Uses For Horse Shoes

I follow this farrier on social media – Wildfire Forge – who makes bespoke artefacts out of shoes from your beloved horse. They’re very pretty; things such as tea light holders, hoof picks, key rings, bottle openers, and are treated so that they’re iridescent. There’s also the option of having them personalised with a few words.

I love these creations, especially the huge model horse head – go on, have a look!

I have some of Otis’s shoes, which I’m always wondering what I can do with them, and how they can be usefully put to good use. My uncle is particularly creative, giving me a horse shoe photo frame for Christmas, and last week he presented me with a keyring rack from one of Otis’s hind shoes. Being homemade, and of sentimental value, this is going to be the most loved keyring rack in the world! And far nicer than any shop bought product.

I’ve seen doormats, boot scrapers, door knockers, all made from horse shoes. What have you done with your old horse shoes? How have they become useful around the house and garden? What’s the most inventive use, and not just decorative, for old shoes that you’ve seen? I’ve even seen Christmas trees made out of horse shoes, which do look very cool – and are less likely to be knocked over by cats and babies!

Poor Phoenix won’t be able to contribute to our home in this way as she’s barefoot and highly likely to stay this way, but I’d like to get some more of Otis’s shoes into the house and garden in a functional way…

Phoenix’s Progress

It’s been a few weeks since I updated you on Phoenix.

We did very well at our first competition, so I decided to keep the ball rolling and enter another dressage competition at the same venue three weeks later. The blips in our first competition were due to her competition inexperience so I felt she needed her horizons broadened.

The second competition had far better trot work: more consistent and relaxed but unfortunately the canter work didn’t reflect her recent canter work at home. I was really disappointed about that, but then had to remember that we scored highly for the transitions, an area I’d really been focusing on. After all, it’s one big learning curve for her.

Since then, we’ve had a a quiet couple of weeks. It’s continued to be scorching hot and the ground hard, so hacks have been mainly walk with the odd trot in the woods where the ground is softer with mulch. I’ve been hacking in the jump saddle to help her acclimatise to it, as she wasn’t convinced by my change in balance when it was first fitted to her. Now, I’m pleased to say, she’s as comfortable in that as she is in the dressage saddle.

Phoenix has really proven herself to be excellent to hack; she took some persuasion to cross the narrow byway bridge a few weeks ago, but now she’s got it sussed and confidently leads over it. Last week she waited at traffic lights and walked through some roadworks without batting an eye. I feel that our relationship has become stronger so I can push her out of her boundaries and she trusts me more. When the ground softens I’ll be able to test her in an open field, and go on a sponsored ride, which whilst I’m disappointed I’ve not been able to have a good canter out on a hack I know that this foundation work is excellent for both her manners and our relationship.

I’ve taken the opportunity to introduce lateral work on our walk hacks, zigzagging along the road and field. Phoenix is definitely understanding the idea of sideways, and is maintaining her rhythm and balance as she leg yields in walk nicely.

Unfortunately the sand arena has become very dry and deep. Sand is usually a good surface to work on, but when it’s dry it is very hard work for the horses. This means, especially when it’s very hot, I’ve been doing a lot of walk work in the school and riding field. Transitioning between free walk and medium walk, working on getting more of a stretch. Halt transitions, and decreasing circle sizes. Yesterday I was playing around with turn around the haunches and turn around the forehand, as well as some leg yielding on the slope. Recently, I’ve done very little canter work, pole work and jumping in the school as I don’t want to risk her legs as she develops muscle and tendon strength. After all, she’s building new muscle and fitness which she’s never had before so I don’t want to make it harder for her.

Last week Phoenix had the week off because I was teaching at Pony Club camp, but when I rode on Saturday we picked up exactly where we’d left off. Having a horse who didn’t need a full daily workout was one of my main criteria, and this is the first time she’s had a week’s holiday, so I was really pleased she’d proven herself to me in this way.

The following day we hired a showjumping course. Bearing in mind that I hadn’t jumped her for eight weeks, Phoenix jumped everything perfectly. We didn’t jump too high because of the heat and her lack of jumping fitness, but she ignored the fillers, and jumped more solid fences, and less inviting fences than before.

Hopefully with this week’s rain I can start doing more pole work and jumping at home with Phoenix, as I really want to get back to improving the canter and jumping. But the weeks of walk and trot work hasn’t been wasted as we’re closer to perfecting the core basics, which will help all her future work.

