Poynton Farriery Clinic

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Poynton Farriery Clinic

             COMPLETE EQUINE FOOT CARE

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Innovation and education are this farrier’s favoured tools

Passionate about excellence in his profession, farrier Andrew Poynton wants to share his experience. Kate Edser reports

 

 

 

 

IF HUMANS had first decided to put shoes on their horses in the 21st century, it’s unlikely that steel would be the material of choice, says experienced Wiltshire farrier Andrew Poynton.

Metal has two great disadvantages in that it’s heavy and rigid, so it doesn’t “give” like the hoof it serves to protect, but it is cheap, hard-wearing and, in the majority of cases, if used correctly, it still does a great job.

Even Andrew, who has spent a fortune developing and marketing his Imprint range of plastic shoes, doesn’t dispute this.

What he does take issue with, however, is bad farriery, since, when dealing with difficult feet, subtle changes can mean the difference between a happy, sound horse and one that is crippled, and generally accompanied by a grumpy grumbling owner.

A perfectionist to the core and pernickety in his attention to detail, Andrew is passionate about excellence in the job – “furthering the art and the science,” as he puts it – and about encouraging others to be the same. Intolerant of ignorance and attitude that results in a lame horse, Andrew says simply: “I am keen on ongoing education; all farriers need to be open to Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which is strongly advocated by the farriery governing bodies.”

Occasionally called upon to put his money where his mouth is, Andrew is an executive member of, and an examiner for, the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF). Of course, he’s also well qualified having attained the highest farriery qualification, the fellowship, in 1998.

Those at the bottom of the ladder must first serve an apprenticeship of four years and two months, assuming they get through the four-month probationary period, after which they can take a WCF diploma.

A minimum of two years later, farriers can go on to take the next exam, to become an associate member of the WCF, which qualifies them to carry out remedial work on diseased and deformed feet.

 

The fellowship is the third and final achievement, which requires at least five years experience after initial qualification and a 3,000-word dissertation in addition to the ability to teach.

In any practical job, there is no substitute for experience, but all farriers, in addition to their skill working metal, should have a thorough knowledge of the structure of the foot and lower leg and be able to interpret individual conformation and how this relates to movement.  At the very least, this requires a good eye and an inquiring mind.

Andrew has taken this a step further than most and spent years, and no small amount of money, developing and patenting his Imprint shoes, which are made of composite laminated plastics.

Having experimented with various different formulae, he has come up with a strong, but flexible material with a density that closely matches that of a hoof.

Andrew has so far created three kinds of shoe: one for laminitics, another for convalescing horses, or those in light work, and another for foals. With the help of extensions to the shoe, the latter are commonly used to correct limb deformities in the vital first months of life when the bones can be most easily realigned.

In the pipeline is a fourth shoe designed for competition horses and which incorporates metal stud holes. Although not due for its official launch until next spring, Andrew is already fitting it with success.

Two horses have competed at Gatcombe Horse Trials wearing them, and the showjumper in our pictures, which  had badly broken hooves that couldn’t take a nailed on shoe, is now back to work.

With the Imprint business taking great strides forward across the globe, Andrew travels extensively holding lectures for vets and farriers and also gives consultations, with the help of photographs and x-rays, via email. What he is particularly proud of with regard to Imprint technology is that he’s been able to help several horses with laminitis so severe the only other option is euthanasia.

There are other plastic shoes on the market, some designed to be nailed on, others attached with glue, but it’s no surprise that Andrew maintains his option is better. In a nutshell, he trims the foot, dunks a shoe in boiling water to make it pliable, then moulds it directly to the hoof, achieving a perfect fit. It sticks with the help of special adhesive and Andrew claims that Imprint shoes are no more likely to come off than conventional metal ones.

And because the plastic can be moulded, Andrew can essentially build a prosthetic hoof, which is why the product is so useful for laminitics.

In severe cases, this excruciating disease causes the soft tissue in the hoof (the laminae) to detach from the horn, allowing the bones in the hoof to drop and press on, or descend through, the sole.

OFTEN the hoof becomes deformed and of poor quality, requiring drastic cutting back, leaving only healthy horn. Careful reconstruction is necessary and, as long as there is the likelihood of new horn growth, then there is hope for such cases.

Some  people might say that treating a horse on death row is an excuse for experimentation in the name of science. But to his critics, Andrew says: “My objective when I see a horse is that it is more comfortable than when I arrived and that there is a chance for a positive outcome. If I see no future for the horse I wouldn’t go ahead. Occasionally I have had to withdraw my services.”

Having spent tens of thousands of pounds last year alone on developing the  competition shoe, Andrew and his wife Julia, also a director of his company, now employ three people in their office, plus consultants who deal with marketing and other specialities. He has curtailed his day-to-day shoeing and is solely concentrating on referral and consultation work.

Such a whopping initial outlay means fitting a set of the new Imprint competition shoes will cost least £200 plus VAT. After watching my eyebrows disappear into my hairline (a set of steel shoes might cost between £50 and £80), Andrew points out that if his expensive shoes can keep a competition horse sound, its value is protected and its usefulness retained.  

 

Born near Banbury and brought up in Northants until the age of 10, it was when the family moved to a smallholding in West Wales that Andrew’s love for the outdoors came to the fore.

Preferring to spend his time at the local cattle markets and horse fairs rather than at school, academia was never a priority and he ducked out of education and left home at 16 to take up a working pupil placement at point-to-point yard in Wales.

A winter working at the Badminton House stables in Gloucestershire led to a meeting with the Beaufort’s farrier Bernie Tidmarsh, who is still based there, and with whom Andrew served his apprenticeship. Later, basing himself in Wiltshire, he would take on apprentices of his own.

For Andrew, the learning curve is never ending. Lame and uncomfortable horses everywhere can only benefit from such innovators. For more about Andrew’s business, visit  www.imprintshoes.co.uk.

 

PICTURES: Paul Stallard

This article first appeared in the Western Daily Press, November 30 2007

Reproduced by kind permission © 2007 Western Daily Press

http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/riders