Find out as three elite show jumpers discuss their experience using Scoots in Grand Prix competition.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND TO HORSE RIDING AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO COMPETITION?
Amelia: I grew up in Zimbabwe on a property with horses; my mother was a show jumper and produced several OTTBs (off-the-trackthoroughbreds). I got my first pony at 2 years of age, but didn’t begin riding until I was 12, where I competed in the pony category for 3 years. My mother trained me to win every major National Pony Rider title in Zimbabwe! I then moved onto horses and, as a junior, collected all the major titles up to Junior A-grade, representing Zimbabwe internationally on several occasions. Following that, I was offered a riding scholarship with the Elite Equestrian Academy at Hartpury College in the UK in 2009. Here I studied, worked in the Equine Therapy Centre, trained under Corinne Bracken, Nick Burton, Jeanette Brakewell and Carl Hester, and competed for 5 years.
In my first summer I trained as head rider with Mark Dorgan (a top Irish Showjumper), successfully competing with regular placings on the premier show jumping circuit all over England. The academy then sent me to train and ride under international Irish show jumper Trevor Breen (then based in Ireland), where we won the Ladies Final at Mullingar 2* and ended the season by competing in the Irish National Grand Prix League. After this success I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse on my top horse and spent the next few years backing and producing a large Dutch 3 year old Contendero mare “Cor de Coeur”. I then left England (with a Bachelor of Equine Science with honours and a Masters in Coaching Science) to move back to be closer to family in South Africa. On this move I brought along my mare and, a year later, imported two more young horses “Ricochet du Rouet”, (a then 5yo gelding) and “Geloven BB” (a 3 year old Stallion). I have spent the years since successfully moving these horses up the grades, training for the last two years with international dressage coach Frederick De Wae, and for the last year Top South African Show jumper, Jonathan Clark.
Abby: I have always ridden, I grew up riding and competing. I got “Tzar” when he was 6 months old and from the moment I met him I knew he was special. He was a stallion until he was 6 and my Mum and
I are the only people who have ridden him. Mum and I have gotten him to where he is today – and he’s never had shoes.
Kate: I was given my first pony at 2 years of age from my granny, Jean. I went through the conventional pony club system gaining ‘B’ certificate level before traveling overseas for three years. On returning to New Zealand I discovered ‘natural horsemanship’ via old American cowboys Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance. This built a solid foundation for what we have achieved to date. About 18 years ago, Hiltrud Strasser came to New Zealand and showed us a different method of horse management. Being involved with alternative methods helped us to learn that nothing is set in stone. This led to further interest in other barefoot practitioners such as Pete Ramey, KC La Pierre and Jamie Jackson. During this time my thoroughbred “Supermodel” competed to intermediate level and my other thoroughbred, “Striking Distance”, to advanced. I also rode the stallion “Internet” for Joss Bayley, which led me to become a reserve in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Our lead-up to Athens was in England where we excelled, placing 15th at Badminton, 7th at Burghley, 5th at British Open Championships at Gatcombe, also winning a trophy for best placed youngest horse. I have no doubt that our success was down to my horsemanship knowledge. I remember being one of, if not the only, competitor to have a plain snaffle in all phases and with no dropped noseband or gadgets.
In 2010 I won Amateur Show Hunter of the Year with “Silk Stockings” after jumping all week on hard ground. Despite the hard ground, he performed with ease. Philosophies and methods continued to evolve with the influence of academic trainer Andrew McLean and classical influences such as Philippe Karl. All of these ideas were linked by a similar approach to training and understanding horses. Many of our students and teams benefitted from this blend of classical academic horsemanship, excelling and winning numerous national titles, teams events and individual successes. A change in discipline from eventing to show jumping came about via the acquisition of “Capatino GNZ” from long time friends Rico and Marina. They’d always had an interest in our unique approach with what we did with horses.
During this time we were also involved in the Kaimanawa Stallion Challenge competition. My partner Tim Featherstone and “Redcliffs Ted” won the first challenge at Equidays and my stallion won the Horsemanship class at HOY (Horse of the Year). “ Redcliffs Bill” went on to become one of New Zealand’s outstanding show jumping ponies. At the recent Equidays “Bill” and “Ted” were 1st and
2nd in the Equidays Pony Six Bar event ridden by our students, whilst my 2016 stallion was Reserve Champion in the challenge. “Capatino GNZ” was a winner in the 5, 6 and 7 year old series classes, as well as Amateur and Pro Am series. As an 8 year old he jumped 1.40m including Lady Rider of the Year, in Scoot Boots. We came across Scoot Boots at Equitana and were compelled to use them for situations where added traction would be beneficial.