This week Phoenix also had a massage. I felt she’d been tight for a couple of weeks. A combination of working harder, increased muscles, and the ground conditions I think. Anyway, she thoroughly enjoyed her masssge, which found some tight spots in her shoulders (which have bulked out a lot) and over her hindquarters, which is just because she’s using them more and has bigger muscles there.

I’ve not got any more competitions lined up. You never know, the ground might improve enough for us to go cross country schooling! But I’m keeping my eye out for some clear round showjumping as I feel that now she’s ready to jump some small courses in more of a show environment. If I can’t find anywhere, then I’ll hire the showjumping course again. Then I think in September we’ll try another dressage competition when hopefully our canter won’t let us down!

Phoenix is still barefoot, and coping really well. My farrier was pleased with her feet when he last visited, only needing to shape them slightly. I feel she’s really changed shape as her fitness has improved, so I’m keeping an eye on the saddle fits and making sure that as soon as I feel any tightness in her ridden work I get her massaged so she is most comfortable and able to perform to her best.

Self Trimming

A while ago now I went with a friend to view a horse. While we were doing the initial overview, prodding and poking, I asked the seller when the (barefoot) horse had last seen the farrier. I was told that she preferred to let her horses self trim. This rang alarm bells for me when I considered the size of the medial flare of the horse’s hoof. It could easily cause a brushing injury to the opposite limb. Were there issues in that opposite limb? Was the horse a nightmare for the farrier so it was easier to let her “self trim”? Yes I know, I’m playing devils advocate, but that’s sometimes needed when viewing horses.

Since then I’ve heard the term self trimming with increasing frequency. So I resolved to ask my farriers.

Horses have worn shoes for thousands of years, from leather pads used by the Romans to today’s iron shoes, but increasingly there is a movement saying that shoes are unnatural and we shouldn’t use them because of the damage they cause to the growth and strength of the hoof capsule whilst protecting the sole of the foot. I don’t disagree; shoes can cause damage but ultimately we have created an artificial environment for horses which means we may have to artificially intervene in order for the horse to be comfortable and to function to the best of their ability.

For example, humans now keep horses in smaller paddocks, ask them to trot and canter increasingly smaller circles, and jump higher and wider. In the wild horses roam over many miles of varying terrain, trot and canter in straight lines and only jump when necessary to avoid danger. Factor in our breeding which focuses on certain traits (for example speed in thoroughbreds) at the cost of other traits (again, in thoroughbreds, the quality of their feet) and humans are causing many of the problems we see today, be they conformational or due to injury. Which means that it’s our responsibility to do what we can to help our horses.

So let’s return to the barefoot versus shoeing debate. Scientific advancements and a greater understanding of the equine body does mean that we should rethink shoeing – the materials, technique, frequency etc – and the development of hoof boots are providing us with excellent alternative options. Although hoof boots do make me think we are going a full circle and returning to the leather pads used by the Romans and ancient Asians, albeit a little less crudely. So with this move away from shoeing horses, we naturally gravitate towards the barefoot approach.

Yes, it seems like the easy option – no lost shoes on competition morning, smaller farrier bills – but I don’t think it is necessarily the easy way out. A barefoot horse still needs their feet checking on a daily basis and having the correct diet to help them grow strong hoof. I think that keeping a horse barefoot is great so long as they are comfortable and able to carry out their work. It’s awful seeing horses struggling to walk across gravel. But ultimately if they can’t manage then it’s our responsibility to do something about it, be it through a change in their diet or by shoeing.

Moving on to self trimming. What is it? Now, it has two interpretations. To the innocent bystander, it is not interfering with the natural growth and shape of the foot, and through work letting the horse wear their feet down naturally. Minimum intervention, if you like. Which is fine. But, just like any athlete looks after their legs and feet, we should still look after our horse’s. A foot expert will notice any changes in hoof quality, spot abscesses, and still with minimal intervention, help the horse’s hooves grow in the best direction for that horse. For example, removing excessive flairing and encouraging the hoof wall to grow downwards as opposed to out to the side. Or vice versa if the horse has boxy feet. In the same way that occupational therapists help correct human’s gait. They teach you correct foot placement, use insteps to stop you walking on the outsides of your feet, and especially with children aid skeletal growth so that they are stronger and less prone to wear and tear. I’m going to direct you to a Michael McIntyre joke about learning to walk correctly now. Go on, have a laugh while you watch it and come back after to finish reading.

