Does anyone know if there are any rules about competing barefoot horses in Dressage, including the FEI levels? I have looked but can't find mention of it.

Any reasons for or against? Any experiences?

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Hi Ottilie

I may be wrong but in all the years I have trained and watched Dressage I have never seen an issue regarding horses shod versus horses shoeless. I do agree that the health of the horses hoof and soundness of the horse is the only issue at stake. I took my 18H Hanoverian/Appaloosa's shoes off when I moved from Palm Beach County to Palm Bay in Brevard. Farriers lamed my perfectly sound horse for 3 years. I finally found a wonderul farrier who said, "take off the shoes" and bingo, he was sound. He now stays barefoot and I watch for 'foot sore' possibilities but I know the more natural you go the better for the horse. My guys legs are so crooked he was a nightmare for the unseasoned farrier. Now, he's getting older and has other issues but he's not lame and he walks with his slinky over tracking gorgeous sexy stride and that lets me know barefoot is a good thing for him!
hey Otillie, this is just a PS but I would seek out Jane Savoie right here on Barnmice. She is a famous dressage rider, trainer and author of many books. I recommend her opinions highly. I'm sure if you sent her a message she would help steer you in the right direction.
Hi, Ottilie:

There are no rules requiring horses to be shod in order to compete in dressage, at any level. However, given that the footing at competition venues can be uncertain, as can the competitive footing, I do not recommend that my clients compete with unshod horses. Wearing boots can get you eliminated, depending on the steward's or technical delegate's point of view, so you'd be better off not going with those.

I do have clients who compete with barefoot horses, but they pick and choose their venues carefully. Shoes can also increase traction in difficult going, making riding safer, so you may wish to consider that as well.

As a trainer, coach and competitor I absolutely do not advocate shoeing to "improve" your horse's gaits - don't mess with Mother Nature other than to ensure that your horse is safe and comfortable. Finding a good farrier is always tough, Ottilie, so when you find one treat him/her like gold!
The farrier situation here is pretty desperate :-( I have been fortunate to find a local trimmer who does a nice job.
I believe you get better traction barefoot that with a flat shoe, especially on hardtop, but grass and sand as well. However, you don't have the option to add corks or studs if the going is slick, as you would with a shoe, but I can't see that being an issue for dressage.
I find this discussion really interesting - it is nice to see other dressage folks going the barefoot route! I recently went to barefoot trimming for my 8 year old dutch gelding, and have been really happy with the results. My initial decision was financial more than anything else, and I admit I was aprehensive, mostly because it is not considered the norm. There was a period of adjustment, which was nerve wracking since he's never had soundness issues. Ultimately though, I have been very happy with my decision. He moves better than ever and the natural wear keeps his hooves healthy. I fully intend to compete him barefoot next season :)
I'm glad to hear other people are giving it a go. My horse remains barefoot as is doing fine. Interestingly, his frogs are now much bigger than they used to be, and the deep crevices he used to have down the sides of them have flattened out. I am very happy with the angles and shape of his feet, and I do believe they are healthier hooves now than when he was shod.
Glad to report that 100% without a doubt, know you CAN show a barefoot horse in recognizeds dressage shows.
bitless, no, shoeless, yes.

Shoeless, not clueless ;)
LOL
I have mixed emotions on this subject - the barefoot shoeing.

I just recently put shoes on my warmblood/thoroughbred cross mare (she is 4-1/2 years old). I wanted to wait as long as possible before putting shoes on her so that her feet would grow and she would develope a nice hoof wall. I had her trimmed every 4 weeks without fail.

Then I had to move her to a different location. Instead of being in a stall with daily turnout in the pasture, she went into a huge outdoor pen with a shade tree, 3 sided stall area to get out of the elements, etc. However the ground surface was so hard that she totally wore down her feet to where she was so tender footed that it hurt for her to walk so I had no choice but to put some shoes on her. I will have them removed when winter hits as she is at 10,000 ft elevation and they have alot of snow up there.

At the old barn, one of the trainers started using a barefoot trimmer. This was the first time I had heard of "barefoot trimming" so to speak and I was not impressed with this guy at all. The eight horses he worked on all ended up being pigeon toed. Obviously he didn't really know what he was doing. A friend of mine used him once on her fox trotter and he trimmed the toes so short that her horse was lame for over 3 weeks.

I guess it is really no different than using a bad farrier.

My take is this......you have to do what is best for your horse. Not all horses' hooves can withstand being barefoot. You have to listen to your horse. Some breeds of horses tend to have softer hooves, tender hooves, etc. Barefoot trimming is not for every horse.
Absolutely - you have made a good point. I do not advocate either way as it depends entirely on the horse and the situation. Currently for my horses barefoot is working well, but one has to keep an open mind and remember the purpose of doing so: healthy hooves & soundness. I get some comments from people, who think I'm some kind of hippie, but the fact is I haven't bought into an ideology, I'm just trying to increase the comfort and longevity of my horse.
Thanks everyone for your comments, I am now satisfied that it is permitted to compete without shoes. I should mention that over in Eurodressage, I found out that Emma Hindle of Great Britain had been very successful at Saumur CDI a few years ago with her horses barefoot. As many of you have mentioned, and I couldn't agree more, there is no reason why horses shoud not compete without shoes, however there are some things we are required to do in dressage that do not appear entirely logical (for example having the double bridle and spurs compulsory at the upper levels) - but that is a whole other can of worms!

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