Fighting for the barefoot horse – where did it all start?

Please join me in welcoming Annette founder of the campaign Fighting for the Barefoot horse, she will be writing some guest blogs for us at Your Natural Horse.

Annette with her barefoot horse Hazel

In this her first instalment she provides us with an introduction to where it all began. We look forward to supporting Annette & following the campaign to ensure we all continue to have the right to choose who is best to care for our horses, whether that be a farrier or an equine podiatrist. I hope you enjoy her post.


Fighting for the barefoot horse – Where did it all start?

The seeds of the campaign were sown, although we didn’t realise it then, when Lindsay called me to say she was giving up. I was appalled, Lindsay was the person I owe my horses’ new found health and soundness to and I couldn’t imagine how I would carry on without her caring for my horses’ feet.

When I asked Lindsay why she was giving up, she told me the shocking story of how the Farriers Registration Council (FRC) had tried to summons her for unlawful/illegal farriery.  Her crime?

Flexible hoof wraps

Fitting flexible hoof wraps – which the FRC now claim to be a shoe – to a horse in considerable pain who had been let down badly by a farrier who represents all that is wrong with the trade. I won’t name him here but if you’d like to check out the farriers’ on-line forum, The Horse’s Mouth, you’ll find him freely sharing his unpleasant/defamatory opinions of barefoot trimmers in general and Lindsay in particular. Those of a weak disposition beware!

Although the FRC subsequently went on to withdraw the summons on a technicality, they did go on to prosecute another equine podiatrist, Tom Bowyer who had no option but to plead guilty.  You can read the details of this and much more on our website.

My daughters and I were so incensed by this we decided to fight it and to fight it on the grounds that we wanted to preserve our right to choose the best form of hoof care of our horses – whatever that may be – and not be dictated to by a bunch of mostly middle aged men, apologies to the few female farriers out there, protecting their turf and their income.

We very deliberately went for freedom of choice, rather than the promotion of the barefoot cause, because there are many barefoot factions out there and we didn’t want to get drawn into any particular camp. We also wanted to avoid coming across as anti-farrier, although we’re happy to be anti-FRC.

Interestingly some farriers are following what we’re doing and, in one case at least, engaging with the campaign in a positive way (at least it ended up that way!)

One of the things that has been so heartening about the campaign is the fact that everyone I’ve asked to help in a practical way has done so, and done it for free. And only barrister, Ian Lawrie QC, who claims to have been drummed out of the pony club – if you knew him you’d believe it – had previously had anything to do with horses.

But they all get what the campaign is really about, which standing up for our rights, in this case as caring horse owners, and not being bullied by a group with a vested interest in preserving the status quo.

The response to the campaign, especially on Facebook, has also been overwhelmingly positive, with lots of great stories from around the world about peoples’ barefoot experiences, some of which have found their way onto our Wrappers’ Digest. (We’re always looking for more contributions so don’t be shy.)

We’ve also somehow reached people in other countries who are trying to do what we’d like to do, which is to tackle the problem of the lack of any consistent, and ultimately nationally recognised, training and qualification system for the care of barefoot horses.  We believe it is the only way to remove the justification for the FRC’s restrictive practices, namely the fact that farriers have to train for 4 years while anyone can, in theory at least, pick up some tools and call themselves a trimmer.

An Australian group called The Australian College of Equine Podiotherapy has really paved the way here and now appear to offer a nationally recognised, albeit not yet officially endorsed, training and qualification system. The system not just promotes high standards of hoof care, but also provides a career path for people wanting to work with horses in this way.

I hope this will be the first of many guest blog posts as the campaign develops and matures.  I’ll keep you posted!

Annette Mercer

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