A recent article in The Horse Magazine opens discussions again about whether a horse should compete barefoot or not. The statement of FEI Veterinary Director Goran Åkerström is clear:
Åkerström who, around 2000, spent six years directing the farriery school in the Veterinary Faculty at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala also highlights that the reality can be far from what was shown at the Olympics and barefoot is not for every horse.
The Swedes don’t have the monopoly on going barefoot, of course. Competitive riders throughout the world have shown shoeless horses in a variety of events across the decades. But Sweden has a particularly strong recent history of it.
Swedish scientists have studied the art—and the risks and benefits—of keeping all or some of their Warmbloods’ and their coldblood harness-racing horses’ feet bare. They’ve developed their own protocols for transitioning sport horses to barefoot. And since Åkerström led an investigation into barefoot trimming practices on behalf of the Swedish Animal Welfare Board in 2005, they’ve been transparent in exposing the dangers of unhealthy barefoot trimming.
“Some of (the barefoot trimming) was excellent, but some of it was really detrimental to horses,” Åkerström told The Horse. His investigation led to legal cases, and some barefoot trimmers were banned from owning and working with hooved animals. The findings and subsequent sanctions highlighted the importance of recognizing the many wrong ways of doing barefoot and that equine health and welfare only benefits from barefoot being done the right way. “It had quite an impact,” he said of the investigation.
The sanctioned cases in the 2005 investigation “were all very far from what you saw with the horses in the Tokyo Olympics,” Åkerström said. “In the Olympics, you can see how it can really work.”
That doesn’t mean barefoot is for everybody, he added. “It really depends,” he said. “It’s complex.”
Horses may need shoes for various reasons, starting with the fact that domestication made it necessary for horses’ feet to be protected from the environmental stresses that modern management places on them. Whilst horses’ hooves are naturally trimmed and moisture managed in the wild, domestication can weaken feet due to the lack of turn out, movement and exposure to urine and faeces when stabled. However, this doesn’t have to mean that every horse needs shoes.
Transitioning to barefoot is hard work, for both horse and owner. Maintaining the hoof and encouraging healthy hoof growth during the transition period can be challenging and can often lead to problems such as stone bruises, cracks and other challenges for the previously ‘protected’ foot.
FormaHoof is the best of both worlds, as Equine Podiatrist and farrier Yogi Sharp explains in his lecture – The Bridge Between Barefoot & Shod.
FormaHoof is the only horseshoeing method that replicates the natural biomechanics of the healthy barefoot. The polyurethane material allows the hoof to expand and flex just like a healthy bare hoof would, whilst protecting the encapsulated foot from environmental stresses and supporting healthy hoof and sole growth.
FormaHoof is approved by the USEF, USDF and many other National Federations including and British Horseracing Authority.
Before you compete…
Regardless of the discipline, we advise riders to check with National Federations and the requirements for shoeing. Most Federations permit the use of FormaHoof in competitions, however, when speaking to the representative of your Federation it is important to note, FormaHoof is not a removable hoof boot but a non-invasive shoeing method. If you need help or further information, reach out to us by email.
Want to know more about natural hoof care? Or maybe you just want to learn how to care for your own horse? In either case, this article is for you!
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