Sunday, April 06, 2008

Palm Beach Footing Post Script

Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's International Arena during a recent night class

After posting on Friday about the footing at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, I have a few more comments to add.

I think this is the year of the surface: whether its show arenas, home schooling rings, or racetracks, everyone is talking about (and obsessing over) footing! No matter whom I'm with, the subject invariably comes around to it. And no, I don't know about much new research!

One vet said that he thought he had seen more bruised feet this season at Wellington but seemed genuinely pleased overall with the footing.

Show circuit farrier Jack Miller, who happened to cross my path at the airport this afternoon, concurred with the veterinarians' comments. We sat down to chat for a few minutes. He said that the new footing was much more consistent and enabled the show to go on, even after a downpour of six inches of rain. "The new footing was great," he said, "but a little sluggish. The horses were maybe jumping an extra two inches, because they were sinking in. It stopped them. And it cupped a lot out of the bottom of the feet. But it was a lot better than it has been, and they didn't have to use as many studs. We didn't see too many 'Spruce Meadows Specials' (supersized studs) this time."

Also at the airport today, I ran into another vet, Dr. Liz Maloney from here in Massachusetts, who has been flying back and forth to Palm Beach all winter to compete her horses in the amateur owner division at the WEF. She said that her horses, who are shod by "banana shoes" expert Danny Dunson from Tennessee, handled life on the showgrounds very well, although she didn't always compete in the newly renovated "Hong Kong footing" arenas. She said it was great to not to have to use studs, since she worries so much about the injuries they can cause. "It feels hard when you land, but it's not, really," she said of her impression from the saddle.

Other comments I heard were about the hunter ponies that compete barefoot and wore booties to get from the stable area to the arena and schooling rings, since the pathways were crushed stone. Show hunters want as little knee action on the flat as possible so no shoe or the very lightest aluminum shoe is usually the answer for them.

Everyone seemed pleased that the winter season in Wellington was unaffected by disease (EHV closed the showgrounds last year in the weeks before the show started) or disaster (hurricanes have been a threat the past few years) and that the upper echelons of the hunter/jumper/dressage showing scenes seem (so far) unaffected by financial woes troubling other sectors of the US economy.

Thanks to the Winter Equestrian Festival and Kenneth Braddick of Horse Sport USA for the excellent photos and reports shared with this blog all season. Now it's time to pack up and move on. See you next year!

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