Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hoof Casting Tape: A Shoe By Another Name? Non-Farrier Hoofcare Practitioner Pleads Guilty to Illegal Farriery in Great Britain

A press release (see below) has been issued by the Farriers Registration Council in Great Britain. 

In that country, farriery is a tightly regulated profession with a definition provided by national law. The Farriers Registration Council is the national office charged with defending the law and protecting horses from "illegal" farriers.

In Britain, anyone who shoes a horse must complete a long apprenticeship, college training and pass an examination administered by the Worshipful Company of Farriers. While standards for barefoot hoof trimming have been proposed, a gray area between shoeing and trimming is emerging as more "trimmers" add an arsenal of hoof support products to their supply list. The use of hoof tape appears to be controversial, as this article indicates. How do you define a horseshoe?

Thomas Bowyer is a hoofcare educator who teaches "podiatry and behavior" in Great Britain and abroad under the business name of Courses4Horses. His credentials are provided by the Institute for Applied Equine Podiatry (IAEP), which is an established outgrowth of the education efforts of American K.C. La Pierre.

IAEP and/or K.C. La Pierre have been involved with the development of what they call "Hoof Wear" materials, which most people might call "hoof casting tape". I interviewed K. C. La Pierre about his new product line in 2009. The products, and others like it, are routinely used by and sold to hoof trimmers, farriers and veterinarians in the United States.

The press release documents that a prosecution took place based on the  law as it currently stands in Great Britain but also brings in the welfare implications in this particular case. What is not clear is exactly what the two charges were: was it one count each for applying something to the bottom of the foot and for using screws? Or was it for applying the tape on two different occasions? It appears the charge is limited to the application of a shoe-like device and not the welfare of the horse as described by the veterinarian.

Would there be a story if the tape had not been on the bottom of the hoof?

Begin press release provided by the Farriers Registration Council:

2010 vehicle sticker issued by the FRC
On 3 September 2012, the Welshpool Magistrates’ Court found Mr Thomas Bowyer of 6 the Courtyard, Lower Trewylan, Llansantffraid, Powys, SY22 6TJ, guilty of having carried out unlawful farriery.

Under the Farriers (Registration) Act 1975 it is a criminal offence for anyone other than a Registered Farrier, approved farriery apprentice or veterinary surgeon to shoe a horse, or otherwise carry out farriery. The Register of Farriers is administered by the Farriers Registration Council and it is Council policy to pursue a private prosecution when sufficient evidence is available.

To qualify for registration as a farrier, which is a highly skilled profession, persons must, amongst other things complete a four year and two month apprenticeship with an Approved Training Farrier and pass the Diploma of the Worshipful Company of Farriers Examination. Mr T Bowyer is neither a Registered Farrier, an Approved Farriery Apprentice nor a Registered Veterinary Surgeon. The Farriers Registration Act therefore prohibits him from undertaking farriery.

The allegations against Mr Bowyer were that on 1 November 2011 and on 8 December 2011 he undertook farriery on a Welsh Cob Cross Irish horse (“Ronnie”) belonging to Mrs Susan Stafford-Tolley of Brecon, Powys. On both occasions he applied “equine hoof wraps” to Ronnie’s front hooves. Ronnie had been having some problems, and Mr Bowyer an “equine podiatrist” had advised the owner that the wraps would protect Ronnie’s hooves.

“Hoof wraps” consist of a length of bandage like material which is impregnated with a synthetic, fibreglass-like resin substance which is soft when applied. They are soaked in water before application and within hours, dry, forming a rigid, solid structure around the hoof. In this case they were wrapped around and partially underneath Ronnie’s hooves. The Defendant also screwed the wraps into the horse’s hooves with two screws per hoof.

The Council’s case was that by 13 November 2011 Ronnie had become severely lame on his left fore; and that a veterinary surgeon had confirmed this. The Council’s case was that the veterinary surgeon had removed the wrap using hoof nippers and noted bruising and an impending abscess caused by a loose screw between the sole and the wrap.

