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Women complete 260-mile barefoot horse ride

August 20, 2009

Nic Barker and Felix on the ride to Exmoor.

Two women who wrote a book on barefoot hoof performance have completed a 260-mile ride from North Wales to Exmoor, enduring two weeks of torrential rain.

Sarah Braithwaite and Nic Barker rode through some of the most idyllic and difficult parts of the British landscape, but found the weather a particular challenge.

"The ride was full of challenges, as the bad weather had made many of the roads and tracks we were using very treacherous, with more than one turning into streams, making slow going," the pair reported at the end of their journey.

"Unfortunately, the monsoon weather led to one horse injury, with Sarah having to retire Morris after he fell and badly bruised his fetlock on a particularly bad path. He is fine now, happily.

"The star of the ride, though, was undoubtedly Ghost, Nic's 24-year-old Irish Draught-thoroughbred cross. Despite having been diagnosed with navicular at 17, and 'retired' as Nic thought, he is a true barefoot success story and has done many miles over the last six years, all without shoes.

"He absolutely revelled in the nomadic lifestyle of the ride and all the attention he received en route! He travelled the length of Wales until a kick from another horse injured his leg and put him out of action.

"He is fully recovered and back in work now," Barker said. "It was such a shame not to be able to complete the ride on him, as he was loving it; I may have to start doing endurance with him!" she said.

She completed the ride, swapping to her nine-year-old hunter, Felix, for the southern section, and meeting up with friends to ride the final 18 miles across Exmoor with three other barefoot horses.

Braithwaite and Barker are the authors of Feet First: barefoot performance and hoof rehabilitation.

Ghost, a 24-year-old Irish hunter who was diagnosed with navicular at 17.
They planned the ride as an illustration of the levels of performance achievable by barefoot horses.

Braithwaite and Barker have been working and competing their own horses barefoot for many years, and have helped hundreds of others take horses successfully barefoot.

The pair trained originally in the US before founding UK Natural Hoof Care Practitioners (UKNHCP), a training and research organisation for farriers and trimmers working in Britain.

Barker is based on Exmoor where she runs an equine rehabilitation centre specialising in hoof problems.

She and her partner, Andy, hunt their own horses regularly with the Exmoor Foxhounds and compete in eventing and hunter trials.

Braithwaite lives in North Wales and has a busy hoof-care practice, focusing on hoof rehabilitation and performance.

With a background in endurance, she works and competes her own horses not only over long distances but also in show-jumping, cross-country and hunting.



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