a big traditional bubble, they have no clue that if they stepped out blog - Lindsay Setchell on Oscof that bubble they would be in an enormous thriving world of successfully barefoot horses.

‘They tend to assume that barefoot is only for certain horses & not for horses in competition or in any amount of decent work. They’re truly not exposed to the amazing things that barefoot horses of all breeds & sizes can do in all different equine disciplines.

‘Because of this, they think that barefooters are few and far between and are either brainwashed, clueless, cruel or mad (or all of those things!). They have been ‘conditioned’ to believe that horses need shoes to stop their feet wearing away, support, balance & blog - Charlie Madeley, ski joringprotection. Often shoeing professionals are so utterly convinced that shoeing is an absolute necessity that they become blinkered & cannot comprehend what a true healthy foot actually behaves like or indeed looks like.

‘They also see their livelihoods threatened by people who are in their opinion no better than propagandists and scaremongers. They believe the hype that barefoot trimmers have no real training and therefore no clue about feet. All this leads them to bigotry and aggressive and often threatening behaviour….but it is changing!’

There is enough hatred and violence in the world. So I am very relieved to hear it.

And so, this is my message to those who think horses need metal on their feet – Take a look at the equines in this blog - Kim Gellatly Busbyarticle. They are not confined to a soft arena. They jump amazing heights. Tackle slippery ground. They gallop across the beach. They get dressed up smartly for a show. And they win some rosettes. Without the compromise, or the risk, of nailed-on footwear. Don’t be threatened. Don’t ban us from shows or slight us for being cruel. Find out how we achieve what you might think is the impossible.

I won’t preach any more – Instead, I will let these brilliant hooves from the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook say it ALL.

My thanks to the following riders and their horses, hopefully in order – Tina Steiner at a reconstruction of the Battle of Bosworth, Ringo from the Basque country, Sarra Bear Mackenzie Pilot on Lightening, Monica Campori on Warren, Julie Allsop, Joanna Hartland, Lindsay Setchell with Osc, Charlie Madeley doing something called ski joring, Kim Gellatly barrel racing on Busby, Andrea Tyrrell, Isla McShannon on Bracon Tapdance, Claire Watt on Oreo, Deirdre Hanley with Prince, Carolyn Brown on Heart, Emma Leigh with Dilkara, Georgie Harrison jumping Phoenix, Helen Cross, Jennie Blakehill on City, Karen Davy with Ekko, Rosanna Houston driving Caspar, Richard Martin, Penny Anne Gifford riding Dodge and Sarah Hamilton on Pan – flying the barefoot flag!
blog - Andrea Tyrrellblog - Andrea McShannon's Isla on Bracon Tapdanceblog - Claire Watt on Oreoblog - Deirdre Hanley on Princeblog - Carolyn Brown, Heartblog - Emma Leigh, on Dilkarablog - Georgie Harrison, Phoenixblog - Helen Crossblog - Jennie Blakehill on Cityblog - Karen Davy on Ekkoblog - Rosanna Houston, Casperblog - Richard Martinblog - Penny Anne Gifford on Dodge

blog - Sarah Hamilton on Pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK NEWS

About Me – I am a journalist, author and barefoot horse owner. The shoes came off my horses about 16 years ago and now I would never return to shoeing one of my animals so that I could ride him. 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 – is an honest and light-hearted account of going barefoot – 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 and romantic 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! 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 – ‘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…Another novel is in the pipeline! 

Innocent victim…

by Linda Chamberlain

This is an urgent plea from a horse that had too many toxins in his life.

As the European Union considers whether to ban the controversial weedkiller glyphosate his voice may not be heard. But Otto has suffered life-threatening illnesses for years and his owner is in no doubt where the blame for some of his torment lies. Farming chemicals and antibiotics are thought to damage the gut and Otto has had plenty of exposure to both.

Otto, seen here at the height of his illness, mystified vets and hoof experts on both sides of the Atlantic who struggled to find the cause of his sore muscles and painful feet.

Otto 1

At one point a leading vet suggested he may have to be put to sleep unless he responded to the latest attempt to give him some relief.

His owner, Helen Jacks-Hewett, who bought him as a yearling colt said: ‘I felt so guilty, so utterly helpless  and responsible for Otto’s illnesses because something was very wrong and despite having a degree and years of experience and trusted, specialist vets on the case I was still none the wiser about the cause of his problems.’

His symptoms were enough to fill a medical encyclopedia…

From the age of three he had a tight back and sore muscles.

His behaviour was irritable.

His enzymes were raised, indicating muscle breakdown and inflammation. Tests, however, were inconclusive.

Vets advised treating him for myopathy (muscle disease) using a high fat/low starch diet. But as Helen explained: ‘Within three months he came down with laminitis!’

His pedal bone rotated as can be seen from these x-rays. Otto xray

And once the laminitis was under control his owner watched in horror as he suffered repeated abscesses in both front feet. Seven in total.

Powerful antibiotics, so more toxins, were prescribed in a battle to save him when x-rays showed an infection near his pedal bone.

Helen said: ‘That’s when my vet had the discussion with me. If he didn’t respond to the drugs then it would be game over.’

OK, trust me; I’m not going to give you a miserable ending to Otto’s story. His insulin levels eventually returned to normal; he got over the laminitis and he beat the abscesses. Helen had the joy of riding him once more. She began to hope she had her lovely horse back.

