In the United Kingdom, owners of barefoot horses are facing an uncertain time as it has come to light that the FRC (farriers registration council) are seeking to regulate hoof care in its entirety and are proposing a change to the current law. Currently, the FRC regulates farriers (the definition of farrier in the UK being a person trained and qualified to trim and fit a metal shoe) but currently anyone can trim their own or someone else's horse or pony. Everyone that trims is governed by the animal welfare laws within the UK, and hoof care professionals must also demonstrate they are in line with the NOS (national occupational standard) which ensures that anyone working with horses feet has a duty of care and can be prosecuted if negligent. The proposed changes appear to challenge the right of horse owners to trim or maintain their horses hooves, and seeks to regulate any professional trimmer no matter where they learned their skill.
However, the National Farrier Training Agency has lost its funding from the Skills Funding Agency after an appalling Ofsted report in June this year, and the NFTA is not currently taking on new apprentices (http://www.farrierytraining.co.uk/news-and-publications/publications/joint-press-release-on-the-future-of-the-delivery-of-farriery/). It should also be noted that there is currently no module in the course to cover the trim and importantly the diet and management of barefoot horses. This obviously raises the concern as to how qualified the FRC are to regulate non-farriers.
We also have great concern that they wish to control the types of hoof protection we are allowed to use, they already deem an Easyboot Glue-On hoof boot to be a 'shoe' and hoof casts have also recently been added to the list of prohibited footwear (http://www.farrier-reg.gov.uk/information-and-resources/farriery-and-modern-materials). At present, removable hoof boots are allowed but with all the exciting developments in the world of hoof protection we feel it is important to maintain the freedom to protect our horses as we see fit. Sadly, the EasyShoe is one such new development that only a registered farrier is allowed to fit in the UK, yet the trim ideally suited to its use is clearly different from that required to fit a metal shoe!
In order to keep people informed, and form a case if required to defend our right to choose how we manage our barefoot horses, we have created a Facebook group and invite anyone from any country that has an interest in barefoot in the UK or feels they could help with our cause to join The Right to Trim: www.facebook.com/groups/TheRightToTrim.
Easycare's UK distributor and owner/ trimmer of five happy barefoot horses.
My name is Primrose Hill, I was born on 28th April 2007 at Combe Farm Arabian stud in Devon but have reacently moved to my new home to take up the position of Trelawne Equine's barefoot ambassador! Trelawne Equine are the UK distributor for the Easycare range of hoofboots, and my job is to help them show the world how we horses can be healthier and have stronger feet without metal shoes. I live with 3 other horses, 2 of which were shod until a few years ago, but we are all barefoot here and live as natural a life in our little herd as possible. The UK is a pretty damp place, and Devon is more than most but that does not stop me and my friends having strong, beautiful hooves!
Being only 3 1/2, I am just starting to learn about life outside the stud I was born and raised on (check out my dad, Rumak who still lives there- he is very handsome!) and most of my outings will be around forestry tracks which are renowned for being stony. At the moment, I go for walks with my little Shetland friend and we just like to amble along the tracks but I will be needing some boots once I am carrying my rider around to help protect my feet. It is also a lot better for me to do my roadwork when I am older with boots and pads inside as the road is very unnatural and the pads will allow my bare hooves to function properly.
I rather like the look of the Easyboot Glove, and I have tried a fitkit which showed I will fit a size 00.5 nicely (I have very dainty feet!) but they may well change before I will be needing them next year so will have to wait for another fitting before I know for certain. Fit is everything with hoof boots, so if I need a different style I don't mind at all as all the Easyboot hoof boots are great. I must say I particularly like the look of the boots when they are on 'The Fury'....(swoon!)
I am very excited about my new life, and want to share it with you so please join me on Facebook and follow my blog 'Barefoot Beauty Queen' to keep up to date with all my adventures! I hope to be getting out to meet lots of my human friends next year, so be sure to look out for Trelawne Equine and Primrose Hill in the press and at horsey events in the UK!