Anyway, whilst keeping things as natural as possible, regularly having your horse checked or trimmed by a farrier will help prevent problems developing. Unfortunately, I think that a lot of people who go down the “self trimming” route see it as just letting a horse sort themselves out. Which would be fine if the horse had perfect conformation and lived over a variety of terrains, but as I said earlier, humans intervening with natural selection are responsible for less than good conformation in some horses so they need to help them where possible, so it’s important for barefoot horses to still see the farrier on a regular basis even if it’s just the condition of the feet that is checked, or as in Phoenix’s case a fortnight ago, only a tiny bit of shaping to rebalance them and encourage the hooves to grow in the preferred direction. I think also, that when a farrier is called out to a barefoot horse he feels obligated to trim so that the owner feels something has been done. But if the horse’s hooves have worn down through work then taking any more hoof off will only cause problems, so in that case maybe farriers should feel more able to say to an owner, “his feet look great, they’re in excellent condition but I won’t take any off because that may make him foot sore… shall we rebook for next month?”

Whilst talking to my farrier, he said that he views his job as assisting the horse. So he takes into account conformation, strength of the hoof horn, workload, management routine, and does as much or as little to the feet as each horse requires to make their job easier and them more comfortable.

The next interpretation of self trimming, is I guess, a more detailed and natural way of looking after horses feet, but is probably more time consuming and potentially more expensive than initially appears. The best place to read up about it is here – Rockley Farm website . Self trimming is still about minimal intervention and letting the horse’s hooves respond to their environment. Which means that a horse who has low mileage grows foot at a slower rate than one who does a lot of hacking and needs more hoof growth because they wear them down quicker. It’s also about providing a variety of surfaces for the horses. I get lost on the physiological benefits, but working on both hard and soft ground helps stimulate correct hoof density and growth. I think! It helps improve proprioception anyway, so horses will become sounder and have less variation in their stride length over different surfaces.

So self trimming is really about providing a variety of surfaces to best stimulate healthy hoof growth, either during turnout or by in hand exercise. Which again, is great. But you need the facilities! There are very few livery yards which even allow you to do a track system, let alone have different surfaces in their fields, and the surrounding area may not have suitable surfaces for encouraging self trimming. So this interpretation of self trimming may be leaving the hooves up to the horses, but it requires a lot of time invested by their handler in stimulating hoof growth, which just may not be possible for horse owners with full time jobs, family commitments, who also want to ride!

I think it will be really interesting to see how the barefoot movement develops, as I certainly think it has benefits. Before embarking on that journey though, amateur horse owners need to be aware of the need to provide a balanced diet to encourage healthy hoof growth, the fact that we keep horses in unnatural environments so don’t allow them to roam for miles over varied terrain and surfaces which help them to regulate their hoof growth, and that we work them on artificial surfaces which can be very abrasive. The idea of self trimming is great, but the realities of being able to follow a program such as Rockley is more time consuming than many are led to believe, so I think you have to meet halfway. Go barefoot if your horse can tolerate it; use your farrier’s guidance and expertise especially if they don’t take much off when they trim; use different surfaces that you have available but don’t be surprised if small trims or tidy ups are needed because their conformation or living circumstances require it.

Hooves and Soft Ground

This winter and spring have been incredibly wet, and the farriers plagued by lost shoes (I imagine metal detectorists will be getting very excited thinking that they’ve struck gold!) and abscesses.

Soft ground equals soft hooves, which has caused abscesses and horses who usually cope well barefoot becoming footsore.

Thankfully the ground is drying out and hooves are becoming harder – watch out for cracks now as the hooves change rapidly.

I’m going to go against the general consensus and say that the soft ground has actually been beneficial to Otis.

My farrier came out to trim his feet a couple of weeks ago (blame my two legged project for the delay in blogging) and found that the soft ground had allowed Otis’s heels to expand far more than usual, so his hooves are actually much better balanced and a good shape. Which should mean that he’s more comfortable in the side bone area, although I still don’t think he’ll come sound, but being more comfortable is always good!

You can compare this image to previous ones that I’ve taken over the last six months here. I feel that they’ve definitely improved, which makes me more determined to keep Phoenix barefoot as long as possible, and if she starts becoming uncomfortable I’m more inclined to investigate the hoof boot route first.

