How did I get into barefoot? Especially in a sport that is quite set against it....well, it all started with a friend of mine who is a mad endurance rider (and ranked in the top 10 in her weight division nationally). I listened to her talk about endurance horses completing 180km rides barefoot with no problems at all - in fact these horses usually pulled up better, recovered better and had longer competition careers than their shod counterparts. I was incredulous. Then I started firing up the old Google and there they were, these miraculous horses. With photos!!
I bought a book called Barefoot Performance and read it cover to cover, but it was firmly written for the UK audience where the problem is usually too much moisture, not a problem I experience often here in Canberra! But I learnt a lot about how the hoof works, the damage shoeing can do to the hoof structure and function, and the massive effect diet and exercise have on the health of the hoof.
The young warmblood I had just purchased had never had a shoe on, so I thought he was a good guinea pig, rather than trying to rehab a horse from shod to barefoot. But there are some pretty serious issues to consider when it comes to eventing in Australia:
- Is a barefoot horse able to gallop across the different terrains of cross country in Australia?
- Boots are no longer permitted in ANY phase of eventing by Equestrian Australia, for reasons unknown, so I can't take preventative measures
- What about grip? I can't use studs (or boots) to increase my horse's grip in slippery conditions
More on that in the next installment!