On 8 December Mr Bowyer returned to remove the remaining wrap and convinced the owner’s husband that it would be in the horse’s best interests to re-apply the wraps. It was the Council’s case that on 17 December Ronnie was lame again and a veterinary surgeon had attended who removed one wrap with the use of hoof nippers, to find his foot to be very tender which she attributed to pressure from the encircling wrap. On 18 December a Registered Farrier attended to remove the remaining wrap and fit a pair of deep-seated heart-bar shoes.

The Council’s case was that these wraps amounted to “shoes” because they were clearly intended to give protection to the hooves by providing a solid structure between the hoof and the ground, they were left in a place for a number of weeks and were firmly affixed. Once dried out they became solid and immoveable and needed tools to remove them.

Mr Bowyer pleaded guilty to both charges against him and the Magistrates Court imposed a £450 fine per offence, a victim surcharge of £15 and ordered Mr Bowyer to make a contribution towards prosecution costs of £1,000.

It was the Council’s case that Mr Bowyer’s actions had caused harm to Ronnie. Mr Bowyer denied that they had done so. The Court decided not to hear oral evidence or make findings on the issue of whether harm had been caused to Ronnie as a result of the unlawful farriery to which Mr Bowyer had pleaded guilty.

The Council takes out prosecutions against persons who undertake farriery illegally when the evidence is sufficient to do so and considers the application of “hoof wraps”, as described above, amounts to farriery, or shoeing, for the purposes of the Farriers Registration Act. It strongly advises that such products should only applied be Registered Farriers or Veterinary Surgeons.

K C La Pierre with the "hoof wear" products he developed in 2009. Use of the products is apparently legal by non-farriers and non-vets in the United States, but that may not be the case in other countries. (Hoofcare Publishing archives)
Additional notes of this case also provided by the FRC:

If any further information is required in relation on this matter any enquiry can be made to the Solicitors to the Council, Ms N Curtis (Partner (Barrister)), Penningtons solicitors, of Abacus House, 33 Gutter Lane, London, EC2V 8AR, telephone: 0207 457 3000.

“Farriery” is defined in section 18 of the Act as “any work in connection with the preparation or treatment of the foot of a horse for the immediate reception of a shoe thereon, the fitting by nailing or otherwise of a shoe to the foot or the finishing off of such work to the foot. ”Shoeing” has the same meaning as farriery.

The product used should not be confused with a simple equine bandage or wrap used to protect a horse’s leg or keep a poultice in place. These products are impregnated with a resin type substance which sets hard, like a caste, following the application of water.

Unregistered persons engaging in farriery are breaking the law. Any horse owner choosing to use an unregistered person may compromise the welfare of their horse, could incur additional shoeing bills to correct the effects of poor workmanship and may invalidate their insurance if their horse is lamed or injured.

The FRC maintains the Register of Farriers and all Registered Farriers are issued with their own annual Registration Card and Car Window Sticker. If an owner wishes to check the credentials of their farrier he/she can ask to see the card, check the Council’s website ( or telephone the office on 01733 319911.

Resources from the Hoof Blog:

British Government Seeks to Count, Quantify Hoof Trimming in Lead Up to Regulation of New Paraprofessional Group

British Government: "Barefoot Trimmer" Doesn't Describe the Job 

British National Occupational Standards for Barefoot Hoofcare (2010) (pdf download)

Farrier Registration Council: Farriery and the Law web site section

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A Allan Juell said...

More questions than answers? How true. I imagine this brings somewhat sardonic smiles in certain circles, but it is probably more of an example of technology outrunning the law. It is likely that the Registration Act is going to need some looking at....basically, the ruling is quite correct under existing law in Britian. Will UK farriers try to maintain a hard line on this or adjust to a trend that does not appear to be diminishing? Hmm.

Steve Glover, DipWCF said...

