Friday, 20 November 2009

Studs and slipping

A question that came up several times at YHL was whether horses need studs to jump. One person told us that she shod her horse part way through the eventing season last year because it was slipping more barefoot than it did in shoes.

The problem for all of us on the stand was that we have never found it problematic to jump horses XC without studs. In fact the general feeling among UKNHCP practitioners and clients is that horses slip less barefoot than in shoes, or at least have fewer problems with slipping, which may not be quite the same thing.

As Mark Johnson described several times over the weekend to interested visitors, the horse's limb needs to be able to slip slightly when it is subject to turning forces, otherwise additional stress is transferred onto ligaments and tendons. Obviously a severe slip, though, can result in a wrench or sprain (as Felix found out on Tuesday, I assume...).

There is no doubt that some riders feel more secure with studs in, but its hard to be sure how much this is a "placebo" effect. A rider of shod horses at one of Mary Bromiley's clinics agreed with Mary, that studs may not be as indispensible as they are supposed to be. She described when she thought she was riding her horse with studs screwed in. She didn't notice any loss of performance (believing the studs were doing their job) and it was only when she came to take them out that she realised she had done an entire intermediate event without them.

We will probably never know how much of the concern about barefoot horses not being able to use studs stems primarily from rider worry.

As for slipping, obviously this week isn't a great time for me to post thoughts about slippingafter Felix, normally surefooted barefoot horse extraordinaire, apparently came a cropper in the field(!). Nevertheless, all horses can slip from time to time, particularly on a steep wet field, whether shod or barefoot - a few weeks ago a shod horse came right down out hunting on a very tight turn on wet grass.

My own view is that the horse's own sense of balance is hugely important, and that as they develop both balance and proprioception, the problems of slipping are reduced.


Jassy said...

Nic, our barefoot trimmer emphasises that the bars on the back feet play a very important role in the grip a horse has, and he will never touch the bars on the hinds.

I think that if a barefoot horse was being trimmed by a farrier who routinely cut the bars down, this horse would have less grip than one that was correctly trimmed.

My trimmer also told me about a situation where a top-level showjumper was demanding that a 1m30 horse he had started riding (belonging to another owner) should be shod as he believed that without shoes and studs the horse would slip. The owner refused to shoe the horse and my trimmer obviously backed her up.

When the horse won on grass at its next competition, the rider had to eat his words! :-)

cptrayes said...

Having evented/hunted two absolute babies in the last two years, I have a feeling that there are an awful lot of riders riding fundamentally ill-trained (or young) and unbalanced horses.

They use shoes to compensate for the lack of balance on soft/uneven ground. Basically, they are competing at a level, or speed, higher than the horse is really ready for, measured by its schooling. What that does to the horses' joints, ligaments and tendons I dread to think. I prefer my horses to tell me if they are unbalanced, and to sort the issues out rather than "glue their feet to the floor".

With both George and Radar, two very unbalanced horses, I had training sessions where I found the clumpiest ground that I could and schooled them on it until they found their balance.

So... I do think an unbalanced horse can feel more secure to ride in shoes on wet ground .... but studs are just a rider placebo, they make no difference at all. Why would they? Half an inch of metal with 600 kilos of weight on it?

I love your story Jassy. Incidentally, I rarely touch the bars in any of my horses' feet.


Nic Barker said...

Wonderful comments, guys, thank you :-) Its observation from knowledgeable riders of barefoot horses which makes ALL the difference :-)

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