Barefoot knocks on the stable door…

By Linda Chamberlain

Barefoot has failed to win the hearts of the British equestrian establishment but it is making huge inroads into the minds of the average horse rider.

So while there is a ban on barefoot horses competing in top show hunter classes, riders in other more dangerous disciplines report that more and more are taking part and succeeding without metal shoes.

hooves - ralitsa

Ten years ago it was hard to find a barefoot trimmer but numbers have increased, recommendations abound, and farriers are seeing the wisdom of providing their clients with a barefoot service. Our biggest welfare charity, however, the Royal Society for the Protection Against Cruelty to Animals, remains a shadowy presence and is resisting change. Trimmers, who have been working on lame horses, have been prosecuted in the past by the charity for cruelty and the trade of farriery is protected by law. So only qualified farriers can apply a shoe and the law has decreed that glue-on shoes sometimes used for the transition to barefoot are included. Trimmers who are careful take plenty of photos and video footage of their clients for two good reasons. The information is useful to see progress but will also provide evidence if allegations start to fly.

The attitude of the establishment is typified by the ban on barefoot horses from the show ring in working hunter and other classes. It was introduced a few years ago after a judge slipped while riding a horse wearing only front shoes. It’s ironic that you can hunt barefoot and risk your neck over treacherous ground and high hedges but you can’t enter a hallowed but safe arena and do a few circuits over the level grass on a show hunter!

The issue sparked a row between a national magazine called The Showing Journal and the 10,000-strong Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook recently. Furious riders from the group hit back at claims in the magazine’s letters page which said barefoot horses were prone to slipping and must lead very dull lives, rarely leaving the schooling arena.

Here is the original letter and the editor’s response so you can read it for yourself. Not surprisingly it prompted members from the Facebook group to write back shouting ‘rubbish’ and citing examples of their success.

The Showing Journal

Members of the group are competing in endurance, cross country and show jumping and their horses are winning rosettes rather than falling all over the place. Every week they are posting of their successes in competitions around the country and report that their equines have good-enough grip to give them confidence in extremely wet conditions and over jumps.

Here are a few of our brilliant riders – L-R Richard Greer, Helen Jacks-Hewett and Rea Trotman.

Richard Greer

Helen - dressageRea 4It’s great that they report seeing other competitors who are barefoot when only a few years ago they might have been alone. That feeling of isolation was certainly a feature when I had the shoes taken off my own horses 15 years ago.

My daughter was a keen show jumper and I was watching her on her pony one weekend at a show when the voice of another mother intruded.

‘I thought only travellers or the hideously poor didn’t bother to shoe their horses,’ she said to her friend, loudly enough for me to hear.

The British are experts at the snobbish put down; prejudice is something we have perfected. The barefoot horse here still encounters such attitudes but thanks to the growing numbers of them who are enjoying active lives on their own hooves the tide is beginning to turn. Now their owners are much more likely to meet fellow barefoot enthusiasts rather than hostility.

How I would have welcomed a Facebook group such as ours 15 years ago for advice and support! Every day new members are joining, actually from all over the world, and it’s quite likely that by the end of 2015 there will be 10,000 of us – a force worth listening to. (Now up to 10,500) Many trimmers and some farriers have joined and offer advice; we have many experts on the admin team and such a breadth of experience among the members who share their thoughts.

Impossible to say how many barefoot equines there are in the UK – only that they are increasing every day.

Their owners often complain that the British climate makes barefoot harder than elsewhere in the world. We have rich grass, made richer thanks to abundant rain every spring and autumn, and we have soft ground in our fields. In order to ride on stony tracks or tarmac roads we are learning to change the living conditions for our animals when we can. Vast numbers of our barefooters struggle because of the regime at livery yards where they are obliged to use stables and lush, traditional pastures instead of track systems. So it is heartening to see more and more new-style yards appearing geared solely for the needs of the barefoot horse.

Picture 053

These are the havens which have minimal grass and maximum Barnabymovement. They know how to keep horses fit and healthy. They provide rough ground instead of soft turf; hills and hay stations and they are making it easier to go barefoot. Expertise is growing and the veterinary profession is occasionally looking on with interest instead of bemusement. Our success will soon make it impossible for the equine establishment to hold onto its hostility.

