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Carolyn & Chalice’s Barefoot Story

Carolyn & Chalice’s Barefoot Story

I am often asked the questions, “What made you start Urban Horse?” and “What led you into keeping your horses barefoot?”. The simple answer is Chalice - “The Boy” - and my fight to keep him sound and healthy. This is our story. 

I was lucky enough to get my first pony, Whisky, when I was just four years old. Looking back, I was very traditional in my approach to horse management - just like most horse owners at the time. I never questioned why I shod, bitted, stabled and rugged my pony - it was what I was taught to do, and what most horse owners did. After sixteen years together, Whisky - who was by then my best friend - died in an accident. I was devastated, and felt lost without her.  

Time passed and I tried to keep myself busy. I had been helping out with my mum’s horse at the yard when a new four-year-old horse arrived to be backed. Every time I saw him there in the field on his own it was like he was calling out to me! The horse’s name was Chalice, and it will come as no surprise to hear that it wasn’t long before I became his owner and he became my companion for what was to be many years to come.  

It wasn’t long before a young Chalice was really putting me to the test, and I can only laugh at what it must have looked like to see this angelic faced young horse turn from sweetness and light into a total horror! Initial groundwork started well, but even the simple things became a bit of a battle. Leading him out every morning to his field he would bolt off as soon as he got onto the straight, kicking out at me as he went. He was bargy and would freak out about even the smallest of things, and he had no understanding of what was or wasn’t acceptable behaviour. I think many, if not most, would have given up on him during these early days – it wasn’t a pleasant experience and was often quite frankly dangerous. Luckily for Chalice, I was full of youth (or maybe youthful stupidity!) and had a sheer determination to change his behaviour. But it was only when he was backed that the fun really began. Chalice would rear straight up as soon as I got on him, then follow up with a huge buck! He never looked or showed any indication of being in pain and after having him checked over, including checking the fit of his saddle, the verdict came back that it was behavioural and he was simply “being Chalice”.  

Slowly but surely, by doing things like regular lunging before I got on him or walking him in hand for a bit then getting on, I began to find the rearing and bucking slowed and life between me and Chalice started to turn more positive. I spent my college summer holidays with my dad - 300 miles “up north” in Cumbria – and Chalice had progressed so well that I even took him with me. He still had his moments, but with regular riding out over the fells it was then we really started to bond, he started to shine, and life between us became really enjoyable. He was seven at this point and I also started to teach him to jump. And the wow factor came in with how he could clear those jumps! Upon our return to the south after the summer holidays life carried on as normal with Chalice – the fells had really helped muscle Chalice out, he looked amazing and life was good.  

A few months passed by, then one day I went to bring him in from the field - only to find he was hopping lame on both hind legs! They were so swollen that you could hardly see the shape of his fetlock area. There had been no swelling or lameness before this point – Chalice and the other horses had apparently all been running around the field that day, so we all just assumed he had pulled or sprained something. I called the vet out, and after Chalice had been examined, I was advised to cold hose, box rest and to give him bute. A week later his condition wasn’t improving, so I called the vet back out to see him again. Having taken some x-rays, the vet initially diagnosed Chalice with sesamoiditis, and advised using rubber wedges under shoes, more box rest, and more bute. After more than four months of box rest, and two courses of cortisone-type injections, nothing was working. The vet arranged for further x-rays, and it was at this stage I was told Chalice had degenerative joint disease, or DJD for short. The DJD was in both his hind legs, affecting the pedal (or “coffin”) joint within the lower pastern. He was unhappy and in pain, and I was at my wits’ end. It was at this point that I was told to put him to sleep. Upset and in despair, I was truthfully considering going through with it.  

A girl who had recently arrived on the yard had seen how upset I was and asked me what was going on. I told her the whole story, and she listened carefully and compassionately. That night, she printed off a veterinary report about Cytek shoes and the benefits of barefoot trimming. Her horses were shod in Cytek shoes, which at the time I didn’t know anything about. She gave the report to me the next day – “Just read it”, she said. Well thank goodness I did! It was as if the report had been written specifically for Chalice, and I felt just like someone had “flicked a switch”. Shortly after – with the help of Chalice’s “saviour” – I had a fully trained Cytek farrier attend. Each hoof was trimmed not far off a barefoot model and the Cytek shoes were put on. The change in Chalice was like seeing night turn to day. My horse moved for the first time in months and there was no pain in his face at all. Chalice and I have never looked back from this day.  

