We’re well into the swing of having all the students back with us now at Hartpury, and have a couple of new faces in our staff team to boot.

Every year we have a new graduate intern join us and this time it is the turn of Jess Smith. Jess is a Hartpury graduate, who helped us out throughout her degree so we know her really well.

Our other newbie is Hannah Slator, who we have appointed as therapy centre assistant. Both she and Jess support assistant manager Kerry-Anne in running our yard. The girls all get on fantastically well and are super good at what they do, which makes my job pretty easy really!

I never take for granted just how important it is to have the right balance within our team and what achieving this can do for how much everyone gets out of their job.

I’m a big fan of the BBC Three’s The Call Centre, where the CEO Nev insists that “happy people sell”. I think this is true in any industry, but particularly when working with horses, where the dedication and hard work required means that sometimes it can be a bit of a slog. Our saying would be more along the lines of “Happy people make happy horses” but it’s the same principle.

Making sure that my guys are settled and content in their jobs is something that I see as a priority. This doesn’t mean that I don’t push them and challenge them, quite the opposite I hope, but more that they feel supported no matter what.

Because we are a small team, with a relatively small number of horses to care for (we take up to eight residents at any one time) we do get really attached to each horse.

We had a lovely dressage horse leave yesterday who’s been with us for a fair amount of time and there was a bit of tear shedding in the barn after he’d pulled away in the lorry. It sounds really soft, but the horses have such a vast amount of work put into them whilst they’re here that we get to know them inside out and genuinely miss them when they go.

The A-Listers

Along with our vets and therapists, our team of farriers are at the very heart of the business.

Although we get lots of the same type of problem fairly regularly, one of the most varied areas of our work relates to issues associated with foot confirmation and/or balance. This can take many forms, be that collapsed heels, poor medio-lateral balance or other common complaints such as toe-in conformation.

All of these issues will have an effect on the horse’s posture and how it moves. It sounds obvious, but how horse actually loads each foot is also hugely important, and there is a chicken-and-egg type of relationship between conformation, loading patterns and injury. We have a really interesting case of this at the moment and tasked with helping us resolve the problem is farrier Kelvin Lymer of Sandpitt Forge.

The horse in question sustained an injury to the right fore lateral-collateral ligament, which is situated within the hoof capsule. We have been struggling to normalise his loading pattern, which basically saw him putting too much weight on to the lateral (outside) aspect of his hoof, thus straining the site of his injury. To prevent him from doing this Kelvin has put a pair of roller motion aluminium bar shoes (quite a mouthful I know!) on his front feet (pictured top).

The shoe works by reducing the peak forces which affect the horse’s foot during the landing phase of each stride, thereby minimising the stress on the injured ligament.

Aluminum is lighter than regular steel and reduces the forces incurred by the weight of a regular shoe. The shoe is essentially curved on all external edges, so that the only flat aspect is a 1cm (approx) band of metal around the inside part of the shoe, rather being flat across the whole breadth of the shoe as would normally be the case. I’ve personally never seen anything like it, but we’re very happy as it seems to be doing the job we want it to.

I find the whole subject of foot balance and shoeing fascinating and it is definitely something I really enjoy learning about. I’d love to have a much more in-depth knowledge than I do, but then that is what the experts are for. What I have learnt is the impact that good foot balance and application of an effective shoeing strategy can have. It doesn’t just affect the hoof itself, but can influence the way a horse stands, moves and the amount of power it is able to generate.

That’s why our farriers are most definitely amongst the A-Listers in my book – they really do have the ability to make or break a case for us.

Fizz