Under no circumstances will I for one allow unregulated untrained practitioners do a job that I have trained for worked for and loved and be allowed to lower standards which the UK enjoys. I think you will find that goes for the majority of UK farriers, the best in the world.

happymeal said...

- "impregnated with a synthetic, fibreglass-like resin substance" --> "fiberglass)like resin substance"... totally wrong, no such thing exist...

-" forming a rigid, solid structure around the hoof. --> wrong again ! Once set, the Perfect Hoof Wear is not rigid, it flexes. Not to be meistaken with Eqicast, which is made of fiberglass. Perfect Hoof Wear is made of polyester.

- The Defendant also screwed the wraps into the horse’s hooves with two screws per hoof. --And wrong again. The Perfect Hoof Wear is not "screw in". Is is anchored on two swcew heads if need be.

May I sugget Fran Jurga to interview KC LaPierre and get his comment about "Perfect Hoof Wear being a shoe" ?

Fran Jurga said...

Hello, HappyMeal,

Your comment was approved, even though it is against policy to publish comments that do not contain a person's real name.

The points you make refer to the text provided by the Farriers Registration Council. It was printed without editing so that people could read their words.

I have interviewed KC LaPierre in the past about the Hoof Wear system but the point of this story is that the legal authorities in Great Britain considered the application of hoof tape to be a violation of the law, and people should know that.

Neets Human said...

Interesting that only the trimmers aligned to K C La Pierre were using the wraps.

Also interesting that K C La Pierre declined to support Tom Bowyer's case.

As for he FRC protecting the welfare of horses this is laughable ... their agenda is only to protect their members, consider the recent case of Mark Wellfair.

The UK farriers law is an ass and K C La Pierre is a hypocrite and the FRC is a self interested professional body.

Thank heavens most of the trimmers in the UK wouldn't touch wraps as there are better methods to address hoof pathologies.

happymeal said...

I Fran, my name is Xavier Meal. For your information, and further to the FRC release, the case of the PHW eventually being a shoe was not the subject of any debate in front of the court as the defendant chose to plea guilty as he could not/would not afford the services of a lawyer.
So the debate is far from over from my point of view of a professional journalist. And I still think that reading here the point of view of the KC LaPierre himself would enlighten everybody, as the FRC contains some very misleading "statements".

Anonymous said...

I feel that in the UK the use of a screw into the horny hoof wall is not subject to the FARRIERS REGISTRATION ACT.
I argue that when the screwing is done with the permit of the owner of the animal, it becomes an autherised act of veterinary surgery. Then is not the driving of a screw into living tissue is quite lawful in the UK under the Veterinary Surgons Charter, that is providing it is done by the owner or his agent. If done by anyone with the owners permission then seemingly it becomes a PERMITTED ACT of VETERINARY SURGERY!!

Tom Bowyer said...

There were two identical charges of "illegally shoeing a horse". It is correct that I chose to plead guilty because it was likely to cost nearly £20,000 to argue the case, legal aid had been refused and I had been told that it would also be unlikely for a hardship application for legal aid to be granted.
The prosecution had manipulated a great deal of the information and events in this case in an attempt to bring welfare charges against me also, however, evidence I was able to provide enabled the magistrates to rule that my actions had not caused harm in any way.
The wraps in question were not designed to do the same job as a shoe. They are extremely slippery on concrete or in wet muddy conditions and would wear out in about ten minutes if you were to attempt to ride on the roads. They are a transitional tool only, used to stabilise a foot whilst it is extremely weak whilst at the same time providing the proper stimulus for regrowth of healthier structures. My colleagues and I have, on many occasions, saved the lives of horses that would otherwise have had to have been euthanised, utilising these wraps initially and then continuing to develop the structures completely barefoot once the feet were at a level of health to be able to cope with it.
I strongly feel that a change in legislation is imperative: The original purpose of The Farrier's Act was to prevent unskilled persons carrying out work on horses, not merely to protect the income of farriers from others who, in some cases, may be doing a better job by utilising the latest research in the field.