Peder on competing barefoot: “Preferably based on what is most natural”

A year ago, Peder Fredricson tried to remove the shoes of one of his horses. Today he looks at shoeing with new eyes, there are other alternatives than always having all the horses shod.

Text: Natalie Lindholm
Photo: Jennie Börs

It all started when Peder had a horse that was lame for a year. The horse did not get better despite special shoes and veterinary examinations. Some colleagues had ridden barefoot with good results on horses that had previously fallen off due to injuries and Peder became curious. He took off his shoes and the attempt turned out well, the horse became unstable. Since then, Peder has tried several horses.
– You could say that I assume that the horses should walk barefoot, that is the most natural thing, but then I put on shoes, or protection for the hoof if necessary.
On longer trips along gravel roads, Peder uses Scootboots to protect the hooves, but on grass and fiber sand, most work well without shoes.
– In larger competitions on grass, the horses still need to be shod for me to be able to sting them, Peder explains.

Good conditions for sustainability in the sport
Although some horses are more comfortable without shoes than others, in principle all work well on soft surfaces. Even hard surfaces go well as long as there are no sharp stones. Convenience is not just about judging how the horse walks on a gravel road. It is also about how the horse lands most comfortably after a major obstacle on a fiber sand track and how the horse gets the best conditions to cope with tight turns at a high pace on fiber sand, Peder explains.
– When you run up with the horse on a gravel road, a barefoot horse may move more gently. But when it jumps 160 on fiber sand, completely different parameters play a role. In order for the horse to last a long time and be longer in the sport, I believe in riding barefoot. In addition, the feeling of jumping barefoot on a good surface is absolutely fantastic!

“Makes higher demands on the rider”
The advantage of jumping the horse without shoes is that it can more easily control how it puts down the hoof, says Peder. The grip on the fiber sand is not as hard and the shock absorber mechanism works better when the jet comes into contact with the ground. In addition, the lateral roll works better when the hoof is not locked by a shoe. For those who want to start riding barefoot, however, both extra work and commitment are required.
– Riding barefoot places higher demands on the rider, he states.
– If you have shoes on the horse, you do not need to care about the surface so much. The horse can not feel the ground with the hoof and you can ride anywhere without thinking about the ground. When riding barefoot, you need to feel your horse and feel when it is comfortable and not.

Reduces the risk of trampling and kicking injuries in the pasture
Making the horses feel comfortable is a must in all horse keeping and riding, says Peder, and this is especially true when we talk about hoof care. For Peder’s horses, it was quick to get used to competing barefoot, but getting the hooves strong and accustomed to walking unshodged takes a few months. Peder compares with how it feels when we ourselves start walking barefoot in the summer.
– On a lawn it goes pretty well, but if you are going on a gravel path down to the sandy beach, you probably walk quite short and carefully if you are above. Once down on the beach, it is even nicer to walk barefoot than with shoes on.
Another great advantage that Peder sees in having the horses unshod is that it reduces the risk of injury significantly. Pedal injuries and kick injuries are a thing of the past and the horses can easily go with company in the paddock.
– For me, it is important that the horses get a lot of movement and when they walk together we also get more pastures available and can have the horses out longer.

Learn about hoof care
So far, Peder sees few disadvantages to riding barefoot. Possibly it would be that some horses get more action with shoes on.
– Veterinary care and shoeing is difficult and complex and there are always many different ways of looking at the same situation. I like to start from what is most natural to help the horse with what it needs to become comfortable with what it should do, says Peder and continues;
– I have ridden for 40 years with shoes and a year barefoot so this is still new to me and I am not an expert. I gradually learn how to take care of the horse’s hooves and which horses can benefit from wearing shoes to competition and which ones do better without.
He says that for those who have worked with horses all their lives and are used to having it in a certain way, will find it strange to change things.
– If all the horses had walked barefoot, it would have felt strange to shoe them.

So says the farrier
Blacksmith Rebecca Giegold Dip Wcf shod the horses at Grevlunda for 17 years. Today, she works full time as a teacher at Flyinge’s farrier school. She believes that hoof mechanics get the best conditions when the horse goes unshod, it is after all the natural condition of the hoof.
– An unshodged hoof can move up and down in a way that a hoof with an iron shoe on can not. When you turn on an iron shoe, you lock the hoof mechanism.

Long habituation process
Today, there are many different ways to shoe, but the cheapest and most effective way has for centuries been to nail on iron shoes. Although weeds may be the most natural thing for the horse, Rebecca believes that we must take into account how we use our horses.
– Horses are not created to have riders on their backs, run around on gravel tracks or walk on asphalt. We easily forget that we took the horse out of its natural environment for a long time.
Riding weeds is nothing new, says Rebecca, however, it has begun to receive more attention now that the issue has entered the fine room.
For those who want their horse unshodged, Rebecca explains that you have to be prepared for a long getting used to process.
– You can not just take off your shoes and you’re done. If you do, it will be animal cruelty, she states.
– When we have shots, we have nailed in the hooves for a while and when we take off the shoes, the hooves flake up easily at the beginning.
Do not despair if the horse gets a little sore in the beginning, but adjust the riding accordingly. If the horse cannot walk on a gravel road, you have to find somewhere else to ride.
You may not be able to ride as hard, or far, but the horse is hardly harmed by walking on surfaces that it moves carefully over.
– That the horse is a little uncomfortable during the habituation process may be taken into account. Pay attention to what is harmful and what is just uncomfortable.

Is it more common with hoof ulcers on unshod horses?
– In the beginning, it may happen that the horse gets hoof ulcers, but it is transient. Let the horse get used to the new situation, says Rebecca. Consistent hoof cracks that go from the meat hoof out through the wall from the top of the crown rim down are much less common on unshod horses.
To protect the hoof with boots?
– Regardless of whether you nail in the hoof or have boots on, you limit the movement and also put on a weight. There are a lot of small sensors in the hoof and the beam is very sensitive to feel the surface. Everything you put between the hoof and the ground removes the ability to read the surface. I’ve never seen anyone jump a bigger obstacle with boots, but maybe there are?