To conclude, I thought I’d share a photo of Otis meeting mini me, and being as gentle and loving as I expected.

White Line Disease

One of my client’s poor pony is suffering from white line disease. We think it’s been a long time brewing because each time the pony has been trimmed by the farrier he’s been footsore for a few days. Anyway, what seemed to be an abscess a couple of months ago didn’t clear up and then the vet diagnosed white line disease. A new farrier later, and he’s making progress. Unfortunately, due to the rate of growth in the hoof, any problems with the hoof wall takes months to recover.

I don’t know much about white line disease, so I’ve done some reading up on it. When you pick up the foot, you can see the white line where there sole meets the outer hoof wall. Damage to this area allows fungus and bacteria to get between the sole and hoof wall, which causes them to separate. Infection then spreads up the hoof towards the coronet band, destroying the hoof wall and making the horse very lame. White line disease usually affects the toe and quarters of the hoof. As the hoof deteriorates it takes on a chalky, crumbly, soft, white texture.

There are numerous different types of fungi which can be involved in white line disease, which makes treatment harder, especially as some spores cannot be eradicated, which means that some types of white line disease cannot he treated, only managed.

Because the hoof wall is made of dead cells, like our finger nails, the damaged area cannot regrow as skin would around a wound. Instead new, healthy hoof has to grow down from the coronet band which can take up to six months. Which is why you can see ridges on hoof walls following a change in diet or health.

White line disease sets in if the hoof wall is weakened, or if the hoof wall starts to separate from the laminae due to poor trimming and balancing of the foot. It begins with small cavities in the hoof wall, or seedy toe, which a good farrier should pick up on and take appropriate steps to prevent the disease spreading.

Farriers will shoe horses with white line disease with bevelled shoes to bring the breakover point further under the foot which takes the pressure off the toe area, and supports the compromised area. Shod horses are more likely to develop white line disease because of the mechanical pressure of the metal shoe against the hoof wall can literally tear the hoof wall away from the foot.

Treatment of white line disease involves removing the infected hoof wall, and then keeping the area as clean as possible. Horses usually need box rest, especially if lame, and to keep the foot as clean as possible, using an iodine or alternative solution. Once healing is established and the ground conditions are favourable – dry and mud free – the horse can begin light work because movement improves circulation and increase hoof growth.

There is a risk of laminitis developing as a secondary infection if a lot of the hoof wall is debrided and the bones of the hoof are less supposed so the laminae becomes detached. By supporting the bars and frog of the shoe you can reduce the risk of laminitis developing.

Caught early, white line disease is easily managed, but in more severe cases special shoes, boots or cast are needed for several months in order to provide enough support to the structure of the hoof while the healthy hoof grows down. Farriers measure the lesion upon treatment so that the next time they trim the foot they can establish if the rate of hoof growth is exceeding the tearing of the hoof wall. If this is the case then the hoof will recover as long as it’s kept free from further infection by keeping it disinfected, dry and open to the air to discourage the fungi from thriving.

You can try to prevent the onset of white line disease by feeding biotin containing supplements to improve the quality of the hoof wall, and having the hooves trimmed and well-balanced regularly. The farrier should keep an eye on old nail holes, old abscess sites and quarter cracks. Other than that, good hoof hygiene and care is paramount at preventing white line disease, and catching it early. Horses kept in a more artificial environment – stabled with less turnout – and those in extreme conditions (very wet or very arid) are often more prone to developing white line disease.

Getting Into Your Farrier’s Good Books

Last week I blogged about what I think makes a good farrier so I decided to turn the tables and look at how you can be your farrier’s favourite client.

