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Barefoot Dressage with Shannon Peters

Trainers Shannon and Steffen Peters explore the benefits of barefoot dressage with high-performance horses.

Shannon Peters isn't one to sit around waiting for something to happen. So when Ravel, her husband Steffen Peter's celebrated two-time Olympic mount, turned up with a quarter crack two and a half months before the London Games, Shannon Peters knew there was no time to waste. After extensive consultation with Ravel's team and weighing all the options of barefoot dressage, the decision was made to try working him without shoes and try barefoot dressage with Steffen Peters.

Pulling the shoes of a horse headed to a major international event and doing barefoot dressage isn't typically part of anyone's training strategy, but Shannon Peters believed it could be successful for Ravel and Steffen Peters. Just a few months earlier she'd begun working with barefoot trimmer Sossity Gargiulo, who had undertaken a dramatic transformation of Shannon Peter's own Grand Prix horse, Flor de Selva. The Westfalen gelding had suffered from soundness problems for two years.

Steffen was more skeptical. He wondered how he would keep Ravel in the condition needed to compete against the world's top equine athletes in London. "I had no personal experience with this," he says, "but seeing that Shannon had success gave me the confidence to try it."

Fortunately, a new generation of hoof boots enables newly barefoot horses to maintain their training routines, says Gargiulo. "The shoes can come off and the horse can be ridden the same day." For Ravel, that meant a pair of Easyboot Gloves for his front feet (he remained shod behind) that were put on prior to training sessions and removed afterward. The gloves have a tough rubber

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tread and a neoprene gaiter that fastens around the pastern, protecting the hoof while allowing it to expand and contract and adjust to the ground below. Using heat, Gargiulo and her husband, Mario, are able to fit the boots to each horse's hoof.

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