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Rider’s campaign for unshod showing

The owner of an former racehorse wants to challenge a rule that prevents horses from showing under saddle without shoes in Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) classes.

Darren Miller bought nine-year-old mare Russiantom (Rush) off the track last year and has competed in RoR dressage and unaffiliated jumping, but was disappointed to learn he would not be able to take part in the RoR’s ridden showing series.

While the rules permit horses to be shown in-hand barefoot, horses competed under saddle must be shod all round for “safety reasons”.

Darren transitioned Rush to being unshod after she retired from racing and said she has since competed on grass and arena surfaces without problems.

While many racehorses have the reputation of having poor feet, Rush’s have been “better than about 60% of the horses you’d come across.”

The partnership qualified for the RoR Scottish dressage championships at Rockrose last autumn and are planning to tackle their first one-day events this season.

“She’s a pretty mare with a lovely way of going and we were looking at doing some RoR showing to get her out and experience different environments,” Darren told H&H. “But then I saw  RoR has a rule (31.1) that says that all horses competing in ridden showing must have a full set of shoes.

“I contacted RoR and asked if I could speak to someone who could help change this rule but while my comments were noted, I was told the rule would not change.”

Darren said he did not agree that riding unshod is unsafe and that he has consulted “many professionals including trainers, judges, vets, farriers and physios, who have all agreed with me that it is in fact safer to be barefoot when showing to reduce the risk of slipping”.

“If you can jump and do dressage barefoot, why is showing considered more dangerous?” he asked.

Darren added that while he is “pro-barefoot” he is not “one of those people who want to shove it down your throat”.

“At the end of the day, everyone who owns a horse looks out for them and in their eyes, they are always trying to do their best for them,” he said. “I don’t see why I should have to put shoes on a horse who doesn’t need them to compete.”

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Showing societies have mixed attitudes to whether animals can be shown unshod; sport Horse Breeding of Great Britain insists on shoes in hunter classes, while the British Show Horse Association does not dictate whether horses need to be shod.

Jonathan Geake, chairman of the RoR’s showing panel, told H&H the society is “not trying to alienate people” but that the rule is in place for everyone’s safety.

“Most showing takes place in small grass rings in the summer and they can get quite greasy, especially if there has been rain on hard ground,” he said. “Our society would probably have more uneducated horses in the ring than some of the other showing bodies.”

He added that the society needs to protect ride judges.

“We wouldn’t want to lose the ride judge element,” he said.

“It’s not a rule I can see changing at the moment but if there was scientific evidence put before us then it is something we would consider.”

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