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Surfaces and competing

Erik Mackechnie-Guire hosts a webinar with Aksel Vibe and Ben Benson on surfaces, competing and performance 

  • Last reviewed: 15th February 2024

The final part of our February Foot Focus series ran in conjunction with the British Farriers and Blacksmiths Association (BFBA), was hosted on Monday. The series hosted by Erik Mackechnie-Guire has been a huge success and attracted viewers from across the world. The focus this week was on surfaces and competing.

Whole horse health

Erik introduced Aksel Vibe who joined us from snowy Norway. Aksel regularly works with teams and horses who compete at the Olympic games and world championships with some of them being barefoot. Aksel started by reinforcing that you’re not going to get good results if the horse isn’t in good health generally - the horse needs to be thriving to have a positive and lengthy competing career.

Aksel guided us through some new and exciting research which he’s been involved in. Some of the findings have supported what the farriery industry already knew, such as an unshod hoof is able to expand more and that the horse will ultimately expend less energy lifting the hoof off of the ground. However, when competing in disciplines at a high level this isn’t always helpful - the hoof needs more support when landing from a big fence or when performing in higher levels of collection to prevent injuries such as soft tissue strains.

Horses Hooves

Aksel explained that while owners may think they’re saving money by not shoeing their horses, they’re actually just investing the money in other areas, especially when competing at higher levels. Many of the equine athletes he works with have regular x-rays to monitor the internal structures and the grooms play a crucial part in keeping the yards and environment as level as possible to protect the horse’s hooves. Hoof boots are very popular, even at competition to protect the horses’ feet walking from stables to warm up arenas where the boots can they be removed.

“You may think you’ll be spending less money having a horse barefoot, however the management is far greater.”


Support at the highest level

Erik introduced Ben Benson who has a variety of customers from top competition horses to leisure horses and even a goat! Ben has worked as a consultant for Team GB Equestrian and several other nations’ teams over the last 15 years while being fortunate to be one of the lead farriers at the last three Olympic Games. Ben is also president of the BFBA.

Ben took us through a comprehensive presentation starting with how farriers can support the horse and how care needs to be tailored to the individual. He gave a great analogy that you may have the same saddle as your friend, however, you wouldn’t be able to swap saddles because it has been specially fitted to each horse.

Shod horses hoof

Looking at conformation of the horse, Ben identified that like people horses are not all perfect. They will have a deviation in their conformation, however this will lead to a compensation elsewhere in the body. It’s very important to support the foot whether it’s shod or unshod to give the horse the best chance to perform well.

Ben’s take home messages were to speak to a registered nutritionist, manage your horse closely with regular farrier visits and monitor their environment. Remember that corrective shoeing will aid performance, longevity and ease of management.

“The feet really are the foundations for what we're asking and then on top of the feet, we have the limbs. So it's really important that everything is balanced and sits neatly on top of each other to give stability for that key movement.”

The question-and-answer session gave invaluable insight into Ben and Aksel’s customer base and their experiences of travelling to competitions around the globe. Ben even got involved and asked his own questions to Aksel.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our speakers from across the three weeks and a huge thank you to Erik for chairing each webinar. A vast amount of knowledge and experience has been shared and most importantly the conversation regarding hoof care has begun.


To watch the webinar back in full click here


Get in touch – we’re here to help 

The BHS Horse Care and Welfare Team are here to help and can offer you further advice with any questions you may have. Contact us on 02476 840517* or email – You can also get in touch with us via our social media channels. 

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