A campaign to allow barefoot horses in the annual Man versus Horse race in Powys, Wales, has failed to persuade organisers to change the rules for this year’s event.
However, the organisers have promised to review the opinions of the equine and veterinary community and carefully consider the question for the 2013 running of the cross-country endurance challenge.
For now, horses entered in the 22-mile race on June 9 must wear metal shoes.
The course is steep and the terrain varied to make the contest as even as possible. Competitors race across farm tracks, footpaths, forestry roads and open moorland, with several short stretches over tarmac. It is very hilly, with a total ascent of 3000ft.
Green Events chairman Lindsay Ketteringham said the terrain covered meant horses must wear shoes.
The organising committee noted that there appeared to be a divided body of opinion among experts over the suitability of going barefoot in the terrain found in the race.
Backers of a campaign to allow barefoot or booted horses to compete this year noted that four riders had entered this year with that very intention.
Sarah Braithwaite, the co-author of the book, “Feet First: Barefoot Performance and Hoof Rehabilitation“, has ridden her horses barefoot horses for over 12 years in many different disciplines.
She said: “I feel I am ideally situated to tell these organisers that there is no welfare risk to these horses. This has been proven again and again by the results that UK riders of barefoot horses are achieving in both Endurance GB and Sport Endurance GB vetted rides.”
Horses have dominated the annual event since it was first run in 1980, with men winning it only twice in its history – the first time in 2004 when Huw Lobb claimed victory by two minutes. That win netted Lobb a special prize fund of £25,000.
A man, Florian Holzinger, claimed victory in 2007.