Sadly, there were more setbacks over the coming months and years. He kept showing signs of a myopathy, his hooves were weak, sometimes inflamed, and he was prone to infections. He was very familiar with antibiotics, he was fed conventional horse feed and the customary doses of wormer. Let’s be honest, a lot of owners might have decided that Otto was too ill for this life. As you can see, he didn’t look well…or comfortable…Otto 4

Then someone gave Helen the name of a woman who ran a small feed company and might be able to help. Really? Helen was not impressed but in spite of her cynicism decided to phone Dr Debbie Carley from Thunderbrook Equestrian.

You see, Helen didn’t know it in 2013 but she and Dr Carley had something in common. They both owned horses who had suffered life-threatening illnesses that had eluded the treatment of conventional veterinary medicine. Dr Carley nearly lost her entire herd when she moved to a home surrounded by arable farms, exposing the horses to high levels of farming sprays. The battle to save her animals is featured in an earlier blog about the feed industry – Beware of the Bucket.

Helen takes up the story again. ‘As far as I was concerned I had tried everything to help Otto. I had liaised with the best vets, nutritionists and hoof trimmers in both the UK and US so how would this lady from a small, relatively unheard of feed company be able to tell me anything I didn’t already know! I don’t know why but I called her anyway and thank goodness I did.

‘The first phone call I had with Debbie lasted ages and it was a revelation – she suggested ALL of Otto’s problems could be related to his hind gut being damaged and not functioning properly. She talked to me about the farmers’ fields that are adjacent to Otto’s paddock and what they probably get sprayed with many times a year that can cause gut damage.

‘All of this seemed plausible but I needed proof, so I ordered all the relevant supplements to help repair and restore Otto’s hind gut. I was still feeling highly suspicious that this approach would work but to my amazement within five days I started to see improvements in Otto’s muscle soreness and his general demeanour. He started to become the lovely, inquisitive boy that I’d seen when he was a yearling.

Otto 5

‘Over the next couple of months Otto blossomed and he became a normal horse for the first time in years.  He became a proper Arab under saddle and would hack for miles without getting tired.  The complete lack of muscle soreness and tension pretty much made my vet agree that Otto probably never had a myopathy in the first place and most likely his damaged hind gut was causing malabsorption of key vitamins and minerals essential for muscle function and a healthy immune system.

‘The only flare ups we have had since have been after crop spraying in the fields next door and rain water drainage from the same fields into our paddock. On the whole his feet are now rock crunching but again crop spraying locally causes rapid soreness for a couple of days. On advice from Debbie I give Otto activated charcoal on crop-spraying days to help mop up any chemicals that he may have ingested.’

So, Otto was saved but other horses will be suffering these worrying symptoms. Will they be so fortunate?

Glyphosate is a weedkiller but since coming out of patent farmers also use it to dessicate, or dry out, crops before harvesting thereby increasing the burden of chemicals on the outer layer of cereals. This is the part that is low in nutrition but commonly fed to animals.

Dr Carley is an expert in equine nutrition and is convinced glyphosate exposure damages the gut. She minimises the risk to her horses by stabling when neighbouring farmers are spraying, cleaning out water troughs and providing mostly organic feed and hay. Seeing her own horses struggle against life-threatening diseases led her to set up Thunderbrook Equestrian feed company.

Should something so high risk as glyphosate be sprayed on our food crops? It has been linked in studies to liver damage, kidney failure and Parkinson’s. A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer has warned that it is ‘probably’ carcinogenic.

Do we need more evidence before it is banned?

About Helen

‘Potty’ about horses since the age of two, Helen is a McTimoney Animal Practitioner (chiropractic techniques) and Sports Massage Therapist working in North Somerset. Shoes were removed from her first horse Sapphire for Helenretirement at the age of 29 but the mare gained a new lease of life and was ridden barefoot for another six years. Sapphire had unbalanced hooves for most of her shod life and this spurred Helen’s studies. Her degree dissertation ‘The Effects of Unilateral Laterocoudal Tungsten-carbide Road Nails on Equine Mediolateral Hoof Balance’ helped to secure a first class degree and also won the 2001 Eqvalan Thesis of the Year. As a result she presented her dissertation to the prestigious National Equine Forum at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. ‘Speaking to vets and farriers was the most daunting thing I’ve ever done,’ she says. Her website is here.

Otto 12

Otto 11

Otto 8

 

 

 

 

Otto’s rock-crunching hooves…

About Otto

Otto is a purebred Arabian gelding, a descendant of one of the Polish state studs. His proper name Czarovitch means Crowned Prince in Polish. Barefoot all his life, he is 10 years old and Helen has owned him since he was a yearling. ‘I didn’t set out to buy a colt, especially not a grey one, but my heart ruled my head and I had a very strange feeling I’d met him somewhere before!’ she says. Otto 7

He is turned out 24/7 in a field which is modified into a paddock paradise track in the spring and summer.  It has two shelters and he has a pony called Jet (owned by Helen’s mum) for company. Ad lib hay is put in feeding stations to encourage movement. The track comes down in the winter to reduce poaching.  The paddock is downhill from neighbouring farmed fields giving problems with spraying and surface water run off.  Otto had a liver problem last September which occurred only a couple of days after a pre ploughing glyphosate spray. He became lethargic and blood tests showed his liver enzymes were high.

Helen says: ‘He got better after a few weeks on a liver supplement but it was too much of a coincidence it happened straight after spraying.’

Now they are to move to a property on the Mendip Hills, which is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This will help avoid exposure to agrochemicals and flooding in future.

About Me…

IMG_3822I’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.’

Natural Horse Management 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.’

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