Friday, August 06, 2021

The Olympic (Bare) Hoof: Sweden's All In delivers a shoeless silver medal for rider Peder Fredricson

Ears up: Sweden won the team gold medal! Watch for Fran's followup interview with Swedish team farrier Peter Glimberg on his hybrid professional hoofcare management program for Peder Fredricson's elite international showjumpers. There's more to "barefoot" than there looks when it comes to competing on modern arena surfaces...

Now, this is news: Swedish rider Peder Fredricson won his second consecutive silver Olympic individual show jumping medal in Tokyo this week. Once again, Fredricson flew over the fences at the Olympics and, once again, he was aboard his Rio 2016 Olympic silver medal partner, the Belgian Warmblood All In.

But this time, the world gasped before it cheered. 

All In was shoeless. 

Not too many years ago, one of the "fake news" April Fool's news stories on The Hoof Blog was a tongue-in-cheek press release from the FEI, announcing that an official Olympic hoof trimmer would join the veterinarians, farriers, and equine physiotherapists working at the Games. It was a joke, but the possibility still loomed ahead. I wanted to make people think. Instead, they laughed. After all, it was April Fool's Day.

The gold medal may have been presented to Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Explosion W, but most of the publicity this week has gone to Fredricson for his unorthodox equipment switch.

All In’s achievement was even more remarkable because close behind him, in fourth place and just off the podium, was Fredricson's teammate Henrick von Eckermann on King Edward--also shoeless.

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Peder Fredricson posted this photo of All In at the vet inspection last weekend. No one was looking at the horse's feet.  As we prepare to publish this article, we still  have not had any details whether any type of protection or special preparation to protect the hooves -- short of shoes, of course -- may have been on the hooves. 

All In and Peder Fredricson land from a jump in Tokyo guarded by a lifelike sumo wrestler. The jump is sure to be the most photographed obstacle of any jumping course at the Olympics in years.

Peder Fredricson does not publicize the fact that his horse is barefoot, but he doesn't deny it. either. He has given several interviews about his commmitment to barefoot hoofcare to the Swedish horse press.

Swedish showjumping rider Peder Fredricson 
Peder Fredricson does not publicize the fact that his horse is barefoot, but he doesn't deny it. either. He has given several interviews about his commmitment to barefoot hoofcare to the Swedish horse press.

For Rio, and up until 2019, the horse was shod, as all the rider’s horses were, by Rebecca Giegold, DipWCF, who told The Hoof Blog in a text today that she had been Fredricson’s farrier for 17 years.

And she loves that horse. “He is truly an amazing horse and a living legend. I am so proud to have been working with him and Mr Fredricson,” she said. “I have shod All  In since he was seven, up until two years ago.”

What could tear the farrier away from working for one of the world's top showjumpers? Rebecca was offered a great opportunity. She became the instructor at Sweden's national farrier center at Flyinge, the famous Swedish National Stud. The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences runs college programs at the stud, including the farrier training, which is regulated in Sweden.

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All In's feet are currently cared for by Swedish team farrier Peter Glimberg, who is also a show jumper himself. The Swedish team did not bring a farrier to Tokyo.

While Rebecca is supportive of shoeless horses, she urges caution by people who see Peder Fredricson's success in Japan and decide to pull their horses shoes. 

No photos are available of All In's feet, since Swedish farrier regulations do not permit sharing of feet of horses identified by name (or fame) but we will share what information we have gathered from today's and previous interviews in Sweden. 


The Australian bootmaker Scoot Boots, which the horse wears when hacking out, is happy with Fredericson's success, and shared this image (not identified as the horse All In) with the caption: "'Scootboots hoof boots. No cables or velcro, easy on easy off, secure fit, lightweight, low profile, flexible and excellent drainage.' These are the words of Olympic silver medalist showjumper Peder Fredricson from Sweden."

In another sport, Sweden has been a world leader in the trend of racing Standardbreds without shoes. Trainers may train with shoes on, but immediately before a race, they may opt to remove them.  In fact, Swedish researchers compiled statistics on barefoot harness racing last year. They found that removing the shoes before a race actually increased the speed of the horse but that it came at the risk of the horse being more likely to break gait than if it was shod. 

French showjumper Julien Epaillard is an outspoken advocate for barefoot showjumping and enjoys great success at it.  Like Fredricson, his horses are shod for grass events. Epaillard credits French equestrian Michel Hecart with introducing the idea to upper level showjumping in France.

These are the shoes that All In wore in Rio in 2016, when he also won the silver individual medal in showjumping.  You see Mustad Libero/Equilibriums for the front (top two) and Werkman Warriors for the hinds (bottom two). His longtime farrier, Rebecca Giegold, had them silver-plated after his silver medal victory in Rio. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Giegold, used with permission)

Epaillard, who is currently ranked sixth in the FEI's global showjumping standings, was the subject of an interview on the Stud for Life website about his hoofcare choices for his horses; at that time, his three five-star horses were shod and his younger horses were shod or unshod, according to each horse's program and needs. "...S
ome take a lot of time and you don't always have enough at a high level. Usual Suspect has been off for two months because I wanted to give him some rest and I see that his foot is regaining its function. 

"However, in January, if I see he’s not comfortable when I'm bring him back into training, then I'll re-shoe him," the French rider continued. "Whatever happens I think it can only be good to take off the shoes from time to time so that the foot regains its function, and then we adapt to the horse and shoe it if we really analyze the need."

Epaillard admitted that it sometimes comes down to the preference of the owner of these valuable sport horses; some are hesitant to make changes.

In an interview with the Swedish equestrian magazine Hippson, Fredricson said, "In larger competitions on grass, the horses still need to be shod for me." He also competes "Catch Me Not S" without shoes.

Peder Fredricson isn't the only rider who chose to compete in Tokyo without shoes. Here is his Swedish teammate, Henrik von Eckermann, on the barefoot King Edward. (Photo © FEI, used with permission)

Fredricson in another interview with Hippson earlier this year: "When you run up with the horse on a gravel road, perhaps a barefoot horse moves more gently. But when it jumps 160 on fiber sand, completely different parameters play a role," he said. "In order for the horse to last a long time and be longer in the sport, I believe in riding barefoot. In addition, the feeling of jumping barefoot on a good surface is absolutely fantastic!"

He also touted the advantages of being less worried about turning horses out together in paddocks, without fear of kick injuries from shod hooves.

He admits he is still a novice at hoofcare, and that a layoff to heal an injury to All In, as well as the covid pandemic and canceled shows, were instrumental to the decision to bring the gelding back into training barefoot. 

"I have ridden for 40 years with shoes and a year barefoot, so this is still new to me and I am not an expert," he told the interviewer:

"I gradually learn which horses can benefit from wearing shoes to competition and which ones do better without."

The equestrian world's eyes will be on All In's feet when they compete over the next few days. We thank the horse, the rider, and all their connections for shaking up the horse world and providing yet another interesting side story, making these Games one of the most interesting any of us has ever watched.

Thanks to Rebecca Giegold for her time to help with this article, and to all our Swedish friends. Peder Fredricson: We'll be cheering for you! Americans can watch highlights of today's qualifier for the team finals on NBC at 2 pm, eastern time.

To learn more:
Hippson's interview with Peder Fredricson and Rebecca Giegold.
All In's performance record in international competition 2013-2021
Barefoot by the Numbers: Swedish Standardbred trotters are faster without shoes, but risk breaking gait
Video interview with French showjumper Julien Epaillard with comments on competing barefoot

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