‘We are not anti-barefoot’ – the BHS replies…

by Linda Chamberlain

Brilliant news! A month ago I wrote a letter to British Horse, the magazine of the British Horse Society, on behalf of a group of barefooters. The letter has been published and there’s a very considered reply from their director of equine policy. I am republishing both letter and reply in full. Please share, as the BHS isn’t digital yet! So this info isn’t online. 

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Dear British Horse,

‘As a rider of a barefoot horse I was really pleased to read Wayne Upton’s interview in February’s issue. I was pleased because some farriers can be hostile to the idea of equines being ridden without shoes and here was a man suggesting the idea to riders ‘if you’re not doing very much with a horse’.

My fellow members of the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook, which now has a remarkable 4,000 members, were not as impressed as me, however. You see, so many of them compete – some to a very high level – and so were rightly concerned that readers of the British Horse might wrongly think that barefoot was a cheap but slippery option. They cited Simon Earle, the racehorse trainer, who favours barefoot and Lucinda MacAlpine from the world of dressage. There are also police forces in the US whose horses have no shoes. Then there was Luca Maria Moneta’s success at Olympia on his barefoot (on the backs) mare who scaled a massive wall more than seven feet high to go in the record books. A high enough achievement for anyone, I would suggest.

Bare feet jumping seven feet!

Bare feet jumping seven feet!

But I asked members of the Facebook group to tell your readers of their own competition and riding successes. Here they are: –

Sue Gardner said – I have had my horse barefoot for 12 years and I have competed in low level show jumping, Trec and some cross country events.

Mandy Aire got a barefoot event established in her local show and it was the most well attended class. Mandy will be doing endurance this year.

Christine Green said – my daughter is a BHS member. She competes at show jumping, cross country and dressage on a barefoot horse who is proving more sound now than when shod.

Katherine Mills has two barefoot horses who have qualified for FEI endurance. They cover up to 80 km – booted or barefoot. Two more of her youngsters have qualified for open competitions.

Chris Thompson rides a barefoot Mustang stallion, has affiliated for BSJ and regularly competes against both amateur and professional riders. Eventing in muddy conditions also poses no problem.

Emily Kate Briggs does cross country training with her barefoot ex-racehorse.

Emma Hart’s barefoot mare happily jumped around British Novice at Pyecombe and Royal Leisure.

Clair McNamara rides the British Showjumping Show Eastern Area’s reigning champion. A mare who is barefoot.

Janet Harkness’s children join in all Pony Club activities on a barefoot pony.

Brigitte Manning found barefoot no hindrance to her horse’s performance when she qualified for the Hartpury Showjumping South West competition.

Claire Alldritt rode the coast to coast in Scotland last year – no slipping from her barefoot mount or packhorse.

Inga Crosby competes in dressage on her barefoot ex-racehorse.

Sheryl Pochin has a mini Shetland who competes in local shows.

Sarah Wynn recently ran an arena Trec competition – half the entrants were barefoot horses.

Tina Webb drives her pony on the roads – about 30 miles in an average week.

Sandra Gaskin Hall, a BHS member, lives in Wales and her barefooter copes well for mile after mile on the rocky tracks.

Elice Wadsworth finds the grip superior from her barefoot horse in the following disciplines – showjumping, cross country, dressage…oh, and hunting!

Sarah Pinnell is another multi-discipline rider – 3 barefooters who hunt, jump and go on long pleasure rides.

Milly Shand competed at advanced dressage on Kudi – no shoes – and winning at Prix St Georges.

Hester Polak – does hunting, showjumping, endurance  and eventing on a barefoot horse with no problems.

Sharon Smith hunts her horse who has never been shod and reports that grip is excellent.

Look at that bare foot!

Look at that bare foot!

Dani Knight’s horse has been barefoot all her life and is regularly placed in local showing classes. She hacks happily over all terrain.

So, you see, barefoot isn’t only for those who do the occasional light hack. And the Barefoot Horse Owners Group on Facebook is a great place for support and information.’

Lee Hackett, BHS Director of Equine Policy, replied,

‘It’s important to make clear that the views expressed by any interviewee in British Horse does not necessarily reflect those of the BHS itself. We’ve never suggested that many horses cannot thrive going barefoot and can do exactly the same as many shod horses, including competing at the highest level. That said, every horse needs to be treated as an individual and there are some for whom barefoot is not a viable option. We also try to make clear that going barefoot isn’t the cheap option! The old saying “no foot, no horse” is absolutely true and it is vital to do what is right for the horse in each case.

On occasion we’re accused of suggesting every horse should be shod. I have no idea where this comes from, as it is completely untrue and would be frankly absurd! We do, however, strongly recommend that going barefoot should be done in consultation (at the very least) with a registered farrier. This is not to denigrate barefoot trimmers in any way but until there are National Occupational Standards and a recognised training and qualification system on the national QCF framework for barefoot trimmers, this is important.

There are many excellent, exceptionally knowledgeable trimmers and some very responsible governing bodies but for the uninitiated it can be hard to identify them. Presently, anyone can advertise as a barefoot trimmer without any experience or qualification and this is why we have to recommend that the switch to barefoot is done in consultation with a registered farrier. With a registered farrier you are guaranteed a level of training and qualification, that the farrier is insured and that there is an established complaints and disciplinary procedure should something go wrong. We need the same guarantees for barefoot trimmers. The equine foot is an extremely complex structure and it is very easy to do considerable damage.

At the risk of labouring a point, but because this is seen by some as a controversial subject, I will just make clear that the BHS supports all efforts to regulate and support barefoot trimming – as we know many barefoot trimmers and their associations do, too – and that we fully recognise that many trimmers are exceptionally talented and knowledgeable.

It is also worth mentioning that there are quite a few barefoot trimmers who are fully qualified and registered farriers that no longer shoe. We are in no way anti-barefoot. For many horses the only limit to what they can achieve is down to their and their rider’s ability – not whether or not they are wearing shoes!’

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4 thoughts on “‘We are not anti-barefoot’ – the BHS replies…

  1. Many thanks from me as well and it is great to see him being positive but it is SO frustrating to say that we should only go barefoot under the care of a registered farrier. The farriers around where I live in Devon do not advise on changes to the diet or environment nor about hoof boots/transitioning! I would never have succeeded barefoot without my brilliant AANHCP trimmer who took me through everything I needed to know PRIOR to removing my horse’s shoes.

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  2. I know it’s frustrating, Charlotte. We are having to be very patient while the traditional horse world catches up with us. The horse is having to suffer harm and discomfort. The trimmers are offering a specialist service that farriers have no training for and there is no doubt in my mind that they are enabling a lot of horses to make a comfortable transition. It needs to be said even though it’s obvious – horses are born without shoes.If we could ban the metal and the nails from ever being applied to a young horse, this issue would melt away…!

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