I mentioned  before that I never liked horse shoes. I first learned to ride on ponies that wore no shoes, and when I got a pony myself he had no shoes either. The only horse I ever saw as a child that did have shoes belonged to and old man, who came around with his horse and cart to collect vegetable waste for his pigs.


When Minnie damaged her tendon, the shoes came off and I was hoping that with the long rest period needed to heal the tendon,  her feet would improve and harden. She seemed fine until a couple of weeks ago, when she became very sore and didn’t want to walk on the gravel. The farrier came and told me she had worn her foot down to the white line and that she needed shoes. I didn’t question it, because at the time it meant nothing to me. It sounded as if this was the cause for her soreness. I didn’t want my horse to be in pain and I lacked the knowledge to judge for myself. I had to rely on the opinion of a very experienced farrier. Minnie got front shoes.


This weekend Maíre and I went to a Barefoot trimming course. The course was given by Dermot McCourt, a fully qualified farrier who specializes in barefoot trimming and is a member of the AANHCP.

The course was held on Clare Island, off the coast of Co. Mayo, so on Friday we took the ferry across.


Here is a view of Clare Island from Roonagh Quay.



We left the jeep parked on the main land and boarded the ferry that was already moored off the quay.  A small boat arrived and was moored off the ferry we were on. At the last moment we realised this was the ferry to Clare Island and we hastily made it across. Just in time or we would have ended up on the wrong island. The Clare Island ferry was tiny and only took 12 people, but the ocean was calm and the crossing was a pleasure.



It was a beautiful, sunny evening and we went for lovely walks, as far as the light house on the northern tip of the island.



On Saturday morning, we woke up to a different island. The clouds had swept in from the Atlantic and the rain was pelting down. Dermot, his son John, and the other course participants arrived with the morning ferry and we started with a talk. Dermot explained the structure of the hoof and the function of all its different parts. He showed us different bone samples, including a hoof capsule where the clip from a horse shoe had penetrated the hoof wall so deep that the pedal bone was chipped. I felt deeply shocked.


After the talk, we had an uncomfortable ride in the back of two vans across the island to visit ponies that needed trimming. Most of the ponies on the island are connemara’s who have never been shod and it was fascinating to see what their feet looked like living on stony ground as they do. Dermot and John were excellent teachers and showed us what to look for in a horse’s feet and how to do a maintenance trim. It all made sense and by the end of the day, I felt I was beginning to get a good idea of what horse feet should look like.


Maíre and I were particularly interested in transitioning as our horses are wearing shoes. Fortunately we were shown two horses that had been shod for a number of years, but who were now sound on the roads. We were told of their transition issues and how different they were for both horses.


When we left the island on Sunday evening, it was with the utter conviction that barefoot really is the only option. We now need to get Dermot to come to us and set us on the path to barefoot.


Leaving Clare Island, with a lot to think about.


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