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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A day in the life of a Barefoot South student

Hi there, I’m Michelle. Some of you will have already met me and others will have heard that Lucy has taken on a student. Well that’s me and Lucy has set me the challenge of telling you about a day in the life of a Barefoot South student, so here goes.

6am – I get up early to attend to my four horses. They all live out 24/7 on a track and are fed ad-lib forage. I’m allergic to hay and have been trialling them on haylage but after 4 weeks it’s clear that it isn’t suiting them. All four have lost some of the concavity in their soles and one of them has developed really soft frogs which are prone to infection despite daily scrubbing. I’m amazed how much of a difference it’s made but it’s unquestionable: my lot all grow better feet on soaked hay.

8am – Set off to meet Lucy armed with my essential flask of tea – you never know how long it might be to the next cuppa in this job so best go prepared!

9am – Our first client is a small native type who has been diagnosed with PPID. We watch him walk across the stony car park and he walks over the stones happily. I trim his front feet and he’s an absolute dream; not only does he pick up each foot easily he actually holds the weight of his own leg which makes trimming so much easier. He’s an absolute sweetie so we have lots of fuss and cuddles too, always a bonus. Lucy trims his hind feet as he is a little arthritic and can find it uncomfortable. I watch as Lucy takes the time to let him relax his leg to where he finds it comfortable and she trims it there even if it’s not in the easiest place for her. After trimming we watch him walk on the same surface again and he’s moving very nicely, a slightly longer stride than pre-trim. We aim to watch all our clients horses walk before and after trimming to assess how they are moving and how the trim has altered that.

10am - Our second client has cancelled which leaves us time to find a cafe and catch up on some admin; booking appointments and responding to new enquiries. By pure coincidence we find somewhere selling cake.

12pm – Next up is an established client with a new horse. We deshod him two weeks ago and tend to leave a couple of weeks before trimming. His owner meets us direct from a clinic where he’s been moving forward and striding out better than he did in his shoes. Despite this she’s been ‘helpfully’ told by onlookers that he looks a bit short so she’d probably better shoe him! He has contracted heels from being shod but has all the makings of really solid feet. Lucy trimmed him and we then watched him stride out over the stoney car park really very well.

1pm – We have quite a long drive to the next client and we use the time to discuss feet, trimming, nutrition, my horses, Lucy’s horse and client horses. You name it and we chat about it as both of us are totally fascinated by our work.

2.30pm – We’re booked to see a new client with one horse to deshoe but it turns out to be two clients and two horses to deshoe! These ladies have clearly done their research which is always a good starting point.

One horse has quite contracted feet that look like they’ve been squished into too small shoes. They feel solid though and I’m sure he’ll find his way to rock crunching fairly easily. I used to hear Lucy say to clients “this foot feels lovely and solid” and not really get it. Somehow I seem to have picked it up though because now I see other people give me the same blank expression I gave Lucy. She’s right though, after handling so many feet you can just feel that some are solid.

Our second new horse is in a bit more of a sorry state. He’s been through all manner of remedial shoeing and is currently in wedge shoes with pads. If his feet weren’t in such a sorry state I would find this almost funny. In order to put the wedges on his heels have been cut very short, so once shod his hooves are at exactly the same angle as they would have been if they hadn’t bothered. I presume his pads are to protect his very thin soles, except I can see knife marks in his sole where someone has tried to carve concavity into them. Now I don’t need any of my training from Lucy to see that cutting material off an already thin sole is, at best, illogical.

To add insult to injury (quite literally) this horse’s frogs are so thrushy they’re almost entirely rotted out. His owner was very upset that no one had told her this was not normal and needed addressing. It was abundantly clear that if she’d known she’d have done something about it so it begs the question of why no previous hoof care professional said anything. It’s a question I can’t answer, but I can tell you it’s not at all uncommon and to me it’s a clear sign that those hoof care professionals were not putting the horse first.

So after much frog cleaning, applying thrush treatment and measuring him for hoof boots we wrapped his feet in nappies to keep him comfortable and his frogs clean until his new boots arrive. This owner has a bit of a mountain to climb, but she’s determined to do what is best for her horse, and now armed with the knowledge of how to deal with his thrush and keep him comfortable I don’t doubt she’ll get there. She’ll have some ups and downs but we’ll always be at the end of the phone and will drop by if she needs more support.

6pm – We’re in the car and on our way home. After a few minutes we both start sniffing around and realise we’re covered in thrushy ick and the car absolutely stinks!

7pm – Arrive home and after a quick hello to my partner and dogs I go out to feed, hay and poo pick for my gang and take a satisfied look at their lovely feet.

Once home I reflect on the fact that Lucy and I do have to have some difficult conversations with clients, usually about their horse’s weight or thrushy feet, or sometimes behaviour. But one reason I decided to train with Lucy was her mantra: “The Horses come First” and they really do.

Note: A week after this blog post we went back to visit our deshoe clients and the lad with the thrushy frogs now has small but lovely firm clean frogs. It’s clear his owner is putting in just as much effort as we hoped she would and her horse is reaping the benefits already.


Lisa said...

This makes me want to get back to trimming asap! I'm currently pregnant and can't wait until I am out on the road again.

Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth said...

"lovely firm clean frogs" - what a quote. And it is so lovely (and sadly so rare) to see people putting horses first!

Linda Chamberlain said...

That was really interesting, thank you. Would love to hear how the horses are being kept, and how that might affect their improvement. It must be very difficult for owners - as in the first client - who are surrounded by people who still love horse shoes. Good luck with your training.
Linda -

Bob said...

Sounds like you are working hard, its great to hear that horses are being kept so well.

Si said...

Hi Michelle! Hoping the a. I have the right Michelle and b. that you are enjoying yourself with the new career going well!


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Southern England, United Kingdom