Stephanie DeWitt chats with Martyn Baker

By Stephanie DeWitt  Photos by Pippa Dowling

How has the current lockdown situation affected your volume of work?

My workload has gone right down, but then, so has everyone else's. A lot of equestrian yards have shut down completely and aren't even allowing livery clients on to the premises, let alone others like me.

So you're not able to fulfil your normal, regular appointments?

Definitely not. The British Farriers & Blacksmiths Association has given out guidelines with a "traffic light" system. Green stands for non-crucial hoofcare which includes equines whose cycles can be easily extended without any long-term detrimental effects; in this case a farrier should not attend.

Amber means that a farrier should consider delaying an appointment if at all possible and perhaps offer advice instead in cases where the timing of regular appointments is important in maintaining a horse's soundness. The farrier needs to consider whether the timescale between appointments can be extended without the situation becoming "red".

A horse that is shod regularly every six weeks could maybe stretch to being done every ten weeks. I have to weigh up each case individually. I'm allowed to shoe a horse if there is a problem, but this must be kept to a minimum.

Red stands for crucial hoofcare when a farrier should definitely attend. This covers situations where there would be serious detrimental effects otherwise, causing discomfort and even pain to a horse, including foals.

What precautions do you take when visiting a yard during lockdown?

Farriers are taking the same precautions that we would during an outbreak of strangles. When you come to a gate, wear gloves to open it, hold it where no one else may have touched it, or even use your foot instead.

The owner/rider isn't allowed to hold the horse. They have to tie up the horse and step back. If the horse is likely to be stroppy then it won't get shod!

After any yard visit everything has to be disinfected and I change my clothes. You just have to be sensible.

Have there been any benefits or drawbacks for you during the lockdown period?

When I visit a yard I don't hang around for a cup of tea or coffee and a chat...!

Unfortunately, because my business is a limited company, I'm unable to claim for loss of earnings. And my hands are all split and cracked because of the continual washing and anti-baccing!

What advice would you give to clients/riders/owners regarding hoof health during the current situation?

As the weather is so dry at the moment, I suggest keeping the feet well-oiled, using a good quality oil such as Effol.

What are you doing at the moment to keep busy/amuse yourself?

In my spare time I'm doing all the jobs I never get around to. I've made raised flower beds, planted vegetables and made two gates for the garden so far. Perhaps I'll renew the bathroom if I can get the materials.

To get away from this situation, where in the world would you rather be?

Somewhere in the sun! And somewhere that's architecturally interesting. Cuba, I think. It's absolutely beautiful and the people are really nice.