|Horseshoes, like Olympic medals, can be made from different metals. But this week in Tokyo, the world saw that they can also be made of plastic...and help bring home a medal.|
For Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics this year, dreams are made of gold, silver, and bronze. But for two horses, those dreams had a plastic lining, although you might not know it unless you happened to see the bottom of their hooves.
Most things about dressage are steeped in tradition, and the shoes are usually no exception, other the various bar shoes seen on several horses this week in Tokyo.
But what you didn't see on tv from Tokyo might surprise you.
For the past few years Team USA riders have trained and competed with their horses' front feet shod at different times with an extra-wide plastic-coated heart bar horseshoe. It contains an inner flexible steel core. The "EasyShoe Flex" is a hybrid design used by farriers challenged to keep a horse in training for a critical performance.
|The Easy Shoe Flex, worn on the front feet of two US team horses, is thick polyurethane encasing a spring-steel core thin enough to be flexible over uneven ground. (Polyflex photo)|
But the US trainers and riders didn't just order these shoes online and hand them to their farriers to put on. For two of the American horses, the shoes came later. First, the riders hired consulting farrier Curtis Burns of Royal Palm Beach, Florida to evaluate the situation.
Horseshoeing consultant Curtis Burns
Curtis's unusual consultancy résumé details work on champion hunters, jumpers, dressage horses, and western performance horses, as well as well-known Thoroughbred racehorses like Triple Crown winner Justify.
As an advocate for the benefits of plastic shoes on the foot, whether glued on or nailed on, Curtis often uses his own "Polyflex" brand of polyurethane glue-on shoes, as well as the nailable EasyShoe Flex.
The EasyShoe Flex has a flexible steel core
“We are so excited to see EasyShoes helping the USA team and hoping for a medal," Ford said the night before the competition began in Tokyo. "(We're) sending good energy to all the riders.”
Another farrier has a role in this story. About a year ago, Curtis Burns referred his consulting client, US team rider Adrienne Lyle, to Wellington, Florida farrier Tim Cable, who is probably better known for his work on superstar Standardbred racehorses. Cable has diversified his business with sport horses. He now travels to Colorado to shoe for Adrienne Lyle, who splits her time, and her horses, between there and Florida.
"I am very appreciative of being involved with such a professional," Tim said, after hearing that Salvino had helped the US team win a silver team medal in Tokyo.
|Team USA's Adrienne Lyle and the Hanoverian stallion Salvino competing in the Grand Prix Special at Tokyo. Salvino was shod in front with plastic "Flex" shoes. (FEI photo by Shannon Brinkman)|
Should the team horses require attention to their plastic or steel shoes during travel or in Tokyo, US dressage team farrier Ken Bark is familiar with the Flex shoes.
In pre-pandemic 2020, both horses Shannon competed in California wore the Flex shoes.
Today Shannon confirmed that Steffen's horse, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Suppenkassen, was prepared for Tokyo by California farrier Chuck Mundo; they opted for "normal" steel shoes, with pads, for Tokyo.
Adrienne Lyle has gone on record endorsing plastic shoes. On the Polyflex horseshoes website, she is quoted as saying, "Every one of my top horses is now wearing them and I couldn’t be happier with the results."
Sanceo, the top-scoring US horse, has been shod by Curtis Burns with Flex shoes on a consulting basis for the last six months. Salvino and Sanceo both do well in the heart bar style of the shoe, which is available in open-heel styles, as well.
Both configurations are marketed as helping prevent performance and sport horses from sinking into the arena footing; the goal is to keep the horses on the surface, rather than in it, and potentially help lateral movement.
Congratulations to Team USA and to all the support professionals and owners, both in Tokyo and at home, who played key roles in their nations' horses' participation in Tokyo.
UPDATE: Early on Wednesday (USA time), Team USA dressage rider Adrienne Lyle made the decision to withdraw her horse, Salvino, from the individual freestyle competition before the horse inspection began. In a statement, the US Equestrian Federation said, "This morning, Salvino did not feel quite like his usual self." No additional information has been released; best wishes and congratulations to Adrienne and Salvino for their silver medal achievement on Tuesday.
Coming next: Can you tell what nation an Olympic event horse is from by looking at its shoes? The shoes on some nations' horses might surprise you at this Games. The British vs Euro shoeing systems explained! ALSO: Fran has been up late, late into the night all week doing interviews with farriers and veterinarians hard at work in Tokyo. And we didn't forget the professionals at home who worked hard to prepare horses for their trips to Tokyo. Sign up for Hoofcare email alerts (no ads, no spam, just the links) to be the first readers notified when new stories go live.
Do you enjoy the Hoof Blog? Click here to buy Fran a cup of coffee and keep her awake to finish the next article.
Questions or problems with this site? Click here to send an email email@example.com.
Follow Hoofcare + Lameness on Twitter: @HoofBlog
Read this blog's headlines on the Hoofcare + Lameness Facebook Page
Check out the Hoofcare Instagram account.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Hoofcare Publishing has not received any direct compensation for writing this post. Hoofcare Publishing has no material connection to third party brands, products, or services mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Hoofcare + Lameness is reader-supported. If you purchase items through links on this site, the company may earn a small affiliate commission, at no cost to you.