I bought Connor just over two years ago. After having him on loan, while my other horse recovered from a tendon injury, I fell in love with the cheeky monkey, and being a total softie, I ended up buying him. He was a scruffy, cheeky little Connemara monster that thrived on pushing my buttons. But, with a bit of work, he flourished. We worked hard for 12 months and had an amazing first year showing; always in the red and blues, he was a real star and just loved being the centre of attention. He loved life and everyone would comment on what a stunning connie he was. Even though we had never done any showing before he wowed the judges. Connor, first went ‘footy’ on and off 18 months ago. I took him to a show on the 1st of May 2016 and was absolutely mortified when the judge (in hand) sent us out of the ring as he wasn’t quite sound. This was the beginning and I was determined to get to the bottom of his problem. We saw the vet a week later for a lameness assessment where he nerve-blocked sound at the foot. We tried steroid injections but they weren’t lasting and remedial shoeing didn’t work either. Finally we went for an MRI at Pool House Equine Clinic in June, where navicular bursitis and mild tear to deep digital flexor tendon (DDFT) were diagnosed. I was devastated as she was only 7 years-old. On top of all this, he was going through PENS at Lanfords in Bristol for his head shaking. He was really going through the mill but he put up with it all, he really was a soldier. The next step for his lameness was IRAP, which he had in September 2016. Despite trips back and forth to the various vets, it sadly didn’t work. Eventually I made the decision, with a lot of persuasion from a very good friend, to take his shoes off (against the vet’s advice), and turn him away for as long as he needed, possibly retiring him. It was a heartbreaking choice as I knew how much he loved his work! He became very miserable and a down-right pain in the backside, so much so that I wondered whether or not I had done the right thing. His shoes came off in October 2016 and, with a fabulous EP (Vikki Fear) and physio (Gemma Key) on board, we overhauled his routine, feed and exercise plan; Wow! Within one month he was 80 per cent more sound. I could not believe the difference in such a short period of time, it was like a miracle! On Vikki and Gemma’s advice, I started doing in-hand school work and over poles, hoping and praying that he would stay sound. Nevertheless, he seemed happy to actually be doing something. I was totally gobsmacked with how well he was doing and the change in his feet. Since then, he’s gone from strength to strength and in mid-January 2017, a very astonished vet confirmed that he was sound. The day I thought would never come had arrived. I got back on board Connor and I was so excited. It was lovely to see him enjoying life again – I was getting my pony back! Mid-March we began hacking out in boots, starting with some trot work in the school. Obviously I was on tender hooks, always waiting for him to go lame, worrying he wouldn’t cope being barefoot. But I can honestly say that he’s never felt better on his feet. I had my boy back! It seemed very surreal that on the 6th of May, we had our first dancing party. Although I could have done without the antics in the warm up, he held it together for the tests and came away with a 3rd and 2nd prize. Connor has come leaps and bounds since, now very successfully competing in dressage and showing. Hopefully next year we can get out jumping too! Initially, I had reservations about taking his shoes off, and the vet was very sceptical, but now I know it was the best decision ever for Connor. I have had lots of help and support from people whom, without their help, I never would have considered taking Connor barefoot. Who knows where he would be now if I hadn’t taken his shoes off. It really is inspiring to see what a difference taking shoes off a horse can make. To see him happily working again is priceless and I will never look back – barefoot all the way!