It was my experience with Chalice, and learning how to help him, that began my research into traditional farriery and the impact it can have on horses’ everyday wellbeing. I began to realise that Chalice’s weakness was mainly due to his confirmation – he is very upright in his pastern area which in turn puts a lot of pressure down the backs of his legs and into his hoof. Knowing this, it was of course obvious that the jumping, with all the extra stresses involved, would have caused the initial lameness. My research also led me to understand how applying the wedges under the original shoes, which in turn were nailed on to a typically long-toed pasture-trimmed hoof, put even more strain on his lower pastern area – compounding the problem and exacerbating the lameness. It wasn’t specifically the Cytek shoe that helped Chalice – it was the barefoot model trim (the angle or shape to which the hoof is trimmed) which the Cytek shoe is then applied to, that reduced the strain on Chalice’s legs aiding in his soundness and overall wellbeing. Correcting the trim is often an area that is overlooked - trimming with the balanced barefoot model enables the proper alignment of the lower pastern region, which in turn helps maintain the correct alignment of the hoof. This either stops problems from occurring in the first place, or in cases like Chalice’s - where damage has already occurred - aids the healing process. 

When I decided to move up to Cumbria permanently, finding the right farrier was naturally one of the most important aspects of the move. There was no-one in the immediate area, so I contacted many qualified farriers across Cumbria – only to find that they either wouldn’t make the 30-minute journey out to me, or that they ridiculed me for believing in Cytek shoeing and barefoot trimming - a new-fangled fad, as they tended to call it at the time. I finally found someone who was willing to come out and shoe with Cyteks, so with everything in place I made the move up to Cumbria. The time came for Chalice’s trim, the farrier came out, and I couldn’t believe it – nails every which way – and quite rightly I “lost it”. I was so angry, and so anxious to be without a capable farrier. I got in touch with Cytek, and they in turn put me in touch with a very experienced farrier and barefoot advocate – and now very good friend – who caught the brunt of my frustration and tears over the phone. The next weekend he made the seven-hour round-trip to visit us in Cumbria and to help Chalice. This wonderful and knowledgeable farrier made several more return visits, every five to six weeks, but the travelling distance really was too far for it to become a long-term arrangement. And so, this is how I found myself not only further convinced of the benefits of barefoot trimming, but starting down the path of learning how to trim myself. The continued research and training I have been through over the many years to keep Chalice sound has really developed my knowledge about the importance of letting horses move without restriction. I became so passionate about the barefoot horse that I started a business,, to support the barefoot horse and owner.  

Barefoot trimming is not just a fad - so much research and development has taken place over many years that I cannot understand why the barefoot versus traditional farriery argument still goes on. It is often due to poor trimming that horses with circumstances similar to Chalice’s are put to sleep, and to me this still happens far too often. While I would never have another horse shod, I do realise that you have to really work at keeping your horse barefoot. Success is down to many other factors including the horse’s diet, movement, and of course having enough time to follow the barefoot model, and failure tends to come when owners are ignorant of these aspects or cannot afford to give their horses all of these requirements. This means that there are circumstances when shoeing has its place. I strongly believe in the horse’s welfare and do not advise that anyone just picks up a rasp and start trimming their own horse’s hooves. Increasing my knowledge and understanding is what has kept Chalice sound, but I have often thought the saddest part of our story is that “The Boy” had to go through all the lameness and pain for me to open my eyes and start questioning my traditional horse management techniques. Speaking to our customers at Urban Horse, I hear many similar stories every day. We offer advice and fitting of hoof boots to help rehabilitate or cushion-out horses, for a whole range of ailments, and I enjoy helping these horses and their owners with the knowledge I have built up over the years. 

Chalice was retired when he was 21 years young. He was ridden up to this point - no jumping of course, but who cares - he was sound and happy which is the most important thing. Throughout his relaxed retirement, Chalice still very much enjoyed life and lived out 24/7 with his pal Rupert - “Rocket Roo”. Of course, some arthritis had crept in over the years but movement was key along with frequent correct trimming.

On the 5th November 2019 my world tilted and my beautiful boy sadly had to be put to sleep due to colic. After everything Chalice and I had overcome over the years, sadly this time he / we simply could not fight this one. Chalice crossed over at the age of 27½ - he lived a full life and I learnt so much from him. Reaching this age was really amazing for a horse I was advised to put to sleep at 7 years old!

If mine and Chalice’s barefoot story has inspired you, or you know anyone going through a similar lameness with a horse, please feel free to share our story. Barefoot saved Chalice’s life and if our message can save another horse or pony this would make putting pen to paper all the more worthwhile. 

Carolyn & Chalice “The Boy”

The video below is Chalice aged 27 1/2 in October 2019.

Author Carolyn Hymers - Urban Horse - September 2019


#BarefootHorse #Barefoot #BarefootHooves #BarefootHoof #UrbanHorse #UrbanHorseChalice #BarefootTrimming #BarefootTrim

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