Although “Capatino” is the star of our team, we are a commercial outfit and take up to 20 horses to a show, many of these barefoot horses are winners in their own divisions such as “Redcliffs Chocolate Box” (ridden bitless), winning 20 classes in the first half of the 2017-18 season.
WHAT HEIGHTS HAVE YOU COMPETED IN WITH YOUR HORSE(S) BEING EITHER COMPLETELY BAREFOOT OR AIDED BY BOOTS?
Amelia: I have competed up to 1.50m classes using Scoot Boots on my top mare. And 1.30m on my second horse using Scoot Boots and barefoot. My youngster has competed up to 1.20m barefoot.
Abby: I have competed him up to 1.45m barefoot and in boots.
Kate: So far we have competed up to 1.40m.
HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY TITLES OR AWARDS SHOW JUMPING IN BOOTS?
Amelia: Won our first competition of the year (1.35m) and have had several top 5 placings in 1.40m competitions this year. We also jumped our first 1.50m class which was a special occasion as I have produced this mare from an un-backed 3 year old. I am currently sitting in 21st place out of 300 horses in the 1.35m rankings in South Africa, and in the top 25 of 1.40m rankings. We are building towards competing in the 1.50m FEI (Federation Equestrian International) World Cup Qualifier Series held in South Africa in the 2019 season.
Abby: I competed in my first Grand Prix using boots. The jump was 1.45m and we placed 5th in a crowd of experienced World Cup riders.
Kate: In 2010 I won Amateur Show Hunter of the Year with “Silk Stockings” after jumping all week on hard ground – he still performed with ease.
HOW DOES THE TRACTION OF SCOOT BOOTS COMPARE TO SHOES AND STUDS IN THE SHOW RING?
Amelia: 99% of competitions are on CLOPF fibre surfaces (an additive that gives structure to sand based riding surfaces) in South Africa. I have not encountered any traction related problems whatsoever using
Scoot Boots, and can’t think of a single moment where my horses have faltered in tight turns into and away from jumps.
Abby: Scoot Boots don’t slip! I’ve never had a horse slip with them on and I’ve had horses slip in shoes.
Kate: Hoofwear such as Scoot Boots offers us the ability to add traction and protection. I find that if the ground is wet but hard I have better traction barefoot but I would be more competitive if I used studs in Scoot Boots. If the ground is softer Scoot Boots grip well without studs.
HOW DO SCOOT BOOTS GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE OVER METAL?
Amelia: A few of our competition surfaces in South Africa are quite hard and have little impact absorption on landing. Being barefoot on these surfaces provides our horses with more concussion
absorption as the way the hoof normally lands is restricted with metal shoes. This assists us in reducing the risk of an injury.
Abby: I prefer them as my horse’s hooves can be healthy and keep him sound and this makes his joints happy.
Kate: Hoofwear such as Scoot Boots offers us the ability to add traction and protection without compromising hoof function, reducing shock absorption, increasing centrifugal force or exposing the hoof to more bacterial infections than necessary.This is the difference between hoofwear and iron shoes.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TRANSITION FROM METAL SHOES TO BAREFOOT?
Amelia: I moved yards at the end of 2017 and all the horses there were barefoot. They, alongside an owner of several top horses in South Africa, had done extensive research on barefoot for show jumping and had a phenomenal barefoot farrier who they had worked very closely with for several years. My mother had always also been “pro-barefoot”. I had experienced issues with shoeing my young horse (resulting in intermittent lameness) and keeping shoes on my top horse (with changing seasons from rainy to dry) and we also had significant issues keeping shoes on (her feet are inclined to grow toe long and low heels which increased the risk of tendon injuries). This meant that we had to try and raise the heels by setting the shoe further back increasing the risk of her pulling the shoes off and with it half of her hoof! So when the opportunity came up to take our horses barefoot under the guidance of an experienced barefoot farrier, we jumped at it!
Abby: I was always barefoot. Some horses did have shoes but now I just use boots for the cheaper price – happier horses and just because they are superior.
Kate: Riding barefoot horses allows for earlier detection of any soundness issues as they are not masked by a steel shoe. It is also comforting to know that our show jumping horses have all their natural shock absorption available to them in the show ring. “Striking Distance” is a good example of this, he is a 27 year old thoroughbred competed from 4 to 18 years old doing New Zealand Pony Club team events well until last summer where he was still doing camps, lessons and treks happily. Horses hooves are incredibly adaptable and there are methods for getting barefoot to work in ways people never dreamed possible.
