Skip To Content

All Things Barefoot

By Carole Herder

Did you know that some equestrian sports still ban barefoot horses? Only last year a barefoot horse owner was disqualified at Blair Castle International Horse Trials in the Working Hunter Championship for being un-shod. I was also catching up on the 2014 rules for The Tevis Cup (100-Miles-One-Day Trail Ride) where they say “Riding a barefoot horse/mule 100 miles over rocky ground is not recommended and will not be permitted unless special approval to do so is granted…”

It seems crazy to me that the world is still so against a natural way of keeping and riding your horse. Take a look at This shows an exemplary list of riders with incredibly well-kept horses doing their best in a wide variety of sports, everything from endurance to barrel racing to hunting to trail riding.

It’s the same with bitless riding. This is against the rules in many more disciplines than barefoot and I do not understand why. Are the organisers of the show afraid that bitless horses are not under control? Do you think a horse with a bit and shoes, potentially in pain, is safer than a bitless and barefoot horse who will be more comfortable? It is not what you put on or don’t put on your horse that matters. What matters is the welfare of your horse and your skills as a horse person. I was recently at a show where I saw only one rider who had a bitless and barefoot horse. Her horse spooked very badly in the arena and she had a great technique of holding him with one rein, like a lateral flexion, so he couldn’t buck, bolt or rear, which he seemed to really want to do! The rider got him under control without the use of her legs, a stick or a loud voice and they continued on into the competition and proceeded to win a rosette. I found out afterwards it was their first ever competition. So why is a bitless barefoot horse not allowed in some competitions? How many other horses have we seen spook and throw their riders because of bad horsemanship and probably a high level of pain?

I do believe bits have their place on horses in the right hands, but metal shoes do not have a place anywhere in the equestrian world. So, if your horse is transitioning into barefoot, or has weaker hooves for whatever reason, or a certain competition forbids barefoot, all equestrian sports are good in Cavallo, and protective hoof wear is allowed!

Previous Hoof Boots Help Through Winter Next Cavallo in Michigan