4 September, 2022
Horses of the north under mother-daughter care
ANGELA and Nikki Coulson are quietly operating a thriving, mobile horse-care business from their base just outside of Ravenshoe.
Since 2013 Angela has been providing a Barefoot trimming service to clients from Innisfail to Julatten.
Emmett Horse Therapy and Natural Horse Care services have been added over the years and now Nikki, who joined her mother's business in 2015, has just completed her Diploma of Equine Podiotherapy at the Australian College of the same name in Victoria.
Regarded by many as the most demanding course of its kind in Australia, the course turns out “hoof therapists”, trained to understand how hoof issues can influence the entire horse, creating secondary musculoskeletal issues and gait problems.
Self-described “horse addicts”, who love working with horses, Angela, who is a former chef, said she got into barefoot trimming because she was trying to keep the hooves of her highly competitive daughter's eventing mount sound throughout the season.
“Continual horse-shoe related hoof problems were causing us to miss competitions, so at the end of the season, we bought some trimming tools and books about the subject and had a go.
The horse's feet, movement and dressage scores all began to improve,” she said.
While Angela and Nikki acknowledge there is still a place for steel shoes, particularly for horses in harsh outback environments with demanding mustering schedules or in high-end show jumping arenas, they said Barefoot trimming emulated the normal wear of a horse's hoof in their natural environment.
Barefoot hooves are designed by nature to expand and contract during each stride, ensuring optimum blood flow to their heels, aiding shock absorption, and allowing natural wear and strong, healthy feet.
“Wild horse’s ability to maintain resilient, healthy hooves are due to two main factors – their natural diet and their extensive amount of daily movement. Ideally, we shouldn’t need to trim our horses feet at all, but the domestication of horses has changed their circumstances dramatically,” Angela said.
Under the watchful eye of her Innisfail mentor, Ms Coulson began trimming all their own horses' feet and, seeing Angela's natural ability, it wasn't long before her mentor suggested she should get qualified.
“I qualified as an Australian Certified Equine Hoof Practitioner (ACEHP) in 2011 and added an Equine Emmett Practitioner for horses qualification in 2018. The Emmett technique is the practice of applying light pressure on specific points for immediate muscle release,” Nikki said.
An Emmett treatment improves recovery from workouts – helping competition horses achieve peak performance, along with addressing lameness, muscle restrictions, saddle soreness, uneven gait and lack of performance. The mother-daughter team are in big demand.
“There are now too many horses requiring the services of too few humans,” Nikki said.
“We are currently treating 350 horses in a six-week rotation and we have a waiting list of future customers.
“We charge by the horse as they are all different. We have a clean-up rate and a maintenance rate, as new customers with horses that haven't been treated in a while usually take longer to do.
“Most horses are good to work with, but we do meet the odd tricky one. We just groundtie horses to make it a relaxed, pleasurable experience for them.”
“We will always give every horse a go, but if they appear too dangerous to work on safely, we might give their owners a few pointers on manageability,” Angela said.
“We have set ourselves a target of 60 horses a week between us to ensure we get through all our clients in the rotation period. We enjoy working with people who take horsemanship seriously and encourage our customers to care holistically for their animals, including their nutrition, living environment and exercise program.
“There is a lot happening at the moment with rubber boots (sneakers for horses) for reducing stone bruises in trail riding and endurance events. At $100 a set, they are becoming very popular and the horses love them. You can see them moving more confidently once they get used to them,” she added.
You may think some tensions might arise between this mother-daughter team, working and living together, but they are best friends and completely committed to what they are doing.
On their days off , they enjoy nothing more than a ride through the bush together on their own horses.