Saturday 5th June in the Pyrenees-FRANCE- We are all sitting down and chatting, 13 of us around this table, waiting for Pierre. This morning the last few kilometres before Porta in the Orient Natural Park, offered us spectacular views of dark green wooded mountains and deep misty valleys.
Some of us came from far like Martin, a young horse rider from Normandy. There are some very young people like Edna, a bean pole of a 15 years old, and Aurore another very young rider. And then some a bit older and these clearly older ones with white heads like me. We all have some horses, donkeys and/or some mules in our care and we’ve come to listen to this man who has been campaigning for another equestrian world for many years. This weekend subject is: “Equine locomotion and hooves maintenance”
Today we are looking at and listening to Pierre sharing about his observations of his 70 or 80 horses who live free all year round in the mountains surrounding him: Horses do not need shoes he tells us. They are designed to live bare footed as nature intended. Shoes on horses are a constant source of discomfort and suffering as well as deformities comparable to the bandaged feet of Chinese women.
The hooves are the horse’s nails. Horses don’t walk on their nails as it is wrongly believed. They are not unguligrades as it is widely assumed. Attaching permanently their nails with heavy iron and tacks is barbaric. It is also barbaric to put a bit in their mouth which consequences are just as disastrous. Have you tried to live with a spoon across your mouth ask Pierre?
Real partnership with your equines creates trust and therefore does not require a bit in the mouth for control. No fear and domination necessary where there is partnership. I am so happy to hear him say that with traction also there is no need for bits in the mouth, as I am dreaming to have Bijou and Bichette pull a cart one day…
Pierre studied mechanical engineering and the laws of physics have been the basis for his observations of horses’ locomotion and the discoveries he made for which he is passionate about and is sharing with us. Science invalidates the use of shoes for horses he says.
What he will be talking about and showing us in slides and videos for the whole day, is now obvious to us and plain to see.
The next day is dedicated to working on some horses’ hooves and we find ourselves in the stables and fields around where a few horses have been brought down from the mountains for us the previous day so that we can learn how to trim their hooves like we would of our nails, when they are too long.
Now that we are clear about what a hoof is made of and the use of each and every part of it, we find ourselves ready to have a go: we cut, and trim and file with a degree of confidence we’ve never had before. How exiting!
I am so impressed with those horses we are working with. A couple of young women training here have gone to the mountains the day before with a few harnesses and came down a while later with half a dozen beautiful horses. Those horses that live free all year round in the mountains are now completely relaxed and at ease when we ask them to lift their feet for us. They are not held but stand free, trusting, while we are working. We are experiencing fully what Pierre calls “partnership”. The oldest horse present today is a 35 year old mare and she is magnificent. We don’t have a great deal to do on these horses as their free outdoor roaming is taking care of their hooves but it’s worthwhile nevertheless.
Just after 4pm, I am done and heading home. I have met some great people: Jenny and Rachel, 2 English women, mother and daughter who came with their 2 horses. Myriam, so small in stature who has two big shire horses and what she lacks in size she compensates with a big personality. Jane and Robin, a couple with 3 young children, 3 horses and 2 big mules, both bakers, selling their bread on local markets around here and lots of stories with the mules to share. And Amandine, Roland, Melissa, Julie, Michel and Martial….And Aurore and Martin and Enda…. We talk of seeing each other again.
I have laughed so much and I am sure we will see each other someday, may be at Pierre for the level 2 training or somewhere else. But for now we have a WhatsApp group to share about our equines feet with each other.
Thank you Pierre for passing on your valuable knowledge to us with such dedication and passion. You’ve cleared the myths and superstitions carried forward for centuries, and there is a space and energy now to move on. Thank you Carole his wife for the logistics this weekend and the delicious meals and the smiles and kindnesses.
We all left with Pierre’s book “ le silence des chevaux” The silence of the horses, and with a hunger to know more, to know better, with a commitment to be independent and able to take care of our equines‘ feet with respect for their fundamental needs.
I have just ordered some nippers on the net and they’ll be here at the end of the month. I would have liked them sooner as I am impatient and eager to trim Bijou and Bichette’s hooves. And not to forget to take pictures of “before” and “after” for the group!
Hello Bijou and Bichette my lovelies!