‘Her feet are like rocks’: going barefoot pays off for this seven-year-old mare

  • Competing horses barefoot – without shoes – has been a hot topic this year and often causes plenty of debate.

    Several high profile showjumpers, including King Edward and All In, who were both part of Sweden’s gold medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympics, have brought the practice into the spotlight and their respective riders Henrik von Eckermann and Peder Fredricson have spoken about the benefits.

    “I just have a feeling he is more comfortable [without them],” says Peder.

    But closer to home, we’ve noticed some of our national riders jumping their horses barefoot, too, so we caught up with one of them, 22-year-old Jessica Hewitt at the recent Arena UK Winter Classic (2-5 December) to find out a bit more.

    Jess was riding the consistent seven-year-old Java in the show’s Blue Chip Karma performance qualifier and the pair powered to top spot, beating their 35 rivals by 0.25sec – against the odds.

    “She was in the field, shoes off for a break and hasn’t been ridden for almost a week, but it was a last-minute decision to come here so I dragged her out of the field,” says Jess, who bought the impressive daughter of Stakkato after watching a video of her as a three-year-old. “She jumped barefoot, not clipped and still came out and won; she’s incredible.”

    Jess does have Java shod at times and she jumped the six-year-old championships in Hickstead’s grass arena last year with shoes on, but she’s often jumped barefoot.

    “Her feet are like rocks,” says Jess, who runs Mountain Bridge Sports Horses alongside Sonny Broberg and has been enjoying a tremendous run of form on the indoor circuit already this year.

    Jess and Java also finished fourth in last year’s Prestige Italia Big Star six-year-old championship final held at Bolesworth.

    “She’s so easy and quick against the clock and there aren’t many horses you could drag out the field to pay the bill at a show; she’s one of the rare ones, and loves it.”

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