About Me - How Did I Get Here?
In September 2010 I qualified as an Equine Podiatrist with the Equine Podiatry Association UK, who run a two-year diploma course. The course consisted of many elements, including anatomy, physiology, behavior, handling, nutrition, environment, diagnostics, gait analysis, pathologies, photography, grassland awareness, and first aid (horse and human) as well as the actual trimming! We also had to undertake eight case studies, each for a six-month period – four of which had hoof pathologies - and do four days shadowing another EP. (Not to mention a huge amount of coursework and two exams)! So it was very thorough - I was expecting complicated, but if I’d multiplied it by about 100 I’d have been somewhere close!
The reason I embarked upon this? You’ve guessed it. You see, there was this horse...
But before we come to that, some very brief background information. I am also a BHSAI, and have been teaching for almost 20 years. I’ve also run my own competition/livery/schooling yard, and have broken in, competed, schooled and generally dealt with more horses than I can remember - although I do remember the most influential ones! I hope and think I have always treated the horses with compassion, patience, understanding and sympathy to keep them happy and get the best out of them in every sense, and sought out specialist advice if necessary. The point of telling you all of this is that whilst I’ve always been fairly open minded about different approaches, my background has been traditional, and I’ve only gone looking for alternatives when traditional methods don’t seem to be working. So, over the years I’ve learnt a lot (and still am), but have quite a bit of experience to draw on, when for no apparent reason, things aren’t going quite to plan.
So, there was this horse - and it happened to be my own horse - I bred him from a great proven mare who was very special to me. She was the cleverest, bravest and most competitive horse I’ve ever had the privilege to ride, and his dad was top eventing bloodlines all the way. At last I would actually own another decent horse to ‘get out there’ on. So he arrived, and he was perfect – good looking, kind, great temperament, good conformation and great to work with. Everything is going to plan – he makes a good start when he’s 5, he’s winning prelim dressage, and popping round some events - though he’s a bit slow and cautious, and seems to find things overly difficult - but that will come with strength and confidence.
But it doesn’t. Nothing has gone wrong, but by the time he’s 6 going on 7 I’m wanting a bit more from him, and it’s like he just can’t give me any more. He can’t engage himself for more impulsion and a bit more self carriage, a 3’ jump feels like a 5’ effort, it’s like pushing water up hill! He’s trying really hard –and I’m using up all of my experience – but we’re getting no further forward. His tack is properly fitted, he get’s regularly checked by a trusted physiotherapist, and I take him to some good trainers for help. I try a few different feeding approaches, nothing makes any difference, and I begin to scratch my head a bit! I speak to the vet – we do a blood test – all normal. We do a bute trial for a fortnight to rule out any underlying pain issues – this makes no difference. I scratch my head a bit more – surely I can’t have bred a horse from this mare and stallion which is going to be such a ‘dud’?
My friend with the horse in the next stable has a ‘barefoot’ horse, and she tells me a bit more about it. I think it’s OK as far as it goes, but I want to use my horse, and anyway, his feet look fine. All the other horses I’ve ridden have been traditionally shod by the same farrier as this horse and they’ve performed well. I may not be the best rider in the world, but I’m not that bad either, especially at this level. Just in case, I get another well respected farrier to come and assess his feet and shoeing. He even watched him walk and trot up, before suggesting some lateral extensions on his hind shoes – I am impressed! Two shoeing cycles later and there’s still no difference.
In desperation and with a bit more encouragement from my friend, I decide to take his shoes off, and she persuades her ‘trimmer’ (‘trained by KC what’? I say) to take my horse on. I get tons of information at the first visit, and am relieved to have found someone who appears to be able to help. But the proof is in the pudding. I can hardly wait to ride my horse the next day.
And guess what? I’ve got the horse I always knew I must have.
That was all about four years ago now, and my journey since then has been twofold. I had a ‘barefoot hiccup’ due to my ignorance and maybe a lack of advice, which led me to seek an alternative solution, which is when I came across the EponaShoe. This has led to me becoming the UK agent for EponaShoe, and whilst I genuinely believe that barefoot is best, I also fully appreciate that is not for every horse and owner – it depends on so many factors to be successful, and this is where the EponaShoe fits in – all the benefits of barefoot, but with the protection of a shoe. These two approaches to alternative hoofcare and the huge difference it can make to the performance of the horse inspired me to learn about feet properly and get qualified to trim, and if I were a few years younger, I’d also go and do my farriery apprenticeship so I could fit the EponaShoes as well!
My own horse now goes barefoot behind and has EponaShoes on in front, and we happily do whatever we like!