The barefoot debate: Do horses need shoes to compete? H&H asks the experts *H&H Plus*

Some say barefoot is natural, others argue that modern competition horses are purpose-bred and need shoes. Polly Bryan consults three farriers, a vet who is also an examiner for the Worshipful Company of Farriers, grand prix riders competing in showjumping and dressage, plus a grassroots eventer for their opinions...

There are few more heated debates in the equestrian world than that of whether horses can and should go without shoes, especially when discussing the pros and cons for competition horses. While many proponents of keeping a horse “barefoot” argue that shoes hinder a horse’s natural movement, inhibiting blood circulation, those at the opposite end of the spectrum feel that shoes play an essential role in keeping competition horses sound and performing at their best.

The answer arguably lies somewhere in between, and will depend on each horse.

“When it comes to whether or not to shoe a horse, one size most definitely does not fit all, and it has to be based on a scientific appraisal of that particular horse,” says Richard Stephenson MRCVS, who is also a veterinary examiner for the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) and former chairman of the WCF examinations board.