Well thats what we are led to believe. The truth is, with the right trim, diet and excercise there is no reason why virtually any horse cannot enjoy the benefits of an iron-free lifestyle. The biggest obstacle most horses have to going barefoot is the attitude of their owner. Barefoot (particularly in the beginning) can be tough if the horse has less than ideal hooves to start with, but I'm sure you will agree the rewards of a healthier, happier longer lived horse are worth the little extra work in those first couple of months.
This is the story of Miss Bronte, sent to us by one of our dealers in the North. Angela has helped many horses to enjoy being shoe free. As well as trimming she can supply and fit any of the hoof boots in the Easycare range as well as advising on diet and management of the barefoot horse.
Miss Bronte’s Story So Far
Miss Bronte – Bronte to her friends – is a five year old thoroughbred mare. She has had a very typical thoroughbred life… so far. Raced as a two and three year old, she ran six times, her claim to fame being ridden a couple of times by leading lady jockey Hayley Turner. Bronte just wasn’t fast enough to race and after coming last in her final race she was ‘retired’. Retired meant being chucked in a field and forgotten about, until she ended up at the Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre in spring 2010. She was under weight and lame when she arrived and was immediately shod. The TRC worked with her and got her into a good enough condition to put her up for adoption.
This is where Paula Smith came into Bronte’s life. Paula has had horses for years and recently returned from living in Australia. She wanted a youngster to bring on and event, eventually. Being a friend of mine I had already convinced her of the benefits of going barefoot though it was not something she’d ever thought of doing with any of her previous horses. We had the very common discussion about thoroughbreds, especially ex-racehorses, not being suitable for barefoot because ‘thoroughbreds have bad feet’, but I convinced her to give it a try.
We gave Bronte a couple of days to settle in before removing her shoes. Underneath the shoes her feet were pretty typical of a horse shod too young – small, wider than longer, underun heels, poor horn quality. Shoes off, first trim done and then it’s that first walk across the yard. Paula’s yard surface is quite challenging in places for a newly barefoot horse, gravelly in parts. Bronte was tentative as she walked away but sound.
Paula is the perfect client – she does every thing I tell her to the letter. So Bronte got walked in hand round the roads in the village and her diet was adjusted to that of a barefoot horse, low sugar/starch, poor grazing. Paula built up the work slowly, never doing more than Bronte was comfortable with. Soon Paula was hacking out round the village – again just at walk and Bronte was sound at every step. We had a couple of slight backwards moments, when Bronte came slightly footy. Both these times coincided with her being in season – a very common thing we’ve been finding… mares going footy when in season. It’s almost certainly related to hormonal changes and a client of mine has found that supplementing with Agnus Castus powder has solved the problem.
Due to the shape of Bronte’s front feet – much wider than they are long – I fitted her with Old Mac Originals. In time the shape of Bronte’s feet will improve and we hope to get her into Easyboot Gloves. However for the time being and the stage of Bronte’s work the Old Mac Original’s work perfectly. Once fitted with these front boots Paula started hacking off road. Our local tracks are mostly very stony and pretty challenging for the transitioning barefoot horse. But with Old Macs in front and nothing behind Bronte has been exploring the countryside with ears pricked and a long stride.
Paula alternates riding out with and without the boots on at the front. When being schooled Bronte doesn’t wear boots. I have trimmed her three times now and the nail holes are almost grown out. Her feet have improved hugely even in the short space of time I’ve been working with her. The Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre were dubious about taking her barefoot – convinced she would be dog lame without shoes. They were very impressed when they came to see her – and could hardly believe it as they saw her walk over the stones and gravel without shoes or boots.
Watching the mare being schooled or just powering round in the field is wonderful – she has a huge elevated trot and in time, with lots of schooling, will produce a pretty spectacular dressage test.