  • Firstly, be on time or at least have your horse ready and waiting in his stable.
  • Make sure their legs are as clean as possible. If the farrier is coming on a winters morning then take the time to put your horse to bed the night before with clean legs. It’s really difficult at this time of year to provide dry legs, but clean wet legs are preferable to wet muddy ones so at least try to hose the legs off as much as possible.
  • Have a dry area to work in, preferably under cover, but at least fairly sheltered. Some yards have a wash area, which also doubles as a clipping and shoeing area.
  • Turn the lights on! If you know lighting at your yard is poor, then don’t book the farrier for early morning or late afternoon- especially in winter. Some farriers bring their own headtorch, but a large torch may be welcome if you think it will be a bit dim.
  • Make sure the area is fairly clean. Pick up any droppings your horse has done in anticipation of his pedicure, and give a quick sweep so that your farrier can spot any dropped nails easily. And of course tidy up after him!
  • Pay promptly; either have the cash or cheque to hand, or transfer the money to your farrier on the day.
  • Book your next appointment in plenty of time, and try to remember it. Although I think my farrier would rather get a text asking for confirmation rather than him turning up and the horse not being there.
  • Refreshments. This probably applies more to big yards, or when the farrier is doing multiple horses at the same yard, but they always appreciate a cup of tea or coffee. I have to admit, I’m not very good at remembering to offer drinks. It’s nothing personal, but with the fluid intake habits of a camel and currently having a baby sat on my bladder, I don’t tend to indulge myself in hot drinks let alone remember to offer to make a round! The yard I grew up on goes one step further for their farriers. Although, they have a bit of a cake culture in general; but every week when the farrier comes for the morning they serve cake with tea. No wonder all the apprentices want to go to that yard!
  • If your horse loses a shoe on Saturday afternoon then holding off texting your farrier until Monday morning (unless of course the horse is crippled lame) will put you into their good books, and I suspect you’re more likely to have the shoe replaced sooner.
  • A farrier will appreciate it if you can find said shoe, which makes their job easier and keeps costs down for you!
  • Listen and respect what your farrier is telling you, whether it’s using overreach boots to prevent pulled shoes, or sticking to a strict five week shoeing cycle rather than allow it to drift between six and seven weeks. If they give you homework of applying hoof hardener, or treating the first signs of thrush. Or if they advise you that your horse needs to lose a bit of weight because of the laminitis risk, then act upon it!
  • Rugs. I always think it’s easier for a farrier to work without a rug hindering them, which is fine in summer, but in winter they may just have to accommodate a rug. However, I like to think I’d earn bonus points by making sure the rug was dry and as clean as possible so that my farrier didn’t leave with mud streaks along his back or water dripping down his neck.
  • Talk to your farrier, but not to the point of distraction. I’m sure we all know someone, or we ourselves, can talk both hindlegs off a donkey. Well this doesn’t help the farrier concentrate on his job, so after greetings and niceties make sure you give him space to focus and work.
  • Farriers are pretty self sufficient in terms of providing their own equipment, but getting them a bucket of water or making sure there’s no obstacles preventing them using the nearest electric socket (unplug your mobile phone!) and their extension before they arrive means that they can set up quicker and generally be a lot safer.

I think that pretty much covers all the ways that you can prepare and take care of your farrier so that he feels appreciated. After all, if you look after him, he’ll find it easier to look after your horse’s feet.

Choosing a Farrier

My lovely farrier, who is too popular for his own good, couldn’t trim Phoenix because she’s the wrong side of the road, and is slightly out of his area. Which is a shame but I understand that it’s important for him to try to keep his work in one area. Of course, I asked him to recommend a suitable farrier.

A young, newly qualified lad was recommended. I have mixed feelings about newly qualified farriers. Or newly qualified professionals of any sort. Yes, they’ve had the most recent training so have the most up to date information, but they’ve also the least experience. Phoenix is a straightforward trim though, so it’s worth giving this new farrier the opportunity. If I had a horse with more complex shoeing needs I’d probably find a farrier with more experience in that particular area.

It was a successful visit last Friday. My brief to the farrier was that I wasn’t 100% sure when Phoenix was last done but I suspect November time, and that she doesn’t kick but is a bit of a scaredy cat with new people and things. It was just about tidying up her hooves and giving her a positive experience.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the quiet, patient way this farrier introduced himself to her and took his time trimming her. When she fidgeted he just calmly picked her foot up again and carried on, giving her a pat after each foot was done. While he worked, we chatted about his business. He’s setting up on his own, but does a couple of days a week with some more established farriers, which means he’s got a good network of support and is continuing to expand his knowledge. I liked the sound of this. I told him about Otis’s problems to hear his opinion, and was pleased to hear that he had similar thoughts to Otis’s farrier. Phoenix’s feet were long, but he complimented her on her good quality, and natural shape and balance of her feet, and we made a plan to trim her again in ten weeks time.

Anyway, what makes a good farrier?

