What's Equine Podiatry?
Equine Podiatry is, in its most basic terms, about the study of the horse’s foot. This covers all manner of lameness issues including laminitis and navicular (which would easily be the most common soundness problems within the horses hoof). While the term Equine Podiatry technically means anything that can affect the foot, with over 15 years of consistent study in the field of health and bodywork, you’ll find the service that I offer goes beyond just the hoof.
I do provide a barefoot trim as part of the service I offer, however, you will find a host of other things I do to ensure the health of your horse’s feet, and in fact, the whole horse. Though the bulk of my work is with shoeless horses it’s not necessary for your horse to be barefoot for me to help you. Equine Podiatry can work very well alongside good farriery to solve any lameness problems you may be having, just as long as your farrier is open to it.
Taking the shoes off your horses needn’t cause as many problems as you think it might. With the use of hoof boots, many (though not all) horses have no need to come out of work at all through the transition from shod hooves to strong healthy barefeet. In the last few years hoof boots have improved greatly and they are now a very practical and useable answer to some hoof problems, particularly where hoof wall quality is too poor to hold shoes.
My Background and Approach
I expect you want to know a bit about me so you can decide whether or not I’m the right person to help you and your horse. I’ll do my best here, but if you have any questions or want any more information feel free to contact me. I’ll be happy to hear from you.
I have always been fascinated by horses, getting involved from a very early age through my grandparents riding stable in the New Forest. When I was very young I wanted to be a race jockey, but by the age of 12 I was 5’10’’ so that wasn’t the most practical career choice! In my teens I became very interested in natural horsemanship techniques. I wasn’t concerned whose techniques I was studying, I just wanted to learn as much as I could. Applying the techniques and seeing what works and what doesn’t for different types of horses and personalities is still an endless source of fascination.
It was a little horse called JD who got me interested in hooves. She was very athletic and wildly talented with her feet (that’s polite speak for kicked like a demon!), so I was never comfortable with shoeing her back feet. When shod on the front she was footy over stones, so I figured shoes weren’t helping.
That was how I discovered Equine Podiatry. I still hadn’t managed to solve the problem of her kicking, so I decided I was going to have to trim her myself. I wasn’t about to have any old numpty trimming my horses feet either (even if that numpty was me). I wanted an expert. So I had to become an expert… and TA DAA! Here I am!
Values and Principles
I like to keep things as simple as possible. One of the main things I learned through horse training is you don’t get points for doing things the hard way. So if something works, I do it and if something doesn’t work, I don’t.
Do no harm is a wonderful principle that gets quoted all over the place, but it’s also worth understanding what harm is, and how it can be caused, if you want to avoid it. I think that success is not only about what you do. What you don’t do is equally important, and patience is as essential as being proactive. Often, less is more. Finding the balance comes with experience and good instincts.
I try to be as observant as possible, and note down as much as I can. Everything means something, even if I don’t know what it is yet. There’s always new research and discoveries coming out and having comprehensive notes can be a great asset, when trying to discover where a problem may have come from, or as warning signs for preventative methods.
To get healthy hooves, generally you need a healthy horse. The feet are a great reflection of the rest of the horse. For this reason, one of the most important aspects of having sound healthy feet is the lifestyle and the husbandry applied. A perfect lifestyle and environment would be wonderful, but it isn’t practical for most people, so finding a happy medium that suits everybody is essential.
Making changes to the environment isn’t as daunting as it sounds. I like to keep things as simple as possible for everybody. The best plan is one that you can actually follow, not one that’s perfect in a clinical environment but impossible to maintain on a day to day basis.
How I Work
When I started trimming hooves professionally in early 2006 I felt like I should be concentrating on the feet. While I would incorporate nutrition and exercise into the advice I was giving, which was expected to some level from Equine Podiatry, I wasn’t giving the full health consultation that I could. I found that quite a few people simply weren’t interested. They wanted me to do the feet and that was it.
I found myself increasingly frustrated by going out to horses and seeing health problems, that I knew how to help, but having to keep my mouth shut. I was only using a fraction of my skills and knowledge, and seeing clients getting frustrated with the level of performance they were getting out of their horse That’s a whole lot of frustration and to be honest keeping my mouth shut has never really been my strong point so it didn’t last for long.
I got to the point where I decided to speak up. I did it just a little bit at first, and got a feel for which of my clients were interested to hear more, and which of my clients behaved as if I was wasting their time and my breath. And then I noticed something; that the horses where I was giving health advice were performing much better, or improving much faster than the ones where I was just doing the feet. Not only that but I felt excited, energised and focused when working with those clients where I was giving all the extra advice, even though it meant a much longer consultation.
I decided to change the way I worked. Full health consultations for all! If I noticed something, I said it. I’m possibly showing my age here, but in my head I had Roy Walker telling me to ‘say what you see’ (it can be a rather jolly and entertaining, if not random time in my head you know!). I’ll be honest, some of my clients loved this! Others… well they found themselves another trimmer 🙂
And you know what? I’m really ok about that. I’m not happy that I wasn’t able to find a way to communicate effectively with them, but I’m only one person, and I’m not perfect. I’m not trying to be the only hoof care practitioner in the world. I’m happy that those clients found someone who offers the service that they wanted. Just as I’m happy that I now deliver a service I’m passionate about, to clients who really want it. Everyone’s happy!
There really are a lot of options out there in the world. There’s many different ways in which I can deliver a service to people, I’ve chosen a way that makes me love my career, and my life and inspires me to do better whenever I can. I’m not saying my way of doing things is right for everyone, but it’s right for me, and if you feel it’s right for you too, then I’m delighted to discuss it with you. Seriously, I love it! If you feel you’re looking for something else though, that’s ok too. I hope you find what you’re looking for 🙂
Services and Prices
A full consultation, includes a posture, gait, health and environment analysis, a balanced trim, nutritional and exercise advice, a written report detailing the ongoing strategy for your horse, and boot fitting as required. Full support is given between appointments via phone or email.
Everything discussed will be written down in a report for you to keep.
For a more detailed explanation of what a Full Consultation includes and why, take a look at the SOUND Strategy.
A Full Consultation takes 45 minutes to an hour
Area Covered & Call Out Fee
Unless travelling abroad, I don’t charge a call out fee, I've included travel costs in my consultation fee to make it easier for everyone to know where they are.
I cover Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and parts of Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire
If you’d like to know a little bit more without committing to changing anything just yet, then an Initial Assessment might be just the thing for you. It’s a brief introduction for all of us so you can decide whether you think we’d all make a good team, and get you where you want to go.
I’ll come out and meet you and your horse in person, have a look at your environment, assess your feed and exercise regime and give you an idea of what to expect, and what to look out for. An Initial Assessment should take about 20-30 minutes. I’ll leave you with a written report of everything we’ve discussed and you can think it over or if you decide you want me to get started, we can turn it into a full consultation. Either way is just fine with me 🙂
I don’t trim as part of an Initial Assessment. It wouldn’t be good for your horse to have so many changes in their trimming regime if you haven’t yet made up your mind as to which method of hoof care you want to follow.