When she first arrived I was worried about her conformation. She had marked toe first landing when she first arrived and her pasterns, which are on the long side, were very low to the ground – not a good combination for long term soundness. Since the shoes have been removed and the feet have strengthened up her whole posture has altered. She now has a beautiful heel first landing. Her pasterns now sit at a more natural angle underneath her and no longer looks so prone to injury. This will only improve further as her feet develop. The great benefit of having bare feet is that the horse can grow exactly the foot it needs to suit it’s own conformation, unlike with shoes were the farrier will try to get the feet to conform to the text book ideal. Shod hooves are almost always weak at the heel causing all sorts of injuries long term.
Bronte’s story shows what can be achieved with a thoroughbred ex-racehorse in the short space of time. Credit has to go to Bronte’s owner Paula. Simply removing the shoes is not enough. It is essential to get the diet right and to do the transitioning work. Together Bronte and Paula make the perfect partnership and hopefully will go far together. Without shoes of course!
Rockcrunchers Barefoot Trimming Services - AANHCP trained barefoot trimmer available for trimming and boot fitting covering Northern England and the Midlands. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07554 011634 www.rockcrunchers.co.uk.
We all know the importance of fitting hoof boots correctly, more than once we have we read the phrase on EasyCare's blog and website 'The single most important factor when fitting a hoof boot is fit!'
Here at Trelawne Equine we wholeheartedly agree that fit is vital to the success of any hoof boot and the first thing we tell any new customer. We also feel it is also very important for horse owners to understand that the hoof capsule is a very adaptable part of the horse and as such can change over time. If you have been using a set of hoof boots for a few months with great success, and then experience a boot failure, the first thing you should consider is 'have my horses hooves changed?' Hoof boot failure is almost always due to incorrect fit or size, and as the hoof is liable to change due to a change in management or stimulus the first course of action should be to trim and remeasure the hooves.
It is always a good idea to make a note of your horses hooves as a future reference, by taking photos and measurements periodically. This also serves as a handy record if you encounter a problem as you can look back and see if anything has changed. There are a number of factors that can affect your horses hooves including diet, exercise, ground conditions, style and frequency of trim for example. Something as simple as changing your hoof care professional or months of dry weather after a prolonged period of wet weather (as is being experience here in the UK right now!) can cause the hoof capsule to adapt to the new conditions. This has the potential to change the dimensions of the hoof by just a few mm, enough to cause the usually superbly fitting boots to now be a little big or small and thus compromise the fit.
In most cases you may not know your horses hooves have changed and your boots will continue to perform as well as they always have, but if the change is big enough to compromise the fit of your horses current boots you would be best to change.
Don't forget that EasyCare hoof boots are so popular that if you do need to buy a different size for your horse your used boots will command quite a high price second hand, so don't just dispose of them! If you are in any doubt as to the continuing suitability of your boots, do email or give us a ring with the current hoof boots and your horses measurements and we can advise if a different size or style would be more appropriate.
It has been a few years since I have been able to write about potential problems with dry hooves in the UK, but we are last seemigly going to have a summer which although long overdue presents new horse hoof problems!
One such problem is dry hooves. Hooves need a certain amount of moisture to retain their elasticity, and it can be even more of a problem with a shod hoof that will begin to split and crack if allowed to dry out.
An ideal solution using natural horse care prctices is to have an area around the water container (to simulate drinking from a river in the wild) large and wet enough to soak the horses feet when they drink. In practice, this is not always possible or convenient, and water will bring with it the inevitable mud (unless you are lucky enough to have a custom built watering area with a waterproof base), which we would all prefer to avoid whenever possible!
The EasySoaker therapy hoof boot is the ideal solution to soak and medicate if necessary the horse's hooves, and is a very versatile boot that can be used for a number of applications. Soaking your horse's hooves in an EasySoaker, with or without hoof care products, can help with sand cracks, seedy toe, white line disease, thrush, contracted heels and abscesses, as well as helping to alleviate the symptoms associated with navicular, contracted heels, corns and founder.