  • They need to be good with horses, so be quiet and calming around the nervous horses yet be firmer with the unruly horses.
  • They need to be on time, and work at a steady pace. Often owners have to take time off work or rearrange shifts to fit in the farrier so it’s never helpful to have a farrier who turns up late, or even significantly early. Neither do you want one who rushes the job so doesn’t notice any small changes nor one who takes forever to shoe.
  • They need to be reliable. So you know they’re going to turn up, and equally reliable in that you can leave your horse in his stable (as long as all three parties are happy, of course) and your farrier can begin if he arrives before you. Or he will finish off if you have to shoot off to work.
  • Tidy. No, they aren’t expected to sweep the yard afterwards, but picking up any droppings and not leaving old nails scattered around is a positive!
  • Personally I like my farrier to ask how the horse is going. It prompts the owner to mention any tripping, forging or overreaching. It could be a positive remark too, such as the fact they are tracking up much better or are coping with the ground on hacks. It’s also useful for the farrier to know your plans for riding, whether you’ll be doing more hacking, or need studs for eventing.
  • I also quite like it when farriers give a little tweak to the shoes. This sometimes depends on the owner’s feedback, but if they see a change in the wear of the horse’s foot or shoe and adapt the new set to accommodate this. For example, feathering the inside of a shoe or increasing the heel support by widening the back of the shoe. Adjustments like this can help prevent problems developing and improve a horse’s athletic performance.
  • Having a farrier at your beck and call is perfect if you are super important like William Fox-Pitt, but we aren’t all that lucky. It is nice though to be able to text your farrier when your horse comes in without a shoe and know that within a few days it will be sorted. And if your horse is lame without his shoe, or it’s the day before a competition, then it’s nice to know your farrier will be with you as soon as possible.
  • All horses feet are unique, so a farrier needs to adapt his shoeing technique, and be open to using different types of shoes according to the foot conformation or history of lameness. Again, a sign of a good farrier is one treats ever horse as an individual, and has a wide repertoire of shoes, techniques, and management suggestions.
  • This is especially important with younger farriers, who have qualified fairly recently. It’s good for them to be looking at furthering their knowledge and expertise. Either by regular training, taking more exams, or taking day courses. Having a good relationship with the farrier who trained them is also useful as they then have someone with more knowledge to seek advice from, and they shouldn’t be afraid of admitting that they need help or advice from others in order to best help their client’s horse.

An Otis Update

As promised, here is the Otis update.

He’s had a happy summer in a huge field of good quality grass. The vet came out at the beginning of September to see how he’s progressing. In walk, Otis looked really good but there was still a limp in trot, which didn’t please the vet.

He had a look at Otis’s feet, and whilst he’s been shod very well with the eggbar shoes, his heels haven’t grown out as much as anticipated. When his contracted heels grow out there should be less pressure around the sidebone, which hopefully means he’ll become sound. Obviously, hooves take a long time to grow so it’s a matter of patience, and best supporting them.

The vet recommended a type of shoes called Flip Flops, which are half metal and half plastic. They don’t provide support to the heel like the egg bar shoes, but the plastic heels mimic the ground and encourage more blood flow to the hoof because the frog and heel are expanding and contracting with each stride.

So I rang my ever patient farrier and asked him for advice and further information. He said, which had already sprung to my mind, that if the flip flop shoe is mimicking the ground, why not put Otis on the actual ground and take his shoes off? Then the ground , which is no longer rock hard, will cause the expansion and contraction of his feet thus increasing blood flow and hopefully the heels to grow out.

I agreed wholeheartedly. I think the flip flop shoes would benefit a horse who has poor horn quality so can’t go barefoot, but as Otis has strong hooves and the time of year is right, why not just go barefoot. When he saw the farrier this morning, the farrier told me that Otis’s hind feet are looking a better shape for being barefoot all summer. He also has plenty of hoof growth so must be on a healthy diet too, which is always reassuring. We took photos of his front feet with rulers, so we can measure the (hopeful) improvement in his heels.

In other news, Otis decided last week that fly season was over and he didn’t need his fly rug on. Which has allowed his coat to get even thicker, so he has a good winter coat and fat covering going into the winter. I’d like him to stay rugless if possible, but obviously he’s used to being rugged in previous years so if he needs a rug I’ll put it on.

I had thought that if he needed to be brought back into work around now then I would, but obviously he can’t but looking at him, I think he’d be too wide for me at the moment with my stretchy pelvic ligaments, so he’s got until April to sort his feet out and then we’ll go from there.