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY OBSTACLES TO YOU COMPETING BAREFOOT?
Amelia: My two younger horses have taken to being barefoot without a problem. My top mare was extremely “footy” to begin with (low heels/frog). She has always been very sensitive to uneven ground, and was more so after she was initially shod. Even though she is barefoot now, without Scoot Boots, I
would have barely been able to compete her. The FEI stewards have also shown much interest in the boots. My horse goes through the horse inspection with boots on [and] I have had no resistance!
Another consideration here is that there are several venues in South Africa where the surfaces between the warm up and the main arena are full of small stones and are rocky. Without the Scoot Boots I wouldn’t be confident that my horses are comfortable in entering the competition arena. The worst of the venues I competed I had my other open horse (“Ricochet Du Rouet-Chestnut”) in the Scoot Boots just to give me the assurance I needed that he was comfortable to compete after walking across such terrible surfaces! “Ricochet Du Rouet-Chestnut” has had a great deal of success competing both barefoot and in the Scoot Boots and the transition between the two is seamless. I never have to consider an acclimatisation period either. He has had numerous top ten finishes in 1.30m when in Scoot Boots and is currently sitting in the top 10 rankings in South Africa in that height (+500 horses).
Abby: Not at all! People just think it’s strange!
Kate: The only obstacles have been on the very rare occasion where the ground has morning dew and is hard. This makes it slippery, so I am just more careful. As soon as the wind dries it out we are away laughing again!
WHAT IMPACT HAS BEING BAREFOOT HAD ON YOUR HORSE’S PERFORMANCE, HOOVES AND OVERALL WELL-BEING?
Amelia: My top mare is like a new horse in the boots! Her hooves are gradually growing in a better shape, and we have managed to raise her heels significantly improving her hoof-pastern axis and thereby reducing chances of injuries to the supporting structures. The condition of her hooves has also improved dramatically with barely any cracking of the hooves, an issue we used to struggle with and which caused a significant amount of worry regarding whether we would be able to find enough hoof to keep a shoe stuck on with every cycle. Regarding my horse’s competition performance, the improvement has been incredible. My mare’s clear round rate has improved tenfold, and has transformed from a horse who would have maybe 6 poles over the course of a 4 day competition to having no poles or maybe just one! She was a mare that used to shred her stud guard as she would hit her chest with her front feet very violently on occasion, and she no longer does this with the boots on. This makes us wonder whether her knocking in front was related to fear of hurting herself as she tucks her legs, which is no longer an issue. Whatever the exact mechanism that has caused the improvement, the only major factor that could be attributed is going barefoot and competing in the Scoot Boots.
Abby: MY FARRIER LOVES IT. “Tzar’s” bare feet are so happy and healthy and so is he! He loves his boots.
Kate: With Scoot Boots we can now be on a level playing field in the show ring with the added benefit of retaining our shock absorption!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER SHOWJUMPERS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN TAKING THEIR HORSE BAREFOOT?
Amelia: I would recommend that they use a knowledgeable farrier with shorter trimming cycles (shorter than shoeing cycles) and invest in a pair of Scoot Boots. In the long run it is cheaper, safer, reduced injury risk and generally better for your horse! Last year I experienced a significant struggle with my young horse who had been pricked by a farrier (and had not informed us) resulting in an abscess and then further issues. He would become unsound for a few days after every shoeing cycle. When corrective shoeing was attempted to correct his hoof imbalances the unsoundness was exacerbated. What followed was a year of attempting to keep him sound and comfortable as we took him barefoot. I had not yet learned of Scoot Boots and I tried every other type of hoof boot on offer. These boots either lasted a few weeks before disintegrating, did not fit properly (only having an option of +-4 sizes) and resulting in sores if worn too long. I then moved him to a new yard with a new farrier [and] I have not experienced a single day of unsoundness since then! How I wish I had had the Scoot Boots a year ago to get us through that difficult stage which kept us out of the competition arena for much of the year! The benefits I have gleaned from taking my horses barefoot have been over and above what I ever could have hoped for and the Scoot Boots have made the transition effortless!
Abby: Take it slow! And don’t be afraid to do it because your horse will last longer and they will thank you!
Kate: In years gone by people haven’t wanted to take their horses shoes off because they have metal roads that they have to ride on or they’re scared of slipping. Now there isn’t that excuse because Scoot Boots answer all these worries!! They’re easy to put on, give good traction, protect the hooves from stony roads, what more could you ask for!! And all the while your horse’s hooves are able to function as mother nature intended. Win win!!