I had the opportunity to attend the Functional Hoof Australian Conference last week in Melbourne Australia. The conference was packed with speakers that know the horse and the really know the equine hoof. The list of speakers contained Dr. Debra Taylor, Professor Robert Bowker, Dr. Kerry Ridgeway, Brian Hampson, Duncan McLaughlin, Carole Herder, Dr. Melanie Quick, Dr. Simon Collins and Professor Chris Pollit to name a few.
Speakers at the Functional Hoof Conference.
I talked about the accomplishments of The Fury and his recent 8th place and Haggin Cup awards at the 2010 Tevis Cup. The Fury is the first barefoot horse in the history of the event to win the Haggin Cup. Fury completed the event in Easyboots.
When I was done with the presentation Professor Chris Pollit asked a question I will never forget: "How many miles of the 100 mile Tevis Cup did The Fury complete barefoot?" My answer was "zero, none". Chris and I talked later and we got into more detail. Fury completed the Tevis Cup and finished in superb condition due to his hoof protection. The Fury used Easyboots for every mile of the event. In fact I don’t believe a non booted barefoot horse could complete the Tevis Cup in a top ten position, especially carrying a heavyweight rider. Easyboots have been built on that assumption since 1970.
But Professor Pollit raises an interesting question. What is the definition of a barefoot horse? Is a booted horse barefoot?
The Fury completed seven events in the 2010 season. Six of the events were completed in Easyboot Gloves and one event was completed in Easyboot Glue-Ons. I believe hoof boots give competitive horses in several disciplines a large advantage and a booted horse is indeed very different that a shod horse or a barefoot horse.
The Fury winning the Haggin Cup in Easyboots. He has four boots on in the photo.
Is a booted horse different than a shod horse? I believe a booted horse is different than a shod horse for two main reasons.
1. A horse that is conditioned and competes in boots is barefoot the large majority of the time. A large conditioning week may only include having a horse in boots for 10% of the time. The other hours the horse is barefoot and the hoof is able to function as nature intended.
2. Hoof boots are flexible and forgiving. The 10% of the time hoof boots (hoof protection) are used still allow the hoof to expand, flex, and contract.
Hoof boots are the tool that allow the the barefoot horse to compete at the highest levels. Yes, the completely barefoot horse has been successful in 100 mile events but these cases are rare. The footing needs to be forgiving and riders are often light. As conditions get rough, trails get rocky and horses carry more weight, hoof boots are used to protect the barefoot hoof and allow the horse to be competitive.
Is a booted horse barefoot? Do barefoot horses need hoof boots to compete most events? What is your definition? Would you care to share your opinion?
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President & CEO
I have been President and CEO of EasyCare since 1993. My first area of focus for the company is in product development, and my goal is to design the perfect hoof boot for the barefoot horse.