Andrew Bowe is a career master farrier who specializes in the barefoot rehabilitation of horses that are either suffering from chronic lameness or are simply not performing as well as they should be. He works in conjunction with veterinarians and equine body therapists.
With many years of experience (with both traditional shoeing and barefooting), he is often called to help with those horses that are a challenge to return to soundness or even to transition from shod to barefoot performance.
Andrew also spends a large amount of his time educating both owner trimmers and aspiring professional trimmers. He is one of the lecturers for the Diploma of Equine Podiotherapy which commenced in early 2008.
Nowadays, Andrew is spending an increasing amount of time providing advice to people who send Email photos of problem hooves. To meet the ever increasing demand of enquiries from around the country and even abroad, he is setting up an online technical consultancy service. There will now be a fee for consultancy and this will enable him to allocate sufficient time to provide effective and adequate consultations.
Australia is a big country, but if your horse is having hoof related issues, we may be able to help from a distance with an Email consultation.
What about that name?
The Barefoot Blacksmith ® is quite a contradictory tag, but it represents the new and the old with equine hoofcare. I have seen, studied and experienced ‘both sides of the anvil’. Even though my business is right at the cutting edge of equine bare-hoof-care science, I am fortunate to have a long term background in traditional farriery. I didn’t just turn up at the stables yesterday!
Experience only comes with high mileage.
I started learning the farriery trade in the 1980’s while I was also studying applied science. After graduating (B.App.Sc), I set up a farrier business in Central Victoria and have been “down under” horses ever since.
Right from the outset, it was more than just a job and I continued to study (and apply science!); searching for better ways to balance equine legs and feet and solve lameness problems. After shoeing about 20,000 horses (and probably trimming a similar number) I thought I knew a bit about horse’s feet. But then along came barefooting!
What sparked my change of direction?
Why would a career master farrier with a successful business take such a sharp turn away from tradition; from the comfort zone of mainstream hoofcare ? Not only am I questioning a thousand years of solid tradition, but at the same time risking being ostracised by my contemporaries and the establishment? (too long in the sun maybe !)
Like many other farriers, I was on a quest to find a cure for navicular syndrome (a debilitating lameness that affects many performance horses and traditionally was considered incurable – see navicular page for more details). A cure for ‘navicular’ was the farriers’ holy grail.
A couple of my clients with American connections had been hearing about the successes that pioneers of barefooting were having with rehabbing of chronic lameness in general and navicular in particular and they ‘insisted’ that I look into it.
Being a cynical old farrier, I reluctantly agreed (thinking to myself “yeah right, there’s no way you can ride a sound horse without shoes, let alone a lame one!”) and I began to ‘barefoot’ some horses with navicular problems. Well, the results were nothing short of amazing with virtually every ‘navicular’ horse returning to usable soundness! This is even more incredible if you consider that my own barefooting skills at that stage were still in nappies!
Heartened by these navicular successes, I started applying barefoot principles to other horses with chronic lameness within my existing clientele as well as all the sound working horses at Mayfield – fine tuning my skills and trimming parameters as I went (there were several of us embarking on the barefoot journey in Australia together and we needed to develop trimming parameters that suited Australian conditions).
Fortunately, this expansion of barefooting coincided with the release of viable hoof boots onto the market (in particular the Easyboot Epic ™), which meant that a horse could have its shoes removed today, then be ‘booted up’ and ridden tomorrow. (Hoof boots are sometimes needed to protect the hooves during the transition and conditioning phase.) Suddenly barefoot riding became an easily accessible option for many horse riders. That’s about when the phone started ringing its head off and hasn’t stopped since!
This journey down the barefoot track remains a humbling one. Horses are teaching us new things every day. We have learnt much, but there is still far to go.