Horse instructor and clinician Wendy Murdoch, who lives in the town of Washington, was in Germany last month for Equitana, the largest horse-related expo in the world — and was there because she and her Sure Foot Equine Stability Program had been nominated for one of Equitana’s prestigious Innovation Awards.
“I didn’t win, but I was one of two exhibitors from the U.S.A. surrounded by Germans for nine days, over 90,000 square meters of exhibit space, 200,000 attendees and 1,000 horses,” Murdoch says. “It was like being nominated for an Academy Award.”
Murdoch’s program — which uses large, soft pads placed under a standing horse’s feet to help the animal “reorganize his own body, and change his mental, emotional and physical attitude — was nominated in the Innovation Award’s health and care category. She did lots of demonstrations at the German expo, and even appeared in a national television report.
Murdoch says her Sure Foot program (there’s lots more about it at her wendymurdoch.com website) came about after a conversation with Flint Hill veterinarian Joyce Harman about a dressage horse both women knew. Harman, Murdoch said, had recently decided to work at a stand-up desk and had looked into pads to make standing more comfortable, and had also heard about similar pads used to treat dogs with movement problems. They wondered if such a thing might help a horse.
Newly purchased pads in hand, Murdoch headed for the client’s place, and got the habitually short-stepping horse to stand on them for just 15 seconds — “after which he stepped off, and the short-stepping was gone. I was blown away.”
“How the horse’s hoof meets the ground is how that horse meets the world,” Murdoch says. “No matter the size of the horse, his relationship to gravity and the earth is dependent upon the way the horse stands on and lands his hooves. Offer the horse a choice and he will pick the most efficient and comfortable way over a more uncomfortable, less efficient habitual pattern.”