The above article has been published by The Horse’s Hoof magazine which is based in the US. My thanks to editor Yvonne Welz for her support for my books and asking me to write it! Here is a link to the magazine – check it out for yourself.

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 is one of the latest reviews – ‘What a wonderful book. Loved every page and cannot recommend it too highly. I would love to see the film.’

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

The carrot beats the stick…

by Linda Chamberlain

It is a shameful fact that if you go to a horse show you will see more sticks, spurs and strong bits…than you will carrots.

In fact, I can’t remember if I have ever seen a competitor pull a carrot from the pocket of their smart riding jacket to reward their horse while they are still in the ring.

This is why you need to meet Luca Moneta; you need to follow his career, his Facebook page and, if you feel the urge, to cheer him on. He is a top, international show jumper from Italy. This is him winning at Olympia in the Puissance in 2013 scaling a wall more than seven feet in height.

 Jumping seven feet!

Jumping seven feet!

It’s very sad that he is so different in the equestrian world – personally, I would like him to be even more different but more of that later…!

And the carrot is the key to all this.

You might ask yourself, ‘So what! The man dishes out some treats.’

That treat is the tip of the iceberg, the tiny bit that the public sees and loves…and approves. It underpins the training he gives his horses and reflects the lifestyle they enjoy.

Luca works by reward, by taking stress out of the equation. Many of his horses come to him with difficult behaviour and a troubled history. He plays Parrelli and ball games with them, he builds up their trust. Rewarding and encouraging all the way. If he’s working them over jumps his hand might reach for his pocket after just a few obstacles. There’s a downside of course. One of his top horses has been known to whinny for a treat before the end of a round which must be a bit inconvenient!

Luca on Neptune

Luca on Jesus

Luca on ConneryLuca on Ciccio

He told me: ‘I always try to work my horses through the emotional training. The objective is to face stressful situations through play and, thanks to high levels of energy, arrive at the “stress point”, help them find a solution and learn to relax.

‘I think training with positive reinforcement in the horse creates the urge to try to do the right thing, which is called “positive effect”. The horse, instead of refusing an order, seeks solutions first to receive the reward, and then becomes more collaborative, more enthusiastic and intelligent.’

Riding in the woods to relax before an event

Riding in the woods to          relax before an event

The lifestyle for Luca’s team must also help produce a more relaxed athlete. So many show jumpers are stabled for long periods and their owners are too fearful to allow them turnout with other horses. That regime is not for Luca. His young horses are mainly barefoot and many of his top horses are bare behind and so he has less worry over kicks and injury. He gives them plenty of turn out in small herds; he wants them to be horses.

Luca's horse

He regards shoes as a ‘necessary evil’ and I get the sense that he wishes there was another way.

‘I had and I often have barefoot horses. I find however that shoeing is a choice that has its strengths and weaknesses. I think, for the horses, it is nice to go to the grass in the group, and if the horses are barefoot behind it gives me less concern when they are together. Also if they have a good nail I tend to keep them barefoot, and so when I have periods when I can afford it, I keep them barefoot to allow the nail to bulk up without iron. I find this logical, considering that three year old horses trot on the stones without shoes without any problems whereas older horses who lose a shoe have hurt their foot and can no longer walk. And this precisely because continuing to protect them, the feet are weakened.

‘My young horses who have never had their feet weakened by shoeing get along very well with the bare foot, in fact I think it’s useful to these horses to shoe them as late as possible.’

I don’t think it will be long before this top rider discovers they don’t need to be shod at all…(scroll down to see one of my favourite horses Troy being barefoot and bold on very slippery ground in an earlier post).

Luca began riding at a young age. His brother was an endurance rider and put his sibling in the saddle, wanting his help. ‘I have made it my passion, my dream and my work,’ he says.

I asked him about the highlight of his career but he says that ‘when you are in contact with a horse it is always a wonderful moment for me.’

Time for a carrot - training without a bridle

Time for a carrot – training without a bridle

Fortunately for his horses, carrot production in Italy has increased and is able to meet Luca’s enormous demands!

But I wanted to know what he would do for the horse if I could make him il presidente for a day.

‘Surely, I wish that it were forbidden to slaughter any horse that has had a sporting career. Riders should provide for a provision to create a fund to guarantee a future for their horses. You might think to tie the passport of any competition horse to a “card accumulation” that allows to set aside over the years what is necessary to allow a sort of retirement; to enjoy a well-earned rest at the end of his career. We should guarantee our fellow horses a wonderful life even when they cannot give.’

He deserves to be elected with such a manifesto.

And finally, just a photo I found on his Facebook page – not all Luca’s horses are sports horses and not all riders are human…It’s a winner, isn’t it?

Sun and sunny - lessons

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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 36 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.

Silencing the Whisperers

by Linda Chamberlain

There is a new generation of horse whisperers. They work with our animals so peacefully, so silently that you hardly know they’ve done anything at all.

IMG_3786

Perhaps you’ve read The Horse Whisperer, or seen the film and know something of the techniques. Or like me, you may have seen Monty Roberts work with horses. It’s impressive but it’s not about having a quiet, little chat with the horse before it takes a rider on its back for the first time. Put simply, Monty understands the ‘language’ of the herd and mimics the actions of the lead mare to produce some obedience or cooperation from the youngster he’s working with. He’s a great showman and he understands the horse deep down.

Monty and others like him became known as horse whisperers but, thanks to one particular horse, I have recently met a couple of professionals who appear to communicate in a much quieter way.  Neither of them would fill the Albert Hall; there’s no show, no razzmatazz and they would probably hate the label. The horse who has introduced these people into my life is Tao – I wrote about her in an earlier blog and will give you a link to it at the end.

Tao is my daughter’s horse who came to us as a never-been-ridden five year old. She’d had a bad start in life, lacked cover 16food and care and is probably lucky to be alive thanks to the people who saved her from a building site! Well, Amber backed her while studying for her degree but Tao was very accident prone, hated anything that smacked of medical intervention or worming syringes and had her own list of things-I-don’t-like. We worked around them.

On one of the vet’s numerous visits we talked about teeth. It’s routine horse maintenance to have teeth checked and rasped and was something I had neglected, possibly deliberately.  An appointment was made and the vet joked: ‘I’ll bring plenty of sedatives.’

Armour might also have been useful. I laughed but later cancelled the visit. Because I thought a horse that’s never had a dentist examine and tend to her mouth should have a chance to do it nicely. Along came Simon Vieweg, a second-generation equine dentist from Westrow Equine Dental Service who was recommended by a couple of friends.

Without wanting to put him off, I told him about our girl. Simon took Tao’s lead rope from me and stroked her head. Then he held her and brought his face close to hers, his hand resting on her forehead. He didn’t want me or need me nearby. They were having a silent, peaceful ‘chat’.  He closed his eyes and stayed with her for a bit. Then he quietly introduced her to the dentist’s rasp. He let her hold it in her mouth (like a bit) and gradually she allowed him to do his work while my daughter and I picked ourselves up off the floor.  She even let him put on the specialist gag which allowed him to reach her back teeth. We were slightly in awe.

I asked Simon why he had that quiet time with horses before working on them because I had never seen any dentist bother before.

‘I like them to get to know me,’ he said. ‘It’s important for both of us because I need to understand them too.’ He’s never had any training in horse communication; it’s something that comes naturally to him, perhaps because his father was in the profession before him. Jacqui wth T

Now, I want to introduce you to another horse helper who Tao had need of last year. You see, our little chestnut mare began refusing to leave the yard either ridden or for a walk. She seemed depressed and upset after my friend’s horse had to be put to sleep bringing our small herd of three down to two. At first, like many owners, we thought she was being naughty. We asked ourselves whether she was eating too much grass which can make her silly. Amber got cross and forced the issue but was given the ride from Hell as her reward. I decided Tao was deeply upset when I took her only remaining field mate for a ride. Instead of whinnying, Tao said nothing but stood in the field shelter with her head lowered as Carrie left her.

Could she really be grieving for her friend who was put to sleep? I asked around and many, many people said YES. So I contacted my friend Jacqui Howe (left with Tao) who was studying the Trust Technique. She has since qualified in this method of animal communication and set up her own practice but she agreed to come and visit.

She felt Tao’s refusal to leave home was linked to the loss of her friend. She felt Tao was confused and upset, possibly fearing she might be next!

Whatever the horse thought, it was important to reduce her anxiety for everyone’s safety.

I’m going to describe the Technique as relaxation training for people and horses (or other animals). It teaches you to clear your mind of thoughts and get ‘into the present’ – in other words stand with your horse, listen to the sounds of its breathing, the birdsong, the trees but get rid of all that other stuff like the year-end accounts.

Once we humans get to a quieter state, so do our horses. Tao and Carrie stood with us and they began to relax too, their heads lowered, they yawned and chewed. Jacqui suggested I talked to them about the loss of their field companion – not because they would instantly understand me but they are intuitive creatures and will pick up our feelings. It wasn’t easy, I cried…but I spoke.

And then Jacqui suggested we took them for a walk to the house. It was breathtakingly easy, with no anger or waving of back legs from Tao. I was very happy and then something amazing happened. Carrie began licking and grooming Tao’s neck. Now, if Carrie were a human, she would drink pints and ride a motorcycle.

I told Jacqui, ‘She’s an aggressive mare, the boss. She never does that nurturing thing!’

Amber on Tao-WEB VERSION

Amber with Tao – before things went wrong

‘It felt like a real message of well done from Carrie, didn’t it?’ Jacqui said, smiling.

Jacqui visited a few more times and soon Tao was being led in hand on our rides again. Her first time out saw much more resistance from our little mare. Each time she wanted to stop, Jacqui waited with her, emptying her mind, being patient until Tao relaxed and finally…decided to come. It felt like such an achievement.

 

Thinking about both of my lovely practitioners – it seems as if less was more.

Here is an earlier blog about Tao.

Check out Jacqui’s website for more info. Here is the link.

Simon Vieweg of Westrow Equine Dental Service is here.

Please don’t make them too busy so I can’t use them anymore!

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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 onAmazon UK and Amazon US – paperback for £2.84 and Kindle for 99p. BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from AmberThe First Vet, historical romance inspired by the life and work of the amazing early vet, Bracy Clark – the man who exposed the harm of shoeing 200 years ago! Paperback price £6.99, Kindle £2.24 –Amazon UK. Amazon US. This book, which has more than 30 five-star reviews and a recommend from the Historical Novel Society, sold out at the prestigious international show at Hickstead! Still available on Amazon though…

And thanks to reader Andrea Mash for sending me this heartwarming feedback –  ‘I didn’t know as much as I do now about feet, still don’t know an awful lot but I could tell my girl wasn’t happy & her fronts looked so squashed together from underneath, I started looking into barefoot and took Linda Chamberlain’s book (A Barefoot Journey) on holiday to read. That was it. I had booked my farrier to take her shoes off and an equine podiatrist before I’d even got back from my hols. 3 weeks in now, podiatrist coming again Saturday, can’t wait to see what she thinks.’ Good luck to Andrea and her brilliant thoroughbred. Keep us posted…

To receive notice of future blogs – press the follow button at the top of the page. And leave me feedback, I love to hear from you. 

A Bit Much?

by Linda Chamberlain

This is allowed…

dressage horse

And yet…this is not…

bitless dressage

You might think you’ve misread that or jumbled up the photos but no…bitless bridles are effectively banned in dressage competitions around the world. There is no rule against them as such but judges award points to horses that are ‘submissive’ to the bit and so if you ride without one, you can’t join in. And it doesn’t matter how good your horse is; or how well you ride.

Pressure is mounting across the globe for a re-examination of the rules – there’s already been a relaxation in Holland in lower levels of competition. But you won’t find many more traditional places than the equestrian world which is hostile to change.

A top-level meeting was held last month in the UK following pressure from a group of riders – a David-against-Goliath situation if ever there was one. The group are members of a British Horse Society training club in Norfolk. They have support from their MP, Norman Lamb, who is a former government minister; they ride their horses bitless and it’s a testament to their persistence that the talks took place at all. Round the table were key people from the sport – British Dressage, the British Equestrian Federation, the British Horse Society and World Horse Welfare. The horse world is eagerly waiting to hear what will come from those talks and whether the UK will provide a catalyst for change. A press release has yet to be issued.

Dressage, which is proudly sponsored by numerous feed manufacturers, is all about the horse displaying a high level of training. The horse must be ‘on the bit’ – a rough translation 100 years ago from the French ‘dans le main’. Even from my rusty grasp of the Gallic language I know there’s a possible error here because the literal translation means in the hand.

Carl Hester the Olympic dressage rider, is quoted on social media as saying he has no problem competing against those who ride bitless.

But a change would need to come internationally for the system to work because national competitions feed into international ones.  If a bitless horse became a British champion he wouldn’t be able to represent his country on the world dressage stage. I can see that’s a problem but the issue isn’t going away. More and more riders are turning to bitless bridles and finding they can achieve high levels of equitation. Not surprisingly they are frustrated at the exclusion – even at amateur events and local competitions.

There are welfare concerns about using a bit to control a horse but the UK campaign group – A Bit More Choice – is calling for riders to be able to choose what bridle they use; they don’t seek a ban on the bit which is said to be a development of the Bronze Age.  I’ll give you a link to the group’s Facebook page at the end of this blog.

But let’s look at those welfare worries and see whether they are convincing.  Anyone with blood in their veins can look at the two photos above and see that one horse is ridden in a strong bit and is foaming at the mouth. He’s performing to a very high level and the rider has him held between the leg and the hands as the sport requires. Is there pain involved? Your guess is as good as mine.

My other rider (photographed by Sallist Lindqvist) is bitless. There is no foaming, the rider has no spurs but the horse is performing at a high level and it’s a beautiful sight. All appears relaxed and pain free.

Scientific evidence is available from the renowned vet Dr Robert Cook who has developed a cross-under bitless bridle. He’s from the US but graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in the 1950s. He compared skulls of the domestic, ridden horse with those of its wild cousins. The majority of domestic horses showed evidence of bit-induced damage – bone spurs in the jaw. Cook says on his website that the horse’s mouth is one of the most sensitive parts of its anatomy. The application of pressure from a steel rod inserted in this cavity inflicts unnecessary pain and can frighten a horse, he says.

Bracy Clark, who is the subject of my novel The First Vet, was vehemently against the use of strong bits 200 years ago. He was also concerned about metal horse shoes – but that’s another subject. Clark wrote that a ‘horse that is free of pain will lead from the thinnest piece of cord’.Catherine Campbell - dressage

Helen - 2In the 21st century, should we be using such bits for our sport…or our pleasure…when there is an alternative?

Helen - dressageI asked members of my favourite Barefoot Horse Owner’s Group on Facebook to send me some photos of them Monica - dressageworking barefoot and bitless to illustrate this blog. I’m going to let them all inspire you; I couldn’t leave any out.

The recent talks might offer hope of progress. The rider’s group is hoping to meet MP Norman Lamb again soon and at least a dialogue with the dressage authorities has been opened. If you are a member of British Dressage or the British Horse Society, now is the time to make your views known on bridleKaterine Anne - dressage equality.

Lina Hallberg - dressageDressage is a beautiful art. It’s wonderful to watch but if it wants to win the hearts and minds of today’s forward-thinking horse lovers it might need to leave the Bronze-Age equipment to the history books.

You can find A Bit More Choice on Facebook.

                                                                              * * * * *

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

Christine BlackettThanks to reader Christine Blackett for letting me see one of the highlights of her holiday in South Africa – that’s a good spot to put your feet up for a nice read!

Press the follow button to keep in touch, find me on Facebook or leave a comment here – I love to hear from you. Email me if you would like to receive updates about the books. New one coming – well, just started it! Very excited…

Barred for being bitless…

by Linda Chamberlain

A Royal show gets ready to open its doors – but this is one competitor who will have to stay at home.

Rea 4

Not because the horse isn’t a top performer…and not because the rider isn’t willing and able. Have a look at the photo – Rea Trotman can ride that horse of hers with no hands. Over jumps.

So why does the Retraining of Racehorses Organisation have such a problem with their entry at the Royal Norfolk Show? The animal is barefoot but that’s not a stumbling block for the horse, the rider or the show. No the difficulty, it seems, is the choice of bridle if they want to enter a jump challenge for retrained racehorses.

You see this beautiful thoroughbred, who has won countless races at Ascot, Goodwood and Doncaster, is now ridden with a bitless bridle. His owner has chosen this for him as a kindness because his teeth aren’t as good as they used to be and anyway…he doesn’t need a metal bit, jangling around in his mouth in order for him to understand his rider’s requests.

Rea, who has owned Danegold for the last seven years, read about the harm bits can cause to teeth and jaws, and decided he should never wear one again. As you can see, it hasn’t slowed them down.

They’ve entered plenty of low-key fun shows, showjumping and sponsored rides but Rea thought it was time they stepped up a gear.Rea 6

The Royal Norfolk Show is the biggest agricultural show in the country and the Queen is its patron. More than 1000 horses are expected to enter and over the two days in July about 90,000 people will come to watch the spectacle.

 

It’s a fair bet that those spectators would love to see what can be achieved by a barefoot and bitless horse like Danegold.

And wouldn’t the Queen, were she to attend this year, be impressed  with a wonderful ex-racehorse proving how well these beautiful animals can adjust to life after the track?

The class Rea hoped to enter includes a course of jumps and an individual show. ‘My horse would excel in this class as it is judged on style and performance,’ she said. ‘He is very laid back and well behaved; he deserves to show everyone just how great ex-racers can be.’

She decided to check with the retraining organisation’s officials but was told there were rules against bitless bridles for this class although not for showjumping.  ‘The reasons were shocking,’ she added. ‘They made no sense. Seeing a bitless ex-racer demonstrates complete retraining, which is what the class is all about.’

Rea has much in common with other bitless or barefoot riders who are falling foul of the rules of competitions in the UK.

Rea 3

The rules governing our shows are in a complete muddle. You can participate in extremely dangerous equine activities such as racing, showjumping and hunting without metal applied to your horse’s mouth or feet. But you aren’t allowed to do many dressage competitions without a bit. Rules for working hunter classes insist on both bits and shoes even though you can ride without either if you are hunting across the fields. Many barefoot riders say they are frustrated at the exclusion. One person told me they were stopped from competing in a Pony Club team because a ‘barefoot horse was an unfit horse’.

And just listen to this story from Monica Andreewitch of the Pony Academy in Surrey who teaches children to ride on ponies wearing just a rope halter. She had six children eager and ready to go to a jumping competition and then realised the rope halters might cause a bit of a stir. She checked with the organisers and was told that juniors must ride in a bitted bridle.

‘After pondering and checking with my soul, I decided that I could trust the children with bridles,’ she said. ‘They have independent seats and do not hang onto their halters – so why would it be different in bridles?’

Monica bowed to pressure. The children competed. The ponies weren’t jabbed in their mouths and they did cause a stir thanks to their notable control with long, loose reins. Not everyone can or will comply. For Rea and Danegold, there are dental health issues that cannot be ignored.

Rea 5

But frankly, these competition rules are silly. Or are they about tradition for its own sake?

I can’t help worrying that all this nonsense stems from utter embarrassment. There are a growing number of people who ride like Rea. They have a close connection with their horse. They achieve amazing things without whips or spurs and they do it without hands sometimes and make the rest of us feel like novices again. Imagine feeling like that if you are a judge. Is this the reason such riders are excluded? Are they too good? Too kind? They are not in need of whips, spurs and strong bits – all of which are welcomed with open arms.

The only time I’ve seen a rider booed as she left a showjumping arena was thanks to over use of a whip. A horse refused some jumps in a top competition at Hickstead and was eliminated. The horse was punished severely with a whip. The rider was jeered and humiliated by the crowd. If the public knew of the potential harm caused by shoes and bits, the public would not be amused by the equine world.

 So, here is my message to the rule makers and show organisers. Keep up with this growing equestrian movement towards less coercion and fewer gadgets. Embrace it because it’s good horsemanship; it’s humane and wonderful. Welcome it because the public, and probably the Queen, would love to see it. They would probably cheer!

 

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 – published this week – 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 and Kindle.

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 – Amazon UK. Amazon US.

 

 

 

This is one thing I have never done on a pony

by Linda Chamberlain

Take a close look at this photo – can you see something amazing? pony camp sleep The children are having a little nap. The ponies are also dozing peacefully. There are no saddles; no bridles, only the occasional halter. The ponies are free to leave if they want to because they are not restrained.

There’s enough grass in the field to tempt any pony in the land but they are staying with the resting children…because they want to. I might not have believed such a scene was possible unless I had seen it for myself. Well, I can promise you the ponies are not frightened or coerced into this behaviour, neither are their feet tied to the ground.

pony camp sleep3 Let’s go back a couple of hours at this highly unusual Five Star Pony Camp just before the photo was taken so that you can truly understand. I watch, like a fly on the wall, as the children have a chance to choose a pony they want to play with that afternoon.

They head for the fields with halters and long lead ropes to fetch them to an area where they have already built an obstacle course with poles on the ground, a blue tarpaulin to walk over and jump wings to navigate between. Then they master the art of leading a pony from the ground without pulling. A light tap behind the saddle area, either with a hand or a long natural horsemanship stick, is enough of an ‘ask’ to get most of the ponies following.

The children use their voices, their body language to communicate and I’m already in a state of surprise. They didn’t teach riding skills like this when I was their age.  I’m impressed; they are managing really well. If any of the children pull on their lead ropes, Monica Andreewitch, who runs these week-long camps in school holidays, shows them a better way – one that is nicer for the pony. Stand at his shoulder, don’t look back at him, use your arm and show him where you want to go. Some of the children have done this before, others are getting the hang of it; all are smiling happily.

‘Who feels brave?’ she asks, a bit later. ‘Who’s ready to take the halter off?’ pony camp leading

I’ve been around horses since I was seven, about the age of these children, and I’m smiling to myself. I’m expecting mayhem. Little round ponies with lots of fluff might look sweet but plenty of them have pulled my younger self through a patch of nettles to reach what their tummy desires.

I remember my friend, Deborah, battling with a tiny pony called Twinkle who had his own agenda and the strength of a tank. I hope the children at the camp won’t be upset when their pony friends run off to freedom, a good roll and a bite of grass. But it doesn’t happen that way. The lack of halters makes very little difference. The body language from their handlers needs some fine tuning, some guiding from Monica, but they stay. What’s more they continue walking over the jumps, the plastic and through the obstacles, going where the children take them. One pony breaks into trot because he’s asked, not with a desire to escape. Wow! liberty work

Then a boy comes to Monica. He’s thirsty and near to tears.

‘Are you tired?’ she asks him. It’s been a long day of poo picking, riding and drawing pictures in the classroom. ‘Would you like a bit of a sleep on the pony?’

She takes his hand and gets him on board, shows him how to get comfy. Facing the tail is the best way, taking full advantage of the soft, pillowy rump to lay your head on. He nods off and the halterless pony relaxes and does his own version of a nap, standing up.

All the children do the same. Monica and her assistants are nearby to help them get on and to settle. It’s a quiet time at the camp. The photo is taken. It’s a wonderful moment. Rare and special. Because it shows what can be achieved when children and ponies are allowed to play together. They connect…and that’s why those ponies stay with the sleeping children on board. They don’t need ropes and halters to bind them.

When the time is right, Monica gets the children to sit up slowly. The ponies come awake, too. The children dismount, the ponies are thanked…it’s time to go home. As for me, I’m a little speechless and I’m left with a desire to be young again – to unlearn a few of my riding lessons.

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the book that could make a big difference to horses! 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

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

Monica Andreewitch runs the Five Star Pony Camp at her riding school, The Pony Academy, in Ockham, Surrey, during school holidays. Email: monica@theponyacademy.co.uk Tel: 0208 224 3499

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

Lucinda McAlpine

Lucinda McAlpine

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

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.
                                                                                                       * * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

*    *   *

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?

Press Release – Please Share

Bracy Clark exposed a serious threat to horse health 200 years ago but his work was suppressed and ridiculed. Now he’s being given a second chance to change the future for the animals he loved thanks to a page-turning new novel called The First Vet.

Clark, one of England’s first-ever vets, proved that horse shoes deform natural hooves. He warned the 1000-year old practice of shoeing led to lameness and sometimes early death but he was tormented by a whisper campaign against him and was refused a platform at the veterinary college that trained him.

The book’s author, Linda Chamberlain, said: ‘The veterinary establishment should have listened to him but he was ahead of his time. Instead they laughed and buried his work. Today we are finding out that he was right. More and more owners are finding a cure for crippling lameness by keeping their horses barefoot. Bracy would be very pleased.’

A natural foot - no need of metal or nails

A natural foot – no need of metal or nails

 

Linda has spent the last few years writing and researching her debut novel which was published on Amazon last week and has already received 5 star reviews.

The First Vet is a touching story of love and corruption – a blend of fact and fiction that owes much of its fast pace to the battle between Clark and the head of the veterinary college, Professor Edward Coleman. The story is made more poignant by the forbidden romance between Clark and the Professor’s fictional sister, Christina.

Linda, who rides her own horses without shoes, discovered Clark’s work on a number of websites about barefoot trimming. She vowed to find out more and her research took her to the Royal Veterinary College and The British Library.

‘I spent many hours reading Bracy’s books,’ she said. ‘He was eloquent and passionate. He went on long journeys riding barefoot horses to see how they would manage and he rode a very lively stallion on his veterinary rounds in the city of London. It disturbed him that his research exposed an evil for which he had no remedy.

‘Like today’s barefoot advocates he worried that the horses’ hoof was treated as though it was a block of wood rather than a living, elastic organ. He warned that nailing an immovable shoe to the hoof was causing serious problems and early death.’

‘Thus we see the beautiful and useful symmetry of nature’s mould, no part of which is without its use, has been changed by artificial restraint to deformity and incompetence.’ Bracy Clark

‘Thus we see the beautiful and useful symmetry of nature’s mould, no part of which is without its use, has been changed by artificial restraint to deformity and incompetence.’ Bracy Clark

So why was he condemned by the veterinary profession without being heard. Linda determined to find out.

‘The answer wasn’t obvious but I think it was greed,’ she said. ‘Bracy withstood the whisper campaign against him in silence for 20 years but eventually he hit back. He accused Professor Coleman of corruption, said he had an open palm and was pocketing the student fees. It’s known that Coleman shortened the course to three months and Bracy alleged that he admitted unsuitable, uneducated students in order to make himself rich.

‘Bracy said Coleman had patented at least two of his own horse shoes which he was using at the college.

‘A greedy or corrupt professor was unlikely to lend a platform to such an honest man as Bracy Clark. He certainly wasn’t interested in hearing how his own horse shoes were doing such enormous harm.’

The two men couldn’t have been more different. Coleman was head of the college as well as Veterinary Surgeon General of the British cavalry. He sold his horse shoes and he patented his medicines and died a wealthy man. Clark was a Quaker who gave up a surgeon’s apprenticeship to be at the newly opened college, vowing to family and friends that he had little need of money. He shared his research and his medicines with the world and he refused to patent and profit from a flexible shoe he developed, called the Expansion shoe.

‘He was a successful and much-loved vet but I don’t think he could fight dirty enough against Coleman,’ Linda explained. ‘He suffered in silence too long. His later books talk of Coleman’s open palm and his greedy charm. He spared no ink in revealing the nature of his adversary and the harm his regime was causing the profession but by then Coleman was secure and entrenched. It might have been too late.

‘It’s great that many of today’s barefoot trimmers recognise Bracy’s pioneering research. Owners of barefoot horses often battle against hostility from other riders but they are finding cures that sometimes elude the professionals. So many lame horses are surviving against the odds once they are free of their metal shoes.

‘Today’s vets should take a look at Bracy’s work. They should continue his research and help barefoot riders create a better life for the horses in our care. As the hero of The First Vet once wrote – My book is a grateful offering to humanity in diminishing the intolerable sufferings of these abused animals. The foot moves for obvious reasons; to break all jar and concussion to the body and to save the foot from destruction. This has been overlooked in the horse. His foot is treated as a senseless block of wood rather than a living, elastic organ.’

I wanted to share the book’s press release so you could hear how important Bracy Clark’s work is today. I love to hear from you, so leave me a comment. Press the follow button to keep in touch with future posts and enjoy the book. Amazon reviews help readers to find a good book amongst the thousands released every year so any feedback is much appreciated. Tell your friends, too. Bracy Clark was a gifted and remarkable man.

Horsing Around With Usain Bolt

A spoof, by Linda Chamberlain

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

 

Usain's new shoes

Usain’s new shoes

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

confiend horse

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

UPDATE

ABOUT